It Seemed to Them:
Early QST Editorials

1917 April

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Sign up with Uncle Sam as a naval radio operator at sea or on land. Many are considering the Naval Reserve for a few weeks a year.


Our Country Calls Us

Most of us have received the circulars sent out by the Navy during the last two months. We have read them in a more or less careful manner. How many of us have really read them carefully, and then tried a QTA and followed this by reading what was between the lines? Here at Headquarters, we have to be wide awake on everything that can be hooked up with radio matters, and these circulars came in for pretty careful study. They required this because it was not easy to get down to brass tacks through the official language used. We ended up by saying, "Here now, what does the Navy want of us amateurs?" The best way to get an answer in straight language was to go to the Navy and ask. We did this, and were fortunate enough to find a certain officer who was thoroughly onto his job and who knew how to say what he meant in few words. We found what we wanted to know and its is worth telling to the rest of you fellows.

The United States Navy wants radio operators on its ships and in its land stations. The supply is not up to the de­mand and we amateurs who know how to handle traffic represent the material needed. We are offered two forms of service, and it is frankly stated that we are expect­ed to give one or the other of them, pro­vided our personal interests are not seriously jeopardized by so doing. The first alternative is to regularly enlist in the Navy as an electrician, radio. In doing this, we become an enlisted man, in duty bound to serve out the term of our enlistment, which may be three years. We are taken into a school at one of the Navy Yards, and given a thorough course of instruction, for six months, unless we show before the completion of this course that we are able to handle radio work, and apparatus. We are paid and we are given a dignified standing.

The second alternative is to enroll in the reserve, and agree to give three weeks service a year for four years. We can give any amount more than this that we want, but we cannot give less than three weeks at any one time. We would be nut into contact with the Navy personnel in the various Navy land stations and when we were able to do so, would stand our trick at the key and sign in one of the regular Navy calls. Probably some of us would have a chance at the distinction of signing NAA.

That is the story in a nutshell of what the Navy wants. Every one of us who is able to give his service ought to do so. Many of us of course have dependents whose daily life requires us at home, but there are many more who are dependents themselves. To these we say, write to your nearest Navy Yard and ask for in­formation and enroll or enlist within the next thirty days. It will do you no harm but instead, a lot of good and you will be answering your country's call.

Speculation on restrictions if and when war comes.

If We Are Closed Up

If war comes, it is practically certain that we amateurs would be closed up at least as regards transmitting. Whether we would be closed up as regards receiving also, is not so certain. The chances are, however, that we would.

If we are closed up, it has been suggested that certain of us would be reopened for receiving purposes as a help to the Navy. Any definite information is hard to get, but we have heard enough to make a pretty close guess that in order to secure approval to reopening, we would have to show our ability to receive efficiently both damped and undamped waves, between certain wave lengths and also that we would keep a constant day and night watch twenty-four hours out of the twenty-four. The latter means several operators of course, attached to one station, and all agreeing to positively be on duty for their trick every day in the week or provide a substitute.

Each station reopened would be given a certain range of wave lengths to cover and would confine itself to this range. Daily reports of everything heard would be made. It would mean real business and when once started would probably have to be kept up. The stations reopened would be virtually commercial land stations for receiving only.

But what is to become of the great bulk of us who would not be reopened? If we are closed up tight and compelled to take our aerials down, what are we going to do? The appeal of wireless will not be killed, just because we can't work our stations. Quite the reverse in fact, as the knowledge that it is there waiting will only whet our appetites the more. The thing to do is to accept the opportunity of enforced idleness as regards actual operating and get into the study of the science of the art.

Before very much time is spent at this, it will automatically develop just what it is we need most in the way of improving our sets so as to do better in that particular field where we have been weak. All of us know in our inmost hearts, of several weak spots in our stations, but we are not quite sure what is necessary to improve them. The great opportunity will come when we are closed up, and when we reopen, it will be with a rush which will more than make up for lost time. Our A. R. R. L. and our QST will not be closed up and through them we can all keep in touch with each other to our technical improvement and probably also to our amusement. Regard­ing the latter, is it not odd how much wit and fun there is among radio men. There will, be more, of the latter when we come to be closed up.

A round trip message relay - New York to Los Angeles and back in 1 hour and 20 minutes!

All this with four hops each way (apparently) in the wee hours of the morning.

The World's Amateur Radio Record

Although we are late in reporting it on account of our forms closing on the first of the month, nevertheless, this number of QST tells the story of the Great Trans­continental Record Message. It constitutes the world's amateur radio record and is altogether a splendid piece of work. Everybody identified in it deserves the greatest credit. They can be written high on the table of radio fame and in future years they will be looked upon with more respect than is possible to bestow today, when we know them personally.

The effort was nothing less than starting a message from New York City at 1:40 a. m. on the morning of Feb. 6th, 1917, and relaying it to Los Angeles, Cal., and bringing the answer back into New York City at 3:00 a. m. the same morning. Just one hour and twenty minutes to send a question across the Continent and bring the answer back. Some record, fellows and it was only a few short months ago that we were dreaming of it as one of the possibilities of the future.

