Richard Florac - First Pager, Early Portable FM Radios
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The image below is from the front of the patent for the pager used by the first commercially available pager service. The patent was in the name of Richard Florac, on behalf of Aircall, Inc. The patent application was filed in July 1950. The patent was granted in November 1952.

Today in Technology History

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October 15

Today we tell the forgotten story of the first pager.

Although a few cities had pager-like devices for their police and firefighters as early as 1921, ordinary citizens couldn't use them. The creator of the first commercial pager service was Sherman C. Amsden (1889-1958), a native of Michigan who served as a U.S. Army Air Force pilot in both world wars.

One night in the early 1920s, Amsden had a family emergency and needed his doctor immediately, but the physician couldn't be reached; the doctor was not in his office and he couldn't afford a secretary to answer his phone. This experience inspired Amsden, then living in New York City, to start one of the first telephone answering companies, Telanserphone. Originally intended just for doctors, here's how the Telanserphone service worked: A subscriber who expected to be away from his telephone (playing golf, seeing a movie, taking a shower, etc.) would notify Telanserphone. If anyone called during the subscriber's absence, a Telanserphone operator would write down a message. The subscriber could then call the company at any time or from any location to hear the messages he missed.

Click to see more.

Click the image above to see drawings of Amsden's pager.

Amsden's next idea, which seems so ordinary in the present era of wireless technology, was in fact brilliantly creative. Instead of requiring subscribers to call Telanserphone to find out if they received messages, Amsden wanted a way to alert subscribers that they had messages. Working with inventor Richard R. Florac (1901-1991), Amsden developed the first commercially available pager. The pager was offered to his company's subscribers for a fee of $11.50 a month.

Here's how it worked. Every Telanserphone subscriber with a pager was assigned a three-digit code number. When a Telanserphone operator took a message for a subscriber, the company would play a voice-recording of that subscriber's code number on the company's high-frequency radio transmitter. The code number, perhaps recorded on magnetic tape, would be repeatedly played on a loop, along with all the other code numbers of subscribers with messages waiting at Telanserphone. Each pager was basically just a small battery-powered radio receiver locked onto the Telanserphone frequency, so when the subscriber held the pager up to his ear he would listen for his code number to know whether a message was waiting for him.

On October 15, 1950, a doctor became the first person to receive a pager signal from Telanserphone.

Amsden started a new company, Aircall, Inc., for his pager business. Within two years, Aircall had 400 subscribers, including doctors, salesmen, detectives, plumbers and undertakers

Article provided by: an interesting site click to visit!

by Bob Considine (for International News Service)
Fireman’s Fund Record, November 1952

(Fireman’s Fund insures Aircall’s transmitting tower and radio station atop the Hotel Pierre, Fifth Avenue and 61st Street, New York City. The policy covers against "All Risk" with a few minor exclusions.)

At a recent wedding a guest who is a well-known New York doctor unobtrusively removed from his pocket a small plastic box, held it up to his ear for a moment, then got up, tiptoed out of the church and rushed to a hospital in time to deliver the baby of a patient.

About the same time, the New York Yankees were engaged in a struggle at the Stadium and among the thousands on hand were a veteran BOAC pilot and his navigator, confirmed baseball fans. At a tense moment of the game, the navigator drew from his pocket another small plastic box, listened for a time while his eyes continued to follow the play, then heard something that galvanized him.

"Let’s go," he said, and they took off for Idlewild, where their stratocruiser’s schedule had been altered. A British girl, hostess on the same plane, arrived as they did. She had been "called" off the sands of Jones Beach by the same mysterious box.

They, and 500 other New Yorkers, had been listening to KEA-627 which broadcasts (on 43.58 megacycles) from the tower of Fifth Avenue’s Pierre Hotel. The doctor, the air crew, and an arresting variety of other New Yorkers, subscribe to KEA-627’s "Aircall," a kind of one-way version of Dick Tracy’s two-way wristwatch electronic marvel.

A story goes with it.

Seems that 30 years ago a mustered-out World War I pilot named Sherman Amsden of Brooklyn decided to invade Manhattan. It wasn’t as simple as a subway ride. Amsden was from Brooklyn, Michigan. He had come to the big city to take over a "service" for which New Yorkers, the most "service-conscious" people on earth, were not quite ready—the telephone answering business.

