Video might have killed the radio star but Palmy has plenty of hobbyists who like to communicate by radio.
Starting on May 25, Manawatū Amateur Radio Society is running evening beginners classes which will culminate with a HamCram weekend on August 7-8.
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is about experimenting and communicating, using not only radio, but also satellites and the internet.
Once licensed, an amateur is allocated a unique call sign and can operate two-way radio equipment capable of international and space-based communication. The HamCram weekend will include the chance to sit the operator licence.
Amateur radio is not just an old guy with a morse key, society president Warren Crawley says. He got his licence when he was 14 through the same Manawatū society. He was active for a couple of years, then studying, work and raising a family got in the way.
Six years ago, the engineer picked up the hobby again.
Crawley used to be a paramedic and a colleague's father was an amateur radio operator. When the father died, the colleague asked Crawley if he wanted to buy his father's equipment.
Crawley decided to take up the hobby again, thinking it would be good for when he retired and would keep his brain active. An opportune meeting corresponded with his own thinking about the need to get another interest, he says.
Ryan Warner always been a technical person and growing up enjoyed mucking around with electronics. He is from Taumarunui and with patches of poor cellphone coverage in the area he used radios to communicate on the farm.
Warner joined the society when he moved to Palmerston North to study engineering at Massey University. He has just completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) and is now working as a communication systems engineer.
He says a lot of projects he did at university involved communication tools such as radio or its derivatives.
Peter Moore has held an amateur radio licence for 57 years. Sixty-seven years ago he built his first radio aged 10 while growing up in England. Moore says he was more interested in radios than milking cows 365 days a year like his father. His hobby led to a job as a radio and TV serviceman.
He came to New Zealand in 1974. Moore says in his day gaining your licence was much harder as you had to draw circuit diagrams as part of showing you could build your own radio. Now there is more commercially made equipment and the questions are multi choice.
Crawley says amateur radio is seen as an ageing hobby but members are trying to bring in new technology and younger people. The gender balance is heavily male with the Manawatū society having just four women among its 61 members.
Like engineering, some people consider it a male domain, but male, Euro centric, middle aged and middle class is not where the hobby is heading, he says.
Fun fact: the men say female voices are easier to understand over the radio as the female voice is more clear and fits more into the voice spectrum. The bassy male voice is not a good communication voice.
It's the fourth year the society is running the classes, but this year they will also be offered over Zoom. Lockdown forced the society to have meetings via Zoom.
"Covid has forced us to think outside the box and because of that we are now able to provide this [course] outside our own area," Crawley says. "Every negative has a positive."
He noticed more people on air during lockdown as people's social circles got smaller.
"Covid in a funny sort of way brought people back into the hobby."
After the HamCram weekend, there will be two further nights covering what's next and for the following three months society activities will be based around getting new members involved.
For more information email email@example.com.