The Fascination of The Spark

Spark Gap Transmitter

Many people consider history to be a very boring subject, but most regular readers of this blog probably realize that I have a certain fascination with history especially radio history.

If you are one of those who find history boring try thinking of it this way. Suppose you are lost in the woods and you don’t know how you got there. You seriously don’t think anyone knows where you are, or that anyone will notice your disappearance. Then a search team finds you. Wouldn’t you want to know how you ended up in the woods and how the search team knew too look for you and where to look?

That’s what history is all about. History tells us who we are, where we came from, and how we got to where we are today. It also tells us about the people who found the places, developed the philosophy, and invented the objects that make us who we are, and placed us where we are now.

Whether it is your ham radio, cell phone, television, broadcast radio, or other wireless device it started with Hertz’s spark. Electronic communications, which includes the telegraph and telephone, started earlier. Marconi did not invent the radio he just put together the wire, and wireless components that others had already invented and showed how they could be used for wireless communications.

I do not want to go back to the spark gap days of radio, but I do want to know what it was like for 6CC (later W6CC) who proctored my novice class test and for others of that era.

This morning I found a web site that not only describes the spark gap transmitter but even has some examples of how it sounded, both in Morse code and AM. Notice I said Morse code and not CW because spark gap transmissions were not CW (continuous wave) but it was a damped wave. This site explains the difference. The sight can be found at http://www.hammondmuseumofradio.org/spark.html (CLICK HERE).

(For an interesting history of Amateur Radio mostly from the political view read Two Hundred Meters and Down: The Story of Amatuer Radio by Clinton B. DeSoto (Click Here). 

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