Radio News March 1928
All long- distance reception of broadcasts, and those whose imaginations have placed them in the class with world champions, now can retire from the limelight. Walter Rodman Pierce, Jr., a 17- year –old boy of Saunderstown, Rhode Island, seems to have all the other known DX artists backed completely off the boards with a record of 694 stations in 41 countries.
When Pierce's friend and brother "ham," Franklin B. Rowell (1AMU) of Pawtucket, told me at a recent New England convention of the American Radio Relay League that Pierce was receiving broadcasts from Japan, the Philippines, Australia and other countries in all parts of the world, on two tubes, it sounded like the result of a superheated imagination. -But Pierce appeared to be an honest young man; and he gave me from memory the call letters and locations of so many stations that he said he had logged, that I knew he must have either heard most of them many times or else spent most of his time memorizing the call books.
He said that he had letters and cards from many of these stations, verifying his reception. Still, his record was so remarkable, so nearly incredible, that I decided to visit his home and see the evidence before making any unqualified statement.
Several months later I visited Saunderstown. Pierce's home, I found, was a farm back in the woods. A grocer on the highway took me over in his truck. I talked Walter Pierce going over his ground connections, a pictorial diagram of which is shown on the following page with him and with members of the boys family while I waited for the boy to come home from school. The house is in a good radio location, on a hill that rises west of Narragansett Bay, opposite Newport.
Pierce's receiver is a Radiola III, a two-tube set which was well known a few years ago, but which is now entirely off the market. He had the little set on a table in the living room; it was hooked up to three dry cells and two 45 -volt "B" batteries. He was using tubes of the 199 type, with adapters, instead of the WD -11 type for which the set was designed.
From the looks of the outfit, I would have said that New York would have been DX for it; but outside the window there was something unusual. The wire that led from the ground connection on the receiver out through the window ended at a binding post on a porcelain base. From this post twelve wires led to the same number of pipes or other pieces of metal embedded in the ground (see Fig. 1). Pierce said that he found that each new ground connection increased selectivity and reduced the effect of body capacity; so he added one after another.
A leaky automobile radiator was sunk in the ground, at the end of the row of pipes, with its cap just above the surface so that water could be poured into it. Circumstances alter cases. On a car, that radiator could only have inspired profanity; here it was an ideal device for keeping the ground connections wet. The ground clamps on the pipes were bright. Pierce said that he put on new ones every few weeks. It became evident that his phenomenal record was not the result of accident.
The aerial is 110 feet long and 26 feet high; it points N. N. E., with the set at the southerly end. Two glass insulators in series at each end prevented the escape of energy. The wire was of bare copper which, Pierce said, gives better results than tinned copper. He puts up new wire to replace the old every few months, or as soon as corrosion becomes noticeable. The aerial is kept taut, to prevent swinging.
It was still daylight, though late in the afternoon, when I sat down at the receiver. As soon as the tongue of the rheostat touched the first turn of wire, a station jumped at me. So many came in as I turned the knob that I advanced it only an eighth of the way to the maximum setting. These stations were within a radius of about 200 miles.
Pierce took charge of the set and turned the rheostat knob to the maximum position. There was another rheostat at the batteries, adjusted so that it was impossible to injure the tubes by turning the one at the set too far. Almost immediately he brought in 2L0, London, England!
When we tired of tuning in stations, we took off the phones and cut in the loud speaker, an ordinary low-priced horn. Providence and New York stations came in with volume enough to fill the room and be heard anywhere in the house. Like his phones, his loud speaker is a standard device, of a kind sold in most radio shops. There is not a piece of apparatus in the whole outfit that is of special design or expensive. Pierce is a farm boy, attending high school, and has little money to spend on luxuries. He said he had used the same "B" batteries for two years:
After a night's rest, we rose at early dawn and went back to the set to listen for stations on the other side of the earth. Station 1YA, Auckland; New Zealand, was one of the first to come in. The carrier wave was strong, but the music and announcements were weak. An orchestra was playing. When it stopped, the announcement "1YA, Auckland Station," was heard. This was between 5:35 and 5:37 A.M., Eastern Standard Time, on November 1, 1927. The announcement was logged again at 5:45.
A number of stations in the antipodes, including JOCK, Nagoya, and JOAK (no joke!), Tokyo, Japan, and 2YA, Wellington, New Zealand, were recognized by their carrier waves. The average broadcast listener may doubt the ability of any person to identify stations by the sounds of their carrier waves; but some may have discovered, as Pierce did, that it can be done. For two years he has operated his set several hours a day, fishing for distant stations. He knows his dials as a navigator knows his compass. He knows the schedules of many of the broadcast stations. He can start at zero on the dial scale and tell what station he is going to bring in at each mark, and between the marks. While a station 10,000 miles away was coming in near 4 on the scale, WGY, Schenectady, was working on a wavelength very near it. Pierce separated them, and after seeing him do it, I did. His set increased its selectivity as he added extra ground wires and, as his mother says, he can "adjust the tuning lever to the sixteenth of a hair's breadth."
He has many verifications from stations in the United States and Canada, from coast to coast, but he considers nothing as real DX except reception from another continent or its islands.
