History

The South Jersey Radio Association was founded June 12, 1916, at the home of William G. Phillips on Washington Avenue in Collingswood. This club has been meeting continuously since its inception. The SJRA has been affiliated with the American Radio Relay League since 1920.  Scroll down to learn more about the history of the SJRA.

 

 

 

Check out the pictures on John Dilks' (K2TQN) SJRA Vintage Field Day 50's Style Page.  Use your browser's "back" arrow to return from John's web site, once you have finished viewing it..

 

 

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Club Presidents Past & Present

 

Club Award Winners

 

 

 

South Jersey Radio Association began very early (1916) in the development of practical radio communication, even before the advent of commercial radio (1920).  In the near future, the SJRA History web page will incorporate a scrollable time line with entries from both the development of radio in general, ham radio,  and significant events in SJRA history.  Clicking on milestone timeline dates will bring up a description of each important event, including in some cases illustrative pictures.  As we approach the SJRA Centenial, the timeline will show how far we have come with radio and how long SJRA has been a part of it.

 

Year SJRA/Ham Radio Event
2006 – End of Morse Code Requirements for Amateur Radio Licensing
A •- M -- Y -•--
B -••• N -• Z --••
C -•-• O ••• 1 •----
D  -•• P•--• 2 ••---
E • Q--•- 3 •••--
F ••-• R •-• 4 ••••-
G --• S ••• 5 •••••
H •••• T - 6 -••••
I •• U ••- 7 --•••
J •--- V•••- 8---••
K -•- W•-- 9 ----•
L •-•• X-••- 0 -----

In 2003 the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) changed its Radio Regulations to allow nations to decide individually whether to require radio operators to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code. In turn, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided in December 2006 to eliminate the traditional Morse Code Requirements for amateur radio operator licensing. The effective date of the change was February 23, 2007.

Elimination of the Morse code requirement had been foretold by several restructurings of the operator licensing requirements starting in 1990. In that year the US FCC Morse code requirement was eliminated from the Technician class license, and Technicians were restricted from operating below 50 MHz. (The FCC thus still complied with the existing ITU requirement for Morse code for operators below 30 MHz). A new Technician Plus operator grade was created for persons who also passed the 5 words per minute code test, and these operators could use the bands formerly allowed to the “old” Technicians.

In 1999 the FCC decided to eliminate the 20 words per minute (wpm) and 13 wpm requirements for the Extra and General class licenses respectively, and these changes took effect on April 15, 2000. Many operators rapidly advanced, with the deletion of the 13 and 20 wpm requirements, from Technician Plus to General, Advanced, or Extra; and the ARRL noted a significantly renewed interest in Amateur Radio. Thus with these changes the Advanced, Technician Plus, and Novice class licenses were deemed to be redundant. They were eliminated leaving just Extra, General, and Technician operator grades.

The amateur radio operator grades since 1964 had provided greater operating privileges to higher-class licensees. This procedure was called incentive licensing. The restriction of Technicians after 1990 (to 2000) from the HF bands was mentioned above. In addition, Technician Plus (or Technician before 1990) operators were limited to a narrow portion of the 10 m band and also limited in transmit power. The FCC rules still employ incentive licensing to encourage operators to improve their technical and procedural knowledge, but Morse code no longer is part of the body of capability that provides incentive. Technicians (and holdover Novices) are restricted to the same (SSB) portion of the 10 m band as previously, and are allowed only in the CW portions of the 80 m, 40 m, and 15 m bands. Generals (and holdover Advanced) are allowed on all bands, but have reduced operating frequencies available compared to Extras.

It should be noted that although no licensing requirement now exists for Morse code, the band plans still reserve considerable frequency space to CW (primarily Morse code). This includes 80 m (below 3.6 MHz), 40 m (below 7.125 MHz), 20 m (below 14.150 MHz), 17 m (below 18.11 MHz), 15 m (below 21.2 MHz), 12 m (below 24.93 MHz), and 10 m (below 28.3 MHz). In addition, the entire 30 m band is reserved for CW use only (no phone). This is not the case in all foreign nations, so that it is easy to be enticed out of the US SSB bands in DX contests and other international activities. Thus there is still an administrative advantage to Morse code capability in the practice of amateur radio.

