Archived "episodes" of
ARRL Centennial: A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL
Thanks to Al Brogdon, W1AB , and the ARRL Letter for these articles
In Amateur Radio, as in all fields, 100 years has brought about amazing progress and changes. During 2014, we will give you a sense of the ARRL's and Amateur Radio's history by looking through the issues of QST from its humble beginning to the present. We'll examine the important topics and events of interest to amateurs, such as technology, operating tips and events, ARRL's doings, and FCC actions. Because of the limited space available here, the comments will be brief, but they will provide citations to original QST articles for your further reading.
The next century will bring about
changes that will be mind-boggling to us, because technology advances at
an exponential rate. Being aware of the past 100 years of ham-related events
is valuable to us for historical reasons, and it also makes us consider
what might lie ahead. Next time: A look at the earliest years of Amateur
Radio and the ARRL.
Soon there was chaos in the ether, as hams interfered with commercial and Navy stations. To curb that problem, Congress passed the Radio Act of 1912, requiring all amateurs to get licenses and to operate at wavelengths of 200 meters or shorter, spectrum considered worthless at the time.
When hams first began to pass message traffic, the typical ham station's range was measured in tens of miles, or a few hundred miles for the best-equipped stations. So hams would relay messages from station to station until they reached their destination. One night in April 1914, Hiram Percy Maxim, 1WH, in Hartford, Connecticut, was unable to contact a station in Springfield, Massachusetts, to send a message. Maxim reached another ham at the midway point of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and that station successfully relayed the message to Springfield.
This event made Maxim realize that there should be an organization to promote smooth and reliable message relays. In April 1914 he presented his thoughts to the Radio Club of Hartford, which agreed to sponsor the activity, using the name Maxim chose -- the American Radio Relay League. In February 1915, the ARRL separated from the HRC, and incorporated as a nonprofit entity.
By March 1915, it became obvious
that a publication was required to disseminate information to the 600 relay
stations on the ARRL's roster. Maxim and Clarence D. Tuska (HRC Secretary)
privately funded the first three issues of QST to meet that need. The first
issue was published in December 1915. Next: A look through QST's first issue.
This week we'll look at early Amateur Radio as seen through the viewing port of the December 1915 issue of QST -- the magazine's first issue -- whose cover proclaims, "An Amateur Wireless Magazine ... Price 10 cents ... QST de The American Radio Relay League."
The December "Radio Relay Bulletin" discusses the fact that the US and other countries face a serious situation, with war clouds on the horizon. It was obvious to the officers of the League that the service of its members as operators could become quite important. Therefore, the League sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, offering the services of its members in the event of a national emergency.
For day-to-day operation, regular listening hours are suggested, to listen for stations with messages on their hooks. Lists of members and information on their stations had been circulated before that first issue; additions to that list were published in the first QST and in subsequent issues,.
At that time, League membership and a subscription to QST were separate. Membership was free, and a three-month trial subscription to QST cost 25 cents. Among the blanks on the membership application are, "Is your spark gap rotary, fixed, or quenched?" "What tone has your spark?" and "Approximate wave length?" That tells you much about the then-current state of the art.
The ads in that first issue touted
the various parts available for radio operators. These included the Jove
Detector Holder, "for holding one or two crystals and a cat-whisker"
($1); the Bunnell "renewable contact radio key" ($7.50); a Stromberg-Carlson
radio headset ($8.25), and the Chambers rotary spark gap ($12.50): "Gives
a tone similar to a flute, on 60 Cycles." Next time: The art and science
of radio advances by leaps and bounds.
During 1916, the art and science of radio advanced by leaps and bounds. The oscillating Audion was the subject of experimentation by professional and Amateur Radio operators, and receiving performance was much advanced by the end of 1916.
The ARRL continued to grow. Comments from members and QST subscribers lauded the magazine. One lovely bit of praise said, "Your QST received and I think it is all to the mustard." The first QST article by "The Old Man" appeared in the January 1916 issue.
Hiram Percy Maxim proposed trunk lines across the country for relaying messages methodically (QST, Feb 1916), and they soon went into operation. The League and its relay stations showed skeptical government officials that amateurs could efficiently relay messages. A Washington's Birthday message that originated at Rock Island Arsenal was relayed by many hams, and was delivered to various mayors and governors all across the country.
Thoughts soon turned to mating two exciting new technologies -- "Wireless and the Aeroplane" (QST, Jun 1916). Also by this time, The Lynn News in Massachusetts was providing baseball scores to a local amateur to be broadcast over his station's 30 mile radius. Radio was grabbing the public's attention.
In mid-1916, with World War I
in progress but the US not yet involved, the president called out the National
Guard in all States. The Army and amateurs began to discuss ways that portable
amateur stations could be quickly loaded onto Army trucks and transported
to points where it needed communication. David Moore, 1ZZ, a member of the
Connecticut National Guard, was called up for that service. Moore had been
one of the ARRL's original Governors. Next week: Amateur Radio and WW I
-- before, during, and after.
The Navy soon called on President H. P. Maxim and the ARRL for help. At that time, the ARRL boasted some 6000 hams, who were experienced radio builders, repairmen, and highly trained operators -- some with as many as 15 years of experience. The Navy asked Maxim to help it find 500 operators immediately, which was accomplished! Later, the Navy issued a second call, this time for 2000 more volunteer radio operators; again, that requirement was quickly met. Another 1000 hams went into Navy service later in the war. The Army and the Army Air Service raised comparable numbers of operators from among the ranks of American radio amateurs.
When these hams provided their services to the military, their station equipment often went with them. The military branches were as equipment poor as they were operator poor.
The amateurs who went into the various branches of the military did fine work. The quality of American communication links often made a great difference in the outcome of battles. The performance of American hams garnered accolades from many people, including Commendattore Guglielmo Marconi, the chief signaling officer of the Italian Army.
Soon after the war ended on November 11, 1918, the US Secretary of Commerce said, "The officers in charge of the wireless operations of our armies in France commend highly the skill, ingenuity and versatility of the licensed amateur radio operators who volunteered in large numbers for military service and served in dangerous and responsible positions."
However, things quickly took
a turn for the worse for the amateur radio community. We'll look at that
unexpected and dangerous development next week.
ARRL President Maxim and representatives of many of the large radio clubs in the country attended the hearings and spoke against the proposed legislation. The ARRL called on its membership and on families of hams killed in action to speak out in opposition to the bill, which they did -- in large numbers, and with emotional pleas. So, despite a strong effort to push the bill through, it died in committee and never reached the floor.On April 12, 1919, five months after the armistice was signed, the US Navy Department announced that the ban on amateur receiving would be lifted, but that the ban on transmitting would continue until the President of the United States officially announced that a state of peace existed.
Three months later, on July 24, the Navy tried again. The Secretary of the Navy wrote the President of the Senate, asking that legislation be enacted to give the Navy a monopoly on all oceanic and international radio communication. This effort was also defeated by the combined forces of American radio interests, including the efforts of the ARRL.
In August, the Navy again postponed the removal of the ban on transmitting by hams. A bill was introduced in Congress to force the Navy to lift the ban. Finally, under the threat of congressional action, the Navy, on September 26, 1919, lifted the transmitting ban and ceded authority over radio matters to the Department of Commerce. Amateur Radio was back in business!
In this year-long overview of the first 100 years of the ARRL, I've lingered over the early years simply because of their great importance. Without the early efforts of the League, its officers, and its members, we likely would not have Amateur Radio as it is today. Perhaps there would be no Amateur Radio at all.
Now we'll move on through our
retrospective at a faster pace. Hams get on the air again! Technology makes
great strides! The ARRL continues its leadership roll. Stay tuned!
Following the resumption of Amateur Radio activities after World War I ensued a thundering herd of advances in the state of the Amateur Radio art. Here are some highlights from that period.
April 1922 -- The first contact
was made between California and Hawaii. September 1922 -- 1CCZ worked every
US call district in one night, the first time that had ever been accomplished.
November 1922 -- Another record-breaking relay was accomplished, from 1AW to 9AWM to Hawaiian 6ZAC and back to 1AW in 4 minutes 18 seconds.
June 1923 -- The first expedition
using Amateur Radio sailed. The schooner Bowdoin (WNP) had Don Mix, 1TS,
aboard as its operator. This and later Bowdoin expeditions were searching
for the land mass that was thought to exist at the North Pole.
September 1923 -- VK2CM contacted ZL4AA (a 1500 mile path), with VK2CM running 4 milliwatts on CW!
November 1923 -- 1MO and 1XAM worked F8AB, the first transatlantic contact. December 1923 -- 1EH made contacts with England, Italy, and Holland.
May 1924 -- The first contact
was made between New Zealand and Argentina, a new DX record of 6400 miles.
The same month saw the first contact between North and South America.
July 1924 -- All previous shortwave work had required "experimental" licenses. After considerable groundwork by the ARRL, the government allowed shortwave work by all amateurs, with band assignments of 1.5 to 2.0, 3.5 to 4.0, 7.0 to 8.0, 14.0 to 16.0, and 56.0 to 64.0 MHz.
September 1924 -- The first confirmed contact was made between California and New Zealand.
December 1924 -- The first daylight transcontinental signals were heard, from Connecticut to California, as John Reinartz, 1QP, made experimental transmissions on the new 20 meter band.
April 1925 -- The first published
article on the theory of shortwave propagation appeared in QST, authored
by John Reinartz, 1QP. Also in April, the International Amateur Radio Union
was formed at a conference in Paris, and Hiram Percy Maxim was elected as
its first president.
May 1925 -- The first contact was made between Australia and England, during daylight hours on 20 meters.
April 1926 -- The Worked All Continents award was first offered; it garnered eight initial members.
May 1927 -- The first annual ARRL DX Contest was held.
March 1928 -- The 10 meter band was opened to Amateur Radio use.
These were just a few highlights
from that wonderful era of advancement of the radio art by amateurs. Next
week: On to the 1930s.
America's "Roaring 20s" had passed and, with them, a period of roaring growth in radio technology. But a large problem had fallen on America, one that began on October 29, 1929 -- "Black Tuesday," the day the stock market crash triggered our Great Depression.
Like everyone else, hams had to tighten their belts during the 1930s. Typical ham didn't have enough disposable income to take advantage of the best advances in technology, so they learned to improvise. Amateur Radio continued to grow, both in numbers and accomplishments. Here are some Amateur Radio and ARRL tidbits from the 1930s:
--January 1930 QST announced
that phone operation on 20 meters had been authorized.
--By the early 1930s most hams were using crystal-controlled transmitters, but most hams had only a small number of crystals. The usual procedure was to call long CQs and then tune up and down the band looking for long calls in reply.
--The first ARRL "International" Field Day was held in 1933. By 1938 more than 1000 stations were participating. The event had become as popular as the ARRL DX Contest and the Sweepstakes.
--The Communications Act of 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which replaced the Federal Radio Commission. Within a few years, the FCC was monitoring ham stations, to be certain everyone was following the rules and regulations. QST warned its readers to be sure their transmitters were operating within the ham bands, because the FCC could measure frequency with an accuracy of 10 cycles per second!
--By 1936 there were 46,000 radio amateurs in the US; by 1939 the number had risen to 51,000.
--The ARRL announced the start of the DXCC program in 1937. In 1938, W3CRA qualified for the first DXCC certificate -- quite a feat!
