TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Communications History

Communications History

Charles G Gray (
Mon, 12 Dec 2005 13:48:28 -0600

In 1959 I was assigned to the US Army Signal Depot in Okinawa. I got
my uniform all spruced up and answered all of the questions from the
examining board correctly and won "soldier of the month". There were
three awards. One was a new Army Green uniform, which would have cost
me about half a month's pay out of my pocket. When I joined the Army
in 1957 they issued us one OD uniform and one green one. We were
supposed to buy the second green one ourselves. We got black shoes,
but we had to dye the brown boots black ourselves.

Another piece of the award was a three-minute phone call to the United
States -- which at the time would cost about US$36.00 (over a third of
a month's pay). As I recall it was handled by RCA Globecom from a
phone booth in Sukiran to Tulsa, OK. It was full duplex, so we didn't
have to do the "over" thing. I called my wife, who had just borne our
first son. I learned that he had been born via a Red Cross "health
and welfare" telegram, since my wife couldn't afford to call me. I'm
glad that the troops today have multiple methods of communicating, but
in 1958-59 I was severely restricted. My wife wrote every day, but we
only had that one single phone conversation in my 15 months overseas.
At $12 a minute, we could buy a lot of stamps.

The final part of the award was a trip to the northern part of Okinawa
(on the general's helicopter) to have a look at the tropospheric
scatter radio site that was being installed. My memory is clouded by
the fog of time, but I think it was Philco doing the installation.
Since I was a radio repairman I got the "grand tour" of the whole
site. The helicopter ride was something special as well, since they
were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today.

Moving along, when I went to school with AT&T in New Jersey in 1970 we
visited their HF radio site near Princeton, NJ. There were huge AM
transmitters, and equally huge multi-panel rhombic antennas. At that
time they were used only for contingency call routing to countries
like Switzerland, who being landlocked, always had a fear of one or
more of their neighbors interfering with their cable connections.
Each transmitter had the name of the country it was prepared to serve.
Of course, the advent of satellites put an end to the overseas HF


Charles G. Gray
Senior Lecturer, Telecommunications
Oklahoma State University - Tulsa

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