TUNING IN (PDF)

 

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INFOCENTRAL

News, Trends, And Short Takes

World’s First Range Of DAB+  Radios By Year End

by D. Prabakaran

 

DAB technology company Frontier Silicon and applied research organization Fraunhofer IIS have teamed up with tier one audio manufacturers to deliver the world’s first range of DAB+ radios. Solutions incorporating Frontier Silicon’s multi-standard digital radio SoC Chorus 2 with Fraunhofer’s audio decoder IP are being designed into products from specialist brands including Bush, Grundig, Magicbox, Ministry of Sound, Pure, Revo, Tivoli and others, which will be available in shops by the end of this year.

DAB (based on MPEG 1 layer II) is achieving great success in the UK and Denmark, with over well over 5 million units shipped to date and growing at a rate of 12 percent per year on year in the UK alone. Countries that have yet to roll out DAB, however, are looking to use DAB+, which uses MPEG-4 HE AAC v2 codec, enabling a greater number of radio channels to be broadcast within a set radio spectrum. Australia has officially committed to transmit DAB+ in 2009 and many other countries including Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Malta, Israel, Hungary, Kuwait, Malaysia, and New Zealand are expected to follow suit soon.

 

Congress May Come Up With Bill

To Avert VOA Cuts

EurAsia.net, which reports that plans to eliminate the Voice of America’s Uzbek language service are likely to be shelved due to opposition in both houses of the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives and the Senate have recommended “sufficient funding to fully restore the reductions proposed in the fiscal year 2008” and “continuing broadcasting which the administration proposed for language service reduction,” including Uzbek.

In June, the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs recommended a budget allocation of $194 million to the Voice of America—$22.5 million more than the station’s 2007 budget and $15.7 million more than the 2008 request from the Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG), which manages VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). In July, the Senate’s Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs recommended a budget of $187 million for VOA, some $8.7 million more than the 2008 request from the BBG.

 

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WASHINGTON BEAT

Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

 

Disaster Information Reporting System Launched

 

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

 

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s Communications Systems Analysis Division has launched a Web-based system called the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) “to collect the information needed to determine the status of communications services in affected areas,” according to the FCC’s website.

“In the event of a major disaster like hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the [Federal Communications Commission] need to have an accurate assessment of the status of communications services in the disaster area, particularly during restoration efforts,” the FCC announced. During major disasters, communications providers will be able to update information on the status of various types of communications equipment daily.

“DIRS will collect information on the status of switches, public safety answering points (used for E911), interoffice facilities, cell sites, broadcast stations and cable television systems,” the FCC said. “The Commission will analyze, chart and map this information and it will be shared with DHS.”

More information can be obtained by searching DIRS through the FCC’s Internet site at www.fcc.gov.

 

Organizations Support 911

Modernization Legislation

Two national organizations have jointly voiced support for 911 modernization before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In a statement on its website, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and the National Emergency Number Association said the 911 Modernization and Public Safety Act of 2007 is important because it:

 

1. strengthens the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) E9-1-1 Order by codifying the obligation of all Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled voice service providers to provide E9-1-1 in accordance with FCC regulations,

2. provides needed tools to assist in the completion of E9-1-1 deployment for VoIP service in all parts of the United States, and;

3. addresses the issue of Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1 service.

 

“Our nation’s 9-1-1 system is a vital public safety and homeland security asset,” NENA President Jason Barbour said to the subcommittee, as reported on APCO’s website. “Everyday 9-1-1 callers seek critical emergency assistance and are the eyes and ears helping others during emergencies in local communities and assisting with our nation’s homeland security.

“Modern communication capabilities offer an opportunity to improve the system as we know it, but they also offer challenges,” he said. “The 9-1-1 community must embrace and react to the change quickly to better serve the American public, industry and the mobile consumer in all emergencies. We need help from Congress to do so.”

 

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Scanning Heats Up For The Holidays In New York City Big Apple Frequencies Crackle With Action—Here’s How To Catch Them

by Ed Muro, K2EPM

Some places in this country are real “hotbeds” for scanning. In some other places you have a better chance of hearing a cow moo than even mundane activity on your scanner, never mind an armed robbery. As a seasoned scanner aficionado for over 30 years, I consider myself lucky to have grown up in one of those hotbeds: the New York Metro area.

