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History Feature


The History of
Amateur Radio
Part one by Ian Poole, G3YWX*

MATEUR RADIO is a hobby that has was through the experimentation of radio amaexisted since the first beginnings of teurs that the value of the short wave bands was
radio itself. It arose out of the fact that discovered. Amateurs also helped to pave the
people enjoyed experimenting with communi- way for short wave broadcasting to start. Tocations over the new medium. Since the earli- day they are still at the forefront of technology
est pioneering days, many millions of people in many areas. One notable example is in the
have found the
setting up of packet
same fascination
radio networks that
and today the
pioneered much eshobby is still thrivsential work in this
Many changes
The story of
have occurred
how amateur rasince amateur radio developed
dio first began.
over the years
is fascinating.
equipment used
However, to
Fig 1: An early form of Marconi coherer.
begin it is
coherers as the basis of the receiving apparatus. Soon, coherers necessary to go back to the days when the
gave way to valves, which in their turn had to very basic concepts of radio were being
bow to the invention of the transistor and later postulated.
the integrated circuit. Through all these changes
amateur radio has played a major role in help- FOUNDATIONS LAID
ing to push back the frontiers of technology. It
THE VERY FIRST ideas about the possibility of a medium which could be used
*5 Meadway, Staines, Middx TW18 2PW.
for communication were put
forward by James Clerk
Maxwell. He was a brilliant theoretical physicist and set out his
electromagnetic theory in several
papers, culminating in 1873 with
the publication of a book called A
Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. However, Maxwell never gave
a practical demonstration of his theories.
Like so many discoveries it is
difficult to attribute radio to just one
person. This is true of the first demonstration of electromagnetic waves,
because several people were involved. One was Professor D E
Hughes. He built a spark generator
in his house and was able to detect
the sparks over 400 yards away.
Unfortunately he did not link the
effect with Maxwells electromagnetic waves.
Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who proved the
This meant that it was actually a
existence of Hertzian waves.
German scientist called Heinrich
Hertz who made the practical discovery of these waves. He performed

a number of experiments,
demonstrating their
presence beyond
doubt. In his
most famous


Fig 2: Circuit diagram of a receiver, based on a


RadCom July 1998


Fig 3: From a copy of the English Mechanic and

World of Science, October 31 1913, the circuit of a

ments and new inventions. One

was initiated by Professor Onesti.
He showed that iron filings placed
in a glass tube with electrodes at
either end, as in Fig 1, could be
made to stick together, or cohere, when a high voltage was
placed across the electrodes. Once
the filings had cohered they were
able to pass an electric current,
which could be used to complete a
second circuit. A further step was
taken when Professor Branley
found that the iron filings would
cohere in the vicinity of an electrical discharge. Finally, Oliver
Lodge used this discovery to detect Hertzian waves, managing to
receive signals over a distance of
about 150 yards. The circuit of a
typical receiver is shown in Fig 2.

Distinguished physicist Sir Oliver Lodge.

e x periment, Hertz
placed two coils
the same size a few
metres apart. Each loop
had a spark gap in it and when
a spark was made to cross the gap in
the first he showed that a similar but smaller
spark jumped the gap in the second.
The results of Hertz experiments were published in many journals, and he was widely
attributed with having discovered these waves.
As a result, electromagnetic waves were originally called Hertzian waves.
Other scientists became more interested in
this new topic and started to perform experiments. This gave rise to a number of improveRadCom July 1998

ALTHOUGH THE original discoveries were made by scientists, it did not take long for
public awareness to be awakened. Many were needed. The first recorded amateur stareports appeared in the scientific journals tion is that of MJC Dennis, in London, in 1898.
about this new form of communication, Having heard of the experiments performed by
and it did not take long for the popular Marconi, he set up his own station at Woolwich
Arsenal in East London. Dennis claimed that
press to follow suit.
The popular press were helped a great his was the first non professional wireless
deal by a number of scientists and busi- station in the world. This claim has never been
nessmen. One was Guglielmo Marconi. challenged, and accordingly Dennis is estabHe foresaw the great potential of this new lished as the worlds first radio amateur. Later
medium, and set up his own company. To Dennis held the call DNX, and afterwards
stimulate public
Soon articles
awareness, which
began to appear
would help him obtain
in periodicals,
sufficient financial
detailing how apbacking, he set up a
paratus could be
number of demonstramade. In January
tions. These were designed
1898 a magazine
to catch the public eye and
called The Model
receive maximum impact.
Engineer and
In 1898 he used wireless
Amateur Electri(as it was now called) to
cian included an
report on the Kingstown
Fig 4: From a copy of the English Mechanic and
Regatta for a Dublin news- World of Science, October 31 1913, the circuit of a article which
gave details of expaper. A year later he made transmitter.
periments for
the first international contact, by communicating between a station at amateurs. In it there were details of basic
South Foreland in Kent and another located at transmitting and receiving apparatus. Books
Wimereux near Boulogne, a distance of about also started to appear. One called Wireless
Telegraphy and Hertzian Waves by S Bottone,
published just after the turn of the century,
gave a comprehensive explanation about the
subject, as well as detailing how the necessary
WITH THE LARGE amount of publicity which apparatus could be constructed. Typically, a
was being given to wireless, public awareness coherer could be made from a glass tube, a
grew rapidly. As a result, people started to couple of corks for the ends, some iron filings
become interested in building their own re- and two copper wires. Descriptions for making
ceiving and transmitting apparatus. This was transmitting apparatus were also included, experfectly legal at this time, because no licences ample of this being shown in Fig 3 and Fig 4.



Fig 5: The flat top aerial.

IT DID NOT take long for the number of
people using wireless to increase. Both professional users as well as amateur experimenters
were using the airwaves increasingly. As a
result, it became obvious that some form of
regulation was necessary. Accordingly, on 15
August 1904, the first Wireless Telegraphy
Act became law.
The act was wide ranging in its application.
For amateur experimenters it meant that licences were required, although no fee had to be
paid. Fortunately, the Post Master General
who administered the act applied the terms of
it favourably to experimenters. However, despite this, the terms of the act were quite strict
and limited the operation and experimentation
possible by these early stations.
Some of the licences were issued to people
who had a professional interest in the subject.
Many were given to people who were real
amateurs and had a great enthusiasm for the
subject. They needed this because all the equipment had to be made out of basic materials, as
there were no suppliers of components like
there are today.
Parliament was obviously interested and a
little concerned about the issuing of experimental licences, in view of possible security
risks. In 1906 it requested that the Post Master
General give a summary of all the licence
applications which had been received to that
date. The document is very interesting, because it is possible to see the names of those to
whom licences had been given. One of the
most famous was Ambrose Fleming, the inventor of the diode valve and consultant to
Marconi. It is also possible to see that stations
were being set up in many parts of the country.
Although just over 60 licences had been
granted by this time; interest was growing
quite fast, and the rate at which licences were
issued started to increase.

