TUNING IN
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INFOCENTRAL

by D. Prabakaran

 

Radio Six International Returns To Shortwave And Mediumwave

Effective August 11—right around the time this magazine went to print—Scotland’s only independent international broadcaster, Radio Six International, was to return to shortwave with a resumption of its Saturday morning broadcast on 9290 kHz beamed to Europe, the Far East, and Pacific regions.

The program, transmitted every Saturday between 0700 and 0800 UTC, will be relayed from the 100-kW facility at Ulbroka, Latvia, as well as from the 2.7-kW mediumwave transmitter on 945 kHz in Riga, Latvia. The station has recently expressed reservations about the effectiveness of shortwave transmissions, and is available 24 hours a day on the Internet at www.radiosix.com/ as well as via satellite and FM in various parts of the world at certain times of day.

VOA Delano To Close At End Of Summer

Another international broadcasting shortwave site was to have closed at the end of the current shortwave broadcast season. The American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1812, said the Broadcasting Board of Governors announced the closure of the Delano, California, transmitting station. The closure was scheduled for last week of October, 2007. Employees will remain on the payroll until January 5, 2008.

 

VOA Expands Broadcasts To Somalia

The Voice of America (VOA) has added 30 minutes to its daily Somali radio broadcast, providing a full hour of live, up-to-the-minute news and information to listeners. VOA Somali currently airs from 1600 TO 1700 UTC, with a repeat broadcast at 1700 UTC.

The additional half hour, 1630 to 1700 UTC, includes a wider variety of listener interactives, such as call-ins, roundtable discussions, and debates on topics ranging from health, education, and youth to business and development. Weekend programming will offer in-depth discussions and interviews focusing on the interests and needs of Somalis.

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WASHINGTON BEAT

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

 

FCC Revises 700 MHz Rules, Sets Auction Parameters

In a Second Report & Order adopted July 31, the FCC revised the 700-MHz band plan and service rules “to promote the creation of a nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety and to facilitate the availability of new and innovative wireless broadband services for consumers,” according to a Commission news release.

And, in a move applauded by public safety agencies, the Order established a framework for a 700-MHz Public Safety/Private Partnership between the licensee for one of the commercial spectrum blocks and the licensee for the public safety broadband spectrum. The release stated,

As part of the Partnership the commercial licensee will build out a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for the use of public safety. This network will facilitate effective communications among first responders not just in emergencies, but as part of cooperative communications plans that will enable first responders from different disciplines, such as police and fire departments, and jurisdictions to work together in emergency preparedness and response. Under the Partnership, the Public Safety Broadband Licensee will have priority access to the commercial spectrum in times of emergency, and the commercial licensee will have preemptible, secondary access to the public safety broadband spectrum.

Among the guidelines established for the long-anticipated 700 MHz auction are “anonymous” bidding procedures, in which any information that indicates specific applicants’ interests in the auction, including license selections and bidding activity, is withheld until after the close of the auction. The Commission will also use “package bidding” procedures when auctioning the 12 licenses in the Upper 700-MHz Band C Block to assist bidders seeking to create a nationwide footprint.

DoD, FCC, And ARRL Address
Interference To Military Radar

Alleging a growing number of interference complaints, the U.S. Air Force has asked the FCC to order dozens of amateur radio 70-centimeter VHF repeater systems on both coasts to “either mitigate interference to the Pave Paws radars or shut down,” according to a report from the American Radio Relay League.
 

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Recuerdos…

Looking Back 25 Years For Shortwave Memories

by Gerry Dexter

 

“Recuerdos” is one of the titles on Stan Kenton’s brilliant “Cuban Fire!* The album notes say the word means “reminiscences.” When Pop’Comm’s erudite editor, Miss Edith, phoned suggesting I do something like this for our 25th Anniversary that’s the term she used to describe the concept.

Now, going back 25 years by relying on my memory is a dangerous business, akin to high-wiring it without a net or a balance bar! Fortunately my shortwave library contains enough historical material to provide numerous thought starters, so there’s no need to rely on my sieve-like retention ability. Having said that, I do have some recuerdos of my own.

