It Seemed to Them:
Early QST Editorials

1916 August

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The third in the "Rotten" series. Hiram Percy Maxim continues the saga.

Rotten Luck

By The Old Man

The "Rotten Articles" by The Old Man are becoming a source of keen enjoyment every month. Several of our readers have inquired as to who writes them. Frankly, we don't know, but we are sure they come from one of our League Helpers. About the first of each month we discover one of these articles in our monstrous stack of mail—each time with a new postmark. We are afraid to search for the writer for fear we shall kill the goose who lays the golden eggs. This one's gold all the way thru. Don't fail to read it. What will "The Old Man" send us next time?—Editor.

We have had something about ROTTEN SENDING and we have had something about ROTTEN RECEIVING. Now let me tell you something else that is rotten. This happens to be Radio Luck.

There is something about radio work which attracts rotten luck. I have noticed it several times. Just at the time when you want things to be their best, is the time that luck steps in and makes them act their worst. Listen to this pitiful hard luck tale of mine.

The troops in my State mobilized a week ago last Monday, and the Signal Corps were among the first to reach the State Encampment. They had a nice little Government portable set, and of course they were to set it up right away and get some practice. When they went away they asked me if I would stick around my station evenings and give them some practice. I said I would. The distance by air line was about fifty miles, and my one k. w. would certainly get there and my receiving set was sensitive enough to hear them without much question. They telephoned up when they were ready, and we arranged for eight o'elock that night for a test.
I just naturally looked things over a little carefully during the day. I cleaned up my gap and got three good strong amperes into my antenna, and adjusted everything up where it seemed just about right. At seven o'clock I worked her a little just to be dead sure that nothing had been done by the children.

Eight o'clock came, and with it my hoodoo. I sent the State Camp's call and a few QRK? sigs. and signed in just once when things stopped dead. The key was as dead as a doornail. I knew several dozen of the young squirts were listening to me and it was of course plainly evident by the way I stopped in the middle of a sign in, that the Old Man was on the bum. It was not at all pleasant. I noticed when I held the key down, that my transformer would not hum. I knew then that the trouble was not in the high tension side. It must be "an open" some where in the primary. I was working full power, so I said to myself, FUSES.
Now, the fuses in my set are away down in the cellar over in the far' corner where you could develop a photographic plate without danger of getting it light struck. It is the darkest hole I know of. I knew that those fuses meant a candle, and this would take time, and in the meanwhile, the State Camp would be coming in. So I listened. Nothing doing. After five minutes nothing doing. It seemed time to then hustle for the candle.

The rotten part of the luck then began showing. I could not find that candle. Our cook is supposed to have charge of the one candle we own. Whether she had eaten it, or fixed it up so the family ate it, or whether she had used it for chewing gum, I don't know. It was gone, and my wife and the children and myself all searched and tumbled over each other and lost our tempers. I was in a rush and I suppose some nervous and irritable. I dove down into the cellar with a fist full of matches, knowing as I went that I could not possibly handle tight fitting fuses in a 220 circuit and keep matches going iat the same time, and not get a shock. Nevertheless, something had to be done and done quickly.
I got my shock all right, but could not find any black spots on the little green paper on the fuses so I put them back in and beat it upstairs to look at the connections of the primary and key circuit under the table. These seemed to be all right. Then the question was, if the fuses were all right, and the circuit was all right, where in blazes was the "open." I had to think quickly, and being fussed, I of course did the stupid thing. I snatched a piece of No. 16 bell wire, and thought I would snap it quickly across the 220 terminals of my transformer. A flash here would show if the current was getting up to the transformer. So, I snapped the terminals. There was a flash of fire that made me jump and I knew that the juice was there all right,"WHEN I SNAPPED HER, but it certainly must have blown the fuses to pull such a flash as I got. Here I was, with two perfectly good fuses down in the cellar and I had blown them, just when I wanted them most. And, 1 remembered, with a sickening feeling, that I had loaned the only other fuses I had.