WHEN THE FIRST licences were issued in
1904, there was no requirement for stations to

be able to identify themselves in any standard

way. However, as time passed, the number of
experimental stations increased and the Post
Master General found it necessary to introduce
the use of callsigns, or call signals as they
were first termed. By using them, stations
could be identified more easily.
Callsigns were introduced in May 1910,
when all licence holders received a letter giving them their new three letter callsign. The
letter also mentioned that the callsign should
be used at the beginning and end of each
transmission, together with the callsign of the
station with whom they were in contact. The
callsigns did not appear to be issued in
any strict order. Often they contained
the initials of the licensee, but in all cases
the callsign contained the letter X for

could be two brass spheres, placed about half

an inch apart. One of the major problems
encountered when using spark gaps was the
large amount of audible noise they generated.
As a result, many amateurs enclosed their
spark gaps to reduce this.
With the spark generated, the output was
connected to the tuned circuit so that all the
energy could be concentrated around a particular wavelength. In turn this was connected to
the aerial. Often the connection was made
directly, with no series capacitance in circuit,
the result being that the high voltage from the
induction coil would appear directly on the

first licences, there had been a number of
major improvements in the technology
which was used. Originally coherers
were the only form of detector, but in
1904 Ambrose Fleming invented the
diode. This was followed around 1906
in America by de Forest, who invented
the triode. However, the most important
advance for the amateur experimenter
was the crystal detector. As valves were
so expensive as to beyond most peoples
means, crystals provided a cheap and
efficient method of detecting signals. A
number of different types of these detectors were used. Early types used two
crystals, but these gave way to more
sensitive single-crystal point-contact detectors, which were given the name Cats
Tuning a receiver was generally
accomplished using a variable
inductor. Although capacitors (or condensers as they
were called) could be
used, they were more
difficult to make in a
variable form.
Transmitters invariably used spark
gaps. The most common way of generating the high voltage
required was to use an
induction coil, and a
mechanism which broke
the circuit periodically. Car
ignition systems of the day
were often put to good use to
accomplish this, as the components
could be obtained relatively easily. The
high voltage from the coil was then connected
across the spark gap. Typically a spark gap

De Forest valve of 1909.

aerials had
to be very
well insulated, and care
had to be taken not
to touch them.
Tuned circuits in the
transmitters were grand affairs. The coils were often ten or more inches in
diameter, and often wound on beautifully finRadCom July 1998


ished formers. Tuning was accomplished using taps on the coils,

but sometimes variable condensers were employed. In
view of the high voltages
used, these condensers
were large. They often
employed meshed plates,
which could be moved
in and out to vary the
Aerials were quite varied. Some just consisted
of as much wire raised as

Sir John Ambrose Fleming, inventor

of the two electrode valve.

high as possible into the air, but others followed more standard designs. One which was
favoured had a multi wire top and because of its
shape was called a flat top, Fig 5. Another
popular design consisted of a cage of about six
wires, separated by a hoop at each end.

HT spark gap transmitter

with Morse key. Built by
M Child, 2DC, in 1909.

w e r e
only able to use
powers up to about 25 watts. With this
sort of power and the very
basic equipment which they used, it was
only possible to reach distances of about
10 miles. Some stations were able to use
more power, up to about 150 watts, and
they could reach other stations further
afield. Even then, the maximum distance
that could be reached was only about 100
miles or so.
There was little control over the wavelengths which were used. Most amateur
activity was confined to wavelengths between about 100 and 600 metres. Within
this band most operation seems to have
occurred around a wavelength of about
200 metres.
Morse code was used almost exclusively. Some operators would have been
very proficient in using it, because it was
widely used for land telegraph systems.
However, it is interesting to note some
advice given to newcomers using the
code. It is suggested that the receiving
operator should write down in properly
spaced dots and dashes all that he receives, interpreting it at leisure
when the signals have
ceased. Any hesitation while
the signals for letters are
hunted for in a book will lead
to hopeless confusion. (Extract from Wireless Telegraphy for Amateurs by RP

licences in force. This almost quadrupled in

1913 to just under 1000, and then in 1914 it
rose significantly again to reach a total of
about 1600.
Unfortunately this level of activity was
not able to last for long. Tension was
rising in Europe and on 28 July 1914
Austria declared war on Serbia. Concern was expressed in a number of
quarters about the security risk of having wireless transmitting stations
around the country which were not
under strict government control. Accordingly, on 1 August, a few days before Britain declared war on Germany, all
experimental licences were suspended. The
licensees were instructed to dismantle their
equipment, ready for an inspection by an Inspector from the Post Office.
Most licensees had their equipment removed
but some were able to keep theirs, provided it
remained dismantled. However, in 1915, it
was decided that all equipment should be removed into the custody of the Post Office for
the duration of the war.
This measure was necessary because of the
mounting public concern about wireless equipment being used by German spies. In fact the
authorities received a large number of reports
about people who were thought to be passing
secrets to Germany using their wireless equipment.


ALTHOUGH THE WAR silenced all amateur
activity, it did not dull the inventive spirit of the
amateur experimenter. Many of those who
held licences were able to use their expertise
towards the war effort.
Even though wireless was still very much in
its infancy, the experience offered by amateur
experimenters was valuable. Wireless communications were starting to prove their worth,
and they were used increasingly as the war

. . . to be continued

COMMUNICATIONS BY amateur experimenters were comparatively limited. One reason was that there were not nearly as many
stations active as there are today. Additionally,
RadCom July 1998


DURING 1913 THE number of applications for experimental licences increased
dramatically. In 1912 there were about 250

Cats Whisker crystals.


History Feature


The History of
Amateur Radio
Part two, by Ian Poole, G3YWX*

N PART ONE we learned how the experiments of some notable physicists resulted
in the means of communication we know
today as radio. The story ended on a sad note,
all amateur stations having been closed down
by the government as a wartime precaution.
We continue the story, to look at the developments which took place in the years between
the world wars.


