The Wireless Age, November, 1915, pages 76-86:
The National Amateur Wireless Association
Its Aims, Objects, Officers and Full Details of Operations and Plans, Given in an Address by the Acting President
ON the evening of October 28, members of the class in wireless telegraph instruction, East Side Branch, Y. M. C. A., New York, heard by special request details of the organization of the National Amateur Wireless Association, announced in the October issue of this magazine. J. Andrew White, editor of THE WIRELESS AGE, addressed the enthusiastic assemblage and immediately following his concluding remarks received voluntary assurances that active local work would be begun just as soon as the executives were ready to receive applications for membership. The address follows:
In introducing the subject of the creation of a nation-wide organization of amateur wireless workers, it is best to give first the whys and wherefores--cover with necessary brevity the reasons for this organization and just what it is expected to accomplish.
It seems hardly necessary to state that the great body of amateurs--fully 200,000 of them in this country--are not received with open arms either by government officials or individuals in private life. These young men have no champion, that is certain; attacks on their efforts are far more frequent than encouragement. Yet there must be something of value in the work they are doing. It may be advanced that nothing has been accomplished by the amateur; nothing, that is, of any material value to the world. Grant this, and who can come forward and say that the amateur of to-day is not the scientist of to-morrow? The merest tinker may develop into an enthusiast, take a technical education and become a great radio engineer. It may be that some obscure individual may even stumble upon the solution of some of the problems that baffle the laboratory--there is always that chance. Marconi was a mere boy when he discovered wireless telegraphy.
But the discovery of a genius among our fraternity is not what we seek. The world at large can find the man of unusual attainment without the aid of the National Association.
What the National Amateur Wireless Association can do is to lend a helping hand to young men who look for success in a chosen field. Development of promising material is the initial purpose and foremost aim of the Association. The direction of co-operative or group working is obviously the best way to do this. I, personally, have great faith in the future of the amateur. Give him a sincere co-worker and outline the compass of experiments, bring him by progressive steps from backyard communication to long distance receiving, and something is going to happen somewhere. Maybe it won't be an epoch-making invention, but it is very likely to be the initial development of an engineer to be heard from some day.
The Main Purpose of the Association
As editor of THE WIRELESS AGE magazine and its predecessor, I have had four years of close contact with amateurs, some of them boys, many of them men. I am personally acquainted with a score or more men who have passed their forties and are just as enthusiastic as my younger friends. I know amateurs who have spent hundreds of dollars on their stations; I have "listened in" at these equipments and caught messages that were winging their way through space thousands of miles away. I have seen novices rise high in the field of radio communication; I count among my friends (and incidentally look to him for very material support in the association work about to be commenced) a man who began his wireless work as an amateur and to-day is recognized as an authority. And there are others; many of the best operators in commercial service have come from the amateur ranks.
But these things are well known. What we want to get at is the service the National Amateur Wireless Association is to perform. Co-operation has been mentioned; coupled with this is direction of experimental work. How can this best be accomplished?
This country is nearly 3,000 miles wide and half as long; no possible arrangement would permit the governing officers to come in personal contact with each member with any regularity, even if this were desirable. What the Administrative heads purpose doing, and will do, is the establishment of close relations with a vast army of lieutenants, in the persons of those active in the direction of the many community clubs, state and interstate associations. Existing organizations will be promoted, aided to further growth, and where a community lacks a club every effort will be made to create one. Fully accredited officers of existing organizations will be admitted to the national council and special provision will be made to have them meet in convention at regular intervals. The membership roll of the National Amateur Wireless Association will be wide open; every amateur who is properly endorsed may come in as an individual. According to his abilities and geographical location he will be entered for eligibility in some existing club or association, published recognition of anything noteworthy he accomplishes will be given and, in due course, admittance to some engineering body will be arranged for. Progressive courses of study will be placed in each member's hands; experiments far removed from the usual dry-as-dust textbook recommendations will be added, a monthly bulletin of new call letters and other items of interest will be included. Everything that a body of national officers of wide experience finds essential to the welfare of the amateur will be provided for.
Part of the Preparedness Movement
To give some idea of how broad will be the activities of the National Amateur Wireless Association and how interesting and useful the work of its members, I can speak of one arrangement that will certainly appeal to every experimenter with live blood in his veins.
Within a very short time it will be possible for small clubs in their entirety, or larger organizations through division into groups, to affiliate with military organizations as accredited members and officers of signal corps. Next summer these signal corps will enter military training camps similar to the one recently so successful at Plattsburg, where the mayor of New York served as a rookie. Those who wish it, and secure the recommendation of the National Association, may become full members of a third line of defense for the safeguarding of the nation in event of war.
