Tag Archives: W1AW

Wouff Hong

One of the most interesting and unique artifacts from the early days of radio was not powered by batteries nor did it have any electronic components. I far as I can tell, Radio Shack never stocked it on their shelves and you can’t order it from Ham Radio Outlet.

From the 1969 ARRL “Radio Amateur’s Operating Manual”:

Every amateur should know and tremble at the history and origins of this fearsome instrument for punishment of amateurs who cultivate bad operating habits and who nourish and culture their meaner instincts on the air…

This is the Wouff Hong.

It was invented -or at any rate, discovered- by “The Old Man” himself, just as amateurs were getting back on the air after World War One. “The Old Man” (who later turned out to be Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW, Co-founder and first president of ARRL) first heard the Wouff Hong described amid the howls and garble of QRM as he tuned across a band filled with signals which exemplified all the rotten operating practices then available to amateurs, considering the state of the art as they knew it. As amateur technology and ingenuity have advanced, we have discovered new and improved techniques of rotten operating, but we’re ahead of our story.

As The Old Man heard it, the Wouff Hong was being used on some hapless offender so effectively that he investigated. After further effort, “T.O.M.” was able to locate and identify a Wouff Hong. He wrote a number of QST articles about contemporary rotten operating practices and the use of the Wouff Hong to discipline the offenders.

Early in 1919, The Old Man wrote in QST “I am sending you a specimen of a real live Wouff Hong which came to light out here . . . Keep it in the editorial sanctum where you can lay hands on it quickly in an emergency.” The “specimen of a real live Wouff Hong” was presented to a meeting of the ARRL Board and QST reported later that “each face noticeably blanched when the awful Wouff Hong was . . . laid upon the table.” The Board voted that the Wouff Hong be framed and hung in the office of the Secretary of the League and there it remains to this day, a sobering influence on every visitor to League Headquarters who has ever swooshed a carrier across a crowded band.

The Old Man never prescribed the exact manner in which the Wouff Hong was to be used, but amateurs need only a little i
imagination to surmise how painful punishments were inflicted on those who stoop to liddish behavior on the air.

Read more about the Wouff Hong:

… and you can buy your very own miniature replica of the Wouff Hong in the form of a pin from ARRL. Now how cool is that?


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.

CW Practice

I’m continuing to try and improve my CW skills – primarily my ability to copy. Now I’m working with the MFJ-418 Morse Code / CW Tutor.

There’s a lot this little box does. It looks a little like the pager I used to carry in the mid 1990s. I was first introduced to this device by John, KE4UP. He hosted (along with Don, N4DJ) a CW class I participated in back in November/December of 2005. I had recently passed my 5 WPM test but wanted to get better at CW. During one of the sessions John brought in his CW Tutor and said it had really helped him. It is easy to use, easy to change the speed the code is sent. It will even send practice QSOs to copy. My goal is to pass the ARRL Code Proficiency at 25 WPM. I have a ways to go.

My new QSL card

… just waiting for them to arrive.

Decided to just use a one-sided card. This will let me write on the back, gives me the flexibility to talk about equipment used, etc. I really like the retro look – inspired by the cover of an old QST magazine and from these QSL cards:

Evolution and Respite… Announcing the 2006 ARRL Straight Key Night

From ARRL.org:
Recently I had the chance to talk with a group of amateurs at a local club. They ranged from old-old-timers to several still studying for their first license. As always seems to be the case, the topic of FCC’s NPRM eliminating the Morse Code requirement for amateur licenses came up. And true to form, the comments ranged from “it’s about time” to “how can they be so short-sighted?”

Regardless of your position, the important fact for CW enthusiasts is that the NPRM doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use the code if you choose. Radio communications have evolved a long way from the early spark-gap transmitters and their hand-created Morse code communications. Once in my life I would love to hear the electrical hissing of this unique ancestor of our current modern modes. It would be nice to see if you could really “smell” the signal in the air as “Old Betsy” (Hiram Percy Maxim’s name for his spark-gap radio, which is on display at W1AW) or its cousins literally lit up the ether. But alas, as this particular mode is no long permitted, it will have to remain a perception challenge for the imagination

At the beginning of each year many operators around the US, and world-wide, declare a respite from the technological evolution. They turn back the pages of modern operation and look towards our roots in this hobby — ARRL Straight Key Night. Some consider CW antiquated while others view it an outdated technology. But for many — old-timer and newcomer alike — it is a reliable friend. (And if you think it is a technology that has been replaced by Blackberry and text-messaging technology, did you see the “Old Timers” – Chip Margelli, K7JA and Ken Miller, K6CTW — smoke the world champion fastest text messenger on the NBC Tonight Show with Jay Leno back on May 13th 2005?)

In this era of digital communication, keyboarding, FM and electronic keys, once a year many excellent operators bring the past to the present and participate in the annual ARRL Straight Key Night. The object of this friendly event is to enjoy some good, old fashioned QSO fun, using straight keys. The emphasis is on rag-chewing rather than fast contest-type exchanges. SKN 2006 begins at 7:00 p.m. EST December 31 and runs for 24 hours through 7:00 p.m. EST January 1 (0000 –2400 UTC January 1, 2006).

In many circles SKN has been expanded to encompass vintage radio equipment as well. Reminiscing about their early days in our hobby, many operators use SKN as the “excuse” to refurbish their old Viking, Heathkit, or Scout. You will hear as many vintage radios on the air during SKN as you will variety of keys. And you will hear signals generated using old-fashioned bugs, a variation of the straight key. SKN is the time amateur radio recalls the past, transporting it to the present.

When participating in SKN 2006, instead of sending RST before sending the signal report send the letters SKN, to indicate your participation, and to clue in passers-by who may be listening that SKN is going strong. After SKN, send the Contest Branch a list of stations worked, plus your vote for the best fist you heard (it doesn’t have to be one you worked). Also, include your vote for the most interesting QSO you had or monitored.

Don’t forget to post your comments and interesting photographs from your SKN adventure to the ARRL Contest Online Soapbox at www.arrl.org/contests/soapbox Entries should be emailed to the Contest Branch at StraightKey@arrl.org or may be sent via regular mail to SKN, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. The Soapbox becomes an on-line album of stores and photographs to share with others.

Entries for SKN 2006 must be received by January 31, 2006. Votes for ‘Best Fist’ and “Most Interesting QSO” will be tabulated and included in the April 2006 issue of QST. If you have questions about SKN, please visit the Contest Branch Web Page at http://www.arrl.org/contests or contact contests@arrl.org

Last year we had 312 submissions for SKN — the most ever for Straight Key Night; from 45 states, 5 foreign countries, Puerto Rico, and 3 Canadian provinces. Why not dust off the key, clean the contacts and light up the ether with the beautiful melody of hand-created CW? Sweeter music is hard to find.

Morse Code… the saga continues

I’m making slow, steady progress learning Morse with the help of Ham University (see Oct 8). I’ve just started on lesson 23 – which means I have the following letters/characters to go: J, K, =, Q, X, /, V, Z, ?, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0.

ARRL’s station (W1AW) offers and over the air practice:
Slow Code = practice sent at 5, 7-1/2, 10, 13 and 15 words per minute (wpm).
Frequencies are 1.8175, 3.5815, 7.0475, 14.0475, 18.0975, 21.0675 and 28.0675 MHz.
Monday – 7pm
Tuesday – 10pm
Wednesday – 7pm
Thursday – 10pm
Friday – 7pm

The gameplan now is to take Element 1 (the Morse Code 5 WPM exam) on 22 October in Elizabeth City, NC – sponsored by The Albemarle Amateur Radio Society (TAARS).