XM Radio To Launch Channel Dedicated To The 2008 Presidential Election
by D. Prabakaran
U.S. broadcaster XM Satellite Radio announced it would launch a new radio channel dedicated to the 2008 presidential election, marking the first time that a U.S. national radio channel has been devoted to a presidential campaign. The 24-hour, commercial-free channel, created in association with C-SPAN and other media outlets, will be called “POTUS ’08.” The channel’s name comes from the Secret Service code name for the President of the United States.
The channel will be “free to air” on XM, meaning that it will be broadcast free to all XM radio receivers. If a consumer has an XM radio but opts not to subscribe to XM, the consumer can still listen to the presidential election channel.
The presidential election channel will feature news updates, candidate interviews, complete speeches, debate coverage, latest polling results, fundraising status, and live call-in shows. The channel will provide free airtime for presidential candidates to speak to voters. Non-traditional media outlets, such as bloggers and podcasters, will provide content for the channel. It will also air archival audio of historic moments from past campaigns. Additional content will be announced prior to launch.
XM will preview the channel in June 2007 with
live XM original coverage and a re-broadcast of candidate debates hosted
by CNN. The channel will formally launch in September 2007 and air through
November 2008. It will be located at XM Channel 130.
DirecTV is considering offering broadband
Internet service via power lines next year, with the company mulling a
wide-scale test in a major U.S. city. The satellite provider is one of
several talking to power line Internet equipment manufacturers about
offering high-speed Internet services. A test to see if such a service is
feasible would occur in a “top 50” city and would have a coverage area of
at least half the city.
The Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF)
launched a weekly radio program on June 7, 2007. The program, The Voice of
Patriots,” broadcasts to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa every Thursday
from 16 to 17 UTC local time. It can be heard on 15260 kHz.
The Cuban government has prevented the
distribution of shortwave radios that had been intended for Cuban
listeners of Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW). RNW has a large audience
in Cuba, and the radios were to be offered as prizes for winners of a
January 2007 story competition, in partnership with Radio Canada
International, in which listeners were asked to write about their country.
The poor economic circumstances mean that many Cubans do not have radios,
and sets that can receive foreign stations are difficult to get. A total
of 945 entries were received, and 500 radios were to be distributed among
the most talented authors.
Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications
by Richard Fisher, KI6SN
Commission Counsel Implores Radio Amateurs To “Lighten Up”
In a message to thousands of radio amateurs at the 2007 Dayton Hamvention, FCC Special Counsel in the Spectrum Enforcement Division Riley Hollingsworth called upon operators to “lighten up” on the bands and decide “what’s most important—the best interests of ham radio or their ego, pride or perceived ‘rights,’” an item in the ARRL Letter reported.
“All of you can learn from each other,” he
said, “and you need to work together more and show a little more respect
for your diverse interests and for the Amateur Service as a whole. It
isn’t about you. It isn’t about enforcement. It’s about amateur radio,” he
According to the ARRL Letter, Hollingsworth offered both good and bad news. “The good news: Nothing is wrong with amateur radio,” he said. “It is a good service that is showing its value to the public on a daily basis.” The bad news, however, is “that there is an element of Amateur Radio that too often reflects present society generally,” he said, making a comparison to highway “road rage.”
Radio amateurs need to cooperate more and depend less on the FCC to solve their operating issues, Hollingsworth said. “We live in a rude, discourteous, profane, hotheaded society,” he said, “that loves its rights, prefers not to hear about its responsibilities, and that spills over into the ham bands.”
According to the ARRL Letter, Hollingsworth
advised radio amateurs to be flexible in selecting their frequency and to
use the “big knob” on the front of their transceiver to move to any of the
“thousands of frequencies and hundreds usable at any given time of day or
year” as necessary to avoid problems. “The world is ugly enough—don’t add
The Association of Public-Safety
Communications Officials (APCO) International praised the FCC for its
action to improve wireless accuracy, an outcome of a late-May 2007 Open
The Spirit Of Radio Thrives On Campus
Across The Country College
by Dan Moseson, KC2OOM
“Invisible airwaves crackle with life / Bright antenna bristle with the energy / Emotional feedback, on timeless wavelength / Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free” — Rush, “The Spirit of Radio”
As a college radio DJ, a ham, and a general fan of any little box of wires that pulls words and music out of the electromagnetic spectrum, I know from experience that the “emotional feedback” described in this song flows in both directions. Unfortunately, much of the radio in my area (New York metro) seems to have lost its spirit. In my car, I’ve come to prefer the sound of silence to “the sound of salesmen,” as Rush aptly paraphrased Simon & Garfunkel. Between the numbing, repetitive commercials and the generally homogenous nature of corporate broadcasting, it’s easy to become discouraged, but the spirit of radio crackles defiantly on in a few places.
One of the best places to find it is college radio. Not all college stations are “underground” bastions of anti-establishment revolt, but they all share a commitment to radio for its own sake. Their importance for the future of radio lies in a combination of creative freedom and practical training. Some aim to bring new music and perspectives to their communities, and others focus on training students for careers in broadcasting.
