1929 type – Describing stations, transmitters and receivers, this term meant that they had been designed specifically to adhere to the bands and signal characteristics dictated by the 1927 International Radio Convention, whose specifications went into effect on January 1, 1929.
AARS – Army-Amateur Radio System, volunteer precursor to MARS
Antipode(s) – Two locations directly opposite one another on the earth’s surface, believed in the early days to favor propagation because of a re-convergence of signals from multiple paths around the globe.
Audibility – A measure of signal strength, usually based on audio strength
Audion – DeForest’s name for a three electrode vacuum tube
BCL – Broadcast Listener, used to refer to listeners in the early 1920s to distinguish them from amateurs. The term novice was also used at this time to refer to such a listener.
Beam transmission – a term first used in the mid-1920s to refer to a directional signal, especially at very short wavelengths around 1 meter and below.
Bulb – early term for vacuum tube (see also Audion)
Bug – used alone, an early synonym for ham – as in, radio bug
Bustands – also Bustan, contraction of the Bureau of Standards (WWV, is its station)
Chicago Plan, The – a time sharing plan intended to reduce QRM in the Chicago area, many variations of which were adopted around the US in the early 1920s. (see April 1921 QST, “QRM and The Relay Game,” by J. F. Scholtes, 9AR)
Chopper – a rotary device used to modulate a CW signal to produce ICW
Connection – As in “we present a connection for…” – early term for a circuit or design.
Damped oscillations or waves – Radio frequency pulses such as those produced by a spark transmitter, typically a series of short bursts of radio frequency energy that decay in amplitude with time.
Dead end – refers to the unused part of a tapped inductor, beyond the tap in use. Letting unused turns float was a source of various problems in early RF circuit design.
Decrement – a parameter of a spark or damped wave transmitter, it denotes how rapidly the amplitude of the RF wave decreases. It is calculated by taking the ratio of the amplitude of successive oscillations in the wave train, and taking the natural logarithm (called the Naperian logarithm in texts of the teens and twenties). In textbooks (e.g. Duncan and Drew) it is referred to as the logarithmic decrement. Example: a ratio of 1.22 is a decrement of 0.2. It is usually specified in tenths, as in “the law says our wave shall not dampen quicker than two tenths” means the decrement should not exceed 0.2 (the government regulated maximum decrement). If damping is too quick, you get a series of very short pulses that are very broad. See the chapter on Spark Radio for a more complete explanation.
District –an ARRL organizational unit in the 1920s just below the division level, managed by a District Superintendent, or D.S. In some divisions they were called “sections.” See, for example, The Operating Department, March 1922 QST, where West Gulf Division has both Districts and Sections and Central Division has Districts.
D.S. – District Superintendent (see District).
DX – in the early years simply meant “distance.” DX station meant a station capable of working long distances (as used e.g. p33, Jan 1920 QST).
Fan antenna – multiple vertical wires that spread out as they are strung up from ground level, fed at the common point at bottom, insulated and supported by a horizontal wire at the top. A popular antenna in the teens and twenties.
FB – Fine business—generally used as either a noun or adjective to describe goodness.
Freak – yet another word for QSB or “fading.” Sometimes used as a verb, as in “freaking in and out” (e.g. p36 Feb 1921 QST).
GCT – Greenwich Civil Time, which, in the 1920s was defined as beginning 0000 at midnight as opposed to GMT which began at noon despite later conventional use as starting at midnight.
Group Frequency Method – Using a tuning capacitor in the headphone circuit to select a specific spark tone.
Handy’s Handbook – The first edition of The Radio Amateur’s Handbook, edited by ARRL Communications Department Manager F. E. Handy and published in 1926. It was commonly referred to as Handy’s Handbook in the late 1920s.
Honeycomb coil – An inductor wound with turns that weave in and out radially so that adjacent windings are never parallel and thus minimizes the distributed capacitance of the coil.
Hot wire ammeter (HWA) – A device for measuring feed line (and therefore antenna) current. This was the common way of specifying radiation (rather than power in watts).
ICW – Interrupted CW—a modulated CW signal using a “chopper” to pulse it.
Intermediate – the separator between called and calling stations’ call signs, most commonly DE, which, in the 1920s was proposed to change depending on the countries involved during a contact. It was also sometimes called an Interval Sign.
Interval sign – See Intermediate.
Juice – An early common slang term for electric power service.
LD – Long distance; a precursor to “DX”
Litzendraht wire (Litz wire) – A bundle of stranded wire, each strand insulated from one another to reduce AC resistance due to skin effect (by increasing surface area)
M.O.P.A. – Master oscillator, power amplifier—the name given to the most popular design for transmitters in the late 1920s.
Natural wave – Refers to the resonant length of an antenna, usually one full wave length.
NCR – US Naval Communication Reserve, a service in the 1920s and 1930s for hams to serve in reserve duty.