Well, sir, he did fine. Has about 10,000 subscribers in New York now and has expanded to most other big cities in the country. "Telanserphone," one of the worst words ever coined, is a simple device. If you’re a subscriber and close shop or office for the night, or hie off to Spitzenberg to shoot spitz, a cheerfully impersonal voice answers your phone. Old friends who are at heart roues assume immediately that you have taken unto yourself a fresh squaw. But it turns out to be considerably less expensive—just an operator who takes down whatever messages you wanted to give your old pal, or firm.

The boy from Brooklyn, as we said, did real good with this. But he and his associates wanted to extend the service. Too many calls were piling up on absentee doctors, for instance. A means must be devised to reach them hurriedly, instead of waiting for them to call "Telanserphone" at their leisure to check on the calls their office had received.

"Aircall" is the result. Each subscriber is given a code number. If his phone is called and answered by "Telanserphone," and he does not call the latter within a minute to see if anything has been cooking, his code number begins to be broadcast over KEA-627. He is supplied with the above-mentioned plastic box, a two-tube receiver invented by Richard Florac, and is honor bound to listen in periodically. Within a minute, all "wanted" code-owners can be summoned.

It was not easy "service" to set up. Radio attorney Andrew Haley worked nearly 20 years getting a channel from the F.C.C. It finally was cleared chiefly because of a war-born opening of a new spectrum ultra high frequency in the broadcast range.

An odd assortment of subscribers swear by "Aircall" and, presumably, swear at it when it pries them loose from a good Broadway show, the skiing at Bear Mountain, the Westchester and Jersey golf courses. Private detectives go for the magic box, as do insurance company adjusters, elevator maintenance firms, etc.

[04-01-03-004-0065 Fireman’s Fund Archives]
©1998-99 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. All rights reserved.


©1998-99 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. All rights reserved.



Patented Nov. 25, 1952










Richard Florac, New York, N. Y., assignor, by
 mesne assignments, to Aircall, Inc., New York, N. Y.,
a. corporation of Delaware

Application July 29, 1950, Serial No.176,747 4 Claims. (CI. 250-20)


This invention relates to portable radio receivers, and more particularly to high-frequency personal radio receivers of the type adapted to be carried on the person of the listener.

Receivers of this general type are in increasing demand for a variety of uses. As one example, such receivers are useful in connection with telephone-answering services. In such systems the telephone of a subscriber is connected to a central station whenever the subscriber is away from his telephone. The person telephoning then can leave a message for the subscriber with the operator at the central station. In earlier systems, the subscriber from time to time telephoned the central station to ascertain whether any messages for him had been received. In the telephone-answering system made practical by the present invention, each subscriber is assigned a code number and provided with a personal battery operated radio receiver so small that it can be carried conveniently in a vest or coat pocket. Whenever a telephone message is received for a subscriber, his code number is recorded on a suitable medium, for example, a magnetic tape, which is reproduced repeatedly, in a cycle along

with the code numbers of other subscribers also being paged, and sent out over the air through a high-frequency radio transmitter. Whenever a subscriber wishes to determine whether a message has been received for him at the central station, he switches on his portable receiver and listens through one cycle of the code numbers being broadcast. If he hears his code number

he knows there is a message for him which he can receive by going to the nearest telephone and calling the operator at the central station.

This telephone-answering radio-paging system has been described in order to illustrate the features and advantages of the present invention and not to imply any limitation of use. Radio receivers incorporating the present invention obviously have other utility, but are particularly advantageous for applications wherein the requirements are similar to those of the system outlined above.

The radio receiver described herein as illustrative of the present invention is small, light in weight, and simple in construction. Because of the simple circuit employed and the mechanical arrangement of the parts, highly stable operation is obtained, and the unique construction also makes possible high sensitivity with minimum drain on the batteries that provide the operating power.

One important problem in such receivers is the provision of a suitable receiving antenna.



For example, if the receiver is designed to operate while it is in the pocket of the listener, the body of the listener tends to shield and to detune the receiver and an antenna must be provided which extends away from the listener and which is connected to the receiver by a suitable flexible lead wire. Obviously such an extensive antenna arrangement is undesirable. Moreover, if the receiver is to be operated while being carried in the listener's pocket it is necessary to provide some form of flexible wire connection from a head-set or earphone to the receiver. The disadvantages of such an arrangement are obvious.