--League Co-Founder Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW, died suddenly on February 17, 1936, at age 66. After Maxim's death, the FCC issued the call sign W1AW to ARRL. The Maxim Memorial Station, W1AW, in Newington, Connecticut, was dedicated on September 2, 1938, in his honor. The ceremony was broadcast nationwide by radio.
In May 1936, Eugene Woodruff, W8CMP, was elected by the ARRL Board of Directors as the League's second President. Woodruff was the head of the Departments of Electrical Railways and Radio at Pennsylvania State College.
But then, another World War was
upon us. We'll look at hams and the war years next week.
World War II began in September 1939 as a European war, just as World War I had. Suddenly 121 of the 250 countries on the DXCC list were off the air. At that point, the US was pursuing a course of neutrality, so American hams were allowed to remain on the air. The ARRL soon issued its own code of neutrality, which resulted in the federal government's appreciative support of Amateur Radio.
Canada, along with Britain and most of the British Commonwealth, immediately shut down ham radio, however. This created an odd situation: The US (and the ARRL), following their policies of neutrality, had to treat Canada as a belligerent; no mention of Canadian Amateur Radio appeared in QST until May 1941, when QST began publishing the column "The Month in Canada." It is noteworthy that, of the 3380 Canadian hams then licensed, half were in uniform by 1941, some 900 as officers.
In those early war years, before the US entered the fray, some interesting things happened. The state of the radio art had reached the point that long-haul DX could be worked even with modest, low-cost stations. The Byrd Antarctic expeditions put KC4USA, KC4USB, and KC4USC on the air. Experimenters began to tinker with wideband FM at the upper end of 5 meters (58.5 to 60 MHz). The FCC revamped its amateur exams, eliminating essay questions (and the requirement that applicants draw schematic diagrams) and replacing them with a multiple-choice test. Exams could then be graded immediately at the examination point, sparing the applicant weeks of anxiety.
At the 1940 meeting of the ARRL Board of Directors, George Bailey, W1KH, was elected League president.
In June 1940, World War II hit American hams harder, when the federal government prohibited US hams from contacting hams outside the country. The FCC also prohibited all mobile and portable operation below 56 MHz, with the notable exception of Field Day! At the League's request, this policy was soon modified to allow Amateur Radio Emergency Corps drills during daylight hours on weekends, and to allow true emergency communication at any time.Episode 10
There was strong evidence of subversive activities and clandestine radio stations in America. The FCC ordered all radio licensees, both commercial operators and hams, to furnish a full set of fingerprints, a passport-type photo, and proof of US citizenship by October 15, 1940.
It was necessary for the FCC to ramp up its monitoring activities, and the September 1940 issue of QST put out a call for amateurs to fill 500 new positions as FCC monitoring operators. Those 500 positions were quickly filled, almost entirely by hams. FCC's well-known Radio Intelligence Division was thus supervised and staffed mainly by hams, under the direction of George Sterling, W3DF.
The Navy Communications Reserve and the Army stepped up their recruitment of amateurs to enlist as radio operators and repairmen, and hams again responded in great numbers. In addition, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration recruited hams to serve as radio instructors. During this period, ARRL inaugurated its code proficiency program, with more than 900 hams submitting W1AW copy of the first certificate run.
Our nation was still in the phase of "positive neutrality," but there were many efforts in which US hams helped the war effort before we entered the fray. One of those efforts was the Civilian Technical Corps, which maintained and operated British radars, then operating in the upper HF and lower VHF range. One of those early radars was quite important -- Britain's Chain Home radar system, an early warning system to detect incoming German bombers early enough to scramble fighters to meet the enemy at altitude over the English Channel. Chain Home operated at 22 to 25 MHz. Although that frequency range presented problems, it could be built and put into service quickly, using existing technology and equipment.
Sets of three or four 360-foot towers were built at various locations on the English Channel's coast to support the very large wire antenna arrays. Some of those towers still exist, now supporting commercial antennas.
Next week: I'll tell the tale of a war effort that I became very familiar with by working with some of the hams who developed and put the Proximity Fuze into action.
One very important, but lesser-known, advance in weaponry developed during World War II was the proximity fuze. Its cover name during the war years was the "variable time fuze" or VT fuze. Many of the engineers who developed the fuze were hams whom I knew during the post-war years, when I worked at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. The following comments are from my conversations with two APL hams who played significant roles in the development of the VT fuze -- Lorry Fraser, W3LMZ, and Ralph Robinson, W5FDF.
When WW II began, anti-aircraft artillery fire was a game of chance. Rounds seldom made direct hits on aircraft. Modern aircraft of that day had a great advantage over the defense provided by AAA. The Navy needed a fuze that would detonate when it was close enough to attacking aircraft to cause major damage. Enter the VT fuze.
The concept of the VT was simple: Build a range-only radar small enough to fit inside the fuze of a 5 inch naval gun, and make it rugged enough to be fired from that gun. But it had to be done with components available in the early 1940s.
APL found that ruggedized hearing aid vacuum tubes could be fired from a 5 inch Navy gun and survive. They designed a radar employing those tubes, which would detect the Doppler shift of the signal reflected from a target, determine when the shell was nearest the target, and trigger the explosive charge. Powering the VT fuze was a wet-cell battery without its electrolyte. When the round was fired, G forces would break an ampule of electrolyte, flooding the battery, and bringing it and the electronics to life.
After many months of development, tests, and trials, the VT fuze was ready for deployment. Robinson received a direct Navy commission, so he could deliver and put into action the first batch of fuzes. The Crosley Corporation was then chosen to manufacture VT fuzes on a production-line basis. VT fuzes had tipped the balance of power from attacking enemy aircraft to the Navy gunners, just in time.
Next week: What happened to Amateur Radio and the ARRL when the US entered World War II?
In 1940 and 1941, the US Army continued its road to full mobilization, holding large-scale "maneuvers" in various parts of the country. The Army needed more frequencies on HF, and plans were made to turn over the entire 80 meter band to the Army. In return, US hams were allowed to use voice on 40 meters for the first time.
Then, on December 8, 1941, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous "date which will live in
infamy" speech, asking Congress to declare war against Japan. Soon,
the US was fully involved in World War II. Amateurs were immediately ordered
off the air, with a special exception for W1AW to alert the few hams who
were unaware of the FCC order. On January 10, 1942, all stations, including
W1AW, were put off the air for the war's duration. ARRL continued to lobby
for permission for hams to operate for civil defense purposes, however.
In June 1942, the FCC established the War Emergency Radio Service (WERS). It allowed radio amateurs to supply communication for their communities. An interesting sidelight is that the Government Printing Office was so overwhelmed at the time that the WERS order and information were promulgated via the ARRL and QST.
ARRL again offered its and its members' support to the war effort, but this time, Amateur Radio had become a well-known and respected entity within government circles, and the government quickly took advantage of the offers. Because radio manufacturers weren't able to keep up with the military's demands for new equipment, the ARRL put together lists of equipment that hams were willing to sell to the government. Many hams volunteered for military duty, and more than a few times a newly sworn-in military operator would find himself sitting down in front of the equipment he had recently sold to the government!
By March 15, 1942, about 15,000 hams were known to be in the military. Many other hams were working in critical defense jobs. Once again, hams answered the call!
The ARRL and QST were soon working hard to issue publications used by the military, by training schools, and by radio clubs throughout our country to train more radio operators and repairmen. In addition, the ARRL started making plans to ensure the reappearance of Amateur Radio after the war ended.
Next week: We'll continue with the story of US hams in World War II.
When the US entered World War II, Amateur Radio operations were immediately shut down for the duration. After one false start, authorization soon was given for amateurs to operate on 112 MHz for emergency drills and actual emergency operations, as members of the War Emergency Radio Service (WERS).
During the war years QST published many articles on WERS equipment suitable for 112 MHz -- especially portable and hand-held gear -- and on club preparedness. Announcements in QST made repeated calls for trained operators to volunteer for the military and for civil service. At one time, the Navy made a call for 5000 men specifically to be trained as radar operators and maintenance personnel -- state-of-the-art work.
As America's young men went to various parts of the world to fight the war, the nation called on its women to help with the war effort. Many female hams became military radio operators within the US, and others went to work in defense plants building radio equipment, just as their sisters built the aircraft, ships, and vehicles required by modern warfare.
Manufacturers' ads in QST started using photos of radio operation during military training maneuvers and even from the battlefield. Early in the war years, manufacturers were unable to keep up with the military's demand, and other ads called for hams to sell or donate their radio gear and components (panel meters were especially needed) for the war effort. Manufacturers expanded their facilities and work forces as quickly as possible, and they soon were able to meet the need.
It has been reported -- but never confirmed -- that, following the attack at Pearl Harbor, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." Regardless of the proof of that exact quote, Admiral Yamamoto's writings confirmed that those were, indeed, his feelings. And those feelings were soon proven to be correct.
Next week: We will continue to look at how hams and the ARRL backed the war effort.
During the war years, QST featured a number of articles on basic cryptanalysis, an important wartime area. Other articles went back to radio basics, to help hams still at home to brush up on their theory. Still others reported on advances in the state of the radio art. Articles showed military radio setups in use by the Signal Corps in the field during training exercises, by the Army Air Corps, by the Navy on board ships, by the Marines, and by the Coast Guard. The ARRL stood firmly behind the war effort, and did everything it could to help it.
QST began listing the names of hams who were missing in action, and of those confirmed by the Red Cross as being prisoners of war. Later in the war, QST carried reports of "Gold Star" hams -- those who had died as a result of military action.
The principles of radar were well known in the technical community, but this was highly classified work during the war. The veil of military secrecy was lifted just enough for the first "official" announcement of the existence of radar in the military to be made on April 25, 1943.
Later in the war, US hams started receiving unusual German-language signals in the vicinity of 10 meters. An investigation by the FCC and other government agencies showed that what those hams were hearing were transmissions from tank-borne tactical radios of the Afrika Korps, commanded by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel -- "the Desert Fox" -- during battles in North Africa. Hams who were fluent in German had a ringside seat to some fierce action!
By 1944, stories of hams' experiences in military action began appearing in QST. The magazine also included such tales as "Hamfest in North Africa" (QST, Feb 1944), as hams got together here and there around the world.
By 1945, when it became certain that the Allies would win the war, attention turned toward post-war hamming. Articles in QST described modern VFO and transmitter construction, small portable stations, antenna advances, and VHF/UHF equipment and techniques. Everyone was ready to return to "normal," and the League was pushing for that return!
In May 1945, the FCC announced its plan for the Amateur Radio bands when the war was over. Among other things the 2½ and 1¼ meter bands would be shifted to the frequencies they occupy today. In June, the FCC announced that it would delete the 5 meter band and replace it with 6 meters.
And then, the war was over! The documents were signed on August 14, 1945, to formally end hostilities. On August 15, ARRL asked the FCC to re-open the ham bands. The very next day, the FCC announced that the 112 MHz (2½ meter) band would be immediately opened for ham use. Slashing through miles of red tape, the band was opened on August 21. We were back on the air, even though it was on only one VHF band that would shortly become another!
Other bands were opened to ham operation as quickly as possible, but military communications first had to be moved away from the amateur bands. Making all those military frequency changes was not an easy task, but it was done as quickly as possible. After military circuits had been moved from a given ham band, the FCC would release it for ham use.
