A Publication of the Alabama Historical Radio Society July 2020
Greetings to all !!
We are now in the fifth month of living with restrictions on certain aspects of our lives. This is certainly an unprecedented time and it seems that no one knows when it might end. I hope all of you are safe and healthy and making the best of the present conditions.
The Shop is still officially closed, in compliance with Alabama Power’s guidelines; however the officers and a few others have gone to the Shop occasionally to check on things, deliver donations, and retrieve specific parts or information needed by a member for an at-home project. While at the shop social distancing was maintained and masks were required.
Recently we received several large and a few small donations, including a varied array of radios, test equipment and related items. We will have an auction as soon as feasibly possible.
The new Society website is on the internet at alhrs.org. Please check it out. You may wish to specifically checkout the Related Radio Websites page under Menu. This page has links to websites for sister organization, parts suppliers, commercial radio repair facilities and other fun stuff. After you check it out let us know if you have a favorite site that needs to be added to the list. We have exciting plans to add additional pages and functionality to the site, in the near future. Stay tuned!
Boyd Bailey is planning another Zoom Radio Class. We will advise you of the details when the date and time at set.
Since activity is low I have little else to report. If you are working on a project you would like to share with the membership, please write an article for a future issue of this newsletter. Other members want to know how you have been spending your days. Please send your article to
Until we can meet at the Shop, stay safe and may God Bless.
What is Happening at the Society
Quote of the Month
Submitted by: Steven Westbrook
“Mistakes are great, the more I make the smarter I get.”
― Buckminster Fuller
Radio History Contest
Submitted by Steven Westbrook
We have a winner to last month’s contest:
The question was what was meant by “mostly red each way” in the log for Marconi’s communication experiment between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle, Northern Ireland in 1898.
The winner is - - - Maurice Lovelady with “next day messages were sent and received ........mostly red each way”
It appears “red” in the log is an example of a homophone. A homophone is two words that have the same pronunciation, but have different meanings and are spelled differently. It appears the person wrote “red” rather than “read”.
Below is an article by Bobby Wadley, GBIIMD, which gives details about Marconi’s exploits on the northern coast of Ireland. He lives on Rathlin Island, Northern Island.
The station will be on air at the East Lighthouse from 11am to 2pm (weather dependent on ferry crossing)
We will be covering HF and VHF.
For more information on the use of The East Lighthouse for Marconi’s transmissions read the following as written for the Antrim History net http://antrimhistory.net/marconi-and-ballycastle/
In the course of the Wireless experiments at Ballycastle during the summer of 1898, four stages may be noted:
Stage I : A Short Stage
Stage I began on Friday, June 10th. when Kemp met Mr. Hough from Lloyds in Ballycastle at 11.00 a.m. They arranged to experiment at the coal store, now the Pier Pavilion with the aerial leading over the road to a small mast on top of the cliff, now the car park opposite Hillsea Hotel. The mast was that appertaining to the coastguard station.
This is generally believed to have been the first wireless installation ever set up in Ireland.
Next day Kemp and Hough went to Rathlin and upon their return Kemp fitted up the station in the coal-yard. The following Monday, Kemp started teaching Lloyd’s agent, Mr. Byrne, and his sons, the Morse code in the hope of getting their help until Lloyds sent someone to take charge of the station.
Four days later Kemp was in Belfast where he tried, unsuccessfully as it proved, to obtain masts for the Rathlin and Ballycastle stations. On June 22nd and June 23rd, 50 Obach cells for transmission were fitted at the coalyard station at Ballycastle Quay, and 50 were fitted at the Lighthouse Station on Rathlin. Mr. Byrne and his sons received further instruction from Kemp, this time in the working of the coal-yard station.
Coal-Yard at Ballycastle Quay visible to the right of picture)
On 2nd July, wire and insulators arrived in Ballycastle from London “by the last train” (as Kemp describes it), and by July 5th half the wire, insulators and stores were taken to Rathlin Island and fitted up at the station there for transmission. Kemp instructed Signalman Dunovan and his two sons in the working of the station. Next day news came from London to the effect that Kemp was to take all the apparatus, “half a ton of gear,” as he calls it from Ballycastle to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), for the Kingstown annual regatta.
