Beverage: This recording contains a portion of an interview on July 1, 1968 of Dr. H.H. Beverage by Mrs. Norval Dwyer of Waning River, Long Island, New York. It was used for an article by Mrs. Dwyer entitled, "The Early Days of RCA in Riverhead," which was published in the Long Island Forum for March 1969. Dr. Beverage, now retired, was formerly director of radio research for RCA Laboratories and also was vice-president in charge of research and development for RCA Communications. During the interview, Dr. H.O. Peterson came in and joined the interview. Dr. Peterson was formerly in charge of the Reception Laboratory at Riverhead. Others mentioned in the interview are Philip Carter, well-known as a mathematician and antenna expert, associated with the transmitter laboratory at Rocky Point, New York. Dr. Kans Hansel was in charge of the transmitter laboratory. Bud Walton was associated with Dr. Peterson at the time mentioned in the interview. Roy Wiegandt was formerly chief engineer of the American Marconi Company and is well-known for his work on static reduction on the low frequencies based on his theory that the static came from overhead. Dr. E.F.W. Alexanderson was the first chief engineer of the Radio Corporation of America. Dr. Alexanderson is a well-known inventor, best known for his intervention of the Alexanderson alternator and the multiple tune, low frequency antenna.
The first RCA Laboratory was established by Beverage and Carter in a tent at Riverhead in 1919. The interview describes the events leading up to the formation of RCA in the autumn of 1919, the invention of the wave antenna, and first diversity reception. It also describes Dr. Hansel's development of the first crystal controlled transmitter and the first 15 meter transmitter. Some of the personal characteristics of Marconi, Dr. Alexanderson, Roy Wegan, Dr. Hansel, Major Armstrong, President Wilson, and others are discussed. This recording is a portion of a two-hour interview by Mrs. Dwyer. The IEEE is free to use it as desired. The original recording is in the Riverhead Public Library at Riverhead, Long Island.
Dwyer: Today is July 1, 1968 and we are going to interview Dr. Harold Beverage, who was the former head of the early RCA Laboratory here in Riverhead. Dr. Beverage is world-renowned for his pioneering research in early radio, and it is going to be an exciting interview to find out from him first hand what transpired in those early days of radio, especially here in the Riverhead and Long Island area. Dr. Beverage, let's begin at the beginning and find out where you were born. In Maine wasn't it?
Beverage: Yes, I was born in North Haven, Maine in 1893, on October 14th.
Dwyer: Did you go to the University of Maine?
Beverage: Yes, I went to the University of Maine and I graduated in 1915. I went to the General Electric Company and after a year in the Test Course I became a lab assistant to Dr. E.F.W. Alexanderson of the Alexanderson alternator. From that time on, I was in the radio business for forty-two years.
Dwyer: Yes Dr. Alexanderson was one of the great leaders of radio and research development, too, wasn't he?
Beverage: He invented the Alexanderson alternator, which was developed into a trans-oceanic radio system. It was to exploit the Alexanderson system that the Radio Corporation was organized in the fall of 1919.
Dwyer: Was it to save it from being taken over by the Marconi Company?
Beverage: Yes. The Marconi Company was trying to buy the Alexanderson system. Naturally, since London was the center point for the cables they also became the center point for the radio. Marconi wouldn't have great doings in setting up international communication. So the Navy Department became interested and asked the General Electric Company if they wouldn't set up a company to exploit the Alexanderson system, so that they would have an all-American communications company. That was done.
Dwyer: As a matter of fact this is vitally important as far as the history of radio in America goes, because this did make the difference of America becoming one of the major countries involved in this or not.
Beverage: Yes, it was very important. While the RCA was set up as a communications company, as time went on communications became a small part of the whole activity of the RCA.
Dwyer: It's major activity became what?
Beverage: They got into broadcasting and they even got into the moving pictures. One time they owned RKO. The washing machine business, you know. There was RCA Whirlpool.
Dwyer: Right. What about the Victor Talking Machine Company?
Beverage: Yes, they took that over in about 1929, I think. The way the RCA was set up originally, the patent situation was very mixed up at the end of World War I. Westinghouse owned some important patents, such as the Fessenden heterodyne and the Armstrong regeneration. The telephone company owned some important patents such as the De Forest tube. So, they were brought into it. It was General Electric, Westinghouse, the telephone company, the United Fruit Company, and one or two other, smaller companies. But the main corners of the Radio Corporation of America were General Electric, which owned 60%, and Westinghouse, which owned 40%. RCA, when the broadcasting business started off in 1920, was a sales organization for Westinghouse and General Electric. The business was divided 60% to General Electric and 40% to Westinghouse. That division stayed until RCA took over the Victor Talking Machine Company, as I said, in about 1928 or 1929, and they went into manufacturing on their own. It was, I think, partly due to the Federal Trade Commission making General Electric and Westinghouse split off their ownership of the RCA. They needed more competition there.
Dwyer: Going back to Mr. Alexanderson. Can you give us a physical description of him? What did he look like and what was his temperament like? That sort of thing.
Beverage: Alexanderson was a rather heavy-set fellow. He came from Sweden and was educated there. He came over to this country some time between 1900 and 1910 and went to work for the General Electric Company. He became interested in inventing these high-frequency alternators because Mr. Fessenden, as I mentioned, the inventor of the heterodyne, came to him and asked him to develop such an alternator, which he did. He developed several smaller ones at one kilowatt and he built another one fifty kilowatts and then finally the old workhorse at 200 kilowatts. Alexanderson never seemed to use much mathematics, but he carried a tremendous lot of information in his head. I saw him one time design 5600 horsepower motors for the Electric Drive on the Battleship "New Mexico." He said, "Well, let's see, you need so much iron and so much copper and about that size dimensions." In 15 minutes he designed this motor and then his colleagues went to work on it, worked about three months, and came up with the same design. He was a prolific inventor. You could propose almost any problem to him and he would come up with a half dozen ideas how to solve it. Frequently he would call us over into his office and he would propose maybe 10 inventions. You would go back to the laboratory, and in about two hours he would come over and say, "How are you doing?" If you hadn't made any progress in two hours, he didn't like it very well. So, the old timers soon found out that out of the ten, we would pick out something that we could make some progress on in two hours, and he was very pleased. He was like an absent-minded professor. Often when he was riding on the train I would see him fiddling with the ticket. He would tear it all up and conductor would come and ask for the ticket and he'd say, "Ticket. Ticket. What, what ticket!" Then he would look on the floor and see he had torn it up. Mr. Carter, one of my assistants, the first one to come out here on Long Island in 1919, bought a tent which became the first RCA Laboratory. He put that on an expense account and the treasurer of the General Electric Company came to Dr. Alexanderson and said, "Do you know that you have a man on a Long Island that is living in a tent and is charging hotel expenses in West Hampton?" Alexanderson says, "No. I didn't know anything about that. I don't understand it." Then, I finally said, "I know. I know. I told him to buy a tent and use it as a laboratory." I had a similar experience on October 1, 1920. I had a pink slip from the General Electric Company saying that my services were no longer required. I dashed over to Dr. Alexanderson and asked him, "What did I do to get fired?" He said, "You got fired?" I said, "Yes. I have the pink slip right here." He says, "Gosh, I don't know what it is all about. Oh I know, I know. I had you transferred to the RCA, didn't I tell you."
