THE idea of a citizen of Portland, Maine, being able to send a message to a citizen in Portland, Oregon, by wireless, and without cost, is of course very wonderful and extremely attractive. Nothing like it has ever been possible before in the history of the world. The co-operation of a few unknown but nevertheless kindred spirits between Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon, by means of which the message is handed on, adds a touch to the whole scheme and makes it almost Utopian.
It is the history of human affairs however, that it is a far carry between a good idea and the practical working out of this idea. While it might be possible for the gentleman down in Maine to get a message through to his friend on the coast on some special occasion, yet it is quite a different matter for tne former to communicate with the latter at any time that the spirit moves. It is just here where a Relay League either meets its Waterloo or grows into a great National institution.
It has been said in this magazine, the only mouthpiece of the practical operating amateurs of the country, that after one year's experience, it is still impossible to get a message through without great delay. To overcome this, the leaders of the relay organization have, after studying the problem, recommended that each large city and town send out a QRU? at a given hour every evening, and thereby notify the rest of the country that they are on duty and ready to receive. This sounds like a good idea at first. It certainly will help the linking up of stations which would otherwise never get together, and it would also release a great many msgs. which might othervrise be held up. But, would it accomplish that important thing which experience has found so necessary? Would it "prove up" all stations and demonstrate which ones were always on the job and which ones were almost never on the job?
If a land telegraph company or a telephone company never ran any proof tests, to make sure that communication could be established, they would find when they wanted to get into communication, that there would be a hitch somewhere. Just so with a fire department. At twelve o'clock and at six o'clock, the bell rings every day in the week, just to determine if every fire station can be reached if necessary. Would not this plan be a good one to follow, in modified form, in a Radio Relay League? And would it not be a good thing to add to the QRU? practice?
Again, and before we lay down any detailed plan for running proof tests: — Must we not realize that from a practical standpoint, there are a great many amateurs who lack the nerve or whatever else it is, to break in and send out a general QRU?. There is something akin to standing up before the crowd and making a speech, in sending a general call. Some people would rather take a thrashing than touch their key for the purpose. They feel that they cannot send well enough, or that they will become rattled or that something will happen in the form of a come back, which will disclose the awful fact that they cannot receive well. These people never entirely get over this feeling and many of them have station equipment which in the hands of an operator with more nerve, could do wonders. For this reason, any plan which calls for initiative on the part of all stations in a voluntary organization such as the Relay League, is bound to be only partially effective.
The next question in undertaking to grasp the practical necessities, is that of regular trunk lines. In order to have system in either traffic in messages or traffic in transportation, it is necessary that there shall be established routes. If our friend in Portland, Maine wants to send a msg. to Portland, Oregon, it should be understood by everybody connected with the handling of this msg. Just how it was to be routed under ordinary circumstances, and just what alternative routes must be taken if the circumstances are extraordinary. Therefore, it becomes essential that the Relay League have at least a few regular established trunk lines. Certainly such would have to be the case if the Relay League were to be called upon by the Government for assistance, as has been suggested in these pages.
In laying out trunk lines, a reasonable point of view should be taken and no elaborate or unnecessary system be undertaken in the beginning. Only enough should be laid out to handle the regular test msgs. Later, as traffic grows, additional trunk lines, can be established. For the purposes of forming a nucleus, the following trunk lines have been worked out by the writer and they are respectfully recommended for adoption, it being understood that only enough cities are mentioned in each to indicate the general route.
If certain well equipped and regularly operated stations can be appointed along each of these trunk lines, it would be possible to establish regular test signalling and unquestionably materially assist in making long distance relaying possible. Moreover, it would serve as a very good basis for the re-appointment of Star Stationg for the next issue of the List of Stations book.
If it were possible to relay from point to point along these trunk lines, there would be a tractical traffic established to most of the principal points in the country. Msgs. could be routed via AF to go from Boston, to San Diego, or via ABF or via ABEF. These Msgs. would be limited strictly to each trunk line. If each trunk line were kept open by daily test, any combination of them is naturally also open.
Supposing, now, that districts were selected as the headquarters for each trunk line and each of these districts organized themselves to run a test msg. out and back every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, at 9:30 p. m. Central time, and reported by mail each test to headquarters at Hartford. The result would soon be that main headquarters would see just where the weak points in the links were and could take steps to reappoint stations. It would not be long before the better stations would automatically develop themselves on each line and the weak ones would be weeded out. And it is also a safe thing to predict that these better stations would become Star Stations and would quickly be those to receive Special Licenses.
To the writer, who has given this subject a great deal of thought and study, it seems that what should be done is for every amateur located along any of the above mentioned trunk lines to send in to main headquarters his name, address, and call letters. Main headquarters would then appoint district headquarters and turn over to each of these the stations on their lines. Each district headquarters could then begin the work of developing the best stations. The rest would follow naturally, and if there are enough amateur stations in the country to make relaying possible it would not be long before a practical Relay League would be established. Then we amateurs would have something of which we all could be justly proud.
(To be Continued.)