The History of Amateur Radio
Birth of Radioastronomy (VIII)
With the invention of radio, Thomas Edison was probably the first to recognize the possibility to listen signals emitted by stars. Professor A.Kennelly, one of Edison's assistant, suggested in 1890 an experiment going in that direction. In a letter addressed to a astronomer working at Lick Observatory, he suggested among others : "Simultaneously, to the electromagnetic perturbations coming from the Sun, and that we perceive, as you know, in the form of light and heat, perturbations on longer wavelengths are perfectly plausibles. If it was so, we could convert them in sound". Although his experiment was not conclusive, his project went to give birth to a amazing innovaiton, the radioastronomy.
Listening to the sky, in December 1932 the american radioastronomer Karl Jansky from Bell Telephone announced in the Proceedings of the IRE the detection of radio waves emitted from the center of the Milky Way, where at first sight there was no visible source of radiation. Radioastronomy was born. Almost at the same time, an amateur name Grote Reber, W9GFZ, began to look at the sky. A passion for the radioastronomy was growing.
Grote Reber and Radioastronomy
Radioastronomy is a direct descendant of amateur radio. In 1936, the famous Grote Reber, W9GFZ, contacted hams in more than 60 countries and achieved WAC, and thought that "there did not appear to be any more worlds to conquer". After have read Karl Jansky's article in the Proceedings of the IRE, explaining how he discovered the first emission from the centre of the Galaxy, Rebert found a new DX challenge !
He spent the summer holidays of 1937 to build a 10m-diameter parabolic dish antenna made of wood and iron tuned on what he called the "ultra high" frequency of 160 Mc to listen to the celestial bodies. He made also some tests at 900 and 3300 Mc but recorded too much made-made interferences. This is at this occasion that he discovered the radio emissions the Sun, Jupiter storms, the emission of the Milky Way and several deep sky radiosources among them Cygnus-A and Cassiopeia-A.
Working for his own, Reber published his first radio map of the Milky Way in 1939 in the same Proceedings as well as in Nature, confirming Karl Jansky's observations made in 1933 who worked then for Bell laboratories then for the NRAO. Quickly, Reber was integrated in the NRAO team. In the '60s he donated his antenna to the NRAO and is today set up permanently on the NRAO grounds in Green Bank, WV. Meanwhile, Reber continued to study the sky and published many scientific works until the late 1980s. He was a Silent Key in 2002.
To read : Hams in the sky
First WAC and WAZ to Belgian hams
In the '30s Radio News magazine, the ancestor of CQ magazine, released a certificate, WAZ, standing for "Worked All Zones". Dick Ross, K2MGA, and current Publisher of CQ, remind us that CQ zones were established by the staff and DX editor of Radio News magazine to reward amateurs having proved communications with each of the 40 CQ zones of the world. These zones are totally different from the 75 ITU zones that were only created when ITU moved to Geneva after WW II. Two models of WAZ were issued, a 40-zone worked on one or several bands and a 40-zone worked on each of the 5 bands or "200" zones (5BWAZ). Today both awards are always available. Dick remind us that the 5BWAZ can be earned with only 150 zones, and endorsements are accepted until the operator has confirmed all 200 zones. At that time, a special gold seal is awarded to the operator so he can add it to his basic 5BWAZ certificate. Only a very few minor corrections and adjustments have been made since the first ham won the WAZ.
Just after, ARRL issued a WAC certificate standing for "Worked All Continents". It is much easier to get than WAZ. It is delivered to all amateurs affiliated to a national amateur radio society having proved contacts with other amateur stations in each of the six continental areas of the world. For some time it was issued by IARU. Today, as in the USA, IARU Headquarters are the same as ARRL Headquarters, the certificate can be asked to ARRL or one of his official foreign checkpoints.
In the same idea, some years later the ARRL released a WAS certificate standing for "Worked All States". Contrarily to most other awards, these three certificates, like the DXCC released later, were and continue to be only accessible to licensed radio amateurs, not to SWLs, as they require a two-way contact; they are what we call "operating awards".
Although there were only 158 radio amateurs licensed in Belgium in 1934, they where quickly famous for their activities on bands and their know-how in award chasing. Who was for example the first amateur to won the WAZ and WAS awards ? This is ON4AU, in 1930, who was the first ham in the world to won the WAZ in phone, then working in AM. In 1937, he was again the first ham in the world to won the WAC. Even years later, belgian amateurs have continued to surprise the ham community. The first 5-band WAZ (200 zones) was granted to... another belgian amateur, John Devoldere, ON4UN, today President of the UBA, who won the first 5-band WAZ certificate on June 30, 1979. More recently Egbert Hertsen, ON4CAS, had gathered over 1000 awards, and is today the DXCC Field Checker and official checkpoint for WAZ, WAS, UIA, DCI & WABA/WASA awards for several european countries.
Silent birth of FM
On November 6, 1935, one more time the genius and prolific Edwin Armstrong invented something completely new, presenting a paper entitled "A Method of Reducing Disturbances in Radio Signaling by a System of Frequency Modulation". It was the first description of the future FM radio. It preceeded the discovery made by the New York Institute of Radio Engineers, IRE, who became the IEEE in 1963.
In the '30s, in Japan, Dr. Hidetsugu Yagi of Tohoku Imperial University and his assistant, Dr. Shintaro Uda developed a new design of antenna combining a simple structure with high performance.
It was a directional antenna made of parallel segments supported by a boom, and placed horizontally above the ground. It was dedicated to short and ultra short waves shortwaves like HF and upper frequencies. This is only a few years later, in 1940, that Dr Yagi and Uda registered their invention at the Japan Patent Office.
The Yagi as it will be called was ahead of its time and no Japanese understood its utility. In Europe and North America on the contrary this revolutionnary antenna was immediately commercialized as receiving antenna, mainly for TV receivers. It is said that Japanese realized the true value of the Yagi during World War II when it was discovered that the invention was used as a radar antenna by the Allied Forces. Hams experimented this new design too, and soon "the beam" was reproduced at hundreds of units, using either a boom made of iron or wood. Although it was bulky to work on HF bands, many amateurs selected the Yagi because it was not only easy to design, but it offered a very important gain compared to dipoles and verticals. ARRL echoed this discovery.
In 1936, one of the cofounder of ARRL and IARU, Hiram Percy Maxim, passed away and rejoigned the large family of Silent Keys. The ham community lost an inventor, an engineer, an author, a photographer and a talented leader and manager. Let's pay tribute to this Old Timer who fought hardly to give to all of us our privileges on the air.
While some advanced hams experimented communication of the 5-meter band and higher frequencies, in 1937 ARRL announced the release of the DXCC certificate (DX Century Club), a program which objective was to encourage hams to contact at least 100 DX stations in the new list of entities. Soon an Honor Roll was attributed to those who contacted the top ten DXCC entities (in 2004 this is 326 entities on 335). ARRL defined exactly what they heard by "country" and "entity", a debate always open three generations later as not everybody accepts that an isolated rock lost in the Pacific ocean be called "entity" when there is no the slightest activity on it for years or when it is prohibited to access for political reasons...
Death of Marconi
Another great famous Old Man rejoined the Silent Key family. On July 20, 1937, after more than fourthy years in the wireless industry, Guglielmo Marconi died in Bezzi-Scali, near Roma, Italy, not far from his birthplace in Bologna. He was 62 years old. In a tribute that was never more repeated thereafter, wireless stations worldwide shut down one minute, and for the first time for one hundred years the silent of the ether invaded again receivers. Wrapped in a white noise shroud the air became as quiet as it was before Marconi's birth.