THE YEARS BEFORE World War I had seen
wireless established as an important means of
communication. After the first experimental
licences were issued, experimenters had proved
their worth by helping push back the frontiers
of this new technology. However, these licences were very restrictive, because the authorities were concerned about security and
the improper use of wireless.
Once the war finished and the armistice had
been signed, it took some time for life to return
to normality. However, interest in wireless
started to grow very quickly and it did not take
long before people were calling for the reintroduction of amateur experimental licences.
Initially the government was not interested
in issuing any, even for receiving, but the
pressure started to increase. A number of periodicals started to publish letters and articles,
asking for the reintroduction of licences. The
government responded by making a statement,
saying that the conditions for amateur licences
were still under consideration. This slowness
*5 Meadway, Staines, Middx TW18 2PW.

may have been as a result of concerns over

Fortunately, things did start to improve before too long. The wartime restrictions that had
been placed on the sale of equipment related to
wireless started to be lifted. In April 1919 the
sale of electrical buzzers was allowed. Headphones could also be bought, although the
purchaser had to give a written undertaking
that they would not be used for wireless purposes. However, the restriction on the sale of
valves remained.
The next event took place in October 1919.
An announcement was made by the Post Office, saying that receiving licences were to be
issued. A charge of Ten Shillings was to be
levied, and the use of valves was prohibited
without special authority.

FINALLY, IN November 1919, the Post Office disclosed that a new Wireless Telegraphy
Act would shortly be placed before Parliament
which would enable transmitting licences to be
issued again. The conditions for these licences
were outlined. They were still experimental,
unlike those issued in the USA which were true
amateur licences. In view of this, applicants
had to demonstrate that they needed a transmitting licence to perform a number of predetermined experiments. In addition to this a
wireless theory examination would
have to be passed, as well as a
Morse sending and receiving

Finally, in the middle of 1920, the first new

licences were issued. Again, callsigns were
allocated, but unlike the old ones which consisted of three letters the new ones commenced
with a number, followed by two letters. Initially the number 2 was used, but later other
numbers were used as more callsigns were
These first licences had many restrictions.
The power was limited to only ten watts and the
wavelengths of operation were limited to between 180 and 1000 metres. Limitations were
also placed on the hours of operation, as well as
the other stations which could be contacted.
Not everybody who applied for a licence
received a full transmitting licence. Despite
having passed the requisite examinations, if
the Post Office felt that the experiments detailed in the licence application did not justify
a full licence then they issued an artificial
aerial one. This allowed the holder to build
and test transmitters, but only into a dummy
load or artificial aerial that would absorb the
power of the transmitter and not radiate it.
Having been issued with an artificial aerial
licence, it was possible to apply for a full
licence at a later date.


DURING THE FIRST few months after the
first licences were issued activity was
fairly low. In addition to this,
most of those who were licensed
were in the process of building
equipment. This was varied in
nature, ranging from spark sets
through to equipment using war
surplus valves.
Whilst many stations were preparing to go on the air, some of the
licence conditions were changing.
Some of the restrictions were removed after representations from
various clubs and societies, including the Wireless Club of
London that was later to beA selection of radio valves from the
1920s and 1930s.


RadCom August 1998


come the Radio Society of Great Britain.

Unfortunately, not all the changes were to
the advantages of radio amateurs. Commercial
users wanted spectrum space, particularly on
the long wavelengths that were used for long
distance communication. Accordingly, amateurs were restricted to the short wave bands
which were thought to be of little use at the
time. This was a great disappointment, because
they only had access to wavelengths longer
than 275 metres by special arrangement. In fact
British amateurs were allowed to use wavelengths of 440 metres and 1100 metres for a



amateurs over, a man by the name

From a copy of Wireless World, dated
of Paul Godley. He brought one
20 January 1923, the antenna of 5WS,
of the new Armstrong Superthe first British amateur station to be
heard across the Atlantic.
sonic Heterodyne (superhet) receivers over with him. He first
tested a location in Wembley, but found it
too noisy. Then Godley moved his equipment to a location at Ardrossan in Scotland. This was ideal, because it was close
to the sea and away from man-made
sources of interference. To complement this excellent location, Godley
erected a massive Beverage antenna.
Prior to the main tests some preliminary trials were conducted in
the USA and Canada, to select the
stations best suited for long distance communications. By limiting the number of stations participating, it was hoped that
excessive interference

ALTHOUGH THE level of activity in the UK

was low during 1920, this was certainly not the
case in the USA, where amateur radio was
becoming very popular and a very large number
of licensed stations were active. Also, the
American stations were allowed to
use powers of up to 1
Soon reports were
heard of long
distance contacts being
made on the
bands. These
fuelled speculation
that contacts across
the Atlantic might
just be possible.
To determine if this
could be done, a series
of tests were organised
to take place in February
1921. They aroused a
great deal of
by the operation of
interest, and a
From a copy of Wireless World, dated 3 March 1923,
too many stations could be
lot of publicthe transmitting and receiving equipment of the
ity was given
Manchester Wireless Society.
When the main tests
to them in the
started, Godley managed to
radio press. In
these tests, stations from the USA were to pick up his first station just after midnight on 9
transmit at specific times. Special codes and December. Although he only decoded the
messages would be sent, to ensure that mes- callsign - 1BCG - during the first night, he
sages had been genuinely copied. Unfortu- managed to copy a full message a couple of
nately no signals were heard, even though a days later.
large number of stations in the UK were listenFortunately for British pride, the success
was not limited to the Americans. In fact it was
Despite the failure of these tests many peo- later discovered that the first positive identifiple still thought the Atlantic could be spanned, cation of an American station was made a
and many reasons were given for the failure of British station, 2KW, during the early hours of
the first set of tests. For example, the Ameri- 8 December.
cans thought that British operators were inexperienced in long distance work and that their ATLANTIC CONTACTS
equipment was not sufficiently sensitive. Whatever the reasons, another set of tests was organ- ONCE IT HAD been discovered that signals
ised to take place between 8 and 17 December could be heard from across the Atlantic, the
next stage was to see if signals could be trans1921.
This time the Americans sent one of their mitted back. Thus the concept of a two way
RadCom August 1998

