DX Hams Do Get Around
November 1940 Boys' Life Article

March 1940 Boys' Life

Table of Contents

The Boy Scouts of America has published Boys' Life since January 1, 1911. I received it for a couple years in the late 1960s while in the Scouts. I have begun buying copies on eBay to look for useful articles. As time permits, I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged. Here are the Boys' Life issues I have so far.


DX Hams Do Get Around

They were breakfasting in Goulds, Florida and Cali, Colombia. In Cairo it was almost time for traditional tea; in Kenilworth, England, the plum pudding was steaming on the table; in Bombay the cool tumblers were drained as a toast to the evening; and in Brisbane it was already time to raid the ice-box. Yet in these far removed places, forty thousand miles apart, amateur radio stations W4DLH, G5ML, SU1CH, HK1Z, VK4LO, and VU2CQ, held a conversation annihilating time and space by the touch of a switch. Unusual! startling! Not so to the radio amateur. In less than forty years the few operators of weak, crude sets became the licensed operators of thousands of transmitting stations at mighty power and unlimited range.

Sandwiched in among all the commercial services are the amateurs, thousands of whose signals may be heard every night in the various bands set apart by International treaty for amateur operation. For them radio has become a fascinating hobby.

There are many different activities In tile field of amateur radio. You may be one of the many operators who derive their greatest enjoyment from talking to DX, that is stations a long distance away. Or perhaps you just like to rag chew with other amateurs regardless of their location. Then there are the hams, as amateurs are known in the fraternity, who would rather experiment, help on net works which handle messages free to the public, organize emergency stations, participate in the annual contests - all activities in the realm of amateur radio. Many kinds of people go in for amateur radio. Amos and Andy find time to talk with the boys from their station, W6QUT; Wilmer Allison Jr., the famous Texas tennis star pounds brass at W5VV; Frank Hawks was an ardent ham, and so is the Archduke of Austria. When Austria was Invaded in 1937 the Archduke, who is OE3AH, stayed on the air to finish out the International Long Distance Contest, then ran. He won the contest too! No language limitations stand in your way, because although English is a universal language spoken by most amateurs, a "Q" code which is an International set of abbreviations meaning entire sentences, is at your instant command.

In the United States no license is required to own and operate a receiving set. However before you can operate a transmitting station you must positively possess an operator's license issued by the Federal Communications Commission. There are three classes of licences issued by the F.C.C., all or which are issued free upon passing the necessary examination. The Class B license entitles the holder to operate phone and code on all authorized bands except 20 meter and 75 meter phone. For this a. Class A license is required, which may be obtained by passing a special examination on radiotelephone after holding the Class Be license for one year. The Class C license carries the same privileges as the Class B, but is issued under special circumstances only.  If the applicant lives more than 125 miles from the nearest examination point, or is physically unable to come for the test, the Class C license questions may be secured by mail and the code test given by any licensed amateur under oath.

The Federal Government test is not particularly difficult, as evidence by the fact that thousands of hams are licensed, ranging from the age of nine years old. As an applicant you must be able to send and receive code at the rate of 13 five letter words per minute, which is not fast after you have mastered the memorizing of the symbols, It is necessary to pass a written test on radio theory, practice, and Federal laws. However, there are a number of inexpensive and simple books that reduce this part of the examination to interesting and effortless reading.

You might wonder. at this point, where stations get their call letters. By international treaty introductory letters were parceled out to the countries of the world. "W" Indicates the United States, "ZS" South Africa, "PY" Brazil, and so forth. A number after the "W" indicates which call area the U. S. station is in, The United states is subdivided Into nine zones to facilitate licensing. For example, W2IOP shows that the American station is in the second call area, which includes New York City, Long Island, North New Jersey, and East New York, and is station IOP. By referring to a book with all amateur stations listed it is thus possible to find the exact name, street, and town of the operator. This licensing system also makes it possible to ascertain the location of a station knowing only the call letters.

Equipment is of primary importance even before you have arrived at the transmitting stage. Receivers may be constructed for as little as ten dollars, while they may reach into the hundreds of dollars. Transmitting outfits, likewise vary from a row dollars to thousands. It can be safely estimated that for twenty-five dollars you can have a station thoroughly capable of sending over thousands of miles.

A brief word about operating procedure may help to clarify some of the things you have overheard on the shortwaves. When operating code or phone "CQ" means that you want to talk to any other station. Thus if W2IOP wants to make contact he sends "CQ" or calls some other station which has just sent the general call. The reports, which are all integral part of every contact are indicated by coded numbers ranging from 1 to 5 and 1 to 9. You will find translations of this code in all amateur publications, but roughly 1 is the lowest report and 5 or 9 the best, depending upon the scale in use. Every station Is required to keep a complete log of all transmissions including date, time, call of station contacted or called, reports. and notes on the transmissions. From these records QSL cards are filled out, a phase of the hobby that is extremely popular. A "QSL" card is a printed form, usually around postcard size, which contain the call letters and location of the station sending it, as well as other information included in the log. Operators compete for the most original cards, and collections of these are highly valued.

Unexpected things are always happening in amateur radio. A ham in California was speaking to another in New Zealand. Suddenly the station "down under" went off the air. The Califiornian, worried, raised another station in the same town and had him investigate. They found the first New Zealand amateur overcome by gas, and without a doubt his life was saved by a man 4500 miles away. A station in the Mid-West was held up by thugs while his phone transmitter was on the air. The station he was talking to made a long distance telephone call and the distressed ham was rescued in short order by the police.

When hurricanes and floods strike with all their terror amateurs are always called to serve. Since 1913, amateur radio has been the principal, and in many cases the only means of outside communication in scores of floods. earthquakes, and other national emergencies. Perhaps you were wondering what was happening in the cold Eastern states when flood waters started rising last winter. Had you turned on a short wave receiver you might have heard the first sharp signal pierce through the night with a frantic appeal - "QRR QRR," the land SOS shattered the ominous stillness of the black night. Amateur activity ceased in an instant - from coast to coast ears were strained listening to the troubled frantic calls for help. With no wires, no roads, no power, the stricken cities were relying upon battery operated amateur stations. News services, starving for stories called on the radio amateurs.

Endless hours passed as the drama unfolded. At 2 A.M. the first flood messages came through. At 3:05 W8BWH, operating from the Pittsburgh area, wired frantically for aid. All wires were down. Snatches of messages came through the interference, only to end in a tragic blurred whine, as power failed. Cold, gray dawn broke on operators racing against time. State after state went under the rushing, conquering, relentless deluge, and their only link with the outside world was the isolated hams. An ominously curtailed message from new Cannan read, "Water 3 Feet Still Rising." At 10 A.M. a plane missing between Springfield and Albany was reported safe. A Pennsylvanian reported on the routing of Red Cross medical supplies. At noon Springfield warned they must desert their transmitter; news came from Boston, and from a portable station on the bank of the muddy Ohio river. Tense searing action went on for three day, nerves were shattered, eye laden, limp hands could barely control racing keys; then finally ambulances, food, supplies, wires got through. The operators wearily finished the last few messages. Then they started to look for their scattered families, their smashed homes. Only then did the switch drop to "Off" - until the next call for help. That is the kind of stuff that makes amateur radio!

- Larry Le Kashman