The honor list of stations and the names of the owners which performed this wonderful feat, is as follows:—

2PM, Faraon & Grinan, New York City.
8JZ, A J. Manning, Cleveland, Ohio.
9ABD, Willis P. Corwin, Jefferson City, Mo.
9ZF, W. H. Smith, Denver, Col.
6EA, Seefred Bros., Los Angeles, Cal.

Hats off to them fellows. They are the big bugs of Amateur wireless.

There are all too many Amateurs with only vague ideas of what wavelengths they were using and how to set up antennas and resonators.

Rotten Tuning

By The Old Man

Say does anybody know anything quite so rotten as the way some of these ginks tune their transmitters? I have been thinking over this QRM business lately, trying to dig out what to do about the blasted thing anyway, and I have come to the conclusion that the big trouble all comes from rotten tuning. For Pete's sake, cannot somebody start something to correct this rotten tuning.

There was a time when my station never had a message stay on the pin longer than two days. When it got to be that long, I used to think it was pretty punk relaying. Nowadays the pin will get choked with messages and ten days will elapse before some of them can be pulled off. I'll be darned if I am not tempted some times to cut out the filing date. It makes me feel like a monkey when I have to send off a message and know for a fact that the fellow who gave it to me to send is listening to me send it a fortnight after he gave it to me. What he thinks of me fills me with concern, to put it mildly.

The other night, I was trying to work a Z station whose wave was on the regular 425 meters, and a certain young squirt some thirty miles away came in practicing the alphabet. That brat sent every letter starting with A and going all the way down to Z, and he followed this with the numbers. He jammed a 425 meter station whose wave was sharp, and absolutely blocked traffic coming my way. This kid's wave was just as loud at 500 meters as it was at 200. After he had splashed the ether all up to his satisfaction, and wore himself out so that he had to listen a while and rest up, I called him and asked him what wave he was using. His reply was, "Blamed if I know O. M., how do I come in?" After thinking it over a minute, wondering what kind of death I should smite him with, I spat on the cat and told him that he came in all over the lot, that he had busted me for fair and that he ought to get down to his proper wave provided he saw no serious objections.

He asked me what I thought his wave was. I told him he didn't have any such thing, and that it would be interesting from a scientific standpoint to know how he managed to send out such signals. He said to this, that it was a scheme he had worked out all by himself, and it panned out simply great because he had a post card from a fellow 350 miles away, who said he got his signals QSA. He said the idea was to cut out the oscillation transformer and the helix business, and hook the aerial right onto the condensers. Worked fine, he said.

Gr—r—r—r! I wish I was a Radio Inspector. I would make it my life's work to ferret that young villain out and after reading him the law about plain antennas and untuned waves, I would make him eat his set before my eyes, and not finish till he had gnawed off his pole at the butt end and swallowed the chips.

When I got through with that little tete-a-tete that night, I took off the phones, put out the bulbs and went down cell and got the axe, and went at the old boxes. I woke the baby, got into a fight with the wife, and darned near put my eye out with a flying piece of kindling. It seem to ease me. It's funny how much steam you can work off with an axe and a (?) of old packing cases.

When I had calmed down enough to other colors besides red, I lighted the pipe and went back to the set. The minute I threw in the bulbs there was 81 calling me nice and polite like, and putting MSG after her sign-in. Something doing evidently thinks I, and after getting the tune at its best, I went back with GA. She got me the first clip and started her No. 1. It was coming clear and fine so I could write it down right on the message blank. I got as far as the begin­ning of the text when, — CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ from (deleted by censor) over in (somewhere in North America). He was absolutely killing 8NH, so I opened up the coupling and hurriedly looked for a place where 8NH would come in and he would not, hoping meanwhile I could guess later at what I was missing. But ND. That curmudgeon was loudest everywhere you could tune and all I could do was to tune out 8NH. Well sir, if I could have sent one of those wouff hong things they talk about over in Indiana to that boob and had it timed to explode and knock his block off just as he opened it,. I would have done it and smiled an angel's smile at the results. There was a per­fectly good msg. coming through in fine shape and addressed to somebody who sounded important, and all knocked end­ways on account of a rotten tuned spark. Coming on top of what had gone before, it was too much and I spat again upon the cat.

