May 1945 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
For the last two centuries our wars
have been fought to secure freedom from oppressive regimes, either for our own citizens
or for citizens of allied countries requesting our assistance. In the entire history
of the United States, no land has ever been claimed during or after the conclusion
of the conflicts. Although the human cost has been tragic - especially for those
who have lost family members or suffered injuries - one undeniable benefit has been
the advancement of technology. "Necessity," it has been said, "is the mother of
invention." World War II resulted in significant advances in wireless communications,
and the civilian radio industry was quick to exploit the new devices and methods.
Futurists wasted no time prognosticating about how the postwar technology world
would shape up, and of course radio figured significantly into the vision. This
1945 article from Radio-Craft magazine is an early example.
Postwar Citizens' Radio
Microwave Transmitter-Receivers Will Invade Our Private Lives
By S. R. Winters
The postwar mother has her master unit right beside her in the kitchen, thus
keeping watch over children in the nursery and communicating with others at camp
or husband in the fields.
When the dogs of war have been quelled, swords may not be converted to plowshares
but the "walkie-talkie" and "handie-talkie," as symbols of compact combination radio
transmitters and receivers, will switch to peace-time uses with the ease of flipping
a coin. These vest-pocket editions of radio will have applications too numerous
to be computed, too flexible to be defined.
On the basis of recent hearings (extending over a period of weeks) before the
Federal Communications Commission there is a 200-page report, amassed by 231 radio
technicians - a forecast of things to come in radio and electronics. Dryly labeled
"Docket No. 6651," it may become as famous for its implications upon the radio structure
of the future as was infamous the "little black bag" in the Government's Teapot
Dome oil scandal. This bulging, brown radio volume is a blueprint of tomorrow's
radio. Not only has the Federal Communications Commission turned prophet, with an
unbridled imagination, but within a single volume it has pieced together, in jigsaw
puzzle fashion, a compendium of radio's varied services, such as: citizen radio
communication service, theatre television, centercasting, general mobile radio service,
facsimile broadcast service, motion picture radio stations, geophysical service,
or radio prospecting, radio for electric, gas, water and steam utilities, police
radio service, limited private radio-telephone service, taxicab radio service, and
bus, railroad and highway radio services.
Radio For the Citizens
Of these allocations of frequencies to various categories of non-governmental
services, in the spectrum from 10 to 30,000,000 kilocycles, there is none so new
and none so challenging to the imagination as the projected "Citizens Radiocommunication
Service." Without the usual demands for frequency assignments in an already overcrowded
spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission did the startling thing of voluntarily
allocating the band from 460 to 470 megacycles to a multitude of private uses of
radio, just over the post-war horizon. It was a generous gesture of recognition
of "walkie-talkie's" war contribution. This government move was as if to say to
all light-weight, portable, short-range types of radio, "You have performed admirably
on the battlefronts - now the doors swing wide for peace-time opportunity of performance."
Instead of the proverbial sky or Heaviside layer being the limit, the Commission
asserts that the possible uses of low-power, portable transceivers are as broad
as the imagination of the public itself, and its adaptation is circumscribed only
by the ingenuity of radio manufacturers in devising equipment to meet the varied
The vision of a Jules Verne or a Hugo Gernsback alone could match the Federal
Communications Commission in lifting the veil of the future - forecasting the startling
civilian uses of the war's walkie-talkie, the airplane pilot's throat microphone
and the vest radio with wrist microphone, earphones under cap, and transmitter in
special pockets. Not visionary, but just over the horizon of actual accomplishment,
the war-converted walkie-talkie will contact a physician from a central exchange
while he is en route by automobile to a patient's home; the farmer's wife who formerly
summoned her husband to the noon-day meal with a clanging dinner bell will call
him on 460 megacycles; hunters exploring the far reaches of forests or swamps, in
search of wild game and fish, will be in contact by radio with a central hunting
and fishing lodge; department stores, dairies, laundries and similar business concerns
will communicate directly by radio with their delivery trucks en route; city firemen
will employ the throat microphone, now used by aviation pilots in detecting speech
by the quivering of the throat; and cowboys on our western plains will carry vest-pocket
editions of radios to communicate with home or ranch.
The Federal Communications Commission has assigned separate bands of frequencies
for urban and rural transit radio contacts. These voice channels may be used for
communicating with city or inter-city buses, trucks, taxicabs, etc. Such radio services
may assume the pattern of a common carrier or on a private basis using the limited
frequencies allotted for such purposes. Anyway, this citizens' radiocommunication
band will be available to taxicabs, delivery vehicles, such as laundry and bread
trucks, and similar mobile units, in addition to service as incidental communication
between fixed points.
It is doubtful whether this is within the scope of Citizens' Radio or will need
a commercial license. In any case, radio will be widely used for office-mobile unit
Common carrier operation in the citizens' radiocommunication channel of frequencies
will not be permitted by the Commission; no fee can be charged for the sending of
messages and no charge made for the use of licensed facilities. Thus the service
will be for the private use of the person licensed and he will be governed by the
regulations of the Communications Commission. The 460-470 band allocated to the
public is said to be admirably adapted to short range communication, requiring only
feeble power. However, the government rules are sufficiently flexible to allow the
use of "booster" or automatic relays. The low-power transmitters will not utilize
extremely high antennas, but increased transmitting power wil be permissible in
remote rural areas, where interference is absent.
Flexible, too, is the design of the combination transmitter and receiver, although
its weight will be kept to a minimum and preferably mounted in a suitcase. A broadcast
receiving unit, an alarm outfit, or a remote control system may be incorporated
with the transmitter in the suitcase, variable as the particular needs may dictate.
