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Newspaper Article:

William Edward Barrett
(1899-1975)

[Bill Barrett was my grandfather.]

The Sheboygan Press, 1961.


A SHEBOYGAN MAN who has been tinkering with sending and receiving equipment for more than 30 years, William E. Barrett, 2828 S. 9th St., estimates he has communicated with 7,000 to 8,000 persons in all parts of the world. -- (Sheboygan Press photo)

He Talks With The World

By AL NAGY
Press Staff Writer

William E. Barrett is a man who virtually never gets lonesome.

With Barrett, the flick of a switch may be the beginning of a conversation extending into the remotest corner of the globe.

A licensed amateur radio operator, Barrett estimates he has communicated with 7,000 to 8,000 persons in all parts of the world in the more than 30 years he has been tinkering with sending and receiving equipment.

Probably the transmission which sticks most vividly in Barrett's mind dates back to March 18, 1940. It never became significant until six years later.

In 1946, Barrett received a letter from a Czech doctor in which he wrote he picked up Barrett's signal six years earlier on his receiver located some 33 miles northwest of Prague. During World War II, the doctor's set was destroyed by aerial bombardment.

Unacknowledged Gift

Pointing out there was a drastic shortage of receiving equipment, the doctor asked Barrett to send radio parts to construct a new receiver. Barrett, known by other radio operators as W9BTA, complied.

He has not heard from the doctor since the original letter and can only guess as to what happened to his "friend" behind the Iron Curtain.

Barrett, who lives at 2828 S. 9th St., plans to ask the International Radio Relay League, an organization of amateur radio operators, to use its influence to obtain information about the doctor's whereabouts.

Some of Barrett's proudest moments have come while serving others.

He is a member of the Fifth U.S. Army Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS), a vast network of amateur radio operators who send and receive messages for government and military personnel and their families. The operators serve without pay.

Barrett said the only requirements [sic] is that messages not exceed 25 words, including the signature.

'Phone Patch'

Among Barrett's complicated equipment is a "phone patch." With the phone patch, Barrett can set up a system through which a person can use the telephone in his own home as a microphone and receiver to reach another person by short wave thousands of miles away.

The only restriction -- if you want to call it that -- is that the persons at the two ends of the circuit can't talk at the same time as with the conventional telephone system.

One of Barrett's longest such relays involved a 2-1/2-hour conversation between a Sheboygan couple and their son in Germany. After the conversation ended, the couple was amazed to learn there was no charge.

Barrett said he often finds it difficult to convince people he has helped that there are no charges for his services and the use of his equipment.

And his home is always open to amateur radio enthusiasts.

Time, which traditionally takes its toll, also has left its mark on the amateur radio field, according to Barrett.

Barrett feels that the "old-time" radio amateurs, responsible for many breakthroughs now enjoyed in the electronics field, are rapidly fading from the American scene.

According to Barrett, the real amateur operators are primarily interested in experimental work rather than just "raising" some individual at the other end of the world.

Set Mostly Homemade

Despite a 30-year increase in the number of radio operators from an estimated 25,000 to some 300,000, experimental work has dropped off considerably.

Barrett attributes this to commercialism in the field and just plain laziness, pointing out that it's much easier for an individual to buy a completely assembled set rather than picking up odds and ends and building his own set.

Estimating that his equipment is valued at over $1,500, Barrett says over half of it is homemade.

One of Barrett's prize possessions is a teletype printer which he rejuvenated from the junk pile. Now, after many hours of repair work, the teletype is working perfectly.

In sending teletype messages by short wave, the signals from the keyboard are changed to impulses by a convertor for transmission through radio equipment. A reverse process occurs for receiving messages.

Barret is the only one of some 25 or 30 amateur operators in Sheboygan County with an operating teletype unit. With the teletype, Barrett has been able to contact over 100 other "printer" stations, the farthest being in California.

According to Barrett, who is 62 years old, there is unlimited opportunity for experimenting in the teletype field.

After Barrett retires in three years as service work dispatcher at the Wisconsin Power and Light Co., there seems to be little question as to what will take up most of his spare time.

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