Worcester Polytechnic Institute

An Electric Century

No Wires Attached

Like electric power systems, the field of communications - from early telegraphic systems to today's wireless voice and data networks - has been a focus of activity in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department for most of its history. When radio emerged as an exciting new technology at the turn of the century, many of the department's faculty members and students became enthusiasts. They were among the first members of the WPI Wireless Association, which was formed in 1909 as the nation's first college amateur radio station.

Within two months of its founding, the association was on the air, keying out messages to other radio pioneers in Morse code on wireless sets built by students. In 1913, when the federal government began regulating radio transmissions and licensing broadcasters, WPI was given the call sign 1YK (which several years later became W1YK). In the years since, that call sign has become familiar to hams around the world (just after World War I, WPI's 50-watt signal was one of the first in the U.S. to be heard on the other side of the Atlantic) and even beyond this world (WPI amateur radio operators have spoken to astronauts on the space shuttle).

Today, nearly 90 years after its founding, the WPI Wireless Association remains active and continues to provide students an enjoyable and exciting way to put electrical engineering into action.

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Last modified: Tue Oct 05 09:24:49 EDT 1999