Dwyer: He didn't tell you?
Beverage: No. But I didn't mind as long as I was on somebody's payroll.
Dwyer: From the time that you got out of college you began working right away for Dr. Alexanderson?
Beverage: After one year on the regular Test Course.
Dwyer: Now, in 1919 you came up to Riverhead?
Beverage: It was the spring of 1919. I was on the U.S.S. George Washington. We put a radio telephone on board there for the use of President Wilson so he could talk to the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Daniels. We made one trip over and we waited around for a while, but President Wilson wasn't ready to come home, so we came back and made a second trip. Finally, we brought him back into the United States in July 1919. One of the things we were quite interested in, we had this radiophone working and Otter Cliffs was receiving very good signals from us. We also notified some friendly ships that were in touch with us to listen to the address that President Wilson was going to make to the troops. They were down on the far deck. So we set up a microphone on the B deck, where he was supposed to talk. We could see the flag and it was lovely. But when the President came down, nobody had approached him and told him what was going on. He saw this flag and didn't know what it was. So, he went down on the C deck, the deck below him, twenty feet away from the microphone, so we couldn't modulate the transmitter very much and the whole thing was a flop. After the President had spoken, one of our members read the speech. It went over fine and was heard as far away as Texas.
Dwyer: He read it over the radio?
Beverage: He read it over the same radio.
Dwyer: This was very unusual.
Beverage: Yes. This was the first time that a transmitter of that power, more than two kilowatts, was ever put on a ship. We had a radius at least half way across the ocean and it would have been a historic event. It was written up with some magazine, I don't remember which. The name of the article was, "The Voice that Failed."
Dwyer: Instead of "the light."
Dwyer: Did you meet the president personally or just see him from a distance?
Beverage: I really never met him personally. But I did bump into him once. He was dashing around the deck and I was going in the opposite direction. I did meet Mrs. Wilson and Margaret Wilson. But the President was very unapproachable.
Dwyer: That's what they have said in history books about him.
Beverage: That's why he wasn't told about what we were trying to do with this 4th of July speech. Not even the captain of the ship would dare to talk to him to tell him what he was supposed to do.
Dwyer: What was his wife like?
Beverage: She was sociable and very nice. So was Margaret. They were both very nice. Very democratic.
Dwyer: Skipping about a little bit and while on the subject of presidents, I read somewhere that President Harding came out to Rocky Point and dedicated the opening of Rocky Point RCA?
Beverage: No. He started the transmitter running but he just pushed a button in Washington. There was remote control and then Rocky Point started sending the message out.
Dwyer: He didn't give any little speech along with it in Rocky Point.
Beverage: I think the message was some kind of speech of his.
Dwyer: It was broadcast over the RCA.
Beverage: It was a very short speech.
Dwyer: So you were quite active in World War I? You were on Navy ships? What was it that you did that connects with radio during the war itself?
Beverage: I wasn't so much on the ship. The Germans had cut a couple of cables and apparently tried to jam the New Brunswick Navy Station, which was the mainstay at the time. There was a lot of fear that they might be able to interrupt all communications between Washington and the expeditionary forces in France. So Lieutenant Paternal, who was the French liaison officer on communication, came to Alexanderson and said that he would like to have some sort of a receiving system, which would be put up in France, that would balance out any interference that the Germans might be able to make. Furthermore, he would like to have it arranged such that you can also put up a transmitter somewhere in the east part of France that would jam or interfere with the Germans, so they could not copy the United States stations. It was sort of a radio barrage, so that was called "the barrage receiver." Alexanderson had figured about twenty-five ways of how you could do this, but it finally boiled down to one and I was given the job of developing "the barrage receiver". It consisted of laying out insulated wires on the ground, two miles long, extending toward the signal that you wanted and 180 degrees from it. So there's four miles of wire on the ground altogether. Then I developed the method of controlling the intensity and phase from each of the antennas and it was quite easy to get a nice balance. After playing around with this up in Schenectady for a while, I took it down to New Brunswick and set up four miles away from the New Brunswick station in New Jersey. It worked so well that I could balance out New Brunswick and copy signals from Europe without any interference from New Brunswick. One of these receivers was made up and sent over to France, and installed, they tell me, in Versailles. It just got into operation the day that the Armistice was signed. We found that the directive properties of this barrage receiver would balance out a lot of static because in this part of the country the static comes from the Southwest, the Gulf of Mexico and Southern states, whereas the signals that were interested in coming over from Europe come from the Northeast. So the Navy requested that a barrage receiver be installed at their main receiving station at the Maine receiving station, in Otter Cliffs, near Bar Harbor, Maine. So I installed one up there in 1918, in the latter part of the summer. It worked very well. The signals from the Northeast wire from Europe were excellent, but the Southwest wire was all clobbered with static. I thought that may be due to the fact that I had rung the wire over a bridge in a round about way to get across the creek. So I had the boys put the wires straight across the creek. That didn't make any improvement. So, finally I took the receiver down to the end of the Southwest wire and found there that the signals from Europe there were excellent. It began to filter through my dumb skull that the wire was directive for some reason or another--unidirectional--could only receive in one direction. In 1919, when Mr. Carter came out here, the first thing he was supposed to do was lay out some long wires and see if we could find out why they were unidirectional.
Dwyer: Here in Riverhead?
