TUNING IN

We Did It Our Way

by Harold Ort, N2RLL

The other day I stopped in the coffee shop for my hazelnut “hit” and all-too-frequent muffin when it struck me. No, not the fact that I could brew the same coffee at home for a tenth of what it costs at “the shop,” but that I was—probably—the only person within some distance with what consumers call a “police scanner” or “walkie-talkie” strapped to my belt. This coffee shop happens to be where three towns intersect (those early town planners must have been smoking something funny when drawing community boundaries), so the listening is usually pretty interesting with plenty of on-air discussions about where one agency’s responsibility ends and another’s begins.

As I stood there adding one-too-many of those brown-packet sugars to the brew, a young fellow of about 80 walked up chatting away like there was no tomorrow. “I can’t understand why Al just doesn’t work with her and help out on the weekend with kids,” he mumbled. I was thinking that with the extra jolt from the coffee he was about to have he’d not only going to be talking louder, but might start up a

conversation with me; “Don’t you think Al should be a better
husband, sonny?”

But no, I’m sure he didn’t even see me or anyone else in the shop, for that matter. Pop was on the cell phone. And so was the woman ordering a dozen bagels for her office, as was the student using the laptop in the corner over the shop’s WiFi system.

The CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association) estimates there are a whopping 201,661,519 wireless subscribers, give or take a few hundred, and that three-fourths of America’s teens are wireless! Compare that to only about 675,274 licensed hams (which doesn’t take into account inactive hams, depending, of course, on what “active” is these days), probably a few thousand more scanner users, shortwave enthusiasts, CBers, and an assortment of FRS and GMRS users. What comes into focus is the fact that the average American non-radio-hobbyist is just as high tech and wireless as we radio enthusiasts, probably more so.

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INFOCENTRAL

News, Trends, And Short Takes
WRN’s DRM Services Go Live

by Harold Ort, N2RLL, Editor, and D. Prabakaran

WRN, the London-based international transmission service company, announced the launch of its two Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) services. The first service is a London-wide 24-hour-a-day DRM trial broadcast at 26 MHz. The second service offers DRM transmissions that can target any major European radio market via directional antennas. Initially this second service will cover all of the UK and Ireland.

Both services’ programming is from respected international and UK radio broadcasters. WRN’s test and development trial for London will assess the potential coverage of DRM transmissions, generating important data about the penetration of the signals into various types of buildings and other urban situations as well as gauge audience reaction to the broadcasts.

The transmission site is the world-famous Croydon broadcast tower, situated in South London and operated by Arqiva, WRN’s DRM transmission partner for this project. Arqiva provides transmission services for most UK commercial radio stations.

WRN will eventually offer services that can cover Europe using DRM skywave transmission and directional antennas that will reach specific European radio markets with frequencies that provide higher reliability in urban areas from the transmitter site located in Bulgaria.

Baltic Waves Radio To Broadcast EU Programs To Belarus

Baltic Waves Radio, which has been broadcasting from Lithuania to Belarus for six years, will enter the European Commission’s international consortium to spread the free word to Belarus.

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One Giant Leap
Grab That Scanner And Stand
At The Open Door With
The Army’s Golden Knights


By Gary Palamara
 

Sixty-two years ago, the youngest man ever to enlist as a Navy pilot was shot down over the South Pacific during World War II. As the burning wreckage of his A-6 Avenger broke up in mid air, the pilot watched as his three-man crew bailed out, before he himself escaped from the stricken plane.
While the four helplessly floated down to the sea, below their life-saving canopies, Japanese gunners from the island of Chi Chi Jima continued to target the men. A nearby U.S. submarine soon rescued the 20 year-old pilot. He was the only one to survive the ordeal. For his heroic attempts to save both men and machine, he would later be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, just two years into his naval career. The date was September 2, 1944, and this was George Bush’s first experience with skydiving. He vowed some day to try another jump under less hostile circumstances.