“It’s the practical experience that sets them apart from others,” said Benny Smith, general manager and program director of WUTK at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “In the bigger picture,” he continued, “it’s frankly allowing new artists and new musicians to be heard.” He says he’s disappointed with where corporate radio has gone musically. “Now it’s just totally whack,” he said, “and college radio is it” for new music.
“We are much more willing to take risks with our music, which commercial stations are not,” said Jack Casey, general manager of Emerson College’s WERS radio station out of Boston, which focuses on education but also works to introduce new artists. “When people are doing something because they absolutely love it, it makes a big difference and people really respond to that.”
Mark Borchert, chief engineer and station
manager of North Dakota State’s KNDS, concurred. He described his station,
located in Fargo, as “the only outlet for local music in our area.”
It’s widely agreed that the history of college radio (not to mention major advances in radio at large) began with WRUC at Union College in Schenectady, New York, in the early 20th Century. Information on Union College’s admissions website describes the celebration of the station’s 85th anniversary and explains how Union students made what was probably the nation’s first scheduled radio broadcast—27 minutes of music—in 1920.
Emergency Comms In
What—If Anything—Has Changed Since 9/11?
by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ
So what if another major disaster struck New York today? What, if anything, has changed since 2001? Would the vital police, fire, and EMS personnel responding to such an incident be any better off in their communications capabilities today than they were six years ago?
As this is being written, in June 2007), the evidence, unfortunately, suggests that they would not. One recent indication was the Consolidated Edison (the city’s electricity provider) blackout in the summer of 2006. In the aftermath of that incident, a report by N.J. Burkett of WABC-TV Eyewitness News noted that, at one point during the blackout, the 911 system in the city had a backlog of 1,000 calls, with top priority calls being delayed for up to 20 minutes, while non-urgent calls were delayed an hour. The city EMS personnel lost their computers and radios during the blackout, making it impossible to dispatch ambulances—and they did not have a backup system.
Apparently, neither did the fire department. The same report also noted that, according to FDNY officials, a backup system was in the works before the blackout, but FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta admitted that he was surprised to discover that the department’s firehouses didn’t have generators. Scopetta said that FDNY does have battery backup systems for its voice alarm system, but went on to say that there was “absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t have that kind of support in every single fire house.”
As for the world’s largest police department, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told WABC that there had been issues with the batteries providing backup power to NYPD’s radio repeaters, which were supposed to last 24 hours, but didn’t.
Furthermore, WCBSTV.com produced a story in November 2005 in which it concluded that, in the event of another catas-trophe, New York might have trouble communicating with surrounding counties. That report quoted Edmund Horace of the Nassau County Police Department, who cited New York City, in particular, as having radio systems that are disparate with those in adjacent counties.
Maha PowerEx AA Charger Conditioner
by Gordon West, WB6NOA
I recently tested the new Maha PowerEx MH-C 9000 charger, which is also a conditioner for AA and AAA batteries, plus a battery cell analyzer! Hurricane Katrina taught emergency responders the value of a handheld radio that could run on a dry cell or AA rechargeable cell tray. Most handheld ham radios and scanners offer individual-cell battery trays as an accessory. When you exhaust your regular nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium ion sealed battery pack, just slip it off and snap on the individual-cell battery tray. You can load it with inexpensive AA alkaline batteries, or rechargeable NiMH AA batteries.
We see battery capacity in rechargeable NiMH AA individual cells up to 2900 mAh. This is close to the equivalent of your best disposable alkaline AA battery.
Maha engineers have developed a new 4-AA cell
charger that gave some terrific results when restoring a handful of worn
out AA rechargeables, only a year old. They just wouldn’t hold a charge.
This new Maha charger offers five different charging options:
If you’re in a hurry with your regular rechargeables, slip all four into the charger and do nothing. The charger will do everything to bring them up to a full head of steam in less than a half hour. It will also tell you, on the screen, battery conditions.
The backlit LCD display will show capacity, voltage, time on charge, and charging current. It will do this for each of the four occupied slots.
You can pre-select charging currents from 0.2
A to 2.0 A. You can select 10 discharging currents from 0.1 A to 1.0 A.
You never want to charge a battery to the point where it becomes too hot
to handle; a temperature sensor may ultimately cut off charging if it
detects the cell is overheating. There are other self-checks of terminal
voltage so you don’t accidentally toast any single AA or AAA battery.
Back To Basics:
by Ken Reiss
Getting started in scanning can be a bit daunting. I suspect that many of us had a friend who got us started and showed us the fundamentals of scanning. Others get started out of some desire to listen to a particular service, for fun or for work. But if you come at it from some angle that doesn’t involve a background in radio, and you don’t have a friend to smooth the path, it can be a rough ride, particularly with today’s complicated choices for radios.
