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
articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the
's QST magazine.
Here is a list of
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
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
"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
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
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,
Said a cheeky YL name of Mavis,
"This Hertz thing is really
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 over S9:
Flattety-thrattety, it's a conspiracy,
crowding the air
Gone are the cycles that,
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