Almost 60 years after that infamous flight, former President George H. W. Bush again found himself poised at the open door of a military aircraft and about to jump out. Although his first attempt at skydiving was made from a crippled, out-of-control machine, this jump would be made from a perfectly good airplane and was totally voluntary. As he had done to commemorate his 70th and 75th birthdays, in 2004 George Bush wanted to mark the occasion of his 80th birthday with a skydive. So, on June 6, at 1:20 CT, the 41st President of the United States was airborne over the campus of Texas A&M University and traveling at nearly 150 miles per hour.

At 5,500 feet, the main chute opened and the president drifted safely back to Earth to the applause and cheers of the thousands who had gathered to watch the spectacle. The event which became known as “41@80,” was planned as a fundraiser for charity and raised nearly $50 million for cancer research and for the university.

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RADIO RESOURCES

New And Improved Technician Class
Ham Radio License Test

by Gordon West, WB6NOA

All current 35-question, entry-level Element 2 Technician class examinations get trashed at 11:59 p.m., June 30, 2006. The current Element 2 entry-level Technician class question pool, made up of 511 total questions for the brand new applicant, will be summarily discharged to the dumpster at that time.

None Too Soon

The present Tech examination and pool is a hodgepodge of old Novice class questions, very old Technician questions, some newer questions submitted by an outer-space engineer, plus a handful of General questions. And it’s totally off base with encouraging newcomers to really learn the material, rather than speed read for 511 rote memory answers.

The current Technician class examination got a hasty patch-and-add job in July 2003, after the ham radio restructuring in 2000. New questions were added (actually old, tired questions) from the deleted Novice test, and few current questions were subtracted to make up for the addition, causing the pool to swell from 384 to a staggering 511 total questions!

Statistics compiled by one testing group revealed a downward trend in test-taking and a downward trend in test-passing. I think this is likely associated with people opening up an Element 2 question pool book and quickly realizing it required the skill of memorization, rather than true question research and understanding.

The Fix Is In

To give you an idea of the problems I’m referring to, here’s an old question example:

T0DO4 In the far field, as the distance from the source increases, how does power density vary?
A. The power density is proportional to the square of
the distance
B. The power density is proportional to the square root of the distance
C. The power density is proportional to the inverse square of the distance
D. The power density is proportional to the inverse cube of the distance

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WASHINGTON BEAT

Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications New ARRL President
To Push Bandwidth Initiative

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

The American Radio Relay League, representing radio amateurs across the United States, named Joel Harrison, W5ZN, of Judsonia, Arkansas, its 14th president in January. Harrison, 47, succeeds Jim Haynie, W5JBP, who chose not to run for a fourth term, the League announced.

In an ARRL announcement, Harrison said he “believes amateur radio is looking at a different society—and pool of potential licensees—in the 21st century than the past.”

“One of the things we need to do over the next few years is realize that Main Street USA is not the Main Street USA it was years ago,” Harrison said. “We all remember those days when we became interested in radio and the magic it provided to us. The magic is still there, but Main Street has changed.”

Harrison said that among his priorities will be the promotion of the League’s Petition for Rule Making (RM-11306), which calls upon the FCC to regulate amateur radio allocations by bandwidth. “Right now we do that by mode, and we’re one of the few countries in the world that does that,” Harrison said. “We need to change that and move forward with this initiative of regulation by bandwidth instead of mode.”

According to the ARRL Letter, the League is asking the FCC to replace the table at FCC Part 97.305(c) with one that parses bands by bandwidths “ranging from 200 Hz to 100 kHz. Unaffected by the ARRL’s recommendations, if they’re adopted, would be 160 and 60 meters. Other bands below 29 MHz would be segmented into subbands allowing maximum emission bandwidths of 200 or 500 Hz or 3.5 kHz with an exception for AM phone.”

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UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST

Out Of The Black—Top Secret Projects They Want Us To Know About

by Steve Douglass

Every year I like to dedicate an entire column concerning revelations and rumors surrounding black projects, or Special Access Programs, as they are known in the Pentagon. Although some utility monitors say that the chances of actually monitoring “something black” is remote at best, it’s the intrigue surrounding covert operations and possibly intercepting communications involved that has drawn some (like me) to the hobby of military monitoring.

