Sunday, April 1, 2012

Works For Me!

Thought for the day:  I am often asked how radio works. Well, you see, wire telegraphy is like a very long cat. You yank his tail in New York, and he meows in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? Now, radio is exactly the same, except that there is no cat.  [Albert Einstein]

As you can probably tell by the thought for the day, my theme for this A-Z challenge will be radio. Amateur radio, to be exact, and what better way to begin than with the word AMATEUR itself?

According to my Funk & Wagnalls, an amateur is one who practices an art or science for his own pleasure, rather than as a profession. Still, some amateur radio operators, AKA hams, think the word not only carries a negative connotation, but denigrates their abilities and the valuable services they provide. Me?  I embrace the term, and I'll tell you why.

After Guglielmo Marconi successfully sent the letter S ... dit-dit-dit ... across the Atlantic Ocean via radio wave in 1901, he became like a veritable rock star ... and was lauded worldwide as the Father of Radio. (Others played considerable roles, too, but I guess Marconi had a better PR guy.)

Anyway, in a world fired up by Marconi's amazing accomplishment, experimenters, engineers, inventors, educators, and hobbyists started directing their efforts into this new field called wireless, and these enthusiasts were collectively known as amateurs.

VROOM! VROOM! VROOM! Fast forward to the Chicago World's Fair of 1933,  where members of a local amateur radio club displayed some of the equipment they'd designed and built ...

Guess who happened to visit that World's Fair?

Yep, you got it. Marconi.

Natch, he stopped to look at that display of radio equipment. Can you imagine how the locals felt when they realized one of the guys examining their equipment was Marconi? And how they felt when he actually praised its design and workmanship?

One of the locals was especially taken aback, and stammered, "But, sir, we're just a bunch of amateurs".

To which the great Marconi allegedly replied, "I have always thought of myself as an amateur."

So I say ...  if it was good enough for Marconi, it's more than good enough for me.

         Remember: Professionals built the Titanic, but an amateur built the ark.

Marconi, late 1800s

[Amateur radio operators must pass a battery of tests in order to receive a license and call sign from their country's governing body. In the U.S., that body is the Federal Communication Commission, and my call sign is AF4FO.]                         


  1. I love that quote by Albert Einstein.

    The reason there's no cat is that Schrodinger took it :)

  2. Very interesting! I always learn something from you.


  3. Hi Susan .. great theme -I'm going to enjoy these and learn more about Ms AF4FO!!

    Love the quotes .. and Marconi's comments to the radio hams ..

    Great - cheers Hilary

  4. I've never heard that Einstein quote before. I love it!

  5. Einstein was a very witty man.

  6. My best friend in middle school's Dad was a ham radio enthusiast [did I say that right? I loved spending the night and finding her Dad in his comfy basement, with all his equipment, headphones on, chatting with a friend in Guam or Venezuela. He met these people on the radio - sort of like our modern day internet/blogs but talking instead of writing. It was so fascinating because although we knew those exotic places existed we had never met people from there. I could've listened to Mr. Phelps forever!

    I think I am going to really enjoy your alphabet.

  7. Good start with A for Amateur. I'm looking forward to learning more.

  8. I love that quote, and finding out you have a license :-)

  9. Botanist- Me, too. That Einstein quote is a classic. Oh, Shrodinger's cat ... a fellow nerd! Very clever, dear sir.

    Karen- Thanks.

    Janie- Good! Glad to hear it.

    Hilary- Glad ya liked it.

    Jon- Einstein was full of surprises. Everybody knows how smart he was, but not everyone realizes how witty he was, too.

    Cro- Indeed. He came up with some real corkers.

    Skippy- Neat that you have some familiarity with ham radio, and I hope you do enjoy traveling though the alphabet with me.

    Delores- Thanks. I'm looking forward to see what you've got cooked up for us today.

    Sarah- Glad you liked the quote, and thanks for stopping by.

