History of Amateur Radio



"Ham: a poor operator. A 'plug." 

    That's the definition of the word given in G. M. Dodge's The Telegraph Instructor even before radio. The definition has never changed in wire telegraphy. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession.
   In those early days, spark was king and every station occupied the same wavelength-or, more accurately perhaps, every station occupied the whole spectrum with its broad spark signal. Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other's receivers. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful. Two amateurs, working each other across town, could effectively jam all the other operations in the area. When this happened, frustrated commercial operators would call the ship whose weaker signals had been blotted out by amateurs and say "SRI OM THOSE #&$!@ HAMS ARE JAMMING YOU."
   Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves in true "Yankee Doodle" fashion and wore it with pride. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared.
-Louise Ramsey Moreau W3WRE/WB6BBO


   The birth of amateur radio and radio in general was mostly associated with various amateur experimenters. There are many contenders to being the inventor of radio, that honor has been disputed between not only the original experimenters, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1888), Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi, but also Amos Dolbear, Reginald Fessenden, James Clerk Maxwell, Sir Oliver Lodge, Mahlon Loomis, Nathan Stubblefield, and Alexander Popov. In the beginning of 1895, Tesla was able to detect signals from the transmissions of his New York lab at West Point (a distance of 50 miles). Marconi demonstrated the transmission and reception of Morse Code based radio signals over a distance of two or more kilometers (and up to six kilometers) on Salisbury Plain in England in 1896. Marconi, by 1899, sent wireless messages across the English Channel and, according to his reports, the first transatlantic transmission (1902). Following Marconi's experiments (1900–1908) many people began experimenting with radio. Communications were made in Morse Code by use of spark gap transmitters. These first operators were the pioneers of amateur radio.

In 1910, the Amateurs of Australia formed the first radio society, now the Wireless Institute of Australia.

RMS Titanic (April 2, 1912).

   In 1912 after the RMS Titanic sank, the United States Congress passed the Radio Act of 1912 which restricted private stations to wavelengths of 200 meters or shorter (1500 kHz or higher). These "short wave" frequencies were generally considered useless at the time, and the number of radio hobbyists in the U.S. is estimated to have dropped by as much as 88%. Other countries followed suit and by 1913 the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was convened and produced a treaty requiring shipboard radio stations to be manned 24 hours a day. The Radio Act of 1912 also marked the beginning of U.S. federal licensing of amateur radio operators and stations. The origin of the term "ham", as a synonym for an amateur radio operator, was a taunt by professional operators.

    The origins of amateur radio can be traced to the late 19th century though amateur radio, as practiced today,did not begin until the early 20th century. The first listing of amateur radio stations is contained in the First Annual Official Wireless Blue Book of the Wireless Association of America in 1909. This first radio callbook lists wireless telegraph stations in Canada and the United States, including 89 amateur radio stations. As with radio in general, the birth of amateur radio was strongly associated with various amateur experimenters and hobbyists. Throughout its history, amateur radio enthusiasts have made significant contributions to science, engineering, industry, and social services. Research by amateur radio operators has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives in times of emergency.

   Radio Amateurs of Canada Inc was formed in 1993 through the merger of our two founding organizations - Canadian Radio Relay League and Canadian Amateur Radio Federation. Below are the key milestones in our development:

American Radio Relay League

1914 - The American Radio Relay League was formed.

1920 - The American Radio Relay League formed the ARRL Canadian Division.

1935 - ARRL developed what is now called the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), with some operations in Canada

1949 - ARRL created National Traffic System (NTS) for medium-haul and long-haul message handling, with some operations in Canada

Canadian Radio Relay League

1979 - Canadian Radio Relay League formed out of the Canadian Division of ARRL.

Canadian Amateur Radio Federation

1967 - Canadian Amateur Radio Federation was formed.

1973 - First issue of The Canadian Amateur under CARF.

Radio Amateurs of Canada

1993 - Merger of Canadian Radio Relay League with Canadian Amateur Radio Federation to form Radio Amateurs of Canada, Inc.

 The Radio Act of 1912

On May 18, 1912, Senator Smith introduced a bill in the Senate. Among its provisions (rather long) note a recommendation or rather a "command" for more security on ships, obliging for example maritime companies to engage up to three wireless operators per ship to ensure a 24-hour duty, a decision that was fully justified. To avoid "ownership" of the spectrum by the Marconi Company, Senator Smith wanted that licenses be now required, issued by the Secretary of Commerce. Each Government (Police, Forest, etc), Marine, or Commercial station would be authorized a specific wavelength, power level, and hours of operation. The initial legislation had considered the elimination of all private, non commercial stations, thus including amateurs.

At the first reading the Congress realized that it would be hard and expensive to verify its application.

An anonymous spark gap US hamshack starring a huge HV helical transmitting inductor. Take care OM, it's HV !

Since it was a "well known fact" that long wavelengths were the best to work, and that anything below 250 meters was considered "useless" except for local communication, a compromise was found. Amateurs received the 200-meter band and below (1.5 Mc and up), where they could work 40 km (25 miles) maximum. In fact Senator Smith thought that amateurs would die out in a few years by lack of means and support.

