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The Early History of GE Participation in the Police Radio Field


J. A. McCormick Communication Systems Division General Electric Company Lynchburg, Virginia

The early history of Police radio would not be complete without reference to the dawn of radio itself. It all began with the discovery of Hertzian waves by the German physicist, Heinrich Hertz, in 1888. Hertz demonstrated that energy could be transmitted by electro-magnetic waves with the same velocity as light waves, a phenomenon which had been mathematically predicted by the Scottish scientist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell. We honor Hertz today by referring to power and radio frequencies in terms of so many Hertz, rather than in cycles per second.

The development of the radio industry is both interesting and inspiring, but these are indeed weak descriptive words for a series of events and contributions which have profoundly changed the world.

If one were skilled enough to convey an understanding of the early history of radio in a presentation of reasonable length, any reader - even an informed one - would be spellbound. It is difficult to comprehend that the entire development of the radio/electronics industry, from the first rudimentary components to the highly complicated and sophisticated systems and services today, took place within the lifetime of many of us.

A great many people presume that the science of electronics, of which radio is one part, began with the advent of the electron tube. This seems logical because, for a great many years, the tube was unquestionably the keystone of the industry. The electron tube began in 1883 with Thomas A. Edison, one of the founders of the General Electric Company. However, at the time, he was completely unaware of his contribution to what would become a great industry and which, among other things, would one day make his mechanical talking machine appear as antiquated as the Pyramids. The "Edison effect" was his discovery that "something" was given off or emitted by the heated filament of an electric lamp. Edison determined that this "something" must consist of negative charges, by placing a cold filament in the lamp, which when made positive, attracted the charges given off by the heated filament.

At a later date, it occurred to J. Ambrose Fleming of the Edison Electric Light Co. of London, an early contributor to wireless, that there might be a way to make use of the Edison effect. He reasoned that if the incoming Hertzian waves of a wireless system were applied to the cold filament or plate - as it came to be known - a current would flow from the filament to the plate when the latter was positive and stop when it was negative. The idea was sound, and in 1904, Fleming invented the Fleming valve, a rectifier, or diode, which was superior to the various detectors being used in wireless telegraphy at that time.

In 1906, after years of experimenting, Lee deForest conceived the brilliant idea of adding a third element to the Fleming valve. This was a grid-like electrode between the filament and the plate for controlling the flow of current between the two. Thus was born the "Audion", or triode, one of the truly great inventions of this century. The Audion was by far the most sensitive detector to date. However, it was the mistaken belief of deForest and many of his contemporaries that the action of the Audion was due to the presence of gas in the envelope and that such a phenomenon would not occur in a vacuum. The deForest Audion was a vast improvement over the Fleming valve but it was very erratic and afflicted with short life.

In 1900, six years before deForest's Audion, the General Electric Company, visualizing the progress that could be made by subsidized scientific research, organized the world's first industrial research laboratory under the leadership of Dr. Willis R. Whitney, who guided its destinies as Director for 32 years. In almost no time, the wisdom of having such a laboratory was demonstrated by Whitney's discovery of the metallized carbon filament which reduced the nation's light bill by three to one in 1905. This was followed in 1910 by Dr. William D. Coolidge's development of the ductile-tungsten filament which reduced the light bill another two-thirds and prolonged the life of the lamps. It is estimated that in 1914, the people of the U. S. achieved a saving of two billion dollars from what the same amount of illumination would have cost with the metallized carbon filament.

In 1909, three years after the Audion, Dr. Irving Langmuir joined the General Electric Research Laboratory. He began at once his study of gas-filled valves or tubes, and also those with high vacuum. In doing this, he developed processes for obtaining a much higher vacuum than his contemporaries thought possible. He demonstrated that thermionic currents would flow readily in a high vacuum and, best of all, that such a vacuum tube would stand up under much higher voltages than if it were gas-filled. Dr. Langmuir learned that a heated filament in a high vacuum caused the tube to become gassy because of gas liberated from the filament and the glass. He found ways of overcoming these difficulties and was then able to produce the first reliable, fully satisfactory, electron tubes.

