Discussion in 'Amplitude Modulation' started by AC0OB, May 9, 2017.
Probably a recent licensee.
Back in the 60s, and earlier the bands were a squealing MASS OF HETERODYNES.
IF you did not get to hear it for yourself, there is little way you could imagine what it was like.
I doubt that there are any audio recordings in existence but it would be great if any surfaced.
The entire point of the SSB push was to make the bands more manageable.
Lose the carriers, make more room for QSOs.
It worked in that regard.
The ancillary aspects included most of the things already mentioned; new technology, the opportunity
to sell new gear, advertising $$, an increasing number of active hams, etc...
WE (imho) could not enjoy the FB fidelity and open bandspace that we do now by any means shape or
form back in the day when AM was predominant, and even to the point where it reduced to 30-50% of
My view is that we should be thankful for things being as good as they are, hope that the bands come back,
and that we all stay alive long enough for that to happen...
Things seem to be better then they used to be, much better,
There is more room, and seems to be a bit more respect for AM as more people try it.
Now may be the golden age of AM, with class e and d rigs, sdr's, cheap or free broadcast transmitters, and while old rigs are not cheap, they are around.
I rather think that the "golden age" of AM happened back in the 40s &50s, into the early 60s...
More recently, the prior decade ~2000-2010 might be seen as a renaissance of sorts.
But with a changing (for the most part) of generations, many ops becoming SK or simply not
active, seems like we have a fine group now but missing many of the personalities and colors
that once were there.
Personally, I feel we are in a good place as far as AM, but that ham radio in general is in a state
of flux, and with the bands being as crappy as they can be and still work, activity is down substantially
from times past and so things feel less exciting and dynamic to me.
Having just acquired a stack of varied years of ER mag, it strikes me in a similar way as does QST, a very
useful thing when you have a pile of them, AND you want to find out how someone did something - BUT, with
the modern convenience of the internet, a monthly publication seems both ponderous and limited as far as
depth of information and speed of acquisition. Magazines in general are in tough shape - which in many ways
is not a good thing.
A good note is that apparently the published book has not succumbed to the "Kindle" or the internet
and at present book sales are up, not down. Will magazines come back similarly?
Hetros or homos , I don't discriminate.
Not so recent - not so long.
He got his license several years ago , and is an Extra , but relatively inactive by the looks of it.
He is more into old radio restoration than Ham Radio.
You had to pick the appropriate band and time of day to operate. For example, 75m was usually very active by mid to late afternoon, but around 4 PM (maybe later in the summer months) the QRM and heterodynes moved in made it difficult to maintain a frequency with 100 watts or less; you needed 250-1000 watts to hold a QSO. Even during weekdays, you would hear some 75m activity within a radius of ~150 miles throughout the daylight hours, sparse, but that was when "high fidelity" audio was at its best. 40m was a good daytime band within a larger radius, but by late afternoon the SW broadcast stations rolled in and took over the phone band. Nevertheless, I can recall hearing plenty of "FB fidelity" AM signals in that era (1956-65), but condx didn't permit it 27/4.
The one thing that resulted in the post-WWII explosion of active hams was the advent of the Novice licence starting in the early 50s. What went wrong after the advent of SSB was the big push, beginning in the mid to late 50s, the high-pressure campaign to force everyone to abandon AM and "go sideband", whether they wanted to or not. Pressure started coming from ARRL, major ham publications and equipment manufacturers, local radio clubs and even the FCC. By the early 60s the pro-SSB/anti-AM campaign had built up nearly to the furore of the partisan political propaganda campaigns that divide the nation to-day. Many of the ham community swallowed the bait; a lot of those who remained on AM had become SSB wannabes who couldn't afford the outlay for SSB equipment and lacked the expertise and workshop facilities to build their own. Thus, the remaining AM operators felt peer-pressure as well, culminating in the infamous AM/SSB wars of the mid-60s as cheap "sideband-for-the-masses" transceivers entered the market.
The transition to SSB would have been smoother without all the rancour had it not been for the concerted pressure and salesmanship. If ample information on the pros and cons of SSB vs AM had simply been made available to the ham community and had it remained objective, with technical articles in the publications and manufactured equipment displayed in the ads, letting hams decide for themselves whether or not to make the transition, SSB would still likely have won over the majority of the amateur community on its own merits, but hams would not have felt compelled to make the switch. AM would never have "died" completely as it almost did circa 1970, but activity would have gradually declined to more of a speciality interest, still within the realm of mainstream amateur radio, but with much less animosity between the AM and SSB communities, evolving to precisely what it is to-day: the majority of HF phone activity SSB, but a viable minority still operating AM, and many hams working both modes with multi-mode rigs.
