Digital Books

I have one of the first edition Kindles that I’ve had since last year. Previously I was using the Sony Reader and enjoyed using it immensely. The Kindle offers the exact same reading experience but with a larger selection of titles to choose from. Jeff Davis, KE9V of Signal and Noise, has previously mentioned The Radio Boys – the title of a series of juvenile fiction books published in the 1920s. Believe it or not, many of their titles are available for the Kindle. I read one and it was pretty entertaining. Another recent find in the Kindle Store was the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. That’s pretty amazing as the Tolkien books have long resisted being available in digital format. As I’ve said above, I enjoy reading books on the Kindle and it is a huge space saver – but it does not work for me when I am using textbooks. I have found that when I am using a textbook, I need to physically make marks (highlights, underlining, stars, etc.) as well as notes in the margin – it helps me learn the material. Many of the eReaders allow you to make digital annotations… but that is not same (at least for me).


I’ve had QSOs with W1AW when they’ve been at the Dayton Hamfest as well as other locations around the country, but I had never logged the home station back in Connecticut. That is until I was on my way back from the National World War I Museum where we had an offsite class followed by a guided tour of the museum. I’d been to the museum twice before without a guide and it was great having a guide this time. Our seminar leader is a colonel in the German Army, one of our classmates is from the British Army, and our PhD for this block is from Australia – so it was great getting an international perspective to WWI. As Americans, we tend to be myopic about WWI, not realizing that we only entered at the very end of the war. While our contribution was critical, it was a small sacrifice compared to how Europe had suffered. The museum is excellent – half is devoted to the war before US entry and the other covering the American Expeditionary Force.

But I digress – yes… the QSO with W1AW. I was on my way back to Leavenworth from the museum in Kansas City and was tuning around 20M. Up pops W1AW, the guest op was Mark from southern California, with a booming signal. I got him on the second call and am now happily in the log.

I am looking forward to the arrival of my new QSL cards so I can send one out (along with the SASE) to get a QSL card from W1AW.

Combustible CW

I had a QSO the other day with a gentlemen who was using a Navy flame-proof key. I had heard of the flame-proof key and knew that it was a military straight key – but I never really thought about why it was called flame-proof. If you have a sending speed >50 wpm, do you need to worry about fire breaking out in the radio shack? Well… the real answer is a qualified yes. I found the answer while perusing the Western Historic RADIO MUSEUM’s web page.

Many of the military keys were used with transmitters that were cathode keyed and sometimes had significant voltage on the key itself. Also, other types of equipment may have voltage levels or current levels that could cause sparking when the key breaks contact. This could present a problem in areas where flammable fuel vapors might at times be present, such as airplanes, tanks or ships during or after an attack where fuel tanks or fuel lines may have been ruptured and leaking. The flame-proof key enclosed the contacts in a sealed chamber to prevent exposure of the possible sparking to any combustible vapors so it would be possible to radio for help. The J-5-A on the left is a Signal Corps key that was introduced in the thirties but was built for many years, in fact the one shown is from WWII – built by L.B. Brach Mfg. Co. The key in the center is a Navy flame-proof key, the CAQZ-26026 built by Brelco Co. The key on the right is a British “Bath Tub” flame-proof key that is made out of bakelite. The bale clamp holds the upper part of the key (which has all of the key parts) down into the tub. There are many other types of flame-proof keys but all accomplish the same thing, isolation of the key contacts to prevent exposure of possible sparking to a combustible vapor.

… I am curious if the military actually learned this the hard way, deciding to encase the contacts only after an explosion or fire had occurred.