December 1964 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
I have always
enjoyed the humor of wife's perspective on her husband's hobby-centric
proclivities, be they ham radio, model airplanes, hot rod or vintage cars, or
other such entirely worthwhile endeavors. Most times - as with this one - the
stories are written by wives, but sometimes they are written by the perpetrator
himself from what he perceives as the viewpoint of his wife (e.g., the
Kohler pieces). Other times the encounters are entirely fictitious - with
enough believability to make you wonder whether it is a true story,
where the names have been changed to
protect the innocent. In "The Wonderful World of Lids," which appeared in a
1964 issue of Popular Electronics magazines, ham radio aficionado Pheobus Sharney
demonstrates his obsession. Interestingly, he mentions the "American
Radiator Delay League," which was the title of a spoof article in the April
1933 edition of the American Radio Relay League's QST magazine. BTW, if
you don't know what a "lid" is, check out this article entitled "So You Want to Be a Lid," from
the September, 1978, issue of Ham Radio Horizons.
Transformer Winding Quiz
By Carroll Moon
What was Pheobus Sharney's strange preoccupation? Here, it stands revealed for
every YL to read.
I shall not reveal how I met Pheobus Sharney, nor why I have chosen to distinguish
him from the many others of his ilk by writing about him. Suffice it to say that
I am acquainted with a gentleman who is, believe it or not, a typical radio nut.
During the day he is employed in a computer foundry. There has always been some
question as to whether he simply tolerates the incessant pound, pound, pound of
square waves on the shore, or just considers it something that any red-blooded American
ham should do. For his spare time is spent in a like manner-sweating over a hot
cathode, oblivious to anything but ham radio.
Recently, I spent a soul-wrenching Sunday morning with him before the cyclotron
he sardonically calls his "linear amateur radio rig." "Let's try fifteen first,"
he said competently, although why he picked that particular number I will never
know. He twisted the dials, read the cyclotron's meters, and then a speaker began
to emit weird chirps and snorts. Finally, I began to distinguish voices speaking
some odd language that seemed to make sense to Pheobus.
"There's a contest on," he explained, "a big phone contest."
I've heard of endurance contests where people line up outside a phone booth to
wait for some teen-ager with a pocket full of nickels to get off the phone, but
this phone contest was a horse of a different color. Some loudmouth was shouting
something that sounded like "Seek you the axe, seek you the axe!", but this seemingly
strange advice was actually given in a Brooklyn accent that came out "Seek you de
axe!" I waited patiently for an explanation.
"You see," Pheobus began, "every so often an organization called the American
Radiator Delay League notifies all the gang that a phone contest will be held on
a certain date between such and such hours. There's one this weekend, and hams all
over the world are trying to contact other hams. The one who makes the most and
best contacts gets top honors. Some contacts count more than others, especially
de axe. Sometimes a real operator wins, but there are a lot of accomplished fakirs
in the ham world."
"What do they talk about?" I asked innocently. "They sound like they're fresh
out of the funny factory."
"Just lissen," Pheobus commanded. "I'll explain as we go along."
He twisted something called a "gain control" and another knob that was supposed
to multiply the Q, and a voice with a Spanish accent began shouting through the
"My number two you oh man is five zero, my report is are nine plus. Do you copy?
Do you copy? See oh eight are hell with kay eight bloozy, doozy, choosy . . . Come
in oh man!"
Pheobus turned off his standby in order to comment. "That's a Cuban ham talking
with a ham in our eighth district. He gave a contest number and signal report. Notice
how fast he's working. Wants to make as many contacts as possible before the show
He turned on the kilocycle control, only to find the Cuban still spouting. "O.K.
oh man. Thank you werry much. So long and best of lock in de contast. See oh eight
are hell is cue are zed on de band looking for any possibles. Kay somebody please."
Pheobus broke in over the noise. "He's telling any possible listeners who might
want to contact him that he's now ready to talk with them. That's what cue are zed
stands for. Now let's get up on the American part of the band and listen to the
lids up there ..."
"Scratch, squawk, zzzz . . . fine business zed ess two able baker. I'm running
50 watts on homebrew with a zepp outside the shack. How do you copy? Double you
four umptsy bumptsy whiskey over two zed ess two able baker victor."
Pheobus turned down the kilocycle control again and shook his head in disgust.
"That joker is running with damn near a full keg. He always pulls that crud on some
poor, unsuspecting foreigner. Last week he was bragging about his full keg and tribander
on an eighty-foot mast."
All I could envision was some guy living in a shack and drinking homebrew - a
whole keg of it-but what was a zeppelin doing parked at the eighty-foot mast outside?
"... I'm writing out your cue ess hell card right now old man, be sure to send
yours. Pea a zero alpha better papa. Your number is seventy-nine and your sigz are
nine plus. Do you copy? Kay a seven papa please America two pea a zero alpha better
papa. Come in oh m."
"That louse," Pheobus muttered, "hasn't got any cue as hell cards. Never had
any, but tries to collect all the foreign cards he can get. I heard him explain
it on the air last week. Thinks it's funny but it gives the rest of us American
hams a bad name."
The stand-near switch was thrown again, and Pheobus fiddled with the dials. Suddenly
a voice, speaking in an obscure Choctaw dialect grated through the speaker. "Single
Sideband," Pheobus observed.
I nodded in wonderment and awe, for how could he tell just by listening whether
Mr. Sideband was married or single? The voice became intelligible, interrupting
"Seek you, seek you. This is whiskey baker two yellow banana peel. Kay somebody
"I'll just give him a shout to see if the rig is working," Pheobus said hurriedly
as he twisted dials, threw meters, and stepped on the accelerator.
"Whiskey baker two yellow banana peel, this is kay two brown spotted zebra. What
say old man?"
"How do you know he's an old man?" I asked. "And is brown spotted banana peel
a code name?" Pheobus just grimaced and looked pained as he listened to his microphone,
waiting for a reply.
"Sorry brown spotted zebra," the voice came back. "I can barely read you-you're
way down in the mud ..."
Before I could ask him what this "mud" business was about, Pheobus went into
action. "Cue are X there, I'm running in my bare feet. I'm switching over to the
Pheobus' feet were not bare, but I thought it would be better not to remind him,
for he was in a frenzy. Lights came on, dials began to spin, and the air smelled
"How do you read me now, old man?" Pheobus asked the cyclotron.
"Sorry brown spotted zebra," said the voice. "Your sigz are three by four. Sorry
I can't stick around as I have a sked coming up with Yankee victor three papa whiskey,
and he'll be looking for me. Seventy-three. Kay two brown spotted zebra, whiskey
baker two yellow banana peel is cue are zed."
"Three by four!" Pheobus raged. "He must be using a crystal set. Why that lid
... I ought to ..."
When I left, Pheobus Sharney was seated morosely before his monster, staring
out into space and occasionally mumbling something that sounded like "lid." I have
pondered this term and the many others used during this strange, revealing session.
Dictionaries do not seem to carry them.
I can only conclude that radio hams live in a world of their own, and have invented
a special language to baffle casual intruders. To use their strange word of approval.
I call it "The Wonderful World of Lids."
Posted August 26, 2022