  10. Perfect. Yes, we're all amateurs. Until we're not.:) Great post!

  11. Marconi was a cute looking innocent, huh? Radio.... a great choice. Perhaps we'll all be learning radio???

  12. Interesting post. Thanks for the lesson!

  13. My Uncle Bert was a ham radio guy, and my niece and nephew are into it now. All these years and I never thought of them as amateurs! (And ya gotta love Einstein)

  14. Creepy- That's a good way to put it!

    Manzie- Well, I hope everybody learns a little bit about radio, anyway. And maybe even finds it to be an interesting topic.

    Jaye- Glad you found this interesting. Hope you stay tuned for more.

    Laura- Neat that some of your family is into amateur radio. And yeah, I do kinda love Einstein... brains, wit, and all that spiffy hair.

  15. Love that Einstein quote and the picture/poster from the World's fair. Very cool and looking forward to learning more! It is true that we all start somewhere...we all are amateurs at some point. :-) Happy A-Zing!

  16. Fascinating. I hope you do something on Short Wave radio. Or the mysterious number stations! I did a podcast on that a few years ago. Just so enigmatic and awesome. The world of international spies and how they still use short wave radio to get their coded messages...just so awesome.

    And according to Starship, Marconi plays the mamba.

  17. Tracy- Glad you liked it, and you're right-- we DO all start out as some kind of amateur, but amateur radio operators remain amateur radio operators, just 'cause we can't get paid for our work.

    Baggy- Thanks. I'm glad you did.

    Jay- I'll be touching on HF operations, but not in the same context you're talking about. HA! Marconi and mamba DO seem to go together...

  18. Who would have ever thought that Einstein was a comedian? Today he could have been a late night talk show host.

    Great start.

  19. Nice post! If you are ever in Cornwall, you would like to visit here:
    It is full of Marconi stuff and secret tunnels :-)

  20. There is a soft spot in my heart for amateur radio operators. When I taught on Okinawa, it was waaaaay too expensive to call New Orleans. I don't know how, but an operator in Phoenix picked up a few of my calls. He was an elderly gent (at that time, anyone over 40) who put in a lot of hours helping other.

    Thanks for this great post.

  21. I remember when all we had at home was a radio...then a shortwave radio...the a CB. Your post really took me back!

  22. Radio operators remain amateurs, doctors and lawyers keep on practicing!!! I love the reference to Noah, what a great thought!!!

  23. interesting stuff!! I would love to take a peak at what was at that 1933 World's Fair...can you imagine?!

  24. Arleen- Not sure TV execs would consider Einstein "pretty enough" to have a show of his own.

    Lily- Thanks. Sounds intriguing!

    Kittie- That fellow in Phoenix was doing a phone patch for you via amateur radio. And one of the hams in that area who was very active doing just that is Barry Goldwater. So, who knows...???

    Jan- Well, good. Glad to bring back some happy memories.

    Debbie- That's right. Ha, yeah, it is a bit disconcerting that our docs and lawyers are only "practicing", huh?

    Momto8- Believe it or not, there are actually some B&W videos on Youtube of some of the stuff at the world's fair. Cool, huh? Check it out.

  25. Radio certainly isn't as popular as it once was. And now things like cell phones and computers have replaced much of what radio operators used to do. But Radio is still cool--very cool. And a lifesaver in emergencies when all the other stuff isn't working right.

    Good idea for A

    A Few Words
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  26. One of my bosses is a Ham Radio enthusiast. He does contests to contact as many countries around the world durring a certain period of time. Always fascinating to listen to. His site is

    Visiting from A to Z challenge.

    Living 2012

  27. Lee- You're right about radio being a lifesaver when all else fails, but there has actually been a surge in the number of licensed amateur radio operators in the past few years, especially in the U.S.

    Kathleen- Cool. I'll actually be doing "contesting" for the letter C. Your boss might get a kick out of that post. Thanks for stopping by.

  28. Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment! New follower--looking forward to going through the alphabet with you!
    Lady Bluestocking

  29. Lady Bluestocking- And thanks for returning the favor. I just signed up as a new follower on your blog, too. (One good turn deserves another!)

  30. '(Others played considerable roles, too, but I guess Marconi had a better PR guy.)'


  31. Suze- Thanks! Always makes me feel good when someone "gets" my weird humor.

  32. "Professionals built the Titanic, but an amateur built the ark," is my favorite! You picked a great theme and I'll try to catch up! Julie