Among the stations outside of the United States and Canada that Pierce has logged, many of them several times, are:
Mexico: CYX, CZE, CYJ, CZI, CYO, CYB, CYH, Mexico City; CYS, Monterey; CYY, Merida; ME, Tampico; FAM, Guadalajara; CYR, Mazatlan; CYU, Puebla; CYQ, Tampico.
Cuba: PWX, 2BB, 2EP, 2HC, 21IP, 20K, 2RK, 2TW, Havana; 7SR, Central Elia; 6KW, Tuinucu (this station came in louder than any other that Pierce ever received. On Dec. 30, 1926, he thought it was going to burn out his loud speaker); 8JQ, Santiago de Cuba; 6HS, Santa Clara; 7B Y, Camaguey.
Haiti: HHK, Port au Prince. Central America: AQM, San Salvador. South America: CMAC, Santiago, Chile; SQIG, Sao Paulo, Brazil; AYRE, Caracas, Venezuela; CBC, Santiago, Chile; OAX, Lima, Peru; LOX, Buenos Aires, Argentina; CMAT, Tacna, Chile; CWOZ, Montevideo, Uruguay; Pernambuco, Brazil; LOP, Buenos Aires, Argentina; LOS, Buenos Aires, Argentina; CWOR, Montevideo, Uruguay; CNA, Valparaiso, Chile; Rio Janeiro, Brazil (no call letters announced); LOY, Buenos Aires, Argentina; LOV, Buenos Aires, Argentina; CMAB, Santiago, Chile; SPE, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; LOU, Mendoza, Argentina; LOZ, Buenos Aires, Argentina; LOR, Buenos Aires, Argentina; LOT, Buenos Aires, Argentina; CWOS, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Greenland: OGG., Godthaaven.
Alaska: KGBU, Ketchikan; KFQD, Anchorage Europe: 2L0, London; EAJ3, Cadiz, Spain; IMI, Milan, Italy; SPY, Plymouth, England; Skattudden, Finland; Oslo, Norway ; Berne, Switzerland; EAJ7, Madrid, Spain; SRB, Brussels, Belgium; FPTT, Paris, France; 2ZY, Manchester, England; 5SC, Glasgow, Scotland; SIT, Birmingham, England; SNO, Newcastle, England; EAJ1, Barcelona, Spain; LL, Paris, France; LA, Langenberg, Germany; 2RN, Dublin, Ireland; EAJ4, Madrid, Spain; EAJ12, Oviedo, Spain; Stuttgart, Germany; EAJ2, Madrid, Spain; EAJ22, Salamanca, Spain (this was the loudest European station heard) ; HA, Hamburg, Germany; PTT, Toulouse, France; INA, Naples, Italy; 6CK, Cork, Ireland; Copenhagen, Denmark; EAJ13, Barcelona, Spain; Bordeaux, France; EAJ25, Malaga, Spain.
Africa: Senegal, West Africa; WAMG, Cape Town, South Africa; Radio Casa Blanca, Morocco.
Asia: KZUY, Baguio, Philippine Islands; JOAN, Tokio, Japan; JOCK, Nagoya, Japan; JOBN, Osaka, Japan; JODK, Keijo, Japan; KZRQ, Manila, Philippine Islands; 1SE, Singapore (reception uncertain); NRC, Shanghai, China; 5í-íN, Hongkong, China; 7CA, Calcutta, India; KZRM, Manila, Philippine Islands; XOL, Tientsin, China.
Australasia: 2BL, Sydney, Australia; 5CL, Adelaide, Australia; 4QG, Brisbane, Australia; 3L0,' Melbourne, Australia; 4YA, Dunedin, New Zea land; 3AR, Melbourne, Australia; 2FC, Sydney, Australia; 1YA, Auckland, New Zealand; 4RN, Rockhampton, Australia; 2KY, Sydney, Australia; 2YA, Wellington, New Zealand; 3YA, Christchurch, New Zealand; 5DN, Adelaide, Australia. Hawaii: KGU, Honolulu. Pierce logged Australian stations every month in 1927. They and others in the antipodes came in best about 4.30 to 5 o'clock in the morning, when he had to get up to do the milking and other- chores. European stations were best from 4.30 to 7 P. M., and South American stations from 5 to 11 P. M.
During the evening of March 13, 1927, Pierce startled his family by loud whoops of joy. It was one of those rare nights when radio was at its best. He logged the following: KGU, Honolulu; KGBU, Alaska; AGM, San Salvador, Central America; CNAD, CMAT and CMAB in Chile; LOX, LOZ, LOV, LOP and LOY in Argentina; EAJ22, Spain; SQLG, Brazil; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (no call letters announced) ; CWOZ, Uruguay; OAX, Peru; Durban, South Africa; CYR and CYU in Mexico and PWX, Havana.
Pacific coast stations in the United States came in almost as easily as those near home. Unidentified foreign stations came in on 345, 288 and 307 meters.
Pierce's radio log, kept with painstaking care for two years, will convince anyone who examines it that it is an authentic record. Many of his records are verified by letters or cards from the stations heard. And there is other evidence almost as strong, or perhaps stronger.