Amateur radio history

Amateur radio history

Throughout the history of amateur radio, 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.


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 Teslacite web |publisher=PBS |url= |title=Marconi and Tesla: Who invented radio?] , and Guglielmo Marconi, but also Amos Dolbear, Reginald Fessenden, James Clerk Maxwell, Sir Oliver Lodge, Mahlon Loomis, Nathan Stubblefieldcite web|last=Bishop |first=Don |title=Who Invented Radio?
url= |accessdate= 2006-02-24
] , and Alexander Popovcite web|last=Rybak |first=James P |title=Alexander Popov: Russia's Radio Pioneer |url=] . 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). [Leland Anderson, "Nikola Tesla On His Work With Alternating Currents and Their Application to Wireless Telegraphy, Telephony, and Transmission of Power", Sun Publishing Company, LC 92-60482, ISBN 0-9632652-0-2 ("ed". [ excerpts available on line] )] 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) cite web|title=History of Wire and Broadcast Communication |url=] .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.cite book |url= |title=First Annual Official Wireless Blue Book of the Wireless Association of America |publisher=Modern Electrics Publication |location=New York |first=H |last=Gernsback |month=May |year=1909 |accessdate=2008-08-17] .

, as a synonym for an amateur radio operator, was a taunt by professional operators.cite web|last=Ramsey Moreau, |first=Louise |title=ARRL History Page |url=] cite web|title=Columbia University Amateur Radio Club |url=] cite web|last=Lombry |first=Thierry ON4SKY|title=History of Amateur Radio, The |url=]

World War I

By 1917, World War I had put a stop to amateur radio. In the United States, Congress ordered all amateur radio operators to cease operation and even dismantle their equipment.cite book|last=Laster |first=Clay |title=Beginner's Handbook of Amateur Radio, The |edition=3rd edition |id=ISBN 0-8306-4354-0] These restrictions were lifted after World War I ended, and the amateur radio service restarted on October 1, 1919.

Between the wars

In 1921, a challenge was issued by American hams to their counterparts in the United Kingdom to receive radio contacts from across the Atlantic. Soon, many American stations were beginning to be heard in the UK, shortly followed by a UK amateur being heard in the US in December 1922. November 27, 1923 marked the first transatlantic two-way contact between American amateur Fred Schnell and French amateur Leon Deloycite web| publisher=Atlantic Wireless Association |title=75 Years Ago in Ham Radio |url=] . Shortly after, the first two way contact between the UK and USA was in December 1923, between London and West Hartford, Connecticut,cite web| publisher=RSGB |title=The History of Amateur Radio |url=] . In the following months 17 American and 13 European amateur stations were communicating. Within the next year, communications between North and South America; South America and New Zealand; North America and New Zealand; and London and New Zealand were being made.cite web| publisher=NRAO |title=Early Radio Astronomy: The Ham Radio Connection|url=]

These international Amateur contacts helped prompt the first International Radiotelegraph Conference, held in Washington, DC, USA in 1927-28.cite web|publisher=Federal Communications Commission |title=History of Wire and Broadcast Communication |url=] At the conference, standard international amateur radio bands of 80/75, 40, 20 and 10 meters and radio callsign prefixes were established by treaty.

In 1933 Robert Moore, W6DEI, begins single-sideband voice experiments on 75 meter lower sideband. By 1934, there were several ham stations on the air using single-sideband. citeweb|first=James |last=Miccolis |title=Origin of Ham Speak - Fact, Legends, and Myths |url= | |accessdate=2007-01-17]

World War II

During the German occupation of Poland, the priest Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, SP3RN was arrested by the Germans.cite web |title=Catholic Forum - Maximillion Kolbe |url= |accessdate=2006-03-01] The Germans believed his amateur radio activities were somehow involved in espionagecite web|title=Famous Hams and ex-Hams |url= |accessdate=2006-03-01] and he was transferred to Auschwitz on May 28, 1941. After some prisoners escaped in 1941, the Germans ordered that 10 prisoners be killed in retribution. Fr. Kolbe was martyred when he volunteered to take the place of one of the condemned men. On October 10, 1982 he was canonized by Pope John Paul II as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Apostle of Consecration to Mary and declared a Martyr of charitycite web |title=Catholic Forum - Maximillion Kolbe |url= |accessdate=2006-03-01] . He is considered the Patron saint of Amateur radio operators.

