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.
Here's a little dose of Ham comedy
to help take the edge off a busy day - straight from the ARRL's QST
magazine in a piece entitled, "Blonde QRM." It's a little 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. It reminds me of how in the "Nancy
Drew Detective," movie from the 1930s, Ted (Ned in the book series) is a Ham
radio operator, and he tells his fellow Ham that he has experienced "local QRM"
when Nancy Drew suddenly enters his shack (Nancy is a blonde). 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 supply.
"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 say!"
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 nose.
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
"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 blow up."
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
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
"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 thundered.
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 o'clock.
Just as I was getting ready to go home the 'phone rang and I answered it. It
"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 said.
Well, Izzy and Lizzy do make a swell pair.
* Eggertsville, N. Y.
Posted April 15, 2020
(updated from original post on 10/23/2015