contact was born. To accomplish this many preparations had to be
made. It was felt that the transmitter power
10 or 25 watts permitted at that time by the
British Post Office was insufficient. Accordingly, some special high power permits were issued and some special stations set up. Even so, others with ordinary licences were invited to participate as well.
The dates for the tests were fixed
for 12 - 21 December. However, one
of the stations with a high power permit located in Manchester managed to hear a
Californian station about three weeks before
this. Whilst they did not managed to make
contact, it was a new world distance record.
Just as preliminary tests were carried out in
America before the previous tests, they were
again for these ones. During them, British
stations were encouraged to listen, and a good
number of American stations were heard.
The results of the main tests were somewhat
disappointing. Station 5WS, a high power station set up by the Wireless Society of London
in Wandsworth, was the only station to be
positively identified in the USA. Even so, no
contact was made, possibly because of the high
level of activity from America causing interference and confusion.
This failure meant that another set of tests
was scheduled for the January of the following
winter. However, a Frenchman named Leon
Deloy from Nice arranged some private tests
before this, and succeeded in making contact
with two American stations on 27 November
1923. Whilst this was a tremendous achieve21


ment in itself, it was even more important

because it had been made on a wavelength
around 100 metres and not 200 metres which
had been used for the previous tests.
Fortunately it did not take long for a British
transatlantic contact to be made. On 8 December British station 2KF made a contact lasting
over 2 hours.


ONCE THESE FIRST transatlantic contacts
had been made, many other amateurs succeeded in making contacts as well. It was also
quickly realised that often the shorter wavelengths around 100 metres or less provided
better communications than those around 200
metres. With people beginning to understand a
little more about propagation on these wavelengths, more distant contacts started to be
made. On 18 October 1924 Mr Goyder, 2SZ, at
the Mill Hill School in London broke another
record, by making contact with New Zealand.
Again, this contact was made during the night.
With these successes still hitting the headlines, many stations were encouraged to try
even shorter wavelengths. It was soon discovered that long distance contacts could also be
made during the day. As a result, the first
transatlantic daytime contacts were made in
February 1925, and maintained every day for
over a month.

WHILST THE VALUE of the short wave
bands was quickly grasped, there were not
many commercial stations in operation within
the few years that followed. This enabled radio
amateurs to provide a valuable service in
maintaining communications in a number of

circumstances where commercial stations

were not able to do so.
One example occurred in 1925
when the Mill Hill School station,
2SZ ,was able to maintain contact with an arctic expedition
when all other means failed. In
the same year another British
amateur named Gerald
Marcuse, 2NM, performed the
same service for the Hamilton-Rice expedition in the
wilds of Brazil.

50 watt self-excited oscillator/transmitter

on 45 metres. Built in 1923/25 by G6YK.

IN THE EARLY days of radio it
was very common for amateurs to
write a letter to confirm a contact, especially when communication had been made
over a considerable distance. From this came
the idea of having a card printed specially for
the purpose. Amongst the first were cards
printed by American amateurs for the transatlantic tests of 1923.
Their use grew rapidly, and shortly after
their introduction the term QSL card was
introduced. With the growth in the number of
cards being sent, a bureau system was inaugurated. Using this system, cards could be sent by
individual stations to the bureau in bulk. From
here they could be forwarded to other stations,
or the bureaux of other countries when sufficient had accumulated. By using this system it
was possible to save a great amount on postage
costs, although it did take somewhat longer for
cards to reach their destination. However, the
system was so successful that it is in use more
than ever today.

call area the callsign would start with a different number. As a result it was possible to
identify the approximate area of the USA in
which a station was located.
Before any official moves were set in motion to solve the problem, many amateur stations had added a prefix letter to their callsigns
to identify their country of origin. British stations would use G for Great Britain, making
the callsign 2AA into G-2AA. French stations
used F, and those from the USA used a
variety of letters; U for USA, N for North
America, or A for America.
From the RSGBs collection of
QSLs, cards from the 1920s and

5 metre transmitter built by G5CV
and G6JP in 1931, and used in air-toground experiments in 1934.


INTERNATIONAL and intercontinental communications had become established, it became
obvious that some
method of identifying the country
of a station from
its callsign was
needed. Prior to this
it was quite possible
for stations in different countries to have
exactly the same call
In the USA they had
gone part of the way to alleviating the problem, at least in
their own country. They had adopted
a system of call areas. In each different
RadCom August 1998


General Radio LF oscillator

(a Morse oscillator). Circa

1927, an international conference was convened in Washington to allocate the available spectrum to the different users.
Naturally the amateur allocations
were drastically reduced, but despite this sufficient space was retained, as shown in Table 1. In
fact the allocations made to amateurs by this conference form
the basis of many bands still
used today.


Official moves did not take long to start, but

as there were no real international bodies for
radio regulations the first ideas were implemented unilaterally. In fact it was in October
1924 that the British Post Office agreed to the
idea of using a prefix and that G could be used
for British amateurs. Once the first few countries had implemented the idea, others soon
followed suit.

HAVING PROVED THE worth of the short
wave bands, amateurs found the spectrum once
thought to be worthless under pressure from
commercial interests. Accordingly, in October

RadCom August 1998


worth of the short wave bands,
radio amateurs also played a key
role in the start of regular broadcasts,
particularly on those bands.
February 1920 saw the beginning of experimental broadcasts from the Marconi Company at Chelmsford. This was followed in
1922 by the first broadcast from 2MT. Shortly
afterwards 2LO was set up. These were the first
stations set up purely for broadcasting.
However, at this time little consideration
had been given to the idea of international
broadcasting. Not surprisingly, amateurs, with
their experience in long distance communications, were keen to experiment. At this time
there were no laws relating to the broadcasting
of recorded material, so it was possible to
broadcast anything.
One amateur named Gerald Marcuse saw
the need for short wave broadcasting, and
applied for a high power licence for this purpose. The Post Office granted it to him, and in
September 1927 he started broadcasting abroad.
He soon found that he had a large audience for his broadcasts of home made
programmes, records, and rebroadcasts
of 2LO.
Late in 1927 the BBC started their
experimental Empire Service,
using the callsign 5SW from a
transmitter in Chelmsford.
This continued until a
permanent Empire
Broadcasting station
was opened at
Daventry at the end
of 1932. Using this
station, all parts of
the British Empire
broadcasts from the
UK at some time
each day.
Marcuse continued
his broadcasts until late
in 1928. By this time he
had proved that international
broadcasting was both viable
and needed.

kc/s (kHz)
1715 ............................................ 2000
3500 ............................................ 4000
7000 ............................................ 300
14000 .......................................... 14400
28000 .......................................... 30000
56000 .......................................... 60000
Table 1: The amateur bands allocated in the 1927
Washington Conference.