It Begins…

Then-editor Tommy Kneitel called to offer me the shortwave broadcast column in the late summer of 1982. So it’s from that point and through the early part of ’83 where we’re going to rummage through the memory vault to see what we find.

The first thing that comes to mind is how much action and excitement there was! A couple of SWBC weekly newsletters, fed by some of the world’s most knowledgeable and experienced DXers, kept us on top of things. Beyond those we had the monthly club bulletins, of which there were several, as well as weekly DX programs. And if the news involved a really hot tip there was always the telephone. (No, we didn’t have to dial an operator and ask her to place the long distance call!)

 

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Alice Brannigan Tracks A
Wandering Broadcaster

For This Special Occasion, Pop’Comm Talked
An Old Friend Into Rejoining Us For A Double
Dose Of Radio Nostalgia

by Alice Brannigan

 

The early years of broadcasting were a bit chaotic. Stations were born, only to perish shortly thereafter. The government kept changing which agency was in charge of broadcasters, and it kept shifting the regulations and frequency assignments. From 1922 to 1941, things were in a state of flux.

Stations kept changing their locations to find the largest audience. They struggled to get more airtime and advertisers, and to avoid interference. Some regularly changed their call letters and transmitter power. Confusion reigned. A listener needed not only a good receiver, but also a scorecard just to keep track of this kaleidoscope. Many newspapers refused to carry station information out of fear that the blossoming broadcasting industry would siphon off readers and advertising revenue.

In 1921, KDKA became the first licensed commercial broadcast station. By 1922, there were more than 600 commercial and non-commercial church, college, newspaper, store, hotel, and personally owned stations in the United States. Even some hams had set up their own little unauthorized stations. Hams used homemade equipment, and even some low-powered licensed broadcasters tended to use equipment they had built themselves.

Call It Casual

Keep in mind that most early broadcasters were informal little operations run by only a couple of people. The majority of stations ran between 10 and 100 watts, seeking to serve only their immediate neighborhoods. They could usually make do with small homebrewed transmitters and rooftop dipole antenna systems. Such stations had the ability to pick up and change locations on a whim and at the drop of a hat. Licenses to broadcast were pretty easy to obtain in those days, and lots of folks wanted to get in on this novel new technology.
 

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Heathkit—From Airplanes
To Educational Courses

Pop’Comm Takes A Fond Look At Another History

by Randy Kaeding, K8TMK

 

Over the past 50 years or so a number of companies have marketed products for the communications hobbyist. Some of these companies no longer exist, while others have changed their marketing targets. In either case, many of them have essentially been forgotten. One company, Heath Company, was once considered “the largest manufacturer of electronic kits.”

Although Heath Company no longer makes Heathkits, it does still hold a special place in the hearts of those who ever built one of its products. Many of us can still remember verifying the seemingly never-ending pile of parts against the parts list. We can also still remember the whiff of smoke as each part was soldered, even the whiff of the occasional burnt finger when we got too close to the soldering iron. But by far the greatest pleasure was when we first turned the unit on and it actually worked!

True, Heathkits have not been manufactured for over 15 years, but many are still in use today. Just look at any photograph of someone’s hamshack, and you’ll probably find at least one Heathkit.

This month, as Pop’Comm celebrates its own history, we also take this opportunity to remember, and celebrate, the history of the beloved company that made Heathkits.

A Man With A Plan

The story of Heath Company begins with a man named Edward Bayard Heath, who was born in 1888. Ed was so fascinated with flying that he built his own airplane at the age of 21 in a family-owned machine shop in Chicago. His dream was to produce an affordable lightweight airplane so the average person could also enjoy flying. The company Heath went on to found became known as the Heath Aeroplane Company.
 

