Stability, Accuracy, Purity – The “1929-Type” Station

Hiram Percy Maxim long considered precise frequency control to be the biggest challenge in amateur radio.1 All at once it was set to become everyone’s concern when the new international treaty would take effect in 1929. “As we climb up into the super frequencies, as we do when we use forty meters and below, frequency precision becomes a problem of the first magnitude,” he wrote in Summer 1928. But he was certain that amateurs could devise new techniques and figure … Continue reading


Amateurs had been operating radiotelephone on the 80-meter band between 3,500 and 3,600 kHz since it had first been permitted in late 1925.1 To do so they had to return their licenses to their local radio supervisor for endorsement. On the 150-meter band, phone already dominated operation. And as the broadcasting boom continued, phone’s popularity grew as a specialized pursuit for some amateurs on both bands. For others it was a source of QRM since every phone allocation shared space … Continue reading


At the ARRL’s request in the summer of 1923, the Bureau of Standards announced that it would begin a schedule of broadcasts on precise wavelengths so that amateurs could calibrate their wave meters and receivers.1 The Bureau’s station in Washington, D.C., ran a highly stable oscillator driving a one-kilowatt power amplifier and had a proven record of being heard over a wide area, even on the West Coast. In print its call sign, WWV, evokes the graphical visualization of a … Continue reading


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

High Latitudes and Low Wavelengths

Donald B. MacMillan, an experienced arctic explorer and geologist, visited Hartford in early 1923 to discuss amateur radio with Hiram Percy Maxim.1 Among his various scientific investigations, MacMillan was planning to study the aurora borealis.  No one yet understood what the aurora was, but he had experienced it on previous trips and noticed that he could hear long wave radio signals through it. On his next expedition, besides photographing the aurora, he wanted to experiment with shortwave radio signals to … Continue reading

What is an Amateur?

As the number of phone broadcasts exploded in late 1921, radio amateurs and the ARRL were ambivalent about it. On one hand, the great increase in the number of people owning receivers was a good thing—radio technology was being embraced by the general public. On the other hand, the shared airwaves were getting even more crowded. There were now thousands of broadcast stations operating, both commercial and amateur. Furthermore, a fuzzy line separated amateur from non-amateur that had nothing to … 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