Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wayne Green, W2NSD/1, SK

I learned with some sadness today that Wayne Green passed away this weekend. He was 91. If you are new to amateur radio, you may not have heard of Wayne. He definitely made his mark.

Wayne was a pioneer. In the late 40s, he was an engineer at a television station, and he got into Radio Teletype (RTTY). Back in those days, this mean maintaining very noisy electromechanical monstrosities. Somewhere along the line, he started publishing a newsletter for other RTTY enthusiasts, eventually being hired by CQ Magazine. By the mid-50s, he was the editor of that publication, at least until he had a falling out with the publisher.

So, he started publishing his own amateur radio magazine: 73 Magazine. His initial goal was to get hams building equipment again. He focused on well-written, easy to construct articles. He must have done something right, because 73 continued publication until 2003.

Wayne was well known for his long, rambling editorials, his strong, sometimes bizarre opinions on just about any topic, and his irascible nature.

I've told my novice story, but I neglected to mention the part that Wayne had in it. My brother, NJ8J, started receiving 73 magazine in 1971 or 72. A couple of years later, I began reading these as well, whenever I could sneak them away from my brother. Back in those days, we would both read the print off the page -- absorbing every word. Christmas 1974, my brother gave me my own subscription to 73, starting with the January 1975 issue. (That way, he could read my copies, instead of me stealing his)

I learned virtually everything I knew about amateur radio back then from 73 or from the 1975 ARRL Handbook. I remember visiting the shack of a ham in Grafton, WV in the fall of 1974. Sadly, I don't remember his name or call. He let me make a few contacts on his Swan 500 -- one of the fellows asked me what I was interested in doing if I got licensed. I replied that I was interested in playing with Slow-Scan Television (SSTV). I knew a little bit about SSTV, because Wayne kept publishing articles about it. To date, though, I've never operated SSTV. (Although I did pick up a homebrew SSTV receiver -- replete with P7 phosphor tube -- for a song at a hamfest some 15 years ago. Perhaps another article)

Wayne Green was a visionary. After the Altair 8800 became available in the fall of 1974, Wayne set about creating a magazine for computer hobbyists. He founded Byte magazine. Unfortunately, his ex-wife and business partner made off with the magazine in the fall of 1975. Wayne responded by adding  the I/O section to 73 with the February 1976 issue. Then, he started a competing magazine, initially called Kilobyte, renamed to Kilobaud before the first issue in 1977.

Those articles in the I/O section convinced me to check out these newfangled microcomputers. In the fall of 1977, I used my paper route money to purchase a SWTPc 6800 computer system and CT-64 terminal. Those kits got me started with computers, which lead me to my current career. I have Wayne to thank for that.

73 was a thick publication in the late 70s and early 80s, with some issues closing on 400 pages. Five years later, it was much smaller, as Wayne was focused on the other computing-related publications in his small empire. Around 1984, he sold the entire lot to IDG, which was nearly a disaster for 73. A year later, he bought back the remnants of that magazine from IDG, and continued publishing until 2003. I'm still a mad at him for that -- I renewed my subscription that year for three years, only got seven issues and never got a refund.

I can't stay mad, though. I owe a lot of my interest in technology to the encouraging words Wayne wrote in his editorials so many years ago. Part of that spirit will always stay with me.

Rest in Peace, Wayne.