Popular Mechanics, October, 1913, pages 545-546:
How the New Wireless Law Works
by George F. Worts
LICENSED OPERATOR - FIRST GRADE
THE confusion in wireless-telegraph circles resulting from the rigid enforcement of the new "wireless law," which requires all wireless stations and all wireless operators to be licensed, has to a considerable extent subsided, so that it is now possible to describe the results of the law with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Federal wireless regulation was an iron long in the fire before it was extracted and molded into its present form. When it came it was a pill without any sugar coating. Congress has an unpleasant way of saying "must" and not "may." But the medicine seems to have done the wireless system of the United States a world of good, even in the short time that it has been tried. Eleven officials in nine districts, armed with the formidable title of "Federal Radio Inspector," are administering generous doses according to the nature of the case by the following plan:
Amateur stations are restricted to a transmitting-wave length of 200 meters (656 ft.), "tuned sharp," and a transformer input of one kilowatt. In the case of stations within five miles of naval or military stations, the current input must be still further reduced to ½ kilowatt. Amateurs with two years of actual experience can obtain a special amateur-station license from the Secretary of Commerce to use a longer wave and a higher power. This grade of license is difficult to obtain, however, because the applicant must prove conclusively that a "substantial benefit to the art or to commerce" is likely to result; in other words, that his motive is not merely one of individual amusement.
At the Berlin convention--a meeting of the world powers held several years ago to arbitrate wireless questions of an international nature--it was decided that commercial stations the world over should use two wave lengths: 300 and 600 meters (984 and 1,968 ft.), respectively. Each government, however, may authorize the use of a wave exceeding 1,000 meters (5,248 ft.) for long-distance transmission, as it is exceedingly difficult for high-powered stations to operate efficiently on short wave lengths. But the limits of 600 to 1,600 meters must not be trespassed upon, as wave lengths within that range are reserved for government stations exclusively. Shipboard stations, as far as possible, must operate on a normal wave length of 300 meters, "tuned sharp," to minimize interference. In case a distress signal is to be sent out, the apparatus is adjusted coarsely, so that it can be readily heard whether the desired receiving station is tuned for 300-meter waves or not.
Only two classes of stations are totally exempt from license: First, those whose apparatus is for receiving only; second, those whose influence does not extend beyond the state, or does not interfere with the reception of radiograms from beyond the state.
According to the new law, there are nine different, distinct grades of wireless operators, and they are classified as follows:
|1, First Grade||6, First Grade||8, Experimental|
|2, Second Grade||7, Second Grade || Grade|
|3, Cargo Grade|| ||9, Instructor|
|4, Extra Grade|| || Grade|
|5, Temporary Permit|
The severity of the examination for commercial operators has very effectively weeded out the "bluffers," and, it is reported, a noticeably increased operating standard is already the gratifying result.
In order to secure a first-grade commercial license the operator must be able to receive and send at least 20 words a minute in Continental-Morse--the international code--counting five letters to the word. Some of the inspectors require the applicant to receive in a foreign language, thereby absolutely assuring his accuracy. A single wrong letter in a word spoils an applicant's chance for a license, although, of course, he may take the examination over again at some other time. Next comes a written test covering wireless theory, adjustment and care of apparatus, knowledge of the Berlin Regulations and Radio Acts of Congress. Such practical puzzlers are often given as: "What would you do to replace it, if the starting box of the motor-generator burned out?" Or, "How would you erect and insulate an aerial, in case yours blew overboard?"
Finally comes a test in adjustment for different wave lengths and correction of faults. A first-class commercial license qualifies the holder, if a man, for employment at any ship or shore station, or if a woman, for shore-station work. It might be mentioned in passing that very few licenses of any grade have been issued to women.
To gain a second-class license requires a knowledge of theory and apparatus less extensive than is necessary for first-class, and a sending and receiving ability of only 12 words a minute. Second-class operators are usually employed as "assistants" or "juniors" in ship and shore stations.
Cargo-grade licenses are issued in lieu of second-class for assistant operators on cargo vessels. Cargo-grade operators are usually members of the crew.
Temporary licenses, as the name suggests, are issued in cases of emergency, and are valid for one voyage only. The necessity of a provision of this nature can be appreciated when it is explained that a heavy fine is imposed upon the master of a vessel clearing port without an operator.
The highest grade of license obtainable is known as "extra-grade" and is issued only to operators whose first-class licenses, indorsed by the proper authority, record 12 months of satisfactory ocean service, and who can pass a special examination. The United States government plans to use these men in its own service.