First Solid-State Transmitter to Span the Atlantic Now Part of ARRL Historical Collection


A flea-powered transistorized ham transmitter built in the 1950s and used to make a transatlantic contact has become part of the ARRL Historical Collection. The noteworthy historical artifact was donated by Andy Stewart, KB1OIQ, on behalf of the estate of Gus Fallgren, W1OG (SK), the ham at the key for the momentous event. Fallgren — then W1OGU — and two other Raytheon Engineers, Al “Hank” Hankinson, W1OSF, and Dick Wright, W1UBC, built the little transmitter in the summer of 1956 on a lark, to see if they could achieve Work All Continents (WAC) with it. The 20 meter, 78 mW transmitter was designed around a pair of Raytheon 2N113 transistors — one as a 7 MHz oscillator, the other as a frequency-doubling power amplifier. On September 18, 1956, Fallgren, in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, running the transistor transmitter into a 3 element wide-spaced Yagi, worked OZ7BO in Copenhagen, Denmark. His signal report was 339.

The transmitter was the first to run Raytheon transistors on 20 meters. Hams had previously constructed low-power, solid-state transmitters for 40 meters and made contacts spanning up to 800 miles. Fallgren’s 3800-mile contact worked out to approximately 47,500 miles per watt. Raytheon documented the historic contact in the February 1957 edition of Radio and Television News — with a feature banner and cover photo of W1OGU in his shack with the battery-powered transistor transmitter — and it was reported in other publications as well, including Raytheon’s own publication and the Boston Globe. A November 1956 QST “Stray” reported that Fallgren had “worked KP4, TI2, OZ7, and G3, and has reportedly been heard in VK” with the little rig and included a photo.

Assistant ARRL Laboratory Manager, Bob Allison, WB1GCM, staff liaison to the ARRL Historical Committee, accepted the donation.

“We are all delighted that this well-documented transmitter was donated to the ARRL Historical Collection,” Allison said. “It tells the story of its important role in the development of Amateur Radio technology. The ARRL wishes to thank Andy Stewart, KB1OIQ, for arranging this donation.”

The donation to the ARRL’s collection of Amateur Radio historical artifacts consists of the original transmitter and a 7.013.4 kc crystal, the Vibroplex bug used for the contact, W1OGU’s station log documenting the contact, newspaper clippings reporting the event, and other ephemera associated with the DX feat.

The transmitter will be placed on display in the ARRL Laboratory, along with the bug, station log, and the issue of Radio and Television News with Gus Fallgren on the cover.