I get a lot of questions related to some
beginners’ topics, so I like to pause and take us all back to the basics
every once in a while. So this month we’ll look at what you need to look
at when choosing your first scanner. It’ll do you good to jog your memory
if you’re an old pro, and if you’re just getting started, hopefully I can
get you on the right track. I doubt I’ll answer all your questions, but
here’s a start.
I won’t spend a lot of time on this one because if you’re reading this magazine you’re already hooked to some extent. Most scanner fans are born out of a desire to hear what’s going on around them, or out of a professional need to keep up with something that uses radio. Volunteer firefighters and off-duty police officers are very often scanner hobbyists by necessity.
Of course, there’s a lot of other stuff to
listen to besides police and firefighters. Airplanes, airports, ships on
all waterways, corporate communications of all sorts, fast food
restaurants, mall security, and a host of other users will show up on your
scanner if you have the interest to find out where to tune in. Some are
boring as all heck, but others can be good entertainment. Of course, one
person’s good entertainment is another person’s boring, so if you’re just
getting started, look around a bit and find out what you like.
One question that never seems to get answered completely is “which radio should I buy?” We’ve all been through this problem at least once, unless you’re really just getting started, which of course, is when it can be especially overwhelming.
Scanners basically come in three flavors
(well, sort of). Portable scanners are easy to carry around, are generally
small, and don’t need much space. Base and mobile scanners used to be
considered two distinct categories, although these days they’re pretty
much the same thing: the only question is do you mount it in the car or
plug it in at home?
For EmComm Gear, Try
by Rich Arland, W3OSS
I have so many irons in the fire lately I don’t know where to begin. Matter of fact, I don’t even think there is a beginning. Things just kinda mounted up and I turned around one day and found that I did not have a “full plate”; I had a bad case of “my plate runneth over”! Okay, this month we’ll tackle a couple of items that have been back-burnered for a while and see if I can’t clear a bit of space on my plate.
Over the years of writing “Homeland Security” I have touted the virtues of having a “Go-Bag,” “Bug-Out Bag,” “Jump-Kit,” etc., for Emergency Communications (EmComm) volunteers. During that same period of time I have also revised my personal Go-Bag more than once! As a matter of fact my wife, The Beautiful and Talented Patricia, KB3MCT, is now threatening divorce court should I attempt to enter the house with yet another ballistic nylon bag or hard case for the “Go-Bag.”
When she didn’t have a ham license and we were newly married, it was no big deal to smuggle in a new piece of gear or accessory without her being any the wiser. Not anymore. Not only does she know each and every piece of gear on my shack table and workbench, in the storage area in the basement, and in each vehicle along with our Scamp camper, she knows when I got them and how much they cost! It’s like trying to put something over on the KGB! Alas, life is no longer simple at W3OSS.
This latest “upgrade” to the W3OSS Go-Bag started when I was referred to an Internet link by one of my loyal readers. There I found the ultimate solution (?) to the Go-Bag situation, and it’s not a “bag” at all. How about a “Go-Box”?
Now so you all don’t think I’m a complete idiot (Patricia says that is NOT true....there are parts missing!), I had thought of this Go-Box idea on several occasions, but never found what I considered an adequate “box” to convert. However, some really clever folks came up with some very clever solutions that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and that’s the focus of this month’s column.
The first thing you must do is decide exactly what type of radio gear you need to do the job you’re tasked with. Since I live in northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA), and our local served agencies for our ARES/RACES/REACT operations are the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company (which owns and operates the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, more commonly called the Berwick Nuclear Power Plant), it’s a relatively simple matter to focus on just one main mode of amateur radio communications: 2-meter FM voice.
The idea of having a single 2-meter handheld transceiver (HT) and a couple of spare battery packs and expecting to provide EmComm from an outlying municipality is ludicrous. The average HT’s RF output is roughly between 2 and 5 watts. Since this is an FM transmission, the transmitter is running full bore 100 percent of the time, so it tends to eat batteries very, very quickly.
THE ANTENNA ROOM
A Shortwave Listening Filter
by Kent Britain, WA5VJB
This month we take a slightly different tack in improving your listening experience (hey, even antennas can use a little help now and then), specifically your shortwave listening experience. There has always been a soft spot in my heart for shortwave receivers. I enjoy listening to many of the foreign broadcasts—they certainly have a different view of news events.
As you can see in Photo A, my SWL tools include the ICOM R1, R2, Q7, R3, my old favorite the R10, and my new favorite the R-20. Okay, before I start getting emails, the Q7 has the software patch and now hears .495 to 30 MHz. Also I purchased the R2 and the R10 in Hong Kong, so there are no holes in their coverage.
These wideband receivers are extremely versatile. They pick up just about everything, but performance on the shortwave bands is usually pretty poor. That 6-inch rubber antenna doesn’t hack it when you’re trying to pull in the Voice of America or Radio Havana. So instead you try a long-wire antenna or perhaps an HF dipole. Now you’re greeted with dozens of overlapping signals. The very wide receiver front ends in these broadband radios often suffer from overload. And this overload is often composed of local AM stations, FM transmitters, and TV signals.
