It's Been a Great Winter

At our home station we've spent the winter on the 7000 band. Just for the fun of it we have used almost nothing but apparatus constructed in 1928 during the League's technical development program preparing for "1929 conditions." Our receiver has been that old four-tube peaked-audio one, our monitor the heavy copper contraption described in the Handbook. Most of the time our transmitter was the High-C 250-watter of the program; later we modified it to be an oscillator-amplifier job; some of the time we used only a single 210 and sometimes 600 watts of crystal-control; but all of it was this 1928 vintage.

We had plenty of fun and the old program gear fully proved its mettle. This has been a winter of great activity. The tests brought out the foreigners in profusion and DX has been great, both international and domestic. And the daylight work! We remember with a smile how hard QST used to plug, in the early days after the war, to encourage daylight work with what we then called the "Home-to-Luncheon Club." But it was no go, because the old sparks simply wouldn't get out in daylight. Now one can hear several hundred stations almost any noon hour. We've had very satisfactory operating, too, for despite the popular impression of those who stick close to the 3500 band, there are plenty of good fists on 7000. Of course QRM has been pretty tough at times, but this old 1928 receiver, strictly by virtue of its peaked audio and band spreading, has got us through in a way that leaves a very pleasant impression. We think peaked audio perhaps the greatest single requirement of the satisfactory 1931 receiver. We hear fellows talking about the QRM being so fierce that they can peel off the signals in layers, so that when one station stops sending it reveals three unsuspected ones battling along underneath. Flat audio, of course, acts that way, but a good peaked audio rig will go a very long way towards separating them. We think every station ought to use it. It's true it's hard on unstable signals, but we're afraid they haven't much of a chance nowadays anyway. There's a new kind of note on the air these days, too—a signal that plainly has d.c. in the station, in the effort to comply with regulations, but which doesn't give a d.c. note. The trouble seems generally to be wobbulation, sometimes vibration, sometimes both. Many of these stations seem to be without monitors. That is too bad, for a monitor will tell an amateur more about his signal in three minutes than a week of report-collecting, and the monitor will be of an altogether higher order of veracity. A monitor can be made so easily and cheaply that we are moved to assert again that no station should ever be without one.

In our observation by far the worst current offense in the 7000 band is the a.c. supplies which are still in evidence, despite a year of d.c. regulations. Great as the improvement has been it is not yet enough, for the broad a.c. signal cuts great selfish swaths through the most crowded band in the spectrum. We've had a great deal more QRM from a.c. supply on self-excited transmitters, sometimes rectified but never filtered, than from everything else combined. Such a signal, of course, doesn't have to be right on your man; let it be anywhere within spitting distance and it erases him quite neatly as it wobbles along using the space of fifteen stations. Channel-hogs, that's what those signals are. Won't the fellows still without adequate rectifiers and filters please fix up their stations? It would be a tremendous help. The other night we heard a lad with r.a.c., calling CQ on a bug about fifty words a minute, and with a signal so broad that it was chewing great hunks out of the ether. Fortunately he kept it up long enough for us to get his call despite the dizzy speed. Asked about it, he said the idea of the speed was to keep out the butcher boys; that way he wasn't annoyed by answers from fellows who couldn't read fast. Novel, wot? About the note, he had a filter, but some correspondent had reported him louder without it, so he had left it off. He put it on to demonstrate to us. Immediately he had a reasonably nice d.c. signal, fully as loud as before, much more pleasant to copy, and the animal had shrunk down to the proportions of a decent signal.

We spoke of good fists on "40." There are certainly plenty of bum ones, too. Even calling is often done most sloppily. The habit of failing to separate the last letter of the call from the initial W of its next transmission is very confusing, particularly to pre-1929 amateurs who remember when calls started with a digit instead of a letter. But we think the ultimate curse of the 7000 band at present is the peculiar inarticulateness of its average inhabitant. For him life has resolved itself into a remorseless formula. A fleeting contact, the hurried outpouring of the ritual, and then nothing to do but more of the same. You've all heard it. It rarely varies; we can hear it in our sleep: R GE OB TNX FR CL OB UR PD SIGS QSA5 R7 HR IN LALAPALOOZA NEB OB QRK? AND QRA? WL OB GESS NIL HR OB SO 73 OB ES HPE CU AGN SN AR TITTLEDY-DAHDEDAH. A useful method, perhaps, if the idea is to pick up a lot of reports quickly on a new transmitter. But that isn't it. This is the ordinary radio life of an unbelievably great number of fellows in the 7000 band. Over and over they do it. Listen to one for a while. He finishes one good QSO, in another minute perhaps raises a fine station, only to drop him the same way. It is, we submit, genuinely pathetic. HPE CU AGN SN! Why not talk a little now, OM, while you are together? Amateur radio is all things to all men, our servant, not our master. Other "hams" are fellow amateurs, anxious to be talked to, seeking contacts and friendships. Let's not be afraid of each other; instead, let's learn to know each other better, let's learn how to talk and visit with each other over the air. The hot-potato stuff is not born of impoliteness but only out of embarrassment and uncertainty; we know that. Here's a chance for old-timers to help.

May we be pardoned for asking who started this OB business, anyway? We've held ourselves back the last couple of years, listening and wondering if we could learn to hear it without wincing and experiencing an upset tummy, but ND. We don't quite know why OB affects us that when it is such a slight change from the traditional OM, but it definitely does. It smacks somewhat of children playing grown-up and simply isn't radio. We rise to express our anguish in much the same fashion that we would if someone started a vogue of saying 74 instead of 73 to mean the same thing. We suppose it's too late to put the kibosh on OB, but all friendly efforts would certainly be appreciated.

Answering a CQ one night recently, we encountered OM Handy's bad boy of amateur radio in person. This lad did everything wrong that's in the book. It happened that he was in the exact city where an event had occurred that day that we wanted to ask somebody about, so we asked our question. He acknowledged and informed us that we were QSA5 QRK? but no answer. We repeated and learned: R R OK WL GESS QRU HR SO VY 73. Again we repeated, with this result: SORRI OB QRN BAD THAT TIME OB. Thinking we saw that we had been sending too fast, and regretting that our correspondent had been too proud to ask QRS instead of hatching a mysterious cloud of static suddenly to blot out one transmission, we went back slowly and put forth our question in the very swellest Continental. Weren't we right in our judgment, too, as he came back with his R OK! Yes, we were not, for he said: R OK OB WL GESS NIL HR PSE QSLL VY 73 OB SK, and was gone like a ship in the night, while we yearned for TOM's kitty. No paragon ourselves, and admitting to plenty of stumbling, we hold that it is easy to withhold the R OK except as a receipt, and to tell the other chap truthfully what is the matter. Care in these respects may save a brother amateur's sanity and prevent him from throwing a B-battery through his 852.

Anyway, it's been a great winter!

From Kenneth B. Warner, Editorial, QST, May 1931, pages 7 and 8.