Bach (not Johann S.) was amazingly prescient in 1944 with the specific
types of RF-based devices that would come to be common place in our
modern world. Dig this: "Radar can even be applied to the home, as a
burglar-alarm, for example, or to detect obstructions on the cellar
steps. Electronic devices will find many other uses as high-frequency
paint-dryers, veneer-gluers, and even cordless permanent-waving machines
for the ladies. Garage-door openers and other remote-control devices
are not only possible but practical. Then there are certain to be other
applications such as personal pedestrian telephones, two-way wrist-radios
and nursery baby-cry announcing systems." Nostradamus' divination record
might not even be that good. His tongue-in-cheek thesis of ubiquitous
RF interference due to the presence of Ham radio operators is not far
off either, although the accused "menace" would have to be extended
to include all the many varied emissive devices being used by tech-ladened
June 1944 QST
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the
ARRL's QST magazine. Here is a list of the
QST articles I have already posted. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
See all available
vintage QST articles.
Amateur Broadcasting - A Menace
Judging from past experience, publication of this essay may result
in a storm of protest which will lift the roof at 38 LaSalle Road.
Some will denounce OM Bach as anti-amateur, failing to perceive
the gentle irony in his words. Others will cudgel editorial skulls
for exposing our weaknesses to public view. A few, even, will read
into its publication a veiled forewarning and conclude that ARRL
is planning to sell short the amateur bands.
Does Private Communication Imperil the Bright New World?
Yes, we've learned
that there are always those who are unable to comprehend a jest
or who prefer to read dire omens between the lines. In this instance
there should be no need for either; The article is plainly labeled
as satire, and we state categorically that there is no hidden motive
behind its publication - except, possibly, to show how superficially
plausible such specious arguments could be if they were presented
by someone with an axe to grind.
By J. K. BACH, W4CCE/3. EX-W9WGM
electronic age into which we are now entering promises many wonders
to make our lives easier and more pleasant. Developments in manufacturing,
housing, transportation and communications - all promise a bright new
world. But it is about communications that I wish particularly to speak.
When new automobiles again run on our highways they will undoubtedly
be equipped with radar, as will every other vehicle. No longer will
airplane, train or even the sputtering motorcycle crash into hidden
obstructions, thanks to the wonders of science. Radar can even be applied
to the home, as a burglar-alarm, for example, or to detect obstructions
on the cellar steps. Electronic devices will find many other uses as
high-frequency paint-dryers, veneer-gluers, and even cordless permanent-waving
machines for the ladies. Garage-door openers and other remote-control
devices are not only possible but practical. Then there are certain
to be other applications such as personal pedestrian telephones, two-way
wrist-radios and nursery baby-cry announcing systems.
all these wonders can be fully realized, however, something must be
done about the chief obstructionist - the amateur broadcaster. For many
years his antennas have depreciated property values and created lightning
hazards. He has been absorbing broadcast waves and creating various
disturbances such as static, fading and fluttering in the broadcast
band. He has created intolerable interference to innocent listeners
with his meaningless code and chatter.
Defenders of the amateur
broadcaster have made much of his discovery of the utility of short
waves. That he stumbled upon this discovery is by no means remarkable;
as Mark Twain said: "It was wonderful of Columbus to have discovered
America but it would have been even more wonderful to have missed it."
It is a matter of record that his confinement to 200 meters was not
voluntary, but instead was brought about because of his interference
with other services and general worthlessness even in days gone by.
And what, indeed, has
the amateur broadcaster done with his discovery? He has filled up the
wave-bands with inane conversation of no discoverable meaning or value.
His claims to usefulness during national disaster are transparently
silly, not to say fraudulent. There is no mention of these services
outside of his own radio magazines; and even if they do exist, there
is nothing he has done or can do that would not be better done by public
service, telephone and railroad companies, with expert operators and
commercial equipment designed by engineers of training and experience.
In this connection, it is significant that the amateur broadcaster has
no official place in the War Emergency Radio Service (though a few have
managed to enter the organization, possibly by concealing their amateur
The amateurs are also vociferous about
being a reserve of trained operators for military service in time of
war. This is, of course, absurd; the Signal Corps has its own training
schools, and so could have little use for hobbyists whose chief occupation
before the war was annoying legitimate radio users such as broadcast
listeners. Besides, it must be apparent by this time that, in an intelligently
planned' world, war cannot exist. Granting, for the sake of argument,
that the amateur broadcaster was useful in this war, there could be
no use for him in the future. Gratitude, even if it seemed to be indicated,
has no place here, if only because the amateur broadcaster will never
again be called upon for war communication service, because there will
be no more wars. The Anglo-Saxon powers will see to it that no aggressor
nation ever again can take the civilized world by the throat.
As for the technical advances sometimes attributed to amateur broadcasters,
it must be obvious that no hobbyist could compete with the great commercial
laboratories. It is well known that they must buy most of their equipment,
and such equipment as they themselves build almost invariably is only
a slavish copy of successful commercial equipment, since obviously they
themselves cannot design other than rudimentary instruments.
It is becoming increasingly
obvious that amateur broadcasting can no longer be permitted if civilization
is to progress. Who can tell how many airplanes, trains and other vehicles
will crash into hidden obstructions and cause serious loss of life only
because some boy, playing with amateur broadcasting, has interfered
with the proper operation of their radars?
And in any case,
how could there be room for amateur broadcasting in a spectrum already
overcrowded, even without the new assignments which must be made for
wood-gluing, paint-drying, soldering and other similar processes not
might be asked why the amateur broadcaster has been permitted to clutter
up our frequencies for so many years. The answer is simple: he has organized
himself into an association which has a lobby of sorts, as well as press
representation; the latter, fortunately, not very effective. While not
so efficient as some others, these agencies have been instrumental in
preserving the amateur broadcaster's privileges to the annoyance of
industry and the public at large.
Is there a remedy? Indeed,
yes. Fortunately, those in authority have practically unlimited powers
in wartime, and the said authority may be - indeed, must be - continued
after peace once more spreads her comforting wings over a war-torn world.
Nothing could be simpler than to extend, so as to cover the entire country,
the present military zones within which private (as distinguished from
commercial) communication systems are forbidden - as indeed they should
be in this day of air power. To do so would require no legislation;
a directive would be sufficient authority.
But this might not
be permanently effective; what of the voting strength of the amateur
broadcaster? Fortunately, he does not use it to the best advantage,
and since, save as an unmitigated nuisance, he is unknown to the general
public, of which he forms a very minor fraction, he can be safely and
A long-term policy to rid the country of
the amateur broadcaster might well begin by restricting his operations
to the region above 1000 Mc., with a maximum radiated power of three
watts, an assigned beam direction of not over 15 degrees spread in any
dimension, and, of course, a time schedule.
Heavy taxation would
also be effective. First, it would discourage a practice which at present
cannot expediently be legislated against, all the possession of firearms
has been. (Heavy taxation has been valuable in the past; as an outstanding
example, the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of the common
kitchen match has been discouraged solely by this means.) Second, the
funds thus obtained could be added to the billions needed to finance
the agencies that will be needed to regulate and administer the many
affairs of our brave new world.