March 1958 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
What do General Curtis LeMay, Arthur Godfrey,
Herbert Hoover, Arthur Collins all have in common? They were Ham radio operators. A lot of famous people
were/are Hams, with these and a few other notables mentioned in this March 1958 edition of Popular Electronics.
Conspicuously missing is one of modern day's most renowned Hams, and that's Walter Cronkite, KB2GSD
(died in 2009). His broadcast career stretched back to World War II, so he was definitely around long
enough. Maybe the author just didn't know; after all, he couldn't just
look it up
on the Internet or in an FCC computer database.
VIP's Are Hams Too!
It's often a surprise to find who's behind the mike or key at the other end of a QSO
By Perry F. Williams, W1UED
new radio transmitting equipment at an Army base in Cyprus after World War II, Staff Sgt. Pappy Henderson
found himself short of several badly needed parts. One evening, while working his ham radio "rig," he
sent out a CQ and hooked up with D4AFE in Wiesbaden, Germany. Since this was the location of theater
headquarters, Pappy asked the other ham if he knew any "brass" who could pry loose his urgent request
D4AFE did considerably better than that - the material was aboard a plane for Cyprus the same day.
What Pappy didn't know was that D4AFE was the then Lt. General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the U.S. Army
Air Forces in Europe!
Like many prominent men with eight-ulcer jobs, General LeMay, now four-star Vice Chief of Staff of
the Air Force, finds needed relaxation through informal radio chats with "neighbors" - perhaps thousands
of miles away - through the twentieth-century magic of amateur radio.
One of LeMay's close friends is also an amateur radioman, who got his start as a Navy radio operator.
Later he turned to the field of radio entertainment, and built up quite a reputation. Radio amateurs
know him as K4LIB; you know him as CBS network star Arthur Godfrey.
Even though Godfrey spends many hours each week using radio and TV professionally, he finds amateur
radio a relaxing and enjoyable hobby. When he went on a hunting trip to Africa with LeMay last year,
they brought along some ham radio gear and kept in touch with the folks in Virginia.
Gen. Curtis LeMay, D4AFE
Arthur Godfrey, K4LIB
Herbert Hoover, Jr., W6ZH and K6EV
William J. Halligan. W9AC
Arthur Collins. W0CXX
Allen B. Du Mont
Profitable Hobby. Amateur radio is one of the few fields in which you can be a professional
without altering your status as an amateur. A very democratic fraternity - Godfrey and LeMay are known
to hundreds of fellow-hams by their first names - America's 160,000 FCC-licensed amateurs come from
all walks of life, all ages, all races and creeds, drawn by the attractions of this scientific, many-sided
hobby. Some enjoy building equipment, trying out all sorts of circuits and ideas. For others, tinkering
as amateurs has led to profitable and enjoy-able careers.
Arthur Collins, for instance, first built ham rigs for himself. When other hams became interested
in his designs, he formed the Collins Radio Co. and started producing amateur equipment commercially
in the 1930's. Today, still a ham (W0CXX), and still producing top-grade ham gear, he heads one of the
largest companies making aircraft radio equipment for the airlines and the military.
Another company well known to amateurs and short-wave listeners - Hallicrafters - was founded by
amateur William J. Halligan, W9AC. Gilbert Gustafson's hobby, too, has led to a solid career: he is
a vice-president of Zenith, in charge of engineering for the huge radio-TV manufacturing concern, while
still hamming with the call W9AQS.
HOW TO GET YOUR HAM LICENSE
You don't have to be rich, famous, or an engineer to become a ham. There's no age limit, at either
end of life, and there's no charge for the licenses which are issued by the FCC to those who have qualified.
Children as young as six have passed the Novice Class examination; one old gent is still hamming at
You can take your studying in easy stages, with actual on-the-air practice in between. The Novice
exam requires only an International Morse Code speed of five words a minute - sending and receiving
- and a simple written test mainly concerned with FCC rules governing amateur operation. This license
is good for a year, and allows low-power operation in four amateur bands, including one band for voice
conversations and three for code.
From this license, you can go on to one that's tougher technically but that doesn't require any increase
in code speed. This is called the Technician license, and permits operation in most of the very-high-frequency
bands. It is becoming very popular, especially in the larger cities and metropolitan areas. A Technician
license is good for five years, and can be renewed easily.
The goal of most hams is possession of a General Class license, requiring 13 words per minute in
code, and a fairly thorough (though not too tough) exam in radio theory as well as regulations. The
General Class amateur can operate "phone" (as hams call voice), code, or radioteletype in every authorized
amateur band, and can even operate TV and facsimile in some bands. This license, too, is good for five
years and is renewable.
You can either build or buy your equipment. Most hams buy receivers already assembled and tested,
because proper checking of a complicated communications receiver usually takes a fair amount of skill
and considerable equipment. Some hams build transmitters from scratch, either with a design of their
own or one which has appeared in a magazine or technical book. Others buy kits containing the necessary
parts, punched chassis, cabinets, knobs, tubes and all, and build their transmitters according to detailed
instruction books furnished with the kits. Still others prefer to buy their transmitters wired, tested
and ready to plug into the wall.
Adequate transmitting and receiving antennas can be made from wire even by inexperienced people.
Later on, you might want a more complicated directional antenna shaped like those used for TV but usually
quite a bit larger; there are several types available from many different manufacturers.
