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Can You Find the 1 kW Transmitter in This Room?

You may be surprised

(click thumbnail)

Actually, the room is the transmitter!

AM transmitter technology was still being developed in 1922, and General Electric was one of the companies in the forefront of this development work. Their station WGY in Schenectady, N.Y., was their workshop.

This image, dated March 17, 1922, shows the WGY “breadboard” 1 kW transmitter in Building 36 of the GE Schenectady plant. The antenna was a “T” type wire antenna on the roof.

WGY, which shared time with other local stations on 360 meters (833 kHz), claimed to be the most powerful station in the country at the time, and received reception reports from as far away as Cuba. They later increased the output of this transmitter to 1,500 Watts and then to 5,000 Watts by adding more tubes in parallel to the ones seen here. It was used until 1924 when WGY built its new site in Rotterdam, N.Y.

A close study of this image shows the power control panel at the far right. Behind the panel are the power transformer and reactor and eight horizontally-mounted tubes (early rectifier tubes?). The filter capacitors are in rows underneath the table. There is one large tube in the center of the table (modulator?) and an array of at least five RF tubes on the left (a later photo shows this was subsequently increased to 14 tubes). There is an RF ammeter sitting on the table, and the output coupling transformer consists of two pancake-wound coils mounted on wooden legs. The coupling would have been adjusted by moving one of the coils. All the high voltage and RF conductors are open tubing hanging over the head of the operator.

OSHA would certainly not approve this installation today!

John Schneider is a lifelong radio history researcher. This is one in a series of photo features from his collection. Write him at[email protected]. Comment to[email protected].