The History Of Amateur Radio

This portion of my website was prepared with the help of Bill Continelli, W2XOY. Bill has prepared several articles in a series he calls "The Wayback Machine", in the hope to expand the knowledge of fellow hams, about Amateur Radio's unique and unchallenged history.

THE WAYBACK MACHINE #28    by Bill Continelli, W2XOY

Where were you in '62? Lets take a snapshot of amateur radio years ago.

In January, 1962, there was one word on the lips of every amateur, "OSCAR". No, I'm not talking about the Academy Award, but rather Orbital Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio. OSCAR I was launched on December 12, 1961. By today's standards it was extremely simple--a one cubic foot package containing a 2 transistor, 140 mw crystal controlled CW transmitter sending "hi" on 144.98 Mc. The beacon lasted only 3 weeks--long enough for thousands of hams to hear it. Amateur radio was now in the space age. Congratulations came in from Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Mrs. Lee DeForest--widow of the famous inventor. OSCAR I was followed in June by OSCAR II. Other notable 1962 space activities included John Glenn's first flight in February, and the Launching of Telstar--the first communications satellite--in the summer.

The amateur radio population hit two milestones in 1962. The number of hams passed the 250,000 mark by the end of the year, and membership in the American Radio Relay League hit 100,000. With the increase in the amateur census, the FCC was running out of "WA" prefix call signs in the 2nd and 6th Call Areas. Soon, "WB" call signs would appear. As for the ARRL, it was running out of space. The old building in West Hartford was filled to the rafters. So, the ARRL proposed a new Headquarters at the site of W1AW--225 Main St., Newington, Conn. The new building would cover 25,000 sq. ft.--vs. 14,000 sq. ft. for the West Hartford location. To finance the $250,000 cost, the ARRL started the Building Fund. They hoped to be in the new Headquarters by 1963.

On May 11, 1962, Herbert Hoover Jr., W6ZH, was elected President of the ARRL. Son of Herbert Hoover--the former President and Secretary of Commerce--W6ZH was famous in his own right as an inventor, Corporate President, and engineer. Licensed since 1915, he was active on all bands from 160 through 2 meters.

In regards to licenses, there was good news and bad news. The FCC decided in 1962 that an individual seeking an amateur or CB license no longer needed to have the application Notarized. No longer would you solemnly stand before a Notary Public, right hand raised, and swear that the application was accurate and complete to the best of your knowledge. Given the sorry state of some CB and ham frequencies, I, as a Notary, believe this requirement should be brought back. The bad news from the FCC- license fees. Public comment was solicited on the FCC proposal to institute license fees of between $5 and $10. The ARRL was strongly opposed to the idea.

For Technicians, 1962 was not a good year. A proposal to amend Part 12 to allow Technicians on 10 meters was denied by the FCC. The FCC strongly reinforced their policy that the purpose of this license was experimentation, not communication. The license was not designed for communications service, and was not to be regarded as a stepping stone between the Novice and General Classes. The ARRL supported the FCC decision. There was one bit of good news for Technicians--a new magazine called "VHF Horizons". The focus of this publication was ham radio above 50 Mc, and, for the first time in the amateur community, there were editorials in a national magazine supporting Technicians as full fledged hams. Unfortunately, after only 2 years, "VHF Horizons" ceased publication.

In technical areas, SSB was passing AM as the favored voice mode. Transistors now existed that could handle 2 watts or more above 50 Mc. As a result, many "all transistor" 6 meter portable units were described in the pages of QST.

For those who preferred kits or factory built equipment over homebrewing, there were lots of choices. Heathkit had the"Pawnee" and "Shawnee" 2 and 6 meter transceiver kits. These were AM/CW mobile units, which used 15 tubes and a vibrator power supply. Clegg and Gonset also had many 2 and 6 meter rigs, including the Clegg Zeus, a 6 and 2 meter transmitter for $675. Polytronics introduced the Poly-Comm 62, a dual band 6 and 2 meter transceiver for $379.50. For the HF operator, Johnson had a full Viking Line, including the Invader, a 200 watt CW/SSB/AM transmitter for $619.50, the Ranger, a 75 watt CW, 65 watt AM transmitter for $249.50, and the Adventurer, a 50 watt CW crystal controlled transmitter for only $54.95. Why don't you match your Viking transmitter with a Hammarlund receiver? Try the HQ180 for $429, or the HQ 170 for $379. By the way, Radio Shack carries the full line of Hammarlund equipment--at their 8 stores coast to coast.

Note that these are 1962 prices--multiply them by 4 to get today's equivalent. Adjusted for inflation, today's radios are 3 times cheaper than those of the 50's and 60's.

CB radio was booming in 1962. There were more CB'ers than hams, and an ugly rumor started that the FCC was going to give 10 meters to the CB crowd. The FCC put out an announcement that the rumor was 100% false. CB radios were everywhere--even in the pages of QST, tucked away in full page ads from Eico and Lafayette.

The National Calling and Emergency frequencies in 1962 were 3.55, 7.1, 14.05, 21.05, and 28.1 Mc for CW, and 3.875, 7.25, 14.225, 21.4, 29.64, 50.55, and 145.35 Mc for phone.

And, finally, CONELRAD was still alive at the beginning of 1962. Every ham had to monitor 640 or 1240 kc while on the air. However, the basis for CONELRAD was becoming obsolete and, on July 13, 1962, CONELRAD ended. It was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System.

In our next installment, we are going to look at CONELRAD, and the role it played in the lives of every amateur, CB'er, and U.S. Citizen. So, until then, keep monitoring 640 and 1240 kc, and remember to "Duck and Cover".

Copyright 1996, 2001, 2005 by William Continelli, W2XOY

All rights reserved.

These columns were originally written for the Schenectady Museum Amateur Radio Club.