RF Cafe visitor Kevin A., of Roanoke, VA, sent me this article from the September 1972 edition of QST. 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.
articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the ARRL
Here is a list of QST articles
9/5/2011 Update: "I believe the guy
sitting on the floor is Doug Blakeslee W1KLK holding in his hand a function generator designed around an IC and
the 'boat anchor' he's looking at is probably the hollow state equivalent." - Kevin A.
See all available
vintage QST articles.
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
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,
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 called kiloAvis."
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 forty meters?
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
Flattety-thrattety, it's a conspiracy,
Hertzian frequencies crowding the air
Gone are the cycles
Used to remind us of Sophia, bare.
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...