, to amateur use.

Post war era

In 1947 the uppermost 300 kHz segment of the world allocation of the 10 meter band from 29.700 MHz to 30.000 MHz was taken away from amateur radio.

During the 1950s, hams helped pioneer the use of single-sideband modulation for HF voice communication. In 1961 the first orbital satellite carrying amateur radio (OSCAR) was launched. Oscar I would be the first of a series of amateur radio satellites created throughout the world. cite web |title=A Brief History of Amateur Satellites |url=]

Late 20th century

At the 1979 World administrative radio conference in Geneva, Switzerland, three new amateur radio bands were established: 30 meters, 17 meters and 12 meterscite web|title=The ARRL Letter Vol. 21, No. 19 May 10, 2002. |url=] . Today, these three bands are often referred to as the "WARC bands" by hams.

During the Falklands War in 1982, Argentine forces seized control of the phones and radio network on the islands and had cut off communications with London. Scottish amateur radio operator Les Hamilton, GM3ITNcite web |title=QRZ Callsign Database GM3ITN |url= |accessdate=2006-03-02] cite web |title=QRZ Callsign Database VP8ITN |url= |accessdate=2006-03-02] was able to relay crucial information from fellow hams Bob McLeod and Tony Pole-Evans on the islands to British military intelligence in London, including the details of troop deployment, bombing raids, radar bases and military activities.cite web |title=BBC News - The Falklands get wired |url= |accessdate=2006-03-02]

Major contributions to communications in the fields of automated message systems and packet radio were made by amateur radio operators throughout the 1980s. These computer controlled systems were used for the first time to distribute communications during and after disasters.cite web |title=History of Wire and Broadcast Communication |url=]

American entry-level Novice and Technician class licensees were granted CW and SSB segments on the 10 Meter Band in 1987. The frequency ranges allocated to them are still known today throughout much of the world as the Novice Sub Bands even though it is no longer possible to obtain a novice class license in the US.

Further advances in digital communications occurred in the 1990s as Amateurs used the power of PCs and sound cards to introduce such modes as PSK31 and began to incorporate Digital Signal Processing and Software-defined radio into their activities..


For many years, amateur radio operators were required by international agreement to demonstrate Morse Code proficiency in order to use frequencies below 30 MHz. In 2003 the World radiocommunications conference (WRC) met in Geneva, Switzerland, and voted to allow member countries of the International Telecommunications Union to eliminate Morse Code testing if they so wished .cite web |title=WRC-03 Modifications to Article 25 |url=]

On December 15, 2006, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Report and Order eliminating all Morse code testing requirements for all American Amateur Radio License applicants, which took effect February 23, 2007. cite web |title=FCC Releases Report and Order in "Morse Code" Proceeding|url=]

ee also

* Amateur radio licensing in the United States - Contains history of FCC's amateur licensing

Notes and references

*Cain, James D. (2003). "YASME: The Danny Weil and Colvin Radio Expeditions". Newington, Connecticut, USA: American Radio Relay League. ISBN 0-87259-893-4
*DeSoto, Clinton B. (1936). "200 Meters and Down: THe Story of Amateur Radio". West Hartford, Connecticut, USA: American Radio Relay League. ISBN 0-87259-001-1
*Gregory, Danny and Sahre, Paul (2003). "Hello World: A Life in Ham Radio". Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN
*cite book |first=Kristen|last=Haring| title=Ham Radio's Technical Culture|publisher=The MIT Press | year=2006| id=ISBN 0-262-08355-8
*Messerschmidt, Donald A. (1997). "Moran of Kathmandu: Pioneer Priest, Educator and Ham Radio Voice of the Himalaya". Orchard Press. ISBN 974-8299-72-4
*Bartlett, Richard A. (2007) The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950, A Social History. ISBN 978-0-7864-2966-0

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