In retrospect the Government thought that the only really useful frequencies for long distance communication were the very low frequencies between 100-1000 Kc (3000-300 meters). Thus, this regulation offered to the ham community an apple for the thirst but not really a bandplan suited for experimentation, and their survive seemed to be a question of time. This is thus under these conditions edicted by a state monopoly and without dialogue that amateurs were relegated to the wavelengths of 200 meters and below (1.5 Mc and up), the equivalent of all the spectrum above roughly the AM broadcast band, generally thought useless for DX communications. In the new law administered by the Secretary of Commerce, amateurs considered as "private stations" were also limited to a maximum power of 1 kW.

At first, it appeared unfortunately that bureaucrats were correct. Before the Radio Act, there were an estimated 10,000 US amateur stations and still a handful outside the U.S.A. Now, there were only 1200 licenses issued by the end of 1912. Amateurs encountered difficulties to get their spark stations going on 200 meters, and, when they did, they discovered their maximum range was 40-80 km (25-50 miles) what reduced by ten the range they had on the shorter frequencies ! It seemed that there was no future for amateur radio. But "the air" doesn't make the song...

Fleming's vacuum diode, 1908.

Lee de Forest's triode vs. the King Spark

Hams had difficulties to get effective communications on 200 meters (and in fact on any wavelength) because the spark transmitter and the unamplified receiver were both extremely inefficient. There was well some shy development in the vacuum tube area but these devices cost a lot of money, they provided quasi no amplification, and were power hungry.

In 1908, after have invented the vacuum diode like the funny but operational one displayed at right, the Englishman J.A. Fleming developed the first triode but the device was not very efficient and expensive. Spark gap transmitters and crystal receivers reigned on the air until 1912, when a 22-year old amateur made an important discovery.

A thermionic triode or "button tube" switched on and standing on a superb blue socket. It was built by H.P.Friedrichs, AC7ZL, from the idea of Lee de Forest's Audion.

The american electrical engineer Edwin H. Armstrong bought a Lee de Forest's Audion of Old for his receiver. Unsatisfied with the poor amplification, he changed the circuit and "fed back" a portion of the output signal back to the input to get a re-amplification. Thanks to this stratagem he got an amplification factor 100 times stronger than the input ! Better, when there was much feedback, the tube began to oscillate, and thus generated stable RF.

This discovery permitted amateurs to use vacuum tubes offering a gain of 2000 times and more ! This solution placed immediately the "old" spark design to the back stage. Now a broad inefficient signal that took hundreds of Kc of bandpass, oscillated on a stable and pure frequency thanks to the modified Audion. The signal was so pure than a continuous wave could be emitted on one frequency rather than a broad and intermittent wave on almost all the spectrum. The "C.W." acronym was born and with it this revolutionary discovery revitalized the Phoenix; radio amateurs could survive and even grow !

Although Armstrong took more than 10 years to develop the stability of both transmitters and receivers for CW, realizing the importance of his "regenerative" design, but short of money to develop its invention, in January 1913 he took the wise decision to notarise his circuit.

In 1913, Lee de Forest improved the triode invented by R.von Lieben using a positive feedback, and quickly after AT&T developed the first vacuum tube repeaters for its new telephony network. But these triodes offered a low gain, about 20 times, and had unsollicited capacity.

To get greater amplification, additional grids were added to these tubes. Tetrodes come with 2 grids, the 2d being called the "screen" grid because it screens, or isolate, the control grid from the plate. Tetrodes produce output signals about 600 times greater than input, and pentodes, constituted of 3 grids, amplify the signal about 1500 times ! This time Lee de Forest's triode detroned the King Spark !

 The 1920s : The discovery of HF and DX communications (VI)

In 1921 it was asked to amateurs to organize the first wireless CW communication across the Atlantic to see how far a low power amateur signal could carry wavelenghts shorter than 200 meters (higher than 1.5 Mc). In fact the idea was not new. Remember that in 1901 Marconi did a first successful test between England and Canada using a spark gap transmitter. But this time it was a original test because amateurs used for the first time a tube transmitter.

After some unsuccessful tests, on November 15, 1921 the ARRL decided to send Paul Godley, 2XE, to Ardossan, Scotland, aboard the ocean liner "Aquatania" with state-of-the-art receiving equipment to listen for amateur signals from the United States. On December 7 the equipment was set up under a tent on the coast of Scotland. With his official witness called a "checking operator" D.E. Pearson of the Marconi Marine Communications Company, Paul waited until midnight with the hope that the propagation should be open to the United States.

At left on November 15, 1921 the ARRL sent Paul Godley, 2XE, to Ardossan, Scotland, to listen for amateur signals from the United States. At right Fred Schnell, 1MO, and Hiram Percy Maxim, W1A, listening to Europe.

Then at 1:42 UTC Paul heard the first CQ and the call sign 1AAW rising out of the static. In the next hours and days he would hear more than 30 amateurs signals from the US, the stronger coming from a special transmitter used by 1BCG located near Greenwicht, Connecticut. At last the first one-way transatlantic transmission was established ! Hearind so many signals from the US, Paul regretted not having a transmitter to reply them. He wrote in his journal , "I would give a year of my life for a 1-kW tube transmitter [...] To be forced to listen to a Yankee ham and only listen is a hard blow".

But Marconi could be pride, his invention exceeded all his hopes. Hams had covered a distance of about 5000 km (3100 miles), and it was only a beginning...

