of Contents]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 (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
do General Curtis LeMay, Arthur Godfrey, Herbert Hoover, Arthur Collins
all have in common? They were Ham radio operators. A lot of famous people
were/are Hams, with these and a few other notables mentioned in this
March 1958 edition of Popular Electronics. Conspicuously missing is
one of modern day's most renowned Hams, and that's Walter Cronkite,
KB2GSD (died in 2009). His broadcast career stretched back to World
War II, so he was definitely around long enough. Maybe the author just
didn't know; after all, he couldn't just
look it up
on the Internet or in an FCC computer database.
See all articles from
VIP's Are Hams Too!
It's often a surprise to find who's behind the mike or key at
the other end of a QSO
By Perry F. Williams, W1UED
some new radio transmitting equipment at an Army base in Cyprus after
World War II, Staff Sgt. Pappy Henderson found himself short of several
badly needed parts. One evening, while working his ham radio "rig,"
he sent out a CQ and hooked up with D4AFE in Wiesbaden, Germany. Since
this was the location of theater headquarters, Pappy asked the other
ham if he knew any "brass" who could pry loose his urgent request for
D4AFE did considerably better than that - the material
was aboard a plane for Cyprus the same day. What Pappy didn't know was
that D4AFE was the then Lt. General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the U.S.
Army Air Forces in Europe!
Like many prominent men with eight-ulcer
jobs, General LeMay, now four-star Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force,
finds needed relaxation through informal radio chats with "neighbors"
- perhaps thousands of miles away - through the twentieth-century magic
of amateur radio.
One of LeMay's close friends is also an amateur
radioman, who got his start as a Navy radio operator. Later he turned
to the field of radio entertainment, and built up quite a reputation.
Radio amateurs know him as K4LIB; you know him as CBS network star Arthur
Even though Godfrey spends many hours each week using
radio and TV professionally, he finds amateur radio a relaxing and enjoyable
hobby. When he went on a hunting trip to Africa with LeMay last year,
they brought along some ham radio gear and kept in touch with the folks
Gen. Curtis LeMay, D4AFE
Arthur Godfrey, K4LIB
Herbert Hoover Jr., W6ZH and K6EV
William J. Halligan. W9AC
Arthur Collins. W0CXX
Allen B. Du Mont
Amateur radio is one of the few
fields in which you can be a professional without altering your status
as an amateur. A very democratic fraternity - Godfrey and LeMay are
known to hundreds of fellow-hams by their first names - America's 160,000
FCC-licensed amateurs come from all walks of life, all ages, all races
and creeds, drawn by the attractions of this scientific, many-sided
hobby. Some enjoy building equipment, trying out all sorts of circuits
and ideas. For others, tinkering as amateurs has led to profitable and
Arthur Collins, for instance, first built
ham rigs for himself. When other hams became interested in his designs,
he formed the Collins Radio Co. and started producing amateur equipment
commercially in the 1930's. Today, still a ham (W0CXX), and still producing
top-grade ham gear, he heads one of the largest companies making aircraft
radio equipment for the airlines and the military.
well known to amateurs and short-wave listeners - Hallicrafters - was
founded by amateur William J. Halligan, W9AC. Gilbert Gustafson's hobby,
too, has led to a solid career: he is a vice-president of Zenith, in
charge of engineering for the huge radio-TV manufacturing concern, while
still hamming with the call W9AQS. HOW TO GET YOUR
You don't have to be rich, famous, or an engineer
to become a ham. There's no age limit, at either end of life, and there's
no charge for the licenses which are issued by the FCC to those who
have qualified. Children as young as six have passed the Novice Class
examination; one old gent is still hamming at 92.
You can take
your studying in easy stages, with actual on-the-air practice in between.
The Novice exam requires only an International Morse Code speed of five
words a minute - sending and receiving - and a simple written test mainly
concerned with FCC rules governing amateur operation. This license is
good for a year, and allows low-power operation in four amateur bands,
including one band for voice conversations and three for code.
From this license, you can go on to one that's tougher technically
but that doesn't require any increase in code speed. This is called
the Technician license, and permits operation in most of the very-high-frequency
bands. It is becoming very popular, especially in the larger cities
and metropolitan areas. A Technician license is good for five years,
and can be renewed easily.
The goal of most hams is possession
of a General Class license, requiring 13 words per minute in code, and
a fairly thorough (though not too tough) exam in radio theory as well
as regulations. The General Class amateur can operate "phone" (as hams
call voice), code, or radioteletype in every authorized amateur band,
and can even operate TV and facsimile in some bands. This license, too,
is good for five years and is renewable.
You can either build
or buy your equipment. Most hams buy receivers already assembled and
tested, because proper checking of a complicated communications receiver
usually takes a fair amount of skill and considerable equipment. Some
hams build transmitters from scratch, either with a design of their
own or one which has appeared in a magazine or technical book. Others
buy kits containing the necessary parts, punched chassis, cabinets,
knobs, tubes and all, and build their transmitters according to detailed
instruction books furnished with the kits. Still others prefer to buy
their transmitters wired, tested and ready to plug into the wall.