There was nothing for it, but to go back into the cellar, get another nasty shock, pulling those darned fuses out, take them back up to the attic, solder some copper wire across them and take them back into the cellar and get one more nice little jolt. I had got about half way through the soldering job, when the biggest fracas busted loose down stairs we have had in our family for many a long day. The good wife began • screaming, the boy opened up with hoarse yells, the little girl squealed, there were hurried steps,'and I was sure the house was afire. I dropped the soldering job, and went down the. sairs three at a lick, to find our little library and hall the scene of the finest mix-up you could imagine. My wife had a book she was reading clamped down over her head like a hat. The boy was swiping the air with a broom, the little girl was clinging to her m&ther, and trying to dodge the broom, and the cook was running around in circles. A little dark object was fluttering around the room through the air, and it was apparent that a bat had gotten into the house. Thinking that this was no place for a perfectly respectable radio operator, I returned to the attic after making half a dozen fruitless passes at Mr. Bat with my hand.

When the fuses were fixed up, not strictly according to the underwriter's code, I put them back in and was sure I would find the trouble in the little choke coil which I used to get reduced power. I cut this choke out completely, and grabbed the phones, and put them on, threw on the switch and pressed the key. Absolutely nothing doing. Things were just as dead as ever. This was getting to be mysterious. Here was the juice, and here was a perfectly good looking transformer, and a perfectly clear key circuit, and yet the circuit was open somewhere. I reached in to the compartment where I keep my transformer, and gave a little tug on the primary leads. One was all right, but when I pulled the other IT CAME AWAY IN MY HAND. The wire had burned off.

If the break were now only at the outside and not the inside, I might get going. I pulled off some of the covering and there she was on the outside. I quickly unrolled two or three turns, scraped the insulation off, and connected to the terminal. Putting the phones on again, I grabbed the key, knowing that I would get it this time. Nothing doing, and the fellows at the State Camp waiting patiently and the fellows within a radius of fifty miles, all enjoying a quiet smile.

My luck was getting the best of me. Where should I look* now for trouble. I dove again into the transformer compartment and for no especial reason, ran my hand around under the primary windings. A sharp piece of wire pricked me- I dug in and discovered loose wire. TMs of course meant, the burn had gone down another layer. I unraveled some more wire and thought quick as to which end must lead down into the main winding, and which ran back into the dead winding. The right one was quickly scraped and run over to the terminal and the key pressed once more. Mind you, I had cut out my choke coil. When I touched the key, my condensers spurted blue flame from every point. I could hear my spark through my rotary ease. Of course I had cut down my primary windings just two entire layers, and this made quite some difference in the performance of that transformer. I put the choke coil back in and got pretty good results, and then started on the test once more. I was a good hour late, but I knew the boys would be waiting for NAA anyway, and were probably still on. I called them. Then I listened. Nothing doing. I fooled with my flash light batteries, and my lighting batteries on my audion, and then I discovered that the lighting battery was on its last legs. It would hold up the brilliancy of the filament for a minute, but it quickly slumped down into a hopeless red.

My flashlight batteries were also shaky and as I had nothing else available, I was finally absolutely stuck and down and out. I had worked like a dog for an hour, had exercised every bit of knowledge and experience a First Grade Commercial is supposed to have, had pulled my whole set to pieces, and rebuilt it, had burned the tin off my soldering copper, which I always regard as the most serious of all calamities, and I had advanced not one peg. The fellows at the State Camp unquestionably put me down as a piker, and the young things around town of course know that I am a much overrated has been.

Can any one match this case of Rotten Luck?

War had been raging in Europe since 1914. The United States would eventually be pulled in in April, 1917. The warning signs for radio amateurs were clear, as radio communications was going to be a key element of the conflict.


Since our last issue, the President of the United States has called out the National Guard of all the States in the Union. This means the Signal Corps of each state, and this in turn means the portable wireless sets. Here in Connecticut, we had a good Company of the latter made up from members of the local radio club. Mr. David Moore, one of the original Governors of the American Radio Relay League, is a member, and we had the honor of telling him good-bye before he swung onto his troop train and started for the Mexican border with his mates and their outfit.

Before 1ZZ, by which Mr. Moore is better known in the East, left, he told us several things about the Government army wireless organization. The attitude of the Government, particularly the Army, is that we amateurs are all right as far as we go, but the trouble is we are all located in the big cities where the machinery of civilization is fully developed and at hand. The telephone and the telegraph are at hand, and only in extraordinary emergencies could they see where we could be of use. If, however, we amateurs were out on the deserts and in other inaccessible places where there are no telephones nor telegraph lines, we would be exactly what they are looking for.

