August 1967 QST
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
RF Cafe visitor Kevin A., of Roanoke, VA, sent me this article
from the September 1972 edition of QST. He was motivated to
send it after reading some of the articles I posted from WWII
era QSTs. We can all probably relate a story similar to the
one told here. How many "Old Al" types - the antithesis of an
"Elmer" - are out there who knowingly or unknowingly frustrate
others from participating in an otherwise fun activity because
he insists on beating up on a trivial topic ad nauseam? You
can feel the angst in the author's voice while reading. Ray,
are you out there? Is this story real or fictitious? It could
easily be either.
9/5/2011 Update: "I believe the guy sitting on the floor
is Doug Blakeslee W1KLK holding in his hand a function generator
designed around an IC and the 'boat anchor' he's looking at
is probably the hollow state equivalent." - Kevin A.
by Ray Larson,·W0GHX
THE OTHER NIGHT I got on the air again after a QRT of about
eight years. A couple of weeks earlier. I had hooked up my old
receiver to a hay-wire antenna and had been listening around
the bands to see what was happening and to get my code speed
back up. I noticed that there are a lot more 89 signals and
electronic keyers on the-air than there used to be - often in
conjunction. After a couple of weeks of SWLing l couldn't stand
.it any longer. so I carried my exciter up from the basement
and put it alongside the receiver. The antenna seemed to load
up alright on forty. So, I got my old bug out of the closet
and was all set for a QSO.
I was tuning around the band looking for a victim when 1
came across a fist that sounded hauntingly familiar (it was
a bug, not a keyer). He was sending CQ on 7031 (my receiver
may be old but it's accurately calibrated), and when he signed,
sure enough, it was Al, W4. I quickly zeroed in and gave him
Even as I was calling I began to have misgivings. Old Al
was one of the reasons I had gone QRT, though in my excitement
I had forgotten it. It's not that Al was a bad guy, really,
But, he was the crotchetiest, orneriest. most reactionary old
geezer I had ever run into. Not just politically, mind you.
but in everything. And he was always a decade or so behind the
issues (if you can call the kicks he got on "issues"), Back
in the '60s he was denouncing the transistor, the one-piece
bathing suit (I doubt that he had heard of the two), SSB, the
automatic transmission, and the Lindy - demoralizing and un-American
influences all. He was the Archie Bunker of the airwaves. There
was absolutely no way to get him off a subject. You just had
to suffer. I tried to avoid him but he always seemed to find
me out. In self-defense I had. finally gone QRT altogether.
knows what he's into now," I thought as I began to sign, "probably
Goldwater's presidential campaign." I half hoped the antenna
wasn't getting out. I tried to console myself. "Maybe he's mellowed
with time," I thought, "and anyway. this time I won't let him
get to me, no matter what." I signed AR and turned up the receiver
Sure enough he came back. He remembered my name as though
our last QSO had been yesterday instead of eight years ago and
gave me my report - 459. In Al's tight-fisted world, this meant
I had a solid signal. The best I used to be able to get out
of him when I had the kilowatt connected to a dipole was a 349.
"Maybe he has mellowed," I thought. I gave him his
report and tried to avoid everything but the most uncontroversial
clichés. The weather should be safe: WX. HR COLD ES CLR - TEN
BELOW IN MPLS THIS AM.
QRG? was his only reply. Al was always laconic except when
it came to one of his pet topics.
That seemed harmless. "7031 kHz, I replied, rather proud
that I had kept up with the world enough to know that kc had
been replaced by kHz during my QRT.
The receiver went berserk. For a moment I thought that my
gain control had gotten noisy from being unused for so long.
But no, it was all right. Al was making spluttering noises.
His bug sounded like a demented cricket. I finally made out
some of it: ... SCHMERTZES - WHATS MY FREQ? FREQ MEASURED IN
CYCLES NOT BUSHELS CUBITS OR RODS - HERTZ RENTS CARS.
"My God!" I thought, "I've done it." 7031 kc , I replied
and then, instead of turning it back, I tried to change the
subject. I brought him up to date on my family, how my son was
ten now and playing the French horn in the school band. I hoped
Al didn't have anything against French horns.
He ignored it and went on with his harangue. He said that
a cycle is a phenomenon of the physical world, a Hertz a member
of the human world, and probably an immoral one at that. He
capped his outburst with this, QRSing to 20 wpm and carefully
spelling out each word:
a doleful old-timer named Gertz,
"I'm appalled that all cycles
kHz is a fright,
And MHz outta sight,
when I ride on my biHz it hurts!"
By now I was shaken and badly in need of a drink. I gave
him a rundown of my gear arid then went into a detailed description
of my antenna its exact resonant frequency (in kilocycles),
its length and the height at each end, in feet. Too late I realized
l might be in deep water there. I hoped he wasn't a metric nut.
But Al picked up his tirade where he had left off. A cycle,
he said; is a perfectly descriptive name for a thing that has
frequency, like a wave of water or energy. A Hertz, on the other
hand, is descriptive of nothing. It is the name of a family
- a foreign family. How would they like to be called
"Cycle?" They should have the decency not to foist their family
name off on a natural phenomenon, The silly thing, he continued,
is that everyone knows a cycle is really a cycle, they just
pretend it's a Hertz. And on and on. Then another limerick,
Said a cheeky YL name of Mavis,
"This Hertz thing is really
Number Two wasn't tough,
Or didn't try hard
Or kiloHertz would be called kiloAvis."
I replied that I was planning on putting up a real antenna in
the spring. What did he think about the relative merits of a.
dipole as compared to a ground plane on forty meters?
But Al wasn't about to be derailed. Measuring frequency in Hertzes,
he said, is like measuring time in Methuselahs or velocity in
Wright Brothers, because these people had something to do with
age and speed. CAN U IMAGINE DRIVING 60 WBPH? he asked, rather
rhetorically. Must we reHertz our used beer bottles? Will the
Pope start issuing enHertzicals? Can you feature looking things
up in the EnHertzopaedia Britanica? Are we going to be plagued
by eleven-year sunspot Hertzes and will scholars start ranting
about Hertzical history? Then he fell into his demented-cricket
swing again and, as ill luck would have it, the QSB was at the
peak of its Hertz and he was over S9:
Flattety-thrattety, it's a conspiracy,
crowding the air
Gone are the cycles that,
Used to remind us of Sophia, bare.
I pulled the big switch and went down for a drink. The next
day I carried my old receiver and the exciter back down to the
basement and put the bug back in the closet. They cluttered
up my study anyway. I really don't have room in the yard for
an antenna. Maybe in a few years...
Posted May 1, 2011