Adequate transmitting and receiving antennas can be made from
wire even by inexperienced people. Later on, you might want a more complicated
directional antenna shaped like those used for TV but usually quite
a bit larger; there are several types available from many different
Dr. Allen B. Du Mont, TV pioneer and head of
Du Mont Labs., and Ross D. Siragusa, president of Admiral Corp., while
no longer hams, got their start in this hobby. Two well-known scientists,
E. Finley Carter, director of the Stanford Research Institute, and Cyril
J. Staud, vice-president for research of Eastman-Kodak, are long-time
amateurs, with the calls K6GT and K2DQ respectively.
radio is a proving ground for new ideas. Lt. General Francis H. Griswold,
deputy chief of the Strategic Air Command, was quite impressed with
the compact yet highly effective "single-sideband" equipment used by
amateurs. A ham radio operator himself, Griswold averted the delays
which would have been inevitable through professional and military tests
and evaluation of the new system - he installed amateur sideband gear
in several SAC aircraft and found he could maintain two-way contact
with amateurs all over the world while the huge bombers were navigating
the globe. Its practicality and efficiency thus quickly proved, the
new sideband form of voice transmission has now become the standard
for military aircraft. BOOKS ON AMATEUR RADIO
A set of four useful booklets called the "Gateway to Amateur Radio"
is published by the American Radio Relay League, which provides technical
books and booklets at reasonable cost to amateurs and would-be amateurs.
Included in the set is the "Radio Amateur's License Manual,"
which contains the full text of the FCC regulations, sample questions
and answers, information on where to obtain application blanks and exam
papers, and other useful material. A second booklet, "How to Become
a Radio Amateur," shows you how to build simple transmitters and receivers,
and explains in simple terms what makes radio work. The third one, "Learning
the Radiotelegraph Code," not only tells you how to learn the code,
but includes practice material and suggestions for constructing buzzers
or oscillators so that you can send the code. The remaining booklet,
"Operating an Amateur Radio Station," explains many of the "Q-signals,"
abbreviations and jargon that hams use, and in addition, describes the
ARRL and its services.
The "Gateway to Amateur Radio"
can be obtained in most radio parts stores, or you can write Department
P, American Radio Relay League, 38 La Salle Rd., West Hartford 7, Conn.,
for further information. Specialized Hams.
But this hobby is not reserved for engineers and engineers-to-be. Its
other facets are appealing to people with little scientific or mechanical
There are the "DX hounds," those who try to hold chats
with amateurs in as many different countries, possessions and territories
as possible. There are "traffic men," who meet on the air regularly
in networks to relay messages for other amateurs and the general public,
free of charge.
There are contest fans, who delight in the fast
and snappy operating to be found in numerous contests sponsored by the
hams' national organization - the American Radio Relay League, foreign
societies, and local clubs throughout the country. And there are the
hams who specialize in emergency preparedness; through regular drills
on the air, they maintain a vast network ready to go into operation
whenever floods, fires, hurricanes, storms, or other disasters disrupt
normal communications facilities.
Perhaps the largest group
- and one which attracts virtually all hams at one time or another -
is called the "rag-chewers." These friendly folk like to make new friends
by radio, chatting at length about all sorts of things.
From All Walks of Life.
Back in 1928, two California
hams met by radio and were enjoying a rag-chew. One of them, a Democrat,
talked at some length about the virtues of Alfred Smith, who was running
for president that year against Herbert Hoover. The other ham didn't
seem to have too much to say, and soon signed off. The first wondered
a little, then picked up his ham directory to address the usual QSL
(acknowledgment) card. The amateur at the other end of his campaign
talk turned out to be Herbert Hoover Jr.!
The younger Hoover,
now rather well known himself as a petroleum engineer, as a trouble-shooter
for the State Department, and as Under Secretary of State from 1954
through 1957, has ham stations at both his home in Pasadena (W6ZH) and
his summer home in Santa Barbara (K6EV).
In the field of music,
there's Tex Beneke, who took over the Glenn Miller orchestra after the
death of its renowned leader. He and his wife Marguerite have both been
hams for several years; now living in St. Louis, they are licensed as
K0HWY and W0EHR respectively. Peewee Hunt, another well-known orchestra
leader, operates W8HBC in Columbus, Ohio. W6UK in North Hollywood, Calif.,
is owned by the noted guitarist Alvino Rey.
Among royalty, Crown
Prince Feisal and five of his royal relatives are amateurs in Saudi
Arabia. Former Archduke Anton of Austria was such an ardent amateur
that when the Germans occupied his country just prior to World War II
he continued operating in a ham radio contest, surrendering only after
the contest was over. He survived the war, incidentally, and now is
licensed under the calls OE3AH and OE5AH as plain Anton Hapsburg. And
the Maharajah Kumar of Sikkim, P. T. Namgyal, is one of the two amateurs
in the remote Himalayan country, with the hotly-sought-after call AC3PT.
Relaxing on the Air.
Others of the nation's
top military men enjoy hamming as a relaxing hobby. Rear Admiral Henry
C. Bruton, Director of Naval Communications, has been a ham a long while,
as attested to by his "two-letter" call, W4IH. Brig. Gen. Joseph Stilwell,
Jr., son of "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell of World War II fame, is licensed
Former Commissioner George E. Sterling, who
retired from the Federal Communications Commission in 1954, and previously
had served in the Radio Intelligence Division and as Chief Engineer
of the FCC, has been an active ham for years, with the calls W3DF and
WIAE. A prominent hotel executive, Ernest Henderson, president of the
Sheraton Hotel Corporation, operates WIUDY near Boston, Mass. W0HBG
is the call assigned to Clyde Hendrix, vice-president of Pillsbury Mills.
The City Manager of Superior, Wisconsin, W. R. L. Taylor, hams with
the call K9IGF. And there is even a ham who is a professional wrestler
- "Flash Gordon" Walker, K4INN.