Winter 2009 Issue
This, the third article on the Basement
Laboratory Group, has two sections. The first section gives a brief
history on aurora, VHF scatter communications and in particular items of
interest from the year 1956. The second section is selections from a
transcript of a Christmas tape WA2VVA’s father put together for Tommy
Thomas, W2UK/KH6UK, when he was living in Hawaii. It includes a number of
VHF pioneers telling their own VHF stories in 1956. Most of the guys on
the tape are no longer with us. Even so, their words to Tommy provide both
relevance and history for us today.
For the members of the Basement Lab Group the
year 1956 was a year of anticipation, not just for the upcoming
sunspot/aurora cycle, and the opportunity to participate in the
International Geophysical Year (IGY), but also for the chance to
communicate with Ralph “Tommy” Thomas, W2UK. Just one year earlier, RCA
had relocated Tommy from New Brunswick, New Jersey to the Hawaiian Island
of Oahu. It was there that Tommy would join the ranks of an elite group of
radio men—those who once served as Engineers-in-Charge of the Marconi
Walt sent a form letter to over two-dozen VHF pioneers, asking each to prepare a 10-minute audio tape of what they had accomplished in 1956 and what they hoped to accomplish in 1957. The final master, which Walt spliced together from all the tapes returned to him, is a reflection of the early days of VHF radio not just from the perspective of those living it, but when they were actually living it!
Presented on the following pages is a brief
history of those days, followed by transcripts taken directly from Walt’s
Aurora: Although astronomers have been
counting sunspots for thousands of years, the potential for sunspots to
interrupt everyday life on Earth was not appreciated until the widespread
use of telegraphy came into being. In 1856 The New York Times reported how
a huge aurora caused interference with telegraph circuits all across the
nation and described how the aurora “took possession” of telegraph
offices, causing “all sorts of fantastical and unreadable messages” to be
received. Numerous other references to aurora-induced Earth currents
finding their way into the telegraph wires, and disrupting railroad
operations, can be found in the literature.
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