HAM Radio Timeline

History of Radio and Particularly Amateur Radio

Credit to Dave Casler, KE0OG for most of this compiling.

1890s and before

1844 Morse telegraph
1858 First transatlantic cable (doesn’t last even a year because of gross misuse occasioned by complete lack of understanding of the physics involved)
1865 Continental Morse code differs from American Morse in about half the characters and all the punctuation and numerals
1865 ITU (International Telegraph Union) formed. ITU (International Telecommuncations Union) still exists and governs worldwide use of radio spectrum
1866 Successful transatlantic cable
1868 Mahlon Loomis demonstrates wireless telegraphy of two stations 18 miles apart
1800s Development of experiments and understanding of electricity: Oersted, Ampere, Faraday, Henry (1832)
1860-1861 James Clerk Maxwell wrote his equations which completely describe classical electromagnetics
1880 Heaviside invents coaxial cable and patents it in England
1883 Edison discovers “Edison effect,” actually a diode, but does not capitalize on it
1887 Hertz demonstrates that Maxwell’s postulated electromagnetic field (EMF) exists
Oliver Heaviside recasts Maxwell’s equations in their present form
1890s Marconi does his early work
Spark transmitters are invented
1897 formation of Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Ltd
1889 Marconi bridges English Channel with wireless


1901 Marconi spans Atlantic (first contact is disputed, but other contacts followed) using spark transmitter and coherer detector
1901 Fessenden invents heterodyning
1902 Arc oscillator using a “negative resistance” effect in carbon arc; generates “pure” undamped wave
1900s Synchronous rotary arc, caused an audio modulation of signal; permits easier reception (sort of like MCW)
1902 Heaviside postulates ionosphere
1903 Wright brothers: first controlled, powered, heavier than air flight at Kitty Hawk, NC
1904 Fleming valve (diode) invented by experimenting with Edison effect
1905 widespread use of 500 kHz as ship distress frequency
1905 Vibroplex introduced; still manufactured today
1905 SOS starts being used; gradually replaces CQD
1906 deForest adds grid (“Audion”–a triode) with amplification factor of about 4 to 20
1906 First broadcast of human speech and music, Fessenden
1906 The term “radio” introduced
1906 Hugo Gernsback opens Electro-Importing Company
1907 Einstein discovers E=mc**2 relationship
1900s Galena, silicon, and carborundum crystal receivers (a loose contact with galena via a “cat whisker” forms a diode)
1908 Hugo Gernsback publishes Modern Electrics magazine, first radio magazine
1909 Hugo Gernsback founds Wireless Association of America
Late 1900s Airways were a contentious mess with constant QRM
1909 Radio Club of America formed
1909 Don Wallace (later W6AM in 1928) on air for first time; later becomes famous for his huge rhombic
farm atop Rancho Palos Verde in Los Angeles area


1910 cat whisker detector
Around 1910, term “ham” applied to amateurs; original meaning was derogatory, but hams wore it with pride
and still do
A well-designed kilowatt transmitter has range of perhaps 100 miles (most of the kilowatt is wasted in the
spark, signals extremely broadband)
1910 Gernsback issues Wireless Blue Book: first compendium of 90 stations
1912 Armstrong uses feedback in an Audion; amplifiers and oscillators become practical
1912 RMS Titanic sinks; major turning point in radio history
1912 Radio Act of 1912 prompted by Titanic disaster; “ownership” of bands removed from Marconi
company; licenses required; amateurs licensed and restricted to “200 meters (and down)” (meaning 1.5 MHz and up);
first licensed amateur is 1ZE, Irving Vermiolya; essay tests required!
1912 Q-codes developed; still used today; original list had 50
1912 International Morse introduced to replace both American Morse and Continental Morse; this is the code
we use today
1912/1913 Armstrong invents regenerative receiver; becomes public in 1915; vastly more sensitive than
crystal radios
1913 Severe windstorm in midwest creates blackout; first documented emergency communications by hams
1913 Wireless Society of London founded; later becomes RSGB
1914 Hiram Percy Maxim and Clarence Tuska create Amateur Radio Relay League with backing of Radio
Club of Hartford, which appropriated $50. Primary purpose to move traffic in an orderly way;
1914 Beginning of WW1 in Europe, “The Great War,” “The war to end all wars”
1915 QST publishes first issue
1915 Ray Kellog invents electric moving coil loudspeaker
1915 John Carson applies for patent on idea to suppress carrier and one sideband
1917 Code speed requirement raised to 10 wpm
1917 US entered war; 4000 hams would serve; war ended in 1918; During WWI, QST shuts down
1917 saw 6000 amateurs in US armed forces
1918, 1919 HPM lobbies heavily for return of amateur radio; succeeds; shows lobbying power of ARRL
1918 Armstrong invents superheterodyne technique (creation of an intermediate frequency); also attributed to
Levy of France
1919 Beverage antenna developed
1919 First use of “Wouff Hong” as something used to remedy poor operating techniques


Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) radios become common; superhet becomes common toward end of decade
1920 First “Radio Amateur’s Callbook” with Flying Horse design
1920 First licensed broadcast station KDKA, still operates today
1921 first transatlantic two-way CW in 1923 (France/US) on 110 meters (about 2.7 MHz)
1921 Round-trip cross-USA message in 6.5 minutes
1921 Pacific Radio News magazine founded, later becomes Radio News, after WWII becomes CQ
1921 10,809 amateurs in US
1922 16,467 amateurs in US; growth rate phenomenal!
1922 Wireless Society of London becomes Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), still active today
1922 Amateur First Grade and Amateur Second Grade (latter for those hams not personally examined by a
US Radio Inspector) 10 wpm code, less than 1KW input power
1922 Carson describes FM and concludes it’s inferior to AM (Armstrong’s contribution comes a decade later)
1922 Armstrong invents super-regenerative receiver; used very few components, but superhet superceded it in
1923 Patent granted for SSB
1923 WWV starts broadcasting time and frequency
1923 US Bureau of Standards suggests using frequency instead of wavelength
1924 Quartz crystals introduced to amateur community
1924 Spark banned on new amateur bands at 80, 40, 20 and 5 meter
1925 MARS precursor, the Army’s Auxiliary Amateur Radio System (AARS) formed by Signal Corps
1925 Dynamic loudspeakers appear
1926 Spark prohibited for US Amateurs
1926 Yagi and Uda invent what we today call the Yagi (beam) antenna
1926 Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) formed
1926 IARU introduces Worked All Continents (WAC) award
1920s Price of vacuum tubes falls (Moore’s law already?)
1920s Amateurs use tubes for transmitting CW; very narrow bandwidth, allows putting lots of power on one
1920s At end of decade amateurs had harmonically-related bands 160, 80, 40, 20, 10, 5
IARU formed
1920s Broadcast explodes; 1927 Radio Act; Federal Radio Commission formed to manage civilian
communications (government frequencies managed separately: a situation that still exists)
1928 US callsigns add a W or K prefix
1928 Segal, W9EEA, writes a “suggested amateur’s code” (considerate, loyal, progressive, friendly, balanced,
and patriotic)
1928 First television station, W3XK
1929 Screen grid introduced (tetrode); suppressor grid (pentode) a year later
1929 German inventor Rudolph Hell invents Hellschreiber (light writer)
1929 Stock market crash; beginning of Great Depression


1930 AM allowed on 20 meters
1931 Empire State Building opened
1931 AT&T patents a coaxial cable (originally invented by Heaviside in 1880)
1932 First panadapter (frequency analyzer) allows spotting of signals visually
1932 Beginnings of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
1933 First Field Day; W4PAW group wins with 62 QSOs
1933 R/9 Magazine published articles by W6DEI, Robert Moore, on SSB; articles not widely noticed
1933 Astatic crystal microphones introduced
1933 President Roosevelt begins “fireside chats” via radio
1934 Communications Act (still in effect) creates Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
1934 Logs required
1936 HPM SK
1936 Armstrong publishes classic paper on FM; same method used today
1936 ARRL introduces Worked All States (WAS) Award
1937 ARRL acquires HPM’s W1AW callsign, still used to this day
1937 DXCC introduced (discontinued during WWII)
1937 Marconi SK
1938 ARRL’s W1AW station dedicated in Newington, CT, in building still used
1938 Coax RG/U (Radio Guide Utility) numbers introduced (e.g., RG-8, RG-58)
1938 Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast
1939 Beginning of war in Europe; amateur operations restricted
1939 Cubical quad antenna introduced
1939 51,000 US hams
1939 FCC introduces multiple-choice tests
1939 RCA introduces 811 transmitting tube


