From Practical Wireless, 75th Anniversary Supplement - December 2007
The Man Behind The Prolific Pen
Francis George Rayer G3OGR
A deeper look at his work and pen names
Editorial introduction: It seems fitting to round off the 75th anniversary year of PW with a further and more detailed tribute to the late Frank Rayer G3OGR. It's especially well timed as far as I'm concerned because - as Stef says - many of us owe much to G3OGR's work.
I've made an exception for this article because although Stef only offered it recently - we were able to place it in the very last issue for 2007. We are moving forward in 2008 and this is the last 'looking back' type feature for the foreseeable future. I thank Stef for his work and I must say that I have been astounded at the versatility of Frank Rayer - writing everything from romantic novels to science fiction - he must have been a very exceptional individual. Incidentally, I take the opportunity to thank the anonymous reader who kindly sent me a copy of one of G3OGR's (very Dan Dare like) science fiction novels. As an Eagle comic fan I thoroughly enjoyed it! Rob G3XFD.
Although Stef Niewadomski is not a Radio Amateur, he is - as a busy technical writer himself - following in the footsteps of the late Frank Rayer G3OGR. Stef's always been fascinated in the man behind the various pen names and presents his findings in yet another fascinating article for PW!
In the 75th anniversary year of PW, the publication of articles by G3OGR and R F Graham has stimulated discussion on Frank Rayer's pen names. Most recently an interesting letter from Dave Porter G4OYX summed up his suspicions as to Frank Rayer's various disguised names.
When I started researching this article, I did so with a view of 'proving' the G3OGR- R F Graham connection.
However, I didn't realise the true nature and extent of G3OGR's writing output between the late 1940s and his death in 1981, although this was hinted at in Rob Mannion G3XFD's article Mr Project- The F G Rayer Story in PW October 2002, written with much input from G3OGR's son, William. The article answered many questions about the man and mentioned his other writings, besides what we saw in PW and other radio and electronics magazines during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. My 'guesstimate'from the 2007 viewpoint, is that what we grew up with in PW during the 1950s to 1970s period was much less than half of what G3OGR actually wrote! Although it can be argued that the constructional aspect of his radio/electronics projects (and his DIY projects, see later) must have accounted for more time than 'simply' writing science fiction stories.
On the question of whether G3OGR and (Captain) R F Graham were one and the same person, certainly the circumstantial evidence points to a 'yes he was'. When R F Graham first appears in PW in the mid -1950s, he seems to be G3OGR's transistor personality, while G3OGR concerns himself almost exclusively with tried and tested valve circuits.
So, for example, in the July 1957 issue of PW, the second part of An Amateur Communications- type Receiver (using good old octal valves) by F G Rayer, and A Diode and3 Transistor Portable (using 0070/71/72 transistors) by Capt. R F Graham are published. The attachment of F G Rayer to his callsign doesn't occur until PW August 1964, with the publication of End Fed Aerials by F G Rayer G3OGR, though he received the callsign in July 1960.
You'd think that from then onwards Frank Rayer would insist on the permanent attachment of name and callsign. However, there are examples of articles in 1965 onwards where the name F G Rayer and his callsign G3OGR are detached from each other and maybe they were even used to imply different author identities. The name R F Graham occurs most often when F G Rayer has an article published in the same issue of PW. This pattern occurs on no less than 21 occasions between 1957 and 1970 (and maybe beyond this, for which I don't have records).
During the same 14 year period R F Graham has only four articles published in months when G3OGR is not published.
My theory is that the editor of PW at the time (the great F J Camm up to his death in February 1959, followed by the anonymous 'The Editor') had a policy of publishing only one article by an author in a given issue of the magazine. In retrospect the use of F G Rayer, G3OGR and R F Graham looks like a crude way of circumventing the rule for such a prolific (and presumably popular) author.