The 160 meter band remained closed to hams. During the war, a then-secret navigation system called LORAN (for "Long-Range Aid to Navigation") had been developed and placed in the 1.8 to 2.0 MHz band. After the war it continued to be widely used for maritime navigation. Hams eventually were allowed back on 160 -- at first with reduced power limits but ultimately, after LORAN went away, with normal power limits.
In another change that came with post-war Amateur Radio, the FCC rezoned the 48 states into 10 call areas, rather than the previous 9. New W0-prefix call signs started showing up on the air. Those were new licensees. Hams who had been living in the new 10th call area before the war could continue to use their W9-prefix call signs until renewal time, at which time their call signs were switched to the W0-prefix.
By early 1946, 10 meters had
been reopened for amateur use, and the ARRL threw a "Band-Warming Party"
in February and March 1946. The Band-Warming Party was a worldwide QSO party,
with both CW and phone operation. It was a nice way to celebrate being back
on the air!
War is always terrible, and World War II was one of the worst. But, while war wreaks havoc and destruction on nations and people, it always brings about major advances in technology that can be transferred to peacetime use. Amateur Radio benefitted from many of those advances following World War II.
During the war years, reliable communication was essential. Studies of the characteristics of the ionosphere and how sunspots affect propagation tremendously enhanced our understanding of signal propagation. The upper limit of easily usable frequencies had been pushed much higher during the war. Through QST, the League made sure hams learned about such scientific progress.
Much military surplus equipment was not well suited for ham use, but many hams figured out how to convert those radios for the ham bands. Others recycled the components. The prices of parts, tubes, and coaxial cable were remarkably low.
During the war, the military or the federal government purchased virtually the entire production output of radio equipment manufacturers. Within months of the war's end, equipment manufacturers had switched to producing ham gear -- and it was far superior to what had been available before the war.
After World War II, the ARRL announced that hams -- whether seasoned old-timers or brand-new licensees -- would have to start from scratch to earn the postwar DXCC. That made for lots of excitement when the HF bands again were opened to ham radio.
In January 1946 Project Diana used a converted military transmitter to send a radio signal to the Moon, which bounced back to Earth and was detected by equipment at the Evans Signal Laboratory at New Jersey's Fort Monmouth. A 0.25 second pulse of 111.5 MHz energy was beamed at the Moon, and 2.5 seconds later a faint "beep" was heard by Herb Kauffman, W2OQU, one of several hams involved in the experiment.
Hmmm...111.5 MHz. Perhaps hams could do that on 2 meters.
At the end of World War II, US soldiers and sailors were deployed all over the world, as were the troops of other nations. Among them were radio amateurs, itching to get back on the air. At their military radio stations, they could hear hams from countries around the world, as those governments allowed them back on the air again.
But US servicemen and servicewomen in other countries faced a problem. To get on the legally was a bureaucratic nightmare that involved both US military officialdom and the government of the host country. Many hams solved the problem simply by going on the air.
In the late 1940s QST carried a number of articles written by those overseas hams. In many cases, the hams were enlisted men, and they might have to go through one or two or three echelons of command to get military permission to operate. But once they got that permission, they usually had high-power transmitters and good antennas, and they made themselves heard in the US and around the world. Yes, ham radio came back with a bang!
Meanwhile, back in the US, as the HF ham bands were reopened, hams began getting back on the air. The old faithful brands of ham equipment reappeared in catalogs and stores -- now much improved and with better operating characteristics and circuitry, including built-in VFOs, something not common in the 1930s.
In addition to the well-known manufacturers shifting their production lines from military equipment back to ham gear, a large number of smaller, new companies were formed to build ham equipment. These new companies mostly built transmitters, which could be put into production quickly and built at low cost, using military surplus parts. In many cases, hams could buy equipment that had been assembled and tested, or -- for considerably less money -- buy a kit of parts and put the gear together themselves. This started the trend for a growing percentage of hams to buy commercial HF transmitters, in kit form or ready-made, rather than building them from scratch, as most hams did in the 1930s.
Many hams bought military surplus transmitters, either to cannibalize for parts or to modify for ham band use. Many military surplus HF receivers could be used with few or no modifications.
As a result of new technology, as well as the availability of inexpensive military surplus equipment, the 1940s and 1950s became high-rolling times for amateurs. It was possible for hams licensed before the war as and newly licensed hams to get on the air with pretty good equipment at low cost.
Then, in the 1950s, new FCC rules gave Amateur Radio a shot in the arm by bringing thousands of ham wannabes to the FCC examination table and then on the air. We'll look at that next week.
I've always enjoyed reading about the history of Amateur Radio, ever since I was first licensed as a Novice in 1952. Up to this point in this series, I've recounted events I'd only read or heard about from the old timers of my youth. From now on, I'll be reporting about the exciting times I lived through as a young ham and, later, as an old timer.
During World War II, manufacturing processes were developed to inexpensively manufacture flexible coaxial cable. Thousands of miles of coaxial cable showed up on the military surplus market after the war, and hams fell into the then-new habit of using coax to feed their antennas. With the advent of TV, inexpensive 300 W "twin lead" became common, and hams also used that for feed line. But TV's arrival certainly had a darker side for Amateur Radio -- television interference (TVI)!
Much early TV broadcasting was on the lower VHF channels -- low enough in frequency to be affected by harmonics (and other radiation) from HF ham transmitters, in addition to fundamental overload of the TV's front end by a strong ham signal. The 15 meter amateur band opened in May 1952, and some early TV receivers used a 21 MHz IF!
Although most TVI problems were a result of poor interference rejection of the TV receivers, all the neighbor knew was that we hams were ruining his newfound, precious entertainment medium, for which he had paid big bucks.
Phil Rand, W1DBM, worked with the ARRL to develop TVI-reduction techniques and methods, and he authored many QST articles on the subject during the 1950s. As part of the League's efforts to help hams reduce TVI, ARRL staff member Lew McCoy, W1ICP, took his "TVI show" on the road to ham clubs and community meetings around the country, explaining and demonstrating the problem and showing how hams could reduce their neighbors' -- and perhaps their own -- TVI. It was a long time before this problem was under control, but the League's efforts were a major factor in turning the tide.
Next week: What is this thing called "single sideband?"
You may have read about the dispute starting in 1919 and running well into the 1920s, about spark versus CW on the amateur bands. Although CW was easily proven to be better than spark, some real diehard hams held down the spark camp. Before the inevitable changeover, many an ugly insult was hurled back and forth between those two opposing camps.
A similar situation developed when single sideband started pushing aside good ol' AM phone, with its double sideband plus carrier. It was a long time before most of the intransigent AMers gave up and went to SSB. Before reaching Amateur Radio, single sideband had been used successfully in commercial transoceanic telephony circuits as early as 1927. But, it proved both difficult and expensive to build transmitting equipment using the components and techniques available at the time. In Amateur Radio, the number of hams prior to World War II was small enough to be accommodated within our frequency allocations, so there was little interest in SSB and its narrower bandwidth; they didn't need it.
Advances in radio technology during WW II yielded two important improvements that enabled post-war hams to get on SSB fairly easily and at reasonable cost: Stable VFOs and mechanical filters. A small number of hams started building SSB exciters. Many of them didn't convert their amplifiers from their former Class C function to a linear class of operation, however, so they made merry with 15 or 20 W, showing the AM operators what SSB could do, even with low power.
The cover of QST for January 1948 showed an oscilloscope presentation of SSB at work, with the editorial and three articles in that issue introducing "s.s.s.c." (single sideband, suppressed carrier) to the amateur community. And then, the problems started.
Most SSB operators tried friendly persuasion on their AM ham brethren, as they demonstrated the advantages of SSB. Many of these discussions became heated, however, often escalating to intentional interference wars. It was not pretty, and it was a downright embarrassment to the ham community.
Most phone operators eventually came to realize, however, that SSB was truly better then AM phone, and they migrated to the new communication mode. To this day, though, many AM proponents pride themselves on their excellent on-the-air signals. Some are pursuing nostalgia; others enjoy the engineering challenge of tweaking older gear to obtain the best-sounding full-carrier AM signals.
Soon after SSB was introduced to Amateur Radio, transmitter kits became available from manufacturers, notably from Heathkit, which many of us remember fondly. Manufacturers also started offering ready-made SSB transmitters, as well as receivers designed for good SSB reception. Throughout this changeover period, the ARRL, via many articles in QST, encouraged hams to use SSB.
Next week, we'll continue our look at some of the events of the SSB-changeover years.
Continuing our look at amateur SSB during its early years, there was one major human obstacle: Teaching phone operators how to operate their receivers for SSB reception. For AM reception, operators were in the habit of setting RF gain to maximum and adjusted the audio gain to control the speaker level. It was difficult to convince operators that, for SSB reception, they needed to turn up the audio gain and back off the RF gain, so the incoming SSB signal level would be at the level the receiver needed for the BFO to insert a "carrier" signal. Operators soon learned how to tune in SSB signals.
Also, back in those days of analog frequency control, receiver frequency drift was a problem, and the frequency (or the BFO frequency) would have to be tweaked occasionally to keep the SSB signal properly tuned. That problem disappeared, as the oscillators in newer receivers became more stable.
In July 1948, QST began publishing the monthly column, "On the Air with Single Sideband," by By Goodman, W1DX, which continued until March 1954. By the early 1950s, some AM operators still looked at "that Donald Duck talk" with disdain, but most hams realized the value of SSB, and the changeover to SSB proceeded. By April 1953, there were at least 300 active SSB stations in the US. The first SSB DXCC was awarded in 1955, and the first WAS and WAC awards were made in 1956.
One very interesting SSB-related happening took place 1956. Air Force General Curtis LeMay had been assigned in 1948 to head the Strategic Air Command in. LeMay was well known on the ham bands as Curt, W6EZV. By virtue of SAC's mission, extremely reliable, long-haul communication was necessary. Separate radio operators were being eliminated from bomber crews, and the first thought was that SAC would communicate using HF AM radios. Because of his Amateur Radio background, LeMay had become aware of the value of SSB. So, he had Amateur Radio SSB gear installed in a SAC test aircraft that made two flights from SAC HQ in Offutt AFB, Nebraska -- one to Greenland and one to Okinawa -- while making SSB contacts all along the way on the ham bands! In addition to LeMay as an operator, two civilian operators were on board -- Art Collins, W0CXX (Collins Radio), and Leo I. Myerson, W0GFQ (World Radio Labs). A lot of hams around the world received treasured QSL cards from contacts made with that rare aeronautical mobile.
Soon thereafter, SAC announced its decision to install HF SSB equipment on its bombers and other aircraft. As you can see, Amateur Radio lent a helping hand to SAC and our nation's defense posture, back in the day when the Cold War was getting very chilly.
Next week we'll leave early SSB and move on to another subject.
For many years, there had been talk about creating an entry-level ham license, first between the ARRL and the FCC, and later within the amateur community. Many who wanted to become hams viewed the 13 WPM Morse code test as an insurmountable obstacle. After much deliberation, the FCC decided to create a new "Novice" license class.The Commission began issuing Novice tickets on July 1, 1951.
In those early years, Novice licensees were allowed to operate CW on sub-bands in 80, 11 (yes, 11!), and 2 meters, and AM voice on a segment of 2 meters. Novices were restricted to crystal-controlled operation at an input power of 75 W.
