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Phil Petersen on: Setting up his First Wireless Set
Phil Petersen Q: Tell me about setting up your very first wireless set as a kid and what that was all about and how you did it with some neighboring kids?

PP: My first wireless set was what we called in those days. bootlegging and that meant that you didn't have a license yet. Nowadays, I have a novice license. You can get it rather easily and not much privileges with it, but you can get started and do it legally. But it was well-known in those days. We called, here's a bootlegger on the air, he isn't doing things right and so on. I did that for maybe a few months. It was well-known around, and the government came around and finally had licenses for novices who knew the fundamentals of what they should do.

We had what you called bread boards. They weren't really bread boards, but in my time, it was a board that we used plywood a lot at that time. We made a sheet of plywood about, oh a couple of feet long and mounted the parts on it with the wood parts on things and insulators and wiring and everything. And that term today is still used when you say you have a bread board model. It don't mean anymore than it's a bread board but what that term still means is an experimental model and you could quickly make it and put it together and sometimes you used it that way for years. But it was a great thing to try out different experiments and try different circuits and read about it in the technical journals we have. And a famous one is QST put out by the American Radio Relay they call them bleeding organizations worldwide. So it was a very good beginning thing. In fact I can remember a long time ago in the school when I was caught reading the QST inside inside of a Greek Mythology book that we were supposed to be studying at the time and, the science teacher saw. She knew I was doing it but she knew I was interested and she let me go on with and after a year or two I went and got my license and it opened up a whole world to me.

Not too many people recognize it, that before there was amateur radio, there was amateur telegraphy. Not many people know it today but I know it and I did some of it. You operated from your house to your buddy's house two or three stores down the street, and I remember, I ran a wire from the widow's walk, which was on top of our house, over two other houses, strung telephone wire to my buddy up three houses from us and hooked into his house and we sent telegraph messages at night. And then after a week of that or so, we had another boy friend across the street. From him we ran the wire right across the street. Right around where all the other electrical wires and the telephone company and everything was and people said well you can't do that, I said, "Why can't I, the airplanes are not getting my permission to fly over our house, I'm going to run it right across the street." And for about three months, one summer, we operated in our bedrooms at night

I've been in this business now for about, close to seventy years active in the business and in 1931, I first did this as a licensed radio amateur and a couple of years before that, as I said, what we call bootlegging but it was a great source of feeling of achievement that gave you that pride that you can do something that the average guy can't do. And this was a big motivating force to me and later on, I had a promising career and I enjoyed every bit of it in aviation electronic developments. All kinds of electronics for aircraft and that sort of thing.

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