Well, here’s a solution for you. In Figure 1
we show the schematic for a pretty simple passband filter for the
shortwave bands. This simple filter drops down the AM broadcast band an
S-unit or so. Not much, so you’ll still pick up your talk radio stations
just fine, but the lower signal levels help the shortwave signals a lot.
At the same time it drops FM and TV signals about 30 dB, giving that first
amplifier in the receiver a fighting chance.
There are many ways to build this filter, and here we show three. In Photo B you’ll see one that I’ve built in a nice die-cast box with connectors. In Photo C we show two “dead bug” filters: one with coax going in and out and using homebrew inductors (top); the other with SMT components (bottom). Electrically and functionally all three filters are identical. As you can see comparing the photos, the nice neat box with connectors makes a pretty project, but just the slab of circuit board with the coax soldered directly to the copper works just as well.
The ICOM SSB Cut-Out Cure For Boaters
by Gordon West, WB6NOA
Summer may be almost over, but there’s still
plenty of great weather ahead. And for boaters, autumn can offer some
terrific sea conditions. With that in mind, let’s look at a marine radio
that also operates on the ham bands. The ICOM IC-M802 marine
single-sideband transceiver is now in its fourth year of production, and
it holds a whopping market share lead over competitors Furuno, JRC, SGC,
Raymarine, and SEA Marine. It’s the first marine SSB transceiver for under
$1,995 to include full digital selective calling (DSC) emergency, red
button capability, and a simple tie-in to an onboard GPS data stream.\Add
to the M802’s DSC capability its built-in separate DSC scanning receiver
with digital signal processor chip (designed for internal filter settings
for narrow bandwidth signals when operating email) and you’ve really got
something to talk about. The head is fully remote and waterproof, with a
big bold amber display for frequency, channel, or alpha-numeric channel
names, and full computer control with its included DIN and RS-232 C
When the M802 first hit the shelves, sailors were all set to take advantage of the “one touch email button” for quick access to the pre-programmed email frequency list. First surprise: email providers, like marine SailMail and ham radio AirMail, required an additional external $999 modem, allowing the equipment to run lightning fast Pactor III signaling to send and receive emails all over the world.
We ham radio buffs were delighted to see a straightforward, three-button maneuver to engage ham radio transmit capability. There was no longer the ICOM-required computer clone unlock for frequencies not already stored in the radio’s memory. And, in more good news for hams, you could move up and down the ham band in micro or major tuning steps, with transmit always following receive, so there was no additional need to program transmit channels.
From the beginning, I found the M802 feeble on average voice transmit output. While you could whistle for 150 watts on an oscilloscope, you would only see 100 watts peak on a professional Bird wattmeter. And as you talked and gave your local weather conditions, the thru-line wattmeter would amble in the 20- to 40-watt region. Close talking the noise-canceling mic and raising your voice would help. An early-on control head, SMT (surface-mount technology) chip removal squeaked out a few more watts, but power output compared to an original ICOM IC-M700 was noticeably less.
Also, a peculiar cut-out problem was
associated with running the radio on certain bands, first documented by
SSB experts Don Melcher, Shea Weston, and Gary Jensen on the East Coast.
This clipping problem was attributed to a likely intermittent antenna
connection to the backstay, or a ground fault somewhere in the bilge
ground foil run.
Over a year ago, SailMail expert Shea Weston
of Offshore Outfitters in San Diego and I conducted bench tests with our
own ICOM high-frequency base station systems, and the fault would
regularly occur on the equipment we tested when the standing wave ratio
(reflected power from the tuner) exceeded 1.8:1—a modest “backwash” of RF
energy, not resolved by the ICOM AT-140 antenna tuner input circuitry.
THE WIRELESS CONNECTION
Bob Ryan’s Radio Challenge!
by Peter J. Bertini
It’s been a few years since we’ve touched on simple receiver projects, so perhaps it’s time to consider a few for our upcoming columns early in 2008.
Reader Bob Ryan from Hemet, California, one of my most faithful readers, typically pens three or four nice letters to me each year and passes along many ideas, suggestions, and comments for the column. A mutual acquaintance, Norm Leal (no, this is not the famous Norm Bill Price writes about in his column!) snapped a photo of Bob during a recent visit (see Photo A). Judging from the array of goodies on the display shelves in the background, I suspect Bob keeps himself fairly busy in his apartment workshop!
Back to our story: A few years ago the mailman delivered a small box, the contents of which can be seen in Photos B, C, D, and E. It was a partially completed one-tube radio receiver made by Bob Ryan. While I may have shared similar photos in an earlier column, I’ve finally decided that it’s high time to get busy and put the little receiver to work as an upcoming column project!
While most of the major components are
present, none are wired or connected. Bob was leaving the finished project
to our imagination. Here’s where you folks, our readers, come into the
picture! What would be a good project for Bob’s unfinished receiver?
I have in mind two possible uses for Bob’s receiver.
