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Issue #36: Ham Detective Solves 150 WPM CW Mystery!

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Mar 8, 2024.

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  1. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    This is the forum discussion for the latest "Trials and Errors -- Ham Life with an Amateur" article. In this piece, I researched often conflicting information on the start of WWI and the Sayville NY radio station operated by the Germans in the USA prior to the USA's entry into WWI. It was possible to get away with a lot of intrigue when you are sending code at 150WPM! Use this forum to discuss this article, which is located at this link. Thank you for your comments, all of them (positive and negative). Dave, W7DGJ
    AG7UW and KA2PTE like this.
  2. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice article but it overlooks the role of the infamous Zimmerman Telegram to the entry of the US into the conflict. While President Wilson had campaigned on staying out of the conflict, he seemed hell-bent to join in.

    The use of high-speed code back then was unusual, but it become quite popular in later years - with the use of so-called burst encoders (Burst Encoders (
    These were/are designed to reduce transmit time and hopefully, evade radio monitors/DF activities.
    Many older military/CIA radios used in the field (AN/GRC-109) were modified for such devices (CK-8/GRA-71).
    I would note the burst communications still used 5 digit encrypted messages.
    So, the burst transmission is simply for reduced transmission time, not to hide the message itself. This is the same as the aforementioned Zimmerman message.

    The GRA-71l even appear for sale on the web - albeit rarely.
    in this image, the use of a crank to wind the encoder is worth noting. Very interesting bit of old school tech. Today, a tablet or Smart phone can do all of this and then some.
    Finally, because this is the Zed and it would be the inevitable comment -encoded communications - used to hide the meaning of the communication - are prohibited by the FCC and current ARS regulations. :rolleyes:

    Thanks for posting the article on a bit of obscure history related to ham radio. It was an enjoyable read.
    AG7UW, KI5HSE and W7DGJ like this.
  3. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Don. I mentioned Zimmerman in one of the last paragraphs, as it did get routed through Sayville (just added the name to my comment). I probably should have spent more time on it, but I did mention that it enticed Mexico and Japan to attack the USA (and what an enticement, for Mexico to get the USA as a reward for participating!) Thank you for your positive comments and the INTERESTING photo and description of the spy CW device! Dave, W7DGJ
    AG7UW and KL7KN like this.
  4. WB1GCM

    WB1GCM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Excellent article. Very well described. I once read that another trick was to record on cylinders, using opposite rotation of the mandrel, sending each character backwards. Also, installing the mandrell backwards, cutting the cylinder from right to left. Of course, it's heresay, until I find the source of the story, again.

    Thank you for the article. Nice.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  5. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Bob -- interesting! That certainly sounds like it would work. Nothing that I see here about 2MM says specifically how the code was placed onto wax, other than he could "slow it down" and transcribe it. Dave
  6. WB1GCM

    WB1GCM Ham Member QRZ Page

    At the time, many models of the Edison cylinder phonographs, had the ability to record on wax (cylinder) blanks. Blanks were not expensive, and for $3.00, an Edison owner could adapt their machine to record, using a recording attachment, or, "recorder". Wind-up phonographs at the time, had a speed adjustment which controled the cylinder record's RPM; while recording, or playing back. This control has a wide RPM range. With a few minor adjustments, the machine could be made to record fast at 180 RPM (it normally ran at 160), then slowed down on playback, to aboot 90 RPM, maybe lower.

    Next, using a rubber tube, one connects the playback reproducer, with cylinder rotating slowly, to the recorder of an Edison machine that is rotating fast. Take that second record and play that back slowly. At that point the second record could be played back at 30-35 WPM, within an experienced Morse operator's ability to copy. The original 150 WPM message was sent by the transmitter, mechannically. (or by a Morse operator with too much coffee).

    At some time in my 50 years of ham radio, I've read about this. When that was, it could have been when I was a budding TV engineer in the early 80's. The CH 30 transmitter (RCA TTU-120 UHF) engineer was into this topic, he learned a lot from the AWA. His name was Dave Eller, N1AYU (SK), my transmitter mentor.

    You've told the story well, to a modern auduence. Neat.
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  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks again - Heres a photo that shows Charles Charles Apgar Transcribing.jpg in his shack, transcribing. Dave, W7DGJ
  8. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Charles Apgar's daughter, Virginia Apgar, was a famous obstetrician. The Apgar Score, used to quickly assess newborns, was developed by Dr. Virginia Apgar.
    AE8EM and W7DGJ like this.
  9. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Jim - interesting side note. Dave
  10. N7KO

    N7KO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Very Very good. Interesting read. Enemies in our back yard, under our noses. I wonder how much of spy communications is going on today still using morris ? I suspect it could be happening. But today it is the enemies within? You did a fantastic job writting this article, look forward to reading more. Never under estimate a Ham Radio operator to figure out a solution to a problem.
    AG7UW and W7DGJ like this.
  11. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Ken. Love that Mountain Topper on your QRZ page! Appreciate the feedback. Dave
  12. W7UUU

    W7UUU Director, QRZ Forums Lifetime Member 133 QRZ HQ Staff Life Member QRZ Page

    A true "Backronym"! ... an acronym made from an existing word :)

    W7DGJ likes this.
  13. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    INTEL - The Zimmermann Telegram (

    Two interesting pieces of this puzzle.

    1) The British shared the original message with U.S. officials on February 24. Though some American officials suspected the telegram to be a British ruse intended to induce a declaration of war, President Woodrow Wilson saw it as genuine.

    2) Two days later, Foreign Secretary Zimmermann inexplicably confirmed the contents of the telegram at a press conference in Berlin, putting to rest any doubts about its authenticity and hardening U.S. public opinion against Germany.

    More at the linked article.

    As a side note, it is worth noting that, like the USA, the largest pre-WWI immigrant group in Mexico was and still is...Germans.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  14. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

  15. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    My kinda music, thanks Jim.

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