Despite the magnitude of their contributions, it was not Edison, Fleming, deForest, Coolidge, or Langmuir who can be considered the founder of the radio industry. This honor must always be reserved for Marconi. Here indeed was a man of vision - an engineer, a practical inventor, salesman, and promoter, rather than a scientist. In his day, and even before, there were many experimenters who managed to transmit and receive Hertzian waves within the confines of a laboratory. It is not known now what end results these individuals had in mind, but it seems clear that they failed to appreciate that they had a new means of communication within their grasp. Only Marconi had the vision of a wireless system of telegraphy, and he managed to put together an array of components which enabled him to communicate outdoors and over a considerable distance. At that point, he went to England to obtain financial backing for developing a ship-to-shore system.

It has been my very good fortune to know some of the GE Radio Pioneers personally among whom is Colonel Irvin R. Weir who is still residing in Syracuse, New York. I believe you will be interested in what Colonel Weir had to say at his retirement party in September, 1962 about a meeting he had with Marconi. I quote Colonel Weir as follows:

"The application of the first high-power water cooled tube in 1922 stirred the imagination of many Radio Pioneers. Dr. Alexanderson saw the possibility of putting all motor generators out of business even his own 200 Kilowatts High Frequency Alternator. It was not long before he obtained authorization for the development of a 200 K.W. transmitter using water cooled tubes. I was assigned by the Radio Department to help develop the 200 K.W. tube transmitter at the RCA Station, Rocky point, Long Island. This development was a cooperative venture between RCA and General Electric - GE was to furnish the tubes and the transmitter; RCA was to provide the station and antennae at their new Rocky Point Station.

We finally got about 120 Kilowatts into the antenna. The newspapers were given the story as a tube set replacing the large Alexanderson alternator. This feature caught the eye of Marconi, whose yacht Electra was anchored in New York Harbor. The news of a water cooled tube putting out a 120 kilowatts excited him so he asked for a couple of the UV 207 tubes through General Electric for experimental purposes. He wanted such power for his experimental work back in England. I was instructed to deliver these tubes to Marconi with the admonition that I must get a receipt from Marconi personally for the two tubes.

As soon as I got aboard the Electra in New York Harbor one afternoon I was stopped by one of the sailors. Then I was taken to the ship's captain who wanted to take my two tubes. I told him that I must get a receipt from Marconi himself. After a few minutes argument, I was taken below to Marconi's large room. He was at once interested in the tube characteristics and the special ways that a water cooled tube must be handled. Such things interested Marconi and I found his rather formal British mannerism soften to one of warmth.

Most people think of Marconi as an Italian. His father was an Italian, but his mother was Irish and her home was in London. His Irish blood gave him light hair and blue eyes. He looked more like a Britisher than an Italian. He spoke perfect English but with a slight British accent. He wore a monacle, British fashion, over his left eye. He told me, he had unfortunately lost the use of his right eye in an automobile accident.

As I sat talking to this soft-spoken, modest, unassuming man it was hard for me to realize that I was in the presence of the most distinguished Radio Pioneer on earth. Years ago, when I was a boy back in Terre Haute, Indiana, I had read about Marconi's experiments in radio and when I heard my first radio telegraph signals from NAA, little did I think I would ever be sitting before him - this great man of radio. It seemed like a dream.

I asked him how he first became interested in experimenting with Wireless, and he said it was largely because as a young man he wanted to do some sort of work that would enable him to travel all over the earth. He told me that he and his mother often traveled from his home in Italy to visit his mother's folks in London. As he crossed France, he saw glacier-clad mountains, rivers, and chateaus with romance, so then he got the urge to travel. He felt, by experimenting with electric waves, he would have a great opportunity to travel to far off lands. He told me he could never be cooped up in an office or a laboratory. This was the reason he used the Electra as a laboratory for his work now.

He told me some of his problems to transmit messages across the Atlantic. He had several failures using kites and balloons to hold up the receiving antenna. Finally he got a kite to remain up for hours. He listened for hours, without success.

Suddenly, one day, he heard a faint click, then another, then another - yes, that was it. It was the "S" signal that had been agreed upon from Cornwall, England. He longed to rush out and tell everyone, for he had realized his dream. He did not do this he told me because he feared people would not believe him. He listened for 48 hours and told no one, for he wanted to be sure of the signals he heard. Then he cabled England the news of the transatlantic success. This caused a great sensation. Newspapers on all five continents featured the story. Man had triumphed over space and time. His experiment was destined to change the world."

