Ray Goodner Berge was born June 25, 1917 in Portland, Oregon, the son of Mathew C. Berge and Grace E. Goodner. He and his older sister were raised in Portland and on Long Island, New York. Ray's grandparents, Martha and Gunder Berge had settled in Wisconsin when they emigrated from Norway. His Dad had moved to Oregon in pursuit of work, met and married his mother there, and then relocated the family to New York when he had an opportunity to advance at work.
After completing high school, Ray evaluated several colleges and settled on Columbia University because he could live at home and commute. He graduated from Columbia in 1939 with a degree in electrical engineering. Because "electronics" was a new technology at the time, Ray's education was only in the area of "power" generation and distribution. He had no background in or knowledge of electronics.
That changed after he made his way into the job market. His first job was with a company which did not appreciate his engineering skills and where Ray said he was employed as "an adding machine". In March of 1941, he was employed by Radiomarine Corporation of America (RMCA) in New York City and found his life-time career. He was a part of a new company, exploring an exciting new technological area, participating in the middle of a war whose Allied leaders soon came to appreciate the value of radio communications as a strategic battle element and a way to save a significant number of lives.
|Ray and an unidentified associate aboard ship|
To expand his knowledge base for the new job, Ray studied electronics at RCA Technical Institute. On the job, he initially tested radios before shipment to ensure they were working properly. Later as his interests became focused and his skill sets recognized, he switched to design and development. He designed radio telephone receivers, radio direction finders and radio teletype equipment. He also supervised installation of equipment on the superliner S.S. United States.
With experience he became a pioneer in the development of "ship-to-shore" radio communication systems. His work eventually led to the development of the Model CRM-R6A Marine Receiver referenced in the opening paragraph and a sister model of the same unit, Model AR8516. Both were considered excellent radios. A personal comment on the web by an unidentified radio collector said "The 8516 is a great receiver, very possibly RCA's best technical design."
|Ray's CRM-R6A placed in the care of the MRHS|
In 1956 Ray shared a patent on the tuning mechanism with his co-worker George Bradley. This intricate gearing arrangement allowed the operator to precisely select the desired frequency and be assured that the radio would not shift in the extremely rough marine environment.
The CRM-R6A is a 16-tube receiver which was used at Coast Guard stations and afloat in Radio marine consoles. The unit covers 80kc to 30Mc in 18 bands, using either single conversion or double conversion depending on the band. The AR-8516 was available for AC/DC use aboard ship.
|Ray's AR-8516 placed in the care of the MRHS|
After working in New York, Ray was transferred to New Jersey and eventually to Washington, PA, just south of Pittsburgh, where he concluded his career. While attending RCA Technical Institute, Ray married fellow student, Helen G. Gallaud in Brooklyn, New York on June 8, 1946. Helen and their daughter Judith remained in the Pittsburgh area after Ray's death.
After retirement, Ray maintained a Model CRM-R6A and a Model AR8516 in working condition in his basement and regularly used them to communicate to the world of "Ham" operators. Recognizing his love for the radios and their obvious historical significance, when he moved from his home to a retirement community, he agreed to donate them to a museum with the caveat that they be placed where they would be used. He did not want them to be left "on a shelf, under a plastic cover, with a label which said: "Typical Vintage Marine Radio Receiver".
The protective care of the Maritime Radio Historical Society seemed the ideal location to meet his criteria. This volunteer organization restores, collects, and operates vintage radios. They operate California Coastal Station KSM in Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), which is a part of the National Park Service,
Ray died before the radios were "officially" donated to MRHS, but the nature of the organization and the radios' ultimate retirement environment were discussed with him before his death and he approved. They are now in an environment where they will be used and appreciated while receiving museum-like exposure both locally and on the Internet. At KSM they will also continue to inspire others as they did Paul Brady who was quoted on MRHS's web site: "To put it simply, this radio (Model CRM-R6A) opened up a world that I never knew existed. Quite frankly, it's directly responsible for me getting my ham license in 1994 and my electronics degree in 1998. I will never part with this radio."
While the radios are a lasting legacy to Ray's technical brilliance, they do not begin to display the range of his talent or his nature. He was also a pilot, a gardener, a biblical scholar, and a talented musician who played the organ, piano, trombone and recorder. He sang in the church choir for many years at Trinity United Methodist Church in McMurray, PA. He read voraciously and was a self-taught linguist who was apt to "break out" in Norwegian, German, French, Spanish, Greek, or Mandarin Chinese, which he learned in his spare time just to keep himself busy. He was widely traveled, first while testing his radios aboard ship and later when he and Helen took many overseas vacations.
Ray died on May 19, 2011 in McMurray. He was a quiet man with a quick smile, a razor sharp wit, and a love for donuts. He was respected, appreciated, and loved by all that knew him! He was an electronics pioneer, a truly brilliant engineer, and a gentle man.
Well... what can you say after that? Maybe that radio and radio artifacts are more than theory and glass and metal. Maybe that the preservation of a man's best achievements is a proper memorial.
But there is more to say, because there is something about Mr. Berge's receivers that seems to attract respect, even veneration. Mr. Berge's CRM-R6A is not the first of its breed to come within the sphere of the MRHS, or at least one of its members.
Some years ago Richard Dillman (RD) was offered the chance to purchase a CRM-R6A, and this receiver also has a pedigree. It was previously owned by Gordon C. Hopkins. He was born in 1915 and died on March 7, 2003. He worked for RCA/RMCA for many years.
The MRHS Web page contains more information about this receiver, including interior views and a response from another CRM-R6A owner.
Please click HERE to view that Webpage.
New MRHS Merchandise!