Beverage: Yes. We finally picked the road which runs from Riverhead to East Moritches. At that time, it was just a little sand road where you used to get stuck. We ran the wires down that road, found out that the reason the wire would receive from only one direction was that the losses in the wire laying on the ground were so high that there would be no energy reflected from the far end of it, so that the signal would build up. If you laid out a wire and pointed it at the transmitting station, the signal would build up on this wire and you would get a strong signal at the receiver. But any signals or noise or static coming from the other direction would have to travel up to the far end and there would be such high losses that it would never get back to the receiver. That was the beginning of the wave antenna, which I was the co-inventor of. It's known as the Beverage Antenna, but I must say that I had some help, particularly from Chester Rice and E.W. Kellog from the General Electric Company.
Dwyer: The wave antenna, as I understand it, was really quite a fundamental part of the development of radio.
Beverage: The first one we built here at Riverhead, we got the Long Island Lighting Company to put the wires on poles. We had these poles, this line running in a straight line as well as we could all the way from Riverhead to East Moriches to a place called Tell River. We thought we needed to find places that were wet, a pond or a little river, to get good ground connections. That's why we ended up in Tell River in East Moriches. The idea is rather simple. It had to be if I had anything to do with it. The signals coming in from Europe arrived at Riverhead from the northeast. This wire runs Northeast/Southwest. So because the losses in the ground were quite high in Long Island, because there is a lot of sand down in the southern part of Long Island. The wave drags its feet, it tips over a little bit and that tipping over means that there's a little component that will induce a voltage in the wire. As the signal travels along with velocity of light the way, it induces a little signal that keeps building up and building up and building up until at the far end it's quite strong. As a matter of fact if you wanted to receive a signal as strong as you got from the wave antenna, you would have to put up a tower as least 1,000 feet high. It builds up quite a strong signal. To prevent the reflection, to make it unidirectional, because the losses are low on the wires on the pole, you place a damping resistance at the end nearest the transmitting station. That stops the reflection just like the high velocities did on the wire on the ground. The beauty of the wave antenna is that it is not tuned to anything except periodic, and it receives a wide band of wave-lengths equally well. So that was a natural for Riverhead, where we had several circuits coming in from Europe. We could work any number of receivers off this antenna of different wavelengths and had one antenna that handled everything and required no adjustment. So, in 1921 we had moved all of the reception here. We had had some in Chatham, Massachusettes, and some in Belmar, which was an old Marconi site, but we concentrated everything up here in 1921 in a wooden building that is still standing. Vandals got into it and they pretty well smashed it up, now.
Dwyer: Is it photograph-able? Could we take pictures of it?
Beverage: Oh you could take a picture of it. It looks alright from outside. But don't go into it.
Dwyer: It was in 1924 that the Riverhead receiving center became the big center for the east coast, is that correct?
Beverage: That's right. It still is; it has continued. The long waves or low frequencies, whichever you prefer, were all we knew about when we started here in Riverhead in 1921. Frank Conrad with the Westinghouse Company, who was best known as the guy that really started this broadcasting business, was interested in trying shorter waves. He set up some transmissions from KDKA in Pittsburgh on 100 meters. He found that he got very good transmission at night but very poor transmission in the daytime. All the theories of the times were that the shorter the wave, the more the losses; so if you get below a few hundred meters, they are supposed to be no good. That's why the amateurs were given wavelengths of 200 meters because they thought they were no good. Marconi was a sort of fellow who didn't believe anybody. He didn't believe the scientists at all. He said, "I'm going to try to it." So he built his station at Poldhu in Cornwall. He started off transmitting around 100 meters. Then he tried 80 meters. He kept coming on down, until finally in October 1924 he got down to 32 meters. The whole world was astonished in that the signal got through, almost all over the world, twenty-four hours a day. The fact that it got through in the daylight was contrary to all theory. Here was an economical way of getting international communication for the first time because the long waves required tremendous antennas and very high power, and the number of frequencies available were very small because there was only maybe 10,000 cycles that were useful out of perhaps 40,000 cycles for all purposes. So the shortwave revolution, as you might call it, really changed the whole picture of international communications. The whole world began to develop short waves. The problem that we had had with long waves was static, particularly noises from thunderstorms. In the summertime sometimes there would be several hours in the afternoon that the signals were very poor and could not get anything through. I remember Colonel Rabo, who was the traffic manager at the time, in the early 1920s, called me to his office every once in a while and he'd say, "Damn it, Beverage, you gotta do something about this static." But there was nothing I could do about it more than what we were doing, although we did build a long-wave receiving station at Belfast, Maine and relay the signals down to Riverhead.
We have a new addition here, Dr. H.O. Peterson. He has been associated with me for some forty years. He was first employed as one of Alexanderson's men on his staff, and he came out here to Riverhead. When was it? About 1920, Pete?
Peterson: About 1922. We went down to Belmar first and we spent about a year down there. Remember when you and Walton and Callahan used to commute down to Belmar?
Beverage: Yes, I remember one of the episodes where I tried out being a rigger. We wanted to connect the triadics, the guy-wires, to make some big loops. So I proceeded to take the Ford car and put Mr. Walton in the boatswain's chair and hoist him up a 400 foot mast. He got about three quarters the way up when he told me to stop, which I did. But he kept right on going because the cable was heavier than he was. He had to slip out of the boatswain's chair and hang on by his elbows so as to not bang his head on the pulley at the top.
Peterson: It might have pulled him right through.
Beverage: Yes, that would have been really disastrous. So that wasn't so good, but he went ahead; he connected the loops and did all that was necessary, and the problem then was to help get him down. So I backed the car up and I began to let up on the cable and finally got him started down. He got down about three-quarters of the way and Walton plus the cable was heavier than I was, so I started to go up! And you remember John Lown?
Beverage: He must have weighed about 300 pounds. He was a linemen. He came along just in time, we got 300 pounds on the line and we got it under control. That was the last time I ever tried to be a rigger.
Dwyer: That's a good man who knows his own limitations.
Dwyer: Did you ever meet Marconi? He was over here in Long Island.
Beverage: Yes, we've met him several times.
Dwyer: I see. What was he like--personality and so forth? What did he look like?
