Last month saw the radio aerials situated on the roof of the Main Building make their last transmissions to the world.
Towering 21 metres above the roof the two lattice masts have been a feature of the University for 55 years; initially they were used for academic and professional research into 'High Frequency' radio communication and latterly by the University's Amateur Radio Society. They are now set to make way for current 'new technologies' to be a feature of the university.
To commemorate the University's technical radio heritage members of the University's Amateur Radio Society and friends operated an Amateur Radio Station over the weekend of 17 - 19 March; using the station call sign G3UOA, which was issued to coincide with the establishment of the university in 1966. The station made contact with other Amateur Radio Stations in countries as far away as China, Thailand, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and North America the station was able to talk with several Aston Alumni and provided an opportunity for former member and friends to visit the station and the university, for some their first return to the university in many years.
The masts were constructed in the 1950s; designed and built by Clarence Stokes and Dick Martland of the Electrical Engineering department, and originally installed for research and study in two specific areas: Antenna design and performance testing; High Frequency propagation studies.
Prior to the common use of microwave, satellite and mobile communication long distance communication was dependent or either undersea cables or "short wave" radio. Short wave involves "bouncing" radio signals between the ionosphere and the earth; the effectiveness of antennas for this as a means of commercial, government and military communication was vital. Experimenting into efficient antennas and appropriate radio frequency characteristics was conducted at Aston through the 1950s and 60s. At the same time the Aston University Radio Society was formed, of students, staff and friends, making significant use of the research antennas for its Amateur Radio activity, using G3UOA for regular contact Radio Amateurs in all parts of the word. With the radio station being operated from a wooden shed that was on the roof.
Words by Lawrence Heath
14 April 2011