Tag Archives: vintage radio

St. Joseph, Missouri – The Patee House

This past Sunday, we decided to take a small trip north to St. Joseph, Missouri. St. Joe is full of history and one of my favorite places to go there is the Patee House Museum. Two parts of the museum I enjoy the most:

(1) A railroad telegraph office with a nice collection of telegraph keys




(2) An amazing display of vintage radios as well as an old amateur radio station







Julius B. Abercrombie, W0NH (ex 9NH) was a member of the Old Old Timers Club and first got on the air back in 1906! It looks like Julius was one of the original Midwestern Big Guns.

I really enjoyed his collection of convention pins (…open the image below to see the details of the pins)

History of Army MARS – can you help?

Since July I have been attending the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) here at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. SAMS is a 10 month course that “educates the future leaders of our Armed Forces, our Allies, and the Interagency at the graduate level to be agile and adaptive leaders who think critically at the strategic and operational levels to solve complex ambiguous problems”. The majority of our classes are focused on the study and application of the elements of national power, international relations, and operational design. The end result is a planner who spends a year on a division or corps staff helping to draft campaign plans for operations. One of the requirements for graduation is to write a monograph (like a master’s thesis) on a topic relevant to the military. I chose as a topic to write about the history of the Army’s Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS).

I’ve enjoyed researching the subject. Army MARS was officially constituted back in 1925 as the Army Amateur Radio System (AARS). I go a bit further back into history and trace the introduction of radio into Army use and then what circumstances brought about the requirements for the Army to want to organize something like the AARS.

Once organized, the AARS had a difficult start and then went through a fairly significant reorganization in 1929. There were a few reasons the Army wanted to establish the AARS. One was to extend the Army’s existing War Department Radio Net beyond the radio stations on Army installations to achieve a greater reach to all corners of the country. Knowing the limitations of wire (telephone and telegraph) communications during significant weather and natural disasters, the addition of AARS stations to the War Department Radio Net would help the local and Federal government better coordinate and respond to emergencies. The other major reason for the founding of AARS was to provide a pool of civilians trained in Army protocol for radio operations in case of a major conflict. The Army had learned from WWI that there was little time available to amass and train a significant force. Radio operators required specific skills which needed longer training. If a trained pool of operators was already in existence, it would make it that much easier to mobilize in case of general war.

AARS did serve as a benefit in providing communications during natural disasters. However, after the Pearl Harbor attack and the country began to mobilize, AARS literally evaporated. It was not used as a pool to draw from to bolster the Army’s Signal Corps. The organization basically ceased to exist until it was reconstituted as MARS some time after the conclusion of WWII. That is one area where I have been unable to find any definitive information as to why the Army chose not to draw from the AARS pool when they started full mobilization for WWII. And why was AARS abandoned and then another domestic organization (WERS – War Emergency Radio Service) stood up in its place? If you can help show me where I can find these answers, I’d greatly appreciate it.

ARRL and the amateur community had its own agenda in supporting AARS. Both before and after WWI, the amateurs (represented by ARRL) and the US government clashed over who should have privileges in the RF spectrum. The Navy was adamant about preventing the amateurs from retaining any RF privileges that might interfere with naval radio traffic. When the ARRL got the opportunity to affiliate with the US Army through AARS, they hoped it was an opportunity to help cement their hold over the amateur RF allocations by virtue of the proven service amateurs were providing the country.

It is an interesting topic and I am enjoying digging through old copies of QST as well a Army journals.

I’ve started writing and have my first 10 pages complete. I’ll post it here soon for comment.

If you have any specific knowledge of either AARS or MARS operation between 1925 and 1963, please let me know (scott dot hedberg at sign gmail dot com). I would enjoy getting some real history straight from a primary source.

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).

QSL Cards… what makes a winner?

My dad has recently upgraded to General and has been getting on the air making contacts. This isn’t the first time he’s been on HF or exchanged QSL cards. Back in his younger days, he held the call KN6ILL (I Love Lucy) and operated an HT-20 transmitter and a National NC-57 for a receiver with an 80 meter dipole. His license lapsed but now he is back in the game with an IC-718. He is making regular contacts using PSK-31 and has started to receive QSL cards. But he hasn’t made up his own cards yet. I figured I’d try an help with a rough draft – something to get the creative juices flowing.

