Chapter III

The Radio Amateur Movement

From the turn of the century enthusiastic young men who built their own items of electrical and wireless apparatus were known as "Wireless Experimenters". Many of them were later granted licences for the use of "Wireless Telegraphy for experimental purposes" (in the United Kingdom) by the Postmaster General under the terms of the 1904 Wireless Telegraphy Act. In his report to Parliament for the years 1905-1906 the P.M.G. stated that it was his wish "to promote experimental investigations in this promising field".

In a book published in 1908 by R.P.Howgrave-Graham entitled "Wireless Telegraphy for Amateurs" the word amateur seems to have been used for the first time.

During the 1914-1918 war all wireless apparatus in the possession of licensed amateurs was closed down under the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914. Experimental transmission licences numbered 1,600.

After the end of the war an Inter-Departmental Committee was set up and in its report to the Postmaster General dated April 1919 it stated: "We are of the opinion that the number of stations existing in July 1914 was excessive from the point of view of government control in case of emergency and the necessity of preventing interference with government and commercial working; further there was no justification for it from the point of view of the encouragement of research or development of industry".

But there was a magnanimous relaxation in the Defence Regulations when the Post Office notified manufacturers of electrical apparatus that restriction on the sale of buzzers had been removed. Buzzers could now be sold without enquiry as to the use to which the purchaser proposed to put them!!!

During 1919 many issues of Wireless World considered "the amateur position", and a leading article in the March issue began with a quotation attributed to Marconi:

"I consider that the existence of a body of independent and often enthusiastic amateurs constitutes a valuable asset towards the further development of wireless telegraphy."

In a subsequent letter to the Editor Marconi wrote:

"In my opinion it would be a mistaken policy to introduce legislation to prevent amateurs experimenting with wireless telegraphy (which the authorities were contemplating). Had it not been for amateurs, wireless telegraphy as a great world-fact might not have existed at all. A great deal of the development and progress of wireless telegraphy is due to the efforts of amateurs."

John Ambrose Fleming, the inventor of the diode valve, also wrote to the Editor of W.W. as follows:

"It is a matter of common knowledge that a large part of the important inventions in connection with wireless telegraphy have been the work of amateurs and private research and not the outcome of official brains or the handiwork of military or naval organisations. In fact we may say that wireless telegraphy itself in its inception was an amateur product. Numerous important inventions such as the crystal detector, the oscillating valve, the triode valve--have been due to private or amateur work. If full opportunities for such non-official research work are not restored, the progress of the art of radio telegraphy and radio telephony will be greatly hindered."

Professor W.H.Eccles wrote:

"Improvements and invention must be stimulated to the utmost. It is not impossible to devise laws to impose restrictions upon the emission of wireless waves as will preclude interference with the public radio service of the future (R.F.I. & T.V.I.?!!) and yet allow liberal opportunities for the experimental study of wireless telegraphy."

Note. The above passages are taken from World at their Fingertips by John Clarricoats, O.B.E.,G6CL, published by the R.S.G.B. in 1968.

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