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Sputnik Stories?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W0IS, Sep 24, 2017.

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  1. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    October 4 is the 60th anniversary of Sputnik 1, and I'm preparing an article for my blog ( including stories from magazines and newspapers about some of the hams and SWL's who tuned in to listen on 20.005 MHz.

    With your permission, I'd love to include some stories of any of you who listened to it. Feel free to post them here and/or e-mail them to me at Or if you prefer, send me your phone number or ask for mine. (Or, if you're anywhere near Minneapolis-St. Paul, I'd love to sit down over a cup of coffee and hear about it.)
    W9AFB likes this.
  2. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    Not much of a story!

    I was 13-years old in 1957. There was a garage shop TV repair facility about a block south of my parents' house in LaPorte, Indiana. When Sputnik was launched and was operating, the frequency, 20.005 MHz, and the expected times when the satellite could be heard, were published in the LaPorte Hearald Argus newspaper. Orville Hartle, the owner of the TV shop, had a Hallicrafters S-40 receiver and invited my father to come down and listen to Sputnik. I "tagged along" with my father.

    As the expected time for the satellite to become in range, Orville started "fiddling" with the receiver. Nothing was heard! Finally, the "beep, beep, beep" from the satellite's transmitter came faintly from the S-40's receiver. Today, such a happening would be "ho hum". However, in 1957 this was very exciting if, for no other reason, that the signal could be received by "Joe Blow" and not just by a very sophisticated scientific or military installation.

    The repercussions from this evening, at least in my personal life, were great. Orville discovered that I had a serious interest in electronics which his son, who was about a year younger than I, had absolutely no interest. In fact, his son had very little interest in anything! Orville was an unusual character! He was a graduate EE but worked in the "tool crib" at the local Allis Chalmers plant, ran the TV shop evenings and weekends, and wrote books!

    Orville started giving me as many old television chassis that I could "haul off" for the purpose of stripping for parts. I would take my sister's "little red wagon" (she is 7-years younger than I) down to the TV shop and Orville would put 2, or 3, chassis in the wagon and I would bring them to my house. There were outside stairs to the basement and I would carry the chassis down and put them next to a workbench that my father had built next to the coal bin. My "experiments" were conducted, primarily, on that bench.

    Thinking back, I cannot help but believe that Orville was a contributing factor to the fact that for Christmas, 1957, my parents bought me a used Heath AR-3 receiver (from Allied Radio Company in Chicago). Prior to that Christmas, I had been using an old TrueTone (Western Auto private brand) receiver with a shortwave band.

    He was not an amateur radio operator, but he did encourage me to experiment with electronics and even gave me a television set, for my room, that was better than the one in my parent's living room!

    With the help of Dave Osborn, K9BPV, I passed my Novice Class examinations on my 15th birthday, 13 February 1959. It took over 3-months for the license to arrive in the mail. The license is dated 15 May 1959 but took an additional almost 2-weeks to come in the mail. I was just ending my freshman year in high school. In October, I took my General Class examinations at the FCC office in Chicago.

    Then, in August 1962, between my senior year in high school and my freshman year in college, I took the examinations for my commercial radiotelephone operator's license. My junior year at Georgia Tech, I got married and also got a job at the Motorola Service Station in Atlanta, Georgia. My senior year, I was hired directly by Motorola to establish, and then manage, the first Motorola owned portable / pager repair facility away from the Schamburg, Illinois, plant. After graduating, I was employed by the Collins Radio Company at the "new" corporate headquarters here in Richardson, Texas, and the "rest is history"!

    All of this starting with the listening to Sputnik in October 1957!

    Glen, K9STH
    K1TGX, K7QAT, K3RLD and 7 others like this.
  3. W7JZE

    W7JZE QRZ Lifetime Member #84 Life Member Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well, I was BORN on October 4th. like 1/365.24 of you. Does that count?? My dad was also born on 10-4. No kidding. What a birthday present THAT was for him :eek::p:eek:.

    Being only 6 y.o., I can only admit to a vague recollection of the Sputnik event, at the time of the event. Maybe.
  4. WW2E

    WW2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    I recently read this book, which I recommend:

    Dickson, Paul. Sputnik: The Shock of the Century. Walker & Company, 2011.
    K9ASE likes this.
  5. G8ADD

    G8ADD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, at the time my receiver was ex military and only tuned to 18.5 MHz, so no chance of hearing it - but we went out after dark and saw it, we saw it pass into the Earth's shadow and fade out. It took a few minutes before the penny dropped and we realised why it had faded out!:)
    W7JZE likes this.
  6. W8IXI

    W8IXI XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I was 11 at the time. It was a terrific shock to us kids.

    I remember that our science focus in school almost instantly went from "Dick and Jane find tadpoles" to chemistry, electronics, astronomy, and physics.
    K9ASE, KA2CZU and W7JZE like this.
  7. WC5P

    WC5P Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    1957 was before my interest in radio, so I never actually heard it on the air. The thing I remember about Sputnik was that the news bulletin occured during "The Life of Riley" TV show, therefore it had to have been on a Friday night as we often went out for fish and chips on Friday and then rushed home so we wouldn't miss Riley.
    K9ASE likes this.
  8. N4AAB

    N4AAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    My grandparents and I had watched a few days before a statement on television that there would be no artificial satellites because 'there is nothing to push against' outside the Earth's atmosphere.

    I don't remember if that science reporter kept his job or learned how dumb he was or both.

    I had already heard of Newton's third law, and I was in elementary school.

    My grandmother asked me what Sputnik meant ?

    I replied that it meant the Soviet's could drop a bomb anywhere they wanted to. Well, I was in elementary school at the time.
    K9ASE and KL7KN like this.
  9. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Oct of 1957 13 yrs old and a Freshman in HS remember it well my 3 tube Philmore receiver did not tune up that far in frequency but can picture the headlines in the local newspaper it was a rather big deal at the time and no doubt accelerated the US efforts in the space race.
    W7JZE likes this.
  10. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Actually, that's exactly the kind of story I'm looking for! Is it OK with you if I copy it and add it to my blog post? (I'll send you a draft of what I have so far.) I can also just add a link to this thread, if you would prefer I do it that way.

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