On November 27, 1923, at about 21:30 UTC John L. Reinartz, 1XAM and Fred Schnell, 1MO, in USA made the first two-way contact with the French Léon Deloy, 8AB, on the wavelength specially authorized of 110 meters (2.72 Mc) for this event. In the following months a ten of European and American amateur stations confirmed a transatlantic QSO by means of shortwaves.

This time the triumph was complete. Amateurs proofed that the "useless" 200-meter band could carry signals across the ocean, even using amateur and low power equipment. They demonstrated also the superiority of CW over spark, all the signal energy being concentrated in a narrow spectrum, signals could be heard across much greater distances. These events marked the close of the spark era.

The good news travelled around the world at the speed of shortwaves. Within a year, amateurs had communicated with most continents : there was QSOs worked between North and South America, South America and New Zealand, North America and New Zealand, and between Europe and New Zealand. The quest for DX stations was born ! In a few years more than 60 countries were active on the air. Like ragchewing between hams at short distance, the DX hunting was entered in habits.

Marconi House, 2LO, at The Strand, London, in 1923. Look at all those dipoles on the roof. Suspect isn't it ? Don't worry, they're Marconists !

In 1926, Brandon Wentworth, 6OI achieved what was considered at that time as the "ultimate DX", work all continents from his base station in California; the first WAC award was born, but not released until 1930. The next year Hiram Percy Maxim, now 1AW and the ARRL organized the first international DX-party, the precursor of international DX contests.

Like in 1894 when Marconi believed that he could pass over the sea using shortwaves, and succeeded, 30 years later amateurs demonstrated that ionospheric refraction (waves enter into the ionospheric layers and are then reflected to the ground) could enable worldwide communication by shortwaves. Experimented amateurs confirmed that using high frequencies (HF) between 3-30 Mc long distance communications could be established at any time of the day or the night when propagation conditions are open. In addition, in the 1920s the price of the vaccuum tube continued to drop, and amateurs can now use transmitters of low input power, giving up the huge kilowatts transmitters to AM broadcasters who worked at the lower frequencies. Now that Marconists occupied the long wave bands and radio amateurs had been relegated to the short waves, some kind of peace between the different services ended to reign on the bands. But in all cases this venture showed to the world all the utility of shortwaves.

First taxes on radio licenses

Belgium was one of the first country that, in accordance with the law of 1920, allowed to each citizen to get the permit to own a receiver for a tax of 10 francs ($0.25) per station.

This is only in 1926 that the belgian government released the first emitting licenses, of course accompanied with a tax varying according the emitting power. The first calls begin with "EB", standing for "Europe Belgium", followed with the number 4 and two letters (e.g. EB4CQ). This prefix last until the 1929 Washington Conference.

This is at the same time that in most countries we saw the birth of first radio clubs which members met in private houses or in clubs.

Birth of the RSGB

On November 11, 1922, the Wireless Society of London founded in 1913 was changed to the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). In 1929 the government decided that existing licences to transmit were terminated, and that all amateurs have to use the new prefix G, as was the need to measure the sending frequency to a greater degree of accuracy. This led to the non-renewal of some of the Old-Timers' calls. It was estimated that of the previous total of 1,500 licenses, only 900 had been renewed in the U.K.

First alphabetic prefixes assignation

After the Great War it appeared some problems in assigning US call signs, specially to foreign stations, there was also a difference between land and sea stations, experimental and training stations requested to be identified, and there was a lack of vowels as well as other constraints.

L.A.Corridon from US Department of Commerce explaining the new assignation of K and W prefixes to radio stations.

In 1922, the first 4-letters calls were distributed to US broadcasters while amateurs continue using a call constituted of a number and two or three letters. The Department of Commerce assigned K and W prefixes to all stations, dividing the country in relation to the eastern borders of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. It is only in January 1923 that the border was moved to the Mississippi that cut practically the land in two equal parts from north to south : all stations west of the river were assigned the K letter, all stations at east, W. By a strange mystery ship stations in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico were assigned a K prefix while all ship stations in the Pacific area were assigned W, a way maybe to not confuse land and sea stations.

In 1927, All US amateurs added a "W" or a "K" in front on their call depending on the area in which they lived. ARRL HQ emitted first with the call 1MK then received the call W1MK until they change for W1AW when they moved to Newington, CT, a call always used nowadays for his club operations.

From 1929 all countries members of ITU had to revise their call signs in adding a national prefix in respect with acts signed at the Washington Conference that sit between December 10, 1928 and January 5, 1929. United States received letters A, N, W and KDA to KZZ, Germany (Deutschland) received letters DAA to DQZ, France and colonies received the letters FAA to FZZ, all Great Britain received letters G and M. R was assigned to all Russia, LXA to LZZ to Bulgaria, ONA to OTZ to Belgium and colonies, etc. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg that was assigned the letters EX in 1913 asked "L" as second letter. It received UL then LX after WW II.

Call signs assignation

What about the call signs assigned to the other services ? This is ITU that manages the prefix attribution to each country but each national administration (FCC, ART, IBPT, etc) assigns informally and without official coordination his range of call signs, including vanity and custom call signs. So in the field, until the end of World War II, all USA stations were assigned W prefixes. K prefixes were used in US possessions (Puerto Rico, Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, etc.). This is only in the 1950s that FCC assigned the K prefix to US hams when the W calls ran out, then they eventually respected the country map edicted tirthy year earlier.

