I just finished reading Clinton DeSoto’s 200 Meters & Down. This is a fabulous early history of amateur radio from its very earliest days to the mid-1930s.
What struck me most about the book was the number of times amateur radio was saved from being elbowed off the bands often through the considerable efforts of the ARRL and its precursors. In some ways, the title says it all. By “limiting” operations of early amateur radio enthusiasts to 200 meters and down the US government hoped to so discourage them that they would simply give up and go away. At the time it was believed radio propagation in the range of 200 meters and down was about non-existent, so enamored was everyone of the much longer wavelengths. In the end, hams proved everyone wrong (of course).
Even so, amateurs rights to operate were and continue to be under siege. In the 1920s and 30s non-US governments feared the freedom amateur radio operators had to communicate at will worldwide. They sought to all but box radio amateurs out of the radio spectrum. We’re not talking about communist regimes here. The governments of Great Britain, France and other european nations were the main instigators! Fortunately for amateur radio, influences from the US carried the day.
Wondering what all the fuss is about regarding spectrum defense? This book makes it clear that almost from day one, amateur radio has had to continually contend with both domestic and overseas governments to maintain access to the airwaves, despite the positive impact amateur radio operators have had since the earliest days whether in the military, emergencies, education or advancing the art and craft of radio.
If you really want to understand the early evolution of amateur radio, read 200 Meters & Down. It’s a great read, full of fascinating insights and surprising stories.