Land-line, Cell and Ham ‘Phones

By Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP


The land-line telephone has been around as long as I can remember and it remains, in my opinion, the basic telephone communication system.  There was a time when all the telephones on the Bell Systems were made by Western Electric.  There was only a desk type and a wall type phone available and the only color was black.   This was in the 40s and early 50s.  During WWII it was near impossible to get a new phone installed.  Many phones were then on what was known as “Party Lines”, and they shared common rings between several users.  At some time in the 50s Western Eledctric also made a colored “Princess” lighted phone available for those who wanted it at an additional monthly cost.  All of the phones were owned by the Bell System and users could only lease them.  Another system in the midwest existed.  It was the GTE Sylvania system.  Other than that, the phones in the USA were all owned by the Bell Systems which were parts of AT&T.  Hams who wanted to connect a phone patch to the telephone line were at first not permitted to do so, but then the telephone system allowed them to do so only if they used a company furnished isolation transformer between the phone patch and the phone line. For this they had to not only pay an installation fee, but had to pay an additional charge on every monthly phone bill.  This was technically insane, because phone patches had internal isolation transformers as part of their circuitry.  The phone company insisted that any equipment not installed and leased by the phone company would cause a deteriation of phone service for everyone.  A court case came up in which the phone company was challanged by The Heath Company and the Waters Corporation.  The Heath Company made Heathkit phone patch kits.  I only remember that the Waters Corporation made miniature oscilloscopes, but perhaps they were interested in developing stuff for phone lines as well.  The phone company was bent on insisting that hams not make free long distance phone patches for their fellow hams.   Such patches were not officially restricted by the FCC Part 97 rules, even when made for third non-ham parties.  As time passed the government was determined to break up the phone company monopoly .  This meant disconnecting AT&T from what is known as the regional “Baby Bells”. In my neighborhood it meant no longer using underground phone lines.  Even though the underground lines worked reliably, the phone company strung wires through the trees, just before the break-up became official.  They said it was because they feared that the underground wires would be ripped up by homeowners who rototilled their property.  I sort of suspect that the phone company workers wanted an over head zip cord line system, because this would guarantee that they would have lots of future maintenance work ahead of them.   I could be wrong.  Along with the monopoly break-up changes, the FCC now allowed anyone to manufacture telephones, including  Asian corporations.

New phones use solid state technology which permits three or more phones to be used on a phone line that could previously to be used by only one old style phone.  The difference is due to the lower power requirement for the ringing circuit.  Now phones can be bought in any color as well as transparent and in any shape from Mickey Mouse to Big Bird.   Your land-line phone number is published in the white page phone directory, unless you pay extra to have it unlisted.  Land line phone lines can now be connected to answering machines, speaker phones and other innovative devices that can work transparenly to the phone system itself. This includes phone patches, FAX machines and “dial-up” computer modems.  Touch Tone dialing has become standard and almost all calls are handled automatically, withoutt the assistance of any human operator.   Digital technology makes it possible to read the number of anyone calling you if your phone is so equipped, and if the caller did not block this feature.

Today we have CELL PHONES, which are miniature mobile full duplex protocol phones. They work using UHF  RF frequencies and repeaters that are similar to our ham radio repeaters in that they retransmit transmitted signals and that they return received signals to phones within their area or “Cell”.   The Cell phone protocol is much more complex because it enables the multiplexing of many phone calls through one repeater at the same time, and it stacks the calls according to priorities as it assigns them to different frequencies.  At some point the phone signals get to a central switching station (node), where they are processed and sent toward  their addressed destinations.  In order to have a cell system that is robust, meaning that it can survive storms, power failures, disasters, etc. The phone companies have included  redundant paths for messages to get through if a repeater is inoperative.  Most cell repeaters untilize uninterrupted power systems, which enable them to continue operatring on batteries for four hours if AC power is lost.  In addition the phone company has mobile repeaters and mobile central switching units that can be brought into service in areas where these units become inoperatrive due to any emergency situation.

More and more people are getrting cell phones and as the number of users increases the cell phones are becomning more reliable because there is more money now available to increase the required repeater capacities everywhere.  Young people who live with their parents often get cell phones.   Their parents have land-line phones, but instead of getting their own land-line the younguns usually opt for cell phones.  They are more mobile than their parents, who are fixed in their ways.  So they get cell phones and take them with them when they go to school, to college, to relocate to another state, or get married.  The cell phones are unlisted in the directory white pages, and most kids like that feature, even if the phones were originally used so that their parents could keep tabs on them. So we have most of  the new generation on cell phones.  Obviously everyone else who needs mobile phones for business or pleasure also gets cell phones, and lots of people now don’t think that there is a need for land-line phones.   Some folks think that they will always need both, and can’t believe that they have been able to live. without both.

