NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1912 __ Radio Act of 1912
Comment : On May 18, 1912, Senator Smith introduced a bill in the Senate. Among its provisions (rather long) note a recommendation or rather a "command" for more security on ships, obliging for example maritime companies to engage up to three wireless operators per ship to ensure a 24-hour duty, a decision that was fully justified. To avoid "ownership" of the spectrum by the Marconi Company, Senator Smith wanted that licenses be now required, issued by the Secretary of Commerce. Each Government (Police, Forest, etc), Marine, or Commercial station would be authorized a specific wavelength, power level, and hours of operation. The initial legislation had considered the elimination of all private, non commercial stations, thus including amateurs. At the first reading the Congress realized that it would be hard and expensive to verify its application. Since it was a "well known fact" that long wavelengths were the best to work, and that anything below 250 meters was considered "useless" except for local communication, a compromise was found. Amateurs received the 200-meter band and below (1.5 Mc and up), where they could work 40 km (25 miles) maximum. In fact Senator Smith thought that amateurs would die out in a few years by lack of means and support. In retrospect the Government thought that the only really useful frequencies for long distance communication were the very low frequencies between 100-1000 Kc (3000-300 meters). Thus, this regulation offered to the ham community an apple for the thirst but not really a bandplan suited for experimentation, and their survive seemed to be a question of time. This is thus under these conditions edicted by a state monopoly and without dialogue that amateurs were relegated to the wavelengths of 200 meters and below (1.5 Mc and up), the equivalent of all the spectrum above roughly the AM broadcast band, generally thought useless for DX communications. In the new law administered by the Secretary of Commerce, amateurs considered as "private stations" were also limited to a maximum power of 1 kW. At first, it appeared unfortunately that bureaucrats were correct. Before the Radio Act, there were an estimated 10,000 US amateur stations and still a handful outside the U.S.A. Now, there were only 1200 licenses issued by the end of 1912. Amateurs encountered difficulties to get their spark stations going on 200 meters, and, when they did, they discovered their maximum range was 40-80 km (25-50 miles) what reduced by ten the range they had on the shorter frequencies ! It seemed that there was no future for amateur radio. But "the air" doesn't make the song... (Thierry Lombry, “The History of Amateur Radio”)
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