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Crosley, W8XO, and WLW

A Whole Lotta’ Watts it is! The story is about the early history of AM radio and one of the biggest clear channel stations.

W8XO really was an experiment, and not a cheap one. Half a megawatt, three-quarters fully modulated, millions of peak-envelope watts, on 700 kHz, with existing tube electronics, had never been tried. Building the beast required the combined engineering talents of RCA, General Electric, and Westinghouse. The investment, changed into today’s dollars and at today’s engineering prices, might not have been much less than a space mission, which in a way it was.

1934 was a no limits era when over modulation was not studiously avoided. It was an exciting time.

Transmitter logs were pretty exciting reading, telling of antenna-house fires, hurried repairs on still-dangerous circuits, and rushed replacement of various melted or exploded parts.

Can you imagine getting a fax via AM radio?

This system scanned printing AND photographs on strips of paper just under 5 inches wide. It used a photocell on a rapidly oscillating arm, deriving sync from the AC current. A synchronized arm, again using the AC, recreated the pictures on rolls of treated paper in the receiver.

The experiment part of WLW, W8XO was an important testbed for the development of high power transmitting equipment and was considered an important part of the nation’s defense during WW II.

The website with this story, Ominous Valve thinks real equipment glows in the dark. Some of the other ‘bedtime stories’ include ones about Marconi and Farnsworth and early computers. The section on Tube Ham Radio is subtitled “boat anchors forever” and is about restoring old radio gear.

Looks like some fun stuff with no apologies for technology.

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