1996- SJRA Celebrates 80th Year K2AA 80th Anniversary QSL CardIt has been the custom of SJRA to issue commemorative QSL cards celebrating its anniversaries as an operating radio club.  The card to the right was adopted in 1996 for the 80th anniversary.  Cards were sent to interested QSOs from K2AA operations, and on occasion members of the club created their own personal cards similar to these and used them throughout the year to help celebrate.  Interestingly K2AA has held a post office box at the Haddonfield post office since at least 1966, so the mailing address is something of a fixture.
1995 - Misuse Temporarily Silences SJRA Repeater from Midnight to 5 am SJRA Meetings were still at Pennsauken High School. N2ZPR – ED and KR2T – Jim were welcomed as new members. During September, the K2AA repeater shut down from 12:00 midnight to 5:00 each morning. Some operators who were using the repeater during this time period were not following the FCC rules regarding proper identification, inappropriate language, and other issues. Remember when you transmit, you represent amateur radio and also the station behind the repeater you are using. Sunspot cycle No. 23 began.

1991 - SJRA Celebrates its 75th Anniversary

K2AA 75th Anniversary Commemorative QSL CardSJRA celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 22-23 by locating the Field Day event at Knight Park in Collingswood rather than at the usual site in Pennsauken.  This was the first club event in the fourth quarter century of club existence.   There were 222 club members listed in the roster for the anniversary pamphlet.  The commemorative QSL card pictured at the right was used for K2AA contacts during the year.

The official birthday was celebated by a banquet at the Cherry Hill Inn and with a pamphlet titled, "South Jersey Radio Association - 75th Anniversary." State Senator Lee Laskin delivered a resolution by the State Senate recognizing the club's seventy five years. Also attending were several members of the ARRL and of its Atlantic Division. Club president was Wes Sammis.

1989 -  SJRA Twinned with Limerick Radio Club.  17 Meter Band Opened to Hams

As a result of the close harmony between SJRA and Ireland provided through W2ORA Joe and his friend EI2ABM Alan, the Limerick Radio Club and SJRA were "twinned" in March 1989 by mutual agreement.  Joe and Alan had become friends through their 20 m QSOs over many years.  Alan visited Joe's Qth, and later Joe visited Alan, carrying with him the Twinning Proclamation already signed by SJRA.  While in Ireland (or Aran Is) Joe worked the International DX and WPX contests, and the Twinning Proclamation was signed in Moyles Park, Limerick City, Ireland for the Limerick Radio Club.  Joe states the twinning recognizes the respect each ham has for his contact-mate and for ham radio.

The Limerick Radio Club meets on the second Thursday of each month at the Limerick Institute of Technology at 19:30.  It has welcomed SJRA members to join them at any of their meetings.  During the 1960s/70's'80s the Limerick club held annual DXpeditions to the islands west of Ireland.  In 1979 the club established the first 2m repeater in Ireland on a hilltop site north of Limerick.  But international QSOs are still mainly on 10m or 20m!

Also: The FCC authorized US amateurs to use the new 17 meter band opened on 31 January 1989.  SJRA Meetings were at Pennsauken High School. SJRA took 14th place nationwide at Field Day. K2AA operated in the 10A category and took second place in that category.

1980s - SJRA Still has the DX bug

K2AA 70th Anniversary QSL CardFollowing the DXpedition to Navassa Is (below) K2KA Sy followed up that impressive feat by participating in an expedition with 4Z4TT to Tokelau Island in the Pacific under the call sign ZM7AA. And closer to home K2YY John Hill made expeditions to Monserrat as VP2MP. He placed first in the world on phone in 1981, first in North America in 1982, and second on Monserrat, third in the world in 1985. In the VHF arena in 1978,W2BN/KL7 - Dave operated 6 meters during a DXpedition to Alaska from 7 to 13 June

The commemorative QSL card was used in 1986 to note the 70th anniversary of the SJRA radio club.

1978 - SJRA celebrates Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon with honorary membership

Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11) was declared a Distinguished Honorary Member of SJRA. Many of us probably still remember with pride those famous "one small step . . ., one great leap" words comimg to us from space.

Those were the days.  SJRA Meetings were at Cherry Hill High School West. Dues were $10.00 but if paid by Feb 1st only $8.00.   Novice classes at Haddonfield High School were taught by W2BE – Bruce.

1978 - SJRA Members in Navassa Island DXpedition

Navassa Island AccessA DXpedition returned to Navassa Island (KP1) from 26 November to 2 December. There were ten operators, among them three SJRA members – K2KA – Sy Adler, W2PAU – Brownie, and W2ORA – Joe from Moooorestown. They made over 22,000 Qs, thirty-five through the OSCAR satellite.