Marconi's first act on arrival in England was to file for patents on his wireless system. In 1897, a group of wealthy Britains joined him in forming the Marconi Company. With almost unlimited funds behind him, he made rapid progress and in 1900, was granted his famous British patent 7777, filed also in many other countries; this was for many years (17 years only in U.S.) the basic radio patent throughout the world.

A great many scientists in Europe protested the Marconi patent, claiming prior experimentation with various components of the system. The most vociferous of these protesters was the Russian Popoff who did not argue about wireless, but went right to the heart of the matter by claiming that he, and not the German Hertz, had discovered Hertzian waves.

Despite the storm of protest, the Marconi patent was sustained. Thereafter, his maritime wireless company grew rapidly both in England and the United States. The growth was stimulated by the sinking of the Republic in 1904, and the dramatic rescue through wireless of all but six of the passengers and crew. By the beginning of World War I, the American Marconi Company owned about 90% of all commercial stations in the United States, both ship and shore, and was manufacturing practically all of the commercial apparatus made in this country.

While the Marconi Company was making herculean progress, the scientists and inventors in the United States were not inactive. The accomplishments of deForest, Coolidge and Langmuir have been mentioned. Dr. Langmuir's work was paralleled by Dr. Harold D. Arnold of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, who was trying to apply the Audion to coast-to-coast telephony. Fessenden, Armstrong, Alexanderson and many others made numerous basic inventions. Some of these may have infringed the basic Marconi patents and the Fleming valve patents and no one company, other than Marconi, owned or controlled a sufficient number of patents to put together a wireless system.

When the United States entered World War I, the government cleared the patent roadblock with a guarantee to protect all American companies if they were prosecuted for patent infringements. There followed a few years of great progress. In 1918, the Navy, fearful of the loss of the Atlantic cables, was responsible for the installation of the first 200 kw G. E. Alexanderson alternator at New Brunswick, New Jersey on about 20,000 meters, or 15 kHz. This demonstrated that transoceanic telegraphy was not only feasible, but reliable as well.

The success of this very low frequency alternator and Ernst F. W. Alexanderson's multiple-tuned antenna system made a profound impression on Marconi. He had long since delegated the operation of the Marconi companies to subordinates and had been giving almost fulltime for 15 years to the development of a practical world-wide radio telegraph system. Despite fantastically expensive and complex antennas, he was successful only in demonstrating that wireless communication over such a great distance was possible. He never succeeded in achieving a system which would provide reliable, worldwide service.

After the war, Marconi, knowing that the alternator was a sure answer to his hopes for a world-wide communication system, proposed to buy from General Electric 24 alternators at a price of S127,000 each. This was big business and represented an order which the Company was very anxious to book. Before the deal could be consummated, however, Admiral William H. G. Bullard, Director of Naval Communications, heard of the proposal and asked for a meeting with General Electric. He had grave fears about British domination of United States Radio Communications, and suggested that General Electric form a communication company. This was like asking General Electric to establish a company for the generation and distribution of power - in competition with its power company customers. Finally, however, with the promise of the full backing of the Navy Department, it was decided to go ahead. General Electric purchased the American Marconi Company and following this, established the Radio Corporation of America. This gave RCA rights to the basic Marconi patents, the Fleming valve, the tungsten filament, ductile tungsten, the Langmuir "pure electron discharge tube", which was then in dispute, the Alexanderson alternator and the Alexanderson antenna.

In the meantime, Westinghouse had acquired the Armstrong "feedback" patent and joined with International Radio Telegraph in a manner similar to GE and RCA. This gave that new company Professor Fessenden's "heterodyne" patent which, coupled with the "feedback" patent, was soon to dominate all receivers using electron tubes.

At this time, the Navy realized that electronic tube equipment having great advantages could be manufactured only if the patent owners would get together. They urged that this be done, even though the government had withdrawn its protection for patent infringement at the end of the war. The first result of the Navy pressure was a cross-licensing arrangement between GE/RCA and AT and T, who had purchased the deForest Audion patent, with the former licensed for telegraphy and the latter for telephony.