To be sure, top secret programs and their communications are well protected, and it is true that if they don’t want you to hear about something, you probably won’t, but that’s where the intrigue comes in. What if they do want you to hear about it? But then why would they want you to hear about it?

Case in point: Since the invention of radar it’s been nearly impossible for any aircraft to fly through the skies unnoticed. Radar makes it possible to track any flying machine, whether it’s a small one-seat private aircraft or a huge 747 passenger liner. In the late 1970s, the geniuses at the secret Lockheed Skunk Works made an amazing discovery. They found the formula for determining how to shape an aircraft in a way that reflects radar beams away from and not back to their source. That formula came from a pretty unlikely place—a complicated mathematical equation written by an obscure Russian scientist.
This is very ironic because, at the time, Russia (then called the Soviet Union) was considered the main threat to the United States.

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SCANTECH

Antennas On The Move!

by Ken Reiss

Antennas in general present an interesting challenge for the scanner listener. The frequencies we listen to cover such a broad range that there is little hope of designing an antenna to cover them all well. Still, most scanner manufacturers want to include some kind of antenna with most scanners, particularly handhelds, so they come up with a solution that works equally poorly on all bands.

Remember that VHF/UHF communications are “line of sight,” meaning that the taller your antenna, the further it can “see” signals. But before you go out and spend a large chunk of change for a tower to put a scanner antenna at 2,000 feet, you should be aware of a potential problem. Your antenna can be a double-edged sword. The idea of an antenna is to hear more stuff, right? And if everything were perfect, and in a perfect world, raising the height of the antenna, or increasing its effective gain would result in hearing more signals. In the perfect world, that’s true, but ours is, alas, not quite perfect.

The problem is that increasing the height or gain of the antenna increases the amount of signal gathered at the antenna. Two things can happen to that signal to cause reception to actually deteriorate rather than increase when compared with the factory-mounted antenna on the back (or top) of the radio.

The first is that you can experience signal losses in transmission lines (usually coax) that can be severe enough to defeat any gain you might have gotten from the better antenna. This is especially true above 400 MHz, and acute over 800 MHz. This can be largely overcome, or at least greatly reduced, by using very high-quality and very expensive transmission lines. Unfortunately, for those of us in the real world, neither the high-quality transmission line, nor the 2,000-foot tower will be an option. Besides, at 2,000 feet, there are birds and airplanes to deal with as well.

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 REACT IN ACTION 
Katrina Effects Linger, So Does REACT—
Plus Other Efforts

by Ron McCracken, KG4CVL / WPZX486

REACTer Keith Hosman, KC8TCQ, of Henry County REACT, Ohio, can tell you that the Gulf Coast is far from being out of the woods. Keith is also an American Red Cross (ARC) volunteer. He has been using his REACT skills and his radio equipment during his Red Cross deployment, keeping other volunteers in touch with one another and those back home. In fact, Keith has worn out one radio already and is breaking in a brand new one.

The devastation is such that he estimates he could be there for another two years. He traveled 8,000 miles throughout Mississippi and Alabama in the first three weeks he was deployed. His role was to visit ARC shelters to ensure that they had adequate supplies. A network of General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and ham repeaters made it all possible.

Currently, Hosman is busy with preparations for the 2006 hurricane season. Yes, you read that right. Huge stocks of disaster supplies are already being amassed. Meanwhile, he has to contend with tornadoes—it’s that time of year already. He serves as Skywarn net control for the National Weather Service, using “Mobile Threat Net.” This amazing new technology enables him to keep track of both the tornado and his spotters so they’ll be safe. Spotters use CB, GMRS, and ham radio to supplement police and fire unit reports. “It uses GPS [Global Positioning System] and is as precise as the storm mapping on your local TV weather reports,” Hosman explains.

Scanner enthusiasts would enjoy monitoring 47.420 MHz for ARC activity in their area, Hosman says. Try to get a peek at a new ARC Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) when one is nearby, too. It has every type of comms you can imagine. A powerful generator will operate all those, plus 20 more external comms rigs as well, for 48 hours. Four ECRVs are positioned across the United States for our safety.
 