The Military Value of Wireless
Should this country be invaded--and let us hope it never will be!--the work of the wireless signaling corps would be of the utmost importance. We Americans are just awakening to our perilous position; there is talk of preparedness on all sides and, thanks to the great and wise statesman who is directing the affairs of our nation, we are going to see something done.
Now battleships and standing armies are very necessary; so is the militia; let us hope we are provided for generously with all three. No doubt full provision will also be made for adequate wireless telegraph equipment of our land and naval forces--wireless is one mighty important adjunct to the modern war machine. Before going further into the plans of the association, let me give some hint of just how important wireless has become.
One of the first moves made by all the belligerents in the Great War was the attempted capture and destruction of wireless plants, no matter how small nor where located. A very good reason why this should be done can be given by recalling a single incident in which a tiny station performed notable service.
About this time a year ago one of the most formidable of Germany's naval units disappeared with the destruction of the Cruiser Emden. This vessel had been using wireless with equal effect in eluding her pursuers and in timing her spectacular raids; it was even hinted--and not without reason--that her activities were being directed by wireless from Berlin. She had a remarkable record of depredations and a reputation as a phantom scourge of the seas when, early in the morning of November 9, one year ago, she came to tiny Direction Island, one of the Cocos Group in the Indian Ocean. Her mission was plainly the destruction of the wireless and cable station maintained there by the Eastern Telegraph Company and operated principally as a relay station between Europe and Australia. To those on shore the war had seemed very far away; official bulletins passed through the station daily, but these were seldom exciting and the beach patrol had never sighted anything resembling a hostile warship. When the Emden made her appearance she flew no flag, and this left little doubt as to her nationality; immediately the spark of the Direction Island station crashed forth its appeal for aid.
At six in the morning the cruiser sailed into the lagoon and landed forty men; three hours later the wireless station and the electrical stores building had been blown up and the Germans were grappling for the cable. Suddenly the Emden's siren shrilled forth the blast for recall, and although the landing party dashed to the boats and pushed off at once, the war vessel got under way so rapidly the small boats were left behind. A faint smudge of smoke on the eastern horizon told the tale. The Australian cruiser Sydney, summoned by the little station's SOS was hot on the trail of the raiding cruiser. Eighty minutes later the battered and hole-riddled Emden was ashore on North Keeling Island, a total wreck.
How Amateurs Could Aid in War
It was one of the ironies of fate that wireless telegraphy, which had served this vessel so well, should prove her undoing. But what is of more import to us is the fact that this valuable enemy vessel's destruction was brought about by the prompt action of the man at the key on this little island station. With this country at war our many miles of coast line would require the services of hundreds of wireless operators. A reserve corps made up of amateurs would be of inestimable value to the nation.
No less an authority than Gen. Nelson A. Miles said at the outbreak of the war that wireless would revolutionize warfare. And already we have seen that this new art has changed all the old problems of communication. It is no longer possible to bottle up a place so that it cannot hold communication with the outside; along frontiers or between close-lying countries small apparatus can be secretly used under cover of darkness. In support of this contention is the well-known fact that the British War Office is using direction finders to detect spy stations.
The Aerial Scout
We have also to consider that within these last few months the aerial scout, hitherto confined to the pages of romance, has become a real factor, occupying a fixed position in the equipment of the great modern fighting machine. Wounded officers back from the front speak of regular systems of flight over predetermined routes above battlefields during the engagements. Communication by wireless with military bases is an important function of these aerial scouting expeditions, and although we cannot yet learn definitely what is being done and the distances covered, it is obvious that the instantaneous communication of details regarding enemy positions is effected over considerable distances. The aeroplane wireless sets of the U. S. Army have demonstrated their effectiveness over distances of fifty miles and it is safe to say that the equipments of the belligerents in the war now raging have ranges as great or greater.
Control of the seas in wartime is universally recognized to-day as of the utmost importance, yet few have considered, I venture to say, how great has been the value of wireless in this connection.
In the War of 1812 this country's vessels were effectively used as commerce destroyers and inflicted great damage upon the British merchantmen in spite of that nation's command of the seas. It was all a matter of speed; the Americans did not attempt to defeat the mighty war fleets, but they built ships swifter than those of the British and sent them out to destroy the merchantmen and inferior war vessels which they encountered. In the Civil War, too, the Confederates built a few swift cruisers and--while they never had a navy capable of coping with that of the Federals--played havoc among the Union merchantmen. Through wireless all this has been changed and the cruisers have lost much of their effectiveness. The fate of the Emden is a good illustration of how close tab can now be kept on raiders. The fastest cruiser afloat cannot long escape capture these days. Furthermore, the merchant vessels have been many times warned by wireless of the presence of enemy ships and have thus been able to elude them.