The first would be a version of the Doerle TwinPlex receiver, using either a 1G6 or a 19 vacuum tube, both of which are dual triodes. The Doerle is a basic regenerative receiver with a single audio stage and is very similar to the Alfred Morgan regenerative two-tube receiver we featured several years ago. The 6SN7 is also a very popular tube used for many Doerle knockoffs.
Another more interesting project would be a
version of the Hiker’s receiver, an early radio design that uses a tube in
a “space-charge” circuit and needs only a few volts for the plate supply
voltage. Let’s talk a bit about space charge applications before
discussing the Hiker radio in more depth.
Space charge technology was used for a line of
low-voltage plate voltage tubes developed for car radios. The tubes were
used for a brief period just before transistors completely took over in
the late ’50s or very early ’60s. But, for a few scant years,
manufacturers used specially developed “space charge” tubes for the early
RF, IF, detector, and first audio sections of car radios, along with a
germanium power transistor supplying the Class A audio to drive the
REACT IN ACTION
Are You Ready?
by Ron McCracken, KG4CVL / WPZX486
Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. To help you, remember that September has been declared National Preparedness Month. Are you and your family prepared to cope? Could you survive for five days with exactly what you have on hand right this minute? Experts used to say three days. After Hurricane Katrina, however, they quickly realized that five days is more realistic. Today’s population growth, and the demands that has created, means a huge burden on emergency services.
Imagine your power cutting out this instant.
Your telephone, too. What supplies do you have on hand to provide for your
family’s needs for five days? Do you have water for each person? How about
canned food? How will you safely provide light when night falls? Is your
vehicle’s fuel tank topped up?
Do you have a NOAA Weather Radio? Remember, in a disaster authorities will broadcast emergency messages of various types via that radio. You need one. Your AM-FM portable radio is an additional source of news, but you need a Weather Radio. Make it your priority. Get one this month. Make gifts of them to family and friends who don’t yet have one.
Being a radio enthusiast potentially puts you at a great advantage over much of the population. Your scanner can keep you informed about the situation as it unfolds. Your two-way radios will enable you to reach radio friends and gather further information about your situation. They can link you to your local REACT Team or other monitors to relay emergency calls for help.
Encourage your local homeowners’ association to establish a Family Radio Service (FRS) radio network for residents. The network can serve residents well for routine purposes. Contact your REACT Team for assistance. Invite REACTers to conduct an “SOS Drill” for your community.
An SOS Drill will demonstrate how valuable
those FRS radios can be in emergencies. They can link you to General
Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) operators with their more powerful equipment,
which can reach authorities. Consider joining or forming a local REACT
Team to help others in your area with emergency communications.
POWER UP: RADIOS & HIGH-TECH GEAR
New, Interesting, And Useful Communications Products
Sony To Offer HD Radio Products
Sony announced it would begin offering HD Radio products (they were to have been available in July of this year). According to the HD Digital Radio Alliance, more than 1,200 radio stations in the United States have adopted the technology, which allows them to deliver extra music content on up to four side channels that piggyback on the frequency already in use.
The company’s AM/FM/HD table radio offering, model XDR-S3HD, features a classic design with a large back-lit blue LCD display set in a mesh-covered front panel and cabinet with cherry wood finish. Stereo speakers with a simulated surround sound function, a built-in AM/FM/HD digital tuner, and separate bass and treble controls provide high-quality stereo sound in a small package.
With an auxiliary input jack and supplied
cable to connect an external music device, the XDR-S3HD radio lets the
user play back MP3 files from a digital music player. It offers 20 AM and
20 FM presets that can be used to store favorite stations for quick
access. Additional features include a wireless remote control and a
built-in clock with sleep timer and alarm. Sony said the XDR-S3HD’s price
was expected to be about $200.
The HD Radio-enabled table radio and car
adapter will be available online at
www.sonystyle.com and at participating retailers nationwide.
The MFJ-1672 Automatic Screwdriver Antenna provides continuous coverage from 3.5 to 54 MHz with its supplied whip and can handle 200 watts PEP. With a 16-inch base and a 32-inch whip, it weighs only 1.9 pounds. Because the antenna is designed to be mounted higher on a vehicle, its ground losses are less for better HF performance, and its small size means that you can use common mount types, like the MFJ-336T Tri-Magnet mount (not included). It is durable and uses a commercial 12-volt gear motor. It comes in black only. Also included are 20 feet of plug-n-play control cable, manual control box, ferrite decoupling core, and a 3/8-24 threaded stud.
The MFJ-1672 Automatic Screwdriver Antenna
retails for $399.95 and comes with MFJ’s No Matter What one-year limited
warranty. To order, receive a free catalog, or for your nearest dealer,
contact MFJ Enterprises, 300 Industrial Park Road, Starkville, MS 39759;
Phone: 800-647-1800; Web:
THE PROPAGATION CORNER
DX Hunting Season Is Open!
by Tomas Hood, NW7US
Once again, it’s time for some of the best long-range DX openings of the year. With autumn right around the corner, the season for radical improvement in radio propagation conditions is beginning. This is the time to make sure you finish any antenna project, double-check your coax, ladder line, and grounding system. The DX “hunting” season is opening this month! Let’s get right to the exciting shortwave propagation conditions starting in September.
