Long Talks on Short Waves

JAMES MONTAGNES February 15 1927

Long Talks on Short Waves

JAMES MONTAGNES February 15 1927

Long Talks on Short Waves

Some of the feats accomplished, within recent years, by amateur radio fans are nothing short of extraordinary


SEATED at a table on which was ranged a varied assortment of instruments sat a young Calgarian. Ear-phones were on his head, and the expression on his face made known to all the world that he was listening to something very interesting. To the uninitiated it would have meant nothing; to him the dots and dashes unreeled themselves into a readable tale and this is what they told:

“I have a friend here by name of Dr. Clive Eadie. He tells me that he knew a chap,

Dr. Lindsay, of Calgary, during the Great War. Is there any chance of yóur finding him, since E)r. Eadie has lost track of him?”

To which the listener answered:

“It is two o’clock in the morning here, so • I cannot very well telephone this Dr.


“That will be quite all right, Lindsay won’t mind,” came the assurance.

A short time elapsed, while Dr. Lindsay was called on the telephone. Then an answer sped back from Calgary,

Canada, to Adelaide, Australia, where the inquiring Dr. Clive Eadie was impatiently waiting.

“I ’phoned, and after ringing about ten minutes, a lady answered the ’phone, informing me that the doctor was very ill and had not been out of bed for three months.

Then, I asked the lady if this

was Dr. N. J. Lindsay as listed in the ’phone book. With a very cold and short YES she hung up the receiver.” “That was the father. Will you look them up tomorrow for me and let me know to-morrow evening?” Australia replied.

The following night at the appointed hour, Calgary was on hand.

“I called on Dr. Lindsay to-day and after apologizing about last night I explained what you wanted. They were very glad to hear about it and told me they knew Dr. Eadie. Dr. Lindsay, the one in question, is now in England and they asked me to give you his address.”

In this manner, was amateur radio-telegraphy, inst.ru-

mental in bringing about a reunion of two war-time friends.

The young man in Calgary, A. H. Asmussen by name, is one of the leading lights in this science in Canada and stands out as one of the foremost in the world. His friend in Adelaide, Australia,

H. W. Maddick, known in radio parlance as A-3EF, is another well-known amateur radio-telegraphist.

Shortly after the incident quoted, Mr. Asmussen was awarded a coveted certificate, entitling him to membership in the WAC Club.

This club, originated less than a year ago, is open only to radio amateurs who have been in communication with every continent, using their own apparatus. The letters in the club name mean Worked All Continents. To this select coterie of radio amateurs, belong nearly a score, the pick of the world.

Mr. Asmussen is the only member from Canada. Application for membership in this fraternity, is made by sending in a list of cards confirming transmission with at least one country on each continent. Among those submitted by Mr. Asmussen, whose radio name is C-4GT, are cards from Argentine, Chile, Florida, California, Alberta, Japan, Manilla, Philippine Islands, a United States flagship cruising in the South Seas, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria Australia, Auckland and Dunedin, New Zealand, South Africa and London, England.

On the other side of the Dominion, near Halifax, lives another famous Canadian radio man, Joseph Fassett. Joe, as he is commonly known, has a hobby within a hobby. His spare time is spent with his radio transmitter, an instrument made more and more efficient each year. His ambition is to be able to communicate with a new radio country before anyone else on this continent! He

has been successful in doing so in three or four cases, and, in all but one or two, he has been the first Canadian to have communicated with any of the twenty odd countries to his credit. Membership in the WAC Club would be his if Asia were not lacking in his log of continents worked

In every big city throughout Canada there are two or three such young men, for the majority of these amateurs are high school students or recently graduated college men, who have made some notable record in radio development. Long distance communication with low power during all weathers has been their chief accomplishment, a feat gratefully acknowledged by the largest concerns, whose business is to handle for the public, messages and press news over great distances.