The present receiver is a unitary device having a built-in antenna and earphone. It is adapted to be hand-held adjacent the ear of the user when in use, and to be carried in the pocket when not in use. A relatively short flexible wire antenna projects from the receiver and cooperates with other components within a non-shielded portion of the receiver case to provide a compact and efficient antenna system. The receiver components are uniquely arranged so that the lower portion of the receiver can be hand-held adjacent the listener's ear without the electrical capacitance of the hand interfering with the operation or tuning of the receiver, even though its tuned circuits are unshielded and are positioned in such manner as to form an effective part of the antenna system. These advantageous effects, as well as an economy of parts, is achieved by utilizing certain of the receiver components not only to perform their usual functions but, in addition, to serve as an electrostatic shield.

Particular features of construction of the receiver are directed to minimizing the number of tubes and the power drain on the self-contained batteries. For example, the receiver requires only two single-function miniature tubes, a feature made possible by the efficient coupling and audio output circuits. The low power dissipation of the circuit is emphasized by the fact that the entire receiver requires only a single resistor element.

The complete receiver is housed ill a relatively long thin case preferably of such shape that it will fit conveniently in an ordinary vest pocket. This particular shape also has the advantage of permitting the arrangement of component parts, as mentioned above, so that the radio frequency portion of the receiver is well isolated from the capacity effects of the hand and head of the listener without the necessity for added shielding elements. Without this novel and advantageous arrangement, it would be necessary to completely shield the receiver so that a large ex



ternal antenna would be required to obtain the necessary sensitivity.

Other features, objects, and advantages of the present invention will be in part apparent from and in part pointed out in the following description considered in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

Figure 1 shows a radio receiver embodying the present invention being held by its user in its operating position; ]

Figure 2 is an enlarged elevational view of the interior of the radio receiver shown in Figure 1, the connecting leads having been omitted to show more clearly the arrangement of the major circuit components; ]

Figure 3 is a sectional view of the interior of the receiver taken along line 3-3 of Figure 2; and

Figure 4 is a schematic diagram of the electrical circuits of the receiver. , As shown in Figure 1, the receiver is housed. in a case 2,for example of polystyrene, from which projects a relatively short self-supporting antenna 4. This antenna may be rigid or flexible and may be arranged so as to be out of the way, when the receiver is not in use, for example, by , sliding the antenna wire longitudinally down within the case or by flexing the wire antenna down along the side of the receiver case 2 and attaching it thereto. .

As shown in Figure 4, the electrical circuits' may be considered as divided into three portions: an R.-F. section, generally indicated at 6; an audio amplifier and output portion, generally indicated at 8; and a power supply portion, generally indicated at 10. '

The antenna 4 is connected through an antenna coil 12 to a self~quenched super-regenerative detector circuit. In this circuit the lower end of antenna winding 12 is connected by a lead 14 through a condenser 16 and a grid leak condenser 18, in parallel with the condenser 16, to the control grid 22 of a miniature vacuum tube 24, which may be of any suitable type and in this example is a pentode connected to operate as a triode.

The filament 26 of this tube is connected by leads 28 and 32 to a filament supply battery 34, an off-on switch, generally indicated at 36, being connected in series with the negative supply lead 32.

The anode 38 of the tube 24 is connected by a lead 42 to one end of a parallel resonant circuit comprising a coil 44 connected in parallel with tuning condenser 46 and a fixed condenser a8. The opposite end of this tank circuit is connected to the lead 14 in the control grid circuit of tube 24.

The quench frequency of the super-regenerative detector will depend upon the characteristics of the anode-grid feed-back circuit and in particular upon the time constant of the grid-leak resistor I 8 and the condenser 16.

The audio frequency signal is coupled from the lead 14 in the grid circuit of the detector tube 24 through a radio-frequency choke coil 52 to one end of the primary winding 54 of a miniature inter-stage audio transformer 56. The opposite end of this winding 54 is connected by a lead 58 to the positive terminal of a plate supply battery 62, the negative terminal of which is connected, under operating conditions, to the negative terminal of the filament supply battery 34. The end of primary winding 54 of the transformer 56 adjacent the radio-frequency choke coil 52 is by-passed to the common negative cir



cuit of the receiver by a small condenser 64. The condenser 64 in combination with the choke coil 52 prevents the radio frequency energy in the antenna circuits from being coupled into the audio frequency circuits.

One end of the secondary winding 66 of the audio transformer 56 is connected to the common negative lead 32, and the opposite end is connected by a lead 68 to the control grid 72 of a miniature audio-amplifier vacuum tube 74, which may be of any suitable type.

