Station KQW, 1913

Station KQW equipment

Above: In 1913, broadcast control room operators Ken Sanders and Emil Portal use Charles “Doc” Herrold’s invention, the water-cooled microphone, to transmit a broadcast from Herrold’s radio station atop the Garden City Bank Building in downtown San Jose. Charles Herrold looks on from the doorway as technician Frank Schmidt monitors equipment. The station was given the call letters FN, and would re-register after World War I as KQW.

Some of the original equipment from Charles “Doc” Herrold’s first broadcasting station in San Jose is part of the Perham Collection of Early Electronics, including Herrold’s invention the water-cooled microphone, in which water flowed through tubes at the back of the microphone in order to offset the heat created by the electric current.

While the Perham Collection was housed at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, the original KQW broadcasting equipment was recreated to match the above photograph, using a combination of original and replica components. This display is still part of the collection, and has been shown in several exhibits, including San Jose Calling: Radio’s First 100 Years and The Wireless Age: Electronics Entrepreneurs Before Silicon Valley. The legend below identifies each piece in Herrold’s pioneering radio station.

KQW broadcasting equipment
The KQW broadcasting control equipment as displayed at History Park in 2015-2016 (Perham Collection of Early Electronics)

This table contains two complete transmitters, likely operating on two different wavelengths.

(1) Ammeter
(2) Voltmeter
(3) Tuning Coil for Transmitter #1
(4) Tuning Coil for Transmitter #2
(5) Multiple-arcs for Transmitter #1
(6) Multiple-arcs for Transmitter #2
(7) Telegraph Key for Transmitter #2
(8) Variable Condenser for Transmitter #2 (Used for Power Adjustment)
(9) Water-Cooled Microphone
(10) Victrola
(11) Telegraph Key for Transmitter #1