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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, August 30, 2009

Early Wireless Stations in the Philippines

The Philippine Islands are made up of more than 7,000 tropical islands, most of which are inhabited and they form a nation that is more than 1,000 miles long. The total population is somewhere around 70 million, and their capital city is Manila, on the largest island, Luzon.

The earliest settlers in the Philippines were the Negritos who arrived via South East Asia, way back more than 5,000 years ago. Their descendants still live in isolated areas throughout the Philippines to this day. Soon afterwards, groups of Malay peoples migrated into the Philippines, again via the islands of South East Asia, they now form the largest ethnic group in the country, and they speak the official Tagalog-Filipino language.

The Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to visit the Philippines and he sailed into Cebu Harbor in 1521. Give another 22 years, and another visitor from Spain, Admiral Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, named the islands, Las Felipinas, in honor of Prince Philip of Spain. The first permanent Spanish settlement was established on Cebu Island in 1565; and Manila, now the capital and largest city in their country, was founded six years later.

In 1898 after a few months of fighting, the Philippine Islands were ceded to the United States by action of the Treaty of Paris. On December 10, 1941, just three days after Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces landed on Luzon Island; and Manila was captured three weeks later, just after New Year's Day 1942. American forces began to return nearly three years later, and finally international peace returned to the Philippines.

In fulfillment of a presidential pledge made forty years earlier, the Philippines were granted full independence on July 4, 1946.

As just described, the political history of the Philippines goes back into the ages of antiquity. Likewise, the history of radio and wireless in the Philippines goes way back also, almost back to the beginnings of wireless history. You will remember that Marconi began his first outdoor wireless experiments in Italy in the year 1895, and soon afterwards, he began to establish wireless stations in different parts of the British Isles, and also on the North American continent.

The first experimental wireless stations in Asia were established in Japan by the Japanese navy at Tokyo and Yokohama in the year 1902; and just two years later the American navy began work at Cavite near Manila in the Philippines for the construction of a large permanent wireless station. This Philippine station paralleled the equally new navy wireless station also under construction near San Diego in California.

The Cavite wireless station was inaugurated soon after mid-year 1904, and initially it was on the air in Morse Code under the irregular callsign UT. However, at the International Wireless Convention in Berlin in 1906, callsigns were regularized internationally and the United States was allocated the initial letter "N" for all American navy wireless stations. Soon afterwards, the Cavite station UT was granted the now more familiar callsign NPO.

Additionally, soon after the inauguration of the American navy wireless station at Cavite, three more wireless stations were installed in the Philippines; station FS at Jolo, station FM at Zamboanga, and station UY at Cabra. Two of these stations were installed at American army bases; and in the year 1912, their callsigns were also regularized according to the internationally allocated sequence of letters. Thus station FS at Jolo was re-designated as WVS, and station FM at Zamboanga was re-designated as WVW.

The usage of wireless for local and international communication increased rapidly, and by the year 1913 more than a dozen Morse Code wireless stations were on the air in the Philippines, all owned and operated by the American navy and army. Navy stations were on the air under callsigns in the "NP" sequence, and army stations were on the air in the "WV" sequence.

As time went by, equipment at the electrical spark wireless stations in these communication stations in the Philippines was changed to electronic valve equipment, mostly in the first half of the 1920s. Likewise, during the 1920s and 1930s, navy station NPO Cavite was upgraded with the installation of additional electronic equipment.

During those eras, the huge naval communication station at Cavite in the Philippines was in use for official communication with the continental United States, as well as with navy shipping throughout the Pacific. Interestingly, at one stage and only for a brief period of time during the decisive events at the end of the year 1941, station NPO carried radio broadcast programming for the benefit of listeners in the Philippines. However, this station was largely destroyed in an air raid on December 8, 1941.

On another occasion, we plan to present the story of the earliest radio broadcasting stations in the Philippines, both mediumwave and shortwave.

