Were you a Popular Electronics
Short-Wave Monitor?

WPE8ETW . . . That was my Short-Wave Monitor call sign issued by Popular Electronics magazine on June 9, 1962. Actually, Popular Electronics didn't use the term call sign; rather, station identification sign. Whatever you called it, it didn't give you permission to transmit or do anything else for that matter, but it made us feel important and provided a means to earn achievement stickers for confirmation of having heard shortwave broadcast stations around the world. Click on the picture below for a good view of my registration certificate.

The WPE program, which ran from the late 50's through the 60's, was the gateway into ham radio for many youngsters. It was a bit different for me, however, since I had received my first Amateur Radio license (KN8WHB) nearly two years earlier in September of 1960.

Ham radio and shortwave listening are two hobbies that still go hand in hand. In the mid and late 50s, before I received my Novice class Amateur Radio license, I used to listen for hours to shortwave broadcast stations from all over the world on our old upright AM/shortwave radio. I can still remember the thrill of hearing Radio Moscow or HCJB or the thumpity-thump sound of ham radio CW signals (using Morse Code) coming through on AM.

Later, I listened on my ham radio Heathkit AR-3 receiver. The picture above of an AR-3 (not mine) includes the QF-1 Q Multiplier, which I also used (belonging to K8UDJ, now K8CH). The AR-3 was definitely a beginner's radio, with poor stability and selectivity. But, believe me, it was a lot of fun!

My WPE certificate is apparently a rather rare one. Not valuable-type rare, just rather rare. According to an excellent Internet article by John Herkimer (WB2LNY / WPE2PIL), few certificates were issued with the signature of Julian M. Sienkiewicz, director of Monitor Station Registration. Mine happens to be signed by him.

Also, as you can see, my certificate apparently came without the call sign stamped on it, or at least it was hand written, because it appears I either wrote it in myself or traced over the hand written call sign. I seem to recall I received a small piece of paper with the certificate that had my call sign on it. If so, then I did write the call sign on the certificate. Regardless, that neat certificate made me feel important as an "official" shortwave monitor.

The picture at the above-right is of an older version of the WPE certificate (used with his permission). It was issued in 1958 or 1959 to Phil Finkle, K6EID, when he was in Taiwan. Notice the unique China call sign of C3PE1B. I wonder if the figure 1 indicates the first certificate issued to someone in China?

Joe Tyburczy, W6GFH, has a website about the WPE program at www.qsl.net/wb1gfh/swl.html. Check it out. I hope this gets your nostalgic juices flowing.

--Dale Holloway, K4EQ (and still WPE8ETW)