Tributes to Storrington radio expert Ron Ham

Tributes are being paid to radio expert Ron Ham - one of Storrington’s leading residents for many years.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 8:38 am
Ron Ham admiring the nautical collection of cards in Storrington Museum in 2007

Ron was a partner in Storrington’s electrical shop Ham and Knight for many years and he and his wife Joan were founders of Storrington Museum and founder members of Amberley Museum.

They were married for nearly 70 years.

Ron, who died on February 19 at the age of 90, was highly regarded in the world of radio and wrote frequent articles for many magazines, specialist publications and newspapers, as well as making frequent TV and radio appearances.

He received a number of international awards for some of his research in radio propagation and radio astronomy.

Both he and Joan, a keen historian, were also known for their talks given to local clubs and societies. “We supported each other, whatever we were doing,” said Joan. “It’s been a wonderful 68 years.”

Ron’s interest in communications started early when, at the age of 10, he built his first short-wave receiver.

Later he became fascinated with observing and experimenting with unusual reception conditions and newly-available frequencies.

The immediate post-war years saw the real beginning of the television service, then in quite an experimental stage.

Ron’s firm built and installed amplifiers which could pluck weak signals from the air and give cusomers some kind of picture - “crude by today’s standards,” said Joan, “and subject to all kinds of heavy interference both atmospheric and from traffic and medical equipment, but it was the only choice for the times.”

Ron’s interest in observation and experiment was rekindled with the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 and the space race and interesting natural phenomena which interfered with communications continued to absorb his interest, which expanded into technical journalism.

It became apparent to Ron at one stage that it would be useful to know just what was happening on the surface of the sun and, during a six-week period of convalescene from illness, he designed a radio telescope, built in his garage the following winter.

The instrument worked every day for 16 years. The TV programme Tomorrow’s World sent a team to Ron’s home to make a film and his work was also featured on BBC South.

Ron was invited by the BBC World Service to contribute to their programmes Waveguide and World Radio Club which were broadcast regularly to all parts of the world.

He made many trips to the BBC’s Bush House in London to take part in programmes and at one time was called into another studio to comment on live transmissions when the first instrument landed on Mars.

Ron also designed and built a meteor counter to observe meteor showers obscured by our weather from visual astronomers.

During his life in radio and his many lectures given on various aspects of radio propagation, Ron had collected a number of vintage and military radios which formed Amberley Museum’s first permanent exhibition when the museum opened.

A whole new chapter opened for Ron with the introduction of home computers. He had many, starting with early versions, then seeing them progress rapidly over the years from a mere 64K memory to megabytes in double figures.

“Through the medium of communications, Ron has seen the progress of the 20th century from ‘spark to space’,” said Joan. “Ron always wanted to be in at the beginning.

“In his nursing home in the last four years, when his arthritic swollen fingers could no longer manipulate TV or laptop buttons, he was able to say ‘Alexa, World Service’ and the world was his again.”