Whilst still a hi-fi and photographic salesman, Sam Ford became a licensed amateur radio operator in 1977 with the restricted call-sign ZR6LQ. Within two years, he passed his CW examination and received the full unrestricted call ZS6BRZ. In the early 1980s, he joined the sales staff of Wild & Marr Communications who were the Kenwood/Trio distributors in South Africa. The popular transceivers at that time were the Kenwood TS820S, TS-520S and the solid state TS-130 ‘S’ and ‘V’ versions.
With his knowledge and expertise, the Kenwood transceivers soon outstripped sales of the other known brands of amateur radio equipment available in South Africa.
In the late 1980s, Sam saw the need for low priced radio accessories and also the trend of ‘hams’ showing interest towards RTTY, “packet radio” and digital communications. Thus was born Sam’s Ham & Radio Shack, a mail-order type business. The Kantronics data modems were designed to work with IBMs, Commodore 64 and Apple computers. They provided high speed packet links (1200 and 2400bps at that time, then later 9600 bps), CW and RTTY modes, with Amtor appearing much later. Through Sam’s Ham & Radio Shack, MFJ manual tuners became available countrywide, so did the ‘slim-jim’ 2m base antennas, Hustler HF mobile antennas. As tube-type transceivers were still very much in use, a range of 572B, 6146B, 6JS6SC, 811A and 12BY7A tubes were stocked.
Sam parted ways with Lieberman Electronics, the successor to Wild & Marr Communications to set up Sam’s Radio Accessories in a small office in Gallo Manor a suburb of Sandton, north of Johannesburg. There were tremendous challenges to overcome, not least was acceptance in the amateur radio community when there were already two major established radio dealers and facing a minimum of five other different competing outlets who all wanted a slice of the amateur radio cake of only 5000 registered “hams”.
The long road to acquiring agencies like Alinco, Butternut, Cushcraft began with “outside help” to establish Radio Accessories & Data Modems. In the meantime, the Kenwood Amateur Radio agency passed into the hands of a large corporate group and Radio Accessories & Data Modems was appointed authorised dealer. Other authorised dealerships followed with proof of sustained sales. The AOR, Diamond Antenna, bhi, and HyGain Antenna agencies were acquired over a period of five-plus years. When son Bertrand Ford, ZR6SRA joined, the business grew in leaps and bounds with the addition of agencies like Tarheel, Buddipole, Heil Sound and SGC Smartuners.
Without a doubt, we are true purveyors of amateur radio equipment and related accessories on the Southern African continent under one roof. We stock a whole range of amateur as well as commercial grade transceivers covering most of the popular radio spectrum with attendant antennas, power supplies and test instruments. Any item not carried in stock can be imported or brought in within a short period of time.