Beverage: He was a fine looking man. I guess you've seen pictures of him. As I mentioned before when speaking about the short-wave revolution, He was a sort of fellow who didn't believe anything the scientists told him. He says, "Let's go out and try it." That's how three times in his lifetime he made major advances that scientists said couldn't be done. The first one goes way back to December 1901. He had a transmitting station at Poldhu, the same place that I mentioned before. He came over to Signal Hill in Newfoundland, he and an assistant named Kemp. They put up a kite and listened for the signals from Poldhu, which at the time would be working on a low frequency position, fairly long waves. They heard the letter S which is very simple: dot dot dot, dot dot dot, it's the three dots. Everybody said up to that time, "It couldn't be possible because the signals would just go out to the horizon and that would be the end of it." They didn't know anything about the reflecting layers above. But of course when he proved that he could do it, Heaviside in England and Kenelley in Massachusettes figured it out--that there was a reflecting layer up there. That was lesson number one. Number two was getting down on shorter and shorter wavelengths and finally finding in 1924 a wavelength that goes through in daylight, which was contrary to all theory. The third one was at the ultrashort wave as we called them, the wavelength below 30 mega cycles, below 10 meters. The thought there was they would go out to the horizon and go further. Marconi had the advantage that he had a steam yacht. The Marconi company paid the coal, so he could put a receiver aboard the Electra, her name was, and he sailed on out to sea. He found that he could receive these ultrashort wave signals out as far as nine or ten times the distance of the optical horizon. So, again, he confounded the scientists. Each time he just decided to go ahead and try it.
Dwyer: What were some of your personal meetings with him?
Beverage: Well, the first time I met Marconi was in November of 1921. The problem had come up that the Americans, the English, the French, and the Germans all wanted to build stations in South America, in Brazil and the Argentine. There wasn't enough traffic down to keep one station going, so they formed a consortium and they called it AEFG (America, England, France, Germany). I went over to London to get the stuff together to go down to Brazil to make measurements on what kind of signals we get down there from Europe and North America. My contact there was Captain Round, quite an internationally known radio engineer. He took me in to see Mr. Marconi. That was my first contact with him. It was very pleasant. We had quite a long talk and talked about the wave antenna and how it worked.
Dwyer: Was he easy to approach?
Beverage: He was quite approachable. Not like President Wilson.
Dwyer: Did you have any dealings with Marconi when he came here to--was it Sayerville or Babylon? Wasn't that about 1918?
Beverage: Well, no. The Babylon station might have been the first radio station in the United States or the first shore station for ships.
Dwyer: Ever? Anywhere?
Beverage: As far as I know. Captain Round, from the Marconi company, was in this country in the early 1900s. He built this shore station at Babylon. It was for use in operation with ships. I don't suppose it was the first radio station, but it might have been the first permanent one because there had been experiments made at the time. Major Armstrong was quite interested in finding that station, so when Captain Round was over here on a trip they went out hunting around Babylon and they found a little paint shop, which they indentified as the station he built. He found some of the original insulators he put on it. Armstrong bought that building and moved it Rocky Point, where it is now. He presented it to RCA Communications.
Dwyer: Then someday it will be made into a museum, maybe?
Beverage: It's only a little shack. It's not very impressive. It was a historic thing.
Peterson: When we say a shack, we mean a shack.
Dwyer: Did you see Marconi when he came here in America?
Beverage: Marconi's next trip was in 1922, I think. I was in Brazil when he came over, so I didn't see him that time. But he came over again in the latter part of the 1920s, I guess. We were messing around with ultrashort waves. I remember he sat in the car and listened to some of the stuff we were doing, so I made him get in there.
Dwyer: Here at RCA in Riverhead?
Beverage: Yes, we put out a big fete for him at Rocky Point. The cook did himself noble. It was the best meal I had in years. It was filet mignon.
Dwyer: He stayed in Rocky Point?
Beverage: No. He came out for the day. David Sarnoff had brought him out. Marconi's assistant was with him. When Marconi came in 1922 he gave a talk before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, which was a historic thing.
Dwyer: There is a printed talk?
Beverage: Yes. In the Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He describes some of the work he's doing and predicted little things.
Dwyer: Was he a good speaker?
Beverage: Yes, he was quite good. I don't know whether he was over here again after 1930 or not. I guess not.
Dwyer: Dr. Peterson, where did you come from? Are you a Maine man?
Peterson: No, I came from Nebraska. On to General Electric in Schenectady, then down to Belmar in New Jersey, then on to Riverhead, where I stayed until 1961. Then I moved to Florida and worked at the Patrick Air Force Base until 1964.
Dwyer: Where did you get your doctorate?
Peterson: In Nebraska.
Dwyer: I'm interested in how you both got interested in radio? Mr. Hannah said that he was sick in bed in high school, he had scarlet fever, and his brother had a crystal set. What's the story on you?
Beverage: When I was younger I didn't know any better. I got interested in a magazine called Modern Electrics. It was put out by one Hugo Gernsbach, who incidentally just died this year. That was quite interesting to me, fascinating, so I sent away and got a catalog from the Electro Importing Company.
Dwyer: Were you in high school then?
Beverage: Yes. The Electro Importing Company was also run by Hugo Gernsbach, and it had all sorts of wonderful stuff in there. Sliding plate condensers and fancy detectors and so on. I bought one of the condensors and made my own coils. I swiped a piece of galena from the high-school laboratory. About 1909 I was picking up signals from ships. Ships going to and from Europe would pass by my island, not too far out, so I was interested in copying these ship stations, all the messages and so on. I used to copy a lot of news from a station on Cape Cod (CC), which was sending out news to the ships at 10 o'clock at night. Incidentally, that station was built be my old boss, C.H. Taylor. You will find a picture of him in this old magazine that I gave you, and he is still living. He must be about 92. So, let's say I just got interested in wireless. Back on the farm I thought it a lot more fun to be messing around with wireless than it would be pitching hay.
Dwyer: You were on a farm?
Dwyer: It's an interesting thing about farms because they breed very great young men who can't get wait to get off them.
Beverage: That's right.
Dwyer: Mr. Peterson, what's your story?
Peterson: It's amazing how much affect Hugo Gernsbach had. I think my first contact was through a neighbor who had a receiving set. He was able to receive a Navy Station from the NAA in Washington. He could get the time signals every day and he could get some news that they broadcasted also. I got the same catalog from the Electro Importing Company in Nebraska. He had a nice little description of radio, how it works and what it could do. I remember reading that over and over again, and got started that way. I got the parts and finally was able to receive from the Navy Station in the South, get the time signal.
Dwyer: What Navy Station was that?