Novice applicants had to pass a 5 WPM code test -- both sending and receiving. At first, the receiving test was made up of only 5-character words, making it an ever easier test. Early examinations consisted of 25 multiple-choice questions; the FCC would mail the test materials in a sealed envelope, and a local General or higher class licensee would administer the written and code exams to the applicant.
The original Novice license had a 1-year, nonrenewable term, since it was anticipated that Novices could get their code speed up to 13 WPM and acquire the technical knowledge required to pass the General exam within that period. Earlier Novice call signs included an "N" after the W or K prefix. Upgrading to General often was referred to as "dropping the N." Later Novice designators included a "V" after the prefix, which became an "A" after the holder upgraded. The FCC eventually did away with special Novice call signs altogether.
One amusing aspect of that early Novice 80 meter operation: World War II crystals were abundant and inexpensive. Wartime military operation had been channelized, mostly using crystal control, and one surplus crystal frequency fell within the 80 meter Novice band -- 3735 kHz. As you tuned across the 80 meter Novice band back then, it sounded like a full-blown DX pileup, 24 hours a day, when you reached 3735 kHz (known in that era as "kc").
In later years Novice licenses were issued for 2-year non-renewable terms, and later still for 5-year renewable terms. More questions were added to the written exam. Other sub-bands were opened for Novices on 40 and 15 meters, 2 meter Novice operation was eliminated, and 11 meters was turned over to the Citizens Band. The FCC eventually allowed Novices to use VFOs.
On April 15, 2000, the FCC stopped issuing the Novice license. The Novice era had come to a close. A small number of Novices remain, but most upgraded long ago.
The aim of the Novice license had been accomplished: Opening access for more people to become part of the Amateur Radio community.
Next week: The Technician ticket
A VHF-and-above ham license had been discussed and debated for years. When the FCC changed the Amateur Radio license structure on July 1, 1951, it established the Technician class license. It required passing a Morse code test of 5 WPM; the written exam was the same as the General class test.
The purpose of the Technician license was to allow electronics-minded people to get on the air easily to experiment on 220 MHz and higher frequencies, at a time when major advances were taking place on those amateur bands. As it turned out, the number of experimenters in the Technician ranks was fairly small; most Technician licensees wanted to be communicators. The FCC responded to this fact by progressively granting additional operating privileges to Techs.
In 1955, Technicians got privileges on 6 meters; in 1959, they obtained privileges on 145 to 147 MHz; in 1972, 145 to 148 MHz; in 1978, all privileges above 50 MHz, and in 1987, a small subband for 10 meter SSB. In 2000, Technicians who had passed a 5 WPM code test were allowed to operate CW on the Novice segments of 80, 40, and 15 meters, and to use all modes on 10 meters.
Experimentation and advances in the state of the Amateur Radio art on VHF-and-above remained, for the most part, the domain of higher-class licensees, although a fair percentage of Technicians contributed too.
As communicators, Technician licensees have proven to be a great asset to Amateur Radio during disasters and emergencies, for which the VHF/UHF bands have become primary. The proliferation of mobile stations on VHF and above also has played an important role in providing public service and emergency communication support.
As the FCC intended, both Technician
and Novice licensees spurred the growth of Amateur Radio in the US. In 1950
there were about 90,000 hams; by 1956, there were more than 140,000; by
1963, more than 250,000, and today there are some 723,000 licensees.
Let's continue our stroll through ham radio in the early 1950s.
TVI was the major technical problem facing radio amateurs during the 1950s, and the ARRL led the fight. Articles appeared in QST, authored by George Grammer, W1DF; Phil Rand, W1DBM; and others. The League worked with TV manufacturers to reduce TVI problems in future TV designs. Hams started using low-pass filters at the output of their HF transmitters, and band-pass filters at the output of their VHF and UHF transmitters. Yet the TVI problem persisted for many years.
In addition to TVI, there was
ITV -- interference from TV receivers, caused by strong radiation from the
horizontal oscillators at 15.734 kHz and multiples thereof, well into the
HF range. As you tuned across a lower HF band, there would be raspy "markers"
every 15.7 kHz.
In the early 1950s, a few hams started working with amateur television (ATV), building complex equipment to generate NTSC video signals. They were successful, but usually there were only a few stations near enough to make contact -- sometimes only one other ATV-active ham. Although it was an excellent technical accomplishment, ATV never caught on in a big way in the 1950s.
Military surplus equipment and its conversion to amateur use continued to be of considerable interest, with articles in QST detailing how such conversions could be made. New vacuum tubes that had been developed for military use during the WW II years found great utility in ham equipment, particularly the tubes developed for high-power HF and VHF/UHF transmitters.
These surplus tubes were very inexpensive. One popular one was the 1625, the 12 V filament equivalent of the 807, a workhorse tube that was good for 75 W or so. They sold for 25¢ each, or four for $1. The 813 was another popular tube for higher power, A pair could run 500 W input.
The ARRL continued the push to get more hams on the VHF/UHF bands. Ed Tilton, W1HDQ, wrote many articles about the VHF/UHF equipment he designed and built, including a 2 meter station for Novices. QST began publishing a box listing of states worked on 50 MHz (with maximum path lengths noted), and the first 50 MHz Worked All States (WAS) awards (48 states back then) were earned.
A new idea -- voice-operated transmit (VOX) -- appeared in the early 1950s, so phone operators could chat back and forth quickly, rather than taking turns transmitting long monologues. A few AM operators used VOX, but the idea was quickly put into use by SSB enthusiasts. The earliest VOX switches required the operator to use headphones, so the VOX would not be triggered by the receiver audio, but anti-VOX circuits were soon published in QST that would allow use of the station speaker.
Next week: A continuing look
at Amateur Radio and its advances in the early 1950s.
Continuing our look at ham radio in the early 1950s, we see that QST reported regularly on states that offered call sign license plates for motor vehicles. Just a handful of states offered call sign plates at first, but the idea gained momentum as more and more states joined in. Ham clubs -- or groups of ham clubs -- would lobby their state legislators to introduce bills requesting a new law. One notable example was Mississippi, where an eight-member Amateur Radio club lobbied successfully, leading to a new state law allowing Amateur Radio call sign tags!
With the help and advice of the
ARRL, governments at the federal, state, and local levels started looking
at ham radio's role in Civil Defense. The idea was to get a CD organization
in place before an emergency, rather than waiting until afterward (as happened
in World War II). By this time, the value of hams in providing emergency
communication had been demonstrated to and appreciated by government agencies
all over, so the ARRL's role was to get things operating smoothly while
in the planning stages, rather than having to make a "hard sell."
The 1950s were, of course, the time of the "Cold War" and the threat of all-out nuclear war. Seattle, Washington, was the scene of a massive "A-Bomb Test," to test all aspects of emergency preparedness, should a nuclear device hit the city, and the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps -- as ARES was known in those days -- was a major asset during the test. On a related note, QST carried several articles on radiological monitoring during the early 1950s.
Following World War II, the number of private automobiles in the country increased by leaps and bounds, as vehicle production shifted from military to civilian needs, and as the populace became more affluent and more mobile. In 1938, about 1.7 million American cars were built; in 1953, more than 6 million. As a result, QST published many articles on mobile receiving converters, mobile transmitters (single-band and bandswitching), and mobile antennas -- particularly multiband antennas.
Other areas that received attention in QST included VHF topics, the Military Affiliate (now "Auxiliary") Radio System (MARS), huge rotary arrays for 10 meters, antennas for VHF/UHF, RTTY, HF receivers and transmitters, and electronic keyers.
The ugly face of zoning restrictions
first appeared in the 1950s. The ARRL got involved in helping hams wage
legal battles against overly restrictive community limits on antenna and
tower heights -- or, in some cases, complete prohibitions of antennas. These
cases were reported in QST as they developed. Happily, the radio amateurs
always won complete or partial victories in the court cases, thereby setting
precedents for future battles of a similar nature.
On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began, with a surprise invasion by North Korea. In the days following, Amateur Radio played a valuable and unexpected role. When the invasion began, military personnel who were hams -- mostly in South Korea, Japan, and the US -- were the first bearers of the bad news, even before military communication links got word back to Washington. Until United Nations military personnel became organized with their own communication, hams continued to provide early radio communication.
Throughout the Korean War, the Military Affiliate (now Auxiliary) Radio Service (MARS) and amateur operators devoted tens of thousands of hours to handling phone patch traffic between military personnel and their families back home.
In 1952, W2ZXM/mm, Captain Kurt
Carlsen, brought the world's attention to Amateur Radio in a huge way. His
command, the passenger/freighter Flying Enterprise, was damaged mid-sea
by hurricane-force winds and high seas. "Captain Stay-Put" --
as the news media dubbed him -- ordered crew and passengers to abandon ship
when the vessel started taking on water and listing heavily. Using his ham
know-how, he managed to stay on the air using improvised equipment, antennas,
and power, even after the radio room was flooded. He remained in radio contact
from the ship until just before it sank. He was the star of an New York
City ticker-tape parade and was knighted by the King of Denmark for his
The 15 meter band opened for US hams on May 1, 1952 -- at first, for CW only. At the same time, the 40 meter voice sub-band was opened to US hams.
On August 15, 1952, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) came into being. QST continued to publish article on mobile/portable Civil Defense equipment for 10 and 6 meters. In addition to RACES operation on 10 meters, many hams were becoming quite interested in the band for its DX potential.
Two interesting articles appeared in QST describing extreme 10 meter antennas. One was a 3 element vertical beam for mobile use. A quarter-wave director and reflector were added to the typical mobile whip for portable (not mobile) use on a rear bumper-mounted boom. The driver would position the car to "rotate" the antenna. The second extreme antenna was a full-sized Yagi featuring rack-and-pinion gearing to adjust the lengths of each element from the shack, so the antenna could be tuned exactly.
A third extreme antenna -- not reported in QST -- was built by a Midwestern ham who commuted daily in his VW Beetle. Much of his commute involved about 40 minutes of driving on a long stretch of highway with no overpasses. He built a quarter-wave mobile antenna that could be assembled and disassembled quickly. When he reached the start of his unobstructed drive, he would put up his antenna and put out a big signal on 40 phone.
Lots of things were happening in Amateur Radio in the early 1950s, so next week we will look at that period a bit more.
Looking further at the early 1950s, we see that amateur incentive licensing (an on-again/off-again thing with the FCC) ended on February 18, 1953. That same month, a QST article by W1GXJ introduced a new gadget to hams -- ferrite cores.
K2AH authored a QST article in March 1953 telling of what appears to be the first use of a transistor in a ham transmitter, running 50 µW output on 2 meters to make contacts of up to 25 miles away. In the same issue, an article reported the success of W4AO and W3GKP in receiving a 2 meter ham signal bounced off the Moon!
W6QYT and W6POH were exploring another new frontier -- meteor-scatter communication on 20 and 15 meters.
CW still reigned as king in the 1950s, which saw many articles published in QST about electronic keyers. Those ran the gamut from W3FQB's tubeless "Corkey" to W6SRY's "Ultimatic Keyer" with three dual triodes and seven relays. In the May 1953 issue of QST W6DSR described building a 40 meter CW transceiver around a BC-453 command receiver; as you tuned it, the transmitter frequency moved in sync.