So ended Stage I – a very short-lived one- in the fitting up of the two experimental stations at Ballycastle and Rathlin. What happened at Kingstown does not concern us here, suffice it to say that the apparatus was employed to transmit reports of Kingstown Regatta to a Dublin newspaper- The Daily Express- from a steamer, “The Flying Huntress” in Dublin Bay.
Mr Marconi himself was present at these experiments, the first ever of messages being sent from sea to land by a vessel in motion. Upon the conclusion of the regatta, Kemp and a young man named Edward Edwin Glanville a native of Blackrock, an engineering student at Trinity College, Dublin, and employed as assistant to Marconi, set out by train from Dublin to Ballycastle. This brings us to Stage II in our story of the early wireless experiments in Ballycastle.
Stage II : Aerial on A Spire
Glanville was put in charge of the Rathlin island station with instructions to transmit to Kemp at the Ballycastle end every day. Kemp records in his diary…
“I received at various places and on the cliffs along the coast in the vicinity of Ballycastle and received the best results on an aerial connected to the Roman Catholic Church spire in the town, but as there was no house or room available there—and the Company would not let me use a hut—there was not much chance to make a speedy job, as there was delay in getting spares from Belfast.”
The chapel spire must then have presented a very new appearance; for it had been added to the building in 1891, thanks to the John Lawless bequest, the chapel itself was built in 1870. Kemp is at pains to state that these good results were the outcome of the courtesy and co-operation extended by the Parish Priest, the Very Rev. John Conway, V.F. Little wonder that later on in the course of the experiments in September when Marconi came to Ballycastle, he and Kemp showed their appreciation of this favour by calling on the Very Reverend gentleman, presumably at the parochial house on the day before they left Ballycastle for London.
Stage III : White Lodge
(White Lodge/ Kenmara House, Ballycastle)
The third stage of the experiments followed when Kemp managed (as he tells us)
….“to get the loan of a small bedroom in a lady‘s house on the cliff, and the loan of a jib of a crane in the pier yard (now the car park) which served me for a lower-mast.”
This house, as Marconi subsequently explained to Kemp, belonged to a Mr.Thomas Magregor Greer, M.A., T.C.D., Solicitor of Ballymoney. At the time of the wireless experiments it was rented by Mr. Greer’s brother-in-law, Mr. Talbot Reed, 1, Hampstead Lane, Highgate, in the City of London. The house, known as White Lodge, is currently the property and residence of Colonel H. A. Allen, D.S.O.
Tragedy On Rathlin
A sad tragedy occurred on Sunday, August 21st in the course of the third stage of the experiments when young Glanville, out for a walk on Rathlin on that afternoon accidentally fell over a cliff and was killed. This sad accident was quite unconnected with the experiments. The people on the island had often seen Glanville, who was interested in geology, climbing over the cliffs and this was no doubt the cause of the accident. The verdict at the inquest was accidental death. but the jury, presided over by Mr, J. P. O’Kane,(father of Mrs. Boylan), added the following rider—“That we beg to tender our deepest sympathy with the parents of the deceased, and also with Mr, Kemp and the other members of the staff of the Wireless Telegraph Company, with whom the deceased worked so cordially and we desire to place on record our sorrow at such a tragic ending to so promising a career, connected as it was with one of the most important discoveries of the century.”
Mr. Glanville’s body was taken to the mainland by the S. S. “Glentow” and from thence by rail to Dublin, for burial.
Stage IV: Colonel Allen’s House
We now come to the fourth and last stage of the early wireless experiments in Ballycastle, seventy years ago almost to the day. On August 24th Kemp proceeded to erect a new mast in a field 104 feet to the top of the sprit and 104 feet from the window of a child’s bedroom, which was loaned to him, at the northern side of what is now Colonel Allen’s house. Thus two different bedrooms in this house were used in the course of Stage III and Stage IV of the early wirelessexperiments in Ballycastle.
White Lodge/Kenmara House, Ballycastle
Next day Kemp states that he finished the station and adjusted the receiver and inker. He instructed Mr. Byrne in all the details of the transmitter and requested him to follow (when he received the dots and dashes from Kemp) on the inker. He sent messages to, and received messages from, Mr. Byrne until 1 p.m. on that day, left the station on Rathlin in the charge of Mr. Dunovan and sons, and returned to Ballycastle.