I thought I had F J Camm's rule worked out until I saw the December 1958 copy of PW! It's at this point where the whole theory falls apart as F G Rayer has three articles attributed to him, namely: AC Pre-tuned Superhet, Power Transistors and The Beginner's Superhet. Maybe even the great F J Camm or his editorial staff lost the plot sometimes?
I suspect that Fred Camm admired G3OGR's writings greatly as both men were prolific authors on a wide range of subjects including, but certainly not limited to, radio and electronics. And Camm helped Rayer as much as possible to accommodate his output. We must remember that G3OGR was making a living from writing and not just treating it as a part-time occupation as most writers did at the time (and still do) in Amateur Radio magazines.
Frank Rayer also had two articles published in the same issue of PW a few times in the1960s, for example in November 1962. So, if the system was in force during Fred Camm's period, it certainly broke down more often after his editorship was over.
The radio frequency (r.f.) section of G3OGR's Beginner's TRF4 article in the August 1966 issue of PW , is identical to that of R F Graham's TRF5 Pocket Portable in the May 1968 issue, down to the last resistor and capacitor value! The audio frequency (a.f.) output stages use the same Newmarket NKT251 transistors. Only the 'bit in the middle' is different, with an extra transistor a.f. stage added in the later article, so perhaps G3OGR realised his radio need a bit more gain and corrected this under the guise of R F Graham?
Another article published in the May 1968 issue entitled End Fed Aerial Tuner, appeared as 'by F G Rayer, G3OGR' and following the rule I've mentioned, G3OGR couldn't have used his own name for the TRF5 project. Interestingly, G3OGR had another article- Imperial Transmitter, Part III, published in the August 1966 issue of PW, under the name F G Rayer, G3OGR.
Frank Rayer's writings in PW were concerned mainly with Amateur Radio (receivers, transmitters, aerials, etc., for the Amateur bands), signal generators, calibrators, broadcast and communications receivers (valve-based initially and then using diodes and transistors) and radio control. From its inception, PW had promoted the home building of broadcast receivers at a time when ready-made receivers were an expensive luxury. And - up to the end of the 1960s - where at this time the designs were almost exclusively transistorised - hardly a month went by without such a project being published, many of them being G3OGR's designs.
Although I have a good collection of PWs for the late 1950s and 1960s, I don't have many other radio magazines of the period. Rummaging on my book shelves produced just two issues of The Short Wave Magazine, and magically G3OGR is published in both! The February 1968 issue has his Practical Top Band Transmitter Circuits, and October 1969 has Second - Channel BCI, both attributed to F G Rayer, AIERE, G3OGR.
Perhaps other authors could comment more comprehensively on G3OGR's output for SWM, and also Radio Constructor, Practical Electronics and Practical Television? Also, I wonder if he penetrated the RSGB's Bulletin (and Radio Communication as it became later) and Wireless World? I'm pretty sure he was published in the USA, but I don't have any details of anything that was published.
I've exchanged E-mails recently with G3OGR's son, William (formerly G8PWR) and he confirms that his father used the R F Graham pseudonym, amongst others, (including George Longdon, see later for how he used this name). William believes that a list of his father's pen names existed in his old papers but was probably thrown away many years ago. So, sadly we may never know the true extent of G3OGR's pseudonyms in radio magazines.
So far I've only concerned myself with G3OGR's articles for radio magazines, for which he's well known and respected. In fact he was also a great writer of books. For example, his radio interest gave us: Amateur Radio (published in 1964 by Arco Publications, with later re-printings); Transistor Receivers and Amplifiers (Focal Press, 1965); and How to Make Walkie-Talkies (Babani Publishing, 1977).
The walkie-talkies described in G3OGR's book were designed for Licensed Amateur use in the Amateur bands, typically the 28 and 144MHz bands, though some circuits for 160m and 80m (1.8 and 3.5MHz) were described. This was of course in the days before legal Citizens' Band (CB) operation was permitted.
