March 1940 QST
Table of Contents
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.
Ok, here's a little dose of Ham comedy for your Friday afternoon.
It's a bit bit kooky by today's standards, but in 1940 the
style of humor it fits right in. This could easily have been
the plot in an old TV show like
The Honeymooners, or one of the radio situation comedy
(sitcom) programs like
The Life of Riley. QRM, by the way, is Ham lingo for
man-made signal interference, as opposed to QRN, which is atmospheric
or 'natural' signal interference. Enjoy.
Blonde QRM: A Story
By Harry Otis Brunn, Jr.,* W8MXT
It was one of those cold nights last December when I took
a stroll over to the Kerfew Apartments to see my friend Isadore
Shapiro, locally known as "the greatest splash on 160." Climbing
the squeaky stairway, I arrived at a door with 2B on it and
knocked. Not hearing a reply. I walked in and found Isadore
in his shack, tearing his hair over a messy diagram of a power
"Hi, Izzy," I said, hanging my hat on his rack-and-panel
job. "Say, fellah, you shoulda seen the glamorous blonde I just
saw coming up the apartment steps. Glamour? Ooomph? Wow, I'll
Isadore didn't even say hello to me; he just grabbed out
a few more fistfuls of hair and mumbled something under his
breath about filter condensers.
"Now what the heck's causing all your mental QRM, old timer?"
I asked. "You look as though you lost your last r.f. choke or
something. I should think you'd be anxious to hear about a blonde
with oomph and stuff."
Isadore rubbed his sunken eyes and let out a long moan. With
a trembling finger he pointed to the far corner of the room.
There was something there I hadn't noticed before. It looked
like a final amplifier with a couple of gigantic tubes.
"Well, fer the luvva Pete!" I exclaimed.
"Where in the name of Old Betsy did you ever get those things?"
"Won 'em in a c.w. contest," he groaned.
"They're SQH-750's. You ran run a kw. to a pair of 'em."
Then he pulled a junky looking power pack out from under the
operating table. Resting his foot on it, he said, "The only
power supply I got in the whole joint - exactly 412 volts! Oh,
how I wish I wuz dead!"
Poor Isadore! I could see how he felt. Here he got a beautiful
pair of r.f. bottles for nothing, and all he had to push them
with was 412 volts. And Izzy was a clerk in a "5 and 10"; he
really didn't have much excess lucre to spend on ham junk.
"Tell you wot we'll do," I said. "We'll get all the transformers
we can lay our hands on and put 'em in series to get about 5000
volts. Then we'll use that old dilapidated pair of 866's I got
in my junk box, and your pair, and we'll have a bridge rectifier.
Why, we'll have your pair of peach jars percolatin' in no time!"
He looked a little relieved, but not much.
"Yeh," he said, "but how about the filter?"
Then I showed him how he could buy a whole pile of paper
electrolytics for about three bucks and put them in series,
and he was happy.
"Heaven only knows what it'll sound like," he said, "but
at least it'll be a kw. You don't know how I've suffered! Imagine
having a couple of 500-watt fruit bottles on the pantry shelf
and nothing to stuff 'em with. Tsk!"
I laid my hand on his shoulder and said, "Take it easy, old
man. I'm not saying you'll have a p.d.c. carrier, but you'll
have a kw. and the R.I. doesn't sit up until 3 A.M. anyway!"
Isadore glanced up on the wall where he had a couple of green
tickets all dolled up in a gilded picture frame.
"One more of those and I can complete my collection," he
said. "Then I'm going after the pink ones they give you for
operating out of the band."
So then we threw his twelve watts on the air and chewed the
fat with a couple of local boys until about half past one. After
that, I went home to bed and dreamed about the glamorous blonde
I met on the steps of the Kerfew Apartments.