The filament 76 of this amplifier tube is connected to the filament supply leads 28 and 32, in parallel with the filament 26 of the detector tube . The anode 78 of this tube is connected through a miniature audio-frequency choke coil or inductance 82 to the positive supply lead 58, which is connected also to the screen grid 8ll of the audio output tube 74. A crystal-type earphone, diagrammatically indicated at 86, is connected in shunt with the choke coil 82 and is positioned in the front wall of the receiver case 2, as shown in Figure 3, so that it may be placed adjacent the ear of the listener.

The physical relationship of the components described above in connection with the circuit diagram of Figure 4 will. be apparent from Figures 2 and 3. As shown in the latter figures, the coils 12 and 44 are supported on suitable lowloss forms 88 and 92, respectively, which for example may be of polystyrene molded in tubular form. The detector tube 24 is mounted, as shown, between these two coils near the back of the case 2. The adjustable tuning condenser 46 is mounted near the front of the Case 2, directly opposite the tube 24, and the fixed condenser 48 is mounted directly beneath the variable condenser 46. The condenser 46 may be so positioned that the frequency of the tuned circuit can be adjusted by means of a tuning screw driver through a suitable opening in the case 2. However, because of the stability produced by the circuitry and arrangement of parts, it is not necessary to provide any means for adjustment of the receiver by the user for fixed-frequency applications. The antenna 4 and the antenna coil 12 are tuned to the desired fixed frequency by cutting the antenna to the length that produces optimum response characteristics.

Immediately beneath the coils 12 and 44 is a terminal strip 94 by which connections are made between the radio frequency section 6 and the audio amplifier section 8 and power supply section 10. The radio frequency choke coil 52 is positioned adjacent the terminal strip 94, as shown in Figures 2 and 3. The inter-stage transformer 56 and the output inductance 82 are mounted immediately beneath the terminal strip 94. The audio amplifier tube  74 , is mounted, in inverted position, adjacent the inductance 82.

The plate supply battery 62 is mounted, as shown, near the lower end of the case 2 and its terminals at either end are protected by insulating strips 96 and 98. The filament supply battery 34 is mounted adjacent the plate supply battery 62. The switch 36 is mounted near the bottom of the case 2 and operated by a button 102, which projects through a slot in the bottom of the receiver case 2, so that the receiver can be turned on by sliding button 102 in one direction and turned off by sliding it in the opposite direction.

In the particular radio-paging application described above, the receiver is pre-tuned so that no tuning adjustments by the user are necessary. In operation, the user merely removes the re



ceiver from his pocket, extends the antenna 4, if this is necessary, and moves the control button 102 of the switch 36 into the "on" position. The user then grasps the lower end of the case 1 in his hand as shown in Figure I, and places the earphone 86 adjacent his ear with the upper part of the receiver case 2 and the antenna 4 extending rearwardly and upwardly away from the head of the listener.

In actual practice, this receiver has been found to provide excellent sensitivity and to be sufficiently stable and selective as to be entirely satisfactory for its intended use. The drain on the supply batteries is very low So that, with intermittent operation such as would be occasioned by use in a telephone-answering system, they are certain to have an adequate life. For example, with a receiver utilizing the components hereinafter described operating in such service, battery life of several months has been obtained.

With fixed tuning, as is provided in the present receiver, it is of course essential that the electrical capacity of the hand and head of the user not affect the frequency of operation of the receiver. As explained above, this novel receiver is so arranged that the radio-frequency section 6 of the receiver is unshielded so that the coils 12 and 44 operate in conjunction with the wire antenna 4 to form a highly sensitive antenna system. These features are facilitated by the particular arrangement of the parts as described above. For example, the metal parts of the terminal strip 94, the transformer 56, the inductance 82, and the tube 74, all of which parts are at substantially the same radio frequency potential, serve as an effective barrier or shield between that portion of the case 2 which is held in the hand of the user and the radio-frequency section 6 that controls the frequency of operation of the receiver and determines its sensitivity. Thus, highly stable operation of a hand-held receiver is obtained while at the same time attaining the maximum sensitivity.

The radio frequency section 6, although basically a conventional super-regenerative receiver in which the quench frequency is determined by the time constants of the feed-back circuit between the anode 38 and the control grid 22 of tube 24, is one of utmost sensitivity and stability.

The particular circuit connections and components of the audio section 8 are such as to provide maximum output with a minimum of tubes. Thus, additional gain is provided by the use of the step-up inter-stage transformer 56, and by the output circuit connected to the anode 78 of amplifier tube 74. In this output circuit, the earphone 86, as mentioned above, is preferably a crystal-type, that is, it is a high impedance voltage-operated device having a capacitive reactance. This earphone is connected in shunt with the output choke 82 so that the capacitance of the earphone 86 in conjunction with the inductance 82 forms a parallel circuit that is resonant within the audio frequency range. Thus substantial voltage is built up across the terminals of the earphone 86 which effectively increases the gain of the receiver, resulting in a material saving in the electronic tube amplification required in the receiver.

