Pilots of the airwaves - ham radio in Perth
When you think of the many social media networks available in the modern age, ham radio probably isn't the first method of communication that comes to mind.
But for a small but very keen group of amateur radio operators here in Western Australia, there's nothing like it. And while the numbers don't rival Facebook, it's a bigger community than you might imagine.
There are 14 hundred licenced amateurs in WA and 14 thousand Australia-wide.
Onno Benschop is one of them, and he'll tell you that he loves the variety of people you can speak to via the radio network, from astronauts on the International Space Station, to people who set up amateur radio stations on mountain tops, or deep within the world's many and vast national parks.
"Amateur radio is such a wide ranging experience, " he said.
"There's nothing quite as thrilling as talking to an amateur on the other side of the planet and trying to imagine what they're doing at that time, or what their environment is like, " he explained.
"They might be sitting in a garden shed, but they might be in Cuba, (or) they might be on an island in the middle of nowhere.
"These people are everywhere, they're all around the planet."
The language of the call sign
All licenced ham radio operators use 'call signs' to show that they have a licence and to identify them, in the same way a number plate identifies a car, Onno explains.
"I have one, it's VK6FLAB, and it means something."
"VK means Australia. Six means Western Australia, then the next letter in my call sign is an 'F' which means I have a foundation licence or what's called the beginner's licence."
Then there are three letters randomly assigned, so I think someone had a sense of humour when they saw my photo and came up with flab, " he laughs.
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