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Masters Of Scanning

Four Innovators Who Helped Shape
Our Hobby Look Back—And Ahead


by Ed Muro, K2EPM

 

The radio hobby and technology in general have grown by leaps and bounds over the last 25 years, so much so that I don’t think we could ever have imagined the changes that have taken place. In celebration of 25 years of Popular Communications, I thought it would be fitting to take a retrospective look at the past 25 years in the scanning hobby, with an eye also toward where we are today and where we may be headed. To help me, I reached out to some of the “movers and the shakers” in this hobby to get their impressions on where we’ve been and where we’re going. We’ll meet them shortly, but first I wanted to spend a few moments on the developments of the past couple of decades as I see them.

A Quarter Century Of Change

When we talk about advancement in technology over the last 25 years, we talk about it on several levels.

First, there are what I call the “monitoring targets.” These are the people or agencies we listen to on our scanners. Technology has changed the equipment they use, sometimes forcing change in the equipment we use to listen to them.

For instance, years ago, you’d often find agencies using one frequency for the base to dispatch on and another frequency for the mobile units to talk back on, in many cases the mobiles couldn’t hear each other! So, you’d have to program both frequencies in your scanner. For the most part, those days are over. Repeaters came along and changed that. And today agencies are no longer using one or two frequencies; now they have “systems.”

Second, there’s what I call “the end user”; in other words, us, the scanner hobbyists. As agencies moved to 800-MHz trunked systems, scanners had to evolve to cover that frequency. Then they evolved another step to follow the conversations within the trunking protocols. Later, as new types of trunked systems appeared, they had to adapt to monitor those types of communications. The most recent advancements have been the ability to monitor APCO 25 digital systems and to interface with computers for either programming or computer-aided scanning.

 

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RADIO RESOURCES

A Weather, Ham Radio, GPS Trio

by Gordon West, WB6NOA

 

Kenwood has upgraded its TM-D700A dual-band data communicator to the new, more data-powerful TM-D710A. AvMap Navigation’s G5 personal navigator displays all North America, and simply plugs into the Kenwood D710A to provide an unsurpassed APRS bi-directional navigator, with new search and rescue navigation capabilities. Add a Peet Bros. or Davis weather station, and you have the ultimate storm chaser mobile system—no computer required!

“Search and rescue ham operators will quickly spot some of the new SAR features in the Kenwood D710A transceiver with built-in terminal node controller,” said Don Arnold, W6GPS, AvMap North American sales manager for amateur products.

“Storm chasers now have a transceiver that can take Peet Bros. or Davis Instrument weather sensors and interface them with a direct data feed to the new Kenwood D710A without tying up an additional laptop for mobile applications,” added Arnold, also pointing out the bi-directional color mapping capability of the new AvMap G5 touch screen GPS, which simply plugs into the new Kenwood D710A, the older D700A, and the still-popular Kenwood TH-D7A handheld.

A Technical Marriage

It’s not often that a ham radio transceiver manufacturer takes a step solely dedicated to working with ham radio emergency responders and actively supports another brand of GPS and weather data peripherals. But Kenwood’s ham radio product manager, Phil Parton, N4DRO, knows the importance of an integrated ham radio system, having spent time involved in SAR, as well as working directly with ham radio emergency volunteer responders to help support them.

“I work all of the ham shows myself to hear, firsthand, what the ham radio volunteer emergency responders need to better perform their functions,” said Parton, who’s based out of Kenwood USA’s headquarters in Suwannee, Georgia. Little will get lost in the translation with daily meetings between Parton and the Japanese radio engineers who report to corporate headquarters in Japan.

 

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SCANTECH

Grouping Channels Into Banks!

by Ken Reiss

 

Last month we looked at ways to get started in the scanning hobby, and hopefully had a few pointers for getting you off on the right foot. This month, I thought we’d continue our “getting started” theme with a discussion of how to organize the channels in your new radio.

Even advanced users will argue about this topic. That’s because there are probably as many variations on the basic methods for organizing your scanner as there are scanner enthusiasts. But there are also some basics we can cover to get you thinking about what would work best for you. I’ll apologize in advance if I left out your favorite method, but they only give me so much space.

Why Care?

Why should you care about any of this? Can’t you just grab the radio and start putting things into the next available channel? Well, yes, you can, but it will make it much harder to zero in on something specific when you want to. You may not have run into this problem yet, but you will, trust me.