In one particular embodiment of the invention  which has operated in a completely satisfactory manner in a radio-paging system such as that described above, the case 2, which houses the entire receiver was 5.75 inches in length, 1.75 inches in width, and 0.70 inch in depth. The


total weight of the receiver was six ounces. The antenna 4 was a flexible wire between three and four inches in length, and the antenna coil 12 and the anode-grid coil 44 were each wound on a polystyrene rod 1.75 inches in length and 0.375 inch in diameter. Eighteen turns of No. 16 solid copper wire were used to form each coil, adjacent turns of each coil being spaced a distance equal to the diameter of the wire. The tuning capacitor 46 was of the variable ceramic type and was variable between three and twelve micromicrofarads. It was shunted by a two micromicrofarad fixed ceramic capacitor 48 to provide a somewhat smoother tuning characteristic. The condenser 16 in the grid circuit of the tube 24 had a capacity of twenty micromicrofarads and was shunted by a twenty-two megohm grid-leak resistor 18. The radio frequency choke coil 52 was wound on a plastic composition form 0.70 inch in length and 0.25 inch in diameter and had forty-two turns of No. 28 solid copper enameled wire. The condenser 64 Was a tubular ceramic type and had a capacity of five thousand micro microfarads. The inter-stage coupling transformer 56 had a step-up ratio of three to one, and the output choke 82 had an inductance of about forty millihenrys. The super-regenerative detector tube 24 was a type CK522AX pentode tube, connected as a triode and operating at approximately forty-three megacycles and the quench signal had a repetition frequency of approximately ten kilocycles. The audio output tube 74 was a pentode of the type CK533AX. The filaments were supplied by the battery 34, which was an ordinary one and one-half volt small-size flashlight cell, and the plate voltage was supplied by the hearing-aid-type battery 62 which delivered thirty volts.

It will thus be seen that the radio receiver embodying my invention is well adapted to attain the ends and objects hereinbefore set forth, and to be economically manufactured since the separate parts are well suited to standard production methods. It is to be understood, of course, that various modifications may be made in the embodiment of my invention in order to best adapt the invention for a particular use. It is to be understood, however, that such modifications may well be within the scope and spirit of the present invention as defined and set forth in the following claims.

I claim:

1. A radio receiver of a size to be grasped in the hand to be held against the ear of the operator for receiving radio frequency transmission, comprising an elongated casing, a detector circuit including an antenna coil disposed in the upper end of said casing, the upper end of said casing surrounding said detector circuit being

pervious to radio waves, an audio frequency amplifier disposed in said casing and electrically coupled to said detector circuit, a power supply for said detector and said amplifier, said casing including a hand-gripping portion located at the lower end of said casing remote from said detector circuit to prevent shielding of said detector by the hand, and a speaker located in said handgripping portion and connected to said amplifier.

2.A radio receiver according to claim 1 in which said hand-gripping portion of said casing includes a surface portion protruding out of the plane of one side of said casing, and in which said speaker is located in said protruding portion whereby, as the speaker is held against the ear of the operator, the protruding portion will space



the main part of the casing including the detector away from the head of the operator, thus reducing shieldin1g.

3. A receiver according to c1aim 1, and a flexible self-supporting antenna connected to said antenna coil and extending out from the top of said casing.

4. A radio receiver to be held against the ear of the operator for receiving radio frequency transmission, comprising a detector, an audio amplifier electrically coupled to said detector, a Speaker connected to said amplifier, and a source of power for said circuit elements .including at least one dry cell battery, a thin elongated plastic casing containing the components of said circuit, the thickness of said casing being just sufficient to contain said dry cell battery, said detector being located in the upper end of said casing, and a hand-gripping portion at the lower end thereof and remote from said detector to prevent shielding of the detector by the hand, said speaker be


ing located in the hand-gripping portion of said casing, and a flexible antenna connected to said detector and extending from the top of said casing.