The amateur has developed what are known as the short wave lengths, those areas designated in radio as being below 200 meters. In 1912, when the London Radio Telegraph Conference awarded the amateur these spaces in the air, they were deemed useless. To-day every range, from 100 meters down, is heavily contested by commercial interests in every country on the globe. Four years ago, no sound, except for that made by the occasional daredevil experimenter broke the absolute quiet of these regions; to-day there isn’t a noisier place on the whole radio dial. There, may be found, if one can read the dots and dashes, signals from the whole of Canada, from every state of the¿Union to the south, from nearly every country in Central and South America; signals from Australia; North and South Africa, Europe and Asia, in fact, signals from every section of the globe, even at times from the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

How the amateur radio enthusiast made such progress, despite the limitations imposed on him in almost every direction, is a story which would fill many volumes. In the first place, he had to have faith in the ultimate useful-

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ness of the short wave. Then, he had to adapt long wave apparatus for use on short waves, which meant, among other things, designing new aerials, new receiving coils, new detectors and new transmitters. Prior to 1912, for instance, it was usual for commercial stations to have aerials of tremendous lengths—in some cases, up to a mile and a half. Nowadays, an amateur may use as an aerial a copper rod three or four feet long.

In the early stages, experiments were limited to waves about 200 meters long. Then, it was discovered that it was possible to transmit with 100-meter waves. That was in 1923, and the dis-

covery started a passion for shortening comparable only to that which some years ago afflicted the designers of women’s skirts. To-day, the use of short and shorter waves has progressed to the point where it was possible for a chap called John Reinartz, down in Hartford, Connecticut, to use waves only three-quarters of a centimetre or three-tenths of an inch in length.

Such miracles as the Marconi beam wireless, telephonic communication between London and New York and press and commercial wireless between Germany and South America were all made possible by the amateur, for they are all

based on the use of the short wave which was his special discovery.

To give some idea of how phenomenal the advance has been since the day when it was possible only by means of the most complicated and noisy apparatus to talk in code with a fellow enthusiast a few blocks away, to the present day when the whole world is at an amateur’s command, a few recent important tests will be described.

A Thousand Miles on Two Watts

A COMMERCIAL station, with thoussands of dollars available, has to maintain a constant point to point service. To do this, it is necessary to ensure a loud signal which can be heard at all times through all kinds of weather. This requires high power. For example, some of the big commercial stations use 200 kilowatts or 200,000 watts of power to push a signal across the Atlantic Ocean. Contrasted to this, the average amateur transmitter uses power ranging from two hundred to ten watts to transmit over the same distance. In some cases, the results secured by amateurs, working on low-powered apparatus, have been almost incredible.

Consider, for example the exploits of James Hill a Regina youth, now attending the University of Toronto. Last summer, using only a single low voltage receiving tube of the type used in the ordinary radio set, he was able, several times, to make contact with amateurs from 500 to 1,000 miles distant in daylight, using but onesixth of the power required to light the I ordinary incandescent lamp. With the same little transmitter installed at his summer home on Toronto Island, he was able to talk in code with an amateur in Winnipeg, with another in the Georgian ! Bay district of Ontario and with a third at ! Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in broad daylight, with but two watts of power! Two watts—one-thirtieth of the power used by a sixty-watt electric light bulb—the kind you use in your house! And this small amount of power covered more than 1,000 miles of land!

Later, he bettered his own record by working an amateur in British Honduras, and half an hour afterwards, an Italian army officer at Quito, Ecuador, a distance of 3,000 miles from Toronto, using only the one tube and ten watts of power.

Here’s another:

An American army officer, Colonel Clair Foster, of Carmel, California, born in Canada, has spent the last few summers on Vancouver Island. Last summer he startled the world by making consistent contact with various parts of Australia from Vancouver Island with but one tube and ten watts of power. His station, C-9CK, became a world famous call, a mystery to most amateurs, until it was identified as belonging to Colonel Foster. This past year, Foster did not take a transmitter with him to Vancouver Island only a receiver. While listening in the early hours one morning he heard an amateur in Madrid, Spain. Applying the theory that radio waves travel best in darkness, it was shown that the signals from Spain traveled the long way round the world, taking approximately 19,000 miles to reach Vancouver, Island. And this achievement was made on a purely Canadian radio product, a famous tube, I manufactured only in the Dominion. Two of these lilliputian tubes were used to make the record, which is recognized as the world’s best long distance reception.

