History of Single Sideband in Amateur Radio

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by AF4RK, Aug 10, 2017.

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    When did the ARRL ignore SSB?

    In the 1930s, the ARRL had an article on SSB in QST, and it is mentioned in "200 Meters And Down" (pages 180 and 181). However, given the state of the amateur radio art in the mid-1930s, SSB was simply not an alternative.

    Then came WW2.

    Soon after the war ended, the ARRL began pushing SSB in a big way. Starting in the January 1948 issue of QST, there was article after article on SSB, explaining the theory, extolling the virtues, and showing how to do it. A regular column, "On The Air With Single Sideband", ran from 1948 to 1954. "Single Sideband For The Radio Amateur", which was mostly reprints of QST articles, first appeared in 1954.

    In fact, starting in 1948, the ARRL paid so much attention to SSB that some members complained that ARRL was "forcing SSB down our throats".

    If by "affordable" you mean "manufactured/kit equipment that cost about the same as AM gear for similar power", then, yes, it was the 1960s. But for the homebrewer, SSB was "affordable" very early on. The problem was, SSB wasn't as simple or as easy to use as AM.

    That is....until SSB transceivers such as mentioned above began to appear. That changed the game.

    Here's an example:

    In the late 1950s, Heathkit sold the RX-1/TX-1 pair (Mohawk/Apache) for about $550 (plus shipping for about 150 pounds in 2 packages, if driving to Benton Harbor wasn't practical).

    What you got once the RX-1/TX-1 were built was a nice 100-watt-class AM station for 80 through 10 (pre-WARC) that was also pretty good on CW. It could receive SSB, too. (The RX-1 could receive 160 but the TX-1 could not transmit on that band!)

    For another $90 or so you could add the SB-10 SSB adapter to the TX-1 and transmit on SSB.

    Better have a nice big STURDY desk to put them on, and a source of 110 AC good for about 600 watts peak. Mobile? Not unless you have a vehicle with a lot of room and an AC generator. And - they don't transceive, you have to zero beat.

    Now fast forward less than 10 years to 1967. Heathkit is selling the SB-101 transceiver for $370. With power supply, about $400, add a CW filter for another $25 or so. Say $425 plus shipping for maybe 40 pounds.

    Once built, you've got a nice 100-watt-class SSB/CW station for 80 through 10 (pre-WARC) It won't do AM, but it's easier to use than the TX-1/RX-1 combo, it transceives, and it's small and light enough for mobile use with the DC supply (another kit, cost $50 or so). You could put the SB-101 on a card table with no problems.

    Any wonder SSB transceivers pushed AM separates aside in the 1960s?

    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
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  2. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    I did not remember the ARRL "forcing" SSB down the throats of operators. Yes, there were some articles about SSB but not that many until the last half of the 1950s and then more in the 1960s.

    Home brew SSB equipment could be built for a reasonable amount of money before the early 1960s. However, building such equipment was a lot more involved than building AM equipment and quite a number of amateur radio operators did not really have the skill sets to build the equipment. At least they believed that they did not have the skills.

    Choosing the correct surplus crystals for filters was not that easy a task as was choosing proper resistance and capacitance values for audio phase shift networks was also fairly difficult especially for the operator who did not have a lot of test equipment.

    The W2EWL SSB transmitter was, probably, the first such transmitter that the average amateur radio operator could reliably build.

    The Heath SB-10 SSB adapter sold for $89.95 and that was at least a full weeks wages for the average person in 1959, even more! Of course, Heath did have a payment plan for their equipment which did allow many more amateur radio operators to obtain higher priced equipment.

    In college, I used the payment plan to purchase my HW-12A and then, again, to purchase my first SB-401 and then SB-301 in the late 1960s. Even though I was getting an above average salary from the Collins Radio Company, I still could not afford to lay out the full price at one time. It was not until I owned my own companies that I could afford full price but, then, I was getting some very good deals on used Collins equipment and I did not have to pay that much for my equipment.

