If there is a sub-field of electronics which is never boring or totally foreign to the man in the street, it is radio. Radio will continue to be important because it is inevitably tied up with the basic human need to communicate. Radio amateurs, for instance, communicated by satellite long before you could even watch satellite TV programmes. Similarly, their packet radio networks were in existence ten years before the breakthrough of Internet, and they pioneered microwave communication decades before you could walk in the street talking into your mobile phone.
The great thing about being a licenced radio amateur (of any class) is that you are never stuck for ideas, helpful suggestions or even components when it comes to solving a problem related to electronics or microcontroller project construction. The radio amateur is never a lone battler because he can reach his allies via a variety of media, including telephony, television or even computer mail by air (free of charge, as opposed to any link by telephone). So, if you have ever had the desultory feeling of being the only electronics enthusiast for miles around, and have no one to assist you, consider seriously becoming a radio amateur. The hobby will put you in touch with hundreds of electronics enthusiasts of a wide diversity of educational levels. Many radio amateurs are friends for life although they live thousands of miles apart, and have never actually met each other in person. In the UK, the Radio Communications Agency (RCA) and the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) will be pleased to show you the ropes to this highly interesting and educational pastime.
After a decline during the past five years or so, the number of licenced radio amateurs is on the rise again, witness the latest reports of the IARU (International Amateur Radio Union). The temporary drop in active amateurs is probably owing to the growing popularity, at the same time, of the personal computer. Now, the two hobbies are linked by the tremendous interest in packet radio, and even those who once gave up the tuning dial for the PC keyboard are now back on the air again as enthusiastic packeteers. Also, home construction is back on the rise again, with many amateurs becoming aware of the educational value of building a project, as compared to buying off the shelf and never knowing how it actually works. This goes for simple projects, like power supplies, to more complex stuff like a DTMF-over-air controlled digital heart for the local repeater station.
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