The ratio between the cost of amateur and commercial stations is but little less startling than the ratio between the amounts of power used. Where the average broadcasting station costs in the neighborhood of thirty thousand dollars, and the latest commercial stations far in excess of this figure, the amateur usually is able to buy apparatus and make it work satisfactorily for an amount ranging from fifty to two hundred dollars. That he has

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been able to'’accomplish\the'results already credited to him is merely an earnest of what may be done in the future to cheapen radiolas a means of communication.

Perhaps the reader is wondering how it is that the pigmy in radio has been able to do things which the giant failed to accomplish. Obviously, the principal reason is that the pigmy,11 by force of necessity, had to play around with something extremely valuable which the giant thought was useless. Now, it has been demonstrated, commercially as well as experimentally, that short waves are more efficient and more economical for long distance transmission than long waves. As to why this is so, science is still baffled. One of the most plausible theories—and it’s only a theory—is that radio waves are reflected similarly to light; that they are dispersed by reflection from a peculiar layer in the atmosphere above the earth, a layer which ranges from fifty to 500 miles in height, that the short waves are reflected farther than the long waves. Incidentally, there is a decided difference between day and night transmission and usually it is easier to cover long distances at night.

Some Practical Applications

D ECENTLY, the Hydro - Electric Power Commission of Ontario asked Canadian officials of the American Radio Relay League, an amateur organization embracing the whole of this continent, to find out what the possibilities would be for regular daily communication on short waves between Toronto and Port Arthur. A number of amateurs tackled the problem, the two most persistent being Ernest C. Thompson, of Toronto, and William Sutton, of Port Arthur. For more than six long months, through every type of weather, including some of the worst winter storms that Ontario has ever seen these two chaps kept in continuous touch with each other at least four times per week. Every hour of the day was tried and many modifications in apparatus were experimented with in the search for the best.

As a result, the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario now operates two short wave stations, one at their administration building in Toronto, and the other, near the power house at Cameron Falls on the Nipigon River. Daily communication is maintained, Thompson C-3FC, and A. F. Ferguson, C-3HP, of Port Arthur being the operators. The stations are exact duplicates and are licensed by the government to transmit on special wavelengths. To the radio world, they are known as C-9AI and C-9AQ, Toronto and Cameron Falls, respectively. Only communication which ; would otherwise go through the mail and take from two to' four days to reach its destination is handled through them, and to-day, with the stations only installed a few months, the commission has found them invaluable.

Continental and World-Wide Organization

CERVICES such as these, which are of ^ moment both to science and public utilities do not pass the Radio Branch of the Department of Marine and Fisheries unobserved. In the late fall of 1924, a request was made by the Canadian general manager of the American Radio Relay League, A. LI. Keith Russell, of Toronto, for a special wave band to be used exclusively by Canadian amateur stations. This range would allow closer contact between various Canadian radio centres and enable trans-Canada traffic and experiments to move more quickly since there was too much crowding on the wave lengths assigned to both Canadian and United States amateurs. The request was granted and the first of the all-Canadian wave bands assigned. The wavelength was 125 metres.

Being out of the congested channels, traffic moved with much more speed, and on the scheduled ‘prayer-meeting’ night, which began Wèdnesday and went on into Thursday morning, it was not unusual to follow a message started in Halifax on to Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. On one occasion the skip was better; the message went from Halifax in one jump to Vancouver.

Difficulties arose, however, because every station had to operate exactly on 125 metres, which at times, gave rise to a congestion even worse than before. The next move was the allotment of a band from 115 to 120 meters. Last November, at the first Canadian Amateur Convention held in Montreal, a change from this wave length was asked for and the present band of 52.51 to 52.56 meters was assigned. On this band traffic has moved in marvelous fashion and many outstanding feats have been accomplished.

Much of the success achieved has been due to the fine organization which exists throughout Canada and the United States. In pre-war days, when radio amateurs were few and far between, a few* visionaries started scheduled transmissions with fellow experimenters in nearby towns and gradually the idea evolved of relaying a message from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific. Perfection was all that was required and the years have shown that, the ‘Fool visionaries’ were not so very " foolish. To-day a continent-wide organization, the American Radio Relay League exists, mainly to relay friendly noncommercial messages through its member stations which number nearly twenty thousand. There is no charge for this service; the handling of messages is purely voluntary. It is in reality nothing more than a very excellent means to the furthering of the interests of the science. Schedules are arranged, on either daily or weekly time tables, with one or more stations. Thus, a station in Winnipeg may have schedules with others in Toronto, Vancouver, Milwaukee, Omaha and Denver. When the operator receives messages, he routes them according to their direction, giving them to the nearest scheduled station in direct line.