This trip from the island to the mainland must have been something in the nature of an adventure for Kemp, as it took four hours to cross what he describes as “that very dangerous piece of water” as a result of which, he records, “I caught a terrible cold.”
The experiments were now apparently proving very satisfactory, next day messages were sent and received from 10 a.m, to 6.30 p.m., mostly red each way. Ten ships were reported and Lloyds’ agent (Mr. Byrne) sent a report to Lloyds concerning the day’s work which had been carried out in a dense fog. The following day, August 27th, two more ships were reported to Lloyds.
Kemp must have been a somewhat sick man when next day – Monday, August 29th, the eve of the Lammas Fair – Mr. Marconi arrived in Ballycastle by the 6.15 p.m. train. One is tempted to wonder how the 24 year old scientist contemplated the scene as the engine driver sounded the whistle at Kilcraig and as the narrow gauge train neared its journey’s end by rounding the sharp Ballylig curve, passing Broombeg Wood, (now known as Ballycastle Forest) and finally reaching its destination at the Ballycastle railway terminus.
Ballycastle Narrow Gauge Railway 1880 – 1924
The rough passage from Rathlin two days previously had evidently proved too much for Kemp, because he records that he…”had to take to bed suffering from Neuralgia and fever.” He continues.. “The weather was very windy and wet during the day and I was forced to keep the window open to enable me to transmit, and this increased the violent cold that I caught in the boat.” Conditions were no better by August 28th. “Weather,” writes Kemp, “still very wet and wind blowing a gale. I had to remain in bed, taking medicine which reduced the fever, but made me very weak.” ….
As Marconi made his way from the station to the Antrim Arms Hotel, almost certainly by way of the Poor Row or Station Street, I wonder if he delayed at the stalls erected on the Diamond in readiness for the the Fair next day or was he more concerned with his scientific pursuits?
P. W. Paget, one of his technical assistants, has put it on record that Marconi had little interest in anything outside wireless. In any event, he may have been too deeply concerned about the death by accident of his assistant, Glanville, only a week previously to bother too much about the fair. Certainly he remained indoors in the Antrim Arms Hotel all the evening.
On Lammas Fair Day
On the following day, (Lammas Fair Day) Kemp called up Rathlin Island station and found that their sensitive tube had been broken. He records … “I told them to stop for a few days. The weather was still very wet and windy and I spent the remainder of the day packing apparatus and transporting it to the Antrim Arms Hotel. I told Mr. Byrne that he would have to get a station built for carrying on further work, as the present room must be given up because Mr. Greer of Ballymoney, the owner of the property was coming back…. I subsequently tried to go to Rathlin but found that no boat had been there since August 25th when I crossed.”
On the second day of the Lammas Fair, Kemp tried to get a boat to take Marconi and himself to Rathlin, but no one would venture to cross. Instead, the scientist and his assistant went to Fair Head, whence they saw Rathlin, Torr Head, the Mull of Kintyre and the two islands at the mouth of the Clyde, Sanda and Ailsa Craig.
One of the Largest
The Lammas Fair held that year was one of the largest held in the district for years. Buyers from Belfast, Derry and Armagh and across the Channel attended, some even before the day of opening. It was thought that it would have been the most successful for years, but unfortunately from eleven a.m to seven p.m a continuous heavy downpour of rain set in and damped those attending and practically spoilt the day. The second day compensated by being gloriously fine, but the rain of the previous day acted on the attendance.
There was a great show of sheep, cattle and horses and prices were as follows: Bullocks, first class £14 to £17; second class £11 10s to £14; third class £9 to £11; heifers, first class £12 to £16 10s; second class £10 to £12; third class £7 to £10. Milch cows £14 to £16 and £9 to £11. Sheep from 17s 6d to 42s. A large sale was made in this class; lambs 18s to 33. Bullocks 27s per cwt; middling class 23s 6d per cwt.
There was a splendid show of Cushendall ponies. The Islay fish trade was most successful, ling, cod, etc., being in abundance. All the lots were sold from 3s 6d to 7s 6d a bundle. In the fruit market there was a great supply. The lots were chiefly brought by wholesale traders from Ballymena and Belfast. Such were the chief characteristics of the Ballycastle Lammas Fair of seventy years ago.