If some big event happens in your town, you’re going to want to listen to specific things and, just as importantly, turn other specific things off for a short time. If there’s a big fire, you’ll want to listen mostly to the fire channels and lock out the chatty mall people, or even the police departments outside the immediate area. If there’s a bank robbery, you probably don’t want the scanner stopping while they dispatch an ambulance to an accident.

Yes, you can use the individual channel lockouts, and you may need to do some of that, too. But the banks on most scanners are easy to turn off and on and will also give you some indication that they’re off or on. Individual locked-out channels can stay hidden for a long time before you notice that you haven’t heard something for a while.
 

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Domestic Broadcasting Survey,
9th Edition

Accurate, Affordable—Essential—
DX Information Is As Close
As Your Keyboard (But You Can Print It, Too)

by Richard A. D’Angelo

 

Finding useful, current, accurate DX references in the electronic world isn’t as easy as it should be. There are numerous providers of radio broadcasting information in the marketplace today, many of them offered for free, but a lot of them are not of a high quality. The latest Domestic Broadcasting Survey 9 (“DBS-9”) [May 2007, ISSN 1399-8218], once again edited by Denmark’s world-renowned DXer Anker Petersen, is one resource that does not disappoint.

Published in May by the Danish Shortwave Club International (“DSWCI”), the DBS continues to be the top annual publication devoted to tropical and domestic band shortwave broadcasting stations. The DSWCI offers the DBS in electronic form (PDF format), which provides for a substantial reduction in price over a paper version, thereby increasing its value and speed of delivery. Either way you will be receiving and using an important DX resource produced by an international array of top shelf DXers that will prove its worth to you time after time.

As in past years, a copy of the press release can be found on the DSWCI website at www.dswci.org. By clicking on the Domestic Band Survey, you will see the color front page of “El Condor Pasa” played at the archaeological market in Raqchi, Cusco, Peru, taken by Anker during his Latin America tour and sample listings from this year’s DBS along with reviews from last year’s edition. Anker’s cover photos for the DBS continue to provide the local flavor associated with a domestic listening market.

The DSWCI turned 50 years old this year. It has a worldwide membership of experienced shortwave listeners scattered in about 35 different countries all over the globe. Anker draws upon the knowledge and skills of the DSWCI’s international array of top-flight DXers to produce a unique and extremely valuable hobby resource. In addition to the club’s extensive monitoring activity, the new survey is also based upon many official sources and DX bulletins with A07 schedules included when available. Over the years, the DSWCI has published some of the best non-commercial hobby references available to the shortwave listener. The electronic DBS-9 continues this grand tradition. It is an essential reference for serious shortwave listeners and DXers.
 

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THE WIRELESS CONNECTION

A Speaker Test Jig For Your Service Bench

by Peter J. Bertini

 

Last month’s simple extension cord project permitted keeping a set’s large and delicate electro-dynamic speaker in the cabinet while the chassis was being serviced and aligned. Having to remove a large 12-inch dynamic speaker from a console is a chore; and once the paper cone is exposed, it’s amazing how sharp objects are inadvertently drawn to them! Who needs the extra expense of having a speaker reconed—especially when the damage was self-inflected and so avoidable!

Unfortunately, while not all manufacturers used speaker plugs on the chassis rear apron, Zenith, along with a few others, was kind enough to do so. Most Zenith sets used a conventional five-pin wafer tube socket for the speaker. For whatever reason, pin three wasn’t used, and it is often missing on the speaker plug. The same five-pin socket was used on sets that used single-ended (S-E) and push-pull (P-P) audio output stages. The field coil is connected between pins one and five; note that Zenith wires the rectifier tube cathode to pin five. Pin one is the filtered B+ for the radio. The audio transformer primary is connected between pins two and four.

