The Wanganui Amateur Radio Society is calling for new members, with enrolments in its "HamCram" course opening this weekend.

Amateur radio involves exploring the limits of radio, electronics and digital technologies. Once an exam is passed to receive a licence, people can operate and build radio equipment capable of communicating with others around New Zealand, the world and even space.

Member Mike Newman, otherwise known as ZL1BNB in the radio world, has been a member of the society since he moved to Whanganui in 1982.

Newman is a self-confessed "technology freak" and radio has been his passion.

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"It's a lifetime interest. Some people have lifetime interests in fishing, tramping, cars and so forth. This is my lifetime interest."

Newman sat his technical examination in 1954, but didn't get his licence for another 17 years.

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ZL1BNB refers to Newman's call sign, with everyone having their own unique number.

"It's how we identify our stations. It's allocated to us and we have to use it to identify ourselves when we communicate."

There are about 50 members in the society who all have a common interest in radio and come "from all walks of life, all stages of life".

The local group was supposed participate in the annual Jock White Memorial Field Day Contest, but had to pull out due to a lack of numbers this year, Newman said.

In the contest, which takes place every February, branches from around New Zealand test their ability to establish effective temporary high frequency radio stations and communicate with as many other New Zealand stations as possible.

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It is designed to learn how to operate in abnormal situations that could occur in a natural disaster.

Amateur radio played a crucial role during one of New Zealand's worst natural disasters.

"This all started from the 1931 Napier earthquake when amateur radio was able to play a pivotal part in communication," Newman said.

New technologies won't overtake radio in the near future, he said.

"No, no, no, it will never be on its last legs. You guys forget, radio is everywhere. We just use it in a different way.

"We're enthusiasts in the way that motor racing people can be enthusiasts. There will always be motor cars; motor racing will always be around too, but the format changes. As cars change, as technology changes, and we're the same."

Enrolments for there "HamCram" programme open on March 1 and close in July. To join the group, email newham@zl2ko.org.nz