March 1957 Popular Electronics
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular
Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from
Oddly, the article does not tell you the origin of the acronym
"WAVES." From the U.S. Navy's history page:
"After a twenty-three-year absence, women returned to general
Navy service in early August 1942, when
Mildred McAfee was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant
Commander, the first female commissioned officer in U.S. Navy
history, and the first Director of the WAVES, or "Women
Accepted for Volunteer
Emergency Service". In the
decades since the last of the
Yeomen (F) left active duty, only a relatively small corps
represented their gender in the Naval service, and they had
never had formal officer status. Now, the Navy was preparing
to accept not just a large number of enlisted women, as it had
done during World War I, but female Commissioned Officers to
supervise them. It was a development of lasting significance,
notwithstanding the WAVES' name, which indicated that they would
only be around during the wartime 'Emergency'. "
A "WAVE" in Naval Electronics
By H. H. Fantel
A pert redhead with blue eyes flashes her winning smile from
the cockpit of a Navy fighter aircraft, and reports: "Radar
i.f. bandwidth okay on all stages." No, this is no Hollywood
movie, but actual proof that things are changing fast for the
Navy, for electronics - and for women.
Proof became tangible in the form of Delores Startzel, Aviation
Electronics Technician, USN. Even an "old salt" like John Paul
Jones himself would have uncrusted a bit at the sight of such
a charming sailor. But what would really have set him up on
his sea legs is the fact that Delores has been doing an expert
technical job on fully equal terms with Navy men. Her career
reflects dramatically two important trends: the awakening of
women to the opportunities of electronics, and their growing
participation in the armed services at levels of high technical
responsibility, qualified by thorough schooling.
Double-Barrelled Pioneer. Both in the Navy and in the field
of electronics, Delores (Dee, for short) is somewhat of a pioneer.
Of course, the WAVES have been a branch of the Navy for over
a decade, yet they have had to sail against the blustery headwind
of male prejudice. But by now it has dawned on even the most
stubborn that men have no monopoly on brains. The female breakthrough
on the technical front is a relatively recent development. In
the Navy Electronics Training School at Memphis, Tenn., Dee
was the only girl among more than a hundred marines.
On the job, our Wave traces through the stages
of an intricate receiver with a VSM-29 frequency meter. On this
month's cover, Dee runs checks on an oscilloscope.
Dee is proud to be among the first women doing advanced technical
work in electronics. Like anything that smacks of engineering,
electronics used to be an all-male preserve. But there just
aren't enough qualified male technicians to take care of the
ever-increasing variety of electronic equipment in military
and civilian life. Under the pressure of this need, the old
barriers of sex prejudice are now caving in. The military and
private industry are no longer just looking for women with soldering
irons tied to their apron strings. Now they want girls to be
equally handy with the slide rule, the spec sheet, and a quick
deduction from a complex schematic.
She tackles with practiced skill that ultimate
of all electronic instruments - the ubiquitous soldering gun.
Many women have the necessary keen intelligence for such work,
but don't even realize it because they think of themselves as
"feminine." Subconsciously they feel that having brains is like
having pimples: they try to hide them or dry them up. Fortunately,
the old saw that keen-minded women are unattractive no longer
cuts any ice among intelligent men. Its teeth broke on the hard
realities of modern life that make men and women equal partners
in work and in marriage. Women who realize this no longer try
to shrivel their brains. They feel free to make the most of
their native intelligence and have it sharpened by thorough
schooling. Electronics, since it requires more brain than brawn,
seems a natural field for women's careers on the professional
and semi-professional level.
