Static Pops and Propagation Plops

    Static Pops and Propagation Plops
by Duane Fischer, W8DBF
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Static Pops And Propagation Plops

Editor, Duane B. Fischer, W8DBF

Fritz Franke Speech In Dayton, Ohio 1983

Dayton Hamvention 1983 April 30, 1983 Dayton, Ohio, USA

** Introduction by John Nagle ** "Fritz Franke graduated from Northwestern University in 1930 with a degree in engineering. He began working for Hallicrafters in December 1940. As chief of their systems engineering department. He was responsible for the development of the SCR-299, 399 mobile communications system of which over 18,000 were built. He stayed with Hallicrafters until 1963 when Northtrop disposed of Hallicrafters or at least disposed of his engineering group. (Hallicrafters was not sold to Northrup until 1967. At the request of Northrup, Bill Halligan, Sr. remained at the helm for the next year during the corporate transition. DBF) Since then he has retired but in his retirement has gone back to work again and is still in electronics. Fritz, we are happy to have you. He was Bill Halligan's right hand man and knew what was happening in those days."

***** ** FRITZ FRANKE's Presentation **

Thank you very much. The interesting thing is that 50 years and 5 Months ago last night, which was New Years eve in 1933, Bill Halligan announced that he was starting a Radio Company. LARRY CHAMBERS and BURTON BROWN were present in Halligan's small apartment on Chicago's North Side that New Year's eve.

BURTON BROWN was the person that later founded the Playboy Club.

Now some of you Hallicrafter antique enthusiasts may remember that LLOYD BACK was an advertising man, and he was the one that suggested to Bill Halligan to create the name Hallicrafters.

Bill had $800 in 1933, which in those days was quite a large fortune, but not enough to really start a manufacturing company by any means. Silver Marshall built most of The early Hallicrafter receivers until about 1935, when Halligan tied up with a company in Indianapolis that was in financial trouble.

The actual S-1 and S-2s were never named S-1s and S-2s. Bill doesn't recall when he really started to use "S" for a receiver designation. We've gone through that. And my records show that the first S number that was a true S number marked on the receivers was really the S-3. (The name of Silver Marshall does not appear on the S-3!)

Now the first turning point in Bill's career was when he and a very fine gentleman by the name of RAY DURST took over the Echophone corporation at 26th and Indiana Avenue in Chicago in 1937. Echophone was on the verge of bankruptcy. They owed RCA $42,000 on license fees. They also owed OHMITE, which was a privately owned resistor company in Chicago, quite a few thousand dollars as well as owing STANDARD TRANSFORMER quite a few thousand dollars too. Now to make the deal with Echophone good and sensible, Bill got on a railroad train and went down to New York City and saw his old friend DAVID SARNOFF at RCA.

He convinced Sarnoff, that if Sarnoff would agree to wait for his $42,000 in licensing fees due him from the bankrupt Indiana company that Halligan had acquired, until Bill started selling his new receiver, that Bill would pay that debt in full. Sarnoff was also to receive royalties As soon as Bill started to ship Hallicrafters equipment out of Echophone. David Sarnoff liked Bill, trusted him and agreed.

Halligan also convinced Standard Transformer, Ohmite and General Transformer to do the same thing as Sarnoff had agreed to do. And that's how they started out with Echophone. They paid their royalties and they paid their past bills. It took them about 2 and a half or 3 years before they cleaned up all the back money that they owed. Bill made his promises good and cemented together lifelong business friends.

One result was that Hallicrafters had a very very good relationship with RCA.

Hallicrafters built some of the first high frequency receivers using acorn tubes. Where all these special acorn tubes were delivered to Hallicrafters by RCA. And RCA was there working with Bert Shure, who I'll mention later, and to be sure that the tubes were good to be used at high frequency. It went that way for many many years - our relationship with RCA, with General Transformer, Ohmite and so forth.

Now in the Chicago area, any transformer company knew they didn't have a chance at Hallicrafters because we used nothing but Stancor - that is Standard Transformer and General Transformer. And Ohmite resistors, because of the relationships formed years ago when they helped Bill start Hallicrafters.

