New FCC Book:
If We Did It, This Is How We’d Do It

by Harold Ort, N2RLL


In a startling new book available from the Government Printing Office, complete with all the twists and turns you’d expect in a good book—even a government non-fiction book—the FCC has just released its first-ever anthology of its last 30 years. Some things we knew, some we didn’t, and many are just now officially coming to light.

Since things aren’t always what they seem, and hocus-pocus is a way of life inside, and near, the Beltway, it’s prudent to take what we read in the book with the proverbial grain of salt. Nevertheless, one should think of this official release as much more than a money-making scheme by the Commission (something they’re of course not entirely innocent of these past 30 years), but rather as a true confession of sorts; a “let’s set the record straight—sort of.”

What I especially like about the book, appropriately titled, If We Did It, This Is How We’d Do It—all 425 pages of it!—is the organization, overall clarity, and conciseness; something sorely lacking in most of the agency’s official bureaucratic ramblings. The “Few Words From Kevin” on the Acknowledgements page were blurred and unreadable on my copy of the book, but his mug shot with that great big dollar-sign-turned-sideways grin was unmistakable, even holding the page at arm’s length.

Take for example Chapter 4, simply titled, “The CB Era—What We Knew and When We Knew It,” gives us the best insight into the mindset at the Commission right after WWII when they created the Citizens Radio Service, allocating the band 460 to 470 MHz as a licensed (no test required) personal short-distance fixed station and mobile service for the American public. The first paragraph states, “We wanted to give Americans something fun to do; after all the War was over and the country as a whole was ready to let the good times roll. We also wanted to continue to give a lot of business to those technology companies that had made wartime radio gear. This was our primary focus; business for our friends.”


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Whatever Happened To

Change Is Inevitable—Especially In The World
Of Technology—But We Sure Miss The Days
Of Free Batteries And Catalogs!

by Shannon Huniwell


“If he ever sets foot in this studio again, he’d better pray that I’m not here! Tell him he’s fired! F-I-R-E-D!” shouted the frantic owner of a rural 3000-watt FM station. The frazzled proprietor of that bare-bones frequency modulation operation was nearly beside himself after discovering that one of his two part-time weekend announcers had “borrowed” three of the station’s four microphones.

The perpetrator, who typically did the Saturday and Sunday sign on-to-noon air-shifts, figured that the mics wouldn’t be missed because the FM often cruised along on the remainder of the weekend with a solo beginner-level board operator reading weather forecasts, tracking some easy-listening LP albums, doing time checks, and spinning discs containing syndicated fare like “American Top-40,” “Powerline,” and “Country Crossroads.” The guilty employee’s plan was to simply “appropriate” the microphones long enough for use at a musical gig that some rock band buddy arranged at the last minute.

“Did he say where his so-called band was going to be playing?” the station owner questioned the other part-timer.

“No, Boss. He just mentioned it was some funky bar out of town. I thought he had permission to take the mics and stuff.”

“And stuff? Don’t tell me he took microphone cables, too!”

“Uh, yeah, Boss, but I bet he’ll bring it all back tomorrow. I think that’s what he said, anyway.”

“Dagnabbit all! What am I going to do tonight? Uh, oh, that’s right. Tonight is supposed to be our remote at the Grange Hall.”

Three months earlier, the head of the local Grange organization’s “shindig fundraising committee” inked a $500 deal for the modest FM to run a live broadcast from the Grange Hall during the now likely disastrous evening in question. To prepare for the radio fundraiser, Grange members had been busy selling basic $5 ads, sponsorships, and greetings from Grange friends that would be aired on the special program. They managed to rack up orders for a couple hundred such announcements, meaning the Grange could easily pay the station and pocket decent bucks. Live music was to be provided by a half dozen country & western groups, each slated to perform for about an hour. With the abundant radio advertising revenue, admission charge, 50-50 raffles, and refreshment sales, the event had promised to be an enjoyable—and pretty profitable—benefit.

The station owner looked at the big studio clock and nervously chanted, “4:47, 4:47.”


