UK Amateur Radio Hobbyist

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Sai (M7TEM)

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I became a licenced radio amateur in January 2020. I have a fair few hobbies, however, this site will be mainly dedicated to the radio hobby. That said; this page will go into depth about who I am, what I do, what my hobbies are and so on. You might have noticed that I haven't posted my last name, nor have I posted up any pictures of myself - this is unfortunately very intentional. That said I am fairly open about who I am and what I do, and I will give you about 30 years of history on one page.

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Who I am, where I come from and what I do:
 

I am Sai (Pronounced: Sigh) I am a male from the United Kingdom (England to be exact) and I was born near the middle of 1990. Whilst I don't make it apart of my identity, I have Aspergers Syndrome. I live with my extremely understanding and caring partner whom I met in 2008. I currently run several websites, some extremely popular, some extremely niche, so I understand online communities. Although I usually do the backend work and let my partner talk to the clients/visitors. I won't be giving out any URL's as I keep them separate from each other, but I've been making websites since around 2000 for different things. I used to do work with Microsoft Frontpage and Adobe Dreamweaver but now do I mixture of straight-up HTML coding, or for this site - just use a site builder and heavily customise the template to suit my needs, which requires HTML and CSS editing. 

 

I am quite fond of technology, and have been for as long as I can remember; especially when it comes to computers, and PC Hardware. I've never purchased a ready-made PC for my main 'battle station' (PC Gamer term), I've always opted to buy all the components and such and then build it myself. Although I have lots of "Ready-made" PC's laying around my property, but none of them is my pride and joy and has always been purchased with different ideas in mind. It's kind of like food; making it from scratch versus ready meals in that I know exactly what's in my system and how it works with other components as well as the mitigation or removal of bottlenecks so that the system works like the well-oiled engine. As a PC gamer, my favourite genre has to be Sci-Fi Space-Sim games such as Elite: Dangerous, Egosoft's X-Series, and the old' classic of Frontier: Elite II. But I also like my dystopic games like the Deus Ex series. I'm also a bit of a sucker for some of the Grand Theft Auto, Fallout and Elder Scrolls games (I like open-world RPG sandboxes). Generally speaking, if a game is good, and I like it, I'll play it, and usually quite obsessively until I've completed it.
 
I also have many other hobbies such as photography, and I have a Canon 750D camera. I enjoy taking pictures of the starry night sky, which I then time-lapse. But really, I don't mind taking pictures of anything; it doesn't matter to me if it's a landscape, cityscape, the sky, flowers, birds, dogs, swans, or random things. By far I prefer being the one taking pictures, then to have my picture taken, but that's just me. I know, it's a little strange when you think about it.
 
I enjoy listening to music, I have a Matrix Mini I-Pro DAC and a set of HiFiMan HE500 headphones as my daily driver, and I am firmly within the "FLAC" the only camp for music especially when it comes out of that DAC through those Headphones. Whilst I'll listen to anything that I like, I'd say I have a preference towards heavy metal, symphonic metal, and at the moment I have a bit of thing for German metal bands such as Rammstein, Eisbrecher and Lindemann. That said I quite like obscure bands that not many people have heard of, such as Ignea, Rave the Requiem, and Radio Kapok. But I also like Amaranthe which is a kind of pop meets metal, Lacuna Coil which is a kind of gothic metal and Nightwish (When Tarja was in it) which I can only describe as symphonic metal with operatical overtones. 
 
I do a lot of creative writing, and 'post to play' roleplaying, although they're more like collaborative novels, and it's something I've been doing for nearly two decades. I recently started playing dungeons and dragons which I bring my roleplaying experience to table, and delight in bringing life to the games. I have been told that I have a really good deep singing voice, but I think I need to come out of my shell a bit more for that.
 
I won't talk much or focus on politics or religion but yes, I have strong opinions on political issues and I realise that they're not mainstream, but I generally keep them to myself if I can. I am also religious but again, I won't talk about that too much because I believe it is personal, for the person. Everyone must find their path in life towards whatever outcome or goal they think will fulfil their life and give it meaning. 
 
I love space, as in the expanse of stars beyond our planet. 
 
I am a firm believer (although I stress that it's a personal belief) that radio is radio, and thus all frequencies that I can transmit on legally should be utilised and respected. For example whilst I'm on amateur frequencies, I will respect the procedures, but whilst I'm on PMR446 and/or CB, I can be a little more relaxed; I still don't talk about Religion, Sex or Politics and I don't use obscene language. From personal experience, I think 446 can be a great "Recruitment" tool if used correctly. I've spoken to people on PMR446 who were using them responsibly, who seemed to be into radios and convinced them to study for a Foundation Licence -- before I was even licenced. I came from 446 and I am not ashamed to admit that as we all have to start somewhere. Again, I want to thank all the full licenced Amateurs that I've met on 446, who have helped me understand more about the hobby.
 

So now the bit you're probably more interested in: How did I get started with radios?
 

