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The Old Man: Rotten QRM


In the early years of the ARRL, co-founder and first President Hiram Percy Maxim occasionally penned editorials in QST magazine using the pseudonym "The Old Man." These "rants" became legendary. As part of the ARRL Centennial celebration, we'll be re-publishing a number of The Old Man's observations throughout the year.


Rotten QRM (January 1917)

By "The Old Man."

Say, fellows, here's the old man again This time he's all excited and boiling over. In fact he's so wild about some "Rotten" subject that he has fallen back to some queer dialect and shouts about "wouff hong's", "rettysnitches", and some disorder known to the trade as "ugerumf". What do all these mean? Better read the article and see.


This QRM business is getting my Nanny. Here it is midnight, and this msg. from the fellow whose girl has not had a letter from him for a full twenty-four hours, is still stalled. I have smoked myself into a state of funk, the floor is covered with burnt matches, I am losing a perfectly good temper, and there is no sign that this will not continue all night long. How long do these radio bugs sit up at night any way? Right now, as I write, there is that old gink 2AGJ up in York State fluttering along with that bird-in-the-cage­spark of his, 8YO is yelling his darned head off for somebody over on the Pacific Coast, apparently, 8NH is still trying her best to be ladylike in spite of a full hour of trouble, old 8AEZ is booming out QSA but QRM bad CUL, 9PC is trying to do something to 5BV, I distinctly heard 4DI say a bad word, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, no one has got any­where.

What are we going to do about this business? It used to be that we were perfectly satisfied to listen to SLI and once in a while on Saturday night when we could stay up that late, we would lis­ten to Arlington send time. When we heard some commercial say QRM, we had to look it up on the chart to see what it meant. Later, we began talking to the fellow over on the other side of town and then was born our amateur QRM. Some­times, the "little boy with the spark coil," (the latter is all right, but dog gone the hide of the former) would try to call us at the same time, and we used to think we were in trouble. Still later we used to think we were bothered when we were in the middle of a "conversation" with a fel­low in the next town, and some one would butt in. It was about this era that we began to organize Radio Clubs, with high faluting ambitions about "promoting radio communication and controlling inter­ference."

But, when we have a fellow who has not written to his girl for a full twenty-four hours, and who positively must get the msg. to her over in Illinois, it becomes a serious matter to have some one else getting gay with the ether, especially when the latter has no conception of the exist­ence of the word "brevity." One thing I will say, and that is that good old 8AEZ is brief. His spark may drown out every­body in the western hemisphere when he sends, but he is brief. He says what he has to say in a few words in a few signals and he stops. He also does not go in for long technical discussions about gap speed and condenser construction while forty or fifty others of us are waiting with five

What are we going to do about this or six messages each, many of which have business? It used to be that we were been stuck on the pin a week. Far be it from even me, a real blown-in-the-bottle radio grouch, to find any fault or mention any names, but some of the young gentle­men who burn up valuable time every night and thereby multiply this QRM busi­ness, ought to look up in the dictionary the definition of that particular combina­tion of letters indicated by B-R-I-E-F. I could call off a dozen of them right now, and I would if I thought that Editor down east would print them.

The trouble is, the young squirts don't stop to think. They start out and call somebody somewhere every three minutes. Poor girl in 111. who hasn't heard from her fellow in 24 hours. Everybody they hear, they immediately call. If they can't hear anybody, they send a QST something like this:—QST QST QST QST QST QST QST de 1NUT 'INUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NUT 1NTJT. Any station more than fifty miles distant hearing these sigs. please send pos­tal to Willie le Nut, Nutville. Willie re­peats each word of this msg. three times. Each letter is sent so slowly it puts you to sleep. He uses up just exactly twelve valuable minutes sending out this hog­wash, and drives an old timer to the point where he radiates brush discharge from every hair on his head. These fellows ought to be limited to hours between sup­per time and 8:30 and any one of them  slopping over ought to get a letter from every respectable amateur within his range threatening to spank him if he ever transgresses again. I know a certain some one who will put in his bid for elect­ ion to the office of Chairman of the Com­mittee on Chastisement.

Here is a sample coming in right now. Listen to this slop:—columbus co 2pp 18co all sigs charles 9vy u no hf a motor little heavier than the racine sorry sorry om qrm qrm pse qta qta k fish smell rot­ten yes yes wyd boston how do you get me gap bum bum rubber band qta pwf about motors. (Bad squeaks here. Sick spark coil near at hand. Wheezes terri­bly.) Want to hear tone like commercial? ark r r r yes ark r r r listen nw.

