Old tech and new tech working together

Neil Sanderson ZL1NZ running the Twitter stream from ZL1ZLD Musick Point Radio

Running the Twitter stream from ZL1ZLD Musick Point Radio. Photo: Merv Thomas

I’ve always been fascinated by communications technology, and that’s been reflected in my career, starting out as a journalist/broadcaster, then as a writer and – for the past 15 years or so – in web publishing.

But for me it all began as a teenage ham radio operator. Back in those days, you had to pass rigorous examinations including sending and receiving Morse code. Then, before you could even think about using “voice” communications, you had to spend at least a year on the air “pounding brass”, and pass an even tougher exam including more Morse code, at higher speed. At this point, many hams put away their Morse key for good, but some of us still take pleasure in using what some have called “the original digital mode” of communication.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to enjoy old tech and new tech at the same time, as our radio club marked the 20th anniversary of the end of “professional” Morse code in New Zealand – the closure of the country’s marine coast radio stations. From our base at the historic Musick Memorial Radio Station, a former coast radio station in Auckland, we operated 14 hours continuously, and about half of that operation was using Morse Code.

It was wonderful to have about a dozen former operators from the station drop in for the event, and to see their eyes light up when they first heard Morse code coming from the operators’ console.

What about the new technology? Well, our operation was publicised around the world in advance using our club website, social media and online forums.

Then, on the day, as we changed frequencies every 30 minutes, I would post the current frequency and other information to our Twitter account.

In the photo above, my laptop (connected to the net by wifi of course) is sitting in front of some radio gear from the 1940s. Old tech and new tech, working together.