1922 – 1934 -The Club Matures
By this time the number of amateur stations had increased to a tremendous extent, and with broadcasting just about beginning, communication was becoming almost impossible. The Radio Club investigated the situation and found that most of the interference was caused by spark and interrupted continuous wave transmitters. It therefore undertook a vigorous campaign of advice and suggestion, through papers presented before the membership, to educate the amateur in the whys and wherefores of pure continuous-wave transmission and its many advantages over the older forms. The campaign proved successful and is still in progress.
It was at one of these meetings in 1922 that E. H. Armstrong startled the radio fraternity by producing a sufficient volume of music to fill the large lecture hall, using his newly invented super-regenerative circuit, a loop aerial and only one Western Electric J Tube. This performance, of course, had never been equaled, and when it is considered that the signals were coming from station WJZ, at Newark, N. J., and that the receiving set was located in a steel building with a copper roof at Columbia University, it was certainly an epoch-making event.
In December 1922, The Radio Exposition Company held a large Radio Show at the Grand Central Palace, New York. As everyone knows, if all the exhibitors at a Radio Show are permitted to receive broadcast programs at the same time, chaos would result due to heterodyning between the receivers themselves. In order to avoid this difficulty, the exposition directors decided to permit only one concern to do all the receiving. This, of course, was an unhappy thought since there was no way of deciding which company this should be, without causing vigorous protest from the other exhibitors. Finally it was decided to choose a noncommercial organization. The lot fell to the Radio Club of America. A special committee was appointed and the work begun. First there was the matter of doing away with extraneous noises so as to deliver pure radio signals to the power amplifiers and secondly a physical problem of placing the loudspeaking horns so that there would be no re-echoes or dead spots. The first was solved after much experimentation by the small antenna, a 600-meter frequency trap, and a super-heterodyne receiver. The acoustic problem, however, offered stubborn resistance. Six loud speaker units with four-foot straight horns were obtained, and the question was how to place them so that the sound would fill the entire Grand Central Palace exhibition hall. Finally, after trying several positions, it was decided to place the horns on the balcony directly in front of the specially constructed booth which housed the receiving and amplifying apparatus.
This system proved very successful and in spite of many skeptical opinions at the outset, sufficient volume was produced to fill the hall amply, and on the last night, the signals from WEAF were reproduced with such intensity that several of the audience on the main floor were seen to hold their hats in humorous indication of their approval.
In 1922, when Secretary Hoover found it necessary to call a meeting of the radio interests before a special committee of his choosing, the Radio Club was represented on the Committee by E. H. Armstrong. Thus the Club again as of old took an active part in the regulation of radio by Congress. This special committee reported direct to Congress on its findings, and did much to help frame the present regulations.
With the advent of Radio Broadcasting a new problem now faced the amateur, namely, that of interfering with broadcast reception. The Radio Club realizing the seriousness of the situation at once started a campaign of education and its policies can best be summed up in the following article written by its president at that time:
“The Radio Club of America was organized to propagate the art of radio telegraphy and telephony in all its branches, and true to this ideal it has always lent its aid to the best of its ability to all phases of the art. It originated as an amateur organization with a scientific purpose. It fought for the continued existence of the amateur and helped to educate him. It lent a helping hand to commercial radio, by research and cooperation wherever it could. It gave all it had to the Government when it was in dire need of radio personnel, and, finally, when the new element in radio cropped up–the broadcast listener–it gave birth much needed assistance. This organization belongs to no one branch of the radio art but to all branches and therefore its duty at present must necessarily be one of education.”
But the club did not confine its activities along these lines, entirely to the amateur. In 1923 the Boston American organized a committee of radio experts to present the problem of interference by Naval stations, which were causing great annoyance to broadcast listeners, to President Coolidge. Messrs. Paul Godley, J. V. L. Hogan and George E. Burghard, were asked to serve on this committee and visited the President in Washington on Dec. 10th, 1923. Jack Hogan, acting as spokesman for the committee, so ably stated the case that even the laconic Mr. Coolidge uttered an exclamation when he heard that his own radio speech had been rendered unintelligible in his home town, through the interference of the transmitting station at the Boston Navy Yard. The matter was at once referred to Secretary Hoover.
Now, the short wave era of amateur radio was at hand. To be sure, the original small boys had grown to be full fledged men of affairs. Most of them held prominent radio positions in that rapidly growing industry. Naturally the character of the membership of the club as-well as that of the papers, underwent a similar change. The club had now all the earmarks of a genuine scientific body. The spirit of the organization, however, never changed. These men, now engineers, executives or scientists were still amateurs at heart. Many of them still had their own stations, and using the very latest equipment were nightly communicating with the whole world on 80 meters and below. Notable among these experimenters we find Randy Run on and John Grinan who attained great prominence with their activities. Runyon’s station 2AG was located in Yonkers, N. Y., and from there he worked practically every country in the world.
In 1925 when the Hamilton Rice expedition went to the Amazon River in Brazil, John Swanson, an old member of the club, went along as chief radio operator. They were equipped with long and short wave apparatus, but most of the traffic was handled through Runyon at Yonkers, who was in nightly contact with Swanson on Short waves. In fact. on one occasion when the branch expedition was lost up the river, 2AG succeeded in working them on their portable set, when they could neither raise nor hear the base station, and relayed their position to the main camp thus ultimately bringing about their rescue.
Johnny Grinan, who has the distinction of being the first amateur to send transcontinental signals and messages, as well as trans-Atlantic messages, built his station NJ2PZ in Kingston, Jamaica B.W.I. This station later known as VP5PZ grew to be one of the most famous amateur stations in the world. He worked every country, and on several occasions worked distant stations the long way around the globe. At the time of the Tom Heaney fight in the U. S. he succeeded in receiving the returns from a U. S. station and relaying them direct to Tom’s home town in New Zealand, blow for blow, for which he was roundly thanked by Heaney’s admirers some 7000 miles away.