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BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY

Microbroadcasting Revisited

by Bruce A. Conti

It appears that microbroadcasting and low-power FM are very popular endeavors among radio enthusiasts. Coverage in the February 2006 edition of “Broadcast Technology” drew enough reader response to warrant a second look. So once again low-power broadcasting takes control of the airwaves with the rules of the game, transmitter tips, and more radio activity.

Unlicensed Broadcast Range

Popular Communications columnist and contributing editor Pete Bertini writes,

I enjoyed your column on microbroadcasters and wanted to share a few observations. While the operating range for FM Part 15 devices is severely restricted, a properly designed 3-meter AM BCB antenna is capable of achieving a surprisingly decent coverage area on the higher end of the AM broadcast band where such antennas are the most efficient. The [SSTRAN, see below] www.sstran.com website shows construction details for a high-efficiency, Part 15-compliant antenna system for their Part 15 AM transmitter kit. Several folks on the rec.antique.radio+phono newsgroup have constructed these transmitters and antennas and verified the claimed coverage areas are indeed legally achievable.

Pete is absolutely correct in stating that the coverage of unlicensed FM broadcasters is “severely restricted” by Part 15 of the FCC rules. FM is not limited by output power, but instead limited to a maximum signal strength of 250 microvolts measured at a distance of three meters. This essentially limits broadcast range to a couple thousand feet at best, just enough to provide reliable coverage of a neighborhood, school campus, or community center.

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HAM DISCOVERIES

You CAN Take It With You!

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ

Despite the fact that the wind chill here in Minnesota was nearly 60 below zero for a time the other day, spring will have definitely sprung by the time you read this month’s issue (readers at McMurdo Station can snicker appropriately). And Field Day—that annual trek to the woods and water to celebrate and practice emergency communication and portable operation—is just around the corner. If you’re thinking about participating, keep the weekend of June 24–25 set aside for some radio fun.

Thanks to today’s ever-shrinking radios, you can take your ham radio hobby just about anywhere: picnics, camping trips, road trips, a weekend at grandma’s, a weekend in the Caribbean, whatever. And don’t forget boat rides, hiking excursions, and that summer you’ve always wanted to spend at the lake cabin. Here are a few tips to get you started, whether you’re practicing for FD 2006 or simply getting out of the house!

Getting Started

Choosing a place to operate depends on where you are
and what you’re doing. Try to remember that the basics of amateur radio still apply. The thing that’s different is your location. Instead of being in your home shack you’re out in the boonies somewhere.

Hilltops are pretty good for just about any radio activity, especially VHF/UHF. HF operators will want at least a few tall trees for stringing antennas, while VHF/UHF ops may have better luck if there are only a few trees (or even none) to absorb precious higher-frequency signals.

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HOMELAND SECURITY

Military Gear For Emergencies:
What’s The Hottest!

by Rich Arland, K7SZ

Welcome back to our on-going discussion of military communications (MilCom) radio gear and how it can be integrated into your Homeland Security communications plans. After all, MilCom gear is some of the most rugged and reliable comm gear ever designed and manufactured. By doing some basic homework, along with some advanced planning, it’s possible to procure, restore, and use some of these MilCom radio sets in disaster relief communications.

A Work In Progress

Dave Carey, N3PBV, my next-door neighbor, came over about a year ago with a big green box—present from him to me, much to the consternation of my wife, Patricia, KB3MCT. All I needed was another radio sitting in the basement!

Dave’s gift was an AN/GRC-9 (called an “Angry Nine”), a cast-off from a local university’s engineering department, that covered 2 to 12 MHz continuously in three bands, with a power output of up to 15 watts on CW and 7 watts on AM phone. It had been overhauled by the Tobyhanna Army Depot in the early 1980s, and it still had all the tags from the Depot.