World's Oldest QSL Cards-II

On this occasion here in Wavescan we turn back the pages of time again, and we catch another glimpse in the evolving story of information associated with early QSL cards. In this scenario, we track three inter-twining events, and they are:

1. Presidential decrees regarding amateur radio
2. An outline history of the amateur radio magazine QST
3. The involvement of amateur radio operator Don Hoffman

First up comes the list of presidential decrees regarding amateur radio. With the shadows of war hanging heavily over continental Europe, and the escalating involvement on the part of the United States, President Woodrow Wilson issued a decree on April 7, 1917 prohibiting all forms of amateur wireless and radio, both listening as well as transmitting. Thus all of the 6,000 licensed and all of the additional unlicensed operations were suddenly and dramatically silenced. This ban was in effect for a period of two years, and a large number of the amateur wireless operators signed up and entered into similar communication activities in the American armed forces.

Almost exactly two years later, after peace had been restored to so many of the war ravaged areas, President Wilson issued a second decree, this time permitting the usage of receiving equipment, though the usage of transmitting equipment was still prohibited. This decree was issued on April 15, 1919.

Some six months later again, President Wilson issued his third decree, on this occasion lifting the ban on transmitting; and once again amateur radio operators were permitted to go on the air and talk with each other. That decree was issued on October 1 in the same year, 1919.

Now, the story of the amateur radio magazine QST during this early era is equally interesting, and I might add, equally important. The first issue of this now historic monthly journal was for December in the year 1915. However, with the exigencies of the events over in Europe, and the impact of these things in the United States, the amateur radio magazine QST temporarily ceased publication less than two years after its original inauguration, and the last issue was published in September 1917.

When international peace returned somewhat tentatively to the world, QST magazine was again published, and the first new issue was for the month of May 1919, just one month after the presidential decree permitting again the usage of receivers. Thus this magazine was not in print for a period of about twenty one months.

Now for the involvement of amateur radio operator Don Hoffman. Back in the early 1910s he was granted an amateur wireless license with the callsign 8ADU. Shortly after QST magazine was launched at the end of the year 1915, Don Hoffman began drawing cartoons for publication. Then less than a year later, QST temporarily left publication.

However, during the time while QST was active, the first QSL cards, that is, Reception Report Cards, were introduced in the United States. It would appear that their usage must have been quite limited, due to the fact that very little mention is made about them in wireless publications of that era, no cards were copied into the magazines, and thus far no copies of these early cards have been found.

It should also be noted that amateur wireless transmissions at the time were made by spark wireless in Morse Code, and due to the fact that they were using long wavelengths in the lower frequency bands, and the power level was generally quite low, their signals did not travel very far.

The ban on wireless/radio listening was lifted under presidential decree in April 1919, and during the following month of May, QST resumed publication. Soon afterwards, Don Hoffman produced his own version of a Reception Report QSL Card, and then in the August issue of QST he recommended the wide usage of similar QSL cards. At the time, he was living in Akron, Ohio and he had been granted privileged usage on air under the callsign 8UX.

The text and design of the first Hoffman QSL card is reprinted in QST magazine for August 1919, on page 23. It is a very simple card, containing text only. The code letters "QSL" do not appear on the card, neither is it identified as a Reception Report Card.

The words that appear on this card are as follows:

Heard your station
Apparatus I use
Do you hear me?

As we are aware these days, the concept of a pre-printed QSL card caught on very quickly, and within a year or two their usage was very widespread, not only in the United States but also in Europe and elsewhere. In all of these things, Don Hoffman claimed to have originated the QSL "fad", as he called it, and he had this claim printed on his own QSL cards.

With all of the available evidence at hand, we would suggest that Don Hoffman was in reality responsible for re-introducing the QSL concept which had been in vogue for a limited time period three years earlier. Obviously the usage of QSL pre-printed cards three years earlier must have been quite limited, because no one ever challenged Don Hoffman in his subsequent claim that he was responsible for originating the QSL card. In fact, later writers in the United States, England, and continental Europe all accepted the fact that Don Hoffman had originated the concept of the QSL card, as he himself had claimed.

We are again grateful to the noted radio historian and writer, Jerome Berg in suburban Boston, for his cooperative research in the area of early QSL cards.

In our next edition of Wavescan we are planning to present another episode in the onward development of the now highly prized QSL card.