* * * * *
About a week later Isadore had his kilowatt on the air down
on twenty meters in the c.w. band. But then the lady in apartment
3A began to complain about her kitchen lights blinking on and
off, and he decided to put the pile of junk on 160 and grid-modulate
it. He used his twenty-meter Zepp as a Marconi, and tapped onto
the cold-water pipe in his bathroom for a ground. This seemed
to work pretty well until one Sunday afternoon when Grampa Schmaltz
from apartment 5A came stamping into Isadore's shack with his
bathrobe on, dripping wet. It seems Grampa was taking a bath,
and when he reached to turn off the cold water an eighteen-inch
spark bounced off his index finger and hit him smack in the
This trouble was remedied by buying Grampa Schmaltz a good
five-cent cigar and using a genuine ground wire instead of the
water pipe. But Isadore's troubles were by no means over. Grampa
still claimed he could hear him talking every time he went to
bed at night. The trouble was found to be resonating bedsprings.
That is, the aged gentleman's bedsprings accidentally resonated
on Izzy's frequency. This was easily overcome by inserting a
wavetrap between his intermediate bedpost and ground; after
this, for a while everything looked as though it were lovely.
One Saturday evening, a week or two later, Isadore gave me
a ring on the 'phone and invited me to drop over and watch him
work Peru on 160. I said I'd be over in about fifteen minutes.
So I finished washing the dishes and took a run over to his
When I arrived, Izzy was busy inspecting his twisted-wire connections
to make sure none of them was soldered.
"Well, how is AC KW Shapiro tonight?" I greeted, tossing
myself into his easy chair.
"All set to blow the DX fuse," said he, walking over to the
rig. First he made sure the filaments were lighted, and then
he threw on the plate voltage.
Izzy always used the same method of throwing on the high
voltage. First, he'd stick his fingers in his ears and close
his eyes, and then he'd kick the knife switch with his right
foot. Once when I was there he missed and kicked an 866 clear
out of its socket.
"Okay, Izzy," I said. "You can open your eyes now. She didn't
He plugged in a mike and started calling CQ.
Filter chokes boiled and transformers sizzled. Wax from the
paper electrolytics melted and dripped down into the cracks
in the floor. Rectifiers flashed intermittently as tank condensers
sputtered and arced, and audio transformers talked back angrily
- but the rig stayed on the air. Izzy finished his CQ and turned
the thing off, just as the final milliammeter reached 920 mils.
Then he tuned the band for a call on his Super Blooper 16.
"I probably won't get much with a short call like that,"
commented Izzy, twisting the dial.
But Izzy got more results from that call than he had expected,
for less than two minutes later there was a terrific pounding
of fists on his apartment door. It was really only two fists,
but it sounded like a dozen.
" G-g-gosh!" stammered Izzy, "somebody sure sounds mad!"
The middle panel of the door began to splinter and a hinge
popped off, as the pounding became more and more fervent.
"Better let him in before he breaks the door down," I suggested.
Izzy trembled so hard his pivot tooth fell out and a couple
of screws came out of his wrist watch, Shakily he walked to
the door and opened it. To his amazement, standing there in
the door-way was a glamorous blonde with plenty of oomph, and
she was waving her fists in the air in a very dangerous manner.
To my amazement, it was the very same glamorous blonde I had
met on the apartment steps the week before!
"Who do you think you are?" she shouted, shaking her fist
in front of Izzy's face. "How can a person listen to the sweet,
sophisticated strains of Artie Goodman with you fillin' the
air with a lot of gibberish!"
Izzy started to open his mouth, but the lady nearly stuck
her fist in it. "The nerve of you bustin' up my radio!" she
Then she reached out and grabbed him by the back of the neck
and dragged him out into the hallway. Not being in the mood
to watch any bloody murders or become involved myself, I closed
the door and went back to the shack. I put Izzy's rig on the
air and worked a couple of the local boys. When I thought it
was about time for the battle to be finished, I went out and
looked in the hallway, expecting to find Izzy's limp body draped
over the end of the banister. To my utter astonishment, there
was no sign of him!
I stood there and shook my head a few times.
Then I went back to his shack and listened to a few guys
chew the fat on Izzy's Super Blooper 16. This was about twelve
Just as I was getting ready to go home the 'phone rang and
I answered it. It was Izzy.
"Say, listen," he said, "I'm 'phoning from the City Hall.
I got that woman's b.c.l. trouble all cleared up!"
"Great!" I said. "How did you do it?" "I married her!" he
Well, Izzy and Lizzy do make a swell pair.
* Eggertsville, N. Y.
Posted October 23, 2015