Now the Year 1936 was really the turnaround point for the radio industry. Short-wave was booming, money was coming back in after the depression. Echophone really began to sell once Hallicrafters bought it and for a year or so Bill did not change the name. - Now when I say Echophone, it's really Hallicrafters-Echophone. - As sales grew the name Echophone was supressed and Hallicrafters was kept at the top of the pile.

Now in 1937 - 1938 the marine radio field was beginning to boom. Western Electric was the only manufacturer of marine radio telephones when Hallicrafters entered that field. And by the time 1940 rolled around, Hallicrafters was producing more marine radio telephones than Western Electric was!

The DD-1, which you have all heard about, was the worlds first production of dual diversity receivers. About the same time the five and ten meter High Frequency bands came outThe so did the DD1's. There were only 500 built. - I'll stop now and then to tell some little side stories.

And Joe I don't want you to reproduce too many of these things! - I see you taking notes back there! - Particularly about some of these little side issues of what happened at Hallicrafters.

Somebody, and I forgot the name of the company, came out with a push button band switch and Halligan was fascinated by it. MCLAUGHLIN and CARL MILES did everything except stand on their heads to convince Bill not to have push buttons put in the DD-1, because they weren't good, and they wouldn't last. This was for a military contract! Bill wouldn't listen. They put push buttons in it and every darn DD-1 that was shipped out had problems and that was part of the reason that only 500 DD-1s were built. Bill's fascination with those push buttons caused the receiver to be unreliable and the military cancelled their contract.

According to my records, the SX-23 was the first receiver, put into production that had an Automatic Noise Limiting system. Now Halligan was very excited about that Automatic Noise Limiter because he thought maybe Hallicrafters could get a patent on it. But they found out that RCA had gotten a patent on a similar circuit 3 months before.

1939 - First wide coverage VHF receiver, the S-27 that covered from 25 to 143 Mhz.

I started with Hallicrafters in December 1940. If you look back, that's a long time ago.

The EC-1 was seldom advertised in ham magazines because we were going after the Short Wave listener market. The Echophone address was around the corner on 26th street. It was the address of a barber shop down at the bottom of the building on the first floor. We used the Echophone line for taking the things we developed at Hallicrafters, and then economizing, stripping them down and so forth, to get a low cost receiver. One that we could sell through Wards, Sears, Lord knows where, independent marketing organizations etc. A

A lot of people couldn't understand this other company, when they'd come and look for an Echophone at the address and see a barber shop! But the barber took all the mail in and then we went downstairs, got it and took it upstairs. That was one of the stunts we used that created the low price end of the deal.

Now in 1940, (sic) I think it was the Spring of the year, FRED STERLING, who at that time was the Chief Engineer of the FCC, called his old friend Bill Halligan and said "I want to borrow two SX-28 receivers with minor modifications made to them." I made the minor modifications. We got the receivers tuned very quickly and he borrowed them.

We found out later, that the FCC had had complaints about interference from a powerful short wave station in Washington DC. The FCC investigated it and on one frequency they found dots and on another frequency they discovered dashes! By using the two SX-28s and the audio system that we fixed up in them, they could hear the dot dashes coming out on two different frequencies. The commission sat down and copied it.

It was a breakdown of the entire Japanese naval code and instructions that had been brought into our country by the Japanese embassy and then delivered to the German embassy in Washington DC.

This is one of the stories that has puzzled many many people. That with the entire breakdown of the Japanese code, how was it that when Pearl Harbor happened, that we did not know the things that were going to really occur? Because the FCC had copied all that information and turned it over to various other authorities to follow up on.

At the same time we had a call from a Colonel in the artillery division, a good friend of Bill Halligan's from his two years at West Point, for a special transmitter-receiver combination.

We were already manufacturing a line of marine two-way radio units. I took a HT-14 marine transmitter, that had a 6 channel crystal control transmitter in it, as I recall, and a receiver with a crystal control unit. I changed some coils to meet the military requirement on the prototype - which was given to me over the telephone - We went to another company that was manufacturing our cabinets and had a special cabinet built. We put it all together and painted it olive drab. We loaded one in the car and I drove down to Old Point Comfort, Virginia and turned it over to the Colonel.