THE 1930s
THE PERIOD OF the 1930s saw many changes
in amateur radio. Many were associated with
improvements in technology. The inferior
Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) receivers started
to give way to the superior Superhet. Transmitters also improved. Oscillators did not drift as
much, and circuits became more stable and
easier to use. The last of the spark gap transmitters disappeared with the 1920s, and all-valve
equipment became standard. Experiments were
performed with new types of transmission.
Morse and AM were standard, but a few pioneering amateurs tried SSB.
Licence conditions changed slightly. Some
of the more established amateurs were able to
use up to 150 watts, but most still had permits
for only 10 or 25 watts. A large number of
artificial aerial licences were issued, each one
having its own call letters consisting of a figure
2 followed by three letters.
Despite these restrictions, the number of
licences still grew. By 1938 there were just
over 2700 full licences in force, together with
about 2200 artificial aerial ones. Amateur radio was growing rapidly, but it was not to be
long before the development of the hobby
would be halted again.

1-v-2 short wave

receiver of 1930,
with plug-in coils.


History Feature

The History of
Amateur Radio
Part three, by Ian Poole, G3YWX*


how scienStific experiments conducted by notable physicists of the 1800s
led to the development of wireless, how developing technology provided new components which facilitated communication over
increasingly large distances, and how interest
grew amongst amateur experimenters.
This month we look at the period from the
outbreak of WWII up to the 1960s.

THE 1920s AND 1930s brought great strides
forward in radio, and amateurs were at the
forefront of many of these developments. Despite many restrictions on their operation, the
period had seen a rapid growth in interest. This
was not to last, as Germany was flexing the
might of her armed forces and all too soon
conflict was upon the world again.
As far as licensed amateurs were concerned,
in the UK they were advised that in the event of
war, all stations would have to be closed down
and equipment would be impounded. As time
progressed, diplomacy failed and war became
imminent. On 31 August 1939 all full and
artificial aerial licences were suspended. A
few days later, on Sunday 3 September 1939,
Britain declared war on Germany.


TO ENABLE THE war effort to be successful,
a large variety of skills were needed, not least
in the field of radio communications. Radio
amateurs were in an important position, having
valuable experience of radio techniques from
transmitters and receivers through to aerials
and operating. Many amateurs joined up, some
even before the outbreak of war, and they made
vital contributions to the war effort.
For those who did not join the forces themselves, there were still opportunities to make
valuable contributions. The Radio Security
*5 Meadway, Staines, Middx TW18 2PW.

Service needed people to act as Voluntary Interceptors (VIs). Their job was to
monitor the airwaves and listen for
transmissions of importance. In fact
their main job was to help detect
any German spies who could be
on the British mainland.
Not all amateur activity
stopped with the outbreak of war
in Europe. Although German stations were closed down on 1
September, three were allowed
to stay on the air. As the war
progressed this number rose steadily until it reached around a hundred or so. American stations were
not unduly affected by the hostilities,
although after their entry into the war
they were not allowed to contact any stations in the war zone. Also, Japanese stations
ceased operation at this time.
Despite the war, operation continued to rise
in Europe, even though it was on a small scale.
In 1942 a few licences were issued for people
to operate in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In
addition to this, some German stations were
able to use their calls in a number of the
occupied countries, including France, Norway
and North Africa. Apart from these operations,
amateur activity was very definitely curtailed.

THE WAR IN Europe officially ended on
Tuesday 8 May 1945, but the war with Japan
continued until their surrender on 14 August.
In only a few weeks the amateur bands were
alive with activity from around the war zones,
where permission had
been mistakenly
granted by local officials.

An Eddystone 740 receiver,

with its matching loudspeaker.
Produced in 1949.

This operation caused much annoyance in

Britain, where no activity was permitted. This
was despite the fact that the Post Office had
released a notice to inform holders of pre-war
licences that they should apply for post war
ones if they wanted.
Preparation for the new licence took some
time. It was not until December that the format
was made public. It was totally new. Unlike the
pre-war experimental licences, this one was a
true amateur licence. No longer did stations
have to detail experiments to be undertaken,
and no longer were there any restrictions on the
length and size of aerials, or restrictions on
operating periods.
To qualify for a new licence, applicants
would have to pass a theory examination called
the Radio Amateurs Examination, as well as a
Morse test of 12 words per minute sending and
receiving. However, people who could prove
they held equivalent qualifications did not need
to take the examinations.
Finally, in January 1946, the first licences
were issued. Those who held pre-war licences
received their old callsigns of G2, G3, G4,
A typical amateur station of the mid 1950s,
comprising a Panda Cub 160-10m transmitter
(40W input, AM/CW, price 62/10/- new), a BC221
frequency meter, and a National HRO general
coverage receiver (circa 1937) with plug-in coils.


RadCom September 1998


G5, G6, and G8 plus two letters. Those who

held artificial aerial licences received calls
in the series G2 plus three letters, corresponding to their old call numbers with
a G prefix. New licences were issued
in the series G3 plus three letters.
Initially operation was only allowed on the part of the 10m band
from 28 to 29MHz and the old 5m
band between 58.5 and 60MHz.
Three months later Top Band,
stretching from 1.8 to 2.0MHz was
released. However, DX (long distance) enthusiasts had to wait until 1
July 1946, when sections of 40m from
7.15 to 7.3MHz and 20m from 14.1 to
14.3MHz were released.
For the radio amateur of the day, equipment was plentiful, as the government surplus
business boomed. Receivers, transmitters, and
all sorts of ancillary equipment were available
at very good prices. As a result, amateurs
became very adept at converting and modifying it to suit their requirements.
Surplus equipment continued to be available for many years after the war, although by
the late 1960s it had become much less plentiful. However, equipment such as the 19 Set,
AR88, 1152, 1155, HRO and the like will be
remembered for many years to come.