At one time HAMS were the only ones (other than police) who had two way telephones in some of their automobiles.   The first Citizens Band (CB) radios were expensive UHF radios and were not very popular.  CB became popular only after the eleven Meter band became channelized for CB use.  Before that time eleven meters was known as “The Garbage Band”.  That is because it was shared by Hams, doctors who used diathermy machines, radio control modelers, and others who used miscellaneous noise generating machines for industrial or experimental purposes.   Before the no-code Technician Ham License was available, most of the mobile ham radio activity was on ten-meters.  A vertical whip, about 8 feet high, made a popular ¼ wave 10 Meter antenna.. The new Technician Class of 1951 gave only VHF and above priveleges and this promoted the more popular usage of 6 and 2 Meters for mobile use.  The 2 Meter Band remains the most popular today and there are more 2  meter repeaters in use than those on any other band.  The next most popular is the 420 – 450 MHz UHF ham band.  Although the 222 MHz band is available for ham usage, it has never been very popular. Cell Phones operate in 800 MHz and 1600 MHz UHF bands.                                                            


I can no longer keep up with all of the goings on with regard to iPods, iPhones and iTunesiiiDolores…The small “I”s are not typos.  They are becoming too much to follow.  The new cell phones may have GPS, cameras, and complete PCs built into them for gaming or business purposes or for musical entertainment.  These features are not a part of ham HTs…. At least… not yet.

As in the past, there are those who want to bypass the phone company’s monopolistic charges and limitations…They are the hackers of today.   A 17 year old hacker figured out a way to get iPhones (which were supposed to only access AT&T ) to get connected to Apple’s iTunes.   iThink that is what he did.  i dunno for sure because i wasn’t wearing my iGlasses when iRead it.   Anyway the fix is available on web sites now, but i don’t care because i don’t own an iPhone and i’m not planing to get one, unless the 5.33 repeater goes out of service.   The strange part of the iPhone fix is it can either be accomplished by software or by hardware methods. Is that because it is full-duplex and iNteractive?

Did you know that the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, experimented with light waves, to communicate telephone signals without wires, long before fiber optic fibers were invented?  Bell sat in a chair that was rigged with a large parabolic mirror that focused sunlight rays.  In the path of the intense rays was the diaphragm of an acoustical horn, which modulated the focused light path when the diaphragm was vibrated with audio.  A distance away, a selenium cell  received the light signal, converting it inyo an electrical signal and caused a telephone receiver to reproduce the audio telephone signal.  This metrhod was never used for any practical communication system…Probably because it could never work at night when the rates are usually cheaper.

I remember when I was a kid of about eight years old, I made a “phone” by punching small holes in two empty metal cans and running a long string through the holes.  When the string was held taught, I could talk from one can to a friend who held the other can.  I knew that this was a crude toy and I told my friend (who was a few years older than me) that I had earphones (which I used for my crystal sets).  I also had some wire; but to make a real telephone set-up we would have to get another  phone that could send real phone signals to my earphones.   He said that he knew where there was a phone booth where he could easily get a phone for nothing.  As a kid, I must admit that I had a lapse in ethical honesty when it comes to “borrowing” from so large an institution as The Bell System.  I didn’t think my friend was serious (that sounds like a better excuse).  I however must admit that, I didn’t exactly discourage my friend, figuring that if he could manage to get a phone receiver, it might prove to provide for the makings of a cutting edge communication experiment (either with or without batteries).  Two days later, to my horror, my friend showed up wheeling an entire telephone unit (complete with coin-box) in his little toy red wagon!   I yelled, “Put it back!”   My friend said that his arm was still tired from all the hack-sawing he did to get the phone out of the phone booth..  (Hmmmm…Maybe he was the world’s first “hacker”)   My friend said that putting it back might be a lot riskier than it was to get it.  We never did use the authentic phone, however, because my friend’s mother did put it back, leaving it on the phone booth floor for a professional installer to remount and reconnect it, and marvel at the engineering effort that it must have taken to dismount it.   And that kid was only about 10 years old!   Even more marvelous was the fact that at that time nobody could have hacksawed a phone using software!.