It was very much of a rush problem. That became the SCR-543 - Signal Corps number -and there were some 25,000 of those built.

We couldn't manufacture the rising quanity of all of the other units that we had under contract. After Pearl Harbor, the Signal Corps said "Well, get rid of the production on that because you've got this and one company in the North end of Chicago that's out of business was building them." The demand kept increasing and production times got shorter. we nearly went crazy all through the war building the SCR-543.

Now at this same time another interesting thing happened - and Joe this you can disclose!

Three of us were called in to Bill Halligan's office and sitting there were some men from the University of Chicago. They showed us a little box and gave us a circuit diagram to study. They showed us a second piece of the unit and then gave us a circuit diagram on that. They didn't say what it was, but we immediately saw it was a Geiger counter. We said "Yes we could certainly put that into production for you, no trouble at all." We said we could put it into production very quick and keep it very quiet! "How did you guys know what Geiger counters were?" (At this time the Geiger Counter project at the University of Chicago was classified and considered as top secret! DBF) We knew a lot of things that a lot of people didn't know we knew!

Anyway we built the basic unit at Hallicrafters with no name on it, no identification numbers on it or anything else. The portable unit was built at a business of mine that I was trying to sell. That was where my guys put the tube in and the three wires on the assembly. When I left Hallicrafters, in the afternoon I'd pick up 15 or 20 units and take them up to Shubert Ave in Chicago. Then pick up more tubes and assemblies, take them to my apartment and put them together. The University of Chicago would pick them up the following morning.

Now about 2 years ago, a former fellow employee of mine, told me about something he had kept a secret for over forty years. - He was involved in something that I'll explain a little bit later and you'll see the story. - The Russians asked him how did Hallicrafters, or why did Hallicrafters, build 150 Geiger counters for the University of Chicago? Now just how did the Russians find out that we had built those Geiger counters? And they were our friends and allies?

Now another side thing about Pearl Harbor.

Well, as you all probably know by now, in the Summer of 1941 the Signal Corp tested different companies transmitters for military use. Which included the HT-4, Hallicrafters powerhouse AM transmitter, along with a Collins, a RCA unit and a fourth transmitter. This was done down at Fort Monmouth. Only the HT-4 stood the shaking and all the rest of the stuff and they said "We want you to build this assembly." So Bill and Hallicrafters had their foot solidly in the doorway for getting military contracts.

Then they drove an ambulance, a 4 wheel drive Chevrolet, in for us to see. They had installed the HT-4 transmitter and two military receivers and a crazy antenna tuner in the ambulance! They said they wanted 50 of these things built. This was about October.

First of all, the transmitter was so set up that you flipped 3 switches instead of push buttons for voice operation. The antenna tuner needed a whole lot of redesign work. And so forth. And of course we said yes!

Strangely enough, the delivery date of the first prototype vehicle was set for December 15th. I'd always like to set my targets with a safety cushion. If the 15th was the time we were going to have something done, I would like to get it finished about 7 days beforehand and have a little leeway. Just in case we needed time for the unexpected things that seem to happen whenever a deadline is involved!

I was in charge of this program and my guys complained loud and long on Saturday because I expected them to put in a full day of work. 'till 5 o'clock instead of the usual quitting at noon on Saturday. As well as coming in on Sunday to get the damn thing done that we had to get done so we could put the whole final garbage together in the unit on Monday! Well they were complaining all of the time. All of a sudden we heard about "Pearl Harbor" on the radio. We finished the job!

Over 18,000 of these mobile radio stations were built by Hallicrafters. They went all over the world. Later when I started to travel around the world, no matter where I went, people knew the name of Hallicrafters!

I was a guest of the Shah of Iran, and a General in charge of all the Iranian communications equipment, in 1967. The first thing he wanted to know was where could he get spare parts for 10 HT-4 transmitters? They were still using them and I was able to get them very quick and very fast. - Which is another tale! - We became very close buddies.

The SX-28's, about 25,000 were built. The S-29 was another receiver that was built for the Army, that was somewhere in excess of 18,000 units. The EC-l was also built for the military, those were entertainment receivers. They had short waves bands on it so that various military posts could listen to American short wave broadcasting.