IT SOON BECAME clear that radio communications around the world had changed to a
large degree since before the war, and reallocation of a number of frequency bands was urgently
needed. To achieve this a World
Administrative Radio Conference was organised. It was held
at Atlantic City in 1947. This was
to be a crucial time for radio
amateurs, because there was a lot
of pressure on the short wave
bands from many interests, including broadcasters. Amateurs
were aware that they would have
to fight hard if their allocations
were not to be reduced significantly.
In broad terms amateurs fared
well. In Europe, an allocation
between 1715 and 2000kHz was
retained. The 80m band, stretching from 3.5 to 3.8MHz, was also
held, and in America it extended
up to 4.0MHz. The 40m band
was a disappointment, where the
allocation for European stations
was reduced so that it only covered 7.0 to 7.15MHz. Even then,
the top 50kHz was shared with
the broadcasting services. Similarly, 20m was reduced, but by
RadCom September 1998

An 807, pictured with its

big brother, the 813 both very popular in
transmitters of the 1950s
and 1960s.

America), another between 420 and 460MHz,

as well as some much higher in frequency.
Further changes to these bands were
made in 1953 when Top Band was
reduced from 285kHz wide to just
200kHz, ie 1.8 to 2.0MHz. Also in
1958, the shared section of the 40m
band was lost completely to the


only 50kHz to 14.0 to 14.35MHz. 10m also

suffered slightly, as the allocation shrank to
28.0 to 29.7MHz.
Not everything was bad news. A new band
was given to amateurs, from 21.0 to 21.45MHz.
Initially there was some scepticism about its
usefulness, but initial concern soon gave way
as its full potential was quickly realised when
long distance contacts started to be made.
In addition to the extra HF bands there was
some good news for the VHF enthusiast. Some
new bands in the VHF and UHF sections of the
spectrum were also allocated. There was one
between 144 and 146MHz (144-148MHz in

LATE IN THE NIGHT of 31 January 1953, devastating floods struck

the east coast of England. Many people died and there was a vast amount of
destruction. Normal communications
were cut and the emergency services found
it very difficult to operate. Ignoring the terms
of their licences and looking to help wherever
possible, radio amateurs linked-up with the
emergency services to provide valuable communications. Amateurs were uniquely placed
to help. Much of their equipment was capable
of being used under portable conditions and in
addition to this they had the experience to
improvise and use their equipment as best they
Not only did amateurs help the services
rescuing people along the flooded shoreline,
they also helped those at sea. The floods had
silenced a vital ship-to-shore radio station, and
realising this many amateurs monitored the
shipping frequencies, taking and relaying information about a number of distress calls.
As a result of this operation the value of
amateurs under disaster conditions
was realised. A clause was later
written into the licence, allowing
them to use their stations to help
the emergency services.

WHEN LICENCES were issued
after the war, no operation was
allowed from cars. Although many
other countries allowed it the Post
Office had repeatedly refused to
give way, saying that it would be
dangerous. Matters finally changed
in 1954, when a new licence schedule was issued allowing mobile
Matilda Comes to Town. From the
RSGB Bulletin of December 1956,
G3KKD/Ts roving eye in Queen
Square, Holborn, photographed during
the BATC Convention of that October.
The equipment included a station
camera built by the Pye Radio Club
(G8PY), a rotatable corner reflector
aerial and a modified G8SK-type
transmitter built by G3KKD. A 2kW
petrol electric generator lashed to the
luggage grid provided the power.
Matilda, a former London taxi
(vintage 1936), was bought for 5!



I WAS INTERESTED to read Bruce Edwards
article about power supplies in Junes RadCom.
However I do have reservations about his over
voltage protection system. In the first place,
suppose one of the pass transistors fails and
goes short circuit while the start button is
pressed. This is not such an unlikely event; if
the transistor is ailing, the inrush current drawn
by the equipment could be the straw that broke
the camels back. In this event there is no
protection. Even if the protection system does
work as intended, C1 still contains a substantial amount of energy, possibly as much as 15
Joules if the supply is lightly loaded. This on its
own could do substantial damage.
All in all, I think it would be better to use the
traditional crowbar method. If it destroys the
thyristor when it does fire, then this is a price
well worth paying.
J S Linfoot, G0CPP

FIB 2B IN the feature had the words passband
and stopband transposed.
V Clarke, G0SCD

In order to operate from a car a

separate licence costing 1 was required, in addition to the ordinary
one costing 2. The licence stated
that a suffix /M had to be placed after
the callsign to indicate that the operation was mobile (eg G2XXX/M).
Quite a number of people took up
the mobile licence. Initially operation was mainly on Top Band, which
catered for most of the local contacts. However, from a technical
standpoint, Top Band did not lend
itself particularly well to mobile operation. Having a wavelength around
160m, aerials needed to be large.
The much smaller aerials required
for mobile operation had to be heavily inductively loaded, and as such
they were inefficient. Even so, many
designs appeared in the radio magazines to make these aerials as efficient as possible.

Coronation in 1953, television was starting to
become part of everyday life. Although televisions were still very expensive, many people
were experimenting with their own, home built
ones. Amateur interest was also growing, and



ONE OF THE problems I encountered when
building my 136kHz PA was to find the proper
capacitors and inductor materials. Even for
relative low power (50 watts) this seems critical. I do not claim the following to be complete
or to be the one and only truth, but my experience so far is:
What does not work.
Most metal film types. They are cheap
and easy to find up to 400V, but get hot after a
short time. After a while they die (with or
without explosion).
Several types of ceramic disk capacitors
dont get too hot because the loss is too high for
them to get hot. Due to that loss they dont
function properly.
What does work.
Silver Mica capacitors are available up to
500V and values up to 47nF. Unfortunately
they are more expensive than the power FET of
the PA. A 4.7nF/500V is about 150 BFR (2.50),
a 47nF/500V even 640BFR (10).
At 20BFR (30p), polystyrene capacitors
are cheap, but for the 250V types (the highest
voltage I found) I couldnt get bigger values
than 1nF.