Because the sun will be directly over the equator on the Autumnal Equinox at the end of September, the hours of daylight are mostly equal to the hours of darkness in the low to middle latitudes of the world. This results in an ionosphere of almost similar characteristics over large areas of the world, making this one of the two best times of the year (the other being the Vernal Equinox) for long DX openings between the temperate regions of the northern and southern hemispheres on all shortwave bands.
Expect a vast improvement on the higher frequencies (22 meters on up) with more frequent short-path openings from mid-September through mid-October between North America and South America, the South Pacific, South Asia, and southern Africa. The strongest openings will occur for a few hours after sunrise and during the sunset hours. Many international shortwave broadcast stations will soon change from their summer schedule to a winter schedule, taking advantage of this seasonal change in propagation.
Long-path openings also improve during the equinoctial periods. A variety of paths open up on 31 and 22 meters. Expect a path from southern Asia around sunset, and daily morning openings from southern Asia and the Middle East, expanding to Africa. Also look for signals from the Indian Ocean region long-path over the North Pole. Afternoons will fill with South Pacific long-path, and then extend to Russia and Europe. Look for possible long-path openings on 31, 41, 49, 60, and 75 meters for an hour or so before sunrise and just before sunset.
The winter DX season is also approaching,
making for additional exciting DX conditions. While the weather is still
warm and fair, tighten hardware on your antenna system, check coax cables,
and fine-tune your radio station. Get ready now to reap the DX in the
comfort of home during those cold months ahead.
With the 10.7-centimeter flux levels averaging
in the 70s during September, propagation on 11 through 22 meters will be
severely limited. On some days DX conditions will be much as they have
been during the summer. On other days (and more often), conditions will be
more like that of the winter season. Nevertheless, because we’re at the
solar cycle minimum, conditions on the higher frequencies (above 22
meters) will be marginal to non-existent this month.
by Bruce A. Conti
Beginning this month, the National Radio Club
(NRC) enters its 75th year of service to the AM broadcast DX community.
Founded on Labor Day weekend in September 1933, it’s the world’s oldest
and largest mediumwave DX club still around today, and its legacy remains
In 1933, there were only 598 AM radio stations
on the air in the United States and most signed off at night. Compared to
today, with 4,754 stations crowding the AM broadcast band, a majority of
which broadcast 24/7, reception of signals coast to coast and abroad was
relatively easy during the early years of the NRC. Back then radio was
still in its infancy, only a little more than a decade having passed since
the 1920 pioneer broadcast of the Harding-Cox election results on KDKA
Pittsburgh. DXing became a popular pastime, and an abundance of local and
national clubs came into existence, but the NRC is the only one remaining
from that period—quite an achievement for a mediumwave specialty DX club.
Some think of the golden age of DXing from the late ’60s into the ’70s, thanks to technological advances of the period. NRC member John Clements referred specifically to 1969 to 1975 as the golden age. “During this time the sophistication of the hobby was advanced far beyond what it had been previously, and many new things that were obscure or esoteric became common for most DXers,” wrote Clements (“DX News,” August 29, 1983). He cited important NRC milestones, such as the upgrade of the “DX News” bulletin to offset printing and introduction of the NRC AM Log. With the advent of offset printing, the NRC went on a “publishing binge,” producing a record number of technical papers covering propagation, DXing techniques, antenna design, and receiver modifications. The receivers of choice were the Hammarlund HQ-180, Hallicrafters SX-101, and the military surplus R-390A.
Enjoying Ham Radio Without A Shack…
by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ
Hams have it tough these days. Towers—if you’re lucky enough to be able to put one up—cost about 10 times what they used to cost...and at least three times what they should cost. And antenna rotators, well, forget ’em! A wimpy-looking, pot-metal rotator that could be sheared off by a scanner antenna in a light breeze costs more than a hundred bucks. And the beefy unit you really want goes for half a kilobuck or more! (And I was thinking $200 tops!)
So what’s a good deal nowadays? Radios, of course. Although you can still spend a buck or two, radios themselves are an incredible deal, especially when compared to the good old days when towers, rotators, and everything else didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Back in those glory days, hams operated from ham shacks. If you met a ham, he had a shack, plain and simple. But that’s not true today. If you meet a ham, he may not have a shack anymore! Heck, he might not even own a radio (gasp!).
The reasons are many. Deed restrictions. Covenants. Can’t put up an antenna. Your spousal equivalent won’t let you have a shack. You’re never home. Can’t afford a radio. Whatever.
Maybe you’re a “shackless ham,” but you can
still enjoy ham radio. And while you’re figuring things out (and perhaps
building or arranging for a shack of your own), keep an open mind.
Although the workarounds discussed here may be unconventional, any one of
them could turn out to be a your new favorite!