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The Latest In Battery Technology From CES

New AA Cell With Remarkable Chemistry,
And Much More!

by Gordon West


The AA “penlight” batteries (remember those?) were the talk of the 40th Annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show in Las Vegas in January. The rechargeable AA battery is the first choice among manufacturers of portable entertainment systems, pocket scanners, wireless remotes, and wireless weather sensors—and nearly everything else where users demand a common cell for a quick battery change.

“When the American Red Cross deploys disaster units in an emergency, we carry literally hundreds of alkaline AA battery cells to keep portable electronics operational,” said attendee Larry Wilson, K6SCH, checking out battery chemistry on the CES floor.

Your typical high-quality alkaline AA battery cell yields 1.5 volts and approximately 2000 mAh (milliamp hours) of battery capacity. Alkaline AA cell manufacturers are quick to point out that the 2 amps (2000 mA) of capacity is normally not listed on the side of the cell because high-current devices might not make it to 2 Ah (amp hours), yet low-current devices could actually exceed 2 Ah of operation. “But the alkaline AA battery is always in demand at emergency scenes because so much equipment can run on the alkaline disposable AA cell,” added Wilson.

One of the first rechargeable AA cell chemistries was Nickel Cadmium (NiCd). This AA cell chemistry has been around for over 20 years, and is only un-popular at the city dump. Cadmium and mercury must be disposed of properly. About 1000-mAh energy density may be pulled from the inexpensive, hardworking NiCd AA cell. Then technology improved.
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) is the latest AA cell chemistry, offering up to 2800-mAh volume energy density (capacity) at about 1.2 volts. So with twice the volume energy density, the NiMH battery has become the favorite, especially among two-way radio and scanner users.

The Smartcharger

However, unlike NiCd, these batteries with higher-energy density became more sensitive to how they were recharged in the field, so the invention of the “smartcharger” lead to safer battery replenishment without overcharging. “If battery users properly recharge the rechargeable battery they might obtain up to 1,000 recharges before the battery gets weak,” said Ron Witek, president of Batteryhouse, speaking about the new chemistry in the Camelion brand of battery cells he carries.

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News, Trends, And Short Takes

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


World Christian Broadcasting Targets Middle East From Madagascar

World Christian Broadcasting is building new shortwave radio towers in Madagascar, off the African coast, to supplement the broadcasts it has been making from Alaska for decades. When the Madagascar facility is ready, perhaps in 2008, Arabic-language broadcasts also will be beamed into the Middle East. World Christian Broadcasting is an independent company affiliated with Churches of Christ.

Space Life Search Turns To TV And Radio Signals

Astronomers plan to search 1,000 nearby stars for television broadcasts and other signals that could indicate extraterrestrial life, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has announced. The project, planned for early 2008, would use a new radio telescope to search for radio traffic similar to that found on Earth. Current efforts to find extraterrestrial life look for messages deliberately beamed across space—an approach that would miss any civilization that does not advertise its existence as Earth’s does. The new effort would search a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum used on Earth for more mundane purposes like radar, television and FM radio broadcasts.

“We may pick up spurious signals from people that never meant for us to hear them and get an inkling that something’s going on,” said David Aguilar, director of communications at the Center for Astrophysics. The electromagnetic spectrum spans radiation from high-energy waves like gamma rays and X-rays to lower-energy microwave and radio waves, with visible light falling somewhere in the middle. A new low-frequency telescope under construction in the Australian Outback will be remote enough to avoid most terrestrial radio interference. The project will be able to detect Earth-like radio signals within a distance of 30 light years, which encompasses about 1,000 stars.


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Jocks And Awe—
AFN-Iraq, Coming To You
Live From Baghdad

The Challenges Of Entertaining Our
Troops From A War Zone

by Sgt. Frank Pellegrini


Dec. 23, Baghdad, the morning show. DJ Sgt. Micah Miller knows that it’s the time of year when everybody’s got an extra-soft spot for the troops over here and for slices of home like American Forces Network radio. Somebody from NBC is due in the booth soon to film Miller while another reporter catches some soldiers listening to his show.
“They’re focusing on being deployed during Christmas,” Miller says. “They want to know if AFN helps. And what AFN’s actually doing.”

