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"On the Short Waves, 1923-1945"

Reviewed by Steve Ford, WB8IMY, Managing Editor, in the July 1999 issue of QST, Official Journal of the American Radio Relay League.  Reprinted with the permission of QST.

On the Short Waves chronicles the rise of short wave broadcasting in the first half of the 20th century.  This may seem like a dry subject for a book, but Jerome Berg turns a historical outline into a sweeping epic.  He begins at the earliest days of wireless and devotes considerable discussion to the pioneering role that Amateur Radio played in the discovery of long-distance propagation on short-wave frequencies.

Jerome Berg's excellent writing and research notwithstanding, part of the appeal of On the Short Waves is its numerous illustrations.  Almost every other page contains a photograph, QSL, program guide, magazine cover or other similar artifact from the era.  Before I actually read the book, I spent an evening just thumbing through the pages and marveling at the graphics.  One ham/broadcast QSL reproduced in On the Short Waves carried this poem:

From my very own radio station,
I am sending a message to say,
Good morning to you, and how do you do?
Much better I hope, today.

And isn't it fine to think,
hat regradless of pen or ink,
A message straight to your heart from mine,
Gan go like a flash on our own private line?

Such sentiments about an electronic medium seem foreign and quaint to most people today.  As hams we are among the minority who understand the emotions that would give rise to poems like these.  And it is that early romance of radio that permeates On the Short Waves.  It is rare for a historical work to capture the fundamental spirit of the era it describes, but Berg has managed to do so.  On the Short Waves is a fast-paced, richly illustrated tour of a time when radio was young and the public was still deeply in love with its magical ability to bring the world to their homes.  I sincerely hope that Jerome Berg is working on the next edition to span 1945 to the present!