This expedition rode on the shoulders of a previous similar 1974 effort led by SJRA's K2KA - Sy Adler - that included additional SJRA members: W2YFS, Amor Klotzbach; W2ORA, Joe ; K2FT, Bill Gallick; WB2BXV, Frank Adler; and of course, W2PAU, Miles.  Navassa is a small island near, but still 15 hours by small boat from, Jamaica.  The 1974 crew obtained the call sign KC4NI in honor of their trip.  After months of intense planning, they got a start 1 day late due to a tropical storm, but still managed a large number of QSOs.

Access to the island is a risky business as one can see from the picture.  One must climb a rope ladder from a boat at the water surface because there are no better landing points than this one at Lulu Bay.  The picture does show that there was a lift constructed to raise equipment.  But can you imagine letting your ICOM 7000 go through this!

The rugged terrain was a challenge for the DXpeditioners, especially after the delay in transit and long small boat ride.  Equipment was set up close to the landing point due to fatigue, so that island blockage and low sunspot activity limited communication to Europe.  Picture courtesy of M. Brown family.

1967 - SJRA Members Dot the Country

During 1967 SJRA had members from MD, FL, PA, CT, CA, DE, NY, and AZ. Looks like a good start for WAS. An amendment of the SJRA Constitution stated that annual dues are $6.00. If paid during Jan, Feb, or Mar - $5.00. The Pack Rats were stiff competitors during the January VHF Contest. We took second place to Mt. Airy VHF Club. Field Day site was Burlington County Civilian Defense Headquarters, Marlton. Brownie –WA2PAU and Herb – K2BG were cochairmen, category was 6A, and the score was over 18,000 points with 2341 Qs. The club received Bonus points for: 1) No commercial power, 2)Field Day message sent, 3) Newspaper story.
1966 - SJRA Celebrates 50th Anniversary

K2AA 50th Anniversary QSL CardSJRA celebrated its 50th anniversary at a banquet in the Ivystone Inn on September 10, 1966.  Included in the distinguished gests for the celebration was Clarence Tuska, founder of the American Radio Relay League.  Another important speaker was W.W. Watts, W4VI, Executive Vice President of Radio Corporation of America.  Numerous other ARRL officials also were present.

For this fiftieth reunion of the charter member group of thirteen, only two individuals remained as call-signed operators in 1966: Roger Barrington (originally 3LY who became W2LY) and Gordon Kressel (originally 3BQ, then W2BQ).  Additionally Waldo Batchelor, William Kirby, William Pyle, and William Phillips are listed without call signs (perhaps then honorary members in the official roster of the anniversary.  The roster contains about 202 call-signed members.

As we look back at the 1966 anniversary and toward the 100th in 2016, we can see that not very many members back then have lasted nearly an additional fifty years.  We congratulate those who are still with us: Rich Faust, then WB2BYF; Joe Duffin, W2ORA; and Raymond Golley, then WA2POX.  And we remember a few of those who have become silent keys just recently: Joe MacMillan, W2FGY; Amor Klotzbach, W2FYS; and Miles Brown, W2PAU.

1961 - First OSCAR Satellite SJRA Meetings were held at Delaware Township High School. SJRA had members in PA, CA, CT, WV, and DE. During 1961 fifty new members joined SJRA. Contests included the Second SJRA Annual QSO party on 6 and 7 May and the second All Asian DX Contest. Field Day 1961 saw our club set a new record in the 6A category – 1975 contacts and approximately 17, 000 points. A ten pound radio transmitter named OSCAR rode piggy back on a Discovery satellite into orbit on 12 December 1961 at 3:30 PM. “Hi” in code was transmitted ten times per minute.
1952 - SJRA Places 1st Nationally in ARRL VHF Sweepstakes SJRA placed 1st nationally in the club competition of the ARRL VHF Sweepstakes.  Fuel for this great finish was provided by an effort in 1951 when the club began holding practice sessions and classes for newcomers and hopeful Novices and Technicians.  These two license classes were introduced in 1951, and the move, together SJRA's welcome mat, brought in many new members.   The club went on to win this distinction for 8 more times consecutively through 1960.  In 1957 the club rejuvinated its effort by producing 50 club sponsored 6m radio kits, known as Project X, for new operators to add new blood to the competition and secure the last three years of the decade for SJRA.
1950 - Calibrating the Dollar SJRA Meetings were held at Collingswood Legion Hall starting at 8:30. There were complaints that the meetings never started on time. Annual dues were $3.00 payable at 25 cents per month or at a reduced rate of $2.50 per year if paid in full during the first three months. The club score for the January VHF contest was 25,476. SJRA took third place. Brownie – W2PAU was Field Day chairman. There was also a slow speed net. On 24 June 1950 the 2 meter record was broken, W5VY in San Antonio Texas and W8WXV in Ohio, a distance of about 1,200 miles. A violent November storm caused much havoc with antennas.
1950 - SJRA Receives K2AA Call Sign

In 1950 SJRA acquired the call sign K2AA as a memorial to past president William R. Ebensperger.  The club previously had held the station call W3CIV.  Ebensperger, third club president, had held the K2AA call previously, following periods as 3JW, W3AQM, and W2AQM.  But how had Mr. Ebensperger managed to get presumably the first "K" call?

