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

Crossings IV—The Reply

It had been a one-way affair.  In the successful transatlantic tests of December 1921, North America transmitted and Europe listened, along with a lone transplanted North American. Now it was time to try it in both directions, though still not in complete QSOs. In October 1922 the ARRL announced that another round of transatlantic tests would be run in December, with preliminary trials from 25 October through 3 November.1 This time the test would include British, French and Dutch amateurs. … Continue reading

Broadcast Boundaries

Despite several attempts, no successor to the outdated 1912 radio law had yet emerged. Now it could wait no longer since things had changed so radically with the rise of broadcasting—“well over a half-million receiving stations in the country, some sixty broadcasting stations, and rumor has it that there are some five hundred applications for broadcasting pending in the department of Commerce,” wrote Warner.1 Companies were trying to control access to the airwaves too; AT&T, for example, was formally requesting … Continue reading

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

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


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