Hugo Gernsback: father of sf and early WiFi nut

Hugo Gernsback, who published the first science fiction magazine, got his start publishing radio and electronics hobbist mags. Glenn Fleishman has been researching the history of unlicensed radio and has discovered that ole Hugo was an early unlicensed radio/open spectrum advocate! I've co-written some sf about this, and I've got a novel coming out in May that's all about open wireless — good to see that I'm part of a literary tradition in the field!

Gernsback published an early magazine on the topic, "Modern Electrics," imported European electronics gear for amateur radio builders, and organized the Wireless Association of America in 1909 that had 10,000 members within a year. Gernback estimated that 400,000 amateur radio aficionados were at work in 1912.

Does this all sound a bit familiar? Working with cheaply available equipment, clambering on roofs, and working inside the law while not being subject to regulation, these amateurs–largely boys and young men–spent countless hours messing with technology to extend transmissions. It was some kind of combination of instant messaging, phone phreaking, and Wi-Fi with a distinctly modern flavor to it.