W.R. Ebensberger was first licensed as 3JW in January 1924, and was relicensed as W3AQM in January 1930 after forgetting to renew his license.  In January 1948 his last year,  Mr. Ebensperger requested the call sign W2JW whose suffix would have matched his original call sign from 1924.  The FCC had run out of 1X2 "W" call signs, and was preparing to use "K" call signs.  Instead of W2JW the FCC assigned Mr. Ebensperger K2AA.  Before he passed away in March of 1948, Ebensperger was able to make at least one contact (on 10 m to Corpus Christi Radio Club) using the new call.  Mr. Ebensperger passed away on March 12 of 1948, but thanks to the efforts of Harry Densham, Charley Jenkins, and Miles Brown, he lives on with SJRA as the club call sign K2AA.

1950 - "SJRA News" Becomes "Harmonics" In 1950 SJRA began the publication of a printed monthly newsletter called “Harmonics,” which continues to this time.  “Harmonics” replaced the dittoed publication “SJRA News” as membership swelled after the World War II disruption of amateur radio transmissions
1940 - Field Day Back Then

SJRA participated in Field Day in 1940 as documented in this picture from “Fifty Years of Radio” published by SJRA in 1966.  Note that the writing on the van definitely says “R.W. Barrington,” linking it to one of SJRA’s charter members, Roger W. Barrington.  The writing also appears to say “Radio Service,” indicating radio was Mr. Barrington’s profession as well as his hobby.

SJRA records do not appear to document how well SJRA performed in 1940.  This was not the first ARRL Field Day, started by the ARRL in 1933.  Other SJRA records indicate SJRA competed in Field Day in 1939 for the first time. 

1939 - First SJRA Field Day Participation SJRA Meetings were held at the Birdwell Club in Haddonfield. Contests included 5 Meter Field Day and ARRL Field Day.  Among our standout members were Gordon Kressel – W3BQ and Charles Jenkins – W3VX.

During June 1939 the ARRL warned American amateur radio operators to “maintain strict neutrality in war conversations over the air.” Station W2USA participated in the 1939 World’s Fair by demonstrating the functions of an amateur radio station. Radiograms were sent free of charge to relay points in the United States.

1934 - Edwin Armstrong Discusses FM Radio at SJRA Meeting In the February 1934 meeting of SJRA, Major Edwin H. Armstrong, developer of FM radio in the previous year, gave a presentation about his work.  Armstrong was the inventor of regenerative, super-heterodyne, super regenerative, and frequency modulation circuits, all of which supported the FM radio concept.  This presentation was a major event in the radio world, as Armstrong had only recently finished his FM radio development and had not given a previous talk on the subject due to preoccupation for many years with patent litigation.  (According to Wikipedia, Armstrong received the patent for wideband FM radio about 50 days before this talk).  The event drew a large audience of 364, consisting of radio amateurs and engineers.  Anticipation of the large crowd for this important event resulted in its being held in the Walt Whitman Hotel, Camden.
1933 - Edwin Armstrong Receives Patent for FM Radio On December 26, 1933, Major Edwin Armstrong received a major US patent for the development of Wideband Frequency Modulated radio transmission and reception.  This patent was hotly contested by Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and RCA for many years used its influence to minimize the impact of FM in commercial broadcasting.  Even not-so-old-timers can remember the 60's when the most significant local commercial stations were WIBG in Philadelphia and WABC in New York.  Scanning the commercial radio dials today makes one realize the importance and utility of FM communication for quality music and even voice transmission.  And of course, for many hams, ham radio is FM.
1932 - SJRA Demonstrates EMCOMM Utility of Amateur Radio

1932 Was marked by several noteworthy events for SJRA.  In a show of the utility of amateur radio, SJRA on October 15 organized a relay message transfer between the mayors of Camden and Atlantic City.  The relay used a series of 5-meter portable stations.  Mayors Stewart (Camden) and Bacharach (AC) had radiograms relayed to each other.  At one point a copy of the Bacharach message was lost due to a nefarious wind gust, and the relay had to be resurrected from the previous station.  But both messages completed their routes for a complete success.

