On the evening of 27 November 1923, a mother in Connecticut sent Thanksgiving greetings to her son who was a great distance away, via radio.1 She paid nothing for this service since her message was handled entirely by amateur radio operators. Impressively, it arrived only six minutes after she dictated it to a local ham on the telephone, traveling more than 6,000 miles to reach its addressee. Since her son happened to be aboard a ship that was frozen motionless … 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


Finally, nearly one year after the armistice, a breakthrough: A single, tacked-on page, after the end cover of October QST, a hastily added special announcement proclaimed:  “BAN OFF! THE JOB IS DONE AND THE A.R.R.L. DID IT. See next QST for details” The HR Hick cover drawing for the November issue depicted a joyous ham bursting from the top of a can, popping off the lid (which, just to make sure the metaphor was understood, is labeled “the lid”)—he clutches … Continue reading

The First Regulations

The air began to fill with signals from military, commercial and amateur transmitters. By mid-1904 the Navy had established 20 coastal stations to make special broadcasts and communicate with 24 wireless-equipped ships. Perhaps a hundred or so high-power amateur stations were also operating in the US at this point. Companies started to be established around 1908, many based on wild claims impossible to satisfy, which therefore fed public skepticism about radio. But as the business environment stabilized, companies consolidated and … Continue reading

The Squeak Box

Among pre-teens, mostly boys took to radio.1 At its simplest, radio was affordable. Boys could buy or make parts to build simple receivers and even low power spark transmitters. Typically, a kid would hook together a crystal receiver using a metallic mineral such as galena, scraps of used wire and a set of headphones, perhaps the most expensive component. This basic receiver was not much more than a rock, some wire and a telephone receiver. But it was magic! A … Continue reading


Technologies that change the world often arise from the work of people whose passion and imagination were ignited by the wonder of something entirely new to human experience. Radio is one example. Before there were radio engineers, scientists were the professionals paid to spend their time studying and experimenting with radio. People who spent their own time and money to do the same thing were by definition amateurs, but were no less passionate, no less imaginative than their professional peers. … Continue reading