Dr. Allen B. Du Mont, TV pioneer and head of Du Mont Labs., and Ross D. Siragusa, president of Admiral
Corp., while no longer hams, got their start in this hobby. Two well-known scientists, E. Finley Carter,
director of the Stanford Research Institute, and Cyril J. Staud, vice-president for research of Eastman-Kodak,
are long-time amateurs, with the calls K6GT and K2DQ respectively.
Amateur radio is a proving ground for new ideas. Lt. General Francis H. Griswold, deputy chief of
the Strategic Air Command, was quite impressed with the compact yet highly effective "single-sideband"
equipment used by amateurs. A ham radio operator himself, Griswold averted the delays which would have
been inevitable through professional and military tests and evaluation of the new system - he installed
amateur sideband gear in several SAC aircraft and found he could maintain two-way contact with amateurs
all over the world while the huge bombers were navigating the globe. Its practicality and efficiency
thus quickly proved, the new sideband form of voice transmission has now become the standard for military
BOOKS ON AMATEUR RADIO
A set of four useful booklets called the "Gateway to
Amateur Radio" is published by the American Radio Relay League, which provides technical books and booklets
at reasonable cost to amateurs and would-be amateurs.
Included in the set is the "Radio Amateur's License Manual," which contains the full text of the
FCC regulations, sample questions and answers, information on where to obtain application blanks and
exam papers, and other useful material. A second booklet, "How to Become a Radio Amateur," shows you
how to build simple transmitters and receivers, and explains in simple terms what makes radio work.
The third one, "Learning the Radiotelegraph Code," not only tells you how to learn the code, but includes
practice material and suggestions for constructing buzzers or oscillators so that you can send the code.
The remaining booklet, "Operating an Amateur Radio Station," explains many of the "Q-signals," abbreviations
and jargon that hams use, and in addition, describes the ARRL and its services.
The "Gateway to Amateur Radio" can be obtained in most radio parts stores, or you can write Department
P, American Radio Relay League, 38 La Salle Rd., West Hartford 7, Conn., for further information.
Specialized Hams. But this hobby is not reserved for engineers and engineers-to-be.
Its other facets are appealing to people with little scientific or mechanical bent.
There are the "DX hounds," those who try to hold chats with amateurs in as many different countries,
possessions and territories as possible. There are "traffic men," who meet on the air regularly in networks
to relay messages for other amateurs and the general public, free of charge.
There are contest fans, who delight in the fast and snappy operating to be found in numerous contests
sponsored by the hams' national organization - the American Radio Relay League, foreign societies, and
local clubs throughout the country. And there are the hams who specialize in emergency preparedness;
through regular drills on the air, they maintain a vast network ready to go into operation whenever
floods, fires, hurricanes, storms, or other disasters disrupt normal communications facilities.
Perhaps the largest group - and one which attracts virtually all hams at one time or another - is
called the "rag-chewers." These friendly folk like to make new friends by radio, chatting at length
about all sorts of things.
From All Walks of Life. Back in 1928, two California hams met by radio and were
enjoying a rag-chew. One of them, a Democrat, talked at some length about the virtues of Alfred Smith,
who was running for president that year against Herbert Hoover. The other ham didn't seem to have too
much to say, and soon signed off. The first wondered a little, then picked up his ham directory to address
the usual QSL (acknowledgment) card. The amateur at the other end of his campaign talk turned out to
be Herbert Hoover Jr.!
The younger Hoover, now rather well known himself as a petroleum engineer, as a trouble-shooter for
the State Department, and as Under Secretary of State from 1954 through 1957, has ham stations at both
his home in Pasadena (W6ZH) and his summer home in Santa Barbara (K6EV).
In the field of music, there's Tex Beneke, who took over the Glenn Miller orchestra after the death
of its renowned leader. He and his wife Marguerite have both been hams for several years; now living
in St. Louis, they are licensed as K0HWY and W0EHR respectively. Peewee Hunt, another well-known orchestra
leader, operates W8HBC in Columbus, Ohio. W6UK in North Hollywood, Calif., is owned by the noted guitarist
Among royalty, Crown Prince Feisal and five of his royal relatives are amateurs in Saudi Arabia.
Former Archduke Anton of Austria was such an ardent amateur that when the Germans occupied his country
just prior to World War II he continued operating in a ham radio contest, surrendering only after the
contest was over. He survived the war, incidentally, and now is licensed under the calls OE3AH and OE5AH
as plain Anton Hapsburg. And the Maharajah Kumar of Sikkim, P. T. Namgyal, is one of the two amateurs
in the remote Himalayan country, with the hotly-sought-after call AC3PT.
Relaxing on the Air. Others of the nation's top military men enjoy hamming as a
relaxing hobby. Rear Admiral Henry C. Bruton, Director of Naval Communications, has been a ham a long
while, as attested to by his "two-letter" call, W4IH. Brig. Gen. Joseph Stilwell, Jr., son of "Vinegar
Joe" Stilwell of World War II fame, is licensed as W4FPE.
Former Commissioner George E. Sterling, who retired from the Federal Communications Commission in
1954, and previously had served in the Radio Intelligence Division and as Chief Engineer of the FCC,
has been an active ham for years, with the calls W3DF and WIAE. A prominent hotel executive, Ernest
Henderson, president of the Sheraton Hotel Corporation, operates WIUDY near Boston, Mass. W0HBG is the
call assigned to Clyde Hendrix, vice-president of Pillsbury Mills. The City Manager of Superior, Wisconsin,
W. R. L. Taylor, hams with the call K9IGF. And there is even a ham who is a professional wrestler -
"Flash Gordon" Walker, K4INN.
Posted July 10, 2012