I suppose if you had looked into the situation at that ham's plant, you would have found that a wave meter had never entered the door of his station; that a hot wire meter had taken the same stand in the matter and that the coupling of his O. T. was as close as the construction permitted and that the number of turns of his primary and secondary had been determined by what ever was most handy for the length of leads he happened to find up in the attic. And I'll bet a cooky the spark from his rotary was a long skinny blue thing that ran around three or four inches trying to catch up to the hurrying plugs on his bum old rotor. Dog-gone his pesky set.
I had to swallow it all, however, and when 1 guessed 8NH must be through, I had to go back for a QTA which I hate and despise to do. It's against my prin­ciples to give a long explanation as to why a repeat is needed and this always increases the strain on your temper. Af­ter giving a GA from the last word I had been able to get, she paused, and I knew she was thinking it over. Was I good enough or not? But she decided yes, so back she came. My call all fine, but too many times, maybe, because the air was clear and time precious. Finally she came to the place where I had been QRM-ed before, and by Heck if that gink did'nt break in again. Right at the same place! Suffering cat fish! ! Of course it was ND, so I lighted the old pipe once more and listened to fourteen rotten CQs and the rest of the hog wash. When he got tired calling and signing and sending DE twice (and darn the man who sends DE twice, say I) he started a msg. Yes, sir, started a msg. on a CQ, and on a wave as broad as the Atlantic Ocean. I was buffaloed for a minute. I thought maybe there was a fire or a flood somewhere and this gink was going to send for help. ND again, however, as was plain the moment he got past his TO. The word which followed was "MISS". That was enough. I knew at once what the mess­age was to be and I wrote it out before­hand. It was: "Greetings by radio. Did you get my letter. Write soon." That's what she was all right, and my log shows it at this minute. I lost the msg. from 8NH and it went some other via, I reckon, because, it never came my way again. And rotten tuning combined with a no account message did it all.

There is no excuse for rotten tuning. when you think about it. The most of the boys do not understand what tuning means. They read Dr. Radio's articles' and they immediately go and buy some chicken wire and plant it, and let her go at that. How many of them hustle around and find who will lend them a wave meter, and a hot wire meter? Not one in fifty, by the sound of things every night. And 200 meters? Why man alive, I don't suppose when you get fifty miles from the office of any one of the Radio Inspectors, you will find anyone who ever heard a 200 meter spark. The longest antenna that the house lot will permit and biggest condenser that can be lifted are the rules that govern. And pure wave? You might as well look for pure milk. And decrement? What of those kids want of decrement as long as they can get a post card from the next state telling about how QSA their signals are? Nix on the pure stuff and the decrement business. What they want is QSA sigs.

Last week one of these trouble makers called me on a QSR and after unloading something to his girl or his sister or aunt or something or other feminine (it seems to me most msgs are sent to members of the fair sex) he began asking the old guff about how loud he was and what his tone was like. I told him and then he asked for a test. Well, of course, I said yes, I would. Then he began sending 1s and 2s and 8s, etc., etc. 1 was his regular spark, hoarse, windy and ragged like an old played-out foghorn. 2 was ditto, only weaker. 3 was rotten all around. I told him 1 sounded most polite to me, of all the three. Then he said, "Funny OM I can't seem to get my spark good. What can u suggest?"

Well I hove a deep sigh, and visions of tuning a set by absent treatment flitted before me. Having been brought up to be mild and meek, with malice toward none, and charity to all, I suppressed a fierce desire to advise a stick of dynamite and instead asked him a few leading questions about his condenser gap, aerial, etc. He explained these and from what he said, it appeared he had a spark frequency about equal to a 500 cycle set, if you went by his motor speed and number of studs in his rotary. His actual tone was a low, hoarse, nameless kind of a thing. I was a bit discouraged, but I kept on. I suggested he might have in too much condenser. He cut some out, and asked how it sounded. It was worse, distinctly worse. I wondered if he had changed his O  T turns to match. Then he cut out some more. The result was more awfuJ than ever. Then I suspected that he had not changed his O T after all, and I asked him. No—he had not. Did I think he better? Well, fellows, are you surprised that we have so much QRM when this sort of thing exists in every town and hamlet in the country? I told this young Marconi that his aerial had a natural wave length, unless it was different from any aerial I had ever seen, and that this natural wave should be in his case about 180 meters. Did he know what his aerial was? No, he did not, because he had no wave meter, but it was four wires and fully four hundred feet long and must be a dandy because it ran from the house to the chicken coop. (Four hundred feet and supposed to be on 200 metres) I never saw his darned old chicken coop and how he thought it made his aerial any better to hook onto it give up.

His natural wave was probably about 450 meters. How much condenser did he have? 24 8x10 photo plates in oil. Had 30 but they puncture every now and again. Had 24 left. Seven plates woul be more nearly what he should have had to give a wave length in his primary circuit somewhere near 200 meters.

Did he retune every time he changed condenser? Oh, yes, always.
How did he retune?
Asked some of the fellows how he came in.
Did he have a hot wire ammeter?
Did I know where he could buy a second hand one cheap?
Didn't he ever use even a lamp bulb to get an idea of his radiation?
Yes, but never cud make it wk. O. M.

There is no need to go further. This young scientist did not know anything about transmitters tuning and resonance He had as much idea of what his wavelength was as he had about the design of the upholstering on St. Peter's favorite rocking chair. His knowledge of the primary circuit was about as complete as is mine about the way Solomon in all his glory liked his fish cooked. His idea of how to get his closed circuit and open circuit into resonance and how to tell when they were in and out, was just about as hazy as my ideas on the international code abbreviations used in the hereafter. He needs coaching. He needs kind assistance with a baseball bat or a wouff hong. He should be made to know an respect the smell of blood and burning insulation. He should have a letter of introduction to some respectable wave meter and he should be left alone some time with a hot wire ammeter. To do the things for him, should be the Golden Wireless Rule of us older bugs. That will reduce Rotten Tuning and improve conditions in the humble opinion of yours truly.

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