The following is a fanciful look at the invention of radio and a retrospective view of the last
two hundred to three hundred years of ham radio as seen from the year 2099. The first third
of this article is mostly fact and can be verified. The rest is my speculation.
About 1752 Benjamin Franklin stops short of inventing radio but goes on to invent bifocal eye glasses,
an efficient heating stove and the lightning rod. Franklin had the scientific background for thinking
"radio" out logically. He had the tools to build it and the moxie to understand electricity's
usefulness but he just didn't make that final leap.
Perhaps he shelved the idea on purpose. He was a leading scientist of his time but more importantly
he was also a leading printer (and the postmaster general). That is how he made his fortune.
From this perspective it is not to unrealistic to see that Franklin does not want an instantaneous
communications device that would circumvent the newspapers and mail service.
1753: In a letter published February 17th, some one called C.M. proposes the first practical telegraph
based on the discharge of static electricity. I speculate that C.M. was indeed Benjamin Franklin.
1827: Charles Wheatstone, designs the first microphone.
1830: Michael Faraday passes electricity through a vacuum tube.
1844: Samuel F.B. Morse transmits the message "What hath God wrought!" over land-line telegraph.
Nothing to this point constitutes "radio" but, each step was important to radio's development.
1865: Mahlon Loomis transmits wireless telegraph messages between two mountains in Virginia.
Loomis used two kites flown 18 miles apart, each carrying a wire that reached to the ground.
When he interrupted the flow of electricity from the atmosphere, through the wire, to an earth
ground, a galvanometer on the other kites wire measured a change in current. He obtained a patent
for this system in 1872.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell invents the "telephone".
1897: Marconi transmitted signals from shore to a ship at sea 18 miles away. (Same distance as Loomis,
but 32 years later.)
In 1912, the United States Congress passed the Radio Act of 1912 which restricted private stations to
wavelengths of 200 meters or shorter (1500 kHz or higher). These "short wave" frequencies were generally
considered useless at the time. This marks (I think) the beginning of HAM radio.
1926: Uda and Yagi invent the Yagi-Uda antenna.
1950's: SSB is developed.
1961: The first OSCAR is launched.
1980: ASCII computer code is authorized for amateur transmissions.
1983: Cellular phone network starts in U.S.
1989: A prototype system is built that evolves into the World Wide Web.
The rest is my speculation... but it is based on fact and professional insight.
2010: The last company testing HF BPL backs out of their contract saying: It was a bad idea all way around.
BPL still exists in the form of blocked VHF and microwave links but no one has interference and the bandwidth
is so low that no one calls it "broad-band". All ISP's adopt fiber optics with microwave end links as a
2011: The company Super-Mart makes the winning bid for primary use of frequency allocation in 139-170 MHz.
Within months they turn it into a BPL like madhouse, linking check out registers to customers
video-cell-play-stations. Ham 2 Meters (as a secondary user) becomes totally un-useable.
2012: Software Defined Radio (SDR) is the current big band wagon. Newly formed manufacturer KIDY
(Kenwood, Icom, Diamond, Yaesu) standardizes ham protocol for the mode. Competitor MFJ vows open
source or "no deal" and because of their remarks, goes bankrupt the following year.
2014: There are on-going problems with some users of the spectrum needing more space while large blocks of
adjacent frequencies are empty. This comes to a head after hurricane Raul hits New York City. Many first
responders and citizens die because of radio frequency congestion. After this, pay for first responders
2015: Due in part to the massive relief effort to NYC, the national government goes bankrupt. Its' replacement
is called DotGov. DotGov issues an edict requiring all future radio transmitters to be Cognitive (frequency
agile based on need).
Explaining Cognitive Radio - Caution, real science content:
This is a real concept, not just fiction like most of this story. In a fully implemented Cognitive radio,
the radio will make it's own decision on how to communicate. It does this by knowing a lot about its'
environment. It will know: the operators limitations such as type of service and class of license;
the systems limitations such as the frequency range of the antenna; the current law concerning
spectrum use; time of day, month, year (position in the sunspot cycle), solar flux, A and K index.
