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Silent-Keys


We have lost many friends over the years, all of whom are missed for their knowledge, help, wisdom, humor, and stories. If you would like to contribute a memorial for this page, please send it to:
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I'd like to point out how something as simple as a dialog on greenkeys can help preserve tty information for future generations. The voices of John, Jay, and Alan still speak to us from the greenkeys archives, giving us not only their expertise, but also their personality. So please, continue contributing your insight and knowledge of the field. Your posts are not just for the greenkeys community, but become part of the online historical record.


John Sheetz, K2AGI (19xx - Jan 2005)

john-sheetz.jpg I just learned about the passing of John Sheetz, K2AGI. I met John many years ago at a Bell Labs retirement dinner. I saw him sitting at a table and immediately recognized him from the many pictures of him that I had seen over the years in CQ and the RTTY Journal. I was thrilled to meet him and to learn that he was a fellow Bell Head! Here I was, drinking beer with one of the legends of Ham RTTY! If my memory serves me right, I believe John had Marv, W2PAT, with him at the dinner. John and I chatted by phone and email over the years afterward and I often promised to try to visit him to see his collection of TTY's. As luck had it, I have been "on the road" for several years and visting time has been at a premium. 73 to all,

- Jack Hart, WA2HWJ


While getting together addresses and information to send out free copies of the documentary to interviewees, I have discovered the sad news that one of them, John Sheetz of New Jersey (K2AGI), passed away in January of this year. Mr. Sheetz was a complete shot in the dark for me, interview-wise; in trying to make an episode about using BBSes for artwork, I wanted to show that this urge and approach was around long before people were using modems to connect to each other. I looked out on the internet and found out there had been Teletype art contests going back some time, which were run by Don Royer and others, and which were massive in scale. Mr. Royer had died some time ago, but Mr. Sheetz was around and when I called, he was obviously a little confused as to why I contacted him and the subject matter of this documentary, but he agreed to be interviewed for it. I drove from Boston to his home in New Jersey, which also confused him ("You came all this way just to talk to me?"), but I saw that he had made the massive effort of bringing out stacks and stacks of Teletype art for me to see and take pictures of. I took a bunch of shots and then sat with him for an hour interview. We talked about how all this art had come about, about the process of creating it using the technology of the time, and the unique ways people could use ham radio to send these pictures around. He talked about his own attempts to create these artworks, how a local business got in trouble using Peanuts Characters in teletype form for christmas calendars, and a bunch of other great stories. We also checked out his garage and his old teletype machines which he still had. I took photos of these as well. His interview made the perfect introduction to the ARTSCENE episode, and in fact a good 5 minutes of Mr. Sheetz discussing teletype art is in the documentary. He is one of the longest appearances of the 200+ interviews. Here are photographs from the interview. After interviewing Mr. Sheetz, I went into further interviews and editing, and we never talked again. I don't know what he thought of the strange guy with long hair and the camera equipment who came to his house for a few hours one morning, but I thought he was a great person and worth every mile of the hundreds I drove to see him. When a Ham passes away, he or she becomes known as a "Silent Key", because you will not hear their call sign over the air again. I am truly sorry that he never got to see himself on film. On the other hand, this is precisely why I started this documentary project in the first place. In 2005, there is no John Sheetz to talk about teletype and telegraph art. There won't be in 2006, either, or beyond. The only regret I have is we talked for a mere hour, because my documentary was about a specific subject. I didn't talk to him about his decades of being a ham, or his years working at Bell Telephone, or any of a bunch of other subjects that I wonder are now lost to time. I try not to think about what's happened to all those reams of teletype art he spent decades collecting. We stand on crumbling sand. I have donated all of John's interview to the Internet Archive.

- Jason Scott


It is indeed sad to hear of the passing of John Sheetz, K2AGI. I always enjoyed how he signed his emails: "on RTTY since 1950!" Back when I first found greenkeys, I wanted to identify a machine that I had in storage for decades. Various folks on the list helped me identify it as a Model 31, and I eventually got it running. John sent me a roll of quite-rare gummed paper tape for the machine, and some original Teletype hardware that was missing. He was one of the folks that made greenkeys a special group, and he will be missed.

- Gil Smith


R. Jay Waller, KF5HC (19xx - Sep 2004)

jay-waller.jpg It is with great personal sadness that I report the passing of Jay Waller, KF5HC, following an automobile accident on 12 September. I have very few details at this time from his wife, Sandy, but I will pass along more information when it becomes available.

- Scott Johnson, KC7BGE


Jay will be missed by many of us.

- Brian, AF4K


It was a shock to hear of Jay's passing -- I just spoke with him the previous month. He was an avid Model 28 enthusiast, and a very nice fellow. Regrettably, I missed an opportunity to meet him when he was visiting Phoenix earlier in 2004. Jay provided many repair parts for my 28ASR -- a machine that will now be restored in his memory.