Crossing to Rathlin
On Thursday, 1st September, Mr. Marconi and Kemp started from Ballycastle at 9 a.m. and crossed to Rathlin in one hour with, as Kemp describes it, “a fair wind and large sail.” They visited the lighthouse, beside which the aerial mast was erected; some of the cement blocks inscribed “Lloyds” and used to hold the stays of the mast may still be seen there. As a memorial of the early wireless experiments here, it is surely possible for one or more of these to be brought to Ballycastle and placed somewhere for all to see in the new promenade or municipal gardens as described in Mr. Fergus Pyle’s article on “Civic Week in Ballycastle” in the “Irish Times.”
(Rathlin East Lighthouse – Present Day)
Marconi and Kemp found that the ridge of Lloyds’ land bore north and south and that the station at Ballycastle bore south-south-west. Kemp induced Mr. Dunovan and his sons to pack up the apparatus while he took Mr. Marconi to Badlyconagan to see the cliff where Glanville lost his life. Thus by early September, 1898, the experiments came to an abrupt end at Ballycastle. Whether or not the accidental death of Glanville on Rathlin had anything to do with this it is impossible to say.
Thanked for Co-operation
Mr. Marconi and his assistant returned to Balllycastle at 2 p.m. “pulling and sailing in one and a half hours.” Upon their return they visited the Very Rev. John Conway, P.P., V.F., the proprietors of the Water Mill (presumably Messrs. Alex. and John Nicholl), and the landowners, in the area (presumably the agent to the local estate). This was evidently to thank each of the parties for their help during the experiments.
Next day, September 2nd, Mr. Marconi left for London and Kemp took down the mast that he had erected (104 feet North at Greer’s house at the top of the Quay)and returned all the stores to the Antrim Arms Hotel. Six days later, on September 8th, Kemp left Ballycastle for London, travelling via Belfast and Fleetwood.
Kemp regarded the Ballycastle experiments as very successful demonstrations in spite of (as he put it)… “the most peculiar instructions” ever given to him. In 1897 the whole of the G.P.O’s skill was put on to a similar job, but in the case of the Ballycastle/Rathlin experiments, carried out under the auspices of Lloyds, he was sent without any assistance and he had to instruct all those who helped him.
Not Until 1905
Apparently the relations between Kemp and Lloyds were not as friendly as those between Kemp and the G.P.O. At all events the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy between Ballycastle and Rathlin was not brought into use until 1905. It replaced the old parallel system between Ballycastle and Rathlin, purely G.P.O. affair, and was distinct from the experiments described, which, as I have explained, were carried out under the auspices of Lloyds.
Despite the somewhat adverse criticisms of Kemp in his relationship with Lloyds, the Ballycastle/ Rathlin experiments must, nevertheless, have had some definite significance in the development of wireless telegraphy. Within two years, in 1900, Marconi had taken out his famous patent No. 7777 for “tuned or syntonic telegraphy”
Stay Tuned! Next month we will have another Radio Question.
In fact Marconi had transmitted signals to such a distance—over 200 miles—as to convince him that the electric waves, instead of being projected into space, as some prophets averred would be the case, would, as it were, cling to the surface of the earth, the curvature of which would, therefore, be no bar to the attainment of long ranges. Accordingly, he determined to make an attempt to send signals across the “Atlantic, and for that purpose proceeded to erect a powerful station at Poldhu, in Cornwall, with a similar station at Cape Cod, in the United States of America.
RickeDee Super Probe
Submitted by Dee Haynes
A few months ago, I was watching Mr. Carlson’s Lab, one of my favorite electronic repair blogs on YouTube. He was building an electronic probe for troubleshooting radios.
As I watched, I thought “Gaaaaaa-Leee” this probe thing has to be the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve got to have one. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rick Curl, another AHRS member, was working with a program called “Diptrace”. After that, things kinda’ came together. I talked with Rick and we decided to use Diptrace to design the circuit board for the Mr. Carlson’s Super Probe. As covered in a previous Superflex newsletter, Diptrace is a program that allows you to click and drag components and design a circuit board on your computer. For me, at the tender age of 76, the learning curve for this program is a bit steep. Over a period of several weeks, Rick and I designed the board on my desktop computer with my 42 inch monitor (great for designing circuit boards). He clicked and dragged, poked and prodded and then mashed the proper button and “voila”, there is the circuit board all laid out on the computer screen and ready to order. Click another button and a company in China printed this board out and shipped it to me, sans Covid-19.