Well, today, AFN-Iraq is going easy on the Christmas music.

“It cuts both ways for these guys,” Miller says. “I had an uncle serving in Korea who actually got into a huge bar fight because of a Christmas song that depressed a couple of people in the bar. He has a scar to this day from that fight. So I’m not big on playing a lot of Christmas music, because some people just get more depressed when they hear it.”

Not that culture-war types have anything to complain about. Miller has been saving up holiday news and facts (“those Christmas lights have been catching trees on fire since 1895”), and he’s been pushing his preferred brand of “well-disguised command information.” He works operational-security messages into an off-the-Internet bit about the “Top 5 ways your computer can get you fired” and deploys the pill-popping misadventures of “Fallout Boy” bassist Pete Wentz as a holiday-aware (but un-preachy) anti-suicide message: “Anytime you’ve got a fascination with death, get help right there—don’t let it get to the ‘I’m taking a whole bunch of sedatives’ phase of your life, because it’s never pretty.”

But Miller keeps the Christmas fare light, preferring Weezer’s “The Christmas Song” to Nat King Cole’s memory-inducing standard. More often than not, tuning into 107.7 “Freedom Radio” during the four hours of “Micah in the Morning” gets you the same sound on December 23 as it would on any other day: some news, some banter, a few jokes, and lots of what Miller calls “Top 40 with an edge.” There’s rock from the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Republica, and 30 Seconds to Mars, a little rap, but not too much. The music’s hip enough for the young but tolerable for everybody else.

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History Of Scanning—Part II
The Digital Entry Era

by Ken Reiss



Comp 100: In our last stroll down memory lane we left off with the beginning of programmable scanners. Radio Shack’s first entry in this realm was the Comp 100, which allowed channels (16 of them) to be programmed by entering a code that was looked up in a book. Without the book, the radio was virtually useless, but it saved buying a $5- to $7-crystal every time you wanted to change frequencies.

A couple of months back we looked at the evolution of scanning right up to the beginnings of the programmable scanner. Those early programmables required complicated codes or special cards that could only be used one time, but they did allow for changing the frequency of the scanner without a $5 to $10 investment for a new crystal.

In the late 1970s, the electronics were getting sophisticated enough to allow for digital entry from a keypad, which marked a real turning point in scanner development.

Look Ma—No Handhelds!

Somehow, in digging up pictures and information for this month’s column I managed to avoid the handheld category completely. We’ll take a look at the evolution of the handheld soon in the third and last act of our history of scanning! Until next month, Good Listening!


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by Richard Fisher, KI6SN


FCC “Report and Order” Explains Morse Elimination Decision

The Federal Communications Commission has released a “Report and Order” explaining the issues and conclusions that drove its decision to eliminate the Morse code requirement for all classes of amateur radio licenses. A public notice issued by the FCC December 15, 2006, announced the Commission’s ruling to drop the code examination, sending a shockwave through the amateur community.

effective date for Morse elimination is February 23, 2007.
According to Commission documents,

…based on our review of the record in the proceeding and on consideration of the various comments on this issue, we believe that because the international requirement for telegraphy proficiency has been eliminated, we should treat Morse code telegraphy as we do other communications techniques.
In this connection, we note that our Rules do not require individuals to pass a practical examination to demonstrate some degree of proficiency in non-telegraphy communications techniques, rather, individuals demonstrate knowledge of other communication techniques and technical qualifications by passing written examinations composed of questions that prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required for the privileges authorized by the operator license.

The FCC continued in its “R&O” that it believes,

…therefore, that written examinations are sufficient to determine whether a person is qualified to be issued an amateur radio operator license. Accordingly, we conclude that the public interest will best be served by eliminating the telegraphy examination requirement as a separate examination requirement in the amateur service. To achieve this result, we will amend Section 97.501 of our Rules to eliminate the requirement that an individual demonstrate five wpm proficiency in telegraphy in order to qualify for a General or Amateur Extra Class operator license.

