Friday February 26, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Radar

On this Day:

In 1935, RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging) was first demonstrated by Robert Watson-Watt. Yes but work on the development of radar began much earlier.

The first experiments on what was to become radar started as early as 1886. German physicist Heinrich Hertz showed that radio waves could be reflected from solid objects. In 1895, Alexander Popov, a physics instructor at the Imperial Russian Navy school in Kronstadt, developed an apparatus using a coherer tube for detecting distant lightning strikes. The next year, he added a spark-gap transmitter. In 1897, while testing this equipment for communicating between two ships in the Baltic Sea, he took note of an interference beat caused by the passage of a third vessel. In his report, Popov wrote that this phenomenon might be used for detecting objects, but he did nothing more with this observation.

The German inventor Christian Hülsmeyer was the first to use radio waves to detect “the presence of distant metallic objects”. In 1904, he demonstrated the feasibility of detecting a ship in dense fog, but not its distance from the transmitter. He obtained a patent for his detection device in April 1904 and later a patent for a related amendment for estimating the distance to the ship. He also obtained a British patent on September 23, 1904 for a full radar system, that he called a telemobiloscope. It operated on a 50 cm wavelength and the pulsed radar signal was created via a spark-gap. His system already used the classic antenna setup of horn antenna with parabolic reflector and was presented to German military officials in practical tests in Cologne and Rotterdam harbour but was rejected.

In 1915, Robert Watson-Watt used radio technology to provide advance warning to airmen and during the 1920s went on to lead the U.K. research establishment to make many advances using radio techniques, including the probing of the ionosphere and the detection of lightning at long distances. Through his lightning experiments, Watson-Watt became an expert on the use of radio direction finding before turning his inquiry to shortwave transmission. Requiring a suitable receiver for such studies, he told the “new boy” Arnold Frederic Wilkins to conduct an extensive review of available shortwave units. Wilkins would select a General Post Office model after noting its manual’s description of a “fading” effect (the common term for interference at the time) when aircraft flew overhead.

Across the Atlantic in 1922, after placing a transmitter and receiver on opposite sides of the Potomac River, U.S. Navy researchers A. Hoyt Taylor and Leo C. Young discovered that ships passing through the beam path caused the received signal to fade in and out. Taylor submitted a report, suggesting that this phenomenon might be used to detect the presence of ships in low visibility, but the Navy did not immediately continue the work. Eight years later, Lawrence A. Hyland at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) observed similar fading effects from passing aircraft; this revelation led to a patent application as well as a proposal for further intensive research on radio-echo signals from moving targets to take place at NRL, where Taylor and Young were based at the time.

Before the Second World War, researchers in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, and the United States, independently and in great secrecy, developed technologies that led to the modern version of radar. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa followed prewar Great Britain’s radar development, and Hungary generated its radar technology during the war.

In France in 1934, following systematic studies on the split-anode magnetron, the research branch of the Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie Sans Fil (CSF) headed by Maurice Ponte with Henri Gutton, Sylvain Berline and M. Hugon, began developing an obstacle-locating radio apparatus, aspects of which were installed on the ocean liner Normandie in 1935.

During the same period, Soviet military engineer P.K. Oshchepkov, in collaboration with Leningrad Electrophysical Institute, produced an experimental apparatus, RAPID, capable of detecting an aircraft within 3 km of a receiver. The Soviets produced their first mass production radars RUS-1 and RUS-2 Redut in 1939 but further development was slowed following the arrest of Oshchepkov and his subsequent gulag sentence. In total, only 607 Redut stations were produced during the war. The first Russian airborne radar, Gneiss-2, entered into service in June 1943 on Pe-2 dive bombers. More than 230 Gneiss-2 stations were produced by the end of 1944. The French and Soviet systems, however, featured continuous-wave operation that did not provide the full performance ultimately synonymous with modern radar systems.

Full radar evolved as a pulsed system, and the first such elementary apparatus was demonstrated in December 1934 by the American Robert M. Page, working at the Naval Research Laboratory. The following year, the United States Army successfully tested a primitive surface-to-surface radar to aim coastal battery searchlights at night. This design was followed by a pulsed system demonstrated in May 1935 by Rudolf Kühnhold and the firm GEMA [de] in Germany and then another in June 1935 by an Air Ministry team led by Robert Watson-Watt in Great Britain.

In 1935, Watson-Watt was asked to judge recent reports of a German radio-based death ray and turned the request over to Wilkins. Wilkins returned a set of calculations demonstrating the system was basically impossible. When Watson-Watt then asked what such a system might do, Wilkins recalled the earlier report about aircraft causing radio interference. This revelation led to the Daventry Experiment of 26 February 1935, using a powerful BBC shortwave transmitter as the source and their GPO receiver set up in a field while a bomber flew around the site. When the plane was clearly detected, Hugh Dowding, the Air Member for Supply and Research was very impressed with their system’s potential and funds were immediately provided for further operational development. Watson-Watt’s team patented the device in GB593017.