This also was the year that SJRA received its first station call sign, W3CIV.  And the site of meetings was transferred to the American Legion Hall in Audubon.

1924 - SJRA's Norm Weible Makes First US Amateur Radio Contact with South America In about 1924 SJRA member Norman R Weible, 3BWJ, then a student at Collingswood High School, made the first ever North American amateur radio contact with South America.  The feat gained him “national prominence,” and in 1926, the presidency of SJRA.  Weible used the “new-fangled short wave length” (20 meters?) and a then-rare vacuum tube transmitter.  Norm Weible was born in 1907 in Camden County and died in 1993 in Florida as K4HE.
1922 - Notes on ARRL Organization Among the SJRA History files, appears a notice dating back to 1922 concerning traffic handling for the Atlantic Division. “The aim for members in the Atlantic Division is to cooperate with each other to further the work of the Atlantic Division in league matters.” All kinds of monthly reports were required. One report required that “You must designate whether you use spark or CW or both.” Another part dealt with the reorganization of the operating department. “There shall be eighteen divisions as at present, each Division under a supervisor of a Division Manager – twelve Divisions in the United States, one in Alaska, and five in Canada.” In 1922 cities in the Atlantic Division having a population of 500,000 or more were New York (five Boroughs), Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. One of the cities in the Atlantic Division having a population of 25,000 or more was Camden.
1920s - Amateur Radio Operators Shift to CW On-Off Keying from Spark Gap Transmitters During World War I Edwin Armstrong in the US Army and others had developed the method of On-Off keying a CW carrrier for communication with Morse Code.  This contrasted with On-Off Keying of a spark gap transmitter that was generally used earlier.  Amateur radio operators quickly took advantage of the new method as oscillator tubes became more readily available due to use in commercial radio that developed at the same time.  The receive bandwidth used for the CW mode could be restricted to as little as 200 Hz at least after a contact was detected, and the transmit bandwidth was much less than 200 Hz.  The transmit bandwidth of a spark gap could easily be 50 MHz.  This meant that the signal to noise ratio of the CW method with the same output power could be 50 dB better than obtained by spark gap.  While ham radio distances were limited to about 25 miles with the 1000 W allowed by the 1912 radio act, the range allowed by CW with the same power could reach around the earth.  In 1924 amateur radio operators received the privilege of operating on new bands at 80, 40, 20, and 5 meters, but spark gap transmitters were forbidden on these bands.  In 1926 spark gap transmitters were forbidden altogether for radio communication. (Source: "USA Amateur Radio History and Licensing," ac6v.com/history).  You can listen to the sound of a spark gap transmitters at www.hammondmuseumofradio.org, which also has a very nice description of spark gap transmitter circuits.  (Look for the "Listen" links).
1918 - SJRA Celebrates Return of Amateur Radio Transmissions  After the end of WWI, permission to use the amateur radio bands was returned.  At the same time radio transmitters and receivers were becoming more sophisticated.  SJRA celebrated by replacing the word "wireless" in SJWA (the former name) to "radio" to become South Jersey Radio Association (SJRA).  Meetings were moved to the more swank Council Chambers of the Colllingswood Borough Hall.  And SJRA's affiliation with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) which was formed in 1914 was noted in the May 1920 issue of QST.
1917-1918 SJRA Members
Aid War Effort
Although all amateur radio operators were silenced in April 1917 for WWI, Three members of SJRA (Bill Kirby, Harry Densham, and Edward Patterson) assisted the war effort by establishing a radio operator school in the physics laboratory of Collingswood High School.  Other members of the club also helped with the training of operators.  Operators for the war effort were in short supply. Many of the school graduates went on to advanced training at the Harvard University Radio School conducted by the Government.  This effort may account in part for the continuation of SJRA at a time when amateur radio was not permitted.
1916 - Beginnings of South Jersey Radio Association

In June of 1916 word went out by wireless telegraphy that a meeting had been set for a club to organize the early amateur radio operators of the suburbs of Camden, NJ.  The meeting was held on June 12, 1916, in the home of William G. Phillips, 140 Washington Avenue, Collingswood.  It was presided over by Harry W. Densham, 3EH.  The club was named the South Jersey Wireless Association.

Attending the June meeting were Densham, 3EH; Phillips, 3AFD; George Haldeman; C. Waldo Batchelor; Leon W. Ashton, 3HO; William A.F. Pyle, 3WR; Gordon Kressel, 3BQ; William L. Kirby; Edward B. Patterson, 3YR; Henry Wetzel; Henry S. Byam; Taylor Stokes, 3ACM; and Roger W. Barrington, 3LY.  These men became the charter members of what has become the South Jersey Radio Association.