The bands haven't gone anywhere. Now that the summer static season is subsiding, we have been having some good evening conditions, at least on the lower frequency bands, just as could be expected during a period of declining sunspot numbers. The problem is, a dearth of activity even when the bands are good. Last evening around 10 PM, there were no signals on 75m between 3870 and 3900, AM or SSB, while QRN was low and a few good strong signals from all over the country could be heard when tuning across the band. I answered an AM CQ and continued for over an hour, working several stations with good signals both ways, with someone calling me as each previous conversation was coming to an end.
160m is even worse, with the band becoming like a ghost town after about 9 PM, and 75m following suit an hour or so later. I'm wondering if we aren't witnessing the older ham population die off with few new people stepping in to replace them, with many of those who remain losing interest as their old friends fade away one at a time. Ragchewing on HF may be going the way of manual transmissions, OTA TV, vinyl records, component stereo systems, AM broadcast radio, if not the way of inner-tubes, payphones and mechanical typewriters. Let's enjoy it while we can.
1951, to be exact.
But it wasn't just the Novice license that caused the post-WW2 growth (though it was an important factor). There were several other factors:
1) WW2 surplus, kits, and expanded manufacturing of ham gear made getting on the air easier and cheaper than before.
2) Postwar prosperity coupled with wartime savings meant more disposable income.
3) The mass migration of millions of Americans (mostly white middle class) to the suburbs (new and existing) meant many more people with "ham radio friendly" homes.
4) Some GIs who had been trained in radio during the war wanted to continue in civilian life.
Note that from 1940 to 1950 the number of US hams grew from about 56,000 to about 87,000. Most of that growth was in the late 1940s. The Novice took that trend and gave it a big push.
What form did this "pressure" actually take? I've read all the articles in QST about SSB in those years, and they all focus on the technical advantages of SSB over AM in terms of bandwidth, "talk power", heterodynes, and overall economy. QST and the Handbooks were still full of how-to-build-an-AM-transmitter articles all through that period, and the rigmakers sure built a lot of AM stuff - even to the point of putting screen modulators into "Novice" transmitters!
The "cheap "sideband for the masses" transceivers" were pretty much inevitable, weren't they? More important - they sold!
There is also one BIG factor that has not been mentioned: The "Great Giveaway of Christmas 1952".
Prior to February 1953, the US 'phone subbands between 2.5 and 25 MHz were the exclusive territory of Class A/Advanced and Extra hams. Class B/Generals and Class C/Conditionals, who made up the majority of US hams, could only use 'phone modes on 160, 11, 10 and the VHF/UHF bands. For many years after WW2, 160 was full of LORAN and only available to hams in very limited ways.
The 1951 restructuring renamed the old ABC licenses and added the Novice, Technician and Extra. It was also announced that after the end of 1952 there would be no new Advanced licenses issued. If you didn't get an Advanced before the ball fell at the end of '52, you'd have to go for Extra to use 'phone on the HF bands between 2.5 and 25 MHz.
And that was no mean feat. In those days, the Advanced and Extra were only available at FCC exam sessions - no "by mail" like the Conditional, Technician and Novice.
Advanced required 13 wpm code, General and Advanced written tests, and 1 year experience.
Extra required 20 wpm code, General and Extra written tests, and 2 years experience.
In both cases, ALL exams had to be passed at an FCC exam session. A Conditional would have to pass the General tests all over again before being allowed to try the Advanced or Extra. Also, time as a Novice or Technician did not count as "experience".
The result was a rush of hams trying to get their Advanceds before the door closed at the end of '52. Some went for Extra, but not many.
And then - in mid-December 1952 - FCC completely reversed itself. I don't know why, but it was announced that effective mid-Feb 1953, all Generals and Conditionals would have full privileges. 4 of the 6 US license classes had full privileges. This meant there was no operational reason to go beyond General or Conditional.
In the early 1950s, 40 meters got a 'phone subband - and all US hams except Novices and Technicians had full access. About the same time, 15 meters was opened to US hams, complete with phone subband - and all US hams except Novices and Technicians had full access. The 'phone subbands on 75 and 20 were widened - and all US hams except Novices and Technicians had full access.
And the number of US hams was growing fast. In those days the Novice was only good for a year, so most Novices were heavily focused on learning enough code and theory to upgrade to General or Conditional before the year was up. But....once that General or Conditional license was earned, there was no real reason to go further - and very few hams did.