For those sets with P-P audio transformers, the audio transformer center tap was usually connected to pin one of the socket (filtered DC from the field coil.) Other brands used “hardwired” speaker leads, or oddball speaker connectors mounted to the frame of the speaker. I’ve even seen six-pin arrangements used. For the latter, most of us eventually find enough junkers (radios beyond reasonable restoration due to extreme damage or missing rare parts) to provide the donor parts to make up those oddball cables as needed.

A Speaker Test Jig

Early radio repair shop service benches often incorporated either commercially bought or homemade (many were often built into the bench) test speaker jigs to reduce the technician’s bench time. Time saved was money earned for the busy high-volume repair shops! I’ve seen several of the commercial units up for auction in the past, but the final sales prices usually ended up being a little too steep for my liking. Alas, the woes of competing in a global auction site often lead to such frustrations!
 

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 POWER UP: RADIOS &
HIGH-TECH GEAR

New, Interesting, And Useful
Communications Products

 

Crosley Radio’s Explorer 1 XM Satellite Radio

Crosley Radio is now offering the Explorer 1 satellite radio-ready tabletop sound system (Model CR224). Features include XM readiness; portable audio readiness (simply plug in your portable audio device or MP3 player; AroundSound (three speakers and ported bass provide surround sound effect); AM/FM/XM radio; digital tuner; station presets; bass and treble controls; LED display; digital alarm clock; dual independent alarms; tuned port enclosure; auxiliary input/output; headphone jack; battery backup; and ultra-compact remote control.

The Explorer 1 is housed in a paprika or black wooden cabinet that measures 6.125 x 11.8125 x 8.125 inches (HWD) and features beveled aluminum accents. It weighs approximately 9 pounds and retails for $249.95. XM $12.95 monthly service subscription and required antenna sold separately (XM service only available in the 48 contiguous United States).

For more information, visit www.crosleyradio.com.

Hemisphere GPS’s Crescent V100/V110 GPS Compasses

Hemisphere GPS recently introduced its new Crescent V100 and V110 GPS Compasses. These all-in-one vector products provide precision heading and positioning for marine navigation and a variety of other applications. Crescent V100 Series GPS Compasses are practical, affordable, accurate, and reliable alternatives to traditional gyro compasses. A rugged, maintenance-free smart antenna design combines the company’s Crescent Vector board and two multipath-resistant antennas, all housed in a 1.6-foot enclosure for simple installation and portability. The Series provides better than 0.3° heading accuracy and includes SBAS (Satellite-Based Augmentation System) differential capable of providing better than 24-inch positioning accuracy.

The Crescent V110 incorporates a beacon differential option. Both models feature integrated gyro and tilt sensors, which deliver faster startup times, smoothed heading output, and continuous heading updates for up to three minutes during temporary loss of GPS signals. Hemisphere GPS’ exclusive COAST technology is also included in order to maintain sub-meter positioning during temporary loss of differential signal.
 

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GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE

Another Milestone In Pop’Comm’s History—
The 301st Gerry Dexter!

by Gerry L. Dexter

 

Ten and ten plus five. Two dozen and one. XXV. A quarter century. A silver anniversary. A generation. There are several ways to indicate the number “25.” This month we can employ another: “Popular Communications!” I’m guessing you were made aware of the happy occasion well before you arrived on this page, but at the risk of sounding like a late night per-inquiry TV commercial: “But wait! There’s more!”

Marching along all the way, this column also celebrates the start of its 26th year! It was “The Listening Post” back when the magazine’s first issue appeared, and then many years later it acquired the more “modern” name used today. Yours truly is privileged and honored to have been at the helm from Day One. Lessee—that comes to three hundred columns! As I write this 301st, I wouldn’t begin to attempt to tally the number of loggings that involves, but it has to run deep into five figures; in fact, it might very well be scratching at 100,000! So my oft-repeated thanks again go out to all who have submitted their monitoring results over the past years. Bravo to all of you, past and present!

Now we move straight ahead, with more shortwave news and loggings as we continue to celebrate this fascinating medium and look forward to the 30-year mark ahead.

It looks as though some sort of special U.S. shortwave to Venezuela is in the works. Such has been proposed in Congress, although not in any detail. It may take the form of a special program as part of the VOA or perhaps become a “Radio Free Venezuela” type of thing. We’ll wait and see.

