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History of Single Sideband (SSB) by Len Anderson!newscene!newscene!novia!!!portc01.!!not-for-mail
Lines: 138
From: (Len Over 21)
Date: 02 Jul 2001 23:06:36 GMT
References: <>.
Organization: AOL
X-Newsreader: Session Scheduler
Subject: Re: Pendulum reverses
Message-ID: <>.

In article <>., "Phil Kane"
<Phil.Kane@nospam.spam>. writes:

On 02 Jul 2001 05:38:49 GMT, Len Over 21 wrote:

That's a nice little homily that's been roaming around the OF circuit for quite a while. It must be popular since all four were hams (Godfrey the biggest ham of all). It may even be true, given the under-the-table contract awards which happened in the late 1940s to the middle 1950s.

If you want to reach out beyond the restricted history of radio seen through amateur-only publications,

FYI my info came from non-ham pubs about SAC communications history and from 3 years assignment to the 22nd Comm Squadron (USAF-SAC) who RAN that equipment ("Short Order") in 24/7 operation. Half my time at Offutt AFB (HQ-SAC) and the other half at March AFB (Alternate SAC
HQ) as command post system test and compliance officer, with plenty of time to shmooze with the SAC comms old-timers who knew the history of SAC comms.

Phil, I don't doubt your personal military experience or that the Strategic Air Command (SAC) did successful trials of single-channel SSB military radios. I am doubting some of the old-timers'
schmooze stories along with the exaggerated (or not) importance of the mode for whatever reason. Let's look at the chronology of SSB in general again:

1. SSB is first used on landline "carrier" equipment around 1915 for frequency-division multiplexing of up to four telephone circuits on one wire pair (important for long-distance cost reduction).

2. SSB over AM superiority on radio is theoretically analyzed and published 1922 and 1923, Proceedings of I.R.E.

3. First radio trial of SSB begins 1928 on VLF. Problem is one of getting adequate vacuum tube power amplification but modulation method works fine. Power vacuum tube inadequacies plague all radio modulation modes then.

4. Four voice-channel SSB HF link established between Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles in 1934. This proves it can be done and remain in service 24/7.

5. Western Electric develops, makes, uses a four voice- channel SSB transmitter by 1938 (I operated and helped repair one of those still in use in 1953). That model was bought for US Army and US Navy military HF fixed-station communications that same year. They will develop a "modern" version, the LD-T2, beginning just after WW2 and that commercial model will also be bought by the Army and USN before 1951.

6. All this while the landline telephone long-distance network is served by frequency-multiplexed "carrier" equipment utilizing SSB techniques. Transmission is over wire pairs, coaxial cable, or microwave radio relay. WE had their foot in that market door, Collins Radio tried but could not get very far into it despite a good record at radio communications equipment. ["mechanical" Collins filters were originally made for landline "carrier" applications according to an old-time Collins-Rockwell applications engineers and the old spec sheets show the available frequency spacing to fit that]

Up to around 1950 there had been little work done on single- channel SSB for any radio service due to frequency stability. Fixed-station HF radios needed a "pilot carrier" to stay locked on a received transmission. USAF Rome Air Development Center and other groups established a need of getting within plus-minus 300 cycles of the exact carrier frequency for voice intelligibility. This narrow tolerance seemed at odds for multi- frequency frequency selection by relatively untrained-in-radio
personnel so several companies started developing the first "frequency synthesizers" and working on stability control of quartz crystal oscillators as well as analog VFOs that would suit harsh environments. RCA Corporation did their thing on that, so did Stromberg-Carlson and National Radio Co. Collins Radio was not alone in that area.

None of the above was secret in any way the whole time. SSB was already known, quantified over a long period before the west entered the Cold War in 1948. The information did not always make it to amateur radio oriented publications because it was not about or for amateur radio (in the consideration of the publishers). The exception was the immediate post-WW2 period and some carefully steered PR by Collins Radio. Collins was looking for a reputation. Collins already had a reputation as a good radio maker, solid and dependable, but not all that innovative.

Cut to the "fab four" of LeMay, Collins, Goldwater, Godfrey. All radio amateurs whether early or late in life. LeMay now SAC chief despite some shaky and controversial late-WW2 leadership (fire-bomb raids on Tokyo). Godfrey a stage ham as well as a radio ham who had a popular daily radio show.
Goldwater then a rather junior politician, a "comer" who had yet to develop his reputation or political base that would be later. Collins wanted his company to prosper but faced some stiff competition in the now-clearly-expanding radio market of the immediate post-WW2 period.

Put all of those above facts together with the reputation that Collins Radio earned a decade later, spread the story, and it looks like Collins "invented SSB" or at least "pioneered SSB" when what they really did was come up with a stable single-channel SSB radio. RCA did the same but RCA had a somewhat negative reputation among US hams...nor did they have any engaging personalities such
as Godfrey who could pump up the SAC.

They lacked only Jimmy Stewart for a visual impact on publicizing SAC as a reserve USAF General unabashedly promoting a needed service arm during the Cold War.

Gen. LeMay got his ham license relatively late in the game and the others were long-term hams, but their roles in this situation had absolutely nothing to do with ham radio or their existence as hams.
More to the late-night "good ol boy" get-togethers in Cedar Rapids/Omaha and DC.

"Insider" stories exist in other areas but are not as popular as this one in amateur radio circles. The electronics industry of a half century ago was still growing (Collins Radio a part of that but not that big a part) and, not coincidentally, started facing a lot of contract-award controls around 1950. Those government controls would become more severe until stabilizing around 1970. "Good old boy-ism" wasn't quite the same anymore, as if it really was to begin with.

Repeated stories sometimes become folklore, close to truth but not quite there. In conjunction with other industry stories and "inside information," I won't buy this amateur SSB folklore at face value. That doesn't tarnish the good reputation of Rockwell-Collins a bit. The story tellers' rep is another matter.


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