The American Radio Relay League, which had opposed Morse’s complete elimination from amateur licensing requirements, reacted through statements by the organization’s president and chief executive officer. “While the Commission’s decision to delete the Morse code requirement for an Amateur Extra Class license departs from the ARRL’s recommendation, it is helpful to have the matter resolved so we can move forward,” said ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN.

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Great Circles: The Long—And Short—
Of Broadcast DXing

 by Bruce A. Conti

We talk about it a lot, but just what is broadcast DXing? Put simply, it’s the art and science of receiving broadcast signals over long distances, often over greater distances than intended. Have you ever wondered just how distant are those DX signals? In case you have, this month “Broadcast Technology” investigates the long and short of it.

The Great Circle

The shortest distance between two points on the surface of the Earth is called the Great Circle path. This is the path from transmitter to receiver that radio waves are presumed to follow under normal conditions. While there are many modes of propagation, such as atmospheric ducting via FM E-skip and AM gray line, or even rarer cases of long-path reception from the opposite direction, only the normal short-path is investigated for the purposes of this discussion.

So now what exactly is a Great Circle? Again, quite simply put, it’s the circle created by cutting a sphere in half, and it’s the largest circle possible that can be created by slicing a sphere, thus phrase “Great Circle.” The Great Circle distance is the shortest distance between any two points on the circumference of the Great Circle.

For a better understanding, try this experiment. Mark two points on the surface of a Styrofoam ball. Then cut the ball in half, with the cut passing precisely through each of the two points. You now have a Great Circle, and the shortest path between the two points lies along the edge of the circle.

Determining Distance

The Great Circle distance might be easy to visualize, but it’s much more difficult to calculate. Determining the distance between two points on the surface of a sphere requires advanced algebraic equations and trigonometric functions. Well, okay, maybe it’s not too advanced for an engineer or high school mathematics student armed with a scientific calculator, but dealing with x, y, and z unknowns, cosine, sine, and arctangent angular components, and three dimensions could be intimidating enough to cause some of us to tune out rather quickly.


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The Season Of Lights

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

Even now, during the very bottom of the current solar cycle (remember, a solar cycle is approximately 11 years in length, from minimum to minimum), the sun unleashes enough plasma into interplanetary space to cause occasional aurora events. When solar plasma rides the solar wind to collide with the Earth’s magnetosphere, and then rains down along the magnetic flux lines of the Earth’s magnetic fields, aurora-mode propagation comes alive. The more intense the aurora, the more likely VHF radio signals will be reflected via the E-layer ionospheric clouds formed by the aurora.

Of course, when such conditions occur to make VHF come alive, HF radio propagation might become diminished or even non-existent. During times of minor to severe geomagnetic storm activity, the ionosphere loses its ability to refract HF. At the same time, however, high geomagnetic activity causes auroral sub-storms that create areas of ionization capable of reflecting VHF signals.

Auroral observations over the last 100 years reveal that peak periods of radio aurora occur close to the equinoxes—that is, during the months of March and April, and again in September and October. Of the two yearly peaks, the greater peak, in terms of the number of contacts reported, seems to occur during October. However, some of the strongest levels of geomagnetic storms are in the spring. The yearly minimum activity occurs during the months of June and July, with a lesser minimum during December.

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Zenith Bandswitch Repairs: Understanding
Zenith Bandswitch Mysteries!

by Peter J. Bertini

Shortwave listening was already a popular pastime up to and during the WWII years. Many early radios included shortwave reception; many of these were inexpensive five-tube table sets, and even very elaborate consoles. Often the most difficult restorations I’ve come across involve these radios’ bandswitches. Trying to make sense of the associated maze of wiring and coils and the confusing schematics can be a tedious task indeed!

My luck has been running from bad to worse, and in the past several months I’ve encountered several sets that had been “modified” using “band aid” fixes to hide more serious problems made by previous owners. I’ve spent hours troubleshooting, only to discover RF stage coils with open windings and bandswitch wiring that has been surreptitiously hacked by persons unknown. The sets did play, but with greatly reduced performance.