Effective March 28, 1953, phone
operation was allowed on 15 meters.
One facet of the Amateur Extra exam during the 1950 was amusing: The transistor, invented in 1948, was in its infancy. The FCC, wanting to keep up with the latest, formulated one question about transistors, which found its way into various study guides and appeared in every Extra class exam for a couple of years.
The May 1953 issue of QST published an article by W3FQB that remains, to this day, one of my favorite QST offerings -- "The Man Who Broke the Bank." Although written as a humor piece, it had the ring of futuristic hamming about it. It tells the tale of a radio club with a new member whose day job was working with those newfangled electronic calculators. Sweepstakes rolled around, and the new ham turned in an unbelievably large score. There was much heated discussion over the entry's validity, but the club finally agreed to submit it to ARRL, which didn't believe it, either. After cross-checking every single contact, they admitted that it was accurate and correct. Two weeks later, Ed Handy, W1BDI, visited to tour the new member's station to get to the bottom of the story.
In the early 1950s, television interference -- TVI -- became a major problem for hams. The ARRL took two important steps toward educating hams and the public about TVI, and how TVI was often the fault of the TV set, not the ham. Talk about a hard sell! Lew McCoy, W1ICP, went on the road with a live TVI-education show, complete with "fixed" and "unfixed" TV sets, ham transmitters, etc. His show was a success but it couldn't reach everyone. The ARRL also scripted and supplied photographs for a 15-minute slide presentation that could be shown on local TV stations or to live audiences. As more hams started using 50 MHz, TVI problems frequently showed up there, especially in areas that had a TV station on channel 2, which was immediately above 6 meters.
The League also began a strong effort to get more hams on 220 MHz, to show the FCC the band was being used and to help fight off other services' efforts to take over the shared band.
As more hams became seriously interested in 2 meters for long-haul communication, beams became enormous. Articles and photos in QST showed rotatable arrays with as many as 104 elements. Long-haul 2 meter tests were pursued by W4HHK, W4AO, W2UK, W1HDQ, and others, pushing the 2 meter DX envelope. In 1954, the first successful coast-to-coast message relay on 2 meters occurred. With such efforts underway, it was no surprise that the 1954 ARRL VHF Sweepstakes broke all records.
Modern-day DXpeditions started being staged. A notable one was the 1954 effort to put much-wanted Clipperton Island on the air. The FO8AJ DXpedition was organized and executed by W0NWX and a large supporting cast.
Multiband tank circuits became
quite popular, used in projects such as W1JEQ's three-control, six-band,
500 W transmitter, described in QST. New 10 GHz DX records were set and
reset by W7JIP and W7OKV, out in the land of tall mountains. The 813 beam-power
tube, developed during World War II and available on the surplus market,
became a very popular final tube. The popular CK722 germanium transistor
showed up in various small projects in QST, such as W6CHB's tiny code-practice
oscillator. Herbert Hoover Jr, W6ZH, was appointed Undersecretary of State.
And, effective June 10, 1954, Novice and Technician license exams would
be sent by mail and administered by a qualified local radio amateur, rather
than making applicants appear in person.
This week, we'll look at the 1950s. Danny Weil, VP2VB, began his well-known series of Yasme DXpeditions around the world in 1955, putting some rare countries on the air. That series lasted until 1963, and it gave thousands of DXers the opportunity to work some new ones.
In the mid-1950s, The FCC ran out of 1 × 3 call signs with W and K prefixes and began reissuing lapsed W and K call signs. When those ran out, they went on to 2 × 3 call signs with WA (and, later, WB) prefixes.
The log periodic antenna -- a new and very useful concept -- was introduced to hams in the late 1950s. It had been developed by D.E. Isbell at the University of Illinois.
Late in 1958, hams lost the shared use of 11 meters, which then became the Class D Citizens Band.
During the late 1950s, amateurs
continued to push the limits of VHF and higher bands. W6NLZ and KH6UK ran
regular schedules on VHF and succeeded in making two-way contact on 144
MHz in 1957, and on 220 MHz in 1959.
Another Amateur Radio first took place in 1960, when the first EME (moonbounce) contact was made on 1296 MHz between W6HB in California and W1BU in Massachusetts.
During the 1950s and 1960s, The USSR and the US were in the midst of the so-called "Cold War." Fearing that Soviet bombers could home in on radio signals to find their targets, the CONELRAD (CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation) system went into effect from 1957 to 1962. For their part hams were required to (1) monitor an AM broadcast station at least every 10 minutes to be sure it was still on the air; and (2) shut down, if broadcast stations went off the air. In the event of such an emergency, key 50 kW AM stations would move to either 640 or 1240 kHz to broadcast emergency information. The stations on each of those frequencies would go on and off the air in a continually varying sequence, while all carried the same audio to provide continuous information to the public
During the decade of the 1960s and subsequently, Gus Browning, W4BPD, traveled the world and operated from over 100 countries, many of them extremely rare ones and sometimes the first ham operation for that country. Gus was an ordinary guy, always a gentleman, and an unflappable pileup operator. He was the first DXer elected to the DX Hall of Fame.
On December 12, 1961, OSCAR 1, the first Amateur Radio satellite, was launched into orbit. OSCAR 2 followed on June 2, 1962. Both paved the way for the amateur satellites that followed.
By 1963, the US ham population had reached a quarter of a million, although at that time there were more CB operators than hams.
During the 1960s, repeater operation began on 2 meters. At first, there was a fair amount of confusion -- questions of legality had to be sorted out by the FCC, a lot of hams thought channelized operation wasn't a good thing, equipment had to be developed, etc. But eventually things settled down, and repeater operation on 2 meters took off, with repeater operation on other VHF/UHF ham bands and 6 meters soon to follow.
On March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake and the resulting tsunami struck Alaska and caused extensive damages in many parts of the state. As in most natural and man-made disasters, hams were quick to put together emergency communication links to help with disaster relief.
Late in 1967, incentive licensing returned to ham radio. This had been an on-again/off-again issue with FCC for about 15 years.
The FCC made numerous rules changes during the 1970s -- some major, and many minor. The Commission had to work hard to keep up with rapidly advancing technology as well as with call sign matters.
Major changes included relaxed logging requirements, which had always been stringent. The first rules governing repeaters were released. Novices were allowed to use VFOs, not just crystal control. The 2 meter sub-band for Technicians was expanded, allowing operation between 145 and 148 MHz. Phone allocations on the HF bands were widened.
In 1973, the FCC reduced to 1 year the time you had to have been licensed before applying for the Amateur Extra class license. As repeaters became more popular and more common, the FCC started issuing WR-prefix call signs for repeater stations (these were phased out in the 1980s). In 1976 and 1977, the FCC, in steps, began allowing Amateur Extras to apply for specific 1 × 2 call signs. The first Extras allowed to apply were those licensed the longest. This system preceded the current vanity call sign system and was purely a bonus for hams who had reached the top rung of the licensing ladder.
In 1977 the FCC dropped the mobile and portable operation ID requirements and further expanded Technician privileges on 2 meters to permit operation from 144.5 to 148 MHz. Technicians also gained privileges on the Novice sub-bands. Novices were allowed to run up to 250 W, and even higher-class licensees were limited to that power while operating in the Novice segments. As the ham radio population grew, the pool of available call signs became shallow, and the FCC started issuing 2 × 2 call signs (beginning with W) to Amateur Extra licensees.
In 1978, Novice licenses became
renewable, with a 5-year term. The FCC eliminated the Conditional license;
those licensees became Generals. Technician licensees gained all amateur
privileges above 50 MHz. Because so many CB operators were using linear
amplifiers to "enhance" their 5 W signals, the FCC outlawed commercially
manufactured amplifiers that could operate between 24 and 35 MHz. The FCC
also dropped the requirement to obtain a new call district-appropriate call
sign when moving from one district to another.
During the late 1970s, the FCC had to work hard to keep up with ham radio!
Next week, we'll look at what happened to Amateur Radio on the technical front during the 1970s.
A comprehensive and fascinating article on long-delayed echoes (LDEs) appeared in the February 1970 QST. LDEs are signals that have been transmitted, go away somewhere, and then are heard -- at low signal levels but often with good readability -- 10 or more seconds later. They were first heard on the ham bands in 1927. An article in the May 1969 QST described them and asked for reports from readers who had heard them. The 1970 follow-up article summarized more than 40 reports. A May 1971 QST article later reported on more than 90 observed LDE events.
The effort to get more amateurs on the VHF and UHF bands continued, with QST publishing articles on 432 MHz transmitters, 220 MHz kilowatt amplifiers, state-of-the-art low-noise receiver preamplifiers, new propagation modes and how to use them, portable beams for 2 meter mountain-topping, and more.
The number of hams using very low power -- QRP -- also continued to grow, with equipment and portable HF antennas featured in QST articles, as well as reports of QRP use by hikers and mountain-climbing hams.
Repeaters for 2 meter FM operation
were becoming very popular, and their numbers were growing rapidly. QST
described how to build repeater duplexers, control equipment, antennas,
and control links, and it kept repeater control operators informed of relevant
FCC rules as they were developed.
Amateur Radio satellites continued to attract more and more attention. QST articles provided information to encourage and help hams get up and running on the satellites. Topics covered in those many articles included how to plot satellite orbits, build beams that could be rotated in both azimuth and elevation, construct circularly polarized beams, determine when you can use the satellites for contacts over a given path, along with other tips and information. As each new OSCAR was built and launched, QST carried announcements and information on how to use it.
A nice article on "The $22,000,000.00 Ham Shack" appeared in the April 1970 QST. No, it wasn't an April Fool's article. It told of the first flight of the new Boeing 747, with WA7IBL using one of the aircraft's radios to make HF SSB contacts.
As the 1970s rolled along, many homeowners purchased hi-fi and stereo audio equipment. Most consumer electronic equipment was not built to reject interference from ham transmitters, however. Articles in QST during the 1970s told hams how to deal with those interference issues.
In 1970, the much-anticipated Heath SB-220 HF kilowatt linear amplifier came on the market, with a selling price of $350.
As transistors' performance continued to improve, homebrew solid-state equipment became progressively more popular. QST reported on many interesting projects that used transistors, including VFOs, QRP rigs, receivers and receiver preamplifiers, transmitting linear amplifiers, and accessories.
Continuing through the 1970s, QST articles written by Lew McCoy, W1ICP, helped Novice licensees and other new hams by describing various transmitters, amplifiers, antennas, and station accessories, as well as coaching newcomers on general radio knowledge and techniques.
The first two-way Amateur Radio laser contact (at 475 THz) took place in 1971 between WA8WEJ and W4UDS, operating inside a building of the US Air Force Academy.
Over the years, many other radio services tried to take 220 MHz away from the Amateur Service. In 1971, the Electronic Industries Association petitioned the FCC to reallocate approximately one-half of the band to the Citizens Radio Service. The effort failed.
John Troster, W6ISQ, continued his fine humorous articles and spoofs in QST during the 1970s, amusing us greatly. His "fictional" tales often reminded us of real experiences we had along the same lines.
A May 1972 QST article introduced
readers to a new device that was beginning to have a few practical applications
-- the light-emitting diode (LED).
As the Apollo space missions began, W4HHK and K2RIW developed receiving systems to listen in on the 2287.5 MHz signals from the program's spacecraft, as reported in June 1972 QST.