Finally, just 21 years after the Marconi patent was issued, Westinghouse came into RCA. This came about because of Frank Conrad's broadcasting results, with the pioneer broadcasting station KDKA and the inability of Westinghouse to sell broadcast receivers without infringing RCA patents. Thus, in 1921, the patent situation, with some 1,200 patents involved, was cleared at last and radio came out of the laboratory into the beginning of a production business. At this point, however, - as you may recall - we were only up to the headphone stage.

One thing which this paper has made evident up to this time is the impracticability of meaningfully summarizing the history of the growth of radio and electronics in a tolerable time. Here we have brought the history only to the headphone stage and that, as we know now, was not much more than a beginning.

With the removal of the roadblocks in 1921 General Electric began to make great progress. At first RCA had the right to operate wireless or radio communication systems and the right to sell products and licenses. General Electric and Westinghouse could develop and manufacture, but could not sell their radio products, other than military, except to and through RCA. This stimulated the inventors, the developers and the innovators in General Electric and there began a long list of "firsts".

Many of you will remember the rapid build-up in power tubes. Transmitters applying these tubes grew from 200 watts, to 500 kw. For many years, every high-powered transmitter in military service, whether 25 kw, 50 kw, 100 kw, 300 kw and 500 kw, was built by General Electric. While this development was going on, much progress was being made in receivers and loud speakers for the rapidly growing broadcast market.

Recall the Radiola Receivers I, II, III, IV, the Model 104 dynamic loud speaker, the first phonograph pick-up, the condenser microphone. All were built by GE in the Schenectady Works and by Westinghouse at East Pittsburgh. The great expansion in broadcasting was spearheaded by the development of broadcast transmitters of increased power, by a steady stream of improved receivers, and by the development of network facilities. The task of developing and producing the transmitters and receivers was shared by GE and Westinghouse. The development of the network facilities was done, of course, by AT and T.

After a few years of experience, the original agreements of the manufacturing companies with RCA were modified because GE and Westinghouse wanted to sell and RCA wanted to manufacture, as well as sell. When this was worked out, RCA purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company and established a self-sufficient organization for the development of broadcast receivers and electronic phonographs. Eventually, the charter and organization was broadened to include transmitters and practically all electronic devices. During this period of readjustment, General Electric went out of the receiver manufacturing business and sold receivers manufactured for them by RCA. This, as might be expected, proved to be an unsatisfactory arrangement, which was destined for a short life of five years.

It was 1935 when General Electric regained its manufacturing rights under the so-called A-1 agreement. This made General Electric and RCA competitors in the broadcast receiver market and in some other areas. It required a few years more, however, for the issuance of supplements to the A-1 agreement, which gave the manufacturing companies rights to television and frequency modulation and to practically all electronics products except sound movies. Then, General Electric and RCA were, in fact, competitors for electronics business on the broadest possible scale.

The radical changes in the basic agreement between RCA and the manufacturing companies, as upsetting as they were to the organizations involved, fortunately did not stop progress at General Electric. Rather, each shift of responsibility appeared to stimulate contributions.

Many of the old timers still living can recall the first water-cooled tube, the first four-element tube, the first metal tube, and numerous firsts in standard and short-wave broadcasting, power line carrier, electronic heating, electronic control, television, radio, and microwave communications. These accomplishments, along with many others, helped to bring about radical changes in the design of electronic products and systems. The pioneering equipments were made of bakelite, treated maple, porcelain, lead covered wire and copper tubing. In those days we had variometers, vacuum tubes mounted horizontally on spring supported cradles, rotating DC power supplies, and much rubber hose. There was little or no aluminum in evidence, receiver cases were made of wood, not plastics, and loud speakers were logically equipped with horns.

In those days, industry was not the only agency concerned in building products. Many thousands of people built their own receivers, except for the Baldwin or Murdock headsets, and such words as galena, tuner, heterodyne, neutrodyne, and regeneration came into common usage outside of engineering circles. This was true, too, in the earliest days of police radio. Most of the equipment, particularly the receivers, was of the do-it-yourself type.