Now I am going to tell you another little story that has never been published. I have told it to a few people and I'm hoping, Joe, you won't write this one up because I still insist I'm going to sit down and write it for Readers Digest because now is the time to come out with it. But I'll tell you ladies and gentlemen the story.

In the Spring and Summer of 1942, the US Government gave 50 SCR-299s to the Russian Government. They were our friends and allies. One morning I got a telephone call from the Signal Corps. "two Russian civilians are going to come to Chicago in 3 days. We want you to show them the engineering department and production department. Sit down and work with them translating the instruction manuals and all the technical information. Answer all their questions that they ask as they translate it into Russion. They're civilians."

Certainly we agreed. It was an order from the Signal Corps.

About an hour or two later I got a telephone call from Bill Halligan, Senior to come down to his office immediately. I walked in and there was a Navy captain, Naval security, three FBI men! They said "Under no circumstances are you to allow the Russians in the plant. They can't put a foot in the front door! We have reserved a hotel room for you at the Palmer House and this 3rd FBI man Mr. so-and-so speaks, reads and writes Russian fluently. He, Mr. Franke, is going to be your assistant. However he knows very little about radio."

I said to the FBI, Gentlemen, I don't need a Russian translator, because I have an assistant engineer working for me by the name of BILL BUENOFF and he reads, writes and speaks Russian. We brought Bill BUENOFF in and Bill was floored when the FBI guy rattled off some Russian to him but BUENOFF came right back. So that was it. BUENOFF and I were going to handle the situation.

We met the Russians at the Palmer House and we sat in our reserved room and explained only what they needed to know. We stayed right to the point, only the manual. We didn't say anything else - only what the manual said - and then every night we were debriefed by the FBI. We got madder and madder and the FBI said "Your turn is coming." About two days later it was over with. "They night before, they said now it is your turn. This afternoon when you finish, you will see this gentleman at the far end on the west side of the bar in the Palmer house on Wabash Avenue. When you get there, Mr. Franke , ask him for ice-cold Vodka. He will have bottles there".

I knew the name "vodka", but I had never tasted it. And Buenoff since you talk in Russian...

The older man was a Colonel in the Russian Army. The second man was a Captain in the KGB we call it now. Well if you ever saw two fellows ready to collapse, when I came to the bar and said ice-cold Vodka, 4 glasses please, picked up a bottle, filled it half full and said "Na zda-rA3-vye Colonel!" in Russian.

Buenoff, Joe (Nagle?) knows him, Buenoff started to talk Russian - those Russians, our friends and allies, worked on Bill Buenoff for about 6 months trying to find out more information! They kept trying to convince him to come over on their side. They wanted him to provide them with classified details from Hallicrafters. And Bill Buenoff kept it a secret from me that the second part of the Russians group had been after the Geiger counters, after their encounter with the first Russians that I told you about earlier.

Lets get back to The Battle of Britain.

The S-36 and the S-37 were used for listening to German information.

Now one thing more that happened in the early part of 1942. Was the Navy came to us and wanted us to convert an SX-28, to use panadaptors. So we had to make minor changes to the SX-27 to use the panadaptors and do it immediately!

We put four units together in a crash program for the Navy. Six months later we found out that these units with the panadaptors were used in special Navy cruisers that went on a high speed listening cruise near the coast of Japan. They were trying to detect any Japanese radar equipment. (Unlike the Germans, the Japanese pretty much ignored Radar! Unfortunate for them, but most fortunate for the rest of us! DBF) The answer was, there wasn't any of them in use.

The war is over.

Toward the end of the war I injured my back and had to take time off for spinal surgery. When I came back to Hallicrafters, Bill Halligan and Ray Durst had decided that the war was practically over and that we had better start to think about what's going to come next. So I was set up to head up a secret research and development group.

I picked up some engineers from the plant, we shared our thoughts about the future of radio after the war and what Americans would want to buy.

I had also previously recommended that we go to some professional industrial designers to give our products a more professional look. Working great was important, but Hallicrafters had to get the proper look on the equipment, shape, colors and all of those things to really get good design quality and the attention of those who took bids on military gear. Raymond Loewe was finally selected to be the industrial designers. They came up with the SX-42. Raymond Loewe did the outside design of the unit, the green colors on the dials, the shapes, the curved cabinets and all the rest of the details. The SX-42 was the first electronic device to ever win an international design award at the New York Museum of Art.