The U.S.A. are one of the scarce countries to assign call signs to broadcasters. With the use of new technologies, most broadcasters kept their 4- or 5-letter call sign but are allowed to use the abbreviation of the mode in their suffix, like -FM (working on FM), -LP (low power), -TV (television), -DT (digital TV), etc.

It is very hard to find QSLs exchanged before the mid 1920s. From left to right 9AAU's QSL 1923; 8AQM's QSL 1928 and W1MK, ARRL's QSL 1931.

There is however one exception. Some broadcasters use a trade name (e.g. Voice of America, etc). Dan Ferguson, from the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), Spectrum Management Division, remind us that in the U.S.A, the FCC oversees the operations of private sector international broadcasters, and assigns them 4 character alphabetic call signs. Operations of a station like "Voice of America" (VOA) and similar international services are the responsibility of the Spectrum Management Division of the IBB (set up in 1994) and do not fall under the regulatory authority of the FCC.

In the '50s, broadcasts were transmitted from facilities in the U.S.A. owned by private entities. Those private owners were regulated by the FCC, and operated under FCC assigned call signs (e.g. Bound Brook, New Jersey, call WBOU). By 1965 all domestic facilities used for VOA broadcasts were government owned. This explain why they no longer operated with call signs - all programs were identified with a Voice of America announcement.

At last, in the U.S.A. assignment of radio frequencies to government stations is managed by the Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC). When assigning frequencies that are shared with (or primarily used by) civilians, like broadcasting channels, they cooperate with the FCC. Stations used for military two-way communications are assigned call signs by the military. These call signs are often assigned by officers in the field, for tactical reasons.

Aug.1929 issue of QST dealing with mobile activities.

Abroad, the assignation of calls to governmental stations is completely different. In the U.K. for example like in many other european countries, this the MoD who has the general responsibilty for all military radio communications, but with the exception of certain (mostly) naval units, there are no permanent military radio call signs, and operational call signs are issued on an 'ad-hoc' basis.

Birth of mobile, 5 meters and up

By the mid '20s a few amateurs ventured onto the new 5-meter band between 65 and 75 Mc that was just open to amateurs. In March 1925 they received also a small segment in the 75-cm band (400-401 Mc). Quickly QST's Technical editor's Robert S. Kruse wrote numerous articles dealing with equipment and antennas suited for UHF frequencies. This is also at that time that amateurs put their first transmitter and receiver in their car and work mobile.

By March 1927 repeated QSOs occured on 5m between 2EB in New York City and 2NZ in New Jersey, some 24 km away (15 miles). It was not a great distance yet but QST reported this first two-way contact. In June the barrier of 1000 miles (1609 km) what broken. On June 11-12, 1927 ARRL sponsored the first 5 meter CQ Party.

By the end of the decade amateurs were permitted to work on wavelengths from 160 through 5 meter, and 75 cm.

Birth of JARL

In the country of the rising sun, like everywhere the first amateurs where unlicensed and started their experiments and research by 1925. In 1926, a group of 37 radio amateurs founded the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL). Next year Kankichi Kusama, JXAX, received the first Governmental license. Within the year about 10 private experimental telegraphy/telephony licenses were released. From then on, the experimental radio stations were subject to strict regulation about frequencies ranges, power output, and operating procedures.

In 1929, call signs J0 through J9 were allocated by district, and JARL issued his first bulletin, "JARL NEWS". This is in 1934 that IARU admitted JARL as an affiliated member. We will come back on the activities of JARL during war.

The ham spirit and the Art of radio

The hearth of the ham spirit began to beat in 1928 when Paul M.Segal, W9EEA, suggested, to reinforce the ham community, to publish a code of ethic that the amateur radio should be pride to respect. His moral code was soon printed in the introduction page of the "ARRL Handbook for the Radio Amateur", and states that an amateur radio is :


...never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.


...offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, and his or her national radio amateur association.


...with knowkedge abreast of science, a well-built and efficient station and operation above reproach.


...slow and patient operating when requested; friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; kindly assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interest of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.



...radio is an avocation, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school, or community.

...station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

If this code of ethic is always in application, since the late of the years 1970s and the fast growing of many new technologies (repeaters, computers, space communications, packet, clusters, etc) there are too many situations where the ham spirit is debased. Many young amateur radio operators lack of consideration for the other OM, some OT refuse or almost to make QSO if you do not count among their "friends" while on weekends or during pile-ups many operators lack of patience and use coarse words on the air. It is great time to come back to origins of the ham spirit if we don't want to loose all the interest of this activity ! Hopefully, some amateurs more diplomatic than others, radio clubs and ham magazines try to inculcate the principle of the ham spirit and the "Art of radio" to the newbies. The baton is in good hands.

The Belgian Network and the first Belgian Radio Clubs

In 1914, the famous Paul de Neck, future ON4UU, Robert Deloor, P2 then ON4SA, Joseph Mussche, ON4BJ then ON4BK, G. Pollart, D2 then ON4BY, Couppez, W2, and Haumont, B7, met in the house of the "Cercle belge d'études radioélectriques" (CBER) in Brussels to share their interest for the amateur radio. In 1922, they decided to take for name the "Réseau des Deux" (Network of 2) like there was a "Réseau des Huit" (Network of 8) in France by reference to their first call signs. In 1932, on G.Pollart's initiative, the network was dissolved and they founded the Belgian Network, aka "Réseau Belge" (RB). The RB published its first magazine QSO in February 1926. At that time the association gathered 220 members and many of them had already made contacts with stations worldwide. The association was officially set up in a non-profit organization (ASBL) in 1932.

