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A brush with greatness

Donald L. Milbury, W6YN

About ten years ago during some telecommunications affair, I had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a distinguished looking gentleman; I later found that this fascinating person was Fred M. Link, one of the true founding fathers of the technology we all enjoy today.

It wasn't until this brush with greatness that I really had any concept as to who are the Pioneer Amateurs that somehow are the hidden giants that caused the development of the wireless world we live in. I use the word hidden because the names of these geniuses not mentioned by anyone discussing radio pioneers. Yet these men are responsible for everything we experience in our everyday contact with electronic media.

Let's start with Fred Link (W2ALU). He pioneered the development and manufacturing of the very first FM Landmobile Radio, in support of public safety, military, and private services. In the late 1930s he, along with Dan Noble -- later a Motorola pioneer -- constructed a complete FM radio network for the Connecticut State Police. During WW II every command vehicle that had Fred Link FM radio equipment installed had a decided advantage over the Axis AM gear.

As you can tell I am drawn to contemporary heros. Yes, I am aware of the work of Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Heinrich Hertz and the self promotion of Dr. Lee DeForest. The super ego of David Sarnoff is difficult to ignore. There are many others that come to mind but none has the stature of the genius that gave us today's radio.

That genius is the father of modern radio, Major Edwin Howard Armstrong. If I list just a few of the inventions of Major Armstrong you will agree that he truly provided us with the radio world we know today.

  • The regenerative receiver
  • The superregenerative receiver
  • The superheterodyne receiver
  • Frequency Modulation

As you watch television tonight, listen to music on your stereo tomorrow, operate an amateur repeater or work a DX station in a far-away place, you are richer in the fullness of your life because of Howard Armstrong. I am personally richer for his presence in our history, not just for his inventions -- we are all the richer for them. I am refering to learning from his triumphs and his mistakes, but most of all from his integrity about the proper conduct of life.

More of Major Armstrong's life in a later issue.

Pages by Jack Bankson, AD6AD