The S-38 also won a design award. (This would have been 1946 as that is the year that the S-38 was first marketed. DBF)

Business boomed! Short wave listening was going on more and more. In 1947, I think you'll all remember Attilo Gatti, and the Halligan sponsered Mount Kilimanjaro expedition to the Mountains of the Moon. The first time a DXpedition had been financially sponsored by a major company. It got a lot of media attention, there was even a book published about it.

More and more as our business was booming we had more and more money to spend on various promotional things. We helped QST and so forth.

Danny Weil 1952. About 1951 Danny Weil came down from England in a sailboat and got lost at sea! So he started out again with another one -finally got to the United States. But I think the best one of all was that one at Clipperton Island with Bob Denniston (W0DX, 1954).

Bob called up and he talked to me. He wanted to go to Clipperton Island, he told us all about it and I said "alright, come on in. Here's what we'll do. We'll loan you some equipment and if you work 2500 stations, we'll give you the equipment to keep. But we'll send out the QSL cards for you."

The four Iowa farm boys put up all the money to go down there and rent their boat. They got down to Acapulco, Mexico, rented the boat, get on the boat and they get half way out in the Atlantic, and the navigator drops his sextant overboard! They can't find the island so they turn around - the captain says "to hell with you, I'm not going to take you to Clipperton Island."

It was a Saturday morning. I got a phone patch from Bob Denniston and he says "Fritz, we're stuck, we can't get to Clipperton Island. We don't have any more money and the only boat we can find is going to cost us - say it was $1800 - to charter". I said "sit tight and I'll get hold of Halligan.

I got hold of Bill Halligan, and he said "call JOE FRINERHEISEN, the treasurer of the company. He'll talk to somebody at the First National Bank in Chicago and they've got a code they'll send out by telegraph down to the bank at Clipperton Island."

This is about an hour later. It is all set up. I called Bob and his Iowa boys crew, to give them the word. - "use this code number" to get the money that Halligan had sent. About 2 hours later I got another phone patch -"we got the money, we're on the way to Clipperton Island."

They started to sail out to Clipperton Island and got about one hundred miles from Clipperton Island. Suddenly there is no wind and the diesel engine on the cruiser blows up! Then the telephone calls really started.

The telephone rang almost constantly - phone patches kept coming in -"What are we going to do?"

Now I was listening on the short-wave bands and heard that some pilot on the west coast had found the part for the diesel engine up in Seattle. Another pilot was going to pick it up and deliver it, but I got an offer from A General in the Air Force in San Diego. He said "get the damn thing down here and I'll fly it by my men and drop it to them so they can get the boys to Clipperton Island."

Everything is all set. I'm relaxing. 7:30 or 8:00 o'clock that night I got a telephone call from the Captain, the Naval Attache in the American Embassy in Mexico City. He says "if you don't believe me, just simply call the Embassy number down here and you will find that what I'm telling you is perfectly correct". He said, "stop that damn airdrop out there! The Mexican government is wild. They've heard about it AND they're going to send their own Mexican naval vessels out to tow that boat to Clipperton Island".

He said "I can't call the General in the Air Force and tell him because I have to go through Washington. You call him and tell him". So I called the General out there and he said "Well if they don't get the hell out there damn quick, I'm going to drop it anyway".

Now, George Schrader was with the Chicago Tribune. He was a ham in the Chicago area, and I got the bright idea about 10:00 o'clock that night to tell him about this story. What happened?

It hit the Chicago Tribune, it hit all of the international news services including Reuters. I didn't get any sleep Sunday night, but I did get telephone calls from all over the United States on the story of the four Iowa farm boys lost in the Pacific. But now going to the island. Never in the world up until that time did ham radio get as much international coverage when something happened as those four Iowa farm boys.

Back in 1952, Hallicrafters became deeply involved in electronic counter-measures for the Air Force and other agencies. It was very top secret - we kept it quiet. But you will now find that every B-52 aircraft that's ever flown has had Hallicrafters counter-measures equipment. And of course that has been changed now. Otherwise I might spend some of my retirement time making license plates because I discussed classified material with you guys!