The following references are of record in the file of this patent:



Number  Name   Date
2,091,546    Hruska    Aug. 31, 1937
2,147,595    Hilferty     Feb. 14, 1939
2,508,918   Hines    May 23, 1950
2,521,423    Stuck   Sept. 5, 1950



Number Country Date
572,955  Great Britain Oct. 31, 1945












more on pager technology.....
A Radio Common Carrier Journey

Special To Wireless Week

Editor's Note: This article is Part I of an excerpt from an autobiography that wireless pioneer Clayton Niles is preparing for his family. Watch for Part II in an upcoming issue of Wireless Week.

Niles received a radio common carrier license in 1952 for general communications services in Tucson, Ariz. He and his wife, Jo Ann, operated the paging and mobile phone business for many years. From 1959-60, Niles served as president of the National Association of Radiotelephone Systems, a predecessor trade group to PCIA. His company later merged with Dallas operator and manufacturer Communications Industries, probably the first wireless conglomerate. Niles became the company's chairman. Portions of CI's business eventually were merged with major paging and antenna manufacturing operations still serving the wireless industry.

They were fiercely independent survivors of the Great Depression and World War II and exemplified the pioneering spirit that characterized the postwar years. I met many of them in May 1955 at a National Mobile Radio Service convention. They called themselves radio common carriers but, according to FCC rules, they were miscellaneous common carriers, or MCCs.

Ramsey McDonald, perhaps the person most responsible for instigating actions at the FCC leading to rulemaking that created MCCs, did not attend, but a history of these nonwireline carriers must begin with McDonald.

In 1945 McDonald left his job as chief engineer and operator of the Richmond, Ind., police radio station to sell mobile radios for Link Radio Corp. He quickly developed an interest in telephone-to-car radio service and discussed his ideas with the local independent phone company. Since the company didn't have qualified radio engineers, it suggested that he build the system.

In March 1947, McDonald obtained an FCC experimental permit to begin tests on 152 MHz- 162 MHz frequencies that had been set aside in 1946 for experimental mobile use. In January 1948, he was licensed to serve the general public, and on March 2 he went on the air. His company, Richmond Radio Dispatch Service, was the proud pioneer of the country's first fully automatic dial mobile telephone system providing full-duplex operation and was the first MCC, a name that would be adopted later, with legal interconnection.

In 1948, the FCC issued its proposed rules for the new mobile telephone service (Docket No. 9046). Tentatively, the commission's rules provided that "contact with the mobile units shall be initially established only by the licensed operator at the control point." In other words, the FCC was proposing to bar automatic dial interconnection, making McDonald's Richmond system illegal. McDonald testified at the hearing on the proposed rule and succeeded in getting the FCC, in its 1949 order establishing the Domestic Public Land Mobile Radio Service, to permit automatic operations so long as a licensed operator was maintained at the control point.

The 1949 order opened the door for license applications by those eager to follow in McDonald's footsteps. These early licensees were predominantly on the East Coast (primarily TAS operators) and on the West Coast (a mix of TAS and two-way radio service companies). Each region established associations, but the first association was formed by a group of Northeast carriers in Norman Medlar's living room at White Plains, N.Y. I was reminded of this on several occasions in future years when these carriers opposed initiatives that I was sponsoring. In addition to Medlar, the founders included James Colgan and Joseph McCarthy from Boston, Victor Piscatello from New York City, Ed Steiner from Yonkers, N.Y., and Bud Tongue from West Attlebury, Mass. McCarthy was the first president. By the time of the 1955 convention, the two regions had consolidated to form the National Mobile Radio System.

In almost every case, the recently created public mobile services were offered as an adjunct to a primary and sustaining business of telephone answering service or two-way radio system sales and service. The Great Depression had precipitated a need to reduce costs, and many businesses opted for telephone answering service in lieu of an office and secretary. Thus the telephone answering service industry was born.

Following World War II, Motorola, General Electric and others applied military two-way communications technology to the commercial need of taxi cabs, construction companies, oil field companies and police and fire departments for dispatch communication between vehicles and between vehicles and offices. A network of independent service companies and manufacturer's representatives provided installation and maintenance support. It was the operator assistance and the installation and maintenance requirements of the new DPLMRS that precipitated the vertical integration of MCC services.

Very few of these pioneers had a college education, and even fewer had access to capital to grow a new enterprise. In many cases, homes were mortgaged, services were dispatched from homes and wives and children served as operators. These were family businesses and only determination and persistence enabled them to survive.