The most recent example crossing my path was a customer’s Zenith 7S232A chassis. Despite being a rust bucket, its saving grace was that it could be used in a Zenith Walton tombstone cabinet—a large tombstone that has been elevated to near cult status thanks to its numerous appearances as a prop in the popular 1970s CBS series about a family with the same name. My nine-tube model 9S232 Zenith Walton (see Photo A) is a handsome radio, and perhaps the most valuable radio in my collection, but I’ll admit its desirability is driven more by market forces than performance or looks!

Troubleshooting Zenith Bandswitch Assemblies

Let me digress and show how I go about troubleshooting Zenith bandswitch problems. This column is going to be a bit more brand-and-model-specific than normal, but hopefully this information will serve you well when you’re faced with similar problems. Unfortunately, hands-on experience is the best way to learn, especially when armed with an ohmmeter to trace the actual circuit paths through coils at the different bandswitch positions. The schematics can seem very confusing, but once you work with these sets for a while, and trace things out, you’ll begin to understand with more clarity how they work and just what’s going on.

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Things We Take For Granted—
In Tough Times, They’re Necessities!

by Rich Arland, W3OSS


The recent “Homeland Security” column on the CBS drama series, “Jericho,” with its nuclear disaster theme, apparently struck home with more than just a few of you. This is obviously also a hot button item in Hollywood since the start of the new season of the TV drama series 24 has Special Agent Jack Bauer tracking down some lowlifes that just triggered a nuclear man-pack device in Los Angeles.

“NO!” I did not have any conversations with the writers on 24. However, both Fox News Channel and CNN had the theme of the season premier of 24 as a news feature for several days under the heading of “could this happen?” The usual parade of consultants and pseudo-experts vied for camera time to expound on their pet theories of whether or not a nuclear device could be smuggled into the United States and ignited at the whim of a sleeper cell.

One comment that I heard repeated on the various talking heads’ news programs had a number of these low-yield nuclear devices already in place, hidden near large population centers, just waiting to be triggered. I don’t know where their information sources came from, but it’s a sure bet that the bad guys are well aware of how unprepared America in general is for such a terrorist attack.

Pulling Through

These news programs led me to do some further in-depth research into the nuclear survival phenomenon. One of the books I highly recommend reading, and that I touched on in that same column, is Pulling Through by Dean Ing. Ing is one heck of a good writer. I’ve read a number of his works and he’s a very thought-provoking writer who gets the reader thoroughly involved with the story line and, at the same time, instills in-depth research into various aspects of the plot, based upon hard scientific information from credible sources.

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Play Nice With The Other Kids, Dear (Or Ham Etiquette)

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ


.The last time I touched on this month’s topic—good behavior—we were “at war” with terrorists, blowing stuff up in Iraq, trying to ignore some kind of genocide in Darfur, and thinking about sending Martha Stewart to the Big House. Sadly, the only thing that’s different today is that Martha did indeed go to prison, but got out early for—you guessed it—good behavior.

Cake decorating and cooking tidbits aside, Martha Stewart makes a pretty good role model for hams operating in a seemingly ever-more-hostile world. Few people want to go to prison, even a Club Fed type with plenty of amenities. But she took her bitter medicine without complaining. She kept her composure. She didn’t lash out. She took one for the team. And she was a real Elmer (mentor) to other women inside, several of whom credit her with making a real difference in their lives.
Ham radio needs more Martha types! And if Martha were a ham, she’d tell you that without constant vigilance, hostility can creep into the relative sanctity of our beloved amateur radio.

Ham radio is a friendly pursuit, but just like a typical kid who’s seen 13,000 murders and more than a million TV commercials by age 16, the influence of the outer world can affect us. That crud can creep under our skin or get under our collars and spill over into our friendly hobby!

Small, seemingly innocent infractions can accumulate and drag you down. Being rude on the air. Being a lid, intentional interference, kerchunking the repeater, letting the thrill of the chase transform you into an amateur radio monster: all of these bad behaviors are committed by ops who started out as helpful, friendly hams.