High voltage polypropylene capacitors

from LCR are cheap - 20BFR (30p) - and
available in values up to 100nF and voltages of
MKC capacitors from Philips also work
fine. I found some in my junk box and tested
them (values up to 47nF, voltages up to 1kV).
I dont know if they are easy to find and what
they cost.
Thanks to G3YXM for advice on the capacitors.
Most iron powder toroid coil material
known from HF is no good on 136kHz because
you just need too much wire to get the proper
inductance needed on LF.
3C85 material form Philips and 3-mix
(grey) from Amidon work fine, but I cannot
find the big sizes needed for power applications. Up to 0.5in is easy to find, but not the 1in
or 2in toroids (at least in Belgium).
Several toroids found in the junk box (material unknown ) work fine when used as transformer/balun, but get very hot in LFP or impedance matching circuits.
If you have the space, then the old fashioned air coil inductor works fine. For power
applications use at least 1mm stranded wire.
As a former I just use 2in PVC pipe.
Rik, ON7YD

Examination; no Morse test was

necessary. However it was not a
short cut to obtaining an ordinary
G8KW, pictured with
sound licence, as it was only posone of the Viceroy
sible to send vision signals. To
SSB transmitters
send any accompanying sound,
produced by his
an ordinary sound licence was
company in the early
Initially, callsigns in the G3
plus three letter series were issued, but with a /T to indicate
television. Those who already
held a licence just added the /T to
their callsign when transmitting
TV. Later it was felt necessary to
issue calls in a new series for TV
licences. Accordingly, in 1964,
calls in the G6 plus three letter
series were issued. Again a /T
was used to indicate that the call
was used for TV.
With the introduction of these
licences, amateur radio was taking shape along the lines we know
today. However, further changes
were to take place in the years to
with the revision of the licence in 1954 an come, with the introduction of more types of
amateur TV licence was introduced. Transmis- licence, new bands, new facilities, and tremen
sions were only allowed on frequencies above dous advances in technology.
420MHz, and to obtain a licence it was only
. . . to be continued
necessary to have passed the Radio Amateurs
RadCom September 1998


The History of
Amateur Radio
Part four, by Ian Poole, G3YWX*

AST MONTHS instalment ended with

the coming of the G6 plus three letter
amateur television licence in 1964. In
the early 60s shacks were largely populated
with home-brewed or modified WWII military
equipment, but things were about to change.

THE BASIC CONCEPT and terms of the amateur licence had remained unchanged since
1945, when it was first proposed. In 1964 a new
type, called the class B licence, was launched.
To obtain this the applicant only needed to pass
the Radio Amateurs Examination, ie no Morse
test was required. However, it limited operation to speech (ie no Morse was allowed) and
to frequencies above 420MHz.
The initial response to the licence was fairly
slow, and the rate at which licences were taken
up was much less than for the standard class A
licence. This was because it was fairly difficult
to set a station up on the UHF or microwave
bands. Very little commercially made equipment was available, and the technology of the
time meant that home construction was not at
all easy, particularly where high power transmitters were concerned. Fortunately this new
licence did stimulate more use of the UHF
bands, which were not widely used at the time.
The licence remained unchanged for about
four years, but in 1968 the terms were changed
so that the use of the 2m band was allowed.
This proved to be a tremendous success. The
number of class B licences being issued rose
dramatically, even outstripping the number of
class A licences at times. The reason for this
was that it was much easier to obtain or build
equipment for 2m. It was at about this time that
equipment specifically for the amateur started
to become available for this band at affordable

WITH THE INCREASE in the number of
stations using 2m and the availability of equipment came a marked rise in the amount of
mobile activity on the band. It was far more
convenient than Top Band which had previously carried most of the mobile contacts,
*5 Meadway, Staines, Middx TW18 2PW.

RadCom October 1998

because wavelengths were shorter and aerials

more efficient and easier to make.
Along with the increase in mobile activity
came the demand for repeaters.
The first UK repeater was activated on 14
September 1972 with the callsign GB3PI. It
was located in Cambridge at the Pye Telecom
site, although six months later it was moved to
Barkway in Hertfordshire.
Soon after this other repeaters were set up,
and now most places in the UK are within
range of a repeater on 2m and 70cm.

WITH THE TWO basic types of licence that
were available, as well as the mobile and television ones, it was becoming difficult for the
authorities to administer them. Accordingly, in
1977, they were rationalised. Separate mobile
and television licences were abolished, but
provision was made in the basic licences for
mobile and television use without any further
licence or paperwork. This simplification gave
amateurs more freedom to pursue their hobbies
and cut b a c k o n c o s t l y g o v e r n m e n t

ment from Japan started to arrive in ever increasing quantities. Names like Trio/Kenwood,
Yaesu, and Icom began to dominate the market, and more people bought equipment designed and made specifically for the amateur
In many ways this was inevitable, because
the complexity of the equipment was increasing, which meant that the time and skill required to build a set was too much for many
The advent of this equipment meant that the
hobby could be opened up to more people. In
fact, many used the hobby as a relaxing and
enjoyable pastime. People enjoyed a wide range
of aspects of the hobby from chatting to friends
to DXing, and from experimenting to construction.
Many famous people took up the hobby as
well, one of the most well known being King
Hussein of Jordan, JY1. Others included the
late Barry Goldwater, former American Senator and Presidential candidate, the late Rajiv
Ghandi, Prime Minister of India, and from the
entertainment world, Donny Osmond.

WITH THE progression of time
the nature of amateur radio as
a hobby had naturally
changed. In the very early
days amateurs were true
experimenters. Whilst
this attitude persisted,
the emphasis on home
construction became
less. In the 1950s and
1960s more commercially made equipment became available. In the UK names
like Minimitter, Labgear
and KW became commonplace. In fact, the
KW2000 transceivers, initially launched in the 1960s,
are still in use by many stations
Towards the end on the 1960s equip-

Data communication
communication has
has been
revolutionised by
by the
the personal


History Feature


The KW2000D,
last in the
KW2000 line,
which found
its way into
many a shack
in the late 60s
and early 70s.
Many are still
in use today.

IN 1979 ANOTHER World
Administrative Radio Conference was held. Prior to it
a lot of preparatory work
was undertaken by many of
the national radio societies,
including the RSGB. This
paid dividends, because despite pressure from broadcasters wanting more space, amateurs won a
number of victories. In the first instance, many
of the broadcasters who had been creeping into
the 40m amateur band were removed. In addition, three new bands were gained: 10.100 10.150MHz, 18.068 - 18.168MHz, and 24.890
- 24.990MHz. These bands were released on a
gradual basis over the following years.
When the old 405-line television services
finished broadcasting in the UK, large amounts
of the radio spectrum were left unused. Plans
were made to use them for various forms of
mobile communication, but amateurs also made
petitions to see if they could regain a band in
the region of 50MHz. Initially, in 1983, 40
permits were allocated for use in the band
during restricted hours. Later, additional permits were allowed, but a number of restrictions
remained so that interference was not caused to
any continental television services. Gradually
the restrictions were lifted, and all licensees
were able to use the band 50 - 52MHz.