Peterson: That was down in Washington D.C. I could receive that out in Nebraska. It was the best part of 1500 miles or so. That was pretty good for those days with a crystal detector.
Dwyer: That's an interesting story because one in Maine and one in Nebraska studied the same book and finally came together. Were you on a farm?
Peterson: Yes. My father retired and we lived in a town at that time. I suppose that led to getting involved in an electrical engineering course at the University, which introduced me to a lot of modern equipment and work with radio. So, after school was out I came east looking for a job.
Beverage: When did you start working for Alexanderson?
Peterson: I went on Test. I came to Alexanderson with a real nice letter of introduction. That was a time when, I guess, there was a slight depression, and he said, "We don't have anything in RCA. General Electric is a good place to start." So I went on test at GE.
Beverage: What year was that?
Dwyer: Maybe we can talk a little bit more about some of the work you were doing here in Riverhead. You mentioned the wave antenna. Let's finish up with that. It's still used, is it all over the world?
Beverage: Wherever the low frequencies are used.
Dwyer: Russia still uses low frequencies.
Beverage: One time, about six years ago, I attended a meeting of the International Scientific Radio Union in Boulder, Colorado. There were about twelve Russians there. One night we went out to Central City to have dinner, get together, and see a play. At that time, it was pretty hard to get a Russian to talk to you separately. They always wanted to have a witness. They wouldn't talk until they got surrounded with them. So they surrounded me one night out there in Central City and said, "Oh Boy! We know you. We got your wave antennas all over Russia." That's all I know about that. The wave antenna that we built, that ran from Riverhead to East Moritiches, got snipped off a little bit, chewed off, until it's about a mile long instead of nine miles.
Dwyer: I see. It was originally a nine mile long track?
Beverage: Yes. Then there was a second one built by Wiegandt nearly as long in order to compare his system with the wave antenna. That one I think is going now too. But it was 1,000 feet west of the original wave antenna.
Dwyer: I see. You used to send signals back and forth? You had a little competition?
Beverage: Yes we had a little competition. We used to pipe the signals from the wave antenna down to his shack, about five miles down the road. Mr. Wiegandt had a different theory. He thought the static was coming from overhead, so he had these long loops, three or four miles long in each direction, and he tried to get a balance on the static which he thought was coming from overhead. Rice, Kellog, myself, Walton, and Peterson--we didn't believe that. We thought the static was coming from the southwest, and we were eliminating the static by unidirectional reception. We had many, many arguments with Mr. Wiegandt about where the static was coming from, but he always ended up saying "When you get as old as I am, you young fellows, you'll find out that this static is a woozie beast. It's a woozie beast, you don't understand it."
Dwyer: But it didn't come straight down from the heavens?
Beverage: No, it came from the southwest. We were proven right after a while. We also were able to demonstrate that the wave antenna was much simpler to adjust. It required practically no adjustment, would receive a band of wavelengths, and would do a better job all around than Wiegandt's system. So, we finally won out. Dr. Alexanderson backed us up, so we won that one.
Dwyer: There must have been a lot of opportunity to simply use this experimental technique, that is to say, never take anything for granted or accept anything, but try out something new. It must have been very creative period of thinking.
Beverage: Yes. The real old timers were pretty much in what you would call an experimental school. Marconi certainly was of the experimental school. De Forest was pretty much experimental school; Alexanderson and Armstrong certainly were. So, often times one man sparking ideas could get some place and could balance it. Now, things have gotten complicated and if you have an idea now, you're not likely to be able to develop it on your own, like Armstrong did.
Dwyer: You have to go through a committee and the chairman of the department.
Beverage: Worse than that. You have to have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, physicists, and metallurgists.
Dwyer: You can't put your own wires together without the union.
Dwyer: Yes. And you need a budget. So, as a matter of fact, those days were much more creatively free for inventiveness than our present day. That's one of the complaints today, that our young men are so highly educated yet they aren't coming through with new ideas.
Beverage: Well, that's true. You see, now it has to be a team effort. The lone inventor is pretty much a thing of the past because the problems are complicated. He just can't get his mind around it. It's gotten so expensive he can't afford to do it unless he has a big bunch of money backing him up. The art has changed.
Dwyer: Not for the better, particularly.
Beverage: Well, I wouldn't say that. I think we are making progress now. What Dr. Peterson has been doing down in Florida with these big firecrackers. You certainly couldn't do that with an individual because you've got to have billions of dollars, and a tremendous great organization to handle it. The progress in tracking these satellites and handling them, getting bigger and better ones, certainly has been amazing.
Dwyer: So I guess you can't say "black is black and white is white." It's just different.
Beverage: It's just different. The individual isn't as important now as he might have been fifty years ago.
Peterson: It's teamwork.
Beverage: Yes, it's teamwork now instead of individual.
Dwyer: Do you think that this dulls down the inventiveness of the individual or do you think it challenges him to come up with even more ideas? What do you think about this teamwork business?
Peterson: I think usually there is some leader that gets a good idea. If it can be sold far enough to get support, it will work out.
Dwyer: If you don't get discouraged waiting for the support.
Peterson: That requires persistence and initiative.
Beverage: You have to go to sell it to certain committees. You have to sell it to your boss, and he has to sell it to the guys who has the money. It takes more money now than it did then. When Dr. Peterson and I started out here we had a receiver, a storage battery, and an ohm-meter and that was about it for quite a while.
Peterson: We didn't even have a ohm-meter when we started!
Beverage: We did get one after a while.
Peterson: Ohm-meters weren't invented when we started out!
Beverage: That's right. We didn't have much to work with, that's for sure. It didn't cost much.
Dwyer: You said that another highlight of your work in radio was this space and polarization diversity system.
Beverage: Just coming to that. Peterson here is the co-inventor. As I said we had the wave antenna. We used to send signals over nine miles from East Moritiches to Tell River. Pete and I would compare the signals down the Tell River, nine miles away with what we had locally. We found out that the fading was different. It was not instantaneously the same. The next step was that Dr. Peterson took a receiver over to his house on Main Street. He piped the signal over the telephone wire to the radio station. We found that this fading was different at those two points. It was about a half of a mile apart, maybe. Then we narrowed the distance down and found that a few hundred feet was enough spacing to give us a different kind of fading. The instantaneous fadings were not the same. We also found that at the same spot, if you had a horizontal antenna and a vertical antenna, the fadings were different from the two antennas. That was really a co-invention because on the opposite ends of the circuit we were listening to these things. Dr. Peterson and I invented the space diversity in 1926. The whole thing we found out there was that you couldn't take signals from two antennas and just hook them together on one receiver because the phase would be all wrong, too. They would keep bucking up. So you had to combine them independently of phase. We devised several methods of doing that. Dr. Peterson can take over from there.