The shack of Paul de Neck, ON4UU, President of the Réseau Belge in 1934. Document UBA.

Meanwhile, between the two wars, the first belgian radio clubs were founded in most large cities of Belgium : Brussels, Ghent, Louvain, Charleroi, Brugge, Verviers, Knokke, etc. In 1924 these different clubs founded the Union des Radio Clubs de Belgique (URCB), which secretary was located at the home address of comte de Liedekerke, ON4DL. The URCB became an ASBL in 1932. Its President was Paul de Neck, ON4UU.

At that time the mission of these clubs was to build receivers to pick up transmissions of time signals and weather bulletins as well as to perform the first radio transmissions. The first amateurs picked up emissions from Tour Eifel in Paris, the one from Scheveningen, Nordeich, etc, and later the first experimental transmissions from Haren air field, EB4BVA, and the ones from the Royal Palace of Laeken. The URCB published also a magazine called CQ.

In 1932, the headquarters of the URCB and RB were located at the same place, at ON4DL's home address. Both associations merged to become the Union Belge des Amateurs Emetteurs (UBA), the belgian IARU society, on December 1, 1946. On June 1947 the magazines of both associations merged also to become CQ-QSO. However the UBA will receive its own transmitter and radio shack only ten years later, during the Brussels Universal Exhibition of 1958 thanks to military surplus.

Birth of three majors : IARU, FCC and CCIR

Three other events must also be highlighted. Between April 14-19, 1925 about 200 delegates from 23 countries met Paris, France and founded the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), to be the "watchdog" as they still write, and the spokesman for the world amateur radio community.

IARU was organized for better mutual use of the radio spectrum among radio amateurs throughout the world, to develop amateur radio worldwide, and to successfully interact with the agencies responsible for regulating and allocating radio frequencies.

Since that time, at each World Radio Conference (WARC then WRC) IARU negociates hardly with all users of the spectrum to preserve our privilege of using two-way amateur radio communication. Their fight is never won in advance.

Even between members of the IARU there are conflicts... Take for example the very short 30m band which is subject to many conflicts from some national administrations who seem not to understand that IARU was established to protect their interests and the ones of the amateur community, not to manage conflicts between administrations. I am not sure that Hiram Percy Maxim would appreciate their attitude. Refer to the next insert for more detail.

At left Guglielmo Marconi at work, probably in the 1910s. At right Hiram Percy Maxim in 1924, co-founder of ARRL and IARU.

But the problem is not new. Yet in the 1920s, in the U.S.A. the broadcast industry suffered of a deep lack of legislative authority and was in total chaos. To solve this the Congress passed a new Radio Act in 1927 and created the Federal Radio Commission, FRC. It was renamed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by the Communications Act of 1934 as it had to include not only radio communication but also the recent television.

Today FCC is in charge with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions. His foreign equivalent are OFTEL in United Kingdom, ART in France, RTP in Germany, IBPT in Belgium, AGC in Italy, or MCI in Russia.

In 1927, the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) was established at the Washington Conference. The International Telephone Consultative Committee (CCIF set up in 1924), the International Telegraph Consultative Committee (CCIT, set up in 1925), and the CCIR were made responsible for coordinating the technical studies, tests and measurements being carried out in the various fields of telecommunications, as well as for drawing up international standards. The ITC (future ITU) headed all committees.

The crash of Wallstreet in 1929.

The 1929 crash. Document Library of Congress.

The Crash of 1929

Unfortunately in 1929 our grandparents were the witness of the world largest economic crash. The depression was so wide, so deep and so long that hundreds of US banks and mutualities closed, and tens of millions people lost their job and became homeless in the U.S.A.. Europe suffered a bit less of this situation but the time was not to the fun.

This crash occured because the international economic system was, for short, rendered unstable by British inability and United States unwillingness to assume responsibility for stabilizing it due to three main factors. First they refuse to maintain a relatively open market for distress goods (for financial reason they told), then they refuse to provide counter-cyclical long-term lending; and third, they refuse discounting in crisis. The world was subject to a first shock caused by the overproduction of certain primary products such as wheat, then there was a reduction of interest rates in the United States in 1927, added to the halt of lending to Germany in 1928. These shocks were handled in the stock-market break in the spring of 1920 and the 1927 recession in the United States, but this time the world economic system was too unstable unless some country stabilized it. But Britain had done in the nineteenth century and up to 1913. In 1929, the British couldn't support the charge and the United States wouldn't.

When every country turned to protect its national private interest, the world public interest went down the drain, and with it the private interests of all.

On October 29, 1929, it was the crash. The first financial "Big wave" stroke. The "Black Tuesday" entered in the History, setting off officially the Great Depression of the years '30s in North America. For a while the largest part of the mankind didn't believe any more in his capacity of invention and of work, but slowly, with tears, sweat and much suffering he succeeded to overcome these difficulties.

