Crossings I—Aquitania

Marconi had first done it back in 1901. For amateurs, crossing the Atlantic was the next natural challenge—they had been thinking about it since before the war. Many in the scientific community were skeptical that such a feat could possibly be achieved at such a short wavelength as 200 meters, especially with power as low as one kilowatt. An early rumor that American signals had been received in Europe appeared in the press in December 1920.1 The new record, the … Continue reading

The Chicago Plan

Amateurs were making progress taming the QRM problem. Sometimes a solution did not involve a new invention, or even technology at all. In a drama worthy of a Broadway play, Central Division Manager R. H. G. Mathews, 9ZN, described the bleak situation in Chicago before the war.1 Acute rivalry between local clubs had resulted in “gangs” in the north, south, and west sides of the city, “each having as a primary object the annihilation of the aerials of the others.” … Continue reading

Transcons at Record Speed

The League ran another round of transcontinental relays over several nights in January 1921, setting new records for coast-to-coast round-trip message relaying.1 Maxim’s station, 1AW, participated in several of them, even unplanned ones, operating all night with several guests sharing the duties as operators. On the first night, 14 January, the Hartford Courant and Los Angeles Times editors exchanged greetings, as did the editors at The San Francisco Examiner and Boston American. The second night, the mayors of Hartford and … Continue reading

Strays—The Twenties Begin

If you’ve been following along you know that strays is a word hams used in the early years to mean static or other noises caused mostly by nature that would interfere with reception of signals. QST adopted the word as a heading for a collection of unrelated short topics of interest. In the first issues they were all grouped together and sometimes would take up a full page or more. Today, Strays lives on in QST, but distributed around the … Continue reading


As vacuum tubes were making CW practical, they were also making voice transmissions possible. Experimental broadcasts using radiotelephone—or just “phone” to hams—began as experiments by amateurs and some of the wireless telegraph companies, including Marconi and DeForest. In these early years of radio, just having a receiver to listen to the limited number of phone broadcasts was sufficient to be regarded as a radio amateur. The Marconi Wireless Telephone was demonstrated publicly for the first time on 12 June 1916.  … Continue reading

Spark to CW

Through the years, starting well before the war, amateurs occasionally had discussed undamped oscillations and how Audions could be used to detect them.1 By summer 1916 a government radio inspector was predicting that in five years most amateurs would be using undamped waves.2 QST noted that with the influx of “mature men” and a willingness to spend more (around $250) on equipment, it was just a matter of time before a “Mr. Undamped Wave” would appear and lead the way. … Continue reading

QSS Tests

Never having observed the effects of a complete solar cycle on signals before, or at least not having paid attention to them, hams continued to be impressed, intrigued, and puzzled by the changing on-air conditions as the minimum approached, still two years away as the new decade began. At least one thing was clear: Radio waves didn’t simply move from point to point along a straight line and decrease in strength with distance.  Something else was happening too, but what? … Continue reading


The uneven, partly unpredictable nature of radio wave propagation continued to fascinate hams during and after the war. The solar cycle had peaked around 1917, just in time for hams to miss it because of the war shutdown.  Now, with the next solar minimum little more than two years away, hams had just gone through the first winter season of prime-time operating since the reopening—and had begun to notice some peculiarities and marked differences in signals from when they last … Continue reading