RWK History

The Richardson Wireless Klub is one of the oldest, largest, and longest continuously active Ham Radio clubs in Texas. We are aware of the tradition and generations of hams that came before us and we hope to continue to “advance the radio art” in the spirit of Amateur Radio.

Club Origin and Collins Radio (1950-1960)

In 1955, Collins Radio expanded into Richardson, and built a production facility in the city of Richardson Texas (now a northern suburb of Dallas). With the plant opening in 1958, came the relocation of “more than a few” engineers and technical staff that were well versed in all things radio. Many were also hams. It wasn’t a stretch for them to congregate and form a local club – the Richardson Amateur Radio Club (RARC).

Collins Radio has a rich history and is almost synonymous with ham radio. Among the Collins engineers that were prominent members of the RWK was Warren Breune W5OLY who some have referred to as “the inventor of SSB”. While Warren didn’t “invent” SSB, his team at Collins in the 1950s did more to advance and make SSB technology practical for use that anyone else, and his work on transmitters (particularly those based on the Eimac 3-400Z/3-500Z) is still in wide use today. The RWK has named its’ most prestigious award in Warren’s name.

The Age of the Microchip (1960-1970)

The late 1950s were a period of great expansion for Richardson – from 6,000 residents in 1956 to nearly 17,000 by 1960. A large percentage of that expansion was technical people and their families.

The New Texas Instruments Site as seen from US75 in 1957

Having expanded rapidly since its’ beginning in the Oil & Gas industry, Texas Instruments in 1955 purchased 300 acres bordering both Dallas and Richardson for a corporate campus. With the campus opening in 1958, many technical people would work and eventually live in Richardson. It was here that the integrated circuit was conceived and perfected. While not strictly a radio business, TI would employ many hams as well, and many of them also found their way to the RARC.

Both Collins Radio and Texas Instruments were major contributors to America’s Space Program in the 1960s. Collins designed systems that went into the completion of the first two-way radio voice transmission by man-made satellite, NASA’s Echo 1. That transmission, on Aug 13 1960, occurred right here in Richardson to a station at another Collins facility in Cedar Rapids IA. The next week Collins made history again as it transmitted the first photograph (an image of President Dwight D. Eisenhower) via satellite. The majority of the manned space flight communications systems – for all aspects of the space program – were produced for NASA by Collins Radio in the 1960s and 1970s. The equipment that transmitted the iconic “From the Moon” television images was Collins equipment.

Moon images seen by billions around the world were recorded with Westinghouse cameras and sent to the Earth with Collins radio equipment.

It was during this period that the club became known for its contesting and field day operations, consistently scoring in the top tiers of their entry class. RWK placed in the top entries in the class they entered (1A, 2A, or 3A) for close to a decade.

K5RWK Field Day Team for 1972, they finished 3rd place in Class 2A with 25 operators. (from l-r) 1 – David Brandenburg W5QWF/K5RQ, 2 – Steve Taylor WB5AOF/K5MR, 3 – Joe Johnson W5QBM (SK), 4 – Ralph Bowen WB5AAR/N5RZ (son of Don Bowen K5LHO), 5 – Terry Burkholder W5LUJ/N4TB, 6 – Dave Marshall WA5UCT/K5TJ, 7 – Tom Morrison WA3GBU/K5TM, 8 – George Baker W5LUR/W5YR (SK), 9 – Glen Zook WA5STI/W5UOJ/K9STH (SK), 10 – Ron Foley WB5AUU (lives in Lubbock, not active), 11 – Mike Badolato W5MYA (SK), 12 – Austin Brooks WB5EEE/KB8IY/M0LAY (lives in UK), 13 – Conrad Romberg W5BJA/N5CR (lives in Washington state), 14 – Stu Bonney W5PAQ/N5PB with his son, 15 – Lynn Shriner W5EQT/W5FO (SK), 16 – Scott Thorne WA5VSL (no longer licensed), 17 – Gordon Fogg WA5JMK/N5AU

The focus on contesting continued throughout the decade, but in the late 70s, the members who were big into contesting left the Klub and founded the DFW Contest Club.

