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Alf Traeger Memorial

I doubt whether too many users of HF radios would not have heard of the name Alf Traeger.

The inventor of the Pedal Wireless, Alfred Hermann Traeger, was born at Glenlee, Victoria on August 2nd 1895. Alf's family moved to a farm near Balaklava in South Australia and it is believed his transition from schoolboy to communications genius occurred when at the age of 12 he successfully set up a communications link between the house and an implement shed 50 metres away. Bits and pieces from around the farm were used to make a microphone and earpiece. The diaphragm for the earpiece was ingeniously made from a tobacco tin lid, the magnet was the prong of a pitchfork, while the carbon for the microphone apparently came from the kitchen stove.

When he was 16 Alf commenced studies at the Adelaide School of Mines and at the age of 20 graduated with a Diploma of Electrical Engineering. During his studies he became interested in the work of Guglielmo Marconi & Heinrich Hertz into the nature of radio waves. Alf went on to become an Amateur Radio Operator with the callsign VK5AX, and during his amateur radio career Alf was a member of the Wireless Institute of Australia - the oldest amateur radio society in the world being established in 1910.

For his final practical examination at the School of Mines, Alf had to build a high voltage generator and it was this that led to him being introduced to the Reverend John Flynn in 1925 while he was employed at Hannan Brothers in Adelaide. Alf went on to invent a low cost pedal driven generator capable of producing about 20 watts of DC power to run a HF transceiver which could be used at remote stations all around Australia. The future of communications in Australia - the Pedal Wireless and the Royal Flying Doctor Service was decided by the ingenuity of Alf Traeger, and the vision of the Reverend John Flynn.

In 1929 Alf installed the first RFDS base station at Cloncurry in Queensland, he then travelled to the outposts, installing sets and teaching the users Morse code and how to use the sets. Alf continued to supply transceivers to the RFDS until he retired in 1975, however the name and the radios did not end at that time. Traeger Transceivers produced many models of radio over the years and many of these are still in regular use by travellers in the Outback. Models such as the Safari, the Lynx, the 5x5 are common outback names however one name, the `Scout' is the one that many people will have heard about. The Scout started life as the `Traeger Scout', following the closure of Traeger Transceivers the model continued as the `Tracker Scout'. being made in Adelaide by Tracker Communications. Eventually Tracker closed and the manufacture of the Scout continued, this time under the label of Scout Communications (Oz Electronics Manufacturing) in Brisbane. In 1999 the Scout is still in production, and interestingly the design has not changed (except for the colour of the case) since the first model that left the Traeger factory more than 20 years ago.

Alf Traeger died in Adelaide on July 31st 1980 and to commemorate his memory the Wakefield Regional Council in South Australia commissioned a Sundial / Plaque which has been placed at the southern entrance to Balaklava. Funding for the project comprised a grant of $300 from the History Trust of SA, $100 from the Wireless Institute of Australia, $100 from the Australian National 4WD Radio Network, $100 from the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council & $100 from the South Australian Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs with the balance (around $300) being picked up by the Wakefield Regional Council.

The plaque was unveiled by the honourable Neil Andrew MHR, Member for Wakefield, on Australia Day, 26th of January 1999. About 200 people attended the ceremony and heard speeches from Mayor James Maitland & CEO Phil Barry of the Wakefield Regional Council, Neil Andrew MHR, Joyce Traeger, Ian Hunt VK5QX, President of the Wireless Institute of Australia (SA Division) and Steve Johnston VK5ZNJ, Chairman of the Australian National 4WD Radio Network. The Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council and the South Australian Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs was represented by Lee Smith, several members of the Wireless Institute and the Australian National 4WD Radio Network also were present.

Special guest at the unveiling was Alf's widow Joyce who helped Neil Andrew unveil the plaque and gave an insight into Alf's life, several members of the Traeger family also attended the ceremony.

- Steve Johnston

Below, 1. from left to right James Maitland, Phil Barry, Joyce Traeger, Neil Andrew, Steve Johnston; 2. Lee Smith, Neil Andrew, Steve Johnston; 3. Ian Hunt; 4. group.
URL = www.4wdonline.com/News/1999/990210.Traeger.html

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