General Electric's early participation in the police radio field and in what the FCC called "Emergency Services" started about 1931, when the Company leased to and operated for the New York State Police a five kilowatt medium frequency AM transmitter. The transmitter was located on the same site as WGY and the complex of GE international short-wave broadcast transmitters at South Schenectady, New York. Following is a description of that early police transmitter as recalled by Harold G. Towlson, a GE Engineer still working for the Company at Syracuse, New York. I quote him:

"When I first went to South Schenectady in 1935, WPGC had been in operation for a few years. I estimate the start at about 1931. It continued to somewhere around 1944 when the use by New York State Police of two-way VHF FM equipment, with repeaters at various high elevations, made the AM equipment obsolete.

"The Equipment at South Schenectady was built and operated by GE, on lease to the New York State Police. It was located in the main building, on the South Schenectady site, along with 50 KW WGY, 5 KW WGY auxiliary, 100 KW short-wave WGEO, 50 KW short-wave WGEA and 25 KW WGEX. This combined operation made decided savings in personnel, power, heat, etc. The call was WPGC and the frequency 1658 KC. The AM transmitter was a Class B RF Linear type with a final amplifier using a pair of water-cooled type 892 tubes in push-pull with 869-B mercury-vapor tubes in the 15 KV rectifier. The antenna was a cage T suspended between two 300-foot steel towers, and operated with a counterpoise. Operation was controlled, and announcements made from the State Police office in Albany, using telephone lines for control and announcing. A 1,000 cycle tone pre-ceeded each announcement for about 10 seconds. This was a 24 hour/day,7days/week operation with maintenance done on a minimum basis as negotiated with the Police announcer on duty. The car radios, which were not supplied by us, were fixed tuned.

"Performance of this equipment was very good. However, in the daytime there were some areas of the state not well covered, and at night there was some mutual skywave interference with other State Police systems (North Carolina was one). And, of course, it was one-way communication; mobile responses had to come from the nearest telephone.

"About 1938, or thereabouts, the State Police added 5-1KW stations spotted around the state to improve the coverage. These were, as I remember, Link transmitters. Three of these were located at Tupper Lake, Oneida, and Sydney. One was located, I believe, at Peekskill and I believe the other was at Batavia. These were operated by New York State Police personnel and GE had no direct responsibility, although we did help them out whenever they called upon us.

"When the 2-way FM equipment was obtained by the New York State Police, use of the above equipment was discontinued. About 1965, a remote-controlled WGY transmitter, and Auxiliary, were installed in a new and smaller building. Ail of the old equipment was disposed of, and the old main building torn down."

Shortly after the installation of the New York State Police transmitter, a number of 1 kw AM transmitters were installed for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the New York Fire Department, the U.S. Border Patrol at St. Albans, Vermont, and others.

In February, 1933, the Federal Radio Commission issued a very interesting public notice No. 8026 concerning the Police Radio Service. At that time, there were only eight frequencies available for police use in the 1500 to 3000 kc range. Frequencies above 30 megacycles, considered UHF then, were experimental. As an interesting sidelight, the Public Notice stated that two-way communication could not be authorized because of the shortage of frequencies.

In 1934, the first two-way installation of General Electric AM equipment operating in the 30 to 40 megacycle band was made for the Boston Police Department. Figure. 1 shows the 1-1/2 kw UHF transmitter and associated speech input equipment at the Boston Police Headquarters. Figure 2 shows a test car which was used in the development and test of UHF police car receivers and transmitters at the GE Schenectady Works back in 1934.

Boston PD 1.5KWr
Figure 1

Test Car
Figure 2

Figure 3 shows equipment typical of that era installed in the trunk of a 1938 Ford. Note the large, hefty dynamotor which made the transmitter capable of continuous duty. Another interesting feature of this early equipment was duplex operation as in normal telephone conversation. Figure 4 shows the control unit and telephone handset installed on the dash of a Ford car.

Gear in Trunk
Figure 3

Control Unit wirh Telephone Handsetest
Figure 4

Figure 5 (missing) shows that motorcycles were not overlooked in the early days of Police radio. The black case in the foreground contains a UHF receiver mounted on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The photograph is dated May 3, 1937.