Development of radar greatly expanded on 1 September 1936 when Watson-Watt became Superintendent of a new establishment under the British Air Ministry, Bawdsey Research Station located in Bawdsey Manor, near Felixstowe, Suffolk. Work there resulted in the design and installation of aircraft detection and tracking stations called “Chain Home” along the East and South coasts of England in time for the outbreak of World War II in 1939. This system provided the vital advance information that helped the Royal Air Force win the Battle of Britain; without it, significant numbers of fighter aircraft, which Great Britain did not have available, would always need to be in the air to respond quickly. If enemy aircraft detection had relied solely on the observations of ground-based individuals, Great Britain might have lost the Battle of Britain. Also vital was the “Dowding system” of reporting and coordination to provide the best use of radar information during the tests of early radar deployment during 1936 and 1937.

Given all required funding and development support, the team produced working radar systems in 1935 and began deployment. By 1936, the first five Chain Home (CH) systems were operational and by 1940 stretched across the entire UK including Northern Ireland. Even by standards of the era, CH was crude; instead of broadcasting and receiving from an aimed antenna, CH broadcast a signal floodlighting the entire area in front of it, and then used one of Watson-Watt’s own radio direction finders to determine the direction of the returned echoes. This fact meant CH transmitters had to be much more powerful and have better antennas than competing systems but allowed its rapid introduction using existing technologies.

Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves in the radio or microwaves domain, a transmitting antenna, a receiving antenna (often the same antenna is used for transmitting and receiving) and a receiver and processor to determine properties of the object(s). Radio waves (pulsed or continuous) from the transmitter reflect off the object and return to the receiver, giving information about the object’s location and speed (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

All mothers have intuition.  Great mothers have radar.

Second, a Song:

Well not a song.  An interview – with Gary Berghoff, a.k.a. Radar from M*A*S*H.

M*A*S*H (an acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) is an American war comedy-drama television series that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1983. It was developed by Larry Gelbart as the first original spin-off series adapted from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H, which, in turn, was based on Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. The series, which was produced with 20th Century Fox Television for CBS, follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the “4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War (1950–53). The television series is the best-known of the M*A*S*H works, and one of the highest-rated shows in U.S. television history.

The series premiered in the US on September 17, 1972, and ended on February 28, 1983, with the finale, showcased as a television film, titled “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”, becoming the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in US television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers (60.2 rating and 77 share), according to the New York Times. It had struggled in its first season and was at risk of being cancelled. In season two, M*A*S*H was placed in a better time slot by CBS (airing after the popular All in the Family); the show then became one of the top 10 programs of the year and stayed in the top 20 programs for the rest of its run. It is still broadcast in syndication on various television stations. The series, which depicted events occurring during a three-year war, spanned 256 episodes and lasted 11 seasons. The Korean War lasted 1,128 days, meaning each episode of the series would have averaged almost four and a half days of real time. Many of the stories in the early seasons are based on tales told by real MASH surgeons who were interviewed by the production team. Like the movie, the series was as much an allegory about the Vietnam War (still in progress when the show began) as it was about the Korean War.

The episodes “Abyssinia, Henry” and “The Interview” were ranked number 20 and number 80, respectively, on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time in 1997. In 2002, M*A*S*H was ranked number 25 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In February 2008, the series was named the number-one smartest TV show of all time by Jim Werdell, chairman of Mensa International, who said that it “had smart repartee and was so much more than a comedy”. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the fifth-best written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the eighth-greatest show of all time. In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked it as the 16th-greatest TV show.

M*A*S*H was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards during its 11-year run, winning 14, including Gary Burghoff winning in 1977 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. The show won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) in 1981. Alan Alda won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy) six times: in 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. McLean Stevenson won the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series in 1974.

The series earned the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series seven times: 1973 (Gene Reynolds), 1974 (Reynolds), 1975 (Hy Averback), 1976 (Averback), 1977 (Alan Alda), 1982 (Alda), 1983 (Alda).

The show was honored with a Peabody Award in 1975 “for the depth of its humor and the manner in which comedy is used to lift the spirit and, as well, to offer a profound statement on the nature of war.” M*A*S*H was cited as “an example of television of high purpose that reveals in universal terms a time and place with such affecting clarity.”

Writers for the show received several Humanitas Prize nominations, with Larry Gelbart winning in 1976, Alan Alda winning in 1980, and the team of David Pollock and Elias Davis winning twice in 1982 and 1983.

The series received 28 Writers Guild of America Award nominations – 26 for Episodic Comedy and two for Episodic Drama. Seven episodes won for Episodic Comedy in 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1981 (per Wikipedia).

Here is Gary Berghoff in an interview where he shares his most memorable story related to the series ‘M*A*S*H.’ I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“It’s awfully nice when people thank you for the pleasure and laughter you’ve brought to their lives.” -Gary Burghoff

In response to the Toothbrush Smile:

Russ Waugh of Gimli, Manitoba, Canada writes: “Hi Dave, I can sure see why Raffi is a hit with the children, and likely has helped the parents in convincing them to brush their teeth.  Too bad all children could not see/hear him in person.  As you know they are like sponges and if they like something and are having fun they will remember it forever.  Russ”

My dear cousin Greg Bilinsky of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada writes: “Hi David. I always wanted to know why it’s a toothbrush and not a Teethbrush. Greg”

Greg:  Perhaps it was named after a Canadian Hockey Player?? 🙂



Have a great day!

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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