After wishing Jay a happy Veteran's Day 2003, he replied to me with an interesting note: "I am not a pilot (everyone seems to be amazed that ALL Army Warrant Officers were not chopper pilots). Getting a whirly-bird shot out from under you by small-arms fire (happened twice in two trips to Nam) is the thrill of a life-time, NOT recommended. However, dropping fifty feet or so into the jungle canopy is a "soft?" landing, and if there is no explosion or fire, one needs only to crawl down the trees, avoid the wrong people, watch out for tigers, etc...and make your way home. I flew MATS one time out of the big field in Ohio in the belly turret of a Billy Mitchell, and THAT is quite a trip also, especially on take-offs and landings. During the Panmunjon peace talks, an F-80 Shooting Star skidded to a stop in a rice paddy about 100 yards from my crossed U adcock DF antenna array -- the pilot calmly walked up to me. We gave him a cup of coffee and called transportation for him (just had a flame-out). I often wonder how they got that plane, which at the time was the premier fighter, and cost big bucks, not really damaged too much, but covered with mud and honey bucket type ferilizer, rice stalks, etc... brings back some powerful memories, both good and bad."

- Gil Smith


Alan G. Hobbs, G8GOJ (19xx - Apr 2004)

alan-hobbs.jpg Alan Hobbs, G8GOJ, died on Thursday 15th April 2004. His compassion, intellect and tremendous sense of humour will not be forgotten by all of those who knew him. Alan's contributions to the THG over the years were outstanding, reminding us that there is more to telecomms heritage than bakelite phones and Strowger switches. He was always generous with both his knowledge and time. It was a pleasure and an honour to have known him. Alan’s father was the Plant Engineer for Creed & Co Ltd, the Croydon-based maker of teleprinters which were used extensively by the GPO in the Telex service. Whilst he was still a boy Alan visited the factory in the annual shut down during the school holidays. From this he developed a fascination for teleprinters which led to a life-long interest and an almost encyclopaedic knowledge. Alan acquired his first teleprinter in 1962 and was soon receiving news broadcasts from around the world. He joined the British Amateur Radio Teleprinter Group in 1965 although he was not quite a founding member, he was still only the nineteenth. He obtained his amateur radio licence, G8GOJ, in 1972 allowing him to transmit on VHF frequencies and much later in 2002 he became M3GOJ for the HF bands. In the intervening years Alan has served on the BARTG committee and more recently was elected President. In the years when BARTG held an annual rally at Sandown Park, Alan organised these with calm efficiency managing to keep both traders and visitors happy. He was always on site early yet stayed to the bitter end helping to stack hundreds of tables and sweep the vast floor area. An enduring memory is of Alan in the organiser’s office in a rather disreputable pair of shorts re-drawing the table plan at the last minute to fit in yet another trader. Alan’s ‘day job’ was with the Central Electricity Generating Board (now National Grid) as a telecomms engineer and this brought him into contact with the wonderful world of small Strowger exchanges in use in power stations. Since his retirement he was keen to see examples of this mechanical era of telecomms preserved, helping in the move of the Steyning IBTE museum to the new Working Museum at Amberley. After he retired he was often to be found at Steyning during the week servicing and advising on the machines in the museum stock. It should also be known that Alan was Communications Officer for his local Air Training Corps squadron for some considerable time. Their headquarters became his second “shack”. He instilled a healthy interest into countless young people in both radio and telecomms in general and by his active encouragement of the cadets. He took part in regular weekend camps for the cadets at RAF bases gaining the respect of regular RAF signals officers for his knowledge and professionalism. He also regularly helped his wife Gill with running camps and special event stations for the Guides, once again encouraging the youngsters to take an interest in radio. Alan was also in constant demand from TV production companies to supply and operate working teleprinters for use in programmes and his machines were featured in countless TV dramas and documentaries. Alan leaves us a legacy of written material. Not the least is the RSGB Teleprinter Handbook, co-written with Eric Yeomanson and Dr A.C. Gee, both of whom are also silent keys. More recent has been his series of scholarly articles for the THJ on Teleprinters I have Known covering the most significant models produced by Creed. His articles can be found on the World-Wide Web on several sites devoted to telegrams and amateur radio. I am grateful to Ian Brothwell, G4EAN, of BARTG, Kevin Sanderson, Ivor Flint and Dave Edwards of THG their help in compiling this tribute.

- Sam Hallas, G8EXV


We will miss our Creed expert, Alan G. Hobbs, G8GOJ, whose father was the Plant Engineer for Creed & Co Ltd. Alan was immersed in Creed technology from boyhood, and while his knowledge of the company and machines will be missed, he left us a legacy of insight. In addition to co-authoring the respected "RSGB Teleprinter Handbook," Alan also authored several Creed papers.

- Gil Smith





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