In 1954 the FCC greatly increased the availability of the Conditional, Technician and Novice, too.
What all this meant was that the 'phone subbands got even more crowded, because there were far more US hams who could use them.
Maybe. But there are other possibilities too.
1) There are far more ham bands than in the past, and their 'phone sections are wider. 75 meters was 200 kHz wide in the 1950s, now it is 400 kHz. Etc. The WARC bands and 60 meters. Etc.
2) There are far more modes than in the past. Until 30-0dd years ago, it was CW, voice, and 60 wpm 5 level Baudot RTTY only. Now we have a wide range of digital modes - many of which work very well at very low signal levels. Tune around with an AM receiver and you may not even hear them.
IOW, more choices
3) In the old days, most new hams started out on 80 or 40 CW. Their reference mindset was the lower HF bands, with their big antennas, day/night variation, etc.
But since the 1980s or so, most new hams start out on VHF/UHF phone. When they get to HF, their natural starting point is 10 meter phone. To them, 160, 75 and even 40 are unknown territory. They are used to the clean hifi of FM, and the small antennas of 28 MHz and higher, and don't gravitate to the "DC bands".
4) HOAs, antennas, etc. How many hams today can put up the classic 80 meter dipole fed in the center with ladder line, high and in the clear?
73 de jim, N2EY
I certainly didnt hear much of that in the 60's especially in 67 and later when you said you were a Novice. By then Johnson, Collins, Hallicrafters , Heath, and others were out of AM production. The last Johnsons were 1965.
My rigs in the 63-70 time frame were CE 20A, HT-30, HT-37, and CE-100V and I remember very little AM, even on 75. I still have the 100V and discovered much later that it was a fine AM rig. So are the HT-32 and 37 family which were also 50's products.
In the 50's, yes for sure the hetrodynes were fierce but by the end of that decade SSB was already leading the battle with Collins, Gonset, Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, Heath, and others coming out with a wide range of SSB gear with AM often included as an after thought since AM was still plentiful for a few more years on VHF and above and transverters were quite popular. I still use a HA6, altho quite modified and strictly for CW/SSB. I have a Clegg Interceptor B and Zeus for AM.
Do you remember the days when the "gentlemen's agreement" on 75m was that SSB operate above 3900 and AM below? When I first got on the air in late 1959, 3800-3900 was packed with heterodynes every evening, but 3900-4000 was mostly SSB. Those unable to acquire QRO AM transmitters would listen above 3900 and hear the lack of heterodynes; that was probably one of SSB's greatest selling points. As time went on, the SSB signals kept pushing farther down the band. At the same time, a few SSB groups began operating just above 3800, and continued to expand upwards. The great AM/SSB wars of the 60s occurred mostly in the 3800-3900 segment as SSB continued to encroach on AM operation there.
The other things you mention are all true, but I still say the advent of the Novice had the greatest impact. Up till 1951, a prospective new ham had to fully master 13 wpm from the outset, before even trying for his first ham ticket, which was the General (Class B) or Conditional (Class C). The code barrier was so intimidating for many wannabe hams that they never actually took the first step before the 5 wpm Novice was offered. In those days there were few training aids like code tapes, and no internet. Unless the prospective ham lived near some other hams or there was a local club, there were few options for code practice.
Trying to teach oneself with a code chart, telegraph key and buzzer was an exercise in futility for most people. I achieved my 5 wpm code proficiency for the Novice thanks to a set of WWII Signal Corps 78 RPM code practice records I found stashed away in the science dep't store-room at my school, and the physics teacher let me borrow them over the summer. Within a month after school had let out, I took my Novice test and the local ham who gave it to me said he had sneakily increased his sending speed during the code part and I was already copying at nearly 13 wpm. I had tried earlier on my own with the code chart and code practice oscillator to no avail.
But with the Novice, it was far easier to master just 5 wpm; one could practically memorise the dots and dashes of the Morse alphabet and make solid copy for one minute by counting dits and dahs sent at that speed. For those who actually got a rig on the air, up to a year of on-air practice made 13wpm quite easy to attain. Many would never have made it without the Novice experience. Unfortunately, probably only about 50% of new Novices went on to upgrade; the one-year sunset was the reason for a lot of the failures. If life, military conscription or mere procrastination got in the way during that year, the Novice ticket soon expired and the wannabe ham was S.O.L. I seem to recall that the initial Novice ticket included limited 2m phone privileges, which were later withdrawn because too many Novices were wasting their one-year grace period dicking around on 2m AM without ever preparing for the 13 wpm test.