On The Receiving End

We’ve all been on the receiving side of bad on-air behavior. I’ve been on the butt end of more than a few bad radio encounters. Some can be called to mind instantly, despite the fact that they happened years ago! Like the 8-land lid who kept calling an op in Oman on 80 meters—while the Middle Eastern op was asking for me only (“the station ending in ‘zero zee’ only, please”). In my 30 years as a ham (thanks to the “respected Big Gun DXer” in Ohio) I’ve yet to work the Middle East on 80 meters.

I’m sure you’ve encountered something similar, and if you haven’t yet, you will. Be prepared. Practice forgiveness in advance or your blood pressure will likely suffer (as mine did)!

A lot of this type of bad behavior has been worsened by the proliferation of DX spotting nets/systems worldwide. My opinion isn’t shared by everyone, but I’d love to roll back the clock on that “helpful technology!” But that’s another story...

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My Last Column:
What We’ve Covered—And Why

by Joe Cooper

Welcome to my final column for Popular Communications readers. For the past six years I have done my best to provide you with practical information on how to use a personal computer to assist you in your radio monitoring. I began writing the column with the belief that everyone who uses radios for hobby monitoring would benefit from the use of computer technology in some form. I also tried to write with the beginner in mind, while not ignoring the needs of the more experienced computer user.

After all these years, what has the title of my column, “Computer-Assisted Radio Monitoring,” come to mean? Well the bottom line is still that anything you can do with a personal computer that helps you achieve better results when monitoring is the essence of “computer-assisted.”

As you have seen over the years, that assistance can be anything from looking up monitoring frequencies on the Internet, logging a station using computer software, filtering the sound of a weak station so it can be heard, to the direct control of a radio with your PC. Each month I’ve provided you with some practical information from four main topic areas: computer software, computer hardware, the Internet, and computer theory.

Personally, the columns I enjoyed writing the most were the ones on computer theory, especially those that dug down into the history of digital communications. If there’s one bit of wisdom I hope I’ve conveyed it’s this: analog transmission techniques cannot deliver the same results as digital. With analog technology, the quality of the received signal is never the same as the original unless very expensive technology is employed to remove the noise that’s always present in its transmission and reception. More importantly, I hope you learned that it sometimes it takes a long time for practical technology to catch up with the initial theory, which has certainly been the case with all digital modes, from telegraph to today’s software-defined radio (SDR) technology.

I want to ask all of you, as radio communications becomes increasingly digital in nature, not to be afraid of learning digital theory. I hope I’ve shown you, through my sometimes-lengthy examinations of the history of digital modes and the science behind their discovery, that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

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Zambia: Safaris And Adventure—
Along With Lots Of Problems

by Harold Ort, N2RLL, Editor


Officially known as the Republic of Zambia, this nation that’s only slightly larger than the Lone Star State is home to nearly 11.5 million people. Old-timers will recall the country being known as Northern Rhodesia. The name change took place 43 years ago after it gained independence from the UK.

Elections there four years ago didn’t make the top slot in our evening news, but for Zambia it was just another in a long string of problems with the process. Three parties filed legal petitions challenging the election of Levy Mwanawasa, ruling party candidate. Back in ’91 one-party rule in Zambia ended, but then a short five years later, opposition parties were the targets of widespread harassment.

Last year in an election that the CIA said was “free and fair” Mwanawasa was reelected. No one has been prosecuted for past election wrongdoings—and likely never will be.

While English is the official language in this landlocked nation bordered by seven countries, a total of seven vernaculars and about 80 other languages are spoken. No wonder, when you consider that in the past two years nearly 160,000 refugees entered Zambia from Angola, the Congo, and Rwanda.

Tourism And Other “Going’s On”

Home to Victoria Falls (and 17 other waterfalls), visitors can do it all in this country, whose official tourism department says is “the real Africa” and “one of the safest countries in the world to visit.” With all the spectacular scenery and activities from rafting to canoeing and safaris, it truly is wondrous and exciting.

Don’t let those visions of wild safaris fool you, though; the country is actually about 40 percent urban, with the majority living in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and largest city, and secondary cities Ndola and Livingstone.