Last month I mentioned CVC International and the speed at which it seems to have grown over its few years of activity. No sooner did the page show up on the newsstands than CVC stumbled. Word has it that it suddenly discontinued all broadcasts relayed by sites in Germany. The relays from Meyerton, South Africa, have also been cancelled. This narrows things down to CVC just using sites in Tashkent and Yerevan (Armenia) plus its main Darwin, Australia, site. No explanation was given so we’re left puzzling over what will happen when CVC takes control of the Julich, Germany, site it purchased last year

 

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THE PROPAGATION CORNER

Twenty-five Years Back Into The Future

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

 

Popular Communications magazine celebrates 25 years of radio hobby support. A lot of space weather history has been made in the last 25 years. In fact, just in the last few years we’ve seen solar flare and storm intensity records broken. Twenty-five years ago, the level of understanding of space weather was a far cry from what we know today. And the technology employed in monitoring and studying solar phenomenon and space weather has significantly changed through the last two decades. Amazing strides in understanding the dynamics of the sun, and the interaction between our planet and the sun, have been made, and continue to be made.

What’s in store for the next 25 years? New satellites are even now being engineered that will probe and explore the space environment through which the Earth moves. A growing sector of the scientific community is arming itself with better computer models, methods, and databases of raw information. All this translates to a better understanding of how the sun affects the Earth and, more specifically, what this means for radio signal propagation.

We’ve seen two solar cycles in the last 25 years. The last one, Cycle 23, was a weak one, compared with Cycles 21 and 22. Will Cycle 24 be more intense?
In a press release dated April 25, 2007, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a prediction made by their Space Environment Center (SEC) in coordination with an international panel of solar experts. The forecast? The next solar “storm” cycle will start late, but they were not in agreement as to how intense the cycle will be.

Experts Split Over Intensity

According to NOAA’s SEC prediction, the next 11-year cycle of solar storms will most likely start next March and peak in late 2011 or mid-2012. That prediction puts the onset up to a year later than previously expected. The beginning of Solar Cycle 24 was expected to start last fall, and the delay led the international panel of solar experts to disagree on whether a weak or strong period of solar storms lie ahead. Nevertheless, these experts do not predict a record-breaker.
 

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BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY

Software-Defined Radios: The Next Generation

by Bruce A. Conti

 

The next generation of software-defined radio (SDR) receivers is here, and anticipation is growing with the development of future generations already well underway. Regardless of what designers might be dreaming about for the future, an SDR receiver could be the last receiver you’ll ever need to buy as downloadable software upgrades may keep it fresh for many years to come. All-mode reception (AM, SSB, CW, FM), spectrum analyzer display, and the ability to record RF for later re-reception/playback are all standard features of SDR receivers. Here’s a review of SDR broadcast receivers available today and a speculation of what’s ahead.

Direct Sampling Technology

Early attempts at SDR technology typically consisted of an analog front-end that would downconvert to an intermediate frequency (IF) before analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion. The latest generation of SDR receivers is all digital, from the antenna input until its converted back to analog audio for your listening pleasure, thanks to direct digital sampling (DDS) technology that utilizes sampling rates greater than 60 MHz.

The development of the “I and Q” format digital datastream further enhanced the technology by allowing for efficient USB and soundcard interface. I and Q is a data processing technique, a complex modulation scheme used in quadrature sampling that essentially delivers a large amount of information on a carrier signal. DDS eliminates the need for analog circuitry to downconvert to an IF. Any IF downconversion is done digitally. Bottom line, DDS plus I and Q mean that outstanding, reliable SDR receiver performance can be easily achieved while making features previously found only in professional equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars more affordable for consumer applications.

