Monthly Archives: May 2016

Battle of Jutland, 1916

HMS Queen Mary. Wikipedia photo.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, which took place May 31-June 1, 1916.

The battle between the German and British fleets in the North Sea was the largest naval battle of the war, and the only full-scale clash of battleships.  The German plan was to lure the British fleet on German terms, but the British got the upper hand largely because of intercepts of German radio signals.  Both sides ultimately claimed victory, but the loss of life on both sides was staggering.  British losses were 6784, and German 3039.

TownshendAmong the dead were numerous wireless operators, and they were eulogized in the August 1916 issue of Wireless World.  Among them was H.B. Townshend, wireless operator aboard the battle cruiser Queen Mary. He had passed the wireless examination at the age of sixteen, and was informed at the time that he was the youngest wireless operator in the Fleet.



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Memorial Day

The United States declared War on Germany on April 6, 1917. While the first American troops didn’t arrive in Europe until June of that year, this would be the last Memorial Day while America was still at peace. The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune a hundred years ago today, May 30, 1916:


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3QF, Merchantville, NJ, 1916


This drawing of a well equipped amateur station of a century ago appeared in QST, May 1916. It shows the station of J. Donald Haig of Merchantville, N.J.  The sketch, drawn by Mr. Haig, shows the sending set containing Leyden jar condensers, rotary spark gap, and large oscillation transformer.  The receiver is shown to the left.

QST didn’t give Mr. Haig’s call sign, but according to the 1916 call book, the call was 3QF, and the station was located at 118 E. Maple Avenue in Merchantville.


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1941 Aetna Model 421

19410528Seventy-five years ago, someone looking for an inexpensive radio could get one of these at Walgreen’s for $5.99. This is a bare-bones four tube superheterodyne sold under the Aetna name, which was Walgreen’s house brand, which could have come from a number of factories in the Chicago area. This ad appeared in the Milwaukee Journal, May 28, 1941.

The set appears to be Aetna model 421.  It tunes up to 1700 kHz, meaning it would tune the newly expanded broadcast band, as well as some police calls.  With the war less than a year away and the end of radio production, this set would probably remain in service for the duration.

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Stromberg-Carlson New World Console, 1946


Shown here from the May 27, 1946, issue of Life Magazine are newlyweds Sally and Ed enjoying their new Stromberg-Carlson New World console. The magazine advertisement describes it as one of the magnificent radio-phonographs as new in performance as in cabinet styling. The picture was just part of a short drama presented by the ad. Dad (apparently Sally’s father) was almost the forgotten man. Sally and Ed were about to be married, and Dad was resigned to the fate of fathers–paying the bills and keeping out of the way.

But then he remembered how much Sally enjoyed her smart little Stromberg-Carlson Vagabond portable. And then he thought about how much Ed loved music, and how fond he was of his own family’s recent purchase of a Stromberg-Carlson Empire console.

So Dad became the real best man by presenting Sally and Ed with their very own Stromberg-Carlson console. The ad reminded the reader that they could do the same and become the hero of any wedding, birthday, anniversary, or any other occasion.

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Lucile Fairbanks and GE Musaphonic Console, 1941


In May 1941, the American economy was beginning to boom. Radio Today magazine alerted radio dealers that business indexes were peaking, men were going back to work in increasing numbers, defense jobs were putting money into workers’ pockets. In short, people had money to spend and were earning it.

The magazine showed radio dealers how to go after this money. The magazine noted that extra shoppers were coming to town, and one of the radio man’s jobs was to get them next to bigger radios, like actress Lucile Fairbanks with the GE Musaphonic console shown here.

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1931 Electronic Television

1931ElectronicTVImageShown here is one of the very earliest examples of an image sent by electronic television. It appeared 85 years ago, in the May-June 1931 issue of Television News, in an article by Baron Manfred Von Ardenne, whom the magazine identified as the “famous European televsision expert.”

Von Ardenne noted that the cathode-ray tube had “long been proposed for television reception and has been used in many more or less successful laboratory experiments. In spite of these extremely
advantageous characteristics, television has thus far been obtained only with mechano-optical means.”  He then went on to discuss some of his improvements.

