A 1985 ARRL Handbook

In this year’s ARRL Auction, I managed to score a 1985 ARRL Handbook to add to the collection.

Front cover of the 1985 ARRL Handbook

It’s in pretty decent condition, although the binding is broken in about the middle of the handbook. Going to have to see if there’s a good way to patch or fix that.

This handbook probably would have first gone on sale in late 1984, so I would have been in the middle of my first year of high school when this handbook came out. Even as late as 1985, there’s still a pretty big section devoted to vacuum tubes and vacuum tube gear. Aside from an old broken radio that was in our basement, I don’t think I had encountered any electronics that used vacuum tubes back then (well, televisions perhaps, but those are a different kind of vacuum tube).

The table of contents covers radio topics you might expect for radio technology from 37 years ago.

1985 ARRL Handbook table of contents

Interestingly enough, there seems to be more on vacuum tubes in the 1985 Handbook than there is in the 1980 Handbook. At some point between the 1980 and 1985 Handbooks, the Handbooks gained a considerable amount of weightpages.

Size comparison between the 1980 and 1985 ARRL Handbooks

Might be interesting to go through the two and see what kind of content got expanded on with all the added pages.

A 2023 ARRL Handbook

With the 1926 1st edition ARRL Handbook bookending my collection at one end, I now have the 2023 100th edition ARRL Handbook to be a bookend at the other end of the collection.

Cover of the 2023 100th edition of the ARRL Handbook

It’s a pretty hefty tome, and like previous handbooks, stuffed full of pretty much everything a person needs to know about amateur radio.

The hardcover Handbook also gets you the electronic version of the Handbook as well (I was sent a link to download both the Mac/Linux and Windows versions), which includes a ton of supplemental content for each chapter, project PDFs, and some software as well. What I haven’t seen in the electronic version (yet) is the insert between pages 15.18 and 15.19 giving a look at the evolution of the Handbook over the decades.

Insert in the 2023 ARRL Handbook providing a look at the ARRL Handbook over the decades.

It’s a nice little review, starting with an interview with K1NKR and his collection of QSTs and Handbooks (sounds like he’s got all but two of the Handbooks…quite the impressive collection) and then highlighting changes in the Handbook by decade.

Looks pretty good on the shelf with the other Handbooks.

2023 100th edition handbook added to the ARRL Handbook collection

A 1926 ARRL Handbook

The capstone for my ARRL Handbook collection is a 1926 first edition ARRL Radio Amateur’s Handbook that Connie gave me for Christmas. I happened to see it come up on eBay with an interesting description, and she said “BUY IT.”

This particular Handbook is hardcover bound and embossed with the name of the original owner, Harry T. Carroll/W4AEE.

Hardbound copy of the 1926 First Edition ARRL Radio Amateur's Handbook.  The name of the original owner, Harry T. Carroll is embossed on the lower right corner of the front cover.
Hardbound copy of the 1926 First Edition ARRL Radio Amateur’s Handbook

The Handbook comes with a pretty cool story related to me in a letter (and also part of the eBay listing description) from Harry’s grandson (now W4AEE).

On the title page are the names of three previous owners: Harry T. Carroll/W4AEE, James McKennon/W4ATD, and Wm Ray /W4CUP.

Title page of the First Edition ARRL Radio Amateur's Handbook with the names of several previous owners: Harry Carroll/W4AEE, James McKennon/W4ATD, and Wm Ray/W4CUP.
Title page of the First Edition ARRL Radio Amateur’s Handbook

Harry/W4AEE was given the Handbook by his father as a birthday present, hardcover bound and with Harry’s name on the front cover.

The front cover bears the name of my grandfather as the original cover did. It was given to him by his father as a 20th birthday present in 1926.

W4AEE, eBay listing description

Harry received this book when it was a brand new publication. What a great birthday present it must have been!

Harry/W4AEE later loaned the book to James McKennon/W4ATD (who perhaps misinterpreted the gesture or just forgot, which might explain why he wrote “Property of W4ATD” on the title page). Harry/W4AEE was later unable to get back in touch with W4ATD to get the handbook back.

A few years later, Harry remembered the loan and wanted to get his handbook back. So, he attempted to contact Jim without success; relatives said Jim had joined the Navy.

W4AEE, personal correspondance

At some point (apparently in 1937), the book ended up in the possession of Wm Ray/W4CUP, who added his name on the title page.

Eventually, after many years and happy circumstance, the handbook found its way to Harry’s grandson:

Many years later, in the 1990s, I was listening to stories being shared by some OMs (old timers) at the Chattanooga Hamfest. The subject turned to old radio books. I mentioned that my granddad had once owned a 1st Edition ARRL Handbook but never saw it again after loaning it out in the early 1930s. One of the men in the group (Bill Ray, W4CUP) asked me my graddad’s name and callsign. I told him and he began to grin and said “I have your granddad’s handbook on the shelf at home! I’ll put it in the mail to you next week!” And, so he did. I had it rebound to match the original black covers that were shelf-worn. It has been with my collection for about 30 years.

W4AEE, eBay listing description

Now it has passed into my care (as the 5th owner) where it will have a special place in my collection. I love the story behind this Handbook as much as I love having it as part of my collection.

Maybe, after a few years or decades, the Handbook will find its way back to Harry’s family. If any of W4AEE’s children, grandchildren, or greatn grandchildren happen to discover the fun of amateur radio and stumble on this blog post, well, get in touch!

A 1927 ARRL Handbook

A second printing of the 1927 ARRL Radio Amateur’s Handbook (Second Edition) purchased on eBay rounds out my ARRL Handbook collection.

For a 94 year old book, it’s in remarkably good condition and doesn’t show a whole lot of wear.

The name “John R. Lacy” (or perhaps “John R. Locy”) is written in pencil across the top of the title page inside the front cover. There’s also another name written in pencil on the front cover that’s fainter and difficult to make out.

Another name written on the front cover
Another name written on the front cover

Looks like “Cecil W______”. The rest of the last name is tough to make out. Wonder if this was another person who owned the book.

Other than these two names, I haven’t seen any other writings, notes, or other markings inside the Handbook.

I’m quite happy with this addition to my Handbook collection and now I consider my collection complete. I have at least one handbook from each decade it was published, except for the 2020s. Unless someone has a 2020 – 2022 handbook they give me, the next one I’ll get will be the 2023 ARRL Handbook, which will be the 100th edition. I think the only other Handbook I’d actively look for would be the 1970 Handbook, the year I was born. I won’t seek one out on eBay or anything like this one or the last one, but if I happen to come across one at a hamfest or something for a decent price, I’d probably pick it up.

A 1931 ARRL Handbook

The newest addition to my ARRL Handbook collection is one from 1931, the 8th edition of the ARRL Radio Amateur’s Handbook.

8th edition of the ARRL Radio Amaateur's Handbook from 1931
8th edition of the ARRL Radio Amateur’s Handbook from 1931

It’s not in the greatest condition but for a 90 year old book, the condition isn’t too bad considering books like these were meant to be read and re-read. The binding has deteriorated and there are a number of loose pages. I wonder what it would take to preserve the binding or rebind the book.

Compared to recent handbooks and even those from the 1940s and later, this early handbook is quite thin at less than 220 pages.

Table of contents from the 1931 ARRL Radio Amateur's Handbook
Table of contents

I haven’t had a chance to look through much of this book yet, but when I do I’ll have to be careful so that I don’t make any more pages fall out.