Twenty-five delegates, including representatives from Motorola, General Electric and the FCC, were in attendance at the 1955 convention in Kansas City (some 25,000 registrants attended the 1997 annual meeting in Dallas). They included Ward Rogers and Bud Kahn from Chicago, Newton Wolpert from Minneapolis, Bill Houser from Peoria, Ill.; Johnnie Johnson from Montreal, Bud Tongue from West Attlebury, Norman Medlar from White Plains, James Colgan from Boston, Victor Piscatello from New York, Ed Steiner from Yonkers, Bob Crabb from Los Angeles, Walter Corbin from San Francisco, Ray Chaffee from Los Angeles, Lyman Berg from Long Beach, Calif., and myself.

Of course, like McDonald, there were other pioneers who did not attend the convention, including Don Cook from Fresno, Calif., and Ralph Hicks from Tulsa, Okla. In fact, Hicks received the first regular license authorization following adoption of the DPLMRS rules.

Because of my prior experience with the Bell System, I was invited to attend a board of directors meeting to discuss the radio common carrier/telephone company relationship. I was surprised to see that Arthur Gladstone, the chief of the DPLMRS division of the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau, was in attendance. Gladstone participated in the discussions as he would for several years at board meetings. He was a ready source of reference for rule interpretations but, in time, the obvious conflict of interest would suggest that representatives of the FCC should not be privy to the association's initiatives, some of which were critical of the FCC or sought changes in FCC rules.

A diversity of views and backgrounds would sometimes lead to discussions that became contentious, particularly in later years as industry issues and their impact on the future of individual businesses were perceived differently. Unique personalities emerged in the midst of conflict. Norman Jorgensen was the association's general counsel and each year he was asked to address the annual convention delegates. In his opening remarks, he would express his pleasure at the opportunity to speak to the miscellaneous common carriers. On one such occasion he began by saying: "Once again I am pleased to have this opportunity to address you miscellaneous common characters," a Freudian slip that embarrassed Jorgensen but was accepted by the audience in good humor, probably because it wasn't far off the mark.

In these early years the mobile telephone service was, in part, a message relay service. While mobile units could talk directly with each other, it was necessary for an operator to relay messages back and forth between the mobile unit and a telephone subscriber. It was a marginal service at best. We didn't need computers to keep track of our customers. They were principally construction companies, service companies, farmers and an occasional doctor or private citizen. We did have a celebrity, of sorts, on our Tucson service.

During 1957, two men, announcing that they were investigating officers from the FBI and showing identification badges to prove it, were ushered into my office. They asked, "We understand that [reputed mob figure] Bill Bonanno is a subscriber to your radio telephone service, is that correct?" I knew most of our subscribers, including Bonanno whom I had met during the installation of his radio. I recalled him as a cocky young guy about my age (I was young then, too). I answered, "Yes, he is one of our subscribers." "We would like copies of all of his messages," they demanded. "I am sorry, but without a court order I can't give them to you," I responded. They became more insistent, but I explained that it would be a violation of FCC rules for me to divulge such information and I could lose my common carrier license as a result of doing so. In due course they left, suggesting they would get a court order, but they never did.

Before the end of the decade, we introduced paging service and miscellaneous common carriers began interconnecting their mobile dispatch services with the Bell System, although the latter was against Bell System policy and gave rise to a controversy that would not be resolved until 1960.

Initially, paging systems employed handheld or pocket receivers (manufactured by Florac or Robert Dollar) carried by the subscriber. Messages received over the telephone by our operators were recorded on a revolving tape player and broadcast to these receivers. The subscriber would hold the receiver to his or her ear and listen for messages. Of course, they listened to everyone else's message as well. It wasn't widely accepted. Only persons who had a severe need for the service subscribed. Most telephone answering companies neglected to apply for the required FCC licenses, failing to realize that it would ultimately become a multibillion dollar industry. Ethel McLeod was an exception. I recall her presentation at a telephone answering service convention in Dallas in the early '60s when she talked about the future of paging to a skeptical audience. On a visit in 1998 with Don and Ethel McLeod at their summer home in Alto, N.M., Don demonstrated his latest pager: one inch wide, two inches long and 3/8th of an inch thick, with the capacity to show the number of the person calling, retain that number in memory for later retrieval and serve as a digital clock and alarm. The industry has come a long way, baby, and so has this lady who had a vision of the future.

The 1960 association convention brought about another significant event in my radio common carrier experience. A rift between the Eastern and Western regions of the association, which had been smoldering for several months, ignited into full flame at the convention. The issue was interconnection of our MCC systems with the Bell System, being pushed by the Western region and supported by most of the country's carriers but resisted by the Eastern region, which consisted of primarily telephone answering service-based carriers. One concern was that interconnection of mobile systems would lead to state public service commission regulation of MCCs, which, indeed, it did. But their greater concern was that such regulation would be extended to telephone answering services, which it never was.