Peterson: I think this came along about in the nick of time for the corporation. We saved a lot of money compared to the Franklin System that was developed by the Marconi Company, which involved very large antennas. We did install one of the systems at Riverhead with five towers, 300 feet high. We had three large antennas. We compared this operation to a receiving system using diversity, which used much smaller antennas, and found we did at least as well perhaps a little better with diversity than with the Franklin Antenna System. So from there on the short-wave receiving system of the company was developed along the diversity system and all of our receiving stations had carried diversity. I have the idea that the British stations didn't come to diversity until about the time of the war. When the war came, there was a great scramble for effective and economical communications. So everybody dropped all pre-conceived notions and made their stations with space diversity. Since then, many other applications are using diversity. The communications from the satellites to the ground stations all use diversity. The satellite is usually changing its aspect and sometimes it is rotating. The polarization of the signal from the satellite can't be definitely either vertical or horizontal, it's changing from one to the other. So all the receiving stations use polarization diversity now. It's been very widely used on almost all the frequencies we can think of.
Beverage: Including the ultra-high frequencies.
Peterson: Yes, right up to 10,000 megacycles.
Beverage: It's also used in radio relays, I believe.
Dwyer: So, it's a system that is not fading out because of certain old methods?
Beverage: When one antenna is low, there will be a very great probability that the other antenna will have a high signal, so you just combine those so that the phase doesn't bother you--rectify the signal or something--so that fills in and keeps you from losing the signal to the drop outs. You see Dr. Peterson spoke of the Marconi beam system, which we had here at Riverhead and also at Rocky Point. It used very large antennas. That way of overcoming the fading was to pick up a very strong signal, with a big array, big antenna, and put that through a limiter to limit the top. They limited down so hard that it very seldom dropped down below that. That would work after a fashion, but at a cost of many, many times the space diversity system. The Marconi array was subject to icing conditions and wind, so it was difficult to keep it running all the time in certain climates. We had the beam system installed in 1927, I believe, and about 1929 or 1930 we had practically stopped using the Marconi Beam System, and in 1938 the hurricane took care of the rest of it, blew all the towers down. They were tied together with triadics, wires that supported the arrays from one tower to the other. Apparently at number one tower, the wind was so strong that it broke the turnbuckle, so that tower went down. Because it was hooked up with cables to the next tower, number two went down, and then number three, number four, number five.
Dwyer: Did you see them go down? Were you there?
Peterson: I heard somebody say they saw it. It went down like a row of dominoes.
Beverage: Yes. Obviously, they went down that way. Then we had another 125 foot tower. Dr. Peterson and I were out looking at it. This had a billboard antenna on it, a big square thing. We had the wind blowing on that, and finally it broke the legs right off. That thing went down so fast. I saw it going. I had a camera, but I didn't have time to get the camera going. I yelled at Dr. Peterson. He looked round but didn't see it. It went down so fast, it crashed.
Dwyer: The Marconi Towers weren't in use when they were knocked down?
Beverage: We only used number one. I guess occasionally we used some of the others for the big d antennas.
Dwyer: But it wasn't the tragedy it could have been if you were still using just those?
Dwyer: Wasn't it a little bit like Ford inventing the inexpensive car because this was an economical system, wouldn't you say?
Peterson: Yes, for a communications company it was economical and effective. There is another application that has come on--a scatter-propagation-type of circuit, where they use ultra-high frequencies for distances two or three times beyond the horizon. In that case, they usually set up two antennas about as large as they figure is economically practical. They are placed side by side. In each one of those, they have elements for both horizontal and vertical polarization. The two transmitters are used on two separate frequencies, so the effect is to get an end result of frequency diversity, space diversity, and polarization diversity. This has been applied at quite a few places.
Beverage: They call it quadruple diversity?
Dwyer: There was some television work done out here too, wasn't there--research or experiments?
Beverage: Yes, but before we get to that, I want to see if Dr. Peterson can help me out. After the Marconi 32-meter work, which started the shortwave revolution in the fall of 1924, I want to go back a little bit and bring in something that Dr. Hansell did. This station that we had in Belfast, I mentioned, we relayed signals down to Riverhead and then sent them over the wire lines into New York. Hansell built a shortwave transmitter that worked on 100 meters, which was around the wavelength that Marconi and Frank Conrad had been playing with. One of the great difficulties there was that things were very unstable. They would wobble all over the place and selected fading would make it mushy sounding. Dr. Hansell went to my good friend, Eastman, of the General Radio Company.
Eastman gave him the watch crystal. He applied that to this transmitter with some tricks to keep the thing from feeding back and making it self-oscillate. He had the first transmitter of appreciable power with crystal control. The two inventors of quartz crystal were Dr. Cady and Dr. Pierce of Harvard. I think that Dr. Pierce had a small crystal-controlled oscillator in the laboratory. This was the first time a quartz crystal had been used to control a transmitter on the air with some power. It is now 100%, every transmitter in the world practically is crystal-controlled. It was an outstanding breakthrough. After the shortwaves got going, everybody was trying to build a shortwave transmitter and receiver too. Hansell thought that if 32 meters gets through well in daytime, 15 meters ought to get through better. So he proceeded in 1926 to build the highest frequency transmitter that had ever been built with any appreciable power. It was to work on 15 meters. The thing was rather amazing because it worked on 15 meters and the antenna was about a half a wavelength long which would be 25 feet. It was literally held up by broomsticks, and the condensors were literally metal pie plates. It really was a remarkable thing. That transmitter was received extremely well in South America. This was right under the big antenna, which was a mile and a quarter long, 410 feet high with a cross arm on it.
Dwyer: Where was this?
Beverage: Rocky Point. With a cross arm on it 150 feet long, and a 200 kilowatt alternator pumping power into it. It could not break through the heavy static that was down there in South America. Here was this little 15 meter transmitter banging along just fine. It probably cost 1, 2 or 3% of what the big antenna did. That solved Colonel Reaper's [sp?] problem when he used to say, "Damnit Beverage! You have to do something about this static!" That was the solution. It worked so well that everyone thought 15 meters was magic, and a lot of different engineers all over the world started to develop 15 meter transmitters.