On November 6, 1935, an event occurred which was destined to change the course of all Land-Mobile Radio Service in the years to come. Major Edwin H. Armonstrong demonstrated his system of frequency modulation to the Institute of Radio Engineers in New York. The idea of frequency modulating a radio carrier was not new. Years before, investigators had considered it a possible means of minimizing radio spectrum occupancy. (Doesn't that have a familiar ring, even today?) Why not transmit all of the frequencies in and above the audio range, while swinging the carrier only 11 kilocycle, and thus occupy only a 2 kilocycle channel band width? As we now know, this theory was quickly disproven mathematically and experimentally. Nevertheless, researchers in those early days never lost sight of the possibilities of this form of modulation and, in fact, on July 22, 1929, R. B. Dome of the GE South Schenectady Development Laboratory applied for a patent which was granted July 4, 1933, on a method of frequency modulating an oscillator, of multiplying the swing by a series of cascaded multipliers, and of suppressing amplitude modulation in the process.

Armstrong's contribution was the idea of using very wide swing in order to transmit frequencies throughout the range of human hearing up to 15,000 cycles per second and to use limiters in the receivers to wipe off amplitude modulation and thereby, defeat static and man-made noises to a higher degree than had ever been achieved in amplitude modulation broadcasting.

General Electric was one of the few, if not the only major manufacturer, to respect the Armstrong FM system patent and took out a license to build FM broadcast receivers, transmitters and two-way radio equipment. As many other inventors before him, Major Armstrong met a great deal of opposition. Many who had millions of dollars invested in AM broadcasting threw every conceivable obstacle in his way. Others appropriated his invention and there followed patent infringement suits, which were fought out in the courts over a 20-year period. Armstrong finally won out, but only after his death at the age of 63. Nineteen of the twenty-one legal actions were settled with payments to the Armstrong estate. According to his attorneys, these amounted to "several million dollars".

In 1935, General Electric started to manufacture FM broadcast receivers at the Bridgeport Works. Interestingly enough, the first FM broadcast band extended from 44 to 50 megacycles -- the FCC had turned over to FM, TV Channel 1. Subsequently, FM broadcasting was transferred to the 88 to 108 megacycle portion of the spectrum.

General Electric Engineers and others very quickly perceived that FM had great possibilities for application to the Land-Mobile Services, because of its noise-reducing properties, the capture effect, which would reduce interference between systems operating on the same channel, and other fine characteristics. On April 26, 1938, application was made to the FCC for an experimental license to use FM at 40 megacycles to test the feasibility of FM for Mobile Radio Service. The license was issued on August 3, 1938 and field testing started immediately, with equipment previously developed in the Laboratory.

General Electric made a noteworthy industry contribution in those early days of FM by setting up FM/AM transmitters at Schenectady and Albany in New York's capitol district to demonstrate the superiority of FM over AM as an emergency communications system. Duplicate AM and FM transmitting facilities were set up at the stations and in a car. Instant side-by-side comparisons of the two systems could thus be made with the transmitters in the two cities operating co-channel. The superior noise-quieting characteristics of FM and the "capture effect" were demonstrated. At a point about mid-way between the two cities, a simple movement of the quarter-wave antenna on the car would cause the FM mobile receiver to capture either theSchenectady or the Albany transmitter, depending upon its physical position. This was quite a dramatic demonstration of the capture effect, and showed clearly that frequencies could be duplicated without too many miles of separation between systems and still permit relatively in-terference-free communication. One of the objectives of the tests was to demonstrate to FCC representatives that FM could operate in the same 40 kHz channels assigned for AM transmission at that time. In order for the FM transmissions to occupy the same 40 kHz band width, it was found that the swing should be held to a maximum of +/-15 kHz and this standard was suggested to the FCC Engineers, who subsequently, adopted it as a standard. A reactance-tube modulator was used in the test transmitters, in order to test the various degrees of frequency swing without the need of changing the trans-mitter multiplying factor at all. With the reactance-tube modulator, it was possible to swing the carrier very little, or a great deal and draw comparisons, using only a single, relatively simple transmitter at each location.

Among the first to witness the mobile FM vs. AM demonstrations on the Schenectady/Albany circuit were representatives of the U. S. Navy on August 24-26, 1938, including Rear Admiral C. E. Courtney, and Lt. Commander J. B. Dow.

On April 5-7, 1939, a three-day test was conducted as a dress rehearsal for a coming FCC presentation. Technical representatives from several Government agencies, including the Signal Corps and the CAA, were present. As a part of this series of tests, the CAA Supplied a WACO Biplane for airborne tests. Major Armstrong was also present.