One night in 1927 the Radio club directors were holding a meeting at Runyon’s home in Yonkers. A very important matter was up before the board and a single vote became necessary to decide the question. Randy simply turned on the juice, called John in Jamaica, explained the situation to him, and John cast the deciding vote by radio, thus creating a somewhat novel precedent.
These are of course only a very few of the interesting incidents of radio progress. Space will not permit the telling of the activities of the many other, now middle-aged, small boys, but we know that they too, are still true to their old love, Radio.
On May 13th, 1926, the Radio Club held its first regular annual banquet at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City. It was indeed a gala affair, over 150 prominent radio men attended, among whom were: Professor M. I. Pupin, David Sarnoff, Gano Dunn, E. H. Armstrong and J. V. L. Hogan. Professor Pupin was the guest of honor and made a stirring speech which was broadcast through the facilities of station WMCA. In his speech the Professor denounced the White-Dill bill, which was pending at that time, and purported to take the control of radio out of the hands of the department of commerce and empower a special Federal Radio Commission to deal with the difficult problems of regulation. He closed his address with this parthian shot of advice to the Senate:” ‘Noli me tangere,’ which in plain Anglo Saxon means, ‘hands off.’ ”
Several other speeches were made during the course of the evening, and as a crowning event Professor Pupin and David Sarnoff were made Honorary members of the club. A good time was had by all.
Later in the same year when the broadcast situation was becoming dangerously involved due to the pending legislation, the club went on record by issuing the following resolution, passed at a special meeting of the board of directors:
“RESOLVED that until the present limitations of the powers of the Department of Commerce shall have been removed or other provisions made by legislation, no broadcaster should change his wave length or hours on the air or increase his power without first receiving the approval of a committee representative of the art organized for the purpose, and be it further
“RESOLVED that the Radio Club of America, organized for the object, among others, of developing the radio art, hereby declares that the present condition in the radio field, caused by the temporary removal of legal restrains, is a new occasion for the exercise of that capacity of self-government and respect for the interest of the public, in which the radio art has led, and further declares that it will hold its members responsible in the opinion of the club for their conduct in the observance of the principles underlying these Resolutions.”
This brings our story up to modem times, and before closing let us once more scan the activities of the grown-up small boys who were responsible for the club’s beginning. The accompanying photographs of typical amateur experimental stations of the period 1932-1934, certainly give an idea of the tremendous progress which has been made over the span of twenty-five years. The small boy now has become a veritable scientist. New developments have come thick and fast and he has embraced them with the same zest and thirst for knowledge with which he welcomed the advent of the electrolytic detector and the rotary gap.
Of course the frequencies in use today are vastly different from the early hit or miss days, the allotted amateur bands now being: 160, 80, 40, 20, 10, and 5 meters. The equipment now consists of crystal controlled master oscillator power amplifier transmitters, producing the steadiest of C. W. signals, and short wave superheterodyne receivers with crystal filters. The antenna systems are also carefully designed from formulas, of the matched impedance type, for the exact operating frequency. Naturally the achievements of such stations, which are in fact practically the equal of any commercial station in design, are astounding, particularly in reliability and annihilation of space, but unfortunately space will not permit their recording on these pages.
Both the stations illustrated are equipped with the very latest systems of modulation, and radio telephony, on all frequencies permitted by law, is used most of the time. Of special interest is the 5 meter or 60 megacycle telephone. This new field of endeavor took the amateur by storm, and nightly, numerous duplex conversations can be heard over distances of 30 miles or more. The apparatus shown is of the master oscillator power amplifier type, and the receivers employ the Armstrong super-regenerative circuit. The fascination of duplex telephony is obvious, and particularly on these ultra short waves, because of the absence of static interference and fading. The greatest distance covered so far has been about 100 miles, at which duplex contacts have been maintained quite successfully. This would seem to be rather a meager performance, as compared with the
distances covered on other frequencies, but when we consider the inauspicious beginning of 20, and 40 meter transmission and the tremendous progressmade in a short time, the future for 60 megacycles looks very bright indeed. In fact new developments are coming at such a rate of speed that, if one remains idle for a month or two, one becomes a horrible greenhorn all over again. Even at the present writing, several amateurs, notably our old friend Randy Runyon, are maintaining successful telephone communication over some thirty miles, on two and one-half meters with beam transmitters.
This most certainly shows the results of that undying zeal and love for radio, which has imbued these once small boys since the beginning. It is our one hope that this ardor may never be dampened, and that by example and sharing of knowledge this same spirit may be passed on to those who come afterwards.
In conclusion, let us say, that this History was written with a twofold purpose. First, to chronicle as accurately as possible the most interesting club events of the past twenty-five years, and secondly to try and give a general idea of the development of the small boy who was responsible for its beginning. We have purposely omitted, with but a few exceptions, the recording of the many truly great scientific, literary, and engineering achievements of the members, because of their unweildly nature. We fully realize, that the apparent character of the club has, quite naturally, changed with the years. The Radio Club has become a respected scientific body, but the spirit of friendliness and cooperation which lies deep within, has never changed, and our old friend, Professor Pupin, very beautifully complimented us on this rare quality, at the Seventeenth Anniversary Banquet, when he said:
“You love this art for its own sake and not for
what profit it brings you. If I thought otherwise I
would not be with you this evening.”
Therefore, permit us to say, that, if these pages have succeeded in arousing in the older members and instilling in the newer ones, that spirit of friendlin’ess, cooperation and unselfish desire for radio knowledge, which was the prime factor of our beginning, and is the reason for our continued existence; then, this story has more than accomplished its purpose.