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 Todays Amateur Radio

    Amateur radio is a hobby with many facets and thus attracts practitioners with a wide range of interests. Many amateurs begin with a fascination of radio communication and then combine other personal interests to make pursuit of the hobby rewarding. Some of the focal areas amateurs pursue include radio contesting, radio propagation study, public service communication, technical experimentation, and computer networking.

   Amateur radio operators use various modes of transmission to communicate. The two most common modes for voice transmissions are frequency modulation (FM) and single sideband (SSB). FM offers high quality audio signals, while SSB is better at long distance communication when bandwidth is restricted.

   Radiotelegraphy using Morse code (also known as "CW" from "continuous wave") is an activity dating to the earliest days of radio. It is the wireless extension of land line (wire based) telegraphy developed by Samuel Morse and was the predominant real time long-distance communication method of the 19th century. Though computer-based (digital) modes and methods have largely replaced CW for commercial and military applications, many amateur radio operators still enjoy using the CW mode, particularly on the shortwave bands and for experimental work such as earth-moon-earth communication, with its inherent signal-to-noise ratio advantages. Morse, using internationally agreed message encodings such as the Q code, enables communication between amateurs who speak different languages. It is also popular with homebrewers as CW-only transmitters are simpler to construct. A similar "legacy" mode popular with home constructors is amplitude modulation (AM), pursued by many vintage amateur radio enthusiasts and aficionados of vacuum tube technology.

   Demonstrating a proficiency in Morse code was for many years a requirement to obtain amateur licenses for the high frequency bands (frequencies below 30 MHz). Following changes in international regulations in 2003 countries are no longer required to demand proficiency. The United States Federal Communications Commission, for example, phased out this requirement for all license classes on February 23, 2007.

   Modern personal computers have encouraged the use of digital modes such as radioteletype (RTTY) which previously required cumbersome mechanical equipment. Hams led the development of packet radio in the 1970s, which has employed protocols such as AX.25 and TCP/IP. Specialized digital modes such as PSK31 allow real-time, low-power communications on the shortwave bands. Echolink using Voice over IP technology has enabled amateurs to communicate through local Internet-connected repeaters and radio nodes, while IRLP has allowed the linking of repeaters to provide greater coverage area. Automatic link establishment (ALE) has enabled continuous amateur radio networks to operate on the high frequency bands with global coverage. Other modes, such as FSK441 using software such as WSJT, are used for weak signal modes including meteor scatter and moonbounce communications.

   Fast scan amateur television has gained popularity as hobbyists adapt inexpensive consumer video electronics like camcorders and video cards in PCs. Because of the wide bandwidth and stable signals required, amateur television is typically found in the 70 cm (420 MHz–450 MHz) frequency range, though there is also limited use on 33 cm (902 MHz–928 MHz), 23 cm (1240 MHz–1300 MHz) and higher. These requirements also effectively limit the signal range to between 20 and 60 miles (30 km–100 km). The use of linked repeater systems, however, can allow transmissions across hundreds of miles.

   These repeaters, or automated relay stations, are used on VHF and higher frequencies to increase signal range. Repeaters are usually located on top of a mountain, hill, or tall building and allow operators to communicate over hundreds of square miles using a low power hand-held transceiver. Repeaters can also be linked together by use of other amateur radio bands, landline, or the Internet.

NASA astronaut Col. Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC, Expedition 24 flight engineer, operates the NA1SS ham radio station in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station. Equipment is a Kenwood TM-D700E transceiver.

   Amateur radio satellites can be accessed, some using a hand-held transceiver (HT), even, at times, using the factory "rubber duck" antenna. Hams also use the moon, the aurora borealis, and the ionized trails of meteors as reflectors of radio waves. Hams are also often able to make contact with the International Space Station (ISS), as many astronauts and cosmonauts are licensed as amateur radio operators.

   Amateur radio operators use their amateur radio station to make contacts with individual hams as well as participating in round table discussion groups or "rag chew sessions" on the air. Some join in regularly scheduled on-air meetings with other amateur radio operators, called "nets" (as in "networks") which are moderated by a station referred to as "Net Control". Nets can allow operators to learn procedures for emergencies, be an informal round table or be topical, covering specific interests shared by a group.



The top of a tower supporting a yagi and several wire antennas
A handheld VHF/UHF transceiver



   In all countries that license citizens to use amateur radio, operators are required to display knowledge and understanding of key concepts. This is usually done by passing an exam; however some authorities also recognize certain educational or professional qualifications (such as a degree in electrical engineering) in lieu. In response, hams are granted operating privileges in larger segments of the radio frequency spectrum using a wide variety of communication techniques with higher power levels permitted compared to unlicensed personal radio services such as CB radio, Family Radio Service or PMR446 that require type-approved equipment restricted in frequency range and power.

   In many countries, amateur licensing is a routine civil administrative matter. Amateurs are required to pass an examination to demonstrate technical knowledge, operating competence and awareness of legal and regulatory requirements in order to avoid interference with other amateurs and other radio services. There are often a series of exams available, each progressively more challenging and granting more privileges in terms of frequency availability, power output, permitted experimentation, and in some countries, distinctive call signs. Some countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have begun requiring a practical training course in addition to the written exams in order to obtain a beginner's license, called a Foundation License.