1941 Japanese attack Pearl Harbor; US enters war; all amateur activity ceases
1940s Of 60,000 US amateurs, 25,000 serve in armed forces, 25,000 more serve in industry or training
positions (back then, amateurs were much younger). During war, military frequently looks to ARRL for technical
advice; ARRL Handbook becomes invaluable aid to developing radios for military use
1942 War Emergency Radio Service (WERS) on 112 MHz; terminated after VJ day in 1945
1942 ARRL publishes a Defense Edition of ARRL Handbook
1943 US Supreme Court rules in Tesla’s favor regarding radio patents by Marconi (culmination of a decades long
1945 Civilian radio use explodes; many manufacturers
1945 Coax cable in wide use (was invented in 1880 by Heaviside)
1945 CQ magazine commences publication; predecessor magazines include Pacific Radio News
1945 6 meter and 2 meter bands added (forcing hams to change equipment from 5 meter and 2.5 meter bands)
Post 1945, military surplus radio equipment floods market
1946 first meteor scatter contacts
1946 Tenth call district added
1946 G5RV invents G5RV antenna
1947 11 meter band added on shared basis
1947 Hams at Stanford University in California begin experiments with SSB–took a decade to become
1947 Transistor invented by Shockley et al at Bell Labs
1947 First electronic kit by Heathkit
1947 Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA) formed (25-year veterans); club still operates
1947 Beginnings of the “Red Scare”; through 1954 and beyond
1948 AARS changed to MARS


1950 US amateur population around 90,000
1951 Novice, Tech and Amateur Extra licenses. Old A, B, C, become Advanced, General, and Conditional.
Novice is HF plus some VHF, 5 wpm code test; Tech is 220 MHz and up, 5 wpm code test
1951 AT&T introduces Direct Distance Dialing (DDD); takes years to become universal in US
1952 15 meter band added
1952 RACES founded
1952 Special privileges for Advanced and Amateur Extra were withdrawn (meaning Generals had all
1952 Central Electronics offers SSB gear
1953 first amateur moonbounce
1954 Texas Instruments introduces first all-transistor AM broadcast band receiver; Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo of
Japan picks it up, changes its company name to Sony
1954 first color television system; what an opportunity for TVI!
1954 first all-transistor computer
1954 Herbert Armstrong SK
1955 160 meters returned to hams; many restrictions that were gradually lifted
1955 Collins introduces the “gold dust twins,” the 75A-4 receiver and the KWS-1 transmitter; both optimized
for SSB
1956 Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” becomes US #1 single
1956 TAT-1, first transatlantic telephone cable, went into operation
1957 Sputnik; education system in US overhauled to create scientists needed for defense development;
“missile gap”
1957 to 1962 CONELRAD; Hams had to monitor certain local broadcast signals; if these went off the air,
hams were to go off the air also
1957 First integrated circuits by Fairchild Semiconductor; 1958 Jack Kilby invents first monolithic IC
1957/1958 International Geophysical Year
1957 Slow scan TV defined
1957 Drake issues first amateur band product, the 1A receiver
1958 Class D Citizen’s Band on 11 meters; hams lose 11 meters (huge uproar!)
Late 1950s Log periodic antenna developed at University of Illinois


1960 FCC grants special temporary authority for SSTV
1960 First two-way 1296 MHz EME contact
1960 73 Magazine begins publishing by Wayne Green, W2NSD, who was often at odds with the ARRL
1960 QST surveys readers, finds about 50%-50% split between SSB and AM; though 20 meters about 75%
1961 Montrose Amateur Radio Club formed!!
1961 Email invented
1961 first OSCAR; formation of AMSAT in 1969
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
1963 ARRL moves its headquarters from Hartford to W1AW site in Newington
1963 Kennedy assassinated
1963 250,000 hams; CBers outnumber ham population
1963 Drake introduces TR-3 transceiver
1964 IOTA (islands on the air) award created
1965 Gordon Moore articulates Moore’s Law
1967 Hugo Gernsback SK
1967 Incentive licensing removed privileges from General hams; huge controversy; ARRL was in favor of
incentive licensing; caused enormous public relations problems for ARRL; exclusive Advanced and Extra subbands
on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 6 (Even though there was incredible resistance to this, these subbands remain! Except on 6
1968 FCC suthorizes SSTV
1969 Man lands on the moon and returns safely
1969 First computer network between major university campuses; first ARPANET message (predecessor to
the Internet)


FM repeaters gain major traction
Channelized FM
Mc and Kc replaced by MHz and kHz (metric system)
1970 270,000 US hams
1970 Drake TR-4 introduced
1971 Yaesu introduces FT-101 HF transceiver; it and its successors are highly popular
1972 Novices can use VFO; no longer “rock-bound”
1972 Kenwood introduces TS-520 HF transceiver
1972 FCC widened HF phone bands; reduced impact of incentive licensing
1972 First repeater; duplexer made from discarded Navy shell casings
1975 ARPANET declared “operational”
1975 MIPS Altair 880 microcomputer uses Intel 8080
1976 Requirement removed to change callsign if you moved to a different call area
1976 Microsoft begins business
1976 Apple 1 computer released
1977 Radio Shack TRS-80 released
1977 327,000 US hams; portable and mobile identification no longer required
1977 Instant upgrades became available, license fees abolished
1977 Experience requirement for Extra eliminated; Conditional class is abolished
1978 Novice term 5 years and renewable
1978 first Canadian experiments with packet using ASCII
1979 ICOM America established
1979 WARC Conference; new amateur bands at 10, 18, and 24 MHz (30 meters, 17 meters, and 12 meters);
known as WARC bands; King Hussein of Jordan, JY1, provides key support