WITH THE ADVENT of the American Space
Shuttle, space flight became a comparatively
normal event. Launches did not hit the headlines and were placed well into news bulletins,
if they were mentioned at all. The experiments
performed on these missions took many forms.
Amateur radio was even allowed onto a number.

In the first amateur operation from space,

W0ORE took a Motorola hand-held
and, using a special antenna fixed to
the window of the Shuttle, was able
to have a radio birds eye view
of a very large area. The main
problem was interference from
the large number of stations
calling him. Operational duties meant that only short periods of time could be allocated
to amateur radio, but even so
the experiment was hailed as a
Further missions took other radio amateurs into space. In 1985,
King Hussein of
Jordan, JY1
one with an all-German crew operated with the callsign DP0SL. However, the loss of the Shuttle Challenger put
paid to amateur radio operation in space for
some time.
For Britain there has been operation from
The RSGB started negotiating with the Despace as well. The first British cosmonaut,
of Trade and Industry, who adminisHelen Sharman, went up with a Russian MIR
space mission in May 1991. Using the callsign ter amateur licences. The idea was agreed and
GB1MIR she contacted a number of stations, a draft of the licence was issued in April 1990.
including many specially set up in schools The licence was launched at the beginning of
1991. To qualify for a licence, applicants needed
around the UK.
to take part in a course organised by the RSGB.
After this they needed to sit a simple examinaNOVICE LICENCE
tion, based on the course. Having passed this,
IT HAD LONG BEEN felt that the examinaa class B Novice licence could be issued for use
tions which needed to be passed to obtain
on restricted allocations above 30MHz. If the
a licence presented a very significant
applicant wanted to operate on the HF bands, a
hurdle, which some people felt they
Morse test at 5 words per minute also had to be
could not overcome. The young passed.
were a particular group who
With the courses and examinations having
found it difficult to obtain li- to be completed, the first licences were issued
cences. With this in mind a on 25 July 1991. The first seven were presented
number of people cam- by the Corporate Affairs Minister of the Depaigned over many partment of Trade and Industry.
years to have a NovOnce the first Novices came on the air,
ice licence introduced. numbers started to rise. Not only was the liThis would be much cence a success from the point of numbers, but
easier to obtain than as many of the applicants were young it seemed
the ordinary licences, to be achieving its aim of encouraging younger
but would not offer the people into the hobby, although people of all
ages were applying.
same facilities.
The 2nd Chelmsford Scouts Novice class of
1997/98. Back row: Jeff, G4JJH (instructor);
Rhona, 2E1GQL; Christopher, G0IPU
(instructor). Front row: Gary, 2E1GQB;
Christopher, 2E1GPT; Daniel, 2E1GQA;
Matthew, 2E1GQK.


bands with very high frequencies, access to the
VLF bands had not been available for very
many years. In 1996 a band at 73kHz was
RadCom October 1998






be connected the right way round. One solder
pad is grounded to the body of the microphone
capsule, but this may not be obvious to the
Dave Lauder, G0SNO
[This was physically checked prior to publication, but there was no visible ground connection to the body of the capsule used by G4OBE.
Constructors who find themselves with such a
capsule should therefore be prepared to swop
the connections over if the project doesnt
work first time - Ed]


THE CORRECT description for VC2 is Jackson
type LA1 (not LAT), and meters M1 and M2
are Maplin RW92A (not RX33L).
Ted Garrott, G0LMJ

I HAVE BOUGHT the tubing to make a 4
Square array for 40m from:
Simmal Ltd, Unit 479&480, Ranglet Road,
Walton Summit Centre, Bamber Bridge, Preston PR5 8AR. Tel: 01772 324277. Fax: 01772
They answered my query courteously, the
price was right and they delivered promptly by
their own transport. I bought stock lengths, but
the driver indicated it would be worth asking
about cut to size service, eg for plates to make
boom-to-mast clamps.



The ground side of the capsule should be connected

to the screen of the cable.

announced for amateurs in the UK, although

a Notice of Variation to the licence was
required for any station to transmit.
The allocation was also very narrow, covering only 71.6 to
74.4kHz, and as expected
most operation was on
Morse. This was only a
temporary allocation,
and a new European
allocation at 136kHz
(135.7 - 137.8kHz)
was released in the
UK at the beginning
of 1998. Unlike the
original 73kHz band,
no Notice of Variation to the licence was
required. With interest in these frequencies
already inspired by the
original VLF allocation,
activity on this band soon
rose and contacts between
the UK and other countries
took place.

TODAY, AMATEUR RADIO is a thriving
hobby. Millions of people world-wide enjoy it
RadCom October 1998

FOR READERS interested in the aurora and

watching the aurora, I can recommend the
book The Aurora Watchers Handbook by Prof

Commercial equipment has largely replaced homebrewed equipment today. Some mourn the passing
of large-scale home construction, whilst others
accept it as a fact of life associated with the modern,
busy lives we lead today.

Neil Davis, University of Alaska Press, 1992.

It is a largely non-technical book, giving good
descriptions of what is thought to cause and
what happens during an aurora, and a brief
summary of how the various indices, eg AE
and Dst, are related and used.
Bill Ward

YOU QUOTE THE formula:F=

2 LC

and I will not argue with this, its been around

too long.
However, when you take into account all the
10-6 type complications it becomes a real pain.
If you re-arrange the bits it can be much simplified to become:


where K=25330.3, L is in H, and C is in pF.

Try it with your calculations from page 42:F=

435 20

= 1.70632 MHz
This may be of use to novices and others like
me who aint too smart at sums.
Brian G Levett, G3TXH

in all its aspects. Whilst many changes have

taken place since it first started, most of
them have been beneficial. Some people enjoy it as a relaxing pastime,
whilst others are still at the forefront of technology with new
developments in data communications, packet radio
being a particular example. Additionally, amateurs are still contributing to the scientific understanding of a number
of different modes of
Amateur radio is set
for a bright future. Most
governments realise its
potential for interesting
young people in a technical career and for the
backup which amateurs
can bring during a disaster.
In addition, amateurs will no
doubt continue to help in advancing technologies associated
with radio, as they have done in the
past. To do this the licence needs to be
as flexible as possible, to ensure that no
undue restraints are placed on them as they
have been in the past.