15 July, 2013

What's in a name - radio societies all over the world

The IARU HF Championship took place this weekend. This is the contest where every country has national stations which exchange the abbreviation of the radio amateur society. Therefore it was an opportunity to reflect on what the names of the national societies mean. Many of the names in the IARU list portray the heritage of a hundred years. It is not so strange then that this may make some of them hard to understand and even a bit old-fashioned.

Starting with the ARRL - American Radio Relay League or NRRL (Norwegian ...) then this is about a network of stations relaying messages in a country with large distances. This is a bit 1920's to me. Looking at the ARRL web page it looks as if the the ARRL agrees and really would like to modernize the name to the National Association for Amateur Radio. The Portuguese may already have modernized it a bit by the use of network instead of relay: "Rede dos Emissores Portugueses"  (Network of Portuguese Transmitters), or perhaps it is just because this is the same word as "relay" in Portuguese?

Most societies have "radio amateur" in the name like the German and the French: Deutscher Amateur Radio Club, Union Francaise des Radioamateurs. My knowledge of Spanish is not so good but this one sounds better to me: Union de Radioaficionados Espanoles as "radioaficionados" gives me the impression of "radio fans", but perhaps it is just another word for "radio amateurs"?

Just like "radio relay" is a bit old-fashioned, the Swiss also have an old name in Union Schweizerischer Kurzwellen-Amateure. It must have been coined before VHF and UHF as Kurzwelle means Shortwave.

A name which sounds more contemporary despite its age is the Radio Society of Great Britain. Many others have similar names, one example is Amateur Radio Society of India.

The word "club" is used by many and seems to emphasize the hobby aspects, e.g. Radio Club Argentino and Český radioklub (Czech Radio Club).

Contesting is in many ways like a sport, at least in the same sense as chess is called a sport today. Examples that use this word are Chinese Radio Sports Association, Belarussian Federation of Radioamateurs and Radiosportsmen, and Mongolian Radio Sports Federation.

The there's those who value the experimental aspects, like Vereniging voor Experimenteel Radio Onderzoek in Nederland (Society for Experimental Radio Research), Experimenterende Danske Radioamatører (literary Experimenting Danish Radio Amateurs) and Federacion Mexicana de Radio Experimentadores.

A similar technical emphasis is in the word "transmitter": Irish Radio Transmitters Society, Foreningen Sveriges Sändareamatörer (literary Society of Swedish Transmitter Amateurs) and Österreichischer Versuchssenderverband (literary Austrian Experimental Transmitter Society).

The protection from the royal family exalts the society, but it is something I could only find in Belgium: Royal Union Royale Belge des Amateurs-Emetteurs / Koninklijke Unie van de Belgische Zendamateurs / Königliche Union der Belgischen Funkamateure.

Finally, these are the most serious and ambitious names I could find: Egyptian Radio Amateurs Society for Development, Syrian Scientific Technical Amateur Radio Society, and above all the Wireless Institute of Australia.

Which words should be used in the name of a radio society today? It's a balance between reflecting a hundred years of history and communicating with contemporary people.

Personally I don't like to use the word "amateur". It comes originally from the same root as "amour" and "amore" and thus means someone who loves and is passionate about something. But today it gives the impression of being unprofessional. A contemporary name should also emphasize the experimental side in my view.


  1. Hi Sverre!
    Thanks for the 10m QSO yesterday.

    Yes we are very royal here in Belgium. HI. The national soccer association has royal in its name. And the pigeon racer's association too. Many associations have 'royal' in the official name.

    It's just a name from the past. It's a bit of a special situation here right now too. Not only with the new king as of next week but with politics in general... No place for that BS in ham radio!

    Franki ON5ZO / OQ5M

  2. Thanks to you too for the QSO! We have the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club and many other similar royal clubs and societies in Norway also. But when I found that the Belgian Radio Amateur Society was the Royal one, I just had to include it.

  3. Hi Sverre,

    In Canada we currently have the RAC - Radio Amateurs of Canada but it is not that old a society.

    50+ years ago we had the CRRL - Canadian Radio Relay League and just as it sounds was part of the ARRL. 35+ years ago another organization came into being which competed with the CRRL which was called CARF - Canadian Amateur Radio Federation. The two groups competed with each other for some time before the RAC came into being.

    There may have been other national organizations in Canada but I am not aware of those details, the CRRL, CARF, and RAC are only part of my 35 years of Amateur Radio experience. It seems that here in Canada we are never happy with our national organization and someone thinks they can do better but in they end they never really do.

    cheers, Graham ve3gtc

  4. Hi Graham,

    At least you managed to get rid of the anachronistic "Radio Relay League" name in the process, so at least one positive thing seems to have come out of this rather complicated process.

    - Sverre