The portable sets in use seem to be very well worked out indeed. There are two kinds, at least here in Connecticut. One
is one-quarter k.w., the power being generated by two men grinding a crank. A fixed and quenched gap is used. In the other set, there is two k.w., generated by a gasoline engine, and is the real thing. The masts are of course telescopic. The whole business can be set up and operating in less than five minutes from the time the wagon arrives.

An interesting suggestion from one of the officers, was that we urge the amateurs of the country to arrange their transmitting and receiving sets so that they can be picked up and loaded onto a motor truck. It is thought that many cases will arise where this would help if it could be done. It is a new idea, and a good many of us will no doubt keep it in mind in making sets in the future.
We are told that the Army wants radio operators badly. Anybody who is a pretty good operator would be grabbed at. The demand exceeds the supply at this writing. A government license is not necessary. If a fellow can operate, he will do. Any of us in the various states who want some experience, could not do better than communicate with the War Department at Washington, and offer their services in the Radio Department of the Signal Corps. When the disturbance is over, they will be veterans from the regular service, and they will have experiences which will be invaluable all the rest of their lives.



QST's artwork was evolving. This piece explains the neat engraving that now heads the Editorial pages. It gives a little of the office flavor.


The attention of the fraternity is respectfully directed to the ornamental heading at the top of this page. When this cut was prepared we were very busy. We confess we ordered the cut and we also confess we approved the drawing from which the cut was made. But. honest and true, fellows, we did not realize fully what we were doing. If the figure on the right is a picture of us, and the figure on the left is a picture of our helper, we are guilty of chucking the biggest bluff yet chucked on the North American continent.

First of all, we never had such a good looking coat as the chap in the cut. Next, we don't look so much like a distinguished statesman. Next, we have no " phone on our desk. There is not room. But, if the filing pin and the papers impaled upon it are unpaid bills, it is us. When it comes to the other side of the cut, we have thought long and seriously. To the best of our knowledge we do not remember having met the lady. The table looks something like what we call "our desk." The filing case suggests one in the President's office, where he keeps some of his important American Radio Relay League papers. It suggests nothing we own. By no stretch of the editorial imagination can we see similarity between the pile of second hand transfer cases which we call "our filing case," and the natty looking outfit shown in the picture. And as for the vase with the two flowers, we know the whole business must be some pipe dream.

When the end of the month comes around, and we have a wagon load of magazines to wrap and address, we are favored by the presence of a certain radio lady. She is a good looker all right, but honest boys, she does not present the effect given above. Some day, when QST gets to be what we hope to make it, we may have an office that looks like the cut, and we may look like the handsome gent with the graceful attitude and the good looking coat, and we may have a peach like the one shown, and a bunch of roses in a vase and a waste paper basket which will stand up straight; but this day has not yet come.

QST has been around for nearly a year, and the staff are getting more confident about the enterprise!


Have you fellows noticed the way we are growing? As we write this, after a square meal, and the consciousness that our belt is comfortably tight, and after a contemplative review of our July issue, which we feel was a cracker jack, even if we do say it ourselves, we cannot but think that we are really coming along, and are some stuff after all, a certain District Radio Inspector to the contrary notwithstanding. .

Things are beginning to come our way, and if the QRM is not too bad, we are going to amount to something. The technical articles that are being sent in to us are really the best we have ever seen from the standpoint of a high grade amateur. They are not ultra-highbrow, and yet they are not of the "How to make it" variety. They really help understand the theories we amateurs are interested in. They are not prejudiced in favor of or against any particular make of apparatus or any particular company. They are helpful, in other words, and without any strings attached.
We seem to be able to attract the delightfully humorous and practical writer also. Some of the humorous yarns which we have printed during the past six months, are not to be found in any other magazine. They are written by the fellow who has actually been there. You can tell it from his knowledge of details. It seems to us it beats the fiction business all to pieces.

And have you noticed our advertising? Just cast your eye over it and note that the stuff is all of the better class, and that there are no cheap imitation outfits built to sell to the school boy and not built to relay a msg. A lot of the latter has tried to break into the columns of QST, but we are old birds at this game and we know that our membership is not the one to take any interest in bits of tin and wire, nickel plated and mounted upon a piece of polished birch, all of which we take to be facts notwithstanding that that dinner was a good one and our belt feels very comfortable.

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