ND – No dice—roughly the opposite of FB.
Number – used to mean “issue” as in this month’s number of QST.
Novice – an early 1920s term for a broadcast listener, as distinguished from a radio amateur. Also BCL for broadcast listener.
Off-wave – Operation outside the legal limits of an amateur band, a term mostly used in the late 1920s and 1930s
O.T. – Oscillation transformer—forms the resonant circuit in a spark transmitter and couples to the antenna
O.W. – Old woman—a precursor to YL, also synonym for XYL (see, e.g. Mar 1922 QST p 53).
Phantom antenna – A dummy load (see, e.g. July 1917 QST editorials and Sept 1921 QST p.25)
Power factor – (Apparently) the cosine of the angle between voltage and current—so in resonance, it equals 1. See, e.g. July 1921 QST p.15.
PX – Abbreviation for press release used during the MacMillan polar expedition in 1923-24.
QCW – (Feb 20 p46) a suggestion: listen for my CW on … meters (or a question)—used during the early stages of the shift from spark to CW.
QRK – Readable (on a scale from 1 to 5).
QRM – Interference with or from another station’s signal.
QRN – Static, or random noise caused by natural sources – see “strays”
QSA – As in, signals are QSA, means roughly 5 by 9 signals. Or “strength” (1 to 5).
QSLL – A reply card to a received QSL card.
QSS – Early Q-signal promoted by ARRL to mean “fading” in the 1920s—later replaced by QSB.
Radiocorp – Early shorthand for RCA corporation (e.g. p13, February 1922 QST).
Radiotron – Brand name for RCA vacuum tubes.
Receivers – Early synonym for headphones.
R.I. – Radio Inspector – A government district level official.
Rock-crusher – Slang term for a spark transmitter (e.g. p.40 Sept 1921 QST).
Rochester Plan, The – A plan for sharing the airwaves with broadcasters in the early 1920s that involved amateurs voluntarily refraining from transmitting between approximately 7:00 and 10:30 PM local time.
Secondary circuit – Early synonym for the grid circuit of a vacuum tube circuit design (e.g. p9 Jan 1922 QST).
Self-controlled oscillator – One that is variable in frequency, as opposed to a crystal controlled one (e.g. p41, Dec 1930 QST).
SF – An abbreviation for standard frequency, used in the 1930s.
Sine, (sometimes written as sign) as in, operator’s sign or signature – An identifier for a specific operator at a station, usually two letters, used to distinguish one operator from another, and is a carry over from the days before government issued call signs when two-letter identifiers were used.
Single-Signal receiver – also referred to as an S.S. receiver, was a superheterodyne design in the 1930s using interstage filtering for added selectivity.
S.S. Receiver – see single-signal receiver
Soldering copper – term for a soldering iron in the 1920s. They were available electrically heated and stand-alone for heating over a flame.
Special license – Granted to some stations to operate at wavelengths above 200 meters.
Spot frequency net – A net where everyone is on the same frequency—a novelty in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Squeak box – A spark coil, or spark coil-based transmitter.
Static room – An early term for ham shack—e.g. p13 Feb 1922 QST.
Strays – Another word for “static” (see, e.g. the report form for the 1920 QSS Tests in June issue. “Signal-stray ratio” is mentioned on p6, Jan 1921 QST. A Bureau of Standards researcher uses the term in June 1921 QST.
Swinging – Synonym for fading, or QSS. The term was also used in the early days of CW operation to describe the behavior of a signal having an unstable frequency.
Telephones – An early synonym for headphones—also called receivers in the early 1920s.
Time constant of an inductance – The old term for Q of an inductor (e.g. July 1921 QST p.17).
TPTG – Tuned plate, tuned grid style of transmitter circuit, circa 1930.
Transcon – Short for a transcontinental message relay, ca. early 1920s.
Tuner – Often used as a synonym for receiver, in the early 1920s it referred mostly to a receiver’s front end, particularly the grid and plate circuits of a regenerative detector.
Tunes – Pre-1920 (approx.) synonym for frequencies or wavelengths, as in, what you’re tuned to.
Undamped oscillations or waves – CW, signals with zero decrement.
Valve – Synonym for vacuum tube, mostly European but also used in early QST (e.g. September 1920 lead article).
Variometer – A transformer with variable coupling controlled by changing the angle of one winding with respect to the other, with one physically inside the other. See, e.g. the ad on page 3, Nov 1921 QST. It is used to get variable coupling between two inductors, or wherever a variable inductor is needed. One can connect the windings in series or parallel or have them independent.
Wing circuit – Vacuum tube plate circuit (syn.).
Wobbulation or wabbulation – The modulation of a transmitter’s frequency due to instability in its oscillator or amplifier while being keyed or modulated.
X Section – The Experimenters’ Section, a QST magazine department in the 1920s.