I contacted Pat, KE2LJ about writing a President’s page for this month.  Pat declined because he is busy moving to Florida and starting on his retirement and has nothing to say that would be of a Ham Radio nature at the present time.  There have been times when other presidents skipped president’s pages in the past so this won’t be a first.                                          –Your editor—




                                           MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING -8/15/2007

Secretary, Karen KC2OPX

This meeting was a picnic meeting at Marjorie Post Park.

TREASURERS REPORT – Ed, WB2EAV          REPEATER REPORT – Gordon, KB2UB                        

Finances continue to be in good shape.                     Now trying to resolve the Bethpage  repeater                                                                                                                    problem with MetroCore and to improve  antenna                                                                                                                                                                                    Installation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         VE REPORT – Bob, W2ILP                                  NET REPORT- Zack, WB2PUE

3 applicants applied.  1 passed the Extra exam,         Propagation continues to be poor for 40 Meter net.

1 passed the Technician exam, 1 upgraded to                Bethpage repeater continues to be weak.  The

General due to having old Tech license.                    Thursday night net on the 5.33 repeater is well .

4 VEs were present: AB2EF, AB2NT,                       attended.

KC2O and W2ILP.                                                                                         


We said farewell to Pat.  It was his last meeting. 


This weekend (8/18-19) is Lighthouse Weekend.  Although the GARC was unable to operate at the      Eaton’s Neck Lighthouse, we were invited to join the Emergency Communications Amateur Radio         Club of the Red Cross, which normally operates from there.


Gordon gave a short presentation for Pat and Pat thanked the members of the GARC for their continuous support of the club and its activities   Twenty six people came to say farewell to Pat, including two past       GARC presidents (K2DOD and W2IVA)  Pat will surely be missed and we wish him good luck and happiness in Florida.



40 Meters: 7.289 MHz at 7:30 AM EST Sundays.

2 Meters (via repeaters): 146.745 MHz  (-.600)at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.

                                           145.330 MHz (- .600) at 9:00 PM EST Thursdays.

[Tone for both repeaters is 136.5 Hz]         (ARES/RACES) Mondays                                                                                                    


General Meetings of the GARC are held on the third Wednesday of each month, starting at 5:30 PM.   The meetings will be held at the Allen Ellsworth Park in Farmingdale.  Check the GARC web site to be certain of meeting location, which may change after this newsletter, is distributed. Board meetings are held eight days before the General Meeting.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              GARC WEB SITE

 The web site of the GARC can be found at     Webmaster is Pat Masterson KE2LJ.  Pictures of GARC activities, archives of newsletters, roster of members, and other information about the GARC may be found there including Field Day pictures


          Puzzle                 Here is another cryptogram.  It is another short one for experts..




Solution to the July Cryptogram:-  DEJA  VU  ALL  OVER  AGAIN.   –Yogi Berra--  




20 Years Ago- “CQ DE WA2LQO” – Oct. 1987 Vol. 59 N0.4 CIRC 410

Ken, KC2DH was president.  He spoke about two Extra Class hams, who were part of the VE team, but at that time could not be members of the GARC.  They were Tom, NY2S and Billie NZ2J.  The repeaters were maintained by a technical team headed by Dave Goldblum, W2ZVJ.  Dave was at that time also the WA2LQO Trustee.  The members of the club were worried about the fact that their radio shack, then under the Plant 5 Blue Ball was to be relocated.  At the time it was not certain where the shack would be relocated to.  Although this issue of the newsletter was only 4 pages long (2 sheets), there was room for an entire page being devoted to the Worked All Grumman (WAG) Award program.  A WAG Century club listed those who had managed to QSO 100 or more WAG Hams.  They were:-

Ed, W2KTU 171

Harry, K2AAN 144

Marty, NN2C125

George, N2BFY 116

Bert,W2DOD 111

George, W2CJN 109

Bert, WA2FGB 106

Herb, WB2FMP 102

Jack, AD4N 101

Dick, w2INJ 100

Hank, W2ZZE 100

Bob, W3BH 100

The listing of WAG awarded hams included a total of 66. The categories were broken down into HF, non repeater VHF and CW..  The OPEN category included any type of QSO. To get on the list US Hams had to get at least  25 QSLs for Open or HF or 15 QSLs for non-repeater VHF or CW. Out of LI hams needed only 10 QSLs and DX hams only 5 QSLs.  DX hams who made the list were GD2HCX, and J6LJX.

 I did not manage to get on this list, but I did later earn a WAG certificate.  The WAG Awards were a way to promote the GARC, both for members and for non-members.  –w2ilp--