The radio cover was brand new and fit tightly over the front of the radio, offering some inclement weather protection. Removing the front cover revealed an almost mint condition GRC-9. The only “catch” was that there was no power supply available. It makes things a bit difficult to troubleshoot and use if you don’t have the right power supply. Not only that, but there was no power cable, antenna insulator, or the host of ancillary gear one needed to put this puppy on the air. Enter eBay.

It took me about a month, but I found the proper power cord (with the correct cable ends on it) along with the T-17 microphone (you know, the old carbon mics from the 1950s Army movies) and antenna base, the latter two coming all the way from Italy!

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THE PROPAGATION CORNER

It’s All About The Noise

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

Last month, we began to explore the question of noise by addressing local noise sources and how to isolate them. Once the origin is found, it may be possible to cure the problem. There are many examples on the Internet of helpful resources for curing the problem of local noise. For instance, a short and sweet “checklist” is found at www.kvfcradio.com/amtips.html, and a more exhaustive resource is found at www.arrl.org/tis/info/rfigen.html. A Google search using the search phrase, “radio reception and noise” yields a wealth of links that include resources focusing on AM broadcast reception and the problems of local noise, as well as VLF radio reception.

This month, let’s look beyond local noise generation. After dealing with local noise problems, how does noise affect radio signals? Beyond man-made causes, we’re left with two other sources of noise: atmospheric and cosmic noise. Cosmic noise, which originates at points outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, doesn’t contribute much to the problem of radio signal reception. Atmospheric noise, however, has a significant impact on the reception of a radio signal.

Atmospheric Noise

As we begin our look at atmospheric noise, it’s most useful to look at the problem as an issue of effectiveness. Often, when people talk about radio reception, signal strength is touted as the most useful factor in the effort to get a signal from the transmitter to the receiver. However, since the problem of reception is more complex than a simple power issue (just pump more watts into the antenna), the better way to get a handle on the problem is to use the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measurement of a circuit (the path between, and including, the transmitter and receiver). The SNR is a real measure of effectiveness. With it, we can better understand how effectively a signal can get from point A to point B.

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TECH SHOWCASE

The etón FR300 All-In-One Portable Radio

by Harold Ort, N2RLL, Editor

Any disaster survivor will be the first to tell you that information and news are two vital ingredients in overcoming a bad situation. In fact, they can make the difference between life and death. Being forewarned with a reliable radio broadcast greatly increases your chances of survival.

The etón FR300 AM/FM radio with NOAA, TV VHF, flashlight, and cell phone charger is poised to be your emergency warning system, or simply just a small portable take-anywhere radio for those times when you and your family just want to listen to the news or music. After all, today you just don’t know when you’ll need the extra benefits of an emergency radio like the FR300.

As the sole licensee of the half-century-old Grundig brand for North America, etón has a sure winner with the FR300. This all-in-one self-powered radio comes complete with an internal rechargeable NiMH battery pack that’s charged when you hand-crank the small dynamo. I tried this radio for several weeks before giving it our complete endorsement as a great sounding radio and emergency tool! Operation of the FR300 is pretty straightforward: you crank, the radio plays from the now-charged internal battery. You can also power the radio by continuously cranking (with all batteries removed), from three “AA” batteries (not included), or by using the optional AC adapter/charger.

I cranked the radio for 60 seconds and got five minutes of play on FM at a moderate to high volume. You simply put the slide switch on the right side of the radio to “off” while cranking; when finished, slide it up to “dynamo.”

Select the band you wish to listen to by sliding the front switch to AM, FM, TV1, TV2, or WX (weather). If selecting weather, you simply turn the large front dial to one of the seven NOAA channels. In my area there are two stations that are easily heard, one better than the other, but the FR300 tunes both perfectly, right on frequency.

Now if you’re thinking that 60 seconds of cranking only gets you five minutes of listening, consider this: cranking the dynamo about twice as fast will give you about 12 minutes listening time. Of course your mileage may vary, but you get the idea.

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COMPUTER–ASSISTED RADIO MONITORING

Digital Signal Processing

By Joe Cooper

The Theory Behind Today’s Digital Communication Technology
I had originally intended for this month’s column to be a continued look at how to use Microsoft’s Visual BASIC Express software development program to help you create a CAT (computer-assisted tuning) program for Ten-Tec’s RX-320 “black box” communications receiver. However, I was getting feedback that I was moving ahead of the learning curve for some people, and they needed a break.

