I had many long talks with dad during his last few months at home. There are a couple stories that he had wanted to post, but just never was able to complete them. He asked me if I would compose the text to share with all his friends on AMfone, and I assured him that I would do it as soon as possible. One relates to some very early "hi fi" operating before FCC restrictions on AM content, and the other story dates back to his time as an FCC monitoring operator at the Allegan, Michigan FCC Monitoring Station. I will do my best to include the content as accurately as possible. Last, I will share a memory of my childhood, while listening to dad operate on 75 meter phone.
"AM in the Early Days of Ham Radio"
It was in the late thirties, I believe dad was around 17 or 18, living in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He was running a homebrew 250TH rig modulated by four TZ-40s in push-pull parallel. He used a velocity (ribbon) microphone, made by Astatic, (I still use that mic on occasion) feeding a speech amplifier with push-pull 45 triodes. No steps were taken to limit the bandwidth, in fact the amplifier was used as a PA system component for many years. He was still using that speech amplifier as W2FCY, (Dayton, New Jersey) in the 50s when I watched him talk with my grandfather (W8YNG) in Michigan. At that time the 45s were replaced with 2A3s.
One of Dad's other loves was music, and he played the piano, trumpet, and string bass. He had another ham friend, I believe in Ohio, who also enjoyed music. In the late thirties, the FRC (Federal Radio Commission, predecessor to the FCC) had no restrictions on modulating a ham rig with music. So Dad would get on 75 meters, and his friend on 40 meters. Receivers and transmitters were operating simultaneously, on different antennas. (A trap was needed on each receiver to reject the local transmitted signal.) Dad played either Bass or Trumpet, and his friend would play piano. They were able to practice and improvise in order to prepare to play togerher for live events. He remembered setting a timer so that he could interrupt the music for periodic "station identification". Perhaps this was the first simulcast event, which could be received in "stereo", if people had two receivers and knew where to tune!
"The Importance of CW"
Dad and several of the other fellows at the FCC Monitoring Station in Allegan, Michigan would periodically use a key and tone oscillator, or they would whistle morse code across the room in idle chatter. One afternoon they started a morse discussion about the appearance of the administrative assistant, Miss Harriette Koster. She was typing at the time, on two sheets of paper with a sheet of carbon paper in between. When they finished their morse conversation, she removed the paper from the typewriter, and handed a copy of the text to each of the morse participants. Little did they know she was proficient at copying morse code! Needless to say, each of the "gentlemen" blushed and were both quite embarrassed at the situation. But it appears that all the comments were in good taste, because a few months later Mr. Walter Maxwell proposed to Miss Koster, and they were soon married. Perhaps I, and all my siblings, owe our lives to morse code. Needless to say, I was displeased when the FCC dropped morse proficiency from the amateur licensing requirements.
"Are Hams Liars?"
When I was about four years old, dad was once rag chewing on AM. He was telling folks that he was working 75 meters. I thought I knew what meters were, and I had rudimentary counting skills. I counted his meters, one in his HRO, one in his vacuum tube voltmeter, three in his Weston tube tester, five in his six-foot rack containing push pull 304TLs modulated by the quad of TZ-40s. I counted a total of ten meters! Why would he lie about something like that? After he signed with the other operator, I told him I counted only ten meters, and he quickly explained that 75 meters is the wavelength of the transmitted signal when operating between 3.8 and 4.0 megacycles. He then drew graphs of the relationship between frequency and wavelength, and explained that historically people referred to the bands by wavelength instead of frequency. Then I understood why my short wave receiver had all those numbers in backwards order - wavelength! This was one of the first of many of his teachings that enabled me to have an enjoyable and rewarding career in electronics.
To break the ice, dad often liked to relate this tale at the beginning of some of his presentations. I thought folks on AMfone might get a chucle when reading it...
We got our first color TV in 1958. It was a floor console with a twenty-one inch round kinescope. When it was installed, the setup process was rather involved. I remember watching Bonanza every Sunday evening, it was one of the few shows televised in color at the time. Sometime later, the picture quality was degraded, and the colors were not clear or sharp. I remember dad worked at troubleshooting the problem for quite some time. After testing tubes, performing many adjustments, and consulting with the engineers at the RCA Laboratories in Princeton, one of the engineers suggested degaussing the TV. Dad brought home an electromagnet coil about three feet in diameter, plugged it into the 110 receptacle, and moved it all around the TV, then stepped away from the TV and unplugged the coil. Magically, the color quality was restored to normal. (More modern color sets include a degaussing coil that operates each time the receiver is turned on.) After resolving the issue, dad decided to experiment with a permanent magnet to see how the color would change. It was rather dramatic! He called all of us to the living room and showed us what changes the magnet caused. I recall saying "That's nothing new, I tried that two weeks ago!"
Rick Maxwell W8KHK ex WB4GNR WB2HKX