Following the policy of the service to radio amateurs, the Commission will not assign
individual channels within the allotted band. The use of simple circuits, already
known to the radio art, will mean that both transmitters and receivers will be tunable
over most of the 460-470-megacycle range - emitting sufficiently sharp signals to
prevent any possible interference.
This new public radio service is designed to serve the greatest possible number
of users, hampered by only a few requirements of the Communications Act, and a minimum
of traffic rules need be imposed, No technical knowledge is required to participate
in the "Citizens Radiocommunications Service," and the operator's license takes
the simple form of a small card, remaining in force for a five-year period. The
particular licensees are not cloaked with immunity from interference; they have
no vestment in any frequency or channel - instead, it is a mutual opportunity to
share this new band with others. Radio technicians assume that the 10,000 kilocycle
width of the band is ample for its purpose.
"Votes by Radio" Turned Down
As a parallel to the Crosley and other popular polls by sampling the opinions
of select individuals, the so-called "Centercasting" (See "Votes by Radio," Radio-Craft,
March, 1945) as "a means of radio voting or polling" was refused the requested assignment
for radio frequencies. Nonetheless novel as an offshoot of radio developments in
the immediate post-war period, the system and instruments involve the use of a graphic
recording device, named the "audimeter. It is at present installed in home radio
receiving sets, supposedly representing a cross-section of homes, determined by
a sampling procedure based on data obtainable from the Bureau of Census of the U.
S. Department of Commerce. The listening record appears on a continuously moving
wax-coated tape, indicating with precision the day, hour, and minute that a particular
radio receiver was switched on, each and all stations intercepted, the number of
minutes of listening to each station, the amount of dial twisting, and just when
the receiver was turned off. Possessing such data, the company sponsoring "Centercasting"
is able to determine the number of minutes listened to each program. Currently,
this service has been sold to 40 clients, including the broadcasting networks, commercial
advertisers, and advertising agents.
Realizing that radio affords the only speedy avenue of communication for the
operation and control of fire-fighting equipment in going to or from a conflagration,
the Federal Communications Commission has tentatively assigned 15 radio channels
for governing the movement of trucks and other mobile units, as well as firemen,
while the latter are working in burning buildings or areas. A home fire is burning
somewhere in this country everyone and one-half minutes and, startlingly enough,
a fire fans out to 50 times from its incipient stage within eight minutes. Thus,
it is significant that 92 cities with populations exceeding 100,000, and 890 cities
with populations ranging between 10,000 and 100,000 persons, have indicated to the
Federal Communications Commission their intentions to adopt radio as an agency to
combat fires. In addition to the fixed radio stations required in each of these
municipalities, it is estimated that 128,000 mobile fire department units will be
equipped with radio equipment soon after the cessation of hostilities.
The FCC has issued permits for the operation of eight fixed radio stations, and
175 portable and portable-mobile stations by transportation companies. These stations
are in operation in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Philadelphia, St. Louis,
Seattle, Washington, Columbus, Spokane, Pittsburgh, Boston and New York City. Stations
in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Boston are
employed exclusively in connection with transit operations in the respective cities;
in the other cities mentioned above, the radio stations are used jointly with local
power companies. Twenty other transit companies have indicated their intentions
of building radio stations as soon as the equipment is available.
For Highway Maintenance
Highway maintenance departments are also utilizing the facilities in speeding up
the prosecution of work incidental to road upkeep. Excepting the California Division
of Highways (which operates a chain of special emergency radio stations comprising
23 fixed stations and 36 mobile units), all of the highway maintenance agencies
use radio jointly with state police forces. The Michigan State Highway Department,
operating a ferry service across the Straits of Mackinac, is authorized to operate
five ship radio stations and two limited government coastal harbor stations.
By their very numbers, Citizen Radios will make reliable communication possible
in time of emergency or disaster.
A "Motion Picture Station" is operated as an intermittent service. It functions
for communication purposes in conjunction with the filming of moving pictures. Studios
employ radiotelephone signals between headquarters in Hollywood and film col-onies
on remote locations, aboard ships, or in isolated, rugged areas. Infrequently, radio
may be used by motion picture concerns as an agency to conserve life and property,
when the invisible waves are the only medium of communication between studios and
locations far removed from what we of the city call civilization.
With the stringency of gasoline rationing unrelaxed, the proposal to use radio
in dispatching Cleveland's 430 taxicabs augurs. a trend rather than accents an example.
These cabs are now being dispatched by wire lines, but by way of the ether the driver,
immediately preceding the discharge of a passenger, would report to headquarters
his cab number and the location at which he was or would be available. His car would
then remain at the designated location until otherwise instructed by radio. In this
manner, taxicab "cruising" would be sharply curtailed and the ordinary mileage of
Cleveland's 430 taxicabs reduced from 4,000,000 to 3,000,000 miles.
Electronics, just a continuing process in the unfolding of the broad aspects
of radio, also will afford limitless vistas in the post-war world. Tiny electronic
devices will avert automobile and airplane collisions; traffic signals within motor
cars and planes will glow as red and green warning signals. Even the dashboard instruments
will function electronically; electric eyes will automatically turn on auto headlights
as darkness blankets the arteries of commerce; tourists traveling from New York
City to California will transfer the responsibility of guiding the steering wheel
over to a photoelectric cell which will scan a white line on the highway - and follow
it unerringly. Such are the vistas of radio and electronics - just beyond the horizon
- when the fierce dogs of war bark no longer.
Posted January 12, 2022
(updated from original post on 12/29/2014)