This is a bit of a long story. 
 
I started getting into Radio’s in 2006 when I was 16, and I plunged my money into getting a couple of Binatone’s from Argos. These were a couple of Binatone MR100's, PMR446 Radios, with a fixed antenna and 500mW of transmit power. I had always wanted to buy a pair of radios since I was a kid, and here I was finally - paid for with money I saved up. 
 
I played around with a lot to work out how they worked and gave one to my best friend to borrow as they were advertised as working at 5 or 8 kilometres, which we thought was amazing and would cut down on our mobile phone costs. However... It didn't exactly work. Sure they were great for semi-close contacts but at the distances, we were trying to use them for, they just weren't working. It was only then that I read the small print on the box and felt right silly. The next day he gave it back to me, and I just started doing experiments with them - although I don't remember what all of them were. 
 
One day, I was outside of college, and I started picking up other people talking on one of the channels. To rub salt into that already salty wound, it was someone claiming that they were in Belgium, who was talking to someone claiming to be in Manchester. My best friend and I looked at each other with the same expression, just how were they doing this?! I waited for a pause and then pressed that PTT button and asked "Hello? Where did you two say you were? Because we heard Belgium and Manchester." By this point, I was encircled by our group of friends who were quietly listening in for a response. After a few moments of silence, there was whispers of doubt, scepticism, and everything in between. Unfortunately, when someone local spoke, it seemed that they didn't hear me. The naysayers found validation - it wasn't going to work. 
 
I, however, remembered one of the experiments that my best friend and I had been running previously - involving CTCSS tones, so I figured that maybe it was a CTCSS issue. I started going through the CTCSS settings and tried to find the correct one for their transmission; however their communications were erratic, and the signal wasn't great. It'd take me a week off whenever I had the time (at Lunchtime, at college) to go through the CTCSS tones one by one whilst they were talking to find the correct one. But when I did... I waited for them to stop talking, gathered my friends again and introduced myself. I spoke to the local guy - John (G1JGT), and his friend in Manchester who welcomed me into their open little secret. It was a moment of magic to me. I remember distinctly identifying myself, telling them where I was, whereabouts I lived, and I was just open and honest with them, carefree. Those were the days.
 
I asked them, "How are we able to talk? My friend lives about four kilometres from me, well within the range of these things, yet I couldn't talk to him. Yet here we are, supposedly talking to someone in Manchester, from Cambridgeshire." That didn't make sense to me, but then the moment of magic was explained... 
 

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

 

They had set up a "Gateway" in the local area, that was taking in and dishing out signals in the area via someone who had it all set up, free for people to connect to via their radios. Of course, they encouraged me to get the software (eQSO, I believe) make up a call sign (Like S-A-I) and get into their chat on a PC. I was pretty much welcomed in with open arms and I learnt a few things; like ending a transmission with ‘Over’ and ending the session with ‘Out’ not ‘Over and Out’.
 
Unfortunately, I moved from where I am today back to my parents’ house in 2007 and didn’t come back to the area until 2010, which by that point I didn’t have any radios to make contact with anyone. That was until early 2018 when I got some Baofeng UV-5R’s from Wish; only to discover that these were not like the radios I was used to playing around with. So I didn’t use them, I put them away and sat on them for a year. On their way over here, I did some research and however, I found out that it may be illegal for me to transmit with these in the UK without correct licensing which requires courses and exams; apparently.

 

In the middle 2019, I dug out the Baofengs and played around with then (Not transmitting, of course) then Google magic must have happened because before long I got an advert that was advertising something called an SDR. This got me to eBay where I saw one that caught my interest. It was an RTL-SDR device, which I bought and started using as soon as I got it.
 
I emailed around asking for advice about the situation that I was in, sent a lot of people very long emails describing the background of my story, and eventually, I got referred onto the Huntingdon Amateur Radio Society, where both my partner (M7TAL) and I went to their first meeting which was on the 8th August 2019 and the topic of the talk given by one of the club members that night was: Vector Network Analysers - a topic that went completely over our heads! But it was a well-done presentation, and it was something that the talker was very knowledgeable about. Out of our "Three" free visits, we only used one, because we came to the next meeting (on the 22nd August 2019) with the money to become members. We were both committing to this.
 
We both signed up to Essex Ham - a site that I recommend highly! They're an invaluable resource, and this is how we studied for our exam, as well as Mock Exam resources from the RSGB Website. If you're looking at doing your foundation - please do look into Essex Ham. 
 
We took the first exams that HARS ever did with one other person, and we all passed. Considering this was the first exam that the club had ever done, I have to say that they did extremely well in hosting it. It was friendly, but when it came down to it, it was professional. 
 
My first communication was on the 23rd of January 2020, a club night, over GB3OV telling the HARS chairman that I have a new callsign and that we weren't able to make it that night. I am thinking about going on to do the intermediate course later down the line and then go up to the full one at some point, but so far that's not set in stone.