And that bed is at its hottest when it’s cold outside. Right now, during the Holiday Season, New York City is just screaming with scanner action. From Thanksgiving Day right on through New Year’s Eve, New York City is full of action both on the streets and on the radio. In fact, New York City has so much scanner activity that it can actually be a bit intimidating—until you realize you just can’t listen to it all at once.

Even if you don’t live in the area or plan a visit anytime soon, you may still pick up some valuable tips for Holiday Season Scanning right in your own town.

 

Breaking It Down

If you had the opportunity to read Ken Reiss’ “ScanTech” column in the October 2007 issue, you’ll remember that he presented two scanning strategies: a geographic method and an event method.

For my day-to-day scanning I use the geographic method, meaning I’ll monitor the specific frequencies employed by the borough I happen to be in, or am interested in (for out-of-towners, that’s Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens). However, I do have a bank’s worth of notable frequencies that are used on a “citywide” basis that I’ll always keep on. However, when it comes to Holiday Season action, whether it’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or New Year’s Eve in Times Square, a broad approach is needed, and this fits right in with Ken’s “event scanning” method.

The most effective way to set up your scanner for New York City during the Holiday Season starts with you sitting down and doing a little planning. We’ll start with the absolute basics: First, you’ll need a piece of paper and something to write with. Keeping in mind that 80 percent of the big-time Holiday action is going to take place in Manhattan, start by making a list of the services and agencies you want to monitor there. Of course, you’ll need a decent scanner with a capacity of 200 channels or better and some basic trunktracking features. Though not entirely necessary, it’s helpful if your scanner is computer programmable.

 

What You’ll Want To Listen To

In your day-to-day scanning during the Holiday Season, you’re going to see increased activity in a number of areas. First, as happens with any influx of visitors, the more people there are in the city, the busier the entire gamut of Public Safety frequencies will be. So, you’re naturally going to want to monitor Police, Fire, and EMS traffic.

Police protection is provided by the NYPD. Over the years, the NYPD has absorbed a number of other police agencies, making it a little easier to create your list of monitoring targets. You’ll want to monitor the frequency of the local precinct where you’ll be, the Manhattan Transit Division Frequency, plus several frequencies that are used on a citywide basis (see “NYPD Manhattan Bank”). Additionally, the MTA Bridges & Tunnels frequencies will see more activity, as will the NYPD Traffic Enforcement agents. You also will probably want to monitor several MTA (Rail) Police Frequencies and possibly the New York City Park Police.

 

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SCANTECH

A Scannist’s Wish List

by Ken Reiss

Every radio enthusiast and gadget freak has a long wish list most of the time…and the holidays are sure to add a few things to it. From the latest iPods to digital video recorders, all sorts of gadgets are probably already on your wish list, or your shopping list. There’s certainly no shortage of electronic gizmos competing for attention this year and every year.

The problem that we radio people have is that people who are outside the hobby don’t know what to get us, or how to pick a good one even if they have some vague idea. If you’re new to scanning, you may be struggling with some of the same questions. Heck, even if you’re experienced and fairly well equipped, you may still be struggling for ideas yourself (what else can you get!?). Let’s see if I can help the cause a bit. Just take a read through and then leave the magazine laying open to the page with something circled…that should work.

 

Scanners

No doubt, you’ve had your eye on a couple of new models this year. There aren’t as many to choose from as there have been in the past, but the ones that are offered are some great choices.

 

Uniden (www.uniden.com)

 Uniden is one of very few companies left that makes a pure scanner—a scanner for the sake of scanning as opposed to adding scanning functions to a communications receiver or ham radio. Uniden and RadioShack are about the only game in town if you need a trunking scanner; between them, they manufacture all the trunking-capable receivers, something no communications receiver has yet tried. Let’s take a look at some of their offerings.

