November 1935 Short Wave Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
from Short Wave Craft,
published 1930 - 1936. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
Here in one short editorial
article, Hugo Gernsback outlines the application of shortwaves in "the next war"
to maintain wireless surveillance of the airspace over towns and cities via what
is essentially radar, to detonate explosive devices by means of a powerful "special
combination impulse," and long-distance wireless communications via radios "so small
that one man can easily carry it." This might seem rather moot in today's world,
but in 1935 it required a certain amount of knowledge of wireless communications
and a vision regarding its potential.
In my readings of a great many early- to mid-20th-century technical articles
on electronics, aeronautics, physics, etc., it is interesting to notice how authors
of the pre-WWII era referred to what we now call "World War I" as simply "the
World War." That is because at the time it was the only known
war - defined as a conflict that involves most of the principle nations of the
Short Waves and War
By Hugo Gernsback
During the World War, the vacuum tube had just begun to make its appearance and
it was not until the end of the war that really good vacuum tubes had been perfected.
Short waves at that time were not much in vogue and had only been used experimentally.
Not very much was known of their behavior in space and whatever signaling was done
during the war was done at the higher wavelengths, rather than on short waves.
The next war will see profound changes in all branches of warfare and one of
the most interesting ones will no doubt be that involving instrumentality of short
Short Wave Craft has repeatedly chronicled the latest inventions used in conjunction
with short waves. Recently the so-called mystery ray has been given quite a good
deal of publicity in the press. It seems this particular ray, which is nothing but
micro short waves, was simultaneously developed by the United States Army, also
in Germany, and by several other powers as well. These micro waves appear to pierce
fog and even clouds, and work along optical lines. It will be impossible hereafter
for an airplane to hide in the fog and even behind clouds, because the mystery wave
directed against it is reflected down to earth where it is used for recording or
A city, during the next war, will easily be protected against unheralded enemy
aircraft by having a barrage of such micro waves surrounding the entire city, the
action being automatic in such a manner, that automatic recording instruments will
immediately sound the alarm when an airplane appears overhead within the confines
of the city. It will be impossible, in the future, for an enemy airplane to get
through such a short-wave barrage.
This, however, is only one of the more spectacular war uses of short waves. For
propaganda purposes all of the short-wave stations of the various nations will be
worked at full blast! One nation will outshout the other, in trying to tell the
enemy population certain war facts which the home government may wish to suppress
at all costs. We will then have the interesting experience where one government,
in order to defeat this purpose, will try to "jam" the enemy station from sending
out such propaganda by broadcasting on approximately the same wave. This would then
nullify the enemy's efforts because listeners could no longer make out what the
foreign messages were.
For communication purposes, between Army units, exceedingly short short-waves
will be used; each battalion will have its own short-wave set, which will be so
small that one man can easily carry it. In this manner it will be possible to keep
in touch with headquarters all the time. Of course, it will be argued at this point
that the enemy will hear all these messages. This is true, and it should not be
forgotten that we also hear the ones from the other side as well. This need not
disturb us, because the messages can be in special codes, so that if the enemy gets
the information they will not be much the wiser. These codes are changed quite frequently
so that the enemy cannot understand them.
However, when it is necessary to keep the messages secret, we will make use of
special directional or radio beams, which can be directed exactly the same as a
searchlight, with the assurance that the enemy cannot eavesdrop on the message.
It is to be expected that such directed beams on ultra short waves will come into
general use during the next war and, as a matter of fact, practically all armies
have experimented with the system and several have adopted ultra short waves for
The same reasoning holds true for airplanes. Here also, special equipment, whereby
an airplane can send out a sharply focused beam wave, which cannot be intercepted
by the enemy if the usual precautions are taken, will be used.
It will even be possible for outposts, where it is impossible to use telephone
wires, to employ short waves for communication purposes to the rear. Short-wave
sets have already been designed which can be carried on the back of any soldier.
These are usually small battery operated affairs that weigh a fraction of a pound.
The operator finds it easy to direct the micro wave back to his own lines, so that
the enemy cannot intercept the message. This is also done by special beam-reflector
These ultra short waves will also be used where small mines, planted in the soil,
can be hidden at strategic points, bridge approaches, etc., ammunition dumps, and
wherever necessary. By a special combination impulse, the mine can be exploded at
any time, although a special formation of signals are necessary before this can
be accomplished. No wires are used, and the destruction can be effected especially
during the retreat of troops in order to hamper the movements of the enemy.
There are, of course, hundreds of other uses of short waves for warfare purposes,
many of which are secret and about which little or no publicity has, as yet, been
Posted September 1, 2020(original 8/10/ 2015)