1980 FCC permits ASCII, which enables packet for US hams
1980 Russia launches first amateur satellites, destroyed in launch failure; three years to replace
1981 Tuscon Amateur Packet Group (TAPR) formed
1982 First access to 30 meters for US hams; restrictions apply
1982 AMTOR (Amateur Teleprinting over Radio) developed; adaptation of SITOR for amateur use, offers
error-free communication
1983 Owen Garriott, W5LFL, takes 2 meter rig into space; NASA creates SAREX (Shuttle Amateur Radio
1983 first cellular telephone network in US
1983 1000-watt input rule replaced by 1500 watt peak output rule. Most modes gained power, but some (e.g.,
AM) lost power.
1984 License terms extended to 10 years
1984 Launch of Volunteer Exam Coordinator program
1985 PRB-1 provides modicum of protection from local government regulations regarding outdoor antennas
(does not override CC&Rs, though); “reasonable accommodation”
1985 24 MHz band and 902 MHz bands are opened for amateur use; 10 MHz band allotted permanently
1986 AEA releases PK-232; digital modes on HF explode (RTTY, AMTOR, PACTOR)
1987 Novice/Tech 10 meter SSB privileges from 28.3 to 28.5
1988 International Marine Organization (UN) establishes GMDSS system; effect is to end Morse code use by
both commercial (high seas shipping) and military interests
1989 17 meter band becomes available
1989 over 500,000 US amateurs


1991 No code Tech
1991 Invention of the Word Wide Web at CERN in Switzerland
1993 Coast Guard ceases monitoring 500 kHz emergency frequency
1993 Global Positioning System (GPS) achieves Initial Operational Capability (IOC)
1995 Vanity call signs
1997 Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) launched
1997 Kachina radio introduced; controlled via a PC; exits ham market in 2001
1990s Cell phones start to render autopatches obsolete
1990s World Wide Web becomes widely used
1990s APRS (Automatic Position/Packet Reporting System) becomes more popular
1998 Advent of PSK-31; uses computer soundcard and vastly opens up HF digital radio without need for
expensive TNC; the original software required extremely precise tuning;
1999 Many commercial CW stations close. Globe Wireless closes last coast station in North America to use
1990s Appearance of software-defined radios
1999 TenTec introduces Pegasus; requires PC to control; later released as Jupiter with self-contained front


2000 FCC reduces number of classes to three: Technician, General, Extra; reduces code requirement to 5
2000 Digipan released; makes PSK-31 easy, PSK-31 use explodes, still most popular digital mode today
2001 First amateur two-way transatlantic exchange on 136 kHz, with 90-second dits and 180 second dahs, the
contact took two weeks to complete
2002 EchoLink
2003 ITU ratifies changes to Radio Regulations to allow each country to determine Morse code requirement
2006 All Morse testing requirements for US ham licenses abolished
2007 Over 652,000 US hams


2011 Montrose Ham Radio Club turns 50! (And IBM turns 100!)
2012 US ham population 738,497
2014 ARRL is one century old
2015 QST is one century old

Sources include the ARRL’s Ham Radio History page at http://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-history, several Wikipedia articles, the ham radio history compiled by Rod Dinkins, AC6V (SK), at http://ac6v.com/history.htm (he provides a list of many contributors), and the excellent and detailed history on the site of Thierry Lombry, ON4SKY, at http://www.astrosurf.com/luxorion/qsl-ham-history.htm.

International Phonetics

The following are the phonetics which we use in amateur radio. You are likely to hear all kinds of craziness when we are in a hurry. These are the proper phonetics and you should practice them so that when you are hurried you will use the correct ones.

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International Q Codes

Ever wonder what those HAM guys are saying when they say QSY or many of those other Q things they say? Well here is a list.

The Q-code is an international set of abbreviations that was created at the beginning of the last century to simplify radiotelegraph communication. Each code is composed by three letters always starting with Q. Each code can be a question if followed by a question mark or an answer (or statement) if not. To avoid confusion, no station call-sign begins with Q.

You will hear HAMs using Q codes on the air via voice, however this is not the place for it. Q codes are still used in CW communications, but using them on voice violates plain language principles not to mention it is jargon which can really chase new and perspective HAMs away. They have their place, it’s important to know where it is. Many HAMs still don’t, and I will be the first to admit, I was one of them until recently because I am not a CW guy.

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