News from Zambia is as varied. At the top of the list of topics are the recent $38 million loan from China to build roads and “buy equipment” and the ubiquitous call to “come together.”


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New Station In Madagascar…Soon!

by Gerry L. Dexter

We’re all aware that shortwave broadcasting is not exactly a growth industry these days. But every now and again there is an upswing in activity that emits a few waves of hope. One such is the recent news that World Christian Broadcasting says it’s making steady progress toward completion of its new shortwave operation in Madagascar, which will broadcast in Arabic to the Middle East. As yet, however, no opening date, schedule, or frequencies have been announced.

World Christian Broadcasting also operates KNLS in Anchor Point, Alaska, on a two million dollar annual budget—a sum that’s expected to double once the Madagascar station gets going. KNLS has always been well programmed and friendly to SWLs, giving us two excellent reasons to wish them well.

On National Register Today—Someday A Museum?

The former transmitter building of The Voice of America at Bethany, Ohio, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which, it is hoped, will be the first step in converting it into a museum. VOA-Bethany discontinued operations in 1995, and most of the facility has since been torn down.

News From Africa

A few months back the National Radio of the Democratic Saharan Arab Republic changed its operating frequency to 6215 from 7425. Prior to that move it used 7460. Then, having used 6215 for a month or two, it reverted back to 7460. In other words, over the last 12 to 14 months the station has dropped from 7460 to 7425 to 6215 and back to 7460! And, “this just in”—it moved again and is now on 6458! The station supports the Polisario Front and is funded by Algeria, with the broadcasts coming from Rabuni, Algeria.

More International SW Happenings

Radio UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) has begun tests on its former 9600 spot, where it had been silent for quite some time. These tests may have ended by now and the station may be fully active. So far, though, the tests haven’t shown much in way of signal strength. XEYU is using a transmitter formerly owned by the now silent Radio Mexico International.


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Stuff I Have Been Wrong About

by Bill Price, N3AVY

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but there are a few things I didn’t get right. I think that one of my first disappointments was finding out that just because you couldn’t hear anything but static (hash) on a CB radio, it did NOT mean that no one in the world was transmitting at that particular time.

I was sure that while somewhere in Connecticut, during one of these times when “no one else was on” I could just yell into the mic and my friends and family, some 300 air miles away, could hear me just fine. This was shortly before the U.S. Coast Guard taught me about ground waves, sky waves, propagation of various wavelengths, and “expecting the bloody impossible.”

After my stint as a Coast Guard Radioman, I missed operating CW so much that I got a ham license. This is where a few of my other misconceptions were blasted from the sky by well-armed sharpshooters. I somehow expected the amateur CW bands to be similar to the commercial freqs, with a calling freq where initial contacts were made, and then people would shift off to some clear working frequency to carry on a leisurely conversation. What I found resembled the old video game, Frogger, and I was the frog, experiencing traffic on a crowded street for the first time.

Like a lot of others, I thought that computers would reduce our paper consumption, too.
And with the onset of e-mail and newsgroups, I thought for sure that the ability to find people of like minds with similar interests was just around the corner. Unfortunately, so were flame wars. This is another area where ham radio beats the computers hands down. First of all, there is an FCC to deal with intentional, malicious interference. Second, when you turn on your receiver, there are never any hostile messages waiting for you as there are in your “inbox” (this assumes you’re not dealing with packet radio, of course). And has anyone’s ham transceiver, key, mic, antenna, tower, or anything else ever been infected with a virus?

I’ll skip over the painful misconceptions I had as a child. Well, okay, not all of them. I’m still upset that I believed my mother when she said I could be anything I wanted to, and then told me not to be ridiculous when I said I wanted to be a hippopotamus (nobody messes with hippos!).

Getting back to the Coast Guard days. After being indoctrinated to the “Coast Guard Way” of communicating in six months of radio school, I truly believed that everyone observed proper operating procedure, used only the approved abbreviations, Q (and Z) signals, and that if I just followed the procedure they taught me, everything would be fine. They lied.

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