Based on my conviction that interconnected mobile telephone services had growth potential far exceeding telephone answering service, our company had made a significant investment in MCC systems. I was a strong supporter of interconnection and took every opportunity available to articulate my position.

During the convention, the Eastern region nominated Ed Steiner, a New York carrier, for president of the association. Steiner's operations were primarily telephone answering. While I had been a director for many years, I had always resisted invitations to run for president. With interconnection looming as the salvation of MCCs, I succumbed to the urging of many delegates and directors to accept the office if elected, and I was. It was really a vote for interconnection.

The national office for the association had been located in Attleborough, Mass., with Bud Tongue, the local carrier, as the executive secretary. Following my election, Bud declared that he was unwilling to continue to serve. Accordingly, the office was moved to Tucson and my wife, Jo Ann, became the executive secretary.

While the emerging technological revolution would propel the wireless industry into an era of immense growth and incredible financial rewards, resolution of three major issues was critical if independent radio common carriers were to share in these rewards: interconnection with the wireline network, allocation of the 150 MHz guard band frequencies for paging and splitting the cellular frequency allocation. While interconnection and the cellular frequency allocation were controversial both within and outside the radio common carrier industry, all three issues were controversial within the industry.

In December 1959, the Bell System company in Florida disconnected the telephones serving the Andre Lis RCC. With other Bell operating companies threatening to disconnect telephone service if carriers didn't discontinue interconnecting, we were reaching a crisis point. On the one hand, we could not compete with the Bell System companies without interconnection. On the other hand, we couldn't operate at all without telephone service. Joined by Washington, D.C., communications attorney Jeremiah Courtney, Don Cook and I (we spent a lot of time together in 1960) made plans to beard the lion in his den. Courtney was acquainted with one of AT&T's lawyers (there were many) and made the necessary appointment for us to meet with AT&T at 195 Broadway in New York City. Our reception was not friendly, but we were not intimidated. At the outset Courtney informed the several AT&T executives and their lawyers that we could either enter into interconnection agreements or see each other in court, since MCCs were prepared to file suits for restraint of trade, among other things. From there the discussions became more productive.

Our principle argument was that we were common carriers and, unlike private mobile system operators, were entitled to interconnection. We recognized that we had to offer a justifiable reason for interconnection without exposing the Bell System to a requirement for interconnection with private systems which was being sought by the Carterphone case, a pending lawsuit. We even suggested that we would be happy to join them in resisting the Carterphone effort since it was not in our interest for private systems to be interconnected. They declined our offer but agreed to consider our arguments and get back to us in due course. In the meantime, we suggested that they call off the dogs (Bell System company threats) until they made a final decision. While no commitment was made, the battlefield was quiet until we were called back to AT&T to receive their response.

Within a few weeks we were back at 195 Broadway to resume discussions. The reception was markedly more friendly. We were informed that, since our last meeting, they had researched the constitutions, laws and public service commission regulations in many states. As a result, they concluded that in most states MCCs were common carriers subject to regulation by the state public service commissions. (While they didn't make a point of it, I learned from my own research that interconnection was not only permitted between carriers in Arizona but was mandatory.) Accordingly, they declared that AT&T and the Bell System would revise their policy to permit interconnection in cases where a state waived jurisdiction, but in those states assuming jurisdiction the MCC would be required to submit to state regulation in order to obtain interconnection. Cook and I were satisfied with this policy, but I had no idea, at the time, of the potential benefits that would be derived from state regulation.

As important as interconnection was for RCCs, it really didn't break new ground in terms of regulatory law or policy. However, the Carterphone and the Microwave Communications Inc. cases certainly did. Shortly after the public announcement of our agreement with the Bell System, I received a call from John Goeken, the founder of Microwave Communications Inc. (the predecessor to MCI), inquiring about our successful strategy in negotiating with AT&T. He informed me that his company had installed a microwave link between Chicago and St. Louis and was interested in expanding the service from private service to a public common carrier service interconnected with the public telephone system. In December 1963, Microwave Communications applied for a license to provide public common-carrier service. Bill McGowan represented the company in a series of hotly contested FCC hearings and court cases leading to the Supreme Court decision in May 1978 that legitimized competition in the switched voice services business and precipitated a revolution in telecommunications. By then, McGowan had gained control of the company and under his leadership MCI went on to become a multibillion dollar company.



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