In the present war the cruiser serves principally as a scout vessel attached to a fleet at sea. While thus far there has been no decisive naval engagement upon which can be based definite conclusions, the battle formation as it now exists considers very definitely the utility of wireless telegraphy; safety of the entire fleet may depend upon it. Each war fleet at sea is preceded by a complement of cruisers spread out over many miles; the duty of these ships is to immediately report the presence of hostile fleets and to this end one of the vessels of the main fighting force has its wireless equipment attuned to the wavelength used by each cruiser. Sighting an oncoming enemy fleet, information covering the number of ships, their speed, direction and latitude and longitude is flashed back by wireless and the receiving ship reports to the admiral by semaphore or morse-lamp. Under the same conditions destroyers in large numbers are added for advance scouting.
Naval Strategy Revolutionized
The wireless equipment of a fleet at sea serves in still another way. Each ship station is attuned to whatever shore stations are within communicating range; to one vessel is assigned the task of receiving messages from naval headquarters. Communications covering general foreign intelligence and the movements of foreign ships--reported from all quarters to this central station on shore, by wireless, cable, telegraph, telephone, or all four in combination--are sent out by wireless to the fleet at sea. The admiral can thus lay out his attacking program in accordance with the conditions to be met. In this latter connection might be mentioned the fact that the great Marconi transatlantic station at Carnarvon, Wales, was taken over by the British Admiralty soon after the commencement of the war and has since been in constant use for the direction of vessels at sea. Incidentally, too, as many of you know, this same station has kept in communication with Russia, right over Germany itself.
Instances of the effective employment of wireless in warfare are so numerous I might go on for hours merely telling of them; automobile stations have been used, so have cavalry knapsack equipments and cart stations. The few details which have been given merely serve to outline the widespread usage of this marvelous art of radio communication and indicate how great is the wartime demand for wireless operators.
Marconi on the Great Test
At the last annual meeting of the company which bears his name, Mr. Marconi recalled his remark of the previous year: "The value of wireless telegraphy may one day be put to a great practical test; then, perhaps, there will be a true appreciation of the greatness of the work." He added that he had full confidence that when the war is over, and the facts can be made public, this appreciation will not be lacking.
On the same occasion he made a statement to the British shareholders which bears directly on one of our problems. He said: "The company has received more than one letter of appreciation from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in respect of the work they and the members of their staff have done. It will interest you to know that from our companies some 1,100 men are employed in the forces in active service or on special duties, apart from the very large number at the head office and works who have been requested to remain at their posts, where by so doing they could render great service to the country.
That is a remarkable statement--1,100 men on active service! Think of this country's problems in time of war! We have a shore line of 21,354 miles to defend; the gross area of the United is more than three and one-half million square miles. How many wireless operators would we need?
But--and here is the distressing situation--where would we get them? I haven't at hand any figures from the Department of Commerce to show how many operators hold commercial licenses. But I have just seen a license issued yesterday, and from its serial number I take it there are but twelve thousand-odd commercial operators. Consider this figure and the necessity for drafting the extra 1,100 civilian operators mentioned, always keeping in mind that each vessel in England's mighty navy is wireless equipped and manned by enlisted men. The British have paid a great deal of attention to wireless telegraphy, yet the enlisted forces of the Allies were 1,100 short! Soon after war was declared the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves appealed for recruits with knowledge of wireless signaling; it is reported also on good authority that even the boys' organizations were called upon for aid in the government's plans for defense.
It is easily seen why the United States has not more commercial operators. American-owned merchant ships are few, and many of the foreign vessels prefer operators of the same nationality as the owners. We would have difficulty at the present moment in mustering sufficient wireless men of experience to provide for defense of even a small strip of our coast. The solution of this problem quite evidently lies with the amateurs. The official figures give 3,836 licensed amateurs. I can say conservatively that double that number could pass the examination. Under the guidance of the National Amateur Wireless Association, a reserve force of competent wireless operators adequate for all our needs can be developed within a year.
Special Training Necessary
I feel quite certain that the general public does not understand the difficulties of creating a wireless corps; probably the general impression is that anyone who can handle the Morse alphabet on the telegraph key is qualified for wireless operating. We workers in the wireless field understand, however, that the most skilful key manipulator is practically valueless until he has mastered the technicalities of the equipment. And this is something that cannot be learned in a day, a week or a month.
Members of the National Amateur Wireless Association who desire military training, may have it. Among the distinguished men in our National Advisory Board of Vice-presidents is Major William H. Elliott, a signal officer of wide experience and Adjutant General of the Junior American Guard. Major Elliott will serve as military advisor to the Association and take an active interest in all its affairs. He has had wide experience in training young men, as any member of the Boy Scouts can testify, and for the past six months has been engaged in the organization of the Junior American Guard, commanded by Brigadier General Andrew C. Zabriskie and supported by a long string of prominent American military men. This organization takes the form of a popular patriotic movement and is established on a strict military basis, its organization conforming with that of the United States Army. It already has 3,000 members and forty companies drilling. Boys from 12 to 18 years are eligible and the movement is nation-wide.
Eligibility to Signal Corps
As a vice-president of the National Amateur Wireless Association, Major Elliott will approve all applications from members who desire to affiliate with local companies or battalions as signal corps. Small clubs, properly endorsed, may come in as complete corps; larger amateur organizations, with hundreds of eligible members, may affiliate in smaller groups. Approved members of the National Amateur Wireless Association, who are beyond the age limit, will be admitted as officers and serve as military signaling instructors. Weekly drill, reviews, parades, summer encampments and manoeuvres are some of the activities which may be shared in by those with military leanings. Under the arrangement just outlined this important branch of preparedness with a third line of defense can be pursued by our members, old and young. Nothing could be finer for our wireless enthusiasts who have passed into man's estate than to take up the work of instruction in wireless signaling; I feel certain that the response from older amateurs will rival that of the young patriots.
But, even though there is much more which might be said on military aspects, the greater general work of the National Amateur Wireless Association has scarcely been covered. First, let me tell you about the men who will direct its affairs.
Our president is none other than the great inventor, Marconi. In accepting this office, just before his departure for the front, Mr. Marconi stated that the organization had his full approval and he would aid its success in every way possible. That he has never before accepted an executive office in any similar organization speaks eloquently for the worthy purposes of the association. As our chief counsellor we have, therefore, the world's greatest authority on radio communication. Mr. Marconi's signature will appear on every membership certificate and will doubtless remain a prized possession for many years to come.
For administrative officer, or acting president, the selection has fallen upon me. The reason for this is given as wide acquaintance in the amateur field and familiarity with the educational needs of that field. No great personal achievement appears in my record and I fear my only claim to recognition lies in the fact that I have devoted every day (and a great many nights) during the past four years to establishing, directing and editing the leading magazine in the wireless field. Whatever deficiencies I may have as administrative officer I hope to remedy with experience, just as I have tried to as an editor. To be great in the latter vocation it is not necessary to know "everything"; it is only necessary to have a clear conception of what you don't know. I venture the prediction that before the change of the moon my administrative education from National Association members will begin. I shall discharge my duties as best I know how; the brilliant staff of advisors which surround me should make these not only easy, but pleasant.
Clayton E. Clayton, who has been associated with me for some time, will serve as managing secretary and upon him will rest the responsibility for the very considerable amount of detail work.
Some of the Officers of the Association
Major Elliott has already been mentioned as one of our vice-presidents. On this national council board also is Alfred N. Goldsmith, assistant professor of physics, College of the City of New York, instructor in radio engineering and editor of the Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers. Professor Goldsmith is one of the most brilliant men it has been my good fortune to know. His achievements in the field we purpose to occupy need no mention, novice and scientist alike know and respect him as one of the country's most sincere workers and a student of the phenomena of radio communication who has pursued his vocation with an energy and application which make most of us appear as drones. In this man the National Amateur Wireless Association has an officer who is in a position to directly approve full recognition of any member who may distinguish himself; admission to the Institute of Radio Engineers, in which Professor Goldsmith is a moving spirit, is but one of the ways he can serve the interests of deserving amateurs.
Experts to Solve Technical Problems
Then there is Professor A. E. Kennelly, of Harvard--he certainly needs no introduction; his high standing in the educational development of radio experts is known to everyone who can distinguish the difference between a generator and a transformer. The same applies to the remaining vice-presidents, Professor Samuel Sheldon, of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Professor Charles R. Cross, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Hiram Percy Maxim, inventor of the Maxim silencer and president of the American Radio Relay League. With this dazzling array of experts no technical difficulty can arise among members which will not find quick solution.
E. E. Bucher, Instructing Engineer, Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, will serve the Association in the same capacity and has consented to devote a considerable portion of his time to this particular work.
To assist this advisory board there will be a National Association Council made up from existing clubs, state and interstate organizations, presumably the presidents or secretaries, at the option of the club's ballot from individual members. This council shall be considered the direct representative of the combined amateur club interests and will be called upon to assist the National Association's executives in disposing of such measures as may arise. Committees on membership, organization, publication and equipment are provided for and will be appointed later.
The headquarters of the National Amateur Wireless Association will be located in New York. As a temporary arrangement, space has been set aside at 450 Fourth avenue and through the kindness of the owners of the magazine I direct, these quarters will cost us nothing. I trust we can make this a permanent arrangement, as the organization dues are placed so low no funds can be appropriated for rent. The Association needs principally a mailing address as it is strictly a co-operative body and the active work it directs will be carried out by club lieutenants all over the country. Club rooms for the National Association would add needless expense and, if it can be continued, the present arrangement is an ideal one. All our work will be carried on through bulletins, the official organ, and through the National Council representatives of the various clubs. Personal contact with the National officers will be made possible through conventions which will be held in central points at stated periods to be determined later. Those who guide the destinies of the National Amateur Wireless Association are all very busy men and, while they will faithfully serve in advisory capacities when requested to do so through the regular channels, individual appeals should not be made direct to them. Every man holding office and serving on the boards of the association does so without one cent of compensation; it is only fair to them that petty questions which can be settled among the amateurs directly concerned shall not be referred higher up.
The Educational Plans
As to the educational plans thus far outlined, this much can be said: Each individual who enrolls as a charter member will receive a volume entitled "How to Conduct a Radio Club" which will treat exhaustively of parliamentary procedure, construction of sending and receiving equipment, portable sets, indoor and outdoor experiments, use of barbed wire fences, rain gutters and bridge rails as aerials, long distance receiving by use of kite-flown aerials, how to construct a 5,000 mile receiving set--in fact, everything that the most ambitious amateur cares to know about the most interesting phases of a fascinating pursuit. Another volume will contain a complete list of the call letters of all the wireless stations, ship and shore, throughout the world. Any message received may thus be immediately identified and a progressive record made of the distances received by the member's own set. To supplement this list and keep it corrected up to date a monthly bulletin will be sent to each member. As the official government publications are issued only once a year, this service will prove invaluable. Newly licensed amateur stations, as well as commercial stations, will be included in this bulletin. A third standard book is also to be given. This book is entitled "How to Pass U. S. Government Wireless License Examinations" and contains the answers to 118 actual questions asked by the naval examiners, covering completely the knowledge necessary to qualify as a licensed operator. These three books, properly employed, will equip any persevering amateur with knowledge that will enable him to look toward the higher engineering branches of radio communication. In combination with the monthly bulletin service these volumes have, at a low cost estimate, a valuation of at least two dollars. Charter members will also receive an annual subscription to THE WIRELESS AGE, the official organ of the National Amateur Wireless Association. In addition to the familiar regular instructional features of this magazine, space will be reserved for reporting the activities of members.
The Membership Certificate
The membership certificate is a handsome steel engraving, with half-tone shadow background. A 36-inch aerial pennant, which will also be given to each member, is one of the most striking ever produced; the insignia is worked out in four colors. This design is also repeated in color on the membership pin. The full charter membership equipment can be conservatively valued at five dollars. I mention this merely to show that instead of being a money-making proposition, the charter member dues of the National Amateur Wireless Association do not cover the cost of producing the equipment. The charter members will be required to pay only $2.50 when accepted for admission. In cases where individuals may already own one or more of the standard textbooks or have unexpired subscriptions to the magazine, the amount paid for these will be deducted from the membership fee. Those who are unable to pay at once the full dues will be enabled to come in on the part-payment basis provided for in the official announcements. No deserving amateur is to be deprived of membership through lack of money. The fees have been kept down to the lowest possible sum at which the equipment could be provided. And it is only through the generosity of those associated in official capacities that these excellent arrangements have been made.
Bright Future Ahead
The National Amateur Wireless Association comes into official existence on November first. From that date on applications for membership will be received if mailed to the present headquarters. Licensed amateurs will be admitted to membership within a few days after application is received. Those not possessing licenses, and under legal age, will be required to furnish two adult references who will vouch for their character. Investigations will be pursued promptly and prompt notice of admission or rejection will be given.
The great future in store for this organization will be recognised at once by all wireless workers. It represents the first movement for development of experimenters in an art which is of ever-increasing importance to the world. Contrasted with other fields of endeavor, members of the National Amateur Wireless Association will occupy an enviable situation. The leading authorities in the country and the world's greatest expert in wireless communication have enthusiastically come to a hitherto unrecognized class of experimenters and offered to direct them in the acquisition of radio knowledge. These men have planned for you; it now remains but to take advantage of the alluring prospects offered.