A Phone of Our Own

Chapter One continued...
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Weitbrecht's experience with his radioteletype station, one of the first on the air since amateur radio began, taught him the value of challenging government communications regulations. In January of 1951, he petitioned the FCC to permit radioteletype operation on a broader range of frequencies. After serious consideration, the FCC granted his request. The successful challenge opened more opportunities for RTTY communication among his amateur radio friends.

Weitbrecht left California in 1951 and moved to Yerkes Observatory at Williams Bay, Wisconsin, where he became known to other hams as "The Wisconsin Wizard." At Yerkes he designed electronic instrumentation for use in astronomical research, earned a master's degree in astronomy from the University of Chicago, and aided in the development of the worldwide WWV-WWVH Radio Time Signal adopted by the National Bureau of Standards. He took many trips with radio users, lugging around huge pieces of equipment. During one trip in 1957 with his friend, Bruce Rowland, Weitbrecht drove 600 miles with a Model 15 TTY in his station wagon. Early one morning, he woke Bruce up to catch "Sputnik" speeding across the sky.

The Need for Portability

Weitbrecht's travel with bulky radio equipment and heavy teletypewriters in the 1950s probably shaped his later belief that equipment portability was essential for deaf access to telephony. Since he could not hear on the telephone, he took along his radioteletype gear to communicate with his friends. The teletypewriter, with messages transmitted via radio waves, replaced the voice telephone for his long-distance contacts. Articles in RTTY from this period include reminiscences of a 4500-mile trip he took through a dozen states to visit fellow hams, as well as technical reports on his experiments with electronic transmitting distributors, bandpass filters, and transistor designs. Weitbrecht became such an ardent experimenter with various teletypewriters that he soon earned a new nickname from his friends, "Mr. Terminal Unit." The 1954 issue of RTTY included a photograph of Weitbrecht with a Model 26 TTY and his dog Blackie.

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