Unless you live in the outback there’s probably at least one club station in your area. Amazingly, it’s probably lightly attended—just waiting for you to twist the knobs. Although popular in Europe, where some countries still require a period of club station operation as a licensing requirement, club stations in the United States are often used primarily for license instruction and contesting.
Search for club stations at colleges,
universities, tech schools, and even high schools. You might have to join
a club to gain access, but that’s probably a step in the right direction
anyway. Club stations are great for contesting and a great way to get on
the air with other hams.
When I lived on the East Coast I met a
longtime ham who didn’t own a station—not even a handheld transceiver for
2 meters—yet he operated almost every weekend. During the following
workweek I’d hear about his contest exploits. This veteran op worked the
world from his friend’s contest superstation, which was lavishly equipped
and advantageously located outside the city limits. When I asked him why
he didn’t have a station of his own, he thought I was crazy. Weekend
contesting was exactly his kind of ham radio. He wasn’t missing out on
anything by not having his own shack.
SHANNON’S BROADCAST CLASSICS
by Shannon Huniwell
Most of radio’s power comes from imagination, not kilowatts. At least that’s what Pop’Comm reader feedback seems to verify. A letter I received from Carole Wilkins serves as an example.
Since earning a science scholarship in the mid-1950s—at that time incredibly rare for a young woman from rural Kentucky—and then heading off to college on the West Coast, Wilkins has lived within the respective coverage areas of major market signals in Oregon and Washington, as well as near both ends of California. But whenever she reminisces about her down-home roots, it’s small town radio that flashes through her imagination.
It was local broadcasting, she noted, that sparked her interest in electronics, science class, a statewide school science fair, and seeking out that university scholarship. It all resulted in a fulfilling technology career that, only several years ago, ended with satisfying retirement from Hewlett-Packard. While still in college and a pioneer Hewlett-Packard intern, her first assignment was working on upgrades for HP’s hefty, tube-type model 335-B analog FM modulation monitor—quite a contrast to the miniscule digital microprocessors she and her team were designing during the latter part of her tenure.
Wilkins’ seven and a quarter-page letter is too long and personal to include here, though I’m sure some Pop’Comm readers could easily identify with her theme that radio is one thing that God has used to soothe loneliness in the world. She wrote about being a grade school kid often left alone in a modest home several miles northeast of Pineville, Kentucky, while her mother—practically still a girl herself—cleaned other people’s houses in and around the bigger, neighboring community of Middlesboro.
“To be more accurate,” Wilkins said, “I should tell you that our place was just a rented room over an eccentric elderly couple’s garage. A semi-retired handyman we knew from church took it upon himself to give us a semblance of normal space by nailing up some old doors as room dividers. He spent a week or so sanding and varnishing them to look real nice. The nearest running water was in a sort of back porch privy at the landlord’s house. Thankfully, though, we did have a few amenities upstairs: several electrical outlets, a couple of lights on cords dangling from the rafters, and a frustrating little radio.”
THE POP’COMM TRIVIA CORNER
Radio Fun And Going Back In Time
by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL
Q. Back in the 1980s when the British got involved in the Falklands War they were operating quite a long way from home. How good was their communications with HQ back in England?
A. Yes, from the first Argentine
landing (April 2, 1982) to the surrender of all Argentine forces (June 14)
was only 74 days. The British Task Force, which was actually just giving
the diplomats time to wrangle a deal, spent much of the time in preparing
and slowly approaching the Falklands. It was May 1 when the opening shots
were fired in the military’s retaking of the Islands. As soon as ground
operations were begun a group of RAF Vulcans attacked the airport at Port
Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.
Q. I’ve seen old photographs of World War I battleships sailing single file in a line. In that type of formation, it would be difficult to see the flagships’ signal flags, semaphore flags, or flashing lights. How could, say, an admiral communicate with his ships before the days of wireless?
UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST
Espionage On The Shortwave Bands—
by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ
Although it seems like only a few weeks have passed, a look at my logbooks confirms that it’s been seven years since the day I heard the U.S. military and the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, clashing on the shortwave utility bands. I was listening to the USAF’s HF-GCS, High Frequency-Global Communications System (which was then known as the GHFS, for Global HF System), and got lucky in that on this particular day there was an SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan) Command and Control exercise in progress.
There were numerous stations on several frequencies, including the 8992.0, 13200.0, and 15016.0 GHFS frequencies, as well as some of the so-called “Zulu” frequencies commonly used by assets of the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC). These stations, some of which were probably aircraft while others were most likely somewhere on terra firma, were using tactical callsigns, with lots of coded messages flying back and forth.
Then, with exercise activity in the middle of its peak, a station whose identity I did not know at the time came up on 15016.0 with an extremely strong signal (how strong?…strong enough for me to hear the hum of the power source on the audio), and a female voice began repeating “Charlie India Oscar Two” over and over again, and continued to do so for at least the next 30 minutes. The U.S. military stations basically were blown off the frequency by this CIO2 station, which I had encountered elsewhere in the shortwave spectrum on a few occasions prior to that day’s events. The players in the SIOP exercise seemed to shift their activities from 15016.0 to 13200.0 once the CIO2 station made 15016.0 unusable.
