Channeling Wayne Green

Wayne Green, W2NSD

Wayne Green was a radio amateur and entrepreneur birthed in the halcyon days of hobby radio. A veteran of the Second World War, he saw first hand the impact from the glut of war surplus equipment on the amateur service. Mechanical behemoth’s from the War Department soon filled basement radio shacks and RTTY became the hot new thing in hamdom. Wayne took an interest and soon began publishing a ‘newsletter’ directed at the growing crowd of keyboard enthusiasts.

The success of his venture didn’t escape the attention of the publisher at CQ Magazine, an enterprise that had launched just before the ban on ham radio was lifted in the United States at the end of the war in 1945. Before long, Green found himself writing an RTTY column and moving up the ranks at the new magazine.

He learned the periodical business while at CQ, and by 1960, decided the time was right to launch his own publication, 73 magazine. 73 was popular, as was ‘Uncle Wayne’ and for a season, his was the cutting edge ham radio journal. It promoted home-building, ham radio in space, FM and repeaters, and later, computers in the ham shack — long before the ancients running the other publications would freely admit that ham radio was moving from spark to space.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. His was a life filled with successes and failures – the common juxtaposition of most entrepreneurs. I entered the ham radio world during the mid-70’s when Wayne’s ham radio empire had probably peaked and was beginning its slow decline. As forward thinking as he was during the previous decades, he seemed to have become forever ‘stuck’ in 1975. The magazine continued to prosper, mostly thanks to the occasional scandal at the ARRL that gave him reason to continue printing it.

It morphed into the publication for ARRL antagonists. 73 became the anti-QST magazine.

Uncle Wayne’s editorials became epic in rant, length, and subject matter covered. ‘Never Say Die’ a backronym on his own call sign, W2NSD, often exhausted 5,000 or more words in a single editorial – enough to fill a novel every twelve months. His monthly screed covered the amateur radio scene well enough, at least in the beginning, but even these were peppered with his personal views on race relations, conspiracies, politics, the economy, health and education – to name just a few.

Readers were of two minds on Wayne’s penchant for sharing his opinions. They loved it or they hated it, there simply was no middle ground. The effect was polarizing and I gladly admit, I loved it. You didn’t read the 73 editorial in a single session. It was meant to be carried around all week and imbibed slowly, five paragraphs at a session. It caused me to actually think about the views espoused by Green and while we didn’t always agree, it was an order of magnitude deeper than typical ham radio detritus…

Another generation and W2NSD would have been a blogger. I’ve tried to imagine how his views would be received in this century and am unable to conjure a scenario where he would have been well-liked in this new world order. We’ve managed to dumb down amateur radio — and even our blog posts — to accommodate the duration of an average bowel movement.

We tweet 140 characters as though bits were expensive commodities. Blog posts exist in 250 words, preferably less. Photos and videos are more highly prized than thoughtful commentary – unless it can be consumed in less than two minutes. Bullet points, pictures and a brief summary – nothing too difficult to read and understand, certainly nothing that requires any thought for digestion.

I miss Uncle Wayne’s long editorials and one of my goals for 2K15 is to climb on the soapbox and go long like he did, though no one need call me El Supremo.

At least not at first…

Author: Jeff Davis