RFSpace (www.rfspace.com)

RFSpace offers two models: the SDR-14 and SDR-IQ. These SDR receivers take advantage of the Analog Devices (a manufacturer of integrated circuits used in analog and digital signal processing applications) direct sampling receiver combination of an AD6620 65 MSPS Digital Receive Signal Processor and AD6644 A/D converter. A sampling rate of 66.667 MHz covers 0 to 30 MHz. I and Q data is sent to a PC via USB 2.0, which provides a recording capability of up to 190 kHz of bandwidth for later “re-reception” or playback. All receive functions, including tuning, demodulation, and spectral analysis are done by software on the PC side. Third-party SpectraVue software is provided for spectrum display and analysis with RFSpace SDR receivers.
 

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UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST

Happy Anniversary!

by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ

 

By the time you’ve read through enough of this magazine to get to my column, you’ll have already become aware that we’re celebrating a full 25 years of Pop’Comm. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? It has for me. I’ve now been a radio hobbyist for 41 years. I got started when I was about eight years old, listening to distant AM broadcast stations at night. From there, I went on to shortwave broadcast stations, VHF/UHF communications monitoring, CB, amateur radio, and, of course, the HF utility stations that are the subject of this column.

As the years passed, I read countless magazines dealing with one or more of my radio interests. Many of the magazines I read early in my radio “career” no longer exist. Others do, and I continue to read some of them regularly to this very day. As for the ones that vanished from the newsstand, eventually I discovered other publications to replace those that attrition and changing demographics conspired to deprive me of as some of my early favorites went belly-up and disappeared from circulation.

I couldn’t begin to tell you when it was that I first discovered an issue of Pop’Comm or even where it was that I found it, but undoubtedly it was in the magazine section of a bookstore during the early-to-mid 1980s, and it is equally certain that I followed my customary procedure upon encountering a new radio-related periodical that looks as if it might be interesting. That is to say, I plucked a copy from the display rack, opened it to the table of contents, and scanned the titles to determine if the content was worth the price of the magazine. Then, upon deciding that the publication had sufficient promise to warrant opening my wallet (at risk of allowing all the moths to escape), I summarily purchased my first issue of the magazine.
Again, I do not recall what year or month this was. I do recall that once I got it home, I sat down and started reading, and if memory serves, I hadn’t even gotten halfway through it before asking the ceiling where this magazine had been for the previous 15 years or so.

You see, most of the hobby magazines I’d previously read were ham radio magazines, although a few were on CB. The notable exceptions were Popular Electronics and RadioShack’s relatively short-lived publication, titled, Radio!

 

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SHANNON’S BROADCAST CLASSICS

The Carrier Current Ghost

by Shannon Huniwell

 

“It was an odd little smudge on my AM dial that annoyed the heck out of me,” described a Pop’Comm reader’s letter. “Just a dead spot coated with a hint of background hum,” he remembered, “like when a kid erases somebody’s eyes and mouth from a newspaper picture, making it nearly impossible to tell who it is.”

Unlike other correspondence received at the “Shannon Headquarters,” this note did not request that I solve a broadcast history mystery. The sender, who promised to divulge a really neat radio story in exchange for my simply giving him a phone call and about 10 minutes of my time, had already accomplished that. An Ocean State DXer, he possessed the contact info of someone he hoped could provide context to the blank carrier glassing over 580 kHz on the 1960s Hallicrafters Model S-119 Sky Buddy II general coverage receiver built from a $39.95 kit. With most of the investigative work done, the guy simply needed help with one elusive witness who his other contacts predicted could add color to the otherwise black and white account of the ghost at 580.

Running Wire For Iran

During the final months of the Carter administration, this month’s column catalyst and his wife bought a 1000-square-foot home in a Sputnik-era development adjacent to Barrington College in Barrington, Rhode Island. A patch of scrubby, neglected woods, maybe 40 feet wide, separated neighborhood houses from the campus. Only in winter, when the leaves were gone, could one see any evidence of the school. From his vantage point, he saw the backside of a single-story, U-shaped brick dormitory, dubbed Woodward Hall. The fellow first really noticed the structure during the late fall of 1980 while in the backyard at the edge of the woods where he was trying to find a suitable tree from which to string the far end of his Hallicrafters’ longwire antenna.