This is understandable as a number of readers had just downloaded their new Visual BASIC programs and were still working their way through the basics of how to use the application. So people were starting to fall behind as I began our look at more advanced topics, such as user interfaces (UIs) for the CAT program. Plus, there are many of you out there who aren’t going to become computer programmers, but still want to learn more about the technology behind software-defined radios (SDRs).

For those who may have tuned in late, Microsoft is offering Visual BASIC Express, along with other software development language applications, on its website http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/default.aspx. This particular version of Visual BASIC is unique in that it’s completely free to download and is designed to help you to learn computer programming at a hobbyist level. That goal is facilitated through an extensive free training program.

So let’s take a short break from the computer programming series; we’ll come back to it in about four issues to give everyone a chance to get caught up. In the meantime, since I’ve already outlined the basics of what needs to be done in my last three columns, if anyone gets ahead of the game and puts together a working CAT program, please tell me about it. I’ll be happy to share your story with the readers of this column. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just work reasonably well.

Looking At DSP Technology

Over the next four columns I want to revisit digital signal processing, (DSP), which is a not only a very important component of SDR, it’s also used extensively in any type of data communication today, whether voice, picture, or sound based.

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GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE

The VOA Takes One In The Chops!

by Gerry L. Dexter

The Voice of America has taken a major hit. The government’s International Broadcast Bureau (IBB) has ordered the VOA to make drastic cuts in its schedule, supposedly to free up more facilities, which can then be given over to broadcasting’s part in the war on terror. Some 247 transmitter hours per day have been deleted—a total of 90,000 transmitter hours per year! By now we should have seen a significant increase in the schedules of Radio Farda, Radio Free Asia, and perhaps even Radio Sawa (of late off shortwave). The bottom line: The VOA has definitely been relegated to back of the bus status in the global radio wars.

Sad news again this month as we report the passing of Keith Glover, probably one of the most widely known and loved voices on shortwave and long-time host of Radio Australia’s “Mailbag” program. He was with ABC/Radio Australia from 1947 until his retirement in 1985.

Hurricane Katrina resulted in a cooperative effort by a number of New Orleans broadcasters to bring the public news and information on the crisis. These non-stop broadcasts, aired under the banner “United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans,” were also relayed for a while on shortwave by WHRI, World Harvest Radio International. It’s now possible to receive a QSL for these broadcasts. This applies to any or all of the local stations in the network. You need to send a standard reception report, complete with at least 15 minutes of program details. Also be sure to include enough return postage to cover replies for each station you report. Members of the mediumwave-focused International Radio Club of America are providing the QSL service. Send your reports to URBONO QSL, P.O. Box 3777, Memphis, TN 38173-0777.

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SHANNON’S BROADCAST CLASSICS

Vintage Cable Radio—
Signals Along The Fence Posts

by Shannon Huniwell

My Dad reuses Manila envelopes the way 1960s Top 40 stations recycled their number one song into “future gold” and then made it a “groovy golden oldie.” So, when handed a big dog-eared mailer, plastered with cross-outs and doubled-up address stickers, I knew the postal clerk was conveying to me some interesting document from father’s obscure radio history files.

Admittedly, I’d pretty much expected the mailing, as Dad had recently phoned with his two cents worth about what he predicted would make “another fascinating exposé on eclectic electronic social studies.” In other words, and in this case, he wanted me to write-up some information he’d heard about a strange series of down-home cable companies that, during the Great Depression, provided pennies-a-month radio sound to thousands of country folk in South Carolina.

But Didn’t The Earliest Cable Radio
Debut In The 1970s?

That’s what I always thought—if I ever thought about what seemed to me to be the very outer fringes of radio trivia. I figured cable radio to be an obscure byproduct of cable TV’s scrambled pay channels that hid at least a hundred digits past HBO. And even then, one needed some extra black box connection to hear the seemingly encrypted audio!