Frank Rayer dealt with many publishers, but a long and fruitful relationship was maintained with Bernard Babani Publishing, for whom he generated many slim volumes (typically 100 pages).
As digital electronics 'caught on' in the late 1960s onwards G3OGR met the need for educational books in this field. Amongst his many books on the subject are: Popular Electronics and Computers (Arco Publishing, 1968), Electronic Game Projects (Newnes Publishing, 1979), Counter Driver and Numeral Display Projects (Babani Publishing, 1980); Digital Integrated Circuits Projects (Babani Publishing, 1981); and Integrated Circuit Projects for Beginners (Babani Publishing, published posthumously in 1982).
Frank Rayer's interest in radio control (as evidenced by his many magazine articles on the subject) also resulted in at least one book, namely Radio Control for Beginners (Babani Publishing, 1980).
It's worth noting that G3OGR also tackled a tricky subject in How to Build Your Own Solid State Oscilloscope (Babani Publishing, 1979). In this book he describes an oscilloscope using all solid state components (except for the cathode ray tube, c.r.t., itself of course), including high tension (h.t.) and extra high tension (e.h.t.) voltage generation.
The novel -Lady in Danger -published by Grafton publications -was G3OGR's first published book in 1948, under their series "Exciting Romance". Unfortunately I haven't been able to obtain a copy of the book. The only copy I could track down is in the British Library and they will only allow it to be read on-site.
Frank Rayer's interest in science fiction writing possibly resulted in four full-length novels, namely: Tomorrow Sometimes Comes (Home and Van Thal, 1951) which starts with the event feared and expected sooner or later by all in the west at the time - atomic war, Journey to the Stars (Arcadia House, 1964), The Iron and the Anger (Digit Books, 1964); and Cardinal of the Stars (Digit Books, 1964).
As you can see - 1964 is certainly a significant year in G3OGR's publishing career! I used the phrase 'possibly four novels' here because Journey to the Stars is actually Cardinal of the Stars under a different title. According to William Rayer, Journey to the Stars is a pirated copy of Cardinal of the Stars published in the USA, which is where most second-hand copies of this book now seem to be located. Of course, G3OGR was very upset about this pirating, but the cost of legal action was prohibitive and risky and was not pursued.
Assuming that G3OGR wrote the two unique science fiction books that were published in 1964 in the couple of years previously, there's no obvious slackening in those years in the frequency of his radio articles in PW - they continued at the normal prodigious rate!
I'm a fan of science fiction writing and so I was looking forward to reading G3OGR's work in the genre, although I was somewhat apprehensive about its quality. It may seem contradictory, but much science fiction writing dates very quickly and 'old' stories in the genre are sometimes not easy to read. However, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and his work is not as dated as I thought it might be. It was easy-to-read and built to an exciting climax on the last page.
To provide a flavour of what G3OGR produced in his science fiction works, Tomorrow Sometimes Comes starts with an atomic (sic) war. And here, I suppose, G3OGR was simply reflecting the obsession and fear from the early 1950s that sooner or later mankind would suffer this fate. Within the story, a huge centralised computer, the Mens Magna, controls the city where many of the descendants of the survivors live.
The computer appears to be benevolent at first but ultimately concludes with its rigid logic that mankind is unfit to be the dominant life form on Earth and therefore must be destroyed along with the whole planet. The computer also concludes that the only logical alternative is that the past is altered so that it - and therefore its conclusion and its effect - cannot exist. The Mens Magna concept was developed in several of G3OGR's short stories before it put in an appearance in Tomorrow Sometimes Comes.
