Updated 2-8-2006

March 2006 Column



Early Wireless - Art Ericson, W1NF

In 1913 off the Florida coast he was the radioman on the SS Lucy Neff; she was an old lumber schooner. He sent his first SOS when the ship got into trouble and was listing badly. His Friend, W8AF would later draw a cartoon to memorialize the event.

His call of “SOS” was one of the first actually used at sea, as the older “CQD” had just become obsolete.

Art Ericson, W1NF, at age 83, with his wife Dolly.

Art worked in radio the rest of his life in various positions. He was a charter member of the Institute of Radio Engineers and held two patents: one for a radio controlled torpedo and one on a signal tracer.

In his words about this 1903 photo: "Those glass tubes (not visible) are Mexican spice tubes that wealthy people in Manchester, Massachusetts used. I found them in Dad’s bosses dump on the estate. I filled them with salt water and used tobacco tin foil on the outside. Believe it or not my spark was louder and steadier.

I worked all one Saturday afternoon for 40 cents mounting lamps in the back room of the electric company and bought the wire for the 50,000-meter tuning coil. I wanted to make sure I covered all wavelengths. The Coherer end plugs were turned out by the rich family’s chauffer on a foot-operated lathe so the plug would fit in a little glass tube perfectly. I caddied for 20 cents a round at the famous Essex County Golf Club in Manchester. And for 80 cents I bought the 80-Ohm fone. Note the brass headband. A 50-foot by 1-foot chicken wire was the antenna, and a motorcycle dry cell was the powerhouse. Motorbikes in those days did not use magnetos."

John Dilks, K2TQN    125 Warf Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234-8501   e-mail: K2TQN@arrl.net