June 1944 QST
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
J.K. 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 pedestrians.
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.
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.
Does Private Communication Imperil the Bright New World?
By J. K. Bach, W4CCE/3, EX-W9WGM
The 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
Before 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 broadcasting background).
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
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 yet discovered?
It 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
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 easily suppressed.
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.
Posted October 24, 2019
(updated from original post on 10/22/2012)