   Amateur radio licensing in the United States serves as an example of the way some countries award different levels of amateur radio licenses based on technical knowledge. Three sequential levels of licensing exams (Technician Class, General Class and Amateur Extra Class) are currently offered, which allow operators who pass them access to larger portions of the Amateur Radio spectrum and more desirable call signs.

   In some countries, an amateur radio license is necessary in order to purchase or possess amateur radio equipment. An amateur radio license is only valid in the country in which it is issued, or in another country that has a reciprocal licensing agreement with the issuing country.

   Both the requirements for and privileges granted to a licensee vary from country to country, but generally follow the international regulations and standards established by the International Telecommunication Union and World Radio Conferences. In most countries, an individual will be assigned a call sign with their license. In some countries, a separate "station license" is required for any station used by an amateur radio operator. Amateur radio licenses may also be granted to organizations or clubs. Some countries only allow ham radio operators to operate club stations. Others, such as Syria and Cuba restrict all operation by foreigners to club stations only. Radio transmission permits are closely controlled by nations' governments because clandestine uses of radio can be made, and, because radio waves propagate beyond national boundaries, radio is an international matter.

 Licensing requirements

   Prospective amateur radio operators are examined on understanding of the key concepts of electronics, radio equipment, antennas, radio propagation, RF safety, and the radio regulations of the government granting the license. These examinations are sets of questions typically posed in either a short answer or multiple-choice format. Examinations can be administered by bureaucrats, non-paid certified examiners, or previously licensed amateur radio operators.

   The ease with which an individual can acquire an amateur radio license varies from country to country. In some countries, examinations may be offered only once or twice a year in the national capital, and can be inordinately bureaucratic (for example in India) or challenging because some amateurs must undergo difficult security approval (as in Iran). A handful of countries, currently only Yemen and North Korea, simply do not issue amateur radio licenses to their citizens, although in both cases a limited number of foreign visitors have been permitted to obtain amateur licenses in the past decade. Some developing countries, especially those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, require the payment of annual license fees that can be prohibitively expensive for most of their citizens. A few small countries may not have a national licensing process and may instead require prospective amateur radio operators to take the licensing examinations of a foreign country. In countries with the largest numbers of amateur radio licensees, such as Japan, the United States, Canada, and most of the countries in Europe, there are frequent license examinations opportunities in major cities.

   The granting of a separate license to a club or organization generally requires that an individual with a current and valid amateur radio license, who is in good standing with the telecommunications authority, assumes responsibility for any operations conducted under the club license or club call sign. A few countries may issue special licenses to novices or beginners that do not assign the individual a call sign, but require the newly-licensed individual to operate from stations licensed to a club or organization for a period of time before a higher class of license can be acquired.

 Reciprocal licensing

Reciprocal Agreements by Country
CEPT Member Nations
IARP Member Nations
Members of CEPT and IARP
USA and Canada Treaty, CEPT and IARP

   A reciprocal licensing agreement between two countries allows bearers of an amateur radio license in one country under certain conditions to legally operate an amateur radio station in the other country without having to obtain an amateur radio license from the country being visited, or the bearer of a valid license in one country can receive a separate license and a call sign in another country, both of which have a mutually-agreed reciprocal licensing approvals. Reciprocal licensing requirements vary from country to country. Some countries have bilateral or multilateral reciprocal operating agreements allowing hams to operate within their borders with a single set of requirements. Some countries lack reciprocal licensing systems.

   When traveling abroad, visiting amateur operators must follow the rules of the country in which they wish to operate. Some countries have reciprocal international operating agreements allowing hams from other countries to operate within their borders with just their home country license. Other host countries require that the visiting ham apply for a formal permit, or even a new host country-issued license, in advance.

   The reciprocal recognition of licenses frequently not only depends on the involved licensing authorities, but also on the nationality of the bearer. As an example, in the US, foreign licenses are only recognized if the bearer does not have US citizenship and holds no US license (which may differ in terms of operating privileges and restrictions). Conversely, a US citizen may operate under reciprocal agreements in Canada, but not a non-US citizen holding a US license.


   Many people start their involvement in amateur radio by finding a local club. Clubs often provide information about licensing, local operating practices, and technical advice. Newcomers also often study independently by purchasing books or other materials, sometimes with the help of a mentor, teacher, or friend. Established amateurs who help newcomers are often referred to as "Elmers", as coined by Rodney Newkirk, W9BRD,within the ham community. In addition, many countries have national amateur radio societies which encourage newcomers and work with government communications regulation authorities for the benefit of all radio amateurs. The oldest of these societies is the Wireless Institute of Australia, formed in 1910; other notable societies are the Radio Society of Great Britain, the American Radio Relay League, Radio Amateurs of Canada, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters and South African Radio League. (See Category:Amateur radio organizations)

 Call signs

   An amateur radio operator uses a call sign on the air to legally identify the operator or station.In some countries, the call sign assigned to the station must always be used, whereas in other countries, the call sign of either the operator or the station may be used. In certain jurisdictions, an operator may also select a "vanity" call sign although these must also conform to the issuing government's allocation and structure used for Amateur Radio call signs. Some jurisdictions, such as the U.S., require that a fee be paid to obtain such a vanity call sign; in others, such as the UK, a fee is not required and the vanity call sign may be selected when the license is applied for.