The first officers chosen for the club were Batchelor, President; Haldeman, Vice-President; Densham, Secretary; and Phillips, Treasurer.  Additional directors were Byam, Ashton, and Pyle.  Although these officers nearly comprised all of the club members at the beginning, the club grew to about 40 members by the time the United States entered World War I in April of 1917.

When the United States entered World War I, there was an acute need for wireless operators.  SJWA responded by conducting a wireless school in the Physics Lab of Colliingswood High School.  Bill Kirby ran the school, assisted by Harry Densham and Edward Patterson.  Other members of the club also helped with the training of operators.  Many of those trained moved on to the Harvard University Radio School conducted by the government.  This activity may help to explain why SJRA maintained a continuous organization during the shutdown of amateur radio activity for WWI.

During this time period the club was meeting in the hall of the Collingswood Fire House, courtesy of Waldo Batchelor, who was a member of the Collingswood Borough Council and also president of the club.  After the close of war, the club name was changed to South Jersey Radio Association to reflect the more popular term radio (versus wireless) and perhaps also distance itself from the spark gap wireless operators that were filling the spectrum with noise at that time and were unpopular in the government’s eyes.  The meeting place was also changed to the council chambers of the Collingswood Borough Hall.

(Much of the material in this report was taken from the SJRA pamphlet “Fifty Years of Radio,” that was produced for the fiftieth anniversary celebration), probably written by Amor Klotzbach..

1912 - Titanic Disaster Stimulates Growth of Radio (But Not Amateur Radio)

On April 14, 1912 the British Liner Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sunk in a time of about 2.5 hours. The Titanic was equipped with a wireless for transmitting radiograms (common practice since about 1904). Although the radio operator of the closest ship to Titanic had already retired by 11:45 PM when the disaster began, the more distant Carpathia heard the distress call and steamed rapidly to rescue the passengers.

The fact that a ship, almost 50 miles distant when the crash occurred, managed to save more than seven hundred souls early in the morning after the disaster – all due to a distress signal sent by radio – enhanced the standing of radio as a major communications method. In fact, the United States Congress – stampeded by Senator William Smith of Michigan – quickly passed the Radio Act of 1912. The Act had three major provisions:

  1. It required the licensing of all radio stations in the US, including amateur stations.
  2. Amateur radio operators were restricted to frequencies at or above 1.5 MHz and to 1 kW or less in power. Senator Smith thought the radio spectrum out of control and cluttered by amateurs, so he relegated them to what was thought to be a mostly useless part of the spectrum. This reduced the typical range of amateur stations to about 25 miles and temporarily reduced the number of amateur stations from an estimated 10000 about 1200 licensed by the end of 1912.
  3. The Act mandated that seagoing ships should man radio stations at 1 MHz and 0.5 MHz 24 hours per day. This provision resulted because the California wireless operator, between 2.5 and 10 miles from Titanic, was off duty and did not hear the distress call.

Titanic’s radio operator sent both the original distress call CQD (CQ, Distress) and a more recently adopted one - SOS - to avoid any misunderstanding. A representative message that might have been sent by Titanic may be heard at www.modestoradiomuseum.org. The original Morse distress call, CQD had been replaced in 1906 during the Second Berlin Radiotelegraphic Conference by the simpler SOS,. It was thought at the conference that anyone, not just radio operators, could easily recognize the distinctive letters S (× × ×) O (- - -) S (× × ×). The Titanic’s call sign was MGY (M likely for the Marconi Wireless Company which provided equipment and operators for the station). The distress call actually was sent on April 15 at 12:17 AM owing to the delay in determining the seriousness of the collision.

1906 – The First Electronic Amplifiers

The advent of electronic amplifiers (triodes and following devices) starting in 1906 helped - with the diode - to save amateur radio, which was limited to 1000 W by the Radio Act of 1912. The creators of the Radio Act had hoped that limiting the amateurs to 1000 W would kill the hobby, and it nearly did. Only some 2000 of about 10000 amateurs operating before the act had been licensed to operate at the end of 1912. (Diagrams are courtesy of Google Images).