On April 13-14, 1939, the full-scale Schenectady/Albany FM/AM tests were run for the FCC and IRAC. Present were FCC General Counsel W. J. Dempsey, Chief Engineer E. K. Jett, Assistant Chief Andrew D. Ring, Director of Research Dr. L. P. Wheeler, and J. H. Dellinger, Commander John R. Redman and Major Tom C. Rives from IRAC.

On September 28-29, 1939, the tests were repeated for the FCC's "Emergency Service" people. These tests proved to the satisfaction of the FCC people the feasibility of inter-mixed FM/AM systems on the then existing 40 kc channels. Present were Major Armstrong, of Columbia University; Paul Lion of the FCC; Glenn Nielsen of the FCC; and Daniel E. Noble, Assistant Professor, Connecticut State Agricultural College and Radio Communications Consultant for the Connecticut State Police.

In the Fall of 1941, the FCC started licensing FM communication systems on a regular basis -- the experimental phase passed into history.

None of us will forget December 7, 1941, the start of the difficult war years. By that time, a great number of police departments, (many also serving fire departments) and a number of public utility companies had installed FM radio systems, but for the duration of World War II, only police and fire departments could obtain the necessary A1A priority to purchase two-way radio equipment. Quartz crystals were in particularly short supply.

In January, 1944, with the end of the war in sight, the FCC established the Radio Technical Planning Board (RTPB) under the chairmanship of Dr. W. R. G. Baker, Manager of the Electronics Department of the General Electric Company. Dr. Baker appointed a chairman for each panel of representatives for each class of service claiming use of the radio frequency spectrum from 25 to 890 megacycles, with the objective of complete re-allocation of that portion of the spectrum directly after the war.

The result of this work was the post-war re-allocation proceedings, in which a number of new services were opened up to the Land-Mobile category, such as taxicabs, Special Industrial, Manufacturers' Radio, etc. Today, any person or organization, legitimately requiring the use of two-way radio, can obtain a license in at least one, and often several, of the Land-Mobile Services.

In closing, the writer wishes to add a personal note.

Researching the subject of the early history of radio has been just as interesting and fascinating as following the exploits of our Astronauts today. To quote Paul Schubert from his book, "THE ELECTRIC WORD":

"In the seven years between the dawn of 1921 and the dawn of 1928, the popular use of radio spread as nothing before has ever spread into every nook and cranny of the United States. The radio audience of a few thousand had grown to more than half the adult population of the Land. It was possible then, by inter-connection of transmitting stations for that tremendous concentration of human minds to be focused upon a single voice, a single instrument, a single event ....

It is perhaps difficult for those who have lived through this change to comprehend what it signifies in terms of World History. No nation ever had greater communication barriers than those of the wilderness infancy of the United States; no nation has ever so broken those barriers down or achieved such astonishing unanimity and rapidity of thought conveyance as has this one in its young maturity. It took aeons of time for the use of fire to spread among men, aeons of time to develop a substantial man-made structure to shelter him from the elements, aeons of time for him to learn to speak, other aeons to write -his progress along the pathway up from brutehood has been painfully, pitifully slow . . . and now, in this era of science and inter-communication, of which these United States are such a vital expression, an entire nation has come to the point of absorbing some new thing into its life, a thing that will henceforward play a profounder part in its environment than it can guess, in the short span of a little more than two thousand days .... "

Those words were written in 1928. How prophetic they have proved to be!

The "ELECTRIC WORD" was published by the MacMillan Company in 1928, and is long since out of print. If obtainable, I commend the reading of the entire book to all those police radio men and others who are currently interested in, or are working in, the field of electronics -- old-timers and newcomers alike.


The major source material employed in the preparation of this paper was taken from the script of the main address by John J. Farrell at the Old-Timers Reunion, Syracuse Chapter of the General Electric Quarter-Century Club, June 24, 1961 and Paul Schubert's, "THE ELECTRIC WORD". The comments, suggestions, and review of the paper by GE Engineer R. H. Williamson are also gratefully acknowledged.

J. A. McCormick
Printed 11/20/70
As: ECX-591

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