   Call sign structure as prescribed by the ITU, consists of three parts which break down as follows, using the call sign ZS1NAT as an example:

  1. ZS – Shows the country from which the call sign originates and may also indicate the license class. (This call sign is licensed in South Africa, and is CEPT Class 1. Where specific classes of amateur radio license exist, the call signs may be assigned by class, but the specifics vary by issuing country.)
  2. 1 – Gives the subdivision of the country or territory indicated in the first part (this one refers to the Western Cape).
  3. NAT – The final part is unique to the holder of the license, identifying that station specifically.

   Many countries do not follow the ITU convention for the numeral. In the United Kingdom the original calls G0xxx, G2xxx, G3xxx, G4xxx, were Full (A) License Holders along with the last M0xxx full call signs issued by the City & Guilds examination authority in December 2003. Additional full licenses were originally granted in respect of (B) Licensees with G1xxx, G6xxx, G7xxx, G8xxx and 1991 onward with M1xxx calls. The newer three level Intermediate licensees are 2E1xxx and 2E0xx and basic Foundation license holders are granted M3xxx, M6xxx call signs. In the United States, for non-Vanity licenses, the numeral indicates the geographical district the holder resided in when the license was issued. Prior to 1978, US hams were required to obtain a new call sign if they moved out of their geographic district.

   Also, for smaller entities, a numeral may be part of the country identification. For example, VP2xxx is in the British West Indies (subdivided into VP2Exx Anguilla, VP2Mxx Montserrat, and VP2Vxx British Virgin Islands), VP5xxx is in the Turks and Caicos Islands, VP6xxx is on Pitcairn Island, VP8xxx is in the Falklands, and VP9xxx is in Bermuda.

Online callbooks or callsign databases can be browsed or searched to find out who holds a specific callsign. Non-exhaustive lists of famous people who hold or have held amateur radio callsigns have also been compiled and published.

   Many jurisdictions issue specialty vehicle registration plates to licensed amateur radio operators often in order to facilitate their movement during an emergency. The fees for application and renewal are usually less than the standard rate for specialty plates.


   In most administrations, unlike other RF spectrum users, radio amateurs may build or modify transmitting equipment for their own use within the amateur spectrum without the need to obtain government certification of the equipment. Licensed amateurs can also use any frequency in their bands (rather than being allocated fixed frequencies or channels) and can operate medium to high-powered equipment on a wide range of frequencies so long as they meet certain technical parameters including occupied bandwidth, power, and maintenance of spurious emission.

   Radio amateurs have access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum, usually allowing choice of an effective frequency for communications across a local, regional, or worldwide path. The shortwave bands, or HF, are suitable for worldwide communication, and the VHF and UHF bands normally provide local or regional communication, while the microwave bands have enough space, or bandwidth, for amateur television transmissions and high-speed computer networks.

The international symbol for amateur radio, included in the logos of many IARU member societies.

   In most countries, an amateur radio license grants permission to the license holder to own, modify, and operate equipment that is not certified by a governmental regulatory agency. This encourages amateur radio operators to experiment with home-constructed or modified equipment. The use of such equipment must still satisfy national and international standards on spurious emissions.

   The amount of output power an amateur radio licensee may legally use varies from country to country. Although allowable power levels are moderate by commercial standards, they are sufficient to enable global communication. Power limits vary from country to country and between license classes within a country. For example, the peak envelope power limits for the highest available license classes in a few selected countries are: 2.25 kW in Canada, was 2 kW in the former Yugoslavia, 1.5 kW in the United States, 1 kW in Belgium and Switzerland, 750 W in Germany, 500 W in Italy, 400 W in Australia, India and the United Kingdom, and 150 W in Oman. Lower license classes usually have lower power limits; for example, the lowest license class in the UK has a limit of 10 W. Amateur radio operators are encouraged both by regulations and tradition of respectful use of the spectrum to use as little power as possible to accomplish the communication.

   Output power limits may also depend on the mode of transmission. In Australia, for example, 400W may be used for SSB transmissions, but FM and other modes are limited to 120 watts.


Band plans and frequency allocations

   The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) governs the allocation of communications frequencies worldwide, with participation by each nation's communications regulation authority. National communications regulators have some liberty to restrict access to these bandplan frequencies or to award additional allocations as long as radio services in other countries do not suffer interference. In some countries, specific emission types are restricted to certain parts of the radio spectrum, and in most other countries, International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member societies adopt voluntary plans to ensure the most effective use of spectrum.

   In a few cases, a national telecommunication agency may also allow hams to use frequencies outside of the internationally allocated amateur radio bands. In Trinidad and Tobago, hams are allowed to use a repeater which is located on 148.800 MHz. This repeater is used and maintained by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), but may be used by radio amateurs in times of emergency or during normal times to test their capability and conduct emergency drills. This repeater can also be used by non-ham NEMA staff and REACT members. In Australia and New Zealand ham operators are authorized to use one of the UHF TV channels. In the U.S., amateur radio operators providing essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available may use any frequency including those of other radio services such as police and fire and in cases of disaster in Alaska may use the statewide emergency frequency of 5167.5 kHz with restrictions upon emissions.

   Similarly, amateurs in the United States may apply to be registered with the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS). Once approved and trained, these amateurs also operate on US government military frequencies to provide contingency communications and morale message traffic support to the military services.