His system involved using a cathode-ray tube as part of the transmitter.  A film was placed between the tube and a photo-electric cell.  Thus, the tube in the camera could be synchronized with the tube in the receiver scanning at the same rate.  Depending on the configuration of the electronics, the resulting image would be either the positive or the negative of the original film.  A diagram of the system used for transmission is shown here:


Von Ardenne made the first public demonstration of this system in August 1931 at the Berlin Radio Show. He successfully transmitted pictures in 1933, and his system was used in the German television service starting in 1934. Regular broadcasting began in 1935 and continued throughout the war.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-K0917-500, Prof. Manfred v. Ardenne.jpg

Von Ardenne in 1930. Wikipedia photo.

After the war, von Ardenne made contacts with the Red Army and found his way to the Soviet Union, where he was made head of Institute A. He was initially asked to participate in the Soviet atomic bomb project, but declines, realizing that his participation would prevent his return to Germany. Instead, he worked on isotope enrichment. His work included development of an electron microscope, for which he was awarded the Stalin Prize. With the prize money of 100,000 rubles, he purchased the land for a private institute in East Germany, where he was allowed to return in 1954. From 1963 to 1989, he served as a member of the Volkskammer, the East German parliament.  At the time of his death in 1997, he held about 600 patents.

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WOW Omaha Turns 18, 1941

WOW1941Radio station KXSP, Omaha, first came on the air in 1923. The station is probably best known for the WOW call letters that it bore from 1926 to 1999, representing its owner, Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society. When it first came on the air, those call letters were not available, since they were assigned to the steamer Henry J. Bibble. Instead, the station signed on as WOAW. When that ship was scrapped in 1926, the station took over those call letters.

When the station reached the age of majority eighteen years later, it held a birthday party, and invited six young Omaha women who were born the same day. The six are shown here, and they are, from left to right, Blanche Zaloudek, Roslyn Levy, Jacqueline Giles, Helen Rummelhart, Elaine Kinzli and De Lorse McCarty. They appeared in the May, 1941, issue of the station’s program guide, Radio News Tower.

Seven years later, the young woman on the left had married, and was known as Blanche Howard. Her uncle, J.F. Zaloudek, died in Kansas without a will, and Blanche was one of the heirs. She inherited a portion of some property in Wilson, Kansas. Shortly thereafter, Blanche, along with one of the other heirs, was back in court. It turned out that her uncle had a judgment against his brother, another one of the heirs. She went to court to seek to enforce this judgment, and the case ultimately went to the Kansas Supreme Court. In its opinion in the case, Zaloudek v. Zaloudek, 171 Kan. 72, 229 P.2d 727 (1951), that court held that Blanche and the other heir didn’t have standing to revive the judgment against the brother.

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1936 Four Tube Portable


The family shown here is enjoying the radio during their picnic, courtesy of a four-tube superheterodyne portable built from plans in the May 1936 issue of Popular Mechanics.

The set used a 1A6 doing double duty as oscillator and mixer, with a type 33 serving as IF amplifier, type 32 detector, and type 33 audio amplifier driving a permanent magnet speaker. The A battery was 3 volts, dropped through a resistor for the 2-volt tubes. The set also used three 45 volt B batteries in series. The result was a set that was “not only handy for beach and picnic use, but also makes a fine battery set for homes not equipped with electricity.”

The set’s chasis was mounted vertically, with the speaker mounted at one end of the case.


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1941 National QSL Disc


Here’s an idea from 75 years ago that apparently never caught on. It’s a QSL “card” in the form of a recording disc. Using a recorder such as the Wilcox-Gay Recordio, the operator would record the other station’s signal. Then, the traditional QSL data would be written in with a “special marking ink.” The blanks were from the National Recording Supply Co. of Hollywood, California. The manufacturer promised “unlimited playback with wide frequency response and a minimum of surface noise.” The blanks retailed for a dime each. This example was shown in the May 1941 issue of Radio News.

The disc is marked “Copyright Pend. National QSL Disc.” The magazine’s April 1941 issue provided more detail. It noted that “recent developments indicate that many amateurs now possess recording equipment and, instead of the old-time postcard, now use a disc to record other amateurs’ talks and send them through the mails.”

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