Dee didn't want to go to
waste. She wanted to train and use her abilities. But after
the first year of college, her money gave out. Instead of heading
for the usual dead end of an unskilled job, Dee looked into
the technical training offered by the armed services. It offered
an answer to the question of her future. With a bit of pay and
plenty of technical savvy stowed away, a girl would have a better
toe-hold on the world. Besides paid education, Dee, who comes
from a small town in the state of Washington, wanted a bit of
travel and adventure - so the recruiting posters made plenty
of sense to her. Always willing to take the next logical step,
Boot Camp Ahoy! The Navy did not immediately surrender to
Dee's ambition. Like all recruits, she had to steer through
the military purgatory known as "boot camp." Dee maintains tactful
silence about "the senseless things that come with boot," realizing
that it takes a tough dose of sheer barefaced drill and discipline
to fit a former civilian into the military mold. For better
or worse, that's part of the bargain. As a mature and understanding
person, Dee accepts this discipline in the context of military
life without letting it encroach on her democratic feeling of
inner freedom as a person.
After boot camp, electronics was still a long way off. First
came Airman Preparatory School at Jacksonville, Florida, where
Dee studied flight fundamentals and aircraft maintenance, and
was also trained to act in emergencies. She can handle a crash
truck at disaster scenes, fight fires, and service automatic
weapons. And if war ever comes to the front door, mindless of
the neat distinction between combatant and non-combatant troops,
communications specialist Dee can rattle off an unmistakable
message in 50 caliber slugs.
Electronics - At Last.
After basic training and long sessions of aptitude testing and
counseling, Dee was finally admitted to the Navy school for
Aviation Technicians, where physics, mathematics, and basic
electronic theory are ladled out in heavy doses. On the practical
side, she learned the circuitry of various types of electronic
gear, from simple radio receivers to complete radar systems.
The biggest thrill of her electronics training was operating
navigation equipment and airborne radar in actual flight, directing
a plane from target to target.
Later, on the job, the
thorough schooling ripened into a sure knack for trouble-shooting
equipment. With the great variety of electronic devices passing
under her hands, Dee has had hardly a dull moment at her workbench.
Sailors Ashore. Service life in this technical age is
a far cry from our traditional ideas about soldiering. Looking
back at her Navy career, Dee tallies up pluses and minuses and
feels that she comes out well ahead in the balance. Nowhere
else could she have got such a good technical education - not
just for free, but actually being paid for it. Nowhere else
would she have been able to learn so much so fast. No civilian
job open to beginners fresh out of school would have given her
the variety of electronic experience she obtained from her Navy
There are off-duty gains also: meeting and
making friends with people from all parts of the country and
many different backgrounds has enhanced Dee's personality, giving
her a wider range of human experience and understanding. "I
have formed many rewarding friendships and I've learned tolerance
and self-control," she says. "Many people feel that when you
go into the service you lose your individuality and have to
conform to a group. This is certainly true to a point. My individual
desires became secondary when they conflicted with those of
40 other people. You do very little without thinking how it
will reflect on the uniform you wear."
Yet the dulling
of the individual's outer edge is compensated for by strengthening
of the core. "I feel that I am more of a person now than I was
the day I joined," says Dee, "more capable of making my own
decisions and standing up for what I believe in."
has formed a very realistic attitude about the military atmosphere
pervading her work: "If you talk back to your boss in civilian
life, you get fired. In the Navy, your punishment is different.
Steady Ahead. After discharge, Navy electronic
technicians, male or female, find the doors of the fast-growing
electronics industry wide open to them. Or, using the educational
provisions of the G.I. Bill, they may continue their schooling
toward a formal engineering degree.
Dee is steering
a steady course toward her own goal: a combination of electronics
and marriage. The shipmate whom she plans to sign on permanently
also works in Naval electronics. When they are both back in
civilian life, she wants to work in industry while he completes
his engineering studies.
Perhaps it seems paradoxical
that the net result of Dee's Navy training is a firm foundation
for civilian life. But we must remember that, after all, the
purpose of the military in a democracy is not a war-like quest
for "glory," but to assure the safety of the private citizen
and help this troubled world gain enough peace to sustain the
good of ordinary living.
Posted November 9, 2011