Celebrating the Dawn of Mass Global Communication
An important anniversary to be celebrated at Mill Hill School
2SZ Active: 11-18 October 2014
At the turn of the last century, radio communication was in its infancy. The properties of “Hertzian Waves” – what we now call radio waves – were only just beginning to be understood.
Starting with Marconi, the use of a crude form of radio communication began to evolve. The development of the thermionic valve then opened up opportunities both in radio transmitter and receiver design. However, the “conventional wisdom” remained that the longer wavelengths of radio signals (as used by Marconi) were those most suited to long-distance radio communication.
In that age of technical discovery, many every-day people experimented with radio. These people were the early “radio amateurs” and their work was at first largely unregulated. When it became clear that “radio amateurs” could cause interference to the emerging commercial radio circuits, the decision was made to restrict their experiments to wavelengths shorter than 200m – corresponding to a frequency of 1.5 MHz and above, as it was felt that such frequencies were worthless for long-distance communication.
And so radio amateurs began to experiment at these “short waves”
It was not long before they began to realise that, far from being worthless frequencies, they in fact held the key to low power long distance communication.
In 1923, tests were conducted to span the Atlantic with radio. Then, in 1924, as both transmitter power and receiver sensitivity improved, the dream was to span the globe by radio. After some false starts, on 18th October 1924, two-way communication was finally established between Frank Bell, call sign 4AA, a sheep farmer in South Island New Zealand, and Cecil Goyder, callsign 2SZ, a schoolboy operating from Mill Hill School, North London. You can hear the reminiscences of Frank’s sister, Brenda, here and read more of Shag Valley here.
The world had been shrunk and things would never be the same again.
To commemorate the 90th anniversary of this historic contact made by Goyder and Bell, Mill Hill School will be hosting working amateur radio stations from 11th to 18th October 2014. Ofcom has agreed to issue the unique callsign 2SZ for this anniversary week, and the radio waves can be expected to be buzzing with stations seeking to contact this rare call. The stations at Mill Hill will be contacting many of the 3.5 million other radio amateurs around the globe during the week. New Zealand radio amateurs will also be taking part in the celebrations (they have been operating a special ZM90DX callsign since October last year, as a “run-up” to the 2014 anniversary). UK and New Zealand amateurs will try to recreate the first Goyder contact on a wavelength close to that used in 1924.
School pupils will be able to visit the radio station, speak to the operators, and even speak over the air. Displays will be situated around the school giving more of the history and technologies involved, so that the whole event can be turned into a real learning experience for the school’s pupils. However, the station will not be open to the public generally, in view of security and safeguarding restrictions at Mill Hill School.
Many of the images and documents reproduced on this website are the property of the Radio Society of Great Britain, which retains the copyright. They are reproduced here with permission.