Case in point: Back in the 1970s, some gray-haired, retired electronics engineer in our town visited my forth-grade in order to record us reading Christmas poems we’d been assigned to compose. Mine was as simple and sappy as the rest of the kids’ rhymes, but when my folks learned the guy was going to “air” the stuff on cable FM, they made great effort to catch the “broadcast.” Despite my father’s penchant for persuasion, though, he couldn’t connect us with anyone who subscribed to local cable and paid the extra buck-fifty a month for the related radio service.

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THE WIRELESS CONNECTION

The Majestic Restoration Continues!

by Peter J. Bertini

Our last column wrapped up the steps needed to restore the Majestic 9P6 power supply section that powered the Majestic 90 radio. Since the column was written, I was able to reunite the restored chassis with its refinished cabinet at the furniture restoration shop that contracted our services.

A TRF Radio

These sets were TRF (tuned radio frequency) receivers. A few of the simpler and least expensive four-tube table broadcast band radio designs still used TRF circuits for many more years, but by the early 1930s most consumer receivers were using RCA’s patented superheterodyne circuit.

The superheterodyne solved many of the shortcomings that limited the TRF radios. First, it was much easier to apply AGC (automatic gain control) to a superhet. The superhet was inherently more stable, since it required less amplified gain at any frequency. The low frequency IF (intermediate frequency) assured a constant bandwidth across the tuning range, and the superhet reduced the number of tuned stages that had to track each other across the tuning range—a major improvement in its own right! The superhet also simplified bandswitching, thus paving the way for the practical and inexpensive multiband shortwave receivers that appeared within a few short years.

While putting things back together, I discovered the model tag on the cabinet showing that it was a Model 92. It wasn’t all that unusual for a manufacturer to use a popular chassis style in more than one cabinet. During any model year, manufacturers often used the same chassis in tabletop and console versions (sometimes a larger speaker was used for the console cabinet) of the same model series, thus the difference between the radio model and chassis.

The restored set is shown in Photo A, while the rear of the radio is shown in Photo B. Notice that the legs are less than one-half the total height of the cabinet; this style cabinet is called a “lowboy.” Ornate, boxy, and large, these designs were popular in the 1920s, but they now look dated and are out of style in contemporary homes, which is why these sets are often available at fire sale prices at radio meets or on Internet auction sites. Alas, most are destined for the scrap heap; and the pot metal problem that plagued the early 90 tuning capacitor did much to exacerbate their demise in later years as those parts degraded to the point of failure. Repairing the pot metal damage will take up a good portion of our next column and will be an interesting read!
 

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LOOSE CONNECTION

You Can Make Me Tune It,
But You Can’t Make Me Talk Into It!

by Bill Price, N3AVY

It is thanks to my dear friends Norm and John and some loyal readers that I have a license at all, what with forgetting to renew it and then not being aware of the new online process. And now it is thanks to Norm (I think) for almost getting me on the air.

You see, Norm was en route from just about one end of U.S. Route 1 to just about the other end when he took a detour and met me just outside the Nation’s capital where I am employed in my HPJIE.* Ever since Norm realized he didn’t like being a stock broker or whatever it was he did a long time ago, he too has had an HPJIE. I believe we both saw the same magazine ad featuring the cruel Mr. Bemis docking some poor sap’s pay for being a minute late. The “sap” then took a correspondence course in electronics, and by the final frame he had told an astonished Mr. Bemis that he could stuff his job because he had found a (are your ready for this?) HPJIE! Somehow, Norm and I have always worked for Mr. Bemis, even in our HPJIEs, but I digress.

Norm and I didn’t have enough time for even the briefest of lunches; instead we met in a supermarket parking lot where he unloaded part of his overstuffed car into my waiting arms. I now have a commercially built, store-bought, single-sideband amateur radio transceiver, complete with a 100-watt final (that, according to Norm, I won’t have to tap on with a pencil to make it work) and a matching VFO! Oh, yes, and a microphone. Did I mention that it came with a matching microphone?

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