Amateur radio in the news: community service, radio prepares for war, end is near for Radio Shack

Floyd County hams talk about their work in the community. A meeting sponsored by the Foundation for Amateur International Radio Services (FAIRS), the Floyd Amateur Radio Society (FARS), and Triad on August 26 was an opportunity to spotlight the work of local ham radio operators.


1935 National HRO U.S. Navy Receiver. Credit P. Litwinovich collection

Radio prepares for war, Part 1. As the roaring twenties came to a close, radio technology would continue to evolve with significant improvements to consumer sets, particularly in the area of shortwave reception. The price of radios would continue to fall as availability continued to increase. Herbert Hoover could have added “a radio in every home” to his famous “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” campaign slogan. This radio boom would continue right up until December of 1941, when the first bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbor. After that, new radios would be a scarcity as almost all production and materials were diverted to the war effort.

For RadioShack, the end is near. Gentlemen and gentlewomen of a certain age harbor fond memories of trips to RadioShack. In days of yore, ham radios and homemade guitar amplifiers would emerge from the mysterious jumble of wires and audio components hawked by this unpretentious electronic retailer. Among younger generations with a much different view, the business enjoys a nickname: “S–t Shack.” Definition as per the Urban Dictionary: “derisive term describing the quality of products, the prices, and the people that go there.” Whatever one’s view of this American institution with about 27,000 employees, it is near death. On Thursday, RadioShack warned that it may file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Interesting stuff about printed circuit boards

Karl, W4KRL, posted this to the AMRAD mailing list….Dan

Dr. Paul Eisler is credited with inventing the printed circuit board.

Printed circuit board technology was invented by Paul Eisler (right), an Austrian refugee to England in 1936. Its first significant use was in anti-aircraft proximity fuses by the US Army. Eisler made little money from his invention. His autobiography is My Life With the Printed Circuit.

He set up a company called TechoGraph, in England, to promote the printed-circuit board. Their online history, notes:

But for both Eisler and Technograph, getting the printed circuit off the ground was to take some time. Not only had development work to be undertaken, but the electronics industry had to be persuaded to drop point-to-point wiring in favour of an interconnection medium that, although inherently more consistent and more reliable, was, at least initially, considerably more expensive. Not an easy task.

Prior to the PCB almost all construction was point-to-point except for a few high-end and military products that used turret boards. Some people still use turret boards, and you can still roll your own.

Two Vintage Photos

This morning, I found two links to vintage amateur radio photos in my inbox this morning. The first one if from Wystan Stevens’ Flickr photostream. Stevens is a local historian here in Ann Arbor, MI.

W8ZRF 1953 QSL

W8ZRF is still alive and kicking and an active member of our local amateur radio club, ARROW.

The second one comes by way of the Glowbugs Google Group:

It comes from an article titled, “The Weirdest Photo Research of 2012.” The caption reads, “Sam Harris, of Medfield, MA, trims his beard with electronic scissors controlled by moon bounce signals. Bettmann/Corbis” Glowbug members quickly identified the ham in the photo as Sam Harris, W1FZJ, who is famous for the first 1296 MHz moonbounce contact.

Not only that, they identified the receiver as the Lafayette HE-10 (fully assembled) or KT-200 (kit). Says, Bob, W9RAN, “Really a nice receiver with and RF stage and transformer isolated power supply – definitely a cut or two above the S-38 that the dial was borrowed from.  I like receivers like this for casual listening, as you can just spin the dial and always find something interesting to listen to.  It certainly would have been usable by Novices and on AM, although tuning SSB on receivers like this or my Hallicrafters SX-110 kept the operator busy, tuning to compensate for drift and controlling the audio with the RF gain, but this soon became second nature.”


First wireless phone?

I wonder if this phone was running iOS, Android, or Windows?

From my Twitter stream – 5/27/12

10 Ways to Destroy an Arduino : Application Note ANCP01 Good to know. o_O


Great vintage RSGB video – How to become a radio amateur via@youtube #hamr #hamradio #rsgb

??????????? ??????????? ???: ??????????? ??????????? ??? ??????!! ?????… #Hamrjp
Nuts. I lost the Japaneses characters in the last item above. Apparently, it is  two friends talking about amateur radio in Japan. I don’t understand Japanese at all, but you can tell that they are having a lot of fun doing this video.