Here begins ten minutes of the darn­dest scratching, screeching, groaning, blow­ing off steam, blubbering that ever mortal ear heard. At its worst it goes on into __ — fine fine how do u do it? ark r r r rubber band on vibrator—BANG. My friend with the one k. w. over on the other side of town explodes. He calls an 8 sta­tion. When he finishes, the scratching re­duces. Then we get the long distance QRM again, cul om sk spfscity bunk allemo bish mela hash breakfast wunkey wunkey lala lala 2asj qrm bad qsl 3zw must go to bed now hw hw hw abt abt abt msg msg msg pse pse pse k k k. This is the way my log book this evening looks. It's enough to raise a blister on a wooden leg. Here is another sample of qrm slush:— vvvvvvvvv v (Some­body sitting on his key.) vvvvvvvvv Hnneg se with the wlce sore feet commer-, cial wirlih. Now what in Heaven's name would you make out this? Is it to the effect that somebody has a line on a com­mecial who is on the warpath for some amateur with sore feet? One cannot be sure of these matters. It might be that it is the commercial who has the sore feet, chasing some poor amateur around town probably.

Listen to this:—Yes yes jst wyd glucky wait a mt muddyivvo.ujff jumg bliftsfy mon­key motor. We assume from this msg that Glucky is being asked to wait a min­ute while Blifsky seeks a wouff hong with which to wallop a monkey the next time the latter faces toward the motor. I do not think I know just exactly what a wouff hong is. Probably some piece of apparatus used in the southern states to beat monkeys with.

 It is this form of uninteresting "con­versation" which clutters up the air with QRM. Of what moment is it to the rest of the world that this fellow J31ifsky is going to smear somebody's monkey with a wouff hong? When anybody relapses into such mental slop as to want to operate with a thing named a "wouff hong," he ought to keep his trouble to himself and not compel all of us respectable amateurs to listen to his drool. To slaves and slob­ber a lot of foolish twaddle like this when that poor girl out in Illinois has not had a letter since yesterday, is plain wicked.

Sorry om qrm qrm 9vy few words sch­lipsh nuzzle his mucket faded undershirt cfrish reptg pain in neck sus gup om cul ark. This is a real relay, evidently. 9VY over in Fort Wayne is mixed up in it in some way. Whose undershirt they are talking about and what schlipshing one over is, I do not know exactly, although I have a rough idea. Whether the signals faded or the undershirt faded, or what was the matter with the "sus gup" of the neck of the undershirt, I'll be darned if I know.

Just cast a lingering look at this:— Biirgrmp bru rotary ge ge ugerumf om with my set rettysnitch spitty tone hit in potimus? Now what do you suppose the the poor gink was trying to say when he unreeled that? You have to guess a lot in wireless, and how would you guess this? Something is wrong with this fellow's biirgrmph, his rotary also has a bad case of the ugerujnf and somebody around the place must have spit on his rettvsnitch. because his tone was so rotten it hit him on his potimus. Sounds bad to me. Why will some people send such per­sonal matter by wireless when the whole country can overhear it. It isn't decent, and it makes the QRM more rotten than ever, and just think of the way it makes a perfectly good log book appear.

I spent the better part of an hour try­ing to make out what ailed the poor fel­low's biirgrmph, but had to give it up while I listened to a child with a spark coil scratch out this at a rate of around three words a minute:—how do s . . e ? how be .;...? how do i cowp cw v v v v v v come in ? ? ? ark After a long wait another trouble maker with a bad cold in his head stumbled back with:—r rrrrrrrrrrokok please ? ? ? ark Another pause followed by the first little demon with:-—r r r r r r r r qta qta qta pse rat ve . . . . . . . .? pse ttt qta pse repeat ark. These brats kept this up for twenty minutes and they ended up just where they began.

What we ought to do is to organize an Anti QRM Association. Then let us elect for Chairman the worst plug-ugly we can find in these U. S. A. Then let us chip in a little money and hire a clerk with a bad disposition who will write letters threatening the life of everybody whom Rubber band—Commercial tone. the members report as causing needless QRM. If anybody gets balky, we will all join together and swear the gink is send­ing with a decrement greater than two-tenths, and so report to the local Radio Inspector. If the latter does not within twenty-four hours have the boy arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, we will all band together and find another job for said Radio Inspector. Let us rise, fellow bugs. Rise and crush this octopus which is engulfing and overwhelm­ing us. Eight hours a day and triple time for overtime is death and starvation to oar families. Hash for breakfast, rot­ten smelling fish, and QRM. We will have naught of it! Down with the fellow with the scratchy spark coil, down with the fellow who calls three times three, down with the fellow who calls everybody he hears and down down down with that unspeakable skunk who calls somebody and sends a long relay message repeating each word three times when the station to which he is sending is sending something himself.

There, by heck, I have that off my chest-Now you over there in Illinois, get this call. Let everybody else stand back from now on. I'm tired and sleepy and cross, and I don't care who I QRM until I get that pin cleared off.




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