It Seemed to Them:
Early QST Editorials

1916 October

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QST was not always on the right side of history. Here, the editors argue that the "proper" name for the new device is the "Audion", as developed and marketed by DeForest.

Of course, the "vacuum valve" or "valve" was the winning term, at least for most of the English-speaking world. Somehow, the American usage "vacuum tube" or "tube" came along later.

QST's error, it seems, was the common one of confusing a proprietary name with a generic term.


We amateurs are committed to no commercial or patent interests, thank Heaven, and consequently we are strictly neutral when it comes to the various quarrels with which the radio world seems well stocked. One of the things which annoys us, is the noticeable efforts to confuse nomenclature. In the early development of any art, we always pass through a period of confusion as to the names of the new things. When it came to the names to put upon some of the new things in radiotelegraphy, it was finally decided to appoint a committee and have them standardize names for things. This committee after months of hard work, made its report which has been accepted by the radio world, at least as far as this country is concerned.

Among the names we find, one which runs as follows: — "AUDION: By De-Forest Radio Telephone & Telegraph Co. The Audion is a relay, operating by electrostatic control of currents flowing across a gaseous medium. In its present commercial form, it consists of three electrodes in an evacuated bulb, one of these electrodes being a heated metal filament, the second a grid-like electrode, and the third a metal plate; an input circuit connected to the filament and the grid; and an output circuit connected to the filament and the plate, including a local source of energy and telephone receiver."

In view of this we are at a total loss to understand why some distinguished gentlemen whom we will not mention insist upon calling an Audion bulb a "Vacuum Valve Detector," a "Three Element Vacuum Valve," etc., etc. They cannot seem to bring themselves to use the word "Audion." We neutrals look on with some doubt as to our respect for those gentlemen who seem to take a pride in this sort of thing. We cannot help asking ourselves what the real bed rock reason is for this attitude. It smells to us of petty jealousy. We wonder what anybody hopes to gain by never calling an Audion an Audion.

We amateurs know the Fleming valve, and we know the DeForest Audion. Thousands of us depend exclusively for our receiving work upon the latter, and when a detector has three electrodes in an evacuated bulb, we recognize it as an Audion, and we seem to have the Standardization Committee of the Institute of Radio Engineers back of us. Let us not forget this when we read the many technical articles presented to us.

Real "Undamped" communications seem to be imminent, with the League deeply involved.


How are we going to get started on this undamped wave business? If an ordinary spark station decides to install undamped wave apparatus, he shuts himself off from those stations with whom he has been working, but who still have the regular spark system. The only way would seem to be for a lot of us to jump in at the same time. In another column, we show the new De-Forest 1/4 k.w. undamped transmitting set. We understand that these sets can be obtained at a very reasonable price. One of them gives an operator an opportunity to master the sending part of the problem at one stroke. The receiving is not so difficult to provide for.

From the letters we receive from the amateurs in various parts of the country, it looks as though many were giving the question careful study and making up their minds. Probably in the next sixty days a lot of these fellows will crystalize on something and the next thing we know there will be a goodly number of stations able to work on undamped waves. We suggest that all of those who are located at vital points on our Trunk Lines, give this careful consideration. We also suggest that all of those preparing to use the undamped wave, notify either Mr. Hebert at Nutley, N. J., Mr. Mathews, at Chicago, or Seefred Bros. at Los Angeles, depending upon whose Trunk Line they were on. We expect to have a station operating on undamped waves here at Headquarters in the near future. We hope it will be the means of overcoming some of our geographical handicap from which we have suspected we have suffered for a long time. There have been times when we believed Hartford, Conn. was insulated from the rest of the solar system.

The times being ominous, radio amateurs were engaged in military exercises. Here is an account of an interesting "eyeball QSO" on the march.


During the Junior encampment at Plattsburg, N. Y. in July, there were thirty-five hundred members from all over the United States. This included many radio amateurs, but Uncle Sam had sent all his wireless sets to the Mexican border, so we wireless "bugs" were unable to get together.

One morning on the march, the command was given to halt and we were allowed to rest by the roadside. Without thinking, I picked up a piece of grass, put it between my thumbs and began to blow CQ and sign off. I stopped and was very much surprised to hear five fellows of our Company (H, of the Fourteenth Regiment) come back at me with tones varying from a sick automobile coil to a five hundred cycle quenched. We soon got together and frequently spent our evenings discussing radio.

(Signed) L. S. SOMERS, JR., 3AFE

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