 

BCD996T—Not new this year, but now widely available, the BCD996T is a top-of-the-line mobile scanner, with digital trunking to boot. Combining Trunktracker IV technology and APCO-25 with 6,000 (yes, six thousand) channels, the BCD996 is the company’s current top-end unit. It includes CTCSS (Tone Squelch) and DCS (Digital Code Squelch) for help with interference, numerous search modes, and lots of other features. As mentioned, it’s a Trunktracker IV receiver, which means it follows APCO-25 digital, Motorola, EDACS, and LTR trunking systems. That’s most of the non-proprietary ones! This one is sold by RadioShack under the Uniden name, as well as through other Uniden dealers. List price $599.

BCD396T—The BCD396T is a handheld version of the 996. It puts 6,000 channels with Trunktracker IV and APCO-25 digital right in your pocket. The BCD396 is a state-of-the-art scanner in a handheld package Frequency coverage includes 25–512, 764–956 (excluding cellular and the 776–794 range) and 1240 to 1300 MHz. Street Price is around $530.
 

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BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY

 

You’ve Been Good, Here’s How To Reward
Yourself This Season

by Bruce A. Conti

 

It’s time once again for the annual “Broadcast Technology” holiday gift guide. Here are some gift ideas in every price range sure to please the broadcast DXer and radio enthusiast. They’re my top picks going into 2008.

 

HD Radio Receiver

Responding to customer requests for digital outputs, analog mode, and other advanced features, Sangean has released a deluxe “X” version of the HDT-1 component system HD digital receiver. The model HDT-1X includes additional professional features like SPDIF digital outputs, split audio and forced analog modes, compatible with hybrid analog/

digital and all-digital mode AM/FM broadcasts. Split audio allows the broadcast engineer to monitor both the analog and digital signal synchronization in hybrid mode. Forced analog allows the listener to manually turn off digital reception in fringe areas where the digital signal is marginal.

By the way, the HDT-1/1X is an excellent FM tuner too, highly rated by broadcast DXers. Considering the professional features, the HDT-1X is very reasonably priced at $249.99 from Universal Radio (www.universal-radio.com).

 

Software-Defined Radio

Thanks to economical high-speed analog-to-digital converter technology and cheap computer memory, software-defined radio (SDR) receivers are quickly replacing old-fashioned tabletop communications receivers. To my opinion, the RFSpace SDR-IQ is the best value among SDR receivers today. Pending FCC approval, it was originally introduced in the United States as an “OEM” chassis-less assembled circuit board. RFSpace obtained FCC approval in September, so the SDR-IQ is now available as a complete unit for $499.95 from Universal Radio. The OEM version has been discontinued.

In terms of versatility and performance the SDR-IQ has it all. Covering 500 Hz to 30 MHz in 1 Hz steps, the IQ provides a spectrum analyzer display to visually monitor signals over a wide range or to zoom into to accurately measure frequency. As much as 190 kHz of RF bandwidth can be recorded into computer memory for later playback, with the ability to tune around just like live DXing. Performance is comparable to that of high-end communications receivers. The IQ is powered by USB from your computer and does not require a separate external power supply, making it an ideal laptop companion. If you’re considering a new receiver, the SDR-IQ should be at the top of the list.

 

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HAM DISCOVERIES

 

Ham Radio Equipment: Such A Deal I Have For You!

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ

 

Now that the Holidays are right around the corner and the Federal Reserve has just cut interest rates a half-percent (again) in an attempt to spur unbridled spending among the already-credit-strapped masses, my thoughts turn to buying new ham gear for that special ham in my family—me!

Yes, I’ve been making a list and checking it twice (a day), and if you ask those who are in the know, I’ve definitely been nice enough for Santa to grace my shack with at least one goodie!

I have a few items that always seem to float to the top of my list. An Elecraft K3 would be nifty, Santa. And I don’t even care if it’s a pre-production sample. Now that Elecraft has a huge cult following, “pre-production engineering sample” is just another phrase for “highly sought-after collectors’ item!” And if you can’t accommodate the slight extra bulge in your toy bag, an Elecraft K2 would be just fine.

Why not get crazy, you say, and ask Santa for an ICOM IC-7800 or a Ten-Tec Orion II? Okay! Done! And, while you’re at it, old boy, why not drop off an NRD-630 or a Rohde & Schwarz ESMC? Whoo-hoo! Party at my house!

