August 1967 QST
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Cafe visitor Kevin A., of Roanoke, VA, sent me this article from the September 1972
edition of the American Radio Relay League's QST magazine. He was motivated to send it after reading some of the articles I
posted from WWII era QSTs. We can all probably relate a story similar to the one
told here. How many "Old Al" types - the antithesis of an "Elmer" - are out there
who knowingly or unknowingly frustrate others from participating in an otherwise
fun activity because he insists on beating up on a trivial topic ad nauseam? You
can feel the angst in the author's voice while reading. Ray, are you out there?
Is this story real or fictitious? It could easily be either.
by Ray Larson,·W0GHX
THE OTHER NIGHT I got on the air again after a QRT of about eight years. A couple
of weeks earlier. I had hooked up my old receiver to a hay-wire antenna and had
been listening around the bands to see what was happening and to get my code speed
back up. I noticed that there are a lot more 89 signals and electronic keyers on
the-air than there used to be - often in conjunction. After a couple of weeks of
SWLing l couldn't stand .it any longer. so I carried my exciter up from the basement
and put it alongside the receiver. The antenna seemed to load up alright on forty.
So, I got my old bug out of the closet and was all set for a QSO.
I was tuning around the band looking for a victim when 1 came across a fist that
sounded hauntingly familiar (it was a bug, not a keyer). He was sending CQ on 7031
(my receiver may be old but it's accurately calibrated), and when he signed, sure
enough, it was Al, W4. I quickly zeroed in and gave him a call.
Even as I was calling I began to have misgivings. Old Al was one of the reasons
I had gone QRT, though in my excitement I had forgotten it. It's not that Al was
a bad guy, really, But, he was the crotchetiest, orneriest. most reactionary old
geezer I had ever run into. Not just politically, mind you. but in everything. And
he was always a decade or so behind the issues (if you can call the kicks he got
on "issues"), Back in the '60s he was denouncing the transistor, the one-piece bathing
suit (I doubt that he had heard of the two), SSB, the automatic transmission, and
the Lindy - demoralizing and un-American influences all. He was the Archie Bunker
of the airwaves. There was absolutely no way to get him off a subject. You just
had to suffer. I tried to avoid him but he always seemed to find me out. In self-defense
I had. finally gone QRT altogether.
knows what he's into now," I thought as I began to sign, "probably Goldwater's presidential
campaign." I half hoped the antenna wasn't getting out. I tried to console myself.
"Maybe he's mellowed with time," I thought, "and anyway. this time I won't let him
get to me, no matter what." I signed AR and turned up the receiver gain.
Sure enough he came back. He remembered my name as though our last QSO had been
yesterday instead of eight years ago and gave me my report - 459. In Al's tight-fisted
world, this meant I had a solid signal. The best I used to be able to get out of
him when I had the kilowatt connected to a dipole was a 349. "Maybe he has
mellowed," I thought. I gave him his report and tried to avoid everything but the
most uncontroversial clichés. The weather should be safe: WX. HR COLD ES CLR - TEN
BELOW IN MPLS THIS AM.
QRG? was his only reply. Al was always laconic except when it came to one of
his pet topics.
That seemed harmless. "7031 kHz, I replied, rather proud that I had kept up with
the world enough to know that kc had been replaced by kHz during my QRT.
The receiver went berserk. For a moment I thought that my gain control had gotten
noisy from being unused for so long. But no, it was all right. Al was making spluttering
noises. His bug sounded like a demented cricket. I finally made out some of it:
... SCHMERTZES - WHATS MY FREQ? FREQ MEASURED IN CYCLES NOT BUSHELS CUBITS OR RODS
- HERTZ RENTS CARS.
"My God!" I thought, "I've done it." 7031 kc , I replied and then, instead of
turning it back, I tried to change the subject. I brought him up to date on my family,
how my son was ten now and playing the French horn in the school band. I hoped Al
didn't have anything against French horns.
He ignored it and went on with his harangue. He said that a cycle is a phenomenon
of the physical world, a Hertz a member of the human world, and probably an immoral
one at that. He capped his outburst with this, QRSing to 20 wpm and carefully spelling
out each word:
a doleful old-timer named Gertz,
"I'm appalled that all cycles are Hertz:
kHz is a fright,
And MHz outta sight,
And when I ride on my biHz it hurts!"
By now I was shaken and badly in need of a drink. I gave him a rundown of my
gear arid then went into a detailed description of my antenna -its exact resonant
frequency (in kilocycles), its length and the height at each end, in feet. Too late
I realized l might be in deep water there. I hoped he wasn't a metric nut.
But Al picked up his tirade where he had left off. A cycle, he said; is a perfectly
descriptive name for a thing that has frequency, like a wave of water or energy.
A Hertz, on the other hand, is descriptive of nothing. It is the name of a family
- a foreign family. How would they like to be called "Cycle?" They should
have the decency not to foist their family name off on a natural phenomenon, The
silly thing, he continued, is that everyone knows a cycle is really a cycle, they
just pretend it's a Hertz. And on and on. Then another limerick, QRS again:
Said a cheeky YL name of Mavis,
"This Hertz thing is really depravis:
Number Two wasn't tough,
Or didn't try hard enough,
Or kiloHertz would be
I replied that I was planning on putting up a real antenna in the spring. What did
he think about the relative merits of a. dipole as compared to a ground plane on
But Al wasn't about to be derailed. Measuring frequency in Hertzes, he said,
is like measuring time in Methuselahs or velocity in Wright Brothers, because these
people had something to do with age and speed. CAN U IMAGINE DRIVING 60 WBPH? he
asked, rather rhetorically. Must we reHertz our used beer bottles? Will the Pope
start issuing enHertzicals? Can you feature looking things up in the EnHertzopaedia
Britanica? Are we going to be plagued by eleven-year sunspot Hertzes and will scholars
start ranting about Hertzical history? Then he fell into his demented-cricket swing
again and, as ill luck would have it, the QSB was at the peak of its Hertz and he
was over S9:
Flattety-thrattety, it's a conspiracy,
Hertzian frequencies crowding the air
Gone are the cycles that,
Used to remind us of Sophia,
I pulled the big switch and went down for a drink. The next day I carried my
old receiver and the exciter back down to the basement and put the bug back in the
closet. They cluttered up my study anyway. I really don't have room in the yard
for an antenna. Maybe in a few years...
Posted February 28, 2020
(updated from original post on 5/1/2011)