Mantley Rawson,the main character in the book, survived the war by being accidentally placed in suspended animation (actually he is undergoing an operation when the war breaks out and stays under anaesthetic for many years). When Rawson recovers he is hated because his actions (based on false information) started the war. He has to hide his identity from the majority of the population, while he strives to undo what he's done with the help of the Mens Magna via a neat piece of pseudo time travel and creation of an alternative future. A future with a small number of huge centralised computers was a commonly accepted view in science and science fiction in the 1950s and 1960s of how computing would develop and G3OGR is simply repeating that view. The opinion at the time was that about half a dozen big computers would satisfy the computing needs of the entire planet and no-one seems to have anticipated the massive proliferation of personal computing, which is the way the future actually turned out!
"Mensite" crystals, under the ultimate centralised control of a large crystal "integrator" (we read it as 'computer' here ).
The author's radio background comes to surface every now and then. For example, the machines were originally radio-controlled and when the main character James Lindley describes how the crystals work: "It is piezoelectrical (sic). Piezo crystals produce electricity when mechanically stressed. Electrically stressed, they vibrate mechanically. They are much used in electronic devices." As in "Tomorrow Sometimes Comes" James Lindley is another main character who accidentally enabled the crystals to be used against mankind and who therefore has to hide his identity from the masses while he tries to undo what he did!
In fact the Mensite crystals are multi-celled and can store intelligence: perhaps G3OGR was anticipating complex integrated circuits, beyond even what we are capable of producing today, capable of acting like brains. Interestingly, G3OGR also postulates in this book- and in Tomorrow Sometimes Comes - that the effect of radiation from the atomic war produces a number of mutated humans now capable of telepathy.
Cardinal of the Stars (also Journey to the Stars) is set in a future when mankind has expanded to the stars and is just making first contact with an alien race, initially with disastrous consequences. The "Cardinal" is a Pimpernel-type character, hunted by the authorities.
In New Worlds 119 (June 1962), G3OGR has Sacrifice published, and Six-Fingered Jacks by E R James (G3OGR's cousin and also William's 'Uncle Ernest') is present. The well-known science fiction writers Brian W Aldiss and J G Ballard were published in the same issue.
The May 1960 edition of New Worlds is interesting in that it has Alien by G3OGR, Sprinkler System by E R James, and Continuity Man by George Longdon, who was in fact our friend again, writing under a pseudonym. So, the practice of using pseudonyms wasn't restricted to radio magazines (Longdon was also the name of the village in Worcestershire where the Rayer house, The Reddings, was located).
I have to admit I was looking for a character in G3OGR's science fiction writings called Captain R F Graham, maybe the commander of a space ship, worthy of his rank. I have to report that no such person was found. G3OGR was obviously too clever to pull this stunt!
I hope I've shed more light on successful in our world of radio and electronics than in the science fiction orbit, though clearly his interest in science fiction was very important to him. By the early 1960s G3OGR seems to have realised that the science fiction pulp-boom was over (driven to the wall by popular television) and so he starts to concentrate on writing radio and electronic books, as well as keeping up his magazine article output.
It's said that Frank Rayer was encouraged to write on radio subjects by F J Camm after he wrote a letter to PW in 1939 and maybe this also triggered his writing on other subjects? Overall, his writing career lasted for some 40 years or so, pretty much up to his death in July 1981 and some of his books were published posthumously.
As far as I can see, Frank Rayer had at least 36 books published (or 35 if you don't count the pirated Journey to the Stars) about radio, electronics, electricity, DIY, romantic fiction, science fiction and the art of writing itself. I say at least 36 because to some extent the total depends on how you define a book. For example, G3OGR is attributed as author of Coming of the Darakula (Hamilton & Co, 1952), a science fiction pulp -fiction magazine/booklet, and other similar publications.
Often, demystifying a person reduces the sense of awe felt for them but this is certainly not true for me in the case of Frank Rayer and I hope it isn't for you. As it is for many other radio enthusiasts, he will always be a great hero of mine and he's someone to aspire towards when I'm looking for inspiration for that next project to start, or perhaps more importantly, when I'm trying to finish a project, which is often much harder to do.
The second hand book dealers have many G3OGR books in stock.
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