Brochure tells story of Marconi’s Cape Code station

Marconi BrochureLast spring, I reported on my trip to Cape Cod. Well, about a week ago, while going through some things that had been donated to WA2HOM, I found a brochure produced by the National Park Service that described the South Wellfleet station.

I had scanned the whole brochure and made a PDF file from the scans, but then I found a color version of the brochure on the National Park Service website. It looks much nicer than the scan I made.


ZLW a “Communication Lifeline” for Ships Serving New Zealand

On the 100th anniversary of the establishment of ZLW, the Wellington maritime radio station, Radio New Zealand broadcast this documentary. It features an interview with Clyde Drummond, One of the first operators. Drummond reminisced about ZLW’s role in World War I.

It also includes interviews with Peter Baird, Graham Turner, and Alan Burgess, operators who worked at ZLW from the 1960s through the 1990s. They discussed the HF setup that ZLW had during that time period. One interesting segment had to do with how telegram traffic to and from ships at sea was handled.

Make: Magazine Editor Looking for Heathkit Memories

Do you have fond–or even not so fond–memories of making Heathkits? If so, Make: magazine wants to hear from you. Editor Phillip Torrone is writing a Heathkit-related column and wants to include comments from folks who grew up making these or have/had interest in them!

My first Heathkit was a DX-60B transmitter that I bought when I got my Novice ticket. Unfortunately, it didn’t work correctly after I finished it, but after a trip to one of the local Heathkit stores (there were actually two of them in the Detroit area at the time), it worked like a champ until I sold it to help finance my HW-101. I can only imagine the number of wiring errors and/or cold solder joints that the technician found.

Bell Labs Journal Now Online

“Innovation” is a word often thrown around these days. Back in the old days, you couldn’t find an organization more innovative than Bell Labs. They could certainly afford it, though. They had a monopoly on the telephone system!

At any rate, all of the issues of the Bell Labs Journal from 1922 to 1983 are now online. Within the pages of these journals you’ll find papers on:

  • the invention of the transistor in 1947 and subsequent advances in related solid-state device and circuit technology.
  • Shannon’s paper, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” that was published over 60 years ago and gave birth to Information Theory.
  • the charge-coupled device (CCD), a technology that transforms patterns of light into useful digital information, is the basis for many forms of modern digital imaging.
  • cellular telephone service, the concept that multiple lower-power transmitters could be spread throughout a region employing automatic call handoff and frequency reuse that changed the face of communications.

Overall, it’s pretty cool stuff.

General Stoner’s 24-Hour Circuits

Major General Frank E. Stoner

Major General Frank E. Stoner, Chief of the Army Communication Service of the Signal Corps. Photo courtesy of the Missouri State Archives

IEEE-USA’s Today’s Engineer has a very interesting story on Gen. Frank Stoner, Chief of the U.S. Army Communication Service during World War II. He set up two communications networks that operated around the clock and proved crucial to the war effort. One of the networks spanned the North Atlantic and used long-wave radio to mitigate the interference caused by the aurora borealis. The second, called ACAN (Army Command and Administrative Net), operated near the equator and used shortwave frequencies.

One interesting factoid is that ACAN had a capacity of 100,000,000 words per day. In 1945, the network carried about 50,000,000 words per day. Today’s communications networks, of course, carry billions times more data than this network.

After the war, Stoner became the United Nations’ Chief Communications Engineer and set up a radio network to broadcast news of the UN. At one point, Stoner enlisted the help of amateur radio operators to keep the network on the air:

In May of the following year, the United Nations broadcasting network that Frank Stoner had set in place with such care and foresight was at risk of going silent. For economic reasons, the United States Congress was considering reducing the funding for the State Department channels used to send programs abroad, channels which had been made available to the United Nations. With resourcefulness and ingenuity, Frank Stoner turned to the world’s amateur radio operators to relay the news of the Parliament of the World to the people of the world. Not only was there an elegant grass-roots symbolism in having amateur radio operators serving as a direct link between the United Nations and the people, it would also enable the United Nations to maintain communications in the face of possible interference — whether political interference or from natural causes — in the existing commercial systems. K2UN, with its networks of ham operators, went on the air on 17 May 1948.

Does anyone know if Stoner himself was a ham? I Googled him, but couldn’t really find anything that said one way or the other.

I’d also be interested in more information on the K2UN operations. Googling turned up an article from the August 9, 1947 issue of the New Yorker titled “Cooperative Hams,” but you have to be a subscriber to view the article.