During the 1970s, interest continued in electronic keyers, and many articles on the topic appeared in QST. New developments included automatic character and word spacing and solid-state memories for repeating often-used messages such as CQs and contest exchanges.
In late 1973, after discussions that spanned many years, the ARRL Board of Directors voted to establish the ARRL Foundation.
The log-periodic dipole array and its great utility in amateur use were described by K4EWG in the November 1973 QST.
Amateur DXpeditions increased
in popularity during the 1970s. These ranged from casual "holiday"
operation by businessmen or tourists to stand-out expeditions, such as the
KP6KR Kingman Reef operation in 1974. That adventure included a two-day
search to find the island, 5535 contacts in just under 30 hours of operation,
and a white-knuckle departure during gale-force winds.
QST articles in the 1970s often reported on the progress of both amateur TV (ATV) on the UHF bands and slow-scan TV (SSTV) on the HF bands, as well as showing station equipment and setups.
Radio contesting started to become more automated during the 1970s. In the February 1975 QST, WA4HQW presented "The Contester," a semi-automatic contest station controller that sent CW, checked dupe sheets, recorded the time, filled in the log, and kept a running contact count. One of WA4HQW's observations has been overtaken by events: "There are things that no machine can do, such as copy two or three CW signals at once, which will leave the human operator king for a long time to come."
By 1974, QST was publishing reports of the League's preparations -- already in progress -- for the 1979 World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) to address the allocation of the limited radio spectrum among radio amateurs and other users. WARC-1979 had a very positive outcome for the Amateur Service.
In January 1976, QST expanded to an 8-1/2 × 11 format! The new size would reduce the printing cost by $100,000 a year. The old, smaller format had remained in place for years, because it was the size of the press the local printer had in those early days.
Following the fall of South Vietnam, thousands of refugees from that country poured into the US. The State Department provided housing in unused military bases, but there was a need for communication to help reunite families. US State Department employee Jim Bullington, K4LSD, saw that ham radio would be ideal for the task and proposed the idea to the ARRL Board of Directors (which happened to be in session at the time). The Board supported the idea, and hams entered a new area of public service that provided humanitarian aid -- again showing the public what our operators could do. See "Operation Vietnamese Refugee" by George Hart, W1NJM, in the February 1976 QST for a full description of the effort.
By the mid-1970s, Citizens Band
radio had become hugely popular, which led to a major crime wave of mobile
CB radio thefts. Criminals typically are not noted for their superior intellect,
so occasionally 2 meter ham gear was purloined and even used, with the thief
believing he was on CB. In some cases, hams were able to identify the pirate
for the police to investigate.
The League began encouraging clubs to recruit CB operators into Amateur Radio. Many CB operators rose to the challenge, as they came up against the limitations of CB operation. As a result, the number of new licensees rose sharply.
QST published a series of articles called "Learning to Work with Integrated Circuits," to help hams keep up with that new technology.
The state of the art in power transistors continued to improve, and QST articles appeared, detailing the construction of solid-state kilowatt amplifiers for the ham.
During the latter half of the 1970s, articles and editorials in QSTreported on the League's work in preparation for defending our amateur allocations at World Administrative Radio Conference 1979 (WARC-79).
Hidden transmitter hunts, also known as radio foxhunting, had been very popular in Europe for some time, and the sport started catching on in the US, mostly involving the use of 2 meter FM.
The September 1976 issue of QST announced that Al, K2UYH, had succeeded at Worked All Continents (WAC) on 432 MHz -- via moonbounce!
Amateur Radio was well represented at the 1976 grand opening of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A backup OSCAR 1 satellite -- the world's first non-government satellite -- was on display, and a battery-powered station was set up to make contacts via OSCARs 6 and 7.
After 12 years in pursuit of 2 meter Worked All States (WAS) using meteor scatter, auroral, tropospheric, and moonbounce propagation, K0MQS finally turned the trick in early 1976! Showing that there are always new adventures in ham radio, W9JA in 1976 earned a 5-band WAS for working only hams with 1 × 2 call signs! By 1977, plans had begun for the Phase III Amateur Radio satellite, which would be far more sophisticated and capable than any AMSAT "birds" to date.
Articles began appearing in QST in the late 1970s that reported on hams building alternative power systems using solar and wind power. During the late 1970s, more and more 2 meter repeaters were put on the air, mostly by ham clubs. Sorting out new rules and regulations for them turned into a major undertaking for the FCC, including dealing with phone patches and autopatches via repeaters. QST responded with articles and notes to report the rules changes.
On March 20, 1978, the FCC banned 10 meter amplifiers, because of the large-scale misuse of them on Citizens Band. This happened, despite the efforts of ARRL and many individual hams and ham clubs to leave the hams alone and to go after errant CBers instead. A guest editorial by Dave Bell, W6AQ, in the May 1978 QST is a splendid fable mirroring the FCC decision. By the late 1970s, attention began to be focused on the potential dangers to hams of RF radiation. A QST article in September 1978 described the experiences of Naomi Uemura, JG1QFW, as the first solo explorer to reach the North Pole. Hams set up an emergency circuit for his support, and tracked his dog sledge via reports relayed through the Nimbus 6 satellite.
During the late 1970s, considerable attention was given to the new concept of narrowband voice modulation (NBVM). The new technique of frequency-compressed SSB was reported in the December 1977 QST, and the editorial in the September 1978 issue announced that W1AW would soon begin test transmissions, together with instructions as to how the signal can be tuned in (with reduced intelligibility) using normal SSB receivers. NBVM never caught on, however.
Two new annual contests began
in 1978 -- the ARRL EME Competition and the ARRL UHF Contest. An article
in October 1978 QST reported on a newly discovered mode of VHF propagation
-- Equatorial FAI (transequatorial propagation enhanced by magnetic-field-aligned
When the 1979 World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC-79) concluded, Amateur Radio had gained new bands at 10, 18, and 24 MHz. Those bands would become available to US hams later, after the FCC had done its work to put them in place. The term "WARC bands" for 30, 17, and 12 meters persists to this day.
Also in 1979, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry on the subject of radio frequency interference (RFI). The great expansion of consumer electronic gear that was susceptible to RFI had led an increase in complaints of interference from hams, largely through no fault of the hams or their equipment.
In the March 1980 issue of QST, VE2AEJ's article, "Observance of Long-Delayed Echoes on 28 MHz" concluded that long-delayed echoes are a result of transmitted signals getting into a natural duct, probably between the E and F layers of the ionosphere, and circling the globe many times before re-emerging. After the explanation of LDEs was set forth, scientists asked for hams to help with reports of their LDE experiences, to better understand the details of the propagation.
As QST articles in the 1980s reflected, the main topics of interest to the amateur community were new antenna ideas -- from simple and inexpensive to large, complex, and very expensive -- the use of new solid state technology in the ham shack, VHF/UHF/microwave equipment and activities, 2 meter FM and repeaters, DXing, contesting, and moonbounce communication.
When microprocessors and microcomputers emerged in the early 1980s, hams began putting them to work. Later, stand alone computers began to be integrated into the stations of hams who were pushing the state of the art. Another area where digital technology helped amateurs was the construction of frequency synthesizers.
In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union's "woodpecker" over-the-horizon (ionospheric) radar had started its strong and annoying peck-peck-peck that slowly swept through the HF amateur bands as well as the allocations of other radio services.
In 1980 the ARRL Board of Directors established a Long-Range Planning Committee, to look far into the future and plan for Amateur Radio to remain strong enough to weather the efforts of other radio services to chip away at our frequency allocations. The LRPC was also tasked to find ways to strengthen the cooperation between Amateur Radio and governmental agencies at all levels.
The Amateur Radio space effort suffered a huge disappointment in May 1980, when the first attempt to launch a Phase 3 (OSCAR 9) satellite was unsuccessful. The Ariane launch vehicle failed right after liftoff, and Phase 3 landed in the Atlantic Ocean. The AMSAT-OSCAR community regrouped and went to work building another Phase 3 unit. The ARRL Foundation launched a fund-raising drive for building the new Phase 3 satellite that was highly successful.
In March 1980, Mount St Helens spectacularly exploded. Before the explosion, radio amateurs had been assisting with communication among a number of sites where ongoing measurements were being taken, because scientists had concluded that the mountain was nearing the point of eruption. The hams continued to work after the volcano's several eruptions, with both emergency communications and a continuation of their previous support work. Sadly, two of those hams lost their lives during the disaster -- W6TQF and KA7AMF.
By the 1980s, some towns and
neighborhoods had begun to impose very restrictive rules about antennas
and towers -- rules that would prohibit effective amateur antennas. Many
of these cases were fought through the legal system successfully by the
affected hams. As with so many issues that involve many hams all over the
country, ARRL joined the fight, providing legal assistance through the League's
general counsel and volunteer counselors who were also hams.
The ARRL introduced a new periodical in December 1981 -- QEX. Its purposes were (1) to publish articles that documented advanced technical work in areas that were not of wide general interest, and (2) to act as a catalyst for technical development in the Amateur Radio and Amateur-Satellite Services.
On May 21, 1981, at the request of the ARRL, the FCC restored 160 meters to exclusive Amateur Radio use. Before this, the FCC rules included an array of restrictions on 160 meter operation, to protect the LORAN (Long-Range Aid to Navigation) system. Now, hams could run a full kilowatt on 160, day and night, anywhere in the country!
In the 1980s, packet radio and packet repeaters -- digipeaters -- came into being. Numerous QST articles detailed this mode of operation, helping interested hams to get up and running on packet.
In 1982, cable TV systems expanded across the US, bringing with them the potential for CATVI -- cable TVI. Some cable channels were on 2 meter amateur frequencies, and because many poorly installed and maintained cable systems "leaked" TV signals, causing interference on the 2 meter band. Of course, if signals could leak out, other signals could leak in, and hams sometimes caused interference when their signals got into the cable TV system. Cable companies often blamed the problem on hams, rather than take the blame for their poor equipment and maintenance. In the meantime, the FCC was in a fiscal crisis, because of budget cutbacks. Although it was willing to enforce the regulations and bring the cable companies in line, it was unable to fund that enforcement effort. This problem continued for some time before it was corrected.
During the 1980s, the SKYWARN system was established and became affiliated with the National Weather Service, so hams could report dangerous weather events that they saw. To this day, SKYWARN members have proven extremely valuable for monitoring weather conditions and providing "ground truth" reports to the NWS. Much SKYWARN communication occurs via 2 meter repeaters.
Harry Dannals, W2HD, had been ARRL President for 10 years when he decided to step down in 1982. At the same time, ARRL Secretary and General Manager Richard Baldwin, W1RU, retired. At their first 1982 meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors elected Vic Clark, W4KFC, as the League's new president, and David Sumner, K1ZZ, as the new Secretary and General Manager.
On the afternoon of January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport. But the Boeing 737 slowly settled toward Earth, clipping the 14th Street Bridge (I-395) and destroying seven cars that were on it, before crash landing in the ice-covered Potomac River. The area's ARES operators and nets sprang into immediate action and provided much-needed communication support among the various governmental agencies that had responded.
In February 1973, the FCC proposed a new Amateur Radio license class that would not require Morse code testing, and invited comments. At the time, the ARRL opposed the proposal.