The dispute over vacuum tube invention rights continued in 1906 when Lee DeForest of the United States received a patent for a three-electrode vacuum tube RF detector called the Audion. Fleming protested that De Forest had copied his ideas, but as an employee of the Edison Company, Deforest had clearly been working in parallel fashion on problems. DeForest freely admitted that he did not understand how the tube worked. He basically had wrapped a coil of wire around a thermionic diode tube. When a receive antenna was connected to the coil, the plate current varied with the current in the antenna wire, but the current variation was amplified. In later refinements of the tube, DeForest placed the coil inside the tube for greater sensitivity as shown in the picture above.

Fleming was rewarded in the end as he and Edwin Armstrong improved De Forest’s Audion into the true electronic amplifier tube that continued to be used in radio well past the advent of the transistor.

1906 - Amplitude Modulation Technique and Heterodyning – Reginald Fessenden

Reginald Fessenden championed the concept of Amplitude Modulated CW waves for transmission of voice or music signals. He and Ernst Alexanderson developed the alternator-transmitter, a method for producing continuous wave signals. Although this device was overtaken by vacuum tube techniques just as it became genuinely useful about 1920, experimentation with it from 1900 through 1911 allowed Fessenden to evolve the heterodyne technique of radio signal processing. In this method two signals of frequencies f1 and f2 are combined in a nonlinear device such as a In 1906 Reginald Fessenden achieved two spectacular achievements in radio by being the first

1906 - Invention of Cat’s Whisker Detector by G. Pickard et al.

About 1906 the Cat’s Whisker detector (rectifier) became commonly and economically available for use in radio receivers. A commonly available type is pictured and was manufactured by G. Pickard, but a number of other similar devices were produced. This was a metal point-contact on silicon detector or basically a crude silicon diode. These devices worked better than items such as the coherer that were used earlier. They allowed the buildup of signals over many RF cycles rather than a single cycle, so they greatly improved the sensitivity of receivers. But cat's wiskers were difficult to use, requiring careful and felicitous adjustment.  Recall that in this era, radio consisted mostly of just wireless telegraphy via Morse code. Even so, cat’s whisker detectors were also marginally useful for voice signals. This author recalls a Cub Scout cat’s whisker radio kit from about 1955.  I thought I heard a voice on the radio once, but never could repeat the phenomenon – finally gave up.  Only became a ham in 1997.   Note that although the rectifier tube was actually invented before cat's wiskers became widespread, tubes did not become available for many years.  As a result, cat's wiskers were the mainstay of ham radio from 1906 into the 1920's.
1904 – Rectifying Vacuum Tube Diode Invented by John A. Fleming

John Fleming’s invention in 1904 of the vacuum tube diode (or Thermionic Valve) eventually enabled much more sensitive receivers than were permitted by “cat’s wiskers” and other more primitive rectifiers. (This statement may seem non-sensical since the cat's wisker actually became available after the rectifier tube was invented; however, vacuum tubes did not become commonly available until 1920, when RCA (founded by GE in 1919 for radio sales) began commercial production to support commercial radio).  Fleming was working at the time for the Marconi company on powering transmitters for transatlantic communication. Ironically his invention solved the problem not by creating more powerful transmitters but by allowing more sensitive receivers. The improved sensitivity would soon be needed by by US amateur radio operators whose power output was limited starting in 1912 by the Radio Act to 1000 Watts;

Fleming’s US patent for the rectifier tube was invalidated by the Supreme Court for legal technicalities and because the tube was stated to be within existing radio art. In fact, the Edison Effect, in which hot cathodes emit electrons to flow to an anode in vacuum tubes had been noted in 1882 by William Hammer of the Edison Company (as well as in 1873 by Frederick Guthrie). The Edison Company, working on light bulbs, did not realize the potential of the effect as a rectifier of radio waves, but they did patent it. Fleming had been working as a consultant to the Edison Company during the Edison Effect work. Enlightened by J. J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron in 1897, Fleming was able to understand the Edison Effect; but he actually used an Edison Company thermionic effect vacuum tube from the 1884 era to produce his first rectifier. Thus the Supreme Court invalidation of Fleming’s patent, while perhaps legally correct, is ironic in view of Flemings deserved place as the inventor of the electronic vacuum tube. (Figures courtesy of Google Images).

Fleming’s thermionic diode tube did not become popular immediately because it was difficult and expensive to construct and expensive (for power) to use. About 1906 the forerunners of Cat’s Wiskers were invented by Ferdinand Braun and H. Dunwoody. And by about 1911 the triode tube amplifier became the state of the art in improving the size of small signals. None of the tubes had much impact on ham radio until after 1920 when commercial radio drove down the prices.   (Note the 1924 article about SJRA member Norm Weible who became the first US ham to contact South America using a vacuum tube transmitter).