This practice has grown during the past few years from continental to world-wide application. A message started in Montreal for Captetown, South Africa, may go direct or, which is more likely, it may go by way of London, England, and thence to Capetown.

The growth of international radio has necessitated the formation of an international organization similar to the one on this continent. This was organized in the spring of 1925, in Paris, France, and to this congress went representatives from twenty-three countries. The Canadian delegate was Major W. C. Borrett, of Halifax, who was accompanied by Loyal Reid, of Newfoundland. Major Borrett, already well known internationally as a fan with the second best station record in Eastern Canada, attracted considerable attention to himself by taking the lead in advocating the use of English as the medium for international radio communication. The Esperanto enthusiasts at the convention wanted their language made the official medium of the International Amateur Radio Union. Major Borrett, however made such good use of the fact that the use of English is universal among European and South American amateurs, that the convention decided finally to make English the official tongue of the radioman.

One of the most interesting developments of Canadian amateur radio, from the international standpoint, is the use of the all-Canadian wave band. This band of ten kilocycles or one-twentieth of a meter is assigned by license to transCanada and British Empire relay work only, London, Whitehead (Ireland,) Halifax, Montreal, and New Zealand have been in regular weekly communication on this wave during the past few months.

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This winter the other British Dominions and Colonies have been using this wave length assignment for communication with Canada. The ‘All-Red Route’ is no longer a dream.

The Amateur in the Far North

TNURING the Great War, many amateurs—there were not very many in those days—enlisted in the radio divisions of the army, navy, air force and intelligence department. Here they were able to do good work, having been trained through a number of years of actual transmission and reception. The merchant marine of the country was in very great need of wireless operators, and the amateur came to the rescue wherever possible.

Since that time the government, whenever it has been in need of capable and properly qualified radio men, has sought them from the amateur ranks. The confidence that the government has in the amateur was shown beyond a doubt when the steamer Arctic, formerly on the annual run to the Far North, was equipped with amateur apparatus in 1924.

William Choat, of Toronto, was appointed operator. ‘Bil ’, then just twenty and only a year out of high school, was chosen because he knew more about' practical short wave radio than anyone else in Eastern Canada. From his home station he had made many records, notably his contact with Brazil and Surrey, England. Constant communication was not maintained throughout the trip, but it was far better than the contact had been in former years using the long wave commercial apparatus.

The following year, that is 1925, the Arctic sailed again for sub-polar regions this time with a Montreal amateur, Robert Foster, as operator. More elaborate equipment was taken, since developments in amateur radio of great magnitude had been made during the year. Lower wave lengths had been tried out and found useable.

Prior to the ship’s sailing, the following letter from Commander C. P. Edwards, Director of Radio at Ottawa, reached A. H. Keith Russell, the Canadian general manager of the American Radio Relay League:

‘Dear Mr. Russell:

‘The steamer Arctic being about to sail for Baffin Bay, I take advantage of this opportunity to again express the thanks of the Department to the Canadian Division of the A.R.R.L. for their co-operation in short wave tests last year, and express the hope that we will enjoy similar co-operation during the coming summer.

‘The Department, as an indication of its confidence in Canadian amateurs, does not propose to establish any station to work the Arctic, feeling that it can rely entirely on the amateurs to provide the service at this end.

‘We are once more sending a member of the Canadian Division as operator having accepted your recommendation of Mr. Robert Foster for this appointment.

‘Organization and pre-arranged schedules are essential for successful communication under the circumstances which will apply, and I am leaving this matter in the hands of yourself and Mr. Foster. The main point to be observed, and to be impressed upon the members is that every time there is a schedule it shall be somebody’s business to see that at least one station is standing by on the pre-arranged wave in each locality where you have good stations.

‘With best wishes for the continued success of the Canadian Division.

I am,

Yours very truly,

(Sgd.) C. P. Edwards Director—Radio Service.’

Next time you hear someone speak disparagingly of the amateur ‘hams’ of the radio world, just remember that letter.