It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the nature of the CIO2 station: It was one of the many “numbers” stations commonly heard on HF, with this particular station attributed to the Mossad. It turned out that Pop’Comm’s own Tom Kneitel had written about it back in the mid-1970s, describing female operators (live, or automated recordings) identified with a tactical callsign consisting of three phonetic letters (with CIO already being listed among the known examples even then), sometimes followed by a suffixed digit. Tom indicated that the suffix “1” was indicative of a test transmission; a “2” meant “no message.”
As I think back on it, if I’m capable of listening to an SIOP exercise, then undoubtedly, so are members of the Israeli intelligence services and armed forces. After all, their budget for purchasing the equipment necessary to eavesdrop on such communications undoubtedly exceeds my own, and you can bet that they have a lot more room at their disposal for putting up antennas than I do!
GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE
Bhutan Beckons, CKFX Fades, And Radio Africa Improves Coverage
by Gerry L. Dexter
Word that the Bhutan Broadcasting Service is on the air—and actually being heard by people—should have even inactive DXers blowing the dust off their receivers! BBS has been on the air for several years, all the time managing to elude thousands of attempts to hear it. Now this remote Himalayan kingdom has become a prime target thanks to a new 100-kW transmitter donated by Mainland China.
It’s on the air on 6035 operating from 0100 to 0630 and 0830 to 1600, but is actually being heard as early as 0000 sign on. However, the early logs have all been by foreign-based DXers. We in North America may be better off taking our shots in the morning, say around local sunrise.
Time to say goodbye to another nice DX target. Little CKFX on 6080 is soon to be officially discontinued. It’s been off the air for years after having provided a relay of mediumwave CKWX, Vancouver, BC, for decades past but now the license is to be discontinued. 6080 is currently getting use by Sackville, relaying Radio Prague in English from 0330 to 0400.
Radio Free Chosun is another new addition to the opposition broadcasters aiming at North Korea. This one goes out via Taiwan from 2000 to 2030 using 9795.
The recently expanded broadcasts of SW Radio Africa (see last month’s column) have already undergone a change. 12035, originally beamed from the Rampisham site in Great Britain, has been switched to Kvitsoy (Norway), which formerly carried the now killed-off Radio Norway as well as Danmarks Radio. The station reports much improved coverage after making the change.
A new service has now been paired with those
Star Radio broadcasts originating from Liberia. Cotton Tree News follows
Star Radio on 9525 also via Ascension after the 0700 broadcast ends. CTN
is a separate entity, produced by a college journalism class in Freetown,
Sierra Leone. Two or three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seem to
be backing this new English broadcast. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t
That new Zimbabwe station should be on the air by now. Originally to be called Shortwave 24/7, it’s now been named the Voice of Zimbabwe and will carry an all-news format. The early publicity made much of the brand new studios but did not mention any frequencies so, even at this apparent late date, we still don’t know where to look for this one. Radio Zimbabwe has been active recently on 3396, so if the Voice of Zimbabwe shows up there it will trigger shrugs from most of us. Other past frequencies used are 3306, 4828, and 6045. Zimbabwe is virtually broke so our friends in Iran are paying for this new propaganda effort. I predict this station isn’t going to come in with a speaker-shaking signal.
Rats Send CW, Tennessee
by Bill Price, N3AVY
If you’ve read my words long enough, you probably know that my biggest passion is Morse code. I was a radio operator in the U.S. Coast Guard, where I came to love “the code.” No matter how many of my friends have tried, none have gotten me to use voice communication on either the Coast Guard radio frequencies way back before the Earth cooled, or since then on the amateur radio bands where I’ve been licensed since 1973. Some people were just not intended to use a microphone; I believe that I am one of them.
My friend Norm would have written me off a long time ago for my complete lack of interest in voice communication, except that he still hopes that I may someday see the light and begin to enjoy using a microphone. It’s no exaggeration to say that he has given me—free of charge—a complete amateur station, including a modern multiband transceiver, microphone, speaker, power supply, and oscillator, and he has helped me install many antennas since 1989. And, in exchange for this kindness, I have embarrassed and abused him unmercifully in these pages since roughly that same date. After all, what are friends for?
I’m sitting in a friend’s home in northeastern Tennessee, reunited with that friend and a few others from as far back as July 1960. For some reason, our friendship has endured time and distance, aging, weight gain, and hair loss (none of the distaff members of our group has suffered either of these maladies, I might add).
I might also add that I have been waiting patiently here for three days for my host’s Internet service provider (who shall remain nameless because my friend and I are really afraid that we will start to rant so much as to incur serious lawsuits over what we might say about them) so that I can pass on to you (and our long-suffering editor) not only the tales of my enjoyment of Morse code communication in so many of its forms (including the beginner’s practice oscillator), but also its use by our quadruped friends in strange lands halfway around the globe.