1895-1905 - Invention of Radio by Numerous Contributors

A legitimate radio may be defined as a device that truly radiates useful signals over worthwhile distances and is also capable of receiving such signals and producing sound from tham. Thus it excludes systems that employ inductive coupling (power received falls off faster than 1/R2) and experiments such as those of Hertz and the initial ones of Hughes that merely detect electromagnetic energy generated a distance away. By these standards there was no radio before 1895, and there definitely was radio after 1905.

Radio requires a number of isolable functions carried out either at the transmitting or at the receiving end of the process, and individuals tended to work primarily on only some aspects. The chief elements of radio are: Transmitter, Resonant Antennas, and Receiver. It was only at the end of this decade (1905) of radio development that devices for amplification of signals and encoding of sound into radio signals became available.

The primary inventors involved in the delevelopment of radio can be categorized as below:

Transmitter – Hughes (spark gap), Hertz (spark gap), Tesla (Tesla coil), Marconi

Receiver – Hughes, Hertz, Fessenden, de Forest,

Antenna – Hertz (½-wave circular dipole), Stone

System – Tesla (Coupled RLC circuits (filters?)), Marconi (1897 – 55km , 1902-1903 – TransAtlantic), Fessenden (1907 – speech – 320km), de Moura (1900 – 8km), Braun (1899-42km), Popov (1900-40km)

1887 - Demonstration and Measurement of Existence of Radio Waves by Heinrich Hertz

By 1887 Heinrich Hertz had developed methods to transmit and receive radio waves. The transmitter was a spark gap tuned to the desired frequency. The receiver was simply an interrupted ring of wire, across the gap of which could be seen sparks when the received power was enough to cause a spark. Using the receiver in various positions and orientations Hertz was able to determine the polarization, intensity, and speed of radiated electromagnetic waves at laboratory distances. His effort confirmed the predictions of Maxwell of waves propagating at the speed of light. However, Hertz had no insight into the importance of his work, even admitting “It’s of no use whatsoever.” Hertz died in 1894 at the early age of 36.

1878 – Invention of First Spark Gap Radio Wave Generator by David Hughes

In 1878 David Hughes transmitted radio signals understandable over a distance of 500 meters using a spark gap generator that he invented. Later variations of this type of generator (as can be seen in the diagram) could be interrupted by a key to allow modulation and sending of Morse code. This type of transmitter was popular among amateur radio operators up to the time of WW I. This meant that the efforts of these operators basically amounted to wireless telegraphy. Many of the best hotels, ships, and the military maintained wireless stations in the period before WW I, and they were joined by numerous radio amateurs. Of course, a wireless SOS or CQD signal brought the Carpathia to the rescue of Titanic passengers in the mid-Adlantic in 1912.

Hughes invented the spark gap transmitter through serendipity while working on telephone microphones. He noted that sparks could be heard in his telephone apparatus. So he continued to develop more and more sophisticated radio signal transmitters. Eventually his design could transmit Morse code understandable at a distance of 500 meters. Hughes contributed a number of other important inventions and refinements to the science of signal transmittal, including the microphone, the crystal radio detector, and the teletype. He developed an improved semiconductor carbon and steel point-contact rectifying diode which he used in the crystal radio receiver. Hughes legitimate credit for having discovered radio waves was put aside because of the more systematic measurements of Hertz and because the Royal Society considered the mode of signal transmission to involve induction and not radiation. Hughes was born in London to a Welsh family, but he emigrated to the United States in 1838.

1865 – Dawn of Radio Waves - James Maxwell Predicts Electromagnetic Waves

In 1861 Maxwell deduces the presence of an addition term in Ampere’s circuital law (1820 – 1827, actually involving Ampere, Biot, Savart, and Laplace) that relates the strength of the magnetic field that surrounds a current-carrying wire to the amount of current.  The new term generalizes the law to variable currents (such as AC) and properly accounts, for example, for the magnetic field around a current in a wire interrupted by a capacitor, at the point of the capacitor.  The new term is called the displacement current and is the time rate of change of the electric displacement.  By 1865 Maxwell is able to show that this time-varying magnetic field, together with the electric field induced in a region surrounding a changing magnetic field (discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831) can form electromagnetic waves propagating in free space at the speed (already measured by Fizeau and Foucault in 1849 to be about 298,000,000 meters/second) of light.  Maxwell concludes that electromagnetic waves of all frequencies are possible, that light is just one range of these frequencies, and that radio waves can be generated by electrical circuits.  Maxwell’s equations sparked an interest in radio waves that persists even today.