QST/January 1916/Running Tests Between Amateur Stations
Running Tests Between Amateur Stations
By “THE OLD MAN.”
From an operating standpoint, the chief difficulty which confronts the amateur wireless telegrapher, is the lack of uniformity in the methods of test. Numerous examples of this have come to the writer's attention during the past three years in which he has spent much time on amateur radio communication.
The program which usually happens when two amateurs want to reach each other, is the following:― A hears from X that the latter gets B loud every night. A never has heard B and wonders how it is that X gets him when they are approximately the same distance away. A tunes up and tests and calls B, and makes a nuisance of himself all over his state, but fails utterly to communicate with B. He then sits down and writes B a letter. B answers in a few days to the effect that he was not at his instruments on the evening in question. Then he tells about some wonderful record he has made with a station anywhere from two to ten times as far away as A.
Then A decides he will do it right this time, so he writes back to B and says how pleased he was to hear from him, and suggests that they make a definite test the following Wednesday night at 9:15 sharp, Western Union time.
Wednesday night and 9:15 comes around on time, and A opens up exactly on the second. He has arranged to send the first 2½ minutes and then listen the next 2½ minutes for B. They were to alternate back and forth in this fashion until they got each other. A begins and sends carefully until exactly 9:17:30, and then he throws his aerial switch and begins to tune. He hears very distinctly a little boy on the next block with a spark coil, and a few dry cells stumbling through “HOW DO I SOUND.” A waits for this young
man to finish, hoping he will get through before B’s 2½ minutes is up. The little boy is just finishing when two other little boys on the next street break in together each one calling the other simultaneously, sending HS and OT or something similar some fifty-six times in straight succession before they begin their own sign in, which they send exactly thirty-seven times.
By this time, 9:20 has come around, and A must begin calling B again. He starts and every thing goes all right, apparently from his end. At 9:22½, he throws in his aerial switch again for receiving, and begins tuning. There are only two or three stations which bother much and he has high hopes. At this juncture a door slams, somewheres down stairs, and loud voices ascend, and the next moment some one shouts, that he is wanted on the telephone. By this time 9:25 has slipped around, and he has not had the faintest idea of whether B was coming in or not.
This sort of thing goes on until B or A or both puncture a condenser, blow a fuse or burn out an audion bulb, or something similar. The test is a howling failure, and both A and B secretly harbor a suspicion that this relay business is not all that it is cracked up to be, and that if Mother were to be taken sick, it might be a good scheme to depend upon the phone or else get back to good old reliable Western Union.
But all of this is the result of lack of systematic preparation. If A and B, first of all would select an hour during the day or during the night, when the little boys had been tucked away for the night, or were at school, they would have had a “clear line.” This is an absolute necessity, and it is a waste of time to attempt to run a long distance test if there is any danger of interference. It is not always necessary to wait until night. The rush hours for interference seem to be between seven-thirty and ten. At noon and at six o'clock, and late at night, the writer has found a clear line very frequently. Therefore, if tests are to be run without attempting control of interference, we should limit ourselves to hours which are liable to be free from interference.
While on this point, it is desirable to bring up this question of control of interference. The writer has noticed that a general understanding that things should be quiet at a certain time, is, fairly generally respected. For example, there is a sort of general feeling that around ten p. m. one should keep quiet so that others might read Arlington without trouble, and get time. In some places, press news or weather reports coming at known times have respect. Therefore, it does not seem altogether unreasonable to expect that if a certain time were set aside for Relay League testing or even transmission, that in time it would come to be respected, especially if properly advertised.
In last month's issue, the League Directors suggested that every night between 8:45 and 9:15, League relay stations make a point of listening for calls, or sending out QST inquiry calls. This is the beginning of a very good idea, according to the writer’s notions. If we were all to talk about this and be very impressive and emphatic on the point, when any of the small boys happen to be around, it would not take very long for the general impression to go abroad that between 8:45 and 9:15 P. M. it would be bad form to do any butting in.
It seems to the writer that this is a very important matter, and he wishes to suggest that it be considered by the League Membership, and made the subject of general discussion. If it could be arranged that between the hours stated; or any others more suitable, it were understood that all Relay League testing and transmitting were to be done, and that unimportant amateur work were to QRT, there would be less of the sort of thing described earlier in this article. It is oven conceivable that the League could induce some form of Federal co-operation in the matter, and in view of the possibility that an efficient working chain of relay stations throughout the country is to the public good, it might not be so hard to show that the unimportant amateur sending ought to be prohibited by law during these few minutes each evening.
The alternative is of course the rigid enforcement of the existing law regarding wave length and decrement and sharpness of wave. If this were strictly observed by those amateurs who have not the equipment, skill or knowledge to do any relay work it would help to a great extent, except for those cases where the little boy with the spark coil and the dry cells and the untuned aerial circuit is next door. The writer does not feel that it is expedient to force a strict observance of the letter of the law at this time, in view of the war conditions prevailing. He is of the opinion that it would be better to attempt to control interference by working among ourselves and showing that it is for the general good of the public at large for us to have a little assistance, and co-operation. After all, it is not such a terrible hardship for their little boys of the wireless world to keep quiet for a few minutes a day. They should be encouraged to practice radio signaling, without doubt, and the writer is one of their strongest advocates, but they should not have the entire 24 hours of the day. One-half of one hour ought to be reserved for the American Radio Relay League.
Another matter in this plan of testing which experience has shown the writer is important, is exact and unmistakable preliminary arrangements. It should be understood by Mr. A just what wave length Mr. B is using, and what the tone of the spark is. It should be known exactly to the second when Mr. B. is to begin and stop sending. Western Union time is a good standard because it is easily got by phone any minute of the day or night. No attempts should be made to cover a long stretch unless each station is in perfect adjustment, and will not fail at the critical moment. If possible a third station should be called in which can easily read both A. and B. And finally, the long distance telephone should be made use of if it can be afforded. It serves to explain failures which otherwise are the cause of disappointment, and often make a test a success which without it would have been put down as an impossibility.
In conclusion, the writer wishes to touch upon the question of directional aerials. Several things have happened recently which lead him to wonder if amateurs are not in greater need of umbrella-aerials than are ships or coast stations. He proposes to try one in the near future in place of an inverted L running East and West, and hopes to be able to report results some day.