Dwyer: What was the personality of Dr. Hansel like, the one who conceived this idea?
Beverage: Dr. Hansel was an ingenious little fellow. He was of small stature. He was very much interested in lots of things. He had many, many ideas. He had good ideas--some way ahead of his time. Unfortunately you can't interview him; he died about a year ago. He was interested not only in technical things, but also in people. He was President of Port Jefferson School district for many years. Immediately after the end of the war, in 1945, he was sent over to Germany to interview German scientists to see if there were inventions and developments that would be of interest in defeating the Japanese. Remember the Japanese didn't quit until considerably later in 1945.
One of the things that he ran across was the effect of ionization, where the air is positively charged or negatively charged. The Germans had been doing some work on that. The theory was that if you were in positively charged air, where the ionization was positive, then you would feel mad, crabby and terrible, and you just couldn't get along with people; but if the air was negatively ionized, then you felt fine, everything was wonderful, you had the effects of mountain air, and it was just great. He was very much interested in that. There weren't many people who thought that was such a good idea, who believed in it. He had one of his own engineers when he switched this thing around so that he had positive ionization this guy was really ugly, but when he switched it to negative he felt fine. It is beginning to come around now that there is something to all this thinking. He was starting to write a book about that at the time he died. One of the very unfortunate things was that that book was never finished.
Dwyer: Did he have an assistant who could finish this thing?
Beverage: I don't think he had anybody that could go into it with the depth that he would do.
Dwyer: Some other scientist will have to come along someday and read it.
Beverage: Yes, someday it will be published.
Dwyer: It's often true, isn't it, that people with an inventive turn of mind are not only interested in one particular area, but just give them a problem and they'll turn their mind to it and solve it?
Beverage: Yes. He was very ingenious and very likeable. I never saw him get mad at anybody.
Dwyer: He didn't?
Beverage: No, never. Some people would get mad at him if they read a letter. But if he said the same thing while sitting across the table from you he'd never lose the smile from his face and you could never get mad at him.
Dwyer: Major Armstrong, what was he like?
Beverage: He was a different kind of person altogether. He was also a very inventive man. He was an individualist. He made his first invention, which was a very basic one, way back in 1913, maybe a little bit earlier. He discovered and understood clearly that you could feed back in a tube some of the output into the input and it would continue to oscillate and generate a steady frequency. The story on that is very interesting because it seems that DeForest--this is all a matter of record in the patents litigation--had a man in the laboratory named Logwood, who in August 1912, I guess it was, was trying to make a telephone repeater. He got the thing reversed so that it fed back and howled. It's like the effect you get when you hold a receiver up to the transmitter on the telephone. You can't do that with a modern one. On the old ones you could and they would howl, and that's all he ever did. That was August 1912. In the meantime, Armstrong had gotten this idea of making this oscillate. He had been doing it some time during the summer of 1913, he told me. He went to his father and said, "I want to patent this." His father said, "What does a young squirt like you still in college in Columbia University know about it, it's a waste of money." So, it went on, and finally he tried to get some money from his uncle. His uncle said, "I don't want to put money in that one, but I'll tell you what to do: get a piece of tissue cloth and write up your invention, draw it up, and describe it exactly what you think you have invented. You take to a notary public and have it notarized. That'll protect your invention." So, he did that in January 1913. There was this thing that Armstrong had written up on this tissue cloth. That went into litigation and stayed in litigation until 1924. It went through over and over again. It went to the the Supreme Court twice, and Armstrong lost both times. All of us who knew him and knew what he had done and knew what De Forest had done. We felt that Armstrong received the wrong answer completely. That embittered him. He was awfully bitter against De Forest and against lawyers. He said, "They get the wrong answers." As a matter of fact, he put up $50,000 before he died for a study of why the lawyers in the courts get the wrong answers on technical things, and how could they do something different. They should have technically competent people in the courtroom, or competent advisors, because they get the wrong answers. One of his favorite expressions was, "The trouble with most people is that they know a lot of things that aren't so." They think they are facts, but they're not so.
His next invention was during World War I. He invented the superheterodyne.
Dwyer: That was a very big thing in radio, wasn't it?
Beverage: Yes, it's used in every single broadcast receiver today. Again, he had some competition there from a Frenchman named Captain Levy. I happened to see Captain Levy's work while I was on the George Washington, when I was in Paris. Lieutenant Paternal introduced me to Levy and I saw his static eliminator. He had the same elements that were in Armstrong's superheterodyne. As I remember it, he wanted an artificial line. He would pick the static out from one place and the signal from another place. In order to have an artificial line that already existed, he beat the frequency down and amplified it. He had the elements of the super-heterodyne. So he took some of the broad claims away from Armstrong. The telephone company took rights from Captain Levy. That made Armstrong mad at the telephone company for several years. His third invention was superregeneration, which he made in 1921. I remember when he told me about it. It was the opening of the Rocky Point Station in the fall of 1921, when Harding pushed the button. They had a special train come out. They had a lot of foreign visitors. Four or five cars of special important visitors came out to see the opening of the station. Armstrong was one of them. Going back to New York on the train, he told me about the superregenerator, which was a clever invention but never got used very much. For that reason it never got into litigation. You know, usually if a man makes one important invention in his whole life, he's in. But Armstrong made a fourth invention, which was wide-band frequency modulation.
That is a long story and a sad one. Because in that case he wanted RCA to get right behind wide-band frequency modulation. RCA was quite willing to pay him very well for a license. I heard they offered him a million dollars, but he wouldn't take it. He wanted RCA to get behind it, push it, and get it going. RCA, quite rightly I think, said, "It seems to us that television is a new industry, something entirely different, whereas wide-band FM is another sound broadcasting system which may be much better than AM. But it is another of the same kind of a horse while television is something brand new." RCA wanted, rightfully I think, to put some money into television. That made Armstrong mad at RCA.
I was friendly with Major Armstrong for about forty years. I met him immediately after World War I. I know his wife, Mary Ann, very well, and his sister-in-law. She has just been through some litigation on the Armstrong wide-band patents. It's rather astounding that in some twenty cases, I think that she won all of them. She has told me on several occasions that perhaps the reason Armstrong never got mad at me was that he said, "Beverage is a man that always tells the truth." I told her the explanation is very simple; if I ever told a lie, I never could remember what it was and I would always get all mixed up, so I always have to tell the truth.