The coordinated alien abduction of my townhouse association would be extra appreciated, as would my lifetime appointment as Townhouse Tower Facilitator. For that present, oh cheerful bearded one, I will definitely keep my room clean all year round.

Okay. Enough of my tortured Christmas wish list. What about your list? Are you a beginning ham who is wondering how much this stuff is gonna cost? We’ll briefly examine that topic this month and I’ll reminisce a bit about how expensive ham gear used to be 20 or 30 years ago. Why? So you can see how truly inexpensive gear is today when you consider inflation and the present value of the dollar (not to mention modern gear’s tiny size and gigantic performance when compared to radios of yesteryear).

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THE PROPAGATION CORNER

“Hello…?” Shortwave Fadeouts And Lost Signals

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

You finally have a few moments and decide to sit at your operating station. You’re ready to try calling a general CQ, or maybe you’re even more energetic and have decided to tap out your “CQ” on your favorite straight key. You have the radio nicely tuned, and the band has activity. You’re tuning around, looking for a clear frequency, and you hear someone else calling, “CQ…”

You decide to answer. The other operator’s signal is clear and strong. When it’s time to answer the call, you send your callsign several times and then turn it back over. Excellent. The other operator answers you and tells you that he hears you very well. Now it’s your turn again.

You start by telling him your name, then your location, and then you tell him a bit about your weather and station. You then sign with your callsign and turn it back over for him to respond. And, you wait. You hear hiss. You wait a bit longer. Now, you’re wondering if you might have somehow offended him, or that perhaps he didn’t like the way you operated. You wait a bit longer. Then you call him and ask if he’s still there. There’s no reply. Just hiss.

What could have happened? You might think that the other operator was just being rude. It makes you wonder why you even bothered getting on the radio. The operators these days!

However, could it be possible that he was called away by a family emergency? Perhaps his power went out. Or the antenna was cut!

I remember operating one Saturday, carrying on a nice conversation. The bands were solid, and the conversation was already over half an hour long. All of a sudden, everything went dead—no signal from the other operator. My radio was still working. I glanced out the window, and looking down from the second floor “radio shack,” I glanced at my antenna. Amazingly, a moving truck that arrived at the neighbor’s house was being driven between the houses and had cut my antenna down! Snap! There was no way for me to let the other operator know that I was down for the count.

There could be another reason, however that one operator simply disappears in the middle of a conversation. If the radio signal is being propagated by way of the ionosphere, a number of conditions might occur that would effectively end a two-way radio communications.

 

Sudden Ionospheric Disturbances And Other Nuisances

Radio signals are susceptible to a variety of ionospheric disturbances. Some are well understood and can even be predicted with reasonable accuracy. Others occur in a more random fashion and are harder to predict.

 

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THE WIRELESS CONNECTION

 

Bob Ryan’s Doerle Twinplex:
A Simple One-Tube Battery-Powered Radio

by Peter J. Bertini

 

Several years have past since we presented our version of Alfred Morgan’s popular Boy’s First Receiver project. Alfred Powell Morgan was a noted author of books aimed at young budding scientists, and many of his vintage radio and electronic books are still extremely popular and sought after.

Fast forward to the present. A few columns back I spotlighted a project idea submitted by a faithful reader and friend, Bob Ryan of Hemet, California. Bob had gifted us with one of his homemade regenerative one-tube receivers. He whimsically dubbed his creation The Dumpster Diver Special as it was mainly composed of items that could have been salvaged from the trash bin. While all the major components were fitted and the basic layout followed that used in countless one-tube regenerative receivers of yore, nothing was wired and no circuit was suggested.

Bob’s challenge to us was to design a working receiver from these beginnings. I confess that the receiver has been awaiting a fitting conclusion for a few years. This column will be dedicated to that closure.

 

The Doerle Twinplex

The Doerle Twinplex was a popular SW receiver kit first advertised in magazine ads back 1934. The original Doerle circuit was built around the then-newly available type 19 dual-triode vacuum tube. Various iterations of the Doerