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San Francisco Call, March 29, 1908, page 3:
'Stop It Kid' Cries Congress to the American Boy
By  Karl  H.  von  Wiegand
AND now it is the great American boy who is to feel the big stick.
    What? President Roosevelt fighting the American boy, the youngster whose strenuosity, energy, curiosity, desire to know things, to do things and whose penchant for experimenting is so characteristic of the spirit of our best nation? Impossible!
    Not only possible, but an actual fact.
    "Swish! swish!" went the big stick over the head of the American boy last week. As to the swat! That will in a measure depend upon congress, where the American youngster has many friends, who, since there is no more patronage and as it is the president's last year, may interpose.
    And, strangest of all, it is the American boy's characteristic faculty of doing things that has incurred the displeasure of the president and incidentally of Uncle Sam.
    It is all right for the American boy to "do things," says the president. He believes in that himself and practices it. He sympathizes with the kids ambition to "know things" and find them out through practical experimenting. That is the American inventive genius and is most commendable, declares he, but qualifies it with "within certain limits." Those limits the president evidently thinks should be confined to the good solid ground. It was never intended, appears to be President Roosevelt's opinion, that blue ether should be a playground for the American boy or that he was entitled to more air than necessary for him to breathe or fly a kite.
    But, when the precocious youngster begins to carry his pranks into the etherial blue, eavesdrops, taps Uncle Sam's aerograms, interferes with wireless communications and fills the ether with his own "splashes," it's time, says the president, to step in with the big stick.
    From trusts and railroad magnates to the American "kid" is a far cry--in degree, not in kind--but not so far that he can escape the president's attention, in itself a compliment; but when the president urges national legislation to place some limit and restrictions upon the inventive turn of mind of the American boy and his penchant for practical experiments, decidedly it is an honor.
    So numerous have been the complaints to the navy department from San Francisco, Newport, Washington and other cities of interferences with their wireless messages by private persons and experimental stations, that President Roosevelt has sent a message to congress urging the passage of the bill quoted elsewhere on this page, regulating wireless telegraphy and placing some restrictions upon it so that government and commercial business is not interfered with.
Aimed  at  the
    American  Boy
House  Bill  No.  17,719
    Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the United States of America in congress assembled: That it shall be a punishable offense (a) to originate or transmit a false wireless message purporting to be official; (b) or to break in and interfere with any wireless station while it is transmitting an official message; or (c) to refuse to cease or fail to cease sending a private wireless message when called upon to do so by an operator having an official message to be sent. Any person committing any one or more of the above offenses shall for each offense be punished by a fine of not exceeding $2,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.

    The president forwarded to congress a letter from Secretary of the Navy Metcalf calling the former's attention to the necessity of such a law and included a report citing numerous instances of interference with the governments aerograms. While neither the president's message nor Secretary Metcalf's letter says so in as many words, it is apparent from the letters mentioning instances of interference "by persons operating with no serious object," and his statement "that laws of the nature proposed would never seriously interfere with legitimate workings of commercial wireless stations," that is the great American boy that the president is after. To show how the latter is interfering with Uncle Sam's business by invading his wireless zone, it is necessary to explain the elementary principles of wireless telegraphy.
    I know of no better illustration, although somewhat crude, than the following:
    You have thrown stones in a pond and observed the ripples and wavelets on the surface of the water radiating in all directions. If the stone was large the disturbance on the surface of the water was in proportion and the waves larger and radiating to a greater distance from the splash than if the stone was small. Had the large stone been followed by a small pebble the ripples of the latter did not interfere with the waves of the former, and soon merged with them until they were no longer perceptible to the eye.
    Supposing now that the stones were thrown in with a certain regularity and system, the size, length and distance between the waves forming an alphabetical code, and numerous boys around the pond were making splashes that broke up and interfered with the signal waves. There you get the idea.
    In like manner the disruptive discharge of an electrical spark of high frequency and great intensity from a wireless apparatus through the medium of its aerial wire, makes a "splash" in the ether and sets up electric oscillations or ether waves, radiating at right angles from the aerial. These waves, their regularity, space between and their length, whether dots or dashes, form the signal code of letters.
    Well, the president, the secretary of the navy and incidentally Uncle Sam want the American kid to stop throwing "electric stones" into the "ether pond" that stretches out it over the United States, and through congress they have asked that it be fenced off.
    With the remarkable development in wireless telegraphy in the last three years have come opportunities for experimenting which the inventive genius of the American boy has taken full advantage of. The elementary principle, once grasped, has set to work to make his own instruments, and the possible infringement upon a patent has not troubled his mind. Crude were his instruments at first, it it is true, but once he found that they worked, it spurred him on to greater effort and he set to work improving them, not alone by copying after the latest style and pattern and keeping in touch with the latest inventions and discoveries, but made his own independent experiments. Today there is not a large city in the United States, especially where commercial or government wireless stations are established, where numerous "aerials" cannot be seen on housetops, on tops of barns, in trees, on windmills and other places. In San Francisco and the bay towns there are more than a score of such stations put up and operated by boys from 10 to 18 years of age. Alameda and Berkeley are fairly dotted with them.
    In a Berkeley station I found a condenser made out of a number of a number of quart milk jars, the "tuner" made out of a five gallon distilled water demijohn, and the ambitious inventor at work making a more powerful Leyden jar condenser out of a number of seltzer water bottles from which he had cut the top. But upon clapping the receiver to my ears I heard "TM" (Point Loma) calling "LX," the cruiser West Virginia, which was then about off the southern California coast, and a little later heard the Mare island navy yard burning a hole in the atmosphere with his sulphuric words, swearing at an American boy somewhere in Alameda for "butting in" with his "spark" when he was working with Point Loma.
    Instead of a "tuner" the size of a five gallon demijohn a San Francisco boy had achieved the same object and even better results with a tuner neatly made and not larger than a pint bottle, and in his plant, installed upon a covered back porch, I found a home made spark coil, which if purchased from a dealer would have cost not less than $150.
    In order to understand how these small wireless stations can interfere with Uncle Sam's aerograms, as wireless messages are sometimes termed, it is necessary to explain that the oscillations in the ether by the disruptive discharge of the electric spark by a wireless apparatus which is caught by the aerial of the receiving station comes to the ear of the operator through the telephone receivers on his head, similar to those worn by telephone girls, in a zip, zip, zish, z-z-z-s-t buzzlike sound. In a small degree it sounds something like an electric buzzer but not nearly so loud. I may be able to convey a better idea of the sound by comparing it with the buzzing of a fly or a bee. To the acute and highly trained ear of the operator these delicate sounds are intelligible signals and are read when so faint as to be hardly discernible to the ordinary ear.
Local Amateurs

    As long as the boys in their experiments confined themselves to receiving stations and to transmitting spark coils, the waves of which did not have a radiating zone of more than a mile or two and were not noticed among the ether waves from the large stations, just as in the analogy of the pond the ripples from pebbles quickly disappear among the larger waves there was no interference and no cause for complaint.
    But the American boy kept pace with the latest inventions. He soon abandoned the Marconi coherer and decoherer, the former of which he made with a small tube of glass, a platinum wire and the nickel and silver filings from a nickel and a dime; the latter is from an ordinary electric bell tapper, and made himself the latest electrolytic detector, which he connected with a pair of the most delicate telephone receivers which can be purchased from any dealer in electric goods. I found one San Francisco youth using a pair of receivers more sensitive and of greater receiving power than those used by the navy department.
    With the ability to receive came the ambition to send or transmit. Unable to buy the long distance spark coils, the price of which runs well up into hundreds of dollars, he obtained plans and diagrams and, with remarkable ingenuity and dogged determination, set to work to wind his own primary and secondary coils and made powerful condensers of various material, not a little of which he found in junk piles. The sparks from such coils can cause annoyance and interference when Uncle Sam's aerograms are flitting through the ether.
    "Selective" wireless telegraphy, that is, a system by which interferences from other stations are eliminated through syntonizing the receiving apparatus with the wave length of the transmitting station by means of a "tuner," has made great advances lately, but does not wholly cut interferences when the latter comes from a strong spark in the vicinity of the receiving station. There are instruments for which it is claimed that they will eliminate all signals regardless of how close or strong, whose wave lengths vary in a slight degree from that of the station to which it is "attuned." But few of either government or commercial stations, at least on this coast, are equipped with them.
    I have heard the buzzlike signals from a half dozen stations at the same time, and with the "tuner" have been able to pick out the particular station that I wanted to read and "shut out" the others, or at least made them so faint that they did not confuse me. However, when receiving from a station at a great distance whose waves are coming so faintly that they are barely discernible to the ear, and a station within a few miles and having a strong spark "breaks in," as the incident referred to when Mare Island was receiving from Point Loma and some boy in Alameda broke in, the latter comes so much louder that it practically blots out the faint "buzz" from the distant station. That is one of the principal sources of complaint made by the naval stations, not only against the boys with experimental equipments of unusual strength, but also against some of the commercial stations who sometimes may fail to recognize the right of government business to have precedence over everything else.
Local Amateurs

    A splendid type of the American youth is Ralph W. Wiley, a young electrician, who has the most powerful and best equipped experimental wireless plant on this side of the bay, entirely home made. Installed upon the back porch of his home at 2100 Golden Gate Avenue, every instrument is as neatly made as if it had come from a factory and the entire outfit as compact and pretty as any installation that I have seen. Young Wiley is a capable operator as the result of home practice, enjoys the distinction often having his signals answered by the ships and other stations and is well spoken of by both commercial and government wireless operators for his good sense and judgment in never "breaking in" when the latter are busy.
    In Alameda, Albert Wolff Jr., a 15 year old schoolboy, has an excellent wireless station at his home at 2148½ Clifton avenue, and young Henry Helm at 1426 Park avenue. Both equipments are examples of what perseverance, ingenuity and inventive genius of the alert American boy can accomplish. Young Wolff has been experimenting and working on his outfit for two years and now has an installation that will transmit for a distance of 20 miles and pick up practically everything within a radius 500 miles. For an aerial wire he has a wire clothes line suspended from a 60 foot mast. His apparatus is an adaptation of the "Shoemaker" system.
    Young Helm has even a more powerful spark coil and is capable of covering a greater distance in transmitting than Wolff's station, while its receiving capacity is about the same, extending to Point Loma on the south and about the same distance north.
    These two boys were severely scored in one of the naval service papers some time ago for picking up private and government messages and making them public, as based upon an interview and publication in a local paper. Both boys, however, emphatically deny that they ever made any messages public and declare that the alleged messages contained in the article were "made up" by the reporter and not given to him by them.
    Perhaps the most ambitious youth on the other side of the bay is Frank Rieber, a bright young Berkeley high school student. With an exceptionally fine location at a high elevation at his home on Canyon road in the hills above Berkeley, young Rieber has a 90 foot aerial and an excellent apparatus made by himself, on which he claims on one occasion to have heard Sitka, Alaska. His long distance receiving zone is perhaps as good as that of some of the commercial or government stations around the bay. He claims that at night his aerial and sensitive detectors pick up the messages from the warships at target practice at Magdalena bay and among other stations hears Point Loma, Point Arguello, Farallones, Mare Island, Table bluff, North head, Bremerton navy yard and Victoria. Not content with the long distance receiving capabilities of his instruments, he has just completed after several weeks work a six kilo watt home made transformer for long distance transmission. When it is remembered that some of the commercial stations are equipped with but five kilo watt power and the majority of the warships and commercial steamers with only a three kilo watt installation it will be readily seen that this Berkeley youth has a powerful station. He estimates that his spark will reach all the stations within a zone of 500 miles.
    Besides those mentioned there are more than a dozen stations installed and operated by boys, large and small, on both sides of the bay.
    During the daytime, when the distance that can he covered by wireless telegraphy is much less than at night, much of the long distance work is sated until night. From sundown until midnight the ether is full of flitting aerograms. Mare island navy yard, the central and most powerful station on the coast, commences early in the evening with Bremerton navy yard, Tatoosh Island, North head, Table bluff and continues on down the coast, clearing each station in turn until it reaches Point Loma, and under favorable atmospheric conditions works direct with the vessels at Magdalena bay. When working with stations closer the Mare island operator uses a smaller "spark" and decreases his power so as not to interfere with other stations working in his zone.
Local Amateurs

    It is in the early hours of the evening, usually from 8 to 10 o'clock, that the boys around the bay are most busy in conversing with one another by means of their stations. And it is during that time that the "interferences" complained of usually occur.
    To the honor and credit of the boys it must be said I do not personally know of an instance where they made public any messages that they may have picked up, and some of them are quite competent operators. Most of them vigorously condemn the "breaking in" when the government or commercial stations are busy and refuse to answer with their spark at such times. One of them said to me, "Some of the boys are queering the game for us all, but the majority of them are sensible and stay out when the ships and stations around the bay are working".
    It may be asked, "Where do the boys get their power?" That is quite a simple matter. For receiving it only a few dry batteries and for transmitting they connect their apparatus with the electric light wires.
    The boys around the bay who take a keen interest in wireless telegraphy not only know the "calls" of every station and ship on the coast, but know the power and strength of their respective "sparks" and keep well posted on the movements of the warships.