VIP's Are Hams Too!
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.
March 1958 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
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,
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 supplies.
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
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
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 in Virginia.
Gen. Curtis LeMay, D4AFE
Arthur Godfrey, K4LIB
Herbert Hoover Jr., W6ZH and K6EV
William J. Halligan. W9AC
Arthur Collins. W0CXX
Allen B. Du Mont
Profitable Hobby. 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 enjoyable careers.
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.
company 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 HAM LICENSE
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
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 manufacturers.
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.
Amateur 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.
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.
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.
"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 bent.
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
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
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
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 as W4FPE.
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,