From 1965 to 1985, the FCC, ARRL, and US hams took note of what was called the "JA Phenomenon." The number of Japanese hams grew from 70,000 in 1965 to 499,000 in 1975, and then to more than 1 million by 1985! A new Japanese codeless license class helped spur that growth.
On June 16, 1983, the second
attempt to launch a Phase III Amateur Radio satellite (AMSAT-OSCAR 10) was
successful. Articles in QST kept hams up to date on its progress. OSCAR
10 was, by far, the most capable amateur satellite to date.
Also in 1983, Amateur Radio in the US reached a new level of formal governmental recognition of Amateur Radio's emergency communication capabilities, when ARRL President Vic Clark, W4KFC, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with National Communication System Deputy Manager John Grimes.
Articles began appearing in QST during 1983 explaining what personal computers could do and how they might be put to use in the ham shack.
In October 1983, the US military
invaded Grenada. Mark Barettella, KA2ORK (now N2MD), then a medical student
at St George's University School of Medicine on Grenada, became the only
non-military source of information from the island, as he relayed messages
between other Americans on Grenada and their families in the US. This resulted
in excellent media coverage for Amateur Radio.
Amateurs throughout the world were saddened to learn of the unexpected death of ARRL President Vic Clark, W4KFC, in November 1983. A well-known ham as early as his teenage years, Clark won the first Hiram Percy Maxim Award in 1936. He also served the ARRL in various roles and offices and was considered a first-rate operator. He was truly one of the giants of Amateur Radio.
In November 1983, Owen Garriott, W5LFL, became the first ham to make contacts from aboard the Shuttle Columbia. His first contact was with WA1JXN. W5LFL operated his 2 meter FM transceiver during his non-duty hours during the mission's 10 days in orbit.
In September 1984, phone privileges
on 75, 15, and 10 meters were expanded. In addition, US stations in Alaska
and in the Pacific had their 40 meter phone privileges expanded, so they
could avoid the high-power international broadcast stations.
At the 1983 Dayton Hamvention, volunteers administered Amateur Radio examinations for the first time, under FCC supervision, demonstrating the feasibility of a volunteer examiner system. The following year, the FCC began designating Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (the first was the Anchorage, Alaska, Amateur Radio Club VEC), including the ARRL VEC, now the largest and most successful.
In June 1985, ARRL co-founder
Clarence D. Tuska died. He was the last surviving pioneer of early organized
Amateur Radio. Tuska was still a teenager and Hiram Percy Maxim was a well-known
inventor in his 40s when they first met and eventually formed the League
a century ago. Tuska, who went to a career in radio manufacturing and patent
law, served as the ARRL's first secretary as well as the first editor of
QST. The fascinating story of their early association and how it came about
was told in the April 1989 issue of QST and recounted and updated in the
January 2014 QST "It Seems to Us" editorial, "Present at
On August 15, 1985, the FCC opened the 902 to 928 MHz band for amateur use. Also in 1985, the 10 MHz band (30 meters), one of the so-called "WARC bands," was opened for US amateur use. The band was one of those gained at the World Administrative Radio Conference 1979.
Also in August 1985, astronaut Tony England, W0ORE, took along ham radio, including slow-scan TV, on a shuttle Challenger mission. His aim was to get youngsters involved in the space program and ham radio.
On March 21, 1987, "Novice enhancement" came to pass, 12 years after the ARRL had first asked the FCC to implement it. Novice privileges were expanded to allow operation on 28 MHz SSB, 220 MHz, and 1270 MHz, as well as operation using RTTY, AMTOR, and packet. This was a giant step toward getting Novices more into the mainstream of Amateur Radio.
During Field Day 1987, those new privileges allowed Novices to make contact with the Goodyear blimp Enterprise, thanks to KA4KVI, WB4RFC, and N4ORN, who had put a ham station on board.
The results of a new ARRL contest were reported photographically in the April 1987 QST -- "The Messy Shack Photo Contest." Winners in each of the nine categories truly outdid themselves, making our hearts swell with admiration and pride at our fellow amateurs' efforts.
The August 1987 QST reported an interesting solo hike by VE3HBF, 89 days on foot from the southwestern tip of England to extreme northeastern Scotland. A solo hiker, David was never alone. He had a 2 meter handheld with him, so that other hams could keep him company along the way, and so he could call for help, if needed. As he walked, he visited historic radio sites along the way, and was visited by other hams on several occasions.
In 1987, Amateur Radio in the US celebrated the bicentennial of the US Constitution with "200" call signs for club stations, a "We the People" WAS, and other radio events.
On January 1, 1988, the Canadian
Radio Relay League became fully autonomous, ending its long-held status
as a division of the ARRL.
Part of the 220 MHz band, perpetually under attack by other radio services, was snatched from the Amateur Service on August 4, 1988, by the FCC, which reallocated 220-222 MHz to the Land Mobile Service. ARRL had been fighting this battle for some time and would continue efforts have that band segment return to the Amateur Service.
January 1989 QST published "The Listener," a quick, but interesting, look at the efforts of pioneer radio astronomer Grote Reber, W9GFZ.
On January 30, 1989, the FCC released the news that the much-awaited 17 meter ham band was open for business in the US!
The editorial in the May 1989 QST, "Spectrum Management, or Abdication?" decried a recent FCC action to allow manufacturers of electronic equipment to radiate unlicensed signals on hams bands from 902 MHz upward. The ARRL continued its defense of amateur frequencies by preparing to go to Congress for relief, using this as the latest example of FCC out-of-control decision making.
A two-part article by KO5I and N4HY in the May and June 1989 issues of QST introduced the latest generation of OSCAR satellites -- microsats.
In July 1988, a team of hams from Finland and the Soviet Union mounted a DXpedition to a new DXCC country, Malyj-Vysotkskij ("M-V Island"). This ended an 18-year effort to put the island on the DXCC List. Participant Martti Laine, OH2BH, recounted the experience in a June 1989 QST article. [The lease of Malyj-Vysotkskij to Finland expired in 2012, the island reverted to Russia, and MVI was deleted from the DXCC list. -- Ed.]
On May 11, 1989, a congressional oversight committee summoned the FCC's chief engineer to defend the Commission's decision to take 220 to 222 MHz away from amateurs and allocate it to another service. Following the hearing, the committee chairman wrote the FCC, asking it to reconsider alternatives. The FCC stonewalled and did nothing. The ARRL subsequently filed a federal court appeal.
On July 20, 1989, the newly renovated W1AW building was rededicated. Nearly 10,000 individual donors had put up almost a half million dollars to fund the renovation.
In the "How's DX?" column in the September 1989 issue of QST, Ellen White, W1YL, noted "Pitcairn Island's Bicentenary," a fascinating read. White noted that Pitcairn was the country with the highest per capita number of hams in the world -- 6 hams out of a population of 60! The island's 200th anniversary was celebrated in part by special event station VR200PI.
In 1990, a husband-and-wife team achieved DXCC on 6 meters. The wife, K5FF, was first, and her husband, W5FF, was right behind.
An interesting photo in "Up Front in QST" in September 1990 showed Samuel F. B. Morse III, W6FZZ, operating at a special event station to celebrate his great-grandfather's 199th birthday.
An article by NU1N appeared in the September and October issues of QST telling how we could get on the air using lasers.
The October 1990 QST reported on the 3Y5X Bouvet Island DXpedition of 1989-1990. This $330,000 venture -- funded by the participants and by donations from hams around the world -- produced nearly 50,000 contacts on all HF bands on SSB, CW, and RTTY.
The first World Radiosport Team Championship was held in Seattle in 1990, as part of the International Goodwill Exchange Event.
Marking the 75th anniversary of QST, the magazine's December 1990 issue published an overview of those 75 years, written by WJ1Z. The article noted that at the time the first issue of QST was published, the League's membership was 635.
On October 28, 1990, W5UN worked his 100th country via EME (moonbounce). Not content to rest on his laurels, by November 4 he was up to 104 countries. Dave might have made EME DXCC earlier, had it not been for a tornado that wrecked his first 32 dBi-gain moonbounce array.
The FCC instituted the new "codeless" Technician license on Valentine's Day 1991. Within the first two weeks, 313 people had applied, and the first such license was issued to N3IFY.
An interesting airplane accident story was published in March 1991 QST. Gary, V31KX, was aboard a flight in Belize that went down on November 14, 1990. After the forced landing, Gary retrieved his 2 meter handheld from his luggage, connected it to the aircraft's 121 MHz antenna and made a successful call for help.
Operation Desert Storm began
in 1990, and MARS stations were activated to handle personal messages, including
phone patches, between members of the military and their families back home
-- a major morale-booster. Those efforts of American amateurs operating
under their counterpart MARS call signs generated a great amount of positive
publicity for Amateur Radio.
The May 1991 QST article, "Last Voice from Kuwait," told how Abdul, 9K2DZ, hid his amateur gear from Iraqi soldiers when they came to confiscate it. When they demanded his radio equipment, he gave them a broken radio! After that, he used AMTOR and APLINK to handle health-and-welfare messages in and out of Kuwait. Many of Abdul's messages were forwarded to the media, Department of Defense, Department of State, and the White House. Again, good reviews for Amateur Radio.
During 1991, many hams made contact with the Soviet Mir space station, thanks to the efforts of operator Musa, UV3AM. Another Amateur Radio first occurred in 1991: The entire crew of the space shuttle Atlantis on its STS-37 mission (April 5-11, 1991) was comprised of hams, and Space Amateur Radio EXperiment (SAREX) ham gear was aboard.
A first took place on Space Shuttle mission STS-37. SAREX (Shuttle Amateur Radio EXperiment) provided live communication from the shuttle into many school classrooms to teach the students about space exploration and Amateur Radio.
In July 1991, N6CA and KH6HME set a new record on 3456 MHz between California and Hawaii. Each was running 5 W to a 4-foot dish.
In 1992, after 8 years as ARRL President, Larry Price, W4RA, declined to run for re-election. The League's Board of Directors subsequently chose him as the next International Affairs Vice President, which provides liaison with the IARU, which Price served as Secretary. George Wilson, W4OYI, succeeded Price as ARRL President.
N7FKI and W7ZOI reported in the March 1992 QST that they had built a one-transistor 10 meter CW transmitter and made contacts with it using lemon power -- essentially a cell made by inserting appropriate electrodes into a lemon. If life gives you lemons, make contacts!
During the early 1990s, interest in digital communication grew, and QST published many articles on the subject that helped fan the flames. Also, hams became interested in the old concept of direct-conversion receivers. KK7B presented one of the best in the August 1992 issue of QST. Another old receiver circuit was also revived -- the regenerative receiver. WJ1Z described one for 40 meters in the September 1992 issue of QST.
By the early 1990s, digital signal
processing (DSP) had made its appearance, and had begun to be used by both
homebrewing hams and equipment manufacturers.
A September 1992 QST article, "ABC: The First Electronic Digital Computer," recounted the fascinating tale of the first real computer, the Atanasoff-Berry computer -- a vacuum tube device -- designed in 1939 and 1940 by university professor John Atanasoff and built by electrical engineering student Clifford Berry, W9TIJ.
A photo story in "Up Front in QST" in January 1993 noted that President George H.W. Bush had made an official visit to Springfield, New Jersey, to meet with local and state officials. One of those officials was Jeff, WB2DCJ, who coaxed the President into greeting some locals on 2 meters. "Hey, how are you guys doing?" Bush said on the radio. "Nice to talk with you."