When the FPM-200 solid state came out. BUD DROBISH, W9QVA, went around the world by air using one. Hallicrafters products were then being sold in 189 foreign countries.

The reason why Hallicrafters was bought by Northtrop was our many military contracts. Such as our advanced counter- measures techniques we started in '52. I am not going to go into it, but we were the first people that came out with a simple T-NOTCH filter. We were also the first people that used RIT - Receiver Incremental Tuning control. Another thing that is overlooked a great deal is that we were the first people that put High Frequency quartz filters into production for receivers. As well as Broad Band RF filters for receivers and transmitters.

Another thing that we talked about at supper last night was a Hallicrafter frequency synthesizer. We took over a company called MANSON in Connecticut. They were in financial troubles and they had some engineering problems. It looked like a good business deal. With some of our engineering thoughts and things we got the first Frequency Synthesizer that met Naval standards into production and accepted by the United States Navy.

There is also another long side story I told these guys last night at supper about the very stable quartz crystal filters, but now that we're running out of time I will skip that.

Now some of the names of people that played a great deal of influence on the success at Hallicrafters: First of all there is RAY DURST- Bill's partner. Ray was a very, very fine gentleman in every possible way and unfortunately he had a major heart attack when he found out about . . . Oh lets skip it.

JOE FRINERHEISEN??? our financial manager. One year after the war was over we had a beautiful financial report of all the money and all the things that Hallicrafters accounted for, but there was only $13.50 cash in the bank! I think our gross sales that year were over 6 million dollars!

BERT SHURE ? was not a ham. Bert Shure was one of the outstanding, and still is, one of the outstanding receiver engineers, particularly with Very Very High frequency tunable receivers. The S-27 and all the high frequency receivers were Bert's responsibility. He cleaned up the SX-28 also.

Bob SAMUELSON, left Hallicrafters shortly after the war ended and , went to Motorola. He was the transmitter designer , that designed most of the transmitters up to the HT-4.

LOREN TOOGOOD was another engineer that started building Short-Wave receivers down in Southern Illinois, and he couldn't sell them because RCA got after him on patent rights, and started to work for Bill.

CARL MYLES and JIM MCLAUGHLIN were DD-1 people - both worked for Bill. There were hundreds of other names of people -

Now these are not on my notes, but I had worked for Bendix Radio prior to Hallicrafters.

The production department at Hallicrafters was really run by the women. They were the producers in the company. When the war years came it was absolutely unbelievable what these girls could turn out and the way they wanted to build quality. They did not know what a resistor was or y it went there. We had good quality control - the right resistor always got in the right spot. The resistors lasted if we had good quality control. The girls did the work.

During the war years we won so many awards for production excellence, it was just unbelievable. I've got literally hundreds of pictures at home that were taken of them.

Now after the war we moved out to a larger plant. I remember this instance very well. We had a sort of a critical situation in getting some products produced in quanity. I don't remember what the products were, - We had to meet production to make money. Under the Illinois law, I don't know if its changed or not, but girls couldn't work more than 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. They couldn't work Saturday, they couldn't work overtime. So we asked our girls if they could find some 50 or 60 extra women to bring into the plant for 6 weeks, or whatever it was, to get this job done. They said well, we'll think - Then they came back and said look here's the way to do it. We know the job, so we don't have to teach them, we are going to punch out at 4 o'clock every night and then we'll go back to the line and we'll work til 6:00 PM. Now we won't punch in on Saturday morning but you keep a record of it. In that way we got the extra time, and they didn't work til 6 they worked til 7.

When Bill came out one time he saw these girls working like hell out there and they hadn't had anything to eat. We began to bring in food to feed the girls and they were working until 9 o'clock. Anything to get the job done. And they did it!

The same thing, when the HT-36 was on the production line at 26th and Indiana Ave. We had 2 men testing the HT-32 at the end of the line and we had nine girls on that line. The percentage of mistakes were so few it was unbelievable and the rate that they produced HT-32s was fantastic.

(end of tape)

This page last updated 29 Jan 2010