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Central Electronics: Time Capsule Recordings

Wes Schum officially started Central Electronics in 1950. As a young man of thirty, with huge ambition and a thirst for adventure, he saw single-sideband as a major technological shift for amateur and commercial radio interests. Actually a small group of single-sideband experimenters were scattered about America and, through their homebrewed efforts, became fast friends even while at times being commercial competitors.

In 1954, Wes formally met Joe Batchelor at an Illinois-area hamfest. Joe had brought his new homebrew mobile SSB rig and remotely tunable antenna for Wes to check out and from that hamfest sprung a business relationship that lasted for eight years. Yet, Wes lived in Chicago and Joe was in Walnut Grove, Georgia. How best to communicate innovative ideas other than eat the high costs of long distance calls (or as Joe called it, Ol’Man Bell)?

Fortunately, another company in Chicago was making a device called Soundscriber. This machine allowed one to home-record conversations on small, flexible vinyl discs. These were sized to fit special mailer envelopes so the spoken word for up to 30 minutes at a time could be exchanged between distant parties. This was the solution Wes and Joe used to formulate product plans and ideas…at least until Joe relocated to Chicago in 1957.

I have uncovered a number of these discs from Wes Schum’s files. Of course, since they originated from Joe, the conversation is one-way, from Joe as the originator. Sadly, I was unable to find any like recordings originated from Wes in Joe’s files. But, what an exciting and interesting position to have … essentially a fly-on-the-wall hearing the ideas these two creative powerhouses behind Central Electronics were conjuring up in between Fall of 1955 and Spring of 1957.

The first thing to notice is how clear and distinct the audio quality was of these little Soundscriber discs. Consider also, these were sent over a considerably long distance by US Mail, were played multiple times and then stored and all but forgotten for fifty years. Others things to ponder…in October 1955 Joe and Wes were planning a “super duper” receiver that had very high dynamic range, would be designed for single sideband, used bandpass no-tune frontend filters and mixers having very high linearity. Remember, this isn’t 1970…it was 1955!

Also, the original 100R receiver design effort was in parallel with the product we all know and appreciate: the 100V transmitter! And, Wes’ original idea for the 100V … using Joe’s broadband coupler design … was for a 2-30MHz continuous coverage job having eleven one-octave bandpass couplers. The actual production 100V had couplers designed for only the five popular ham bands and one for use on a 1MHz band segment of the owner’s choice. Clearly, this illustrated a decision made to cut production costs and complexity.

There are many more nuggets of information contained here, but I will leave those to your skills and imagination to enjoy. So, step back into the Fall of 1955 and listen to some of the creative thoughts of two young men who helped changed the nature of HF radio communications. (All recordings below are in mp3 format)

Recording 1 - Recording 2 - Recording 3 - Recording 4 - Recording 5 - Recording 6 - Recording 7 - Recording 8 - Recording 9
Recording 10 - Recording 11 - Recording 12 - Recording 13 - Recording 14 - Recording 15 - Recording 16

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