A New Name for a New Decade (1970-1980)

In 1970, the Richardson Amateur Radio Club renamed itself to the Richardson Wireless Klub to align with the K5RWK callsign that it had assumed from member William (Bill) Baugh (SK) after his death in 1968. The newly-renamed RWK was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1977.

Other companies in the Richardson area that contributed members to the RWK were Electrospace Systems Inc (ESI), a major defense and communications company (now part of Raytheon), and Continental Electronics, a manufacturer of high-power broadcast equipment.

Richardson Grows Up (1980-2000)

During the 80s, Richardson expanded greatly and with it many technical industries and companies, including Ericsson, Alcatel, Nortel, Texas Instruments, Samsung, and more. It became known worldwide as the home of the “Telecom Corridor” for its US headquarters of Northern Telecom (Nortel) and many other telecom related companies.

By 2000, Richardson was home to over 600 Technology companies, many that concentrated in Telecom

By 2000, Richardson’s population had increased to over 90,000 (which doesn’t include the surrounding suburbs), with a greater than 50% percentage having a Bachelor’s Degree. All of those tech-heavy companies and educated workforce brought an interest in ham radio, and RWK’s membership reflected a “who’s who” in the tech community.

A New Century For RWK (2000-Present)

After several years of declining membership in the early 2000s, with the increasing age and passing of the original members, the club once again started acquiring a new generation of members and is now one of the largest clubs in Texas. We have a proud tradition to uphold!
– 73, K5RWK

RWK Membership Count from 2017-2023

RWK in ARRL Field Day

In the late 60s and early 70s, Field Day was a huge event for RWK. The rules were different and there was no limit on setup time, so people would begin setting up antennas (and towers) a week in advance.

{tower pic from QST}

Up until the klub acquired the K5RWK callsign, the klub competed under a variety of user callsigns. In 1969, the “Richardson Amateur Radio Club” competed under the K5RWK/5 call. Shortly after that, the name was changed to Richardson Wireless Klub to match the call suffix.

1969 Field Day Entry
1969 Field Day entry from QST showing K5RWK/5 as the Richardson Amateur Radio Club. That year we scored sixth place in Class 2A

For a period of 6 years (1969-1974), RWK finished no less than 6th in whatever class they competed (mostly 2A). In 1971, RWK was first in class 2A, with a total of 20 operators.

You can read a full history of RWK in Field Day in a well-researched piece by Tim Bratton K5RA.

RWK and Collins Radio

Many of the early members of RWK worked for Collins Radio, who built a large operation in Richardson.

Art Collins W0CXX (l) and Warren Bruene W5OLY

You can read more about Warren Bruene and his history with Collins Radio on the RWK Warren Bruene Award page

Collins Radio and the Space Race

Collins Radio in Richardson played a critical role in the Space Race to the Moon in the 50s and 60s. Collins Radio provided radios used in all aspects of the space program, from communications between the astronauts and mission control to equipment used for broadcasts from the astronauts to people on earth through televisions and radios.

A three-part documentary has been produced by the Arthur Collins Legacy Foundation that showcases Collins Radio’s contributions to the Space Program.

Collins Radio Space Communications facility at International and Arapaho in Richardson (1966)

“The Collins Radio campus in Richardson played an important role in the history of space exploration. Of note in Episode 1, it was in Richardson that one of NASA’s earliest missions known as Echo I accomplished the first ever 2-way voice transmission and the first image ever transmitted from space to Earth in August 1960.”

Richardson Today also says “Collins’ successful work with the space program brought more telecommunications-related companies to Richardson, creating one of the largest technology centers in the United States known as the Telecom Corridor®.”

Richardson’s Higher Education

Another contribution to Richardson’s technical legacy was the establishment of a major college in the City. “Eugene McDermott, J. Erik Jonsson and Cecil Green [founders of Texas Instruments] observe promising young Texans leaving the state to pursue education while their company, Texas Instruments, imports out-of-state talent to work at their Dallas-based headquarters. Hoping to create better higher-education opportunities in North Texas, the trio establishes the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW) — the foundation for what will become The University of Texas at Dallas.” (from the UTD website).

RWK is closely associated with the UTD Amateur Radio Club (K5UTD) and maintains the K5UTD repeater for the UTD ARC.