That same issue of QST noted that DXCC credit was now being given for contacts with three new entities -- Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina -- that emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
By 1993, as the number of licensed amateurs increased, so did the number of intentional violations of FCC rules.The Commission responded by getting tough and levying severe fines on intentional wrongdoers, and in some cases taking offenders to court.
The July 1993 issue of QST published the tale of K3KMO's 10,500 mile motorcycle trip from Maryland to Alaska and back, all the while operating HF CW in motion. CW contacts with hams all over the world helped while away the long hours driving along the road.
In the 1970s, the FCC banned amateur communications for business purposes. The vague wording of those rules became interpreted in a progressively stringent manner over the years, however, curtailing the use of Amateur Radio to support even meritorious public service activities. In July 1993, the FCC changed its rules to allow hams to provide communication for worthwhile public service activities. The final rules were adopted almost verbatim from the suggestion made by ARRL.
The 10th anniversary of Amateur Radio as part of NASA space shuttle missions was observed in 1993, with five shuttle crews requesting that ham radio be part of the payload that year.
VHF/UHF scanners had become very common by the 1990s, and many local and state governments enacted laws making their use illegal. At the same time, several manufacturers of amateur VHF/UHF equipment started including scanners in their amateur transceivers, which provided reception outside the ham bands. This put some hams between a rock and a hard place.
In the late 1980s, the ARRL launched an effort to have the FCC clarify its rules regarding scanners. Finally, on August 20, 1993, FCC published a Memorandum and Order to settle the issue. The Order stated that hams have a federal right to own and operate their equipment, which preempts state and local radio laws. Furthermore, the FCC's decision supported, at length, the very essence of the purpose of the Amateur Service. Once again, the League represented our interests and preserved our place in radio.
One of the Nobel Prizes awarded in 1993 went to Joe Taylor, K1JT, and Russell Hulse, ex-WB2LAV, for their discovery of binary pulsars and their investigation of the gravitational fields exerted by those ultra-dense stars. Joe credited his interest in Amateur Radio while still a teenager as leading to his chosen field of physics and to his Nobel Prize.
By 1995, the FCC had implemented electronic filing of license applications, greatly reducing the time lapse between passing a license exam and getting the license. The new system often reduced the waiting period to as little as 2 weeks.
By the 1990s, digital signal processing (DSP) was coming into use in the form of both homebrewed and factory-made devices. "DSP -- An Intuitive Approach," by W9GR, in the February 1996 issue of QST explained how DSP works and urged hams to give it a try.
After many years of political unrest in Myanmar that resulted in the banning of Amateur Radio, the country formerly known as Burma starting cracking the door open to hams in 1994. Following 3 years of negotiations with Myanmar officials and two small-scale DXpeditions to that country, Martti Laine, OH2BH, obtained permission for a large-scale DXpedition that would demonstrate the value of ham radio to the government. A multinational ham team operating as XZ1A made many thousands of contacts and even operated in the CQ World Wide DX SSB contest. The article, "DXing from the Golden Land," published in the March 1996 issue of QST, told the fascinating story.
For many years, interest in 10 GHz operation had been building, spurred on by the ARRL's 10 GHz contests. By the mid 1990s, many hams were heading to the mountaintops with their small dishes to operate at 10 GHz. Coastal hams with pleasure boats would often go offshore to operate from the rarer grids, but sometimes they would have to suspend operation, when seas became high enough to make dish-pointing from their bouncing boats almost impossible.
Gate 1 of the long-awaited vanity call sign program finally opened on May 31, 1996, after many delays -- including a total federal government shutdown at the beginning of that year, because Congress could not pass a budget. Gate 1 accepted applications from former holders of expired and unused call signs and from hams asking for the call signs once held by now-deceased relatives. Gate 2 opened on September 23, 1996, for Amateur Extra class licensees to apply.
An interesting juxtaposition of two "the old and the new" articles appeared in the September 1996 issue of QST. The first was an article explaining how the then-new Global Positioning System (GPS) works. The next article looked far into ham radio's past as it attempted to
explain the inexplicable mysteries of the Wouff-Hong and the Rettysnitch. The Wouff Hong and Rettysnitch were fictional tools that sprang from the imagination of "The Old Man" (Hiram Percy Maxim), to be used for punishing Amateur Radio operators who demonstrate poor operating practices.
As the "It Seems to Us" editorial related in the October 1996 issue of QST, "August was ushered in by a sudden announcement of rewritten FCC rules governing human exposure to RF fields, creating a mountain of uncertainty and concern in the Amateur Radio community." The "Happenings" column in that issue provided more details. An article in the January 1997 issue of QST further explained how the new rules would affect hams.
In January 1997 a high-tech, massive, expensive, and very successful DXpedition was mounted to operate as VK0IR from Heard Island in the Antarctic. The 20-man crew, led by KK6EK and ON6TT, made a remarkable 80,673 contacts! The VK0IR story was told in detail in the September 1997 issue of QST.
The ARRL Board of Directors designated 1997 as Amateur Radio's Year of Public Service, with two aims. One was to publicize ham radio's major role in public service over its many decades of existence. The other was a large public relations effort to tell non-hams about ham radio.
The Phase 3D amateur satellite had been in the works for some time and was nearing its launch date. A five-part series of QST articles in 1996 and 1997 described the bird and how hams could use it. As told in the June 1997 issue of QST, for his Eagle Scout public service project, Brian, KC4LLD, volunteered to build the Phase 3D shipping container. The project eventually required the help of 21 other Scouts to complete On August 6, 1997, Gate 3 of the vanity call sign program was opened, with about 1500 immediate applicants.
During 1997, Congress considered the wording of a bill to make it illegal to listen in on cellular telephone signals and to market equipment that covered cellular service frequencies. The ARRL put forth a successful effort to be sure that radio amateurs would not be affected by the bill.
By 1998, hams were communicating via the new OSCAR 27 satellite using hand-held transceivers and whip antennas.
In early 1998, the FCC inaugurated its new Universal Licensing System (ULS). The Commission also required ham radio applicants to use a new Form 610, on which they had to certify that they had read and would comply with the new RF safety rules. The ARRL continued efforts to protect against any possible reallocation of Amateur Radio spectrum.
On September 1, 1998, the ARRL launched a members-only section of its website, which provided many features of interest to amateurs. The ARRL Letter, previously available only via the ARRL website, was thereafter e-mailed directly to subscribing members. By April 27, 1999, some 50,000 members had signed up to access members-only content.
In the late 1990s, the FCC launched a new era in Amateur Radio enforcement. The persistent efforts of the ARRL and recent FCC administrative and staff changes led to the revived enforcement. On January 13, 1999 -- in an unusual move -- Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, special counsel in the FCC Enforcement Bureau, broke in on a 75 meter contact that had degenerated into a nasty confrontation. He got the participants settled down and then stayed on frequency to make a few remarks about enforcement.
Palestine was added to the DXCC List, effective February 1, 1999. Later that month a multinational group of DXers operated from Gaza as E44DX, making more than 33,000 contacts and giving thousands a new DXCC entity.
In early 1999, PSK31 was becoming very popular, with many users considering it to be a replacement for good old RTTY as a keyboard-to-keyboard mode. Also by 1999, amateurs had developed automated meteor-scatter stations for VHF use -- thanks to APRS, good computers, high-speed Morse, innovative software, and ham ingenuity.
On December 30, 1999, FCC issued its Report and Order on Amateur Radio license restructuring. Beginning on April 15, 2000, the FCC would issue just three license classes -- Technician, General, and Amateur Extra -- and impose a single 5 WPM Morse code requirement for General and Amateur Extra applicants. No then-current license holders lost any privileges, and "old" Technician licensees were able to apply for a General license with no further testing.
And then came Y2K...with none of the breakdowns of society, communications systems, ATMs, aircraft, ad nauseum. Everything kept running smoothly. But ARRL used the occasion to revamp QST. The editorial staff had spent months developing a profile of the typical ham in order to guide them in making QST the magazine that members wanted. In January 2000, QST began publishing new columns about QRP, mobile and portable operation on HF and VHF, vintage radio gear, and the "QST Workbench." This was in addition to formatting changes to make the magazine more attractive. Starting with the December 2000 issue, all editorial content was printed in full color.
By 2000, several states had proposed bans on cell phone use while driving. ARRL began carefully monitoring the various pieces of proposed legislation, to be sure that operating Amateur Radio equipment while driving would not be included among the prohibitions.
On November 16, 2000, AMSAT-OSCAR 40 -- Phase 3D -- was successfully launched into orbit. Initial testing began, but the spacecraft suddenly fell silent. Following many unsuccessful recovery attempts, AO-40 came to life on Christmas Day, with many of its capabilities restored.
During the early 1990s, the ARRL sought to convince the FCC to address the problem of Amateur Radio antenna restrictions and prohibitions by CC&Rs. The FCC declined, so the League then began efforts to convince Congress to direct FCC to do so.
In July 2001, the ARRL petitioned the FCC to allocate 5.250 to 5.400 MHz to Amateur Radio.
At its July 2001 meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors endorsed the Logbook of The World (LoTW) concept, and Headquarters staffers began the massive push to make LoTW a reality.
In September 2001, the ARRL presented an Amateur Radio demonstration and tutorial to FCC commissioners and staff members. ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, headed the ARRL contingent, and the show-and-tell was deemed a great success.
Amateur Radio mobilized and provided communication support following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The following month, the FCC established a Homeland Security Panel to plan for restoration of communications links following terrorist attacks.
In October 2001, a rash of bio-terrorist (anthrax) threats to federal government facilities caused FCC processing of licensing and other matters to be significantly delayed.
The FCC announced that all applicants must register for and obtain a 10-digit FCC Registration Number (FRN), in order to do business with the Commission after December 3, 2001.
For years, the ARRL had been requesting the FCC to state that Commission rules preempted homeowners association restrictions or limitations on Amateur Radio antennas. At the end of 2001, the FCC suggested that the League take its case to Congress. ARRL representatives discussed the issue with members of Congress in February, a visit that ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, called "the best yet" for ham radio. H.R. 4720 was introduced in May. It would have required homeowners associations to reasonably accommodate Amateur Radio antennas.
During 2001, four North American distance records were set on 10, 47, 241, and 322 GHz, demonstrating that technical prowess, hard work, and persistence can lead to extraordinary technical accomplishments. VE4MA and W5LUA made the first EME contact on 24 GHz in August.
By early 2002, radio amateurs and the ARRL were looking at digital voice emissions as a potential new mode. On January 31, 2002, President George W. Bush spotlighted five Florida volunteer groups, including Volusia County ARES. During his visit, the president addressed the Northern Florida ARES Net on 75 meters.
An excellent nostalgia article appeared in the June 2002 QST -- "The First Field Day," authored by W0AR, who operated in that 1933 event as W9NFV. Some 50 portable stations participated, causing ARRL's Ed Handy, W1BDI, to prophesy, "The enthusiasm greeting our first Field Day augers well for future similar occasions."
On June 21, 2002, signals from OSCAR 7, given up for dead 20 years earlier, suddenly reappeared!
Thanks to Al Brogdon, W1AB
and the ARRL Letter for this history