Dwyer: That's very interesting. Did he have any children?
Beverage: No, no children. He was a very interesting man and had a very clear mind. He could visualize how things were. He used very little mathematics. I don't think he used any. But he could visualize the electrons flying around the circuit, doing what they did. His papers that he published cleared up any amount of muddy thinking. A lot of people didn't understand how this heterdrodyne worked, but he had a very clear simple understanding of the whole thing so that there was no problem. You knew he was right.
Dwyer: I see, someone like Michael Faraday who they say never had mathematics beyond the eighth grade, but he used several advanced mathematicians to figure out what he discovered by advanced mathematics.
Beverage: That's right, he could just see it. It happens.
Dwyer: Yes it does. Doesn't it?
Beverage: I have the greatest regard for Major Armstrong, and I felt very, very sorry that things developed the way they did.
Dwyer: How old was he when he committed suicide?
Beverage: He wasn't much older than I am. The years go by so fast that I don't remember how many years ago it was. It might have been eight years or so. He was in his 60's.
Dwyer: That's very sad.
Beverage: That's the story on Major Armstrong.
[End of formal interview--see note below by Beverage]
Beverage: To make a long story longer, Mrs. Dwyer and I did not get around to another interview. Now, it is July 1973, five years later. The first interview covered the early days fairly well, with a few omissions. One was a development of long-wire antennas for high-frequency transmission at Rocky Point. This development is described in detail in the IRE Proceedings, in a paper by Hansel, Carter and Lindenblad. One point of interest is that the rhombic-shaped antenna was proposed, but it did not include the terminating resistance. This important feature is due to Bruce of the Bell Laboratories. This made the rhombic antenna aperiodic, so that it was not frequency sensitive and could be used over a wide band of frequencies. The rhombic antenna is widely used all over the world on the high frequencies.
Another development of interest was the first international broadcast of a program from the British Broadcasting Corporation from England. The BBC had a station at Daventry which broadcasted on a wavelength of about 1500 meters. A wave antenna was erected at Belfast, Maine for this wavelength, and the Daventry signals were relayed to Riverhead on the 100-meter transmitter and broadcast for the first time by WJZ in 1924.
Other early activities consisted of radio propagation measurements at all frequencies from 15 kilocycles to 400 megacycles. Some of this work is described in the IRE Proceedings and the RCA Review by Beverage, Peterson, Brookheiser, Crosby, Ralph Charge, Bert Trevor, and Grant Hansell, a brother of Dr. Clarence Hansell. This pretty well covers the activities at Riverhead and Rocky Point up to 1930. At the New York laboratory there were developments in time-division multiplex, photo radio and error-indicating teletypewriters. These developments are described in the literature by Callahan, Shore, Kahn, Moore, Whitaker, Matthis, and others.
In the interview of 1968 some discussion was started on frequency modulation. There may be some confusion in the first interview concerning the dates of Major Armstrong's invention of regeneration. Major Armstrong, according to the record, had an audion regenerating and oscillating as early as September 22, 1912 and possibly earlier. De Forest relied on the howling telephone amplifier of Logwood and then Antons notes to establish a date of August 16, 1912. Major Armstrong could not prove his date of invention of regeneration to be earlier than January 31, 1913, the date of his notarized sketch. In the interview I mentioned that the Armstrong litigation with De Forest was in the courts until 1924. Actually the litigation was continued in another case involving an infringement of Armstrong's patent. The testimony seemed to be favorable to Armstrong and he was very confident that he would win, but again the Supreme Court declared De Forest the inventor. The discussion started in the 1968 interview relative to frequency modulation, and also on radio relay development was not finished. Actually, most of this work took place after 1930. About 1930 Murray Crosby started observing the transmissions of frequency and phase modulation on high frequencies from a transmitter at the RCA communications station at Paulinus, California as received at Riverhead. Major Armstrong heard about this work and was invited to come out to Riverhead to witness the tests. Major Armstrong was a frequent and welcome visitor to Riverhead during the following years. He told us about his wide-band FM in December 1933, when his patents issued. Crosby made a complete study of FM, including the theory based on Bessel functions. Crosby's paper on frequency and phase modulation was a classic which clearly outlined the characteristics of FM and phase modulation. Crosby published several papers in the IRE Proceedings and RCA Review but withheld publication until Major Armstrong had presented his paper on wide-band FM before the IRE in December 1935. Crosby presented his paper at the following IRE meeting in January 1936. An interesting discussion was made at that meeting by Major Armstrong. He stated that Crosby's theoretical conclusions in his paper agreed pretty well with his own observations but that inventions were made by "jackassing" storage batteries around the laboratory and not by fancy mathematics. Professor Hazeltine was president of the IRE at the time. He stated that he disagreed with the Major concerning the mathematical approach and that what few inventions that he had been able to make were put down on paper before making the experimental approach. To work on radio propagation at Riverhead on frequencies above 30 megacycles led to recommendations for the optimum frequencies to use for frequency modulation and television broadcasting, including the best polarization to use. The first commercial application of frequencies above 30 megacycles was applied to inter-island telephone system for the Hawaiian Telephone Company. The Hawaiian inter-island telephone system is described in the IRE Proceedings for August 1931, in a paper entitled, "Application of Frequencies Above 30 megacycles" by Beverage, Peterson, and Hansel.
Mrs. Dwyer mentioned radio relays. The first radio relay for television was set up at Hunter Mountain in New Jersey for relaying television signals from the Empire State Building to the RCA plant at Camden, New Jersey. The first remote television pickup to be rebroadcast from the Empire State Building was a program from Camp Upton which was relayed by the old WEAF location at Belmar, Long Island. Just come and see highlights of some of the developments up to the beginning of the war on December 7, 1941 which changed our activities completely. I was a part-time consultant to the Office of the Secretary of War from 1942 to 1944, and had interesting experiences in several assignments. The first one was a trip with Dr. Julius Stranton to Goose Bay Laborador, Greenland and Iceland in connection with establishing low-frequency communication for General Arnold's bombers on the route to England. I used the old trick of 1918 by laying out some field wire on the ground and establishing the low frequencies would come through when the high frequencies were blocked out for days at a time. Other trips were made to North Africa, Italy, and Alaska. However, that is another story and will not be discussed here. As they say in Germany, "Das ist alles".