The 15-year-old fan

On the night of Australis Oscar 5’s launch in January 1970, the ham radio co-ordinating organisation, the Wireless Institute of Australia did a link up (by telephone cable hire to Goldstone) and broadcast the event over ham station VK3WI on 160 metres, a.m., from their rooms at 478 Victoria Parade. I was 15 years old, and managed to record an hour of it on reel to reel tape, which has survived.

Chris Long’s recording is spine-tingling. Australis-Oscar 5 was programmed to emit a greeting in morse code – ‘Hi!’ – and it can be clearly heard in relay from an amateur radio operator over South Africa. It was the signal that the years of hard work and ingenuity had paid off for the kids who refused to give up. AO5 worked. It had finally been launched and it worked. I think it’s fair to say the physics lab at Melbourne University had never before (and never since) hosted a happier (and more relieved) party.

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