Theunis Potgieter, ZS2EC, of the Port Elizabeth Amateur Radio Society (PEARS) was the first station to use the callsign ZS90SARL to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the SARL.
Originally known as the South African Radio Relay League, the National Body for amateur radio in South Africa, was formed in May 1925, shortly after the formation of the International Amateur Radio Union Paris.
It is fitting that the first transmission of ZS90SARL will be made from Port Elizabeth as it was there that the first radio contact in South Africa was established. It was Edward Alfred Jennings, a telephone technician in the city who through experimentation to improve the performance of the telephone mouthpiece detected its coherer properties. He also noticed that the electric tram passing his house a little distance away caused crackling.
Later that year, it 1896, he carried out an ambitious experiment to send a signals over a nearly a kilometre distance between his house in Sherlock Street to a primitive receiving station at Copper 's kloof.
A flag was hoisted if his signals were received and indeed they were. Jennings did not get much attention. The then Prime minister of the Cape, John X Merrimen was against wireless, but his famous comment that life was complicated enough with the normal telegraph that with radio telegraphy life would become unbearable did not put Jennings off. He carried on with his radio experimentation.
On 8 May 1899 he did a demonstration in the Port Elizabeth City hall at a meeting chaired by a prominent business man MM Loubser. Loubser referred to reports from overseas and said" Mr Jennings has over the past year carried on quietly with his experimentation and research and his results are as impressive as those of Prof Marconi. His achievements are so much more significant as he did his research in in free time."
From all accounts he was the first true radio amateur in South Africa.
Give ZS90SARL a call and celebrate 90 years of SARL and the first transmission from Port Elisabeth.
ZS2EC was operational using ZS90SARL from 1 January till 11 January 2015.
Clubs and amateurs wishing to use the callsign from their station are invited to send their requests to firstname.lastname@example.org with suggested dates and planned operation.