#Elmer Net - Article excerpt on the 468 number #elmer
Wayne Morris, AC5V
The oldest article on Hertz antennas was in the July 1925 issue by 9BXQ and titled "The Hertz Antenna at 20 and 40 Meters" but it didn't discuss a formula for length. The next oldest article, October 1926's "The Length of the Hertz Antenna" by G. William Lang, turned out to be what I was looking for. In the article, Lang (who was apparently not a ham, but worked in the Dept of Radio Operations for Radio Station WBZ in Boston) set up some Hertz antennas at amateur station 1KA and also measured antennas at station 1CK and 1KF. He used an oscillator and a wavemeter to determine the frequency at which the antenna resonated then measured the entire antenna - tip-to-tip, including the counterpoise. A table of correction values was derived, with the free-space wavelength in meters multiplied by an average value of 1.46 to get the antenna's resonant wavelength in feet. This corresponds to an equation of L = 438/f. This is the first suggestion that the actual resonant length of a practical amateur antenna can be predicted by using a correction factor to a free-space wavelength.
The early experiments of 1925 and 1926 took place on or near 40 meters. In those days, CW operation on what we now call the "low bands" of 80 and 40 meters was the norm. At these wavelengths, a half-wavelength dipole was of a reasonable length. It could be made of ordinary copper wire, probably #8 to #14 AWG, and installed in the back yard at heights of 20 to 40 feet. For these antennas, 1/8th to 1/4th wavelengths above ground, a value of 468 is about right, resulting in the equation printed in the ARRL Handbook in 1929.
In truth, many variables affect the resonant frequency of a half-wavelength dipole, the two primary factors being the length-to-diameter ratio of the antenna conductor and most strongly, the antenna's height above ground. These can combine to change the actual correction factor quite a bit! (Insulation can also affect an antenna's electrical length.) In my November 2009 QST column, "Hands-On Radio: Antenna Height", I modeled a typical 20 meter dipole made of #12 AWG un-insulated wire at heights from 1/8th to 2 wavelengths over realistic ground and calculated the correction factor at each height. It varied from 466 to 481 over that range! Clearly, using 468/f would lead to an antenna being too short