    Glen, K9STH
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
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  3. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think DeForest got lucky with the Supreme Court decision, as most people feel that Armstrong was the true inventor of regeneration in receivers. The RJ-4 was not even a true receiver, let alone a regenerative receiver.
    AF6LJ and N2EY like this.
  4. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    That phrase was a direct quote from a member who thought ARRL was pushing SSB too hard.

    There were many, many articles from 1948 onwards. Plus an SSB column. Look at the annual indices of QST and see.


    The B&W 2Q4/350 put all the critical phasing components in a metal tube shell, eliminating that problem.

    March 1956, that article appeared.

    Sure - but look at what AM gear cost then - and yet, hams had high-power AM stuff.

    In 1959 alone, EFJ sold 1259 Valiants - what did they cost?
    N2SR likes this.
  5. W2AI

    W2AI XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The successor to this was the development of the first transoceanic cable TAT-1 in September of 1956. I remember in a previous post last year you were elaborating on that, Glen.

    AF6LJ likes this.
  6. W2AI

    W2AI XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Oppps, I meant JIM N2EY @N2EY................
    N2EY likes this.
  7. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    Fortunately, for amateur radio operators, several of the major amateur radio distributors had payment plans available just like Heath. If one looks at the advertisements in QST and CQ Magazine, having a payment plan is, usually, quite evident in the text of the ad.

    The usual terms were 10% down and the remainder, including interest, paid in 12-equal installments. Without such payment plans, considerably less equipment would have been sold. Amateur radio has always been thought of as a "rich man's hobby". However, such has never been the case. Installment plans allowed many to obtain commercially manufactured equipment that, otherwise, they could only "dream of" having except as well used equipment. Of course, in the 1945 to around 1960 time frame, military surplus equipment, primarily from World War II and somewhat from Korea, was available and that equipment was available at very reasonable prices.

    When inflation is factored in, the cost of brand new amateur radio equipment, today, is, basically, "dirt cheap" and the capabilities of that equipment is light years better than what was available in the 1950s and even well into the 1960s.

    Glen, K9STH
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  8. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    For an example of just how simple and low cost SSB could be in the early days, check out "A Crystal Filter SSB Exciter" in QST for November, 1950.

    This 75 meter SSB exciter came to be known as "The Edmunds Exciter" (last name of the writer who developed it.)

    The SSB part of the exciter itself consists of only three tubes - a 6K8 oscillator/modulator, a 6SN7 balanced mixer, and a 6AG7 buffer/amplifier. The 6K8 needs about 3 volts of audio drive, easily supplied by a two-tube resistance-coupled speech amplifier of standard design. A VFO or crystal oscillator providing a few volts of RF is needed for the mixer; the tuning range is 450 kHz from the 75 metrr band, so inexpensive non-ham-band crystals could be used, or a simple VFO such as a BC-457 Command set.

    The output of the 6AG7 is more than adequate to drive a pair of 807s, 1625s or 6146s, or sweep tubes, to full output as linear amplifiers.

    The key to the Edmunds exciter is a simple but effective crystal filter using just three FT-241A crystals. A fourth crystal is used in the carrier oscillator part of the 6K8. These crystals need no grinding nor specialized selection; they just have to be the right channel numbers, relative to each other. The example in the article used one Channel 323, two Channel 324 and one Channel 326, but other crystals with the same relative spacing could be used.

    The entire first edition of "Single Sideband For The Radio Amateur" can be found in PDF form at:


    including the Edmunds exciter and followup articles.

    Pretty good for the ARRL, while "ignoring" SSB.....
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  9. K1FBI

    K1FBI Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Maybe we could turn this into a PBS special.
    W4IOA and AF6LJ like this.
  10. K1FBI

    K1FBI Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Or Mini-Series:D
    AF6LJ likes this.

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