“I was hoping the aerial would pull in a Middle Eastern shortwave signal or two containing insider news about the Iranian hostage situation,” he recalled, “so I dug that long dormant Sky Buddy II out of a packing carton and put it back to work. Though the AF Gain control was a bit scratchy from having sat idle since my high school days, the old gal’s tubes lit right up. Truth be told, I never got very proficient with Greenwich Mean Time, foreign languages, and SW frequency schedules. Instead, I obtained most of my ‘hostage crisis’ information via ABC Television’s then fledgling program, Nightline with Ted Koppel.
 

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HAM DISCOVERIES

Podcasting: Talk Radio And Educational TV For Hams! Plus The Real Dope On Coax

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ

 

Unless you’re an aging hipster or an Apple, Inc., fanboy, chances are good that your kid—or any kid 12 years or older—knows more about podcasting than you do. But because there’s an ever-growing collection of podcasts produced by hams, for hams, that’s going to change!

The term itself was created by Apple iPod evangelists a few short years ago when this stuff was getting started, but you don’t need an Apple iPod MP3 player to fully enjoy the wonderful world of recurring digital content that is podcasting. You simply need an Internet-connected PC with a sound system and a speaker or two. And if you don’t have that, some of the more prominent podcasts can be heard via C-band (big dish) satellite, on a few AM radio stations, or via your local repeater (“Amateur Radio Newsline” or “ARRL Audio News,” for example).


What’s In A Pod?

So, what is a podcast? It’s not much different from a broadcast, really. Podcasts are audio or video “programs,” usually episodic, that are available via websites (at least) or are distributed automatically to listeners or viewers through various Internet syndication methods (the most popular being Apple’s iTunes service and RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication; do a Google search for more on RSS). In the purest sense of the word, podcasts are automatically downloaded to your iPod so you can simply grab the handy little player and listen to your favorite audio shows on the way to work or school. It’s nice if you happen to have an iPod, but unnecessary, so don’t worry if you don’t.

Most podcasts are produced by non-professionals for their own enjoyment, but more and more commercial and organizational podcasts are showing up. The person producing the podcast is called a podcaster (go figure!). These electronic “broadcasters” may work alone, producing and distributing their digital content, or they may work through an online community of podcasters or a company that makes it easy to get started. These “aggregators” provide support to many podcasters and make their recurring content available online (like a network does in broadcasting terms).

Still with me? Still confused? Well, then simply think of podcasting as talk radio and educational television for hams! Think of podcasts as audio and video shows that can be downloaded periodically and enjoyed via a computer instead of television or radio. Most podcasts are updated weekly, some daily, and some only occasionally.
 

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LOOSE CONNECTION

A Bathroom With A View

by Bill Price, N3AVY

Each time we get together, Norm tries desperately to get me to put up some kind of antenna so that I have no excuse (or at least less excuse) to get on the air. This last visit was slightly different. This time it was a television antenna.

Taking an old antenna down is usually very easy, because the old antenna does not have to be saved. You just lasso it and pull, but I wanted to “refurbish” the old antenna and put it back up. After all—it’s just tubing and terminals

“All we have to do,” Norm told me, “is get a rope around it, then one of us gets up there and unfastens it from the mount, and the guy on the roof lowers it gently while the guy on the ground keeps tension on his end of the rope. That’ll keep it from banging into the gutters, and into the side of the house. I should tell you that the roof is a steep-pitched metal (tin) roof the peak of which is about two-and-a-half stories off the ground.

Being of not-so-sound mind but a far lighter body, Norm volunteered to be the climber while I would be the ground crew. We figured we’d need about 100 feet of nylon clothesline.

When Norm had climbed to the edge of the roof, he stopped and surveyed the situation for quite some time. About the same length of time it took George Washington to survey the entire commonwealth of Virginia.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Old man,” he said, “this roof is much steeper than it looks from the ground.” Truly the comment of a person who is getting, as they say in the dog world, “white in the muzzle.”

I asked if he’d be able to climb up the 20 or so feet to the antenna, or if we should just abandon the project.

 

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