KD6EUG_qsl_draft

Wikipedia defines a QSL card as a written confirmation of either a two-way radiocommunication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, or television station. A typical QSL card is the same size and made from the same material as a typical postcard, and many are sent through the mail as a standard postcard. QSL cards derived their name from the Q code “QSL”, which means “I acknowledge receipt.”

I really enjoy QSL cards, both receiving them in the mail from other hams verifying our QSOs and designing my own to send out as an acknowledgment of the contact on my end.

The appearance of your QSL card can be important for many. It gives the recipient a snapshot of you… and I find it difficult to do that on the small area provided by a 3.5″ by 5.5″ card.

The general agreed upon minimum elements of a QSL card are the following:
- Your callsign
- Basic information concerning the QSO
+ the other party’s callsign
+ time/date of contact in UTC/GMT/Zulu
+ band or frequency of the QSO
+ mode (SSB/CW/digital mode)
+ signal report (RST)
- Your name and mailing address

Additionally most hams include the following information which is useful for a number of different awards:
- County (for the county hunters)
- Grid (for the grid hunters)
- ITU and CQ zones

After that the door is wide open on what is found on a QSL card. Many include membership numbers which go towards earning awards (FISTS, SKCC, 10-10, etc.). Some also include one or more logos of clubs and organizations they belong to (ARRL, ARES, MARS, SKYWARN, contest club, local club, etc.).

Many hams like to individualize their QSL cards with a picture showing their hamshack, antenna farm, QRP rig, mobile setup. Others put a picture of a some notable location or landmark near where they live (National Park, major league stadium, civil war battlefield, etc.). And a few portray an additional hobby they are active in beyond (or complimenting) ham radio. This is where you can really set your card apart from others, make it stand out in a crowd.

I think some sound advise is to keep the card relatively clean and simple – don’t try to do too much in such a small space. Have fun and make your card something you are proud to share with others.

Here are some other sites with more information on QSL cards:
- eham.net: QSL Cards
- WA7S: QSL Cards – How to Make Your Own
- QSL Factory
- The QSL Man

Electric Radio – Celebrating a Bygone Era


I recently put in an order to AES for a few items I really didn’t need. Fortunately AES ships to APO addresses… while HRO does not. When stateside I prefer to order from HRO, having had great overall past experience with them. Quick delivery, no fuss, no muss. If I have a problem, I can call the store directly. I’ve also used HRO to give gifts (Father’s Day, Christmas, Birthday) to my dad, KD6EUG, and that has worked very smoothly. When I’m back visiting the folks in Sunnyvale, CA – I always try to stop by the HRO store there. It is near Fry’s Electronics – not far from Moffett Field. HRO also helped field the US Army Amateur Radio Society and the Baghdad Amateur Radio Society a complete radio setup, to include IC-7000, power supply, CW key, etc. HRO’s good people. However… they don’t ship to APO addresses, so I ordered from AES. Now AES will allow you to use a stateside billing address, but will send your order to the APO address. But here is the kicker – AES sends an invoice to your billing address… so the XYL gets it and finds out you have been ordering a bunch of stuff you don’t really need instead of saving money for our upcoming trip to Europe. But I digress. One of the items I ordered was the August 2007 issue of the periodical Electric Radio. What a wonderful little magazine! I’ve talked about other radio magazines in the past and lately I’ve taken a real shine to World Radio.

Electric Radio is a real jewel. Inside the front cover, the magazine states it’s intent upfront: Electric Radio is all about restoration, maintenance, and continued use of vintage radio equipment. So what does this have to do with me? I don’t restore or use vintage equipment. I wouldn’t know the difference between Collins, Drake, National, or anything other type of old, dusty metal cabineted stuff. Despite this, the magazine is still a joy to read. Page 2 talks about Electric Radio’s “Honor Your Elmer Contest” – how great of an idea is that?! Page 39 has an amazing article about the life of George Mouridian, W1GAC, SK. The magazine itself is the size of a church pamphlet with a nice sturdy color cover. The pictures inside are black and white – but what better captures the essence of classic radio than black and white photos. The gear is wonderful to see… massive tubes, huge dials, looks like some of the rigs could have easily of come from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. I probably won’t subscribe and you may not either – but I do recommend you pick up at least one copy to have a look for yourself.