Tiny isn’t it. There are 6 transistors, an LED, multiple caps and resistors all on a board that is about the same width as a dime. To make things simple electronically, one of the transistors drives the LED and the rest are a series of amplifiers strung together. In other words, this is a very sensitive amplifier that works both with RF and AF. (I have a pacemaker and I can put the probe near it and could hear the ticks being driven by my heart beat)
Meanwhile back to the build. Heaven forbid if I had to solder those components on that tiny board. Thank goodness Rick volunteered to do that job too.
Here we see Rick trouble shooting the board with his super nice, Hantek 60 MHz test set, which has many functions including an oscilloscope, signal generator, and multi-meter among other things. I think it will even make chicken soup if you mash the right buttons.
Thanks Rick for all you help in making this circuit board. Now all I have to do is make a metal container for the probe and a separate power supply and audio amplifier.
Here I am facing a piece of aluminum on my bench lathe for one of the two end caps which will house the probe. The aluminum tube which would contain the probe came from a folding chair. I’ve been saving that old chair for 30 years and finally found a use for it.
Enough of tooting my own horn, here is the finished product. If any of you AHRS members are interested in building one of these Super Probes, let me know. We have a few extra boards that need populating. Just get in touch with me. K4hfx1@gmail.com. This would make a nice club electronics class project.
Rick wanted me to say a few more words about the design of the circuit board and the Diptrace program. Here is a shot of the three dimensional view of the board. You can even rotate the view in any direction including seeing the back of the board.
Here is a shot of the layout of the board that was sent to the manufacturer for production. Not shown is the back of the board which is mostly covered with copper and a few traces. Leaving the extra copper in place is a wise move because it helps shield the board, which is extremely sensitive.
Well folks, I think that about covers it. I am still learning how to use the Super Probe. It might need a few minor adjustments but I tried it out on an All American Five today and it picks up just about everything that Mr. Carlson of "Mr. Carlson's Laboratory” said it would. Again, we ordered extra boards if anyone is interested in building one of these things. Contact me if you wish to give it a try,
See you on Zoom.
We meet every Saturday (unless a Holiday weekend) at 9:00 a.m., at the one-story AHRS Shop at the corner of 8th Avenue North and 18th Street, (1801 8th Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35203). Birmingham, AL 35203). Use the rear (Southeast) entrance.
Notice: All meetings at the shop have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Shop is open on Tuesdays at 9:00 a.m. until around 11:30 a.m. when we go to Marilyn's Deli and Dog for lunch next door. Note that parking can be a problem on Tuesdays, so you may have to find street parking occasionally.
Notice: All meetings at the shop have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
We meet on the fourth Monday night of each month, too, at 7:00 p.m. Please come join us!
Notice: All meetings at the shop have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Free Electronics Classes
One more great benefit from becoming a member of AHRS--free Electronic classes!
Classes are taught the first Saturday of each month (except when something special is taking place, then we agree on what Saturday).
We start from the beginning Ohms Law, inductors, resistor and Capacitors color codes, as well as what each component does within the radio circuits. We also teach how to use test equipment used in the repairing of radios. We teach troubleshooting radio troubles, as well as how to read a radio diagram. There are coil winding classes, and one-on-one repair help. Come join these classes!
Notice: All meetings at the shop have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Watch you email for classs notifications on line via Zoom.
Membership dues are $25 a year, payable beginning in January. If you have questions about your dues, you can contact Treasurer Mike Woodruff at 205-823-7204. Dues can be mailed to AHRS at P.O. Box 131418, Birmingham AL 35213.
Be sure and check out our website at https/www.alabamahistoricalradiosociety.org, which has copies of all newsletters from 2006 to the present (click on News), videos, photo galleries, museum, Old Time Radio columns, Projects, Reading Rooms, Archives, and Contact Information
President – Dave Johnson
Vice President – Steven Westbrook
Recording Secretary – Dee Haynes
Treasurer – Mike Woodruff
Boyd Bailey, member and Instructor
Website – David Lake