If it doesn't know these things it will access a server on the world wide web and learn them,
or in a pinch, it could just ask you for the answers. It will scan it's environment to check for
un-used blocks of frequency. The radio will probably ask you: Who do you want to communicate with?
It will then decide the best mode and frequency with which to communicate. It is frequency agile
and can automatically petition the government for temporary authorization to use 39.580 MHz (or
any other under-used frequency) for communications, disaster or not. This is built in and fully
automatic. The operator would not even need to know what mode or frequency he was using, it all
gets logged and uploaded to the servers without human interaction. So a Cognitive Radio is not
a ham radio, it is a smart radio. The same rig can be used for amateur, police, military or taxi
dispatch; just about any user.
Back to fiction...
2016: The F.C.C. removes all radio theory questions from the ham licensing tests.
2017: Company Super-Mart corners the market on remote DotGov servers that control allocations.
KIDY is bought out by Super-Mart. Ford Motors files for bankruptcy as gas reaches $20 a gallon.
Radio becomes even more important to the national economy. Unfortunately, the general public
doesn't know that many devices use radio, just that it works. And when it doesn't work, some
one had better fix it, right away.
2018: Police, firefighters and hospitals can not pay their first responders. (The military has
similar problems.) Many personnel functions are replaced by volunteers, some are hams. Many more
licensed radio operators are needed but can not be found. DotGov declares all ham rigs made before
2012 (KIDY standardization) are incapable of newer specs and are therefore outlawed. You can keep
them on the shelf but you can't transmit with them. It doesn't mater as everyone is using SDR modes
now anyway. Some hams continue to plug in a key and copy in their head, but the transmission (mode)
is more like digital audio than CW. There is big fanfare at midnight December 31st ending with the
last real SSB transmission between a Drake R7 on Samoa and a Collins S-Line on Baker Island. All
future ham transmissions are by SDR / digital or Cognitive Radios.
2019: Since all radios will soon be capable of out thinking the user, DotGov issues a proposal of
rule-making suggesting separating the ham operator license and the station license. It argues that
old radios can be operated by experienced hams but newer Cognitive Radios can be operated by a
chimpanzee. Many debates go on and on about this. Meanwhile the first responder problem worsens,
even hospitals are understaffed. It is near to impossible to get a policeman to your house unless
there is a mass murder involved. The nation demands a solution to the problem.
2020: DotGov issues a new ham operator license called "First-Class" (1st responder). It has an email
application with questions like: How do you spell your name? The first month it is offered, all
emergency workers are given top priority. License delays are common. The number of hams doubles
in two months. After the initial rush, the licenses are typically granted within three hours.
All other classes of ham licenses are grandfathered into General Class. The only difference between
classes is that First-Class is restricted to battery power and can only use Cognitive Radios from
20 MHz to 1,724 MHz.
All Cognitive Radios are granted a one year station license (as manufactured, sort of like: Type
Acceptance). General Class has both operator license and the station license but First-Class is
only an operator license. In order to renew a station license, one must download the newest
frequency allocations into your Cognitive Radio. If you are a General Class operating an old radio
you can submit form 610-7492764B in triplicate (electronically via PDF server). This proves to
DotGov that you still know how to read the frequency chart of allocations so that you can program
your old Software Defined Radio.
2021: Company Super-Mart sells a kilowatt amplifier for 20 MHz to 900 MHz that runs on batteries.
Automotive parts stores sell out of battery chargers the next day.
2042: Software Defined Radios are outlawed in favor of Cognitive Radios. No one notices the change
since the last SDR was retired by lack of use ten years prior.
2048: Radios start to think on their own. This is not your typical: He's about to call that rare
DX so I think I'll stop working now. Instead they are planning DXpeditions and designing massive
2056: An un-manned station left on Mars applies for DXCC. ARRL janitor and part time technician
Ray Woelk (N9DSY) comments that Hiram Maxim must be turning over in his grave. He pens a letter
to QST but the editors (who are Super Cognitive Radios) reject it. No human reads Rays' words.
DXCC was granted to the Cognitive Radio on Mars.
2099: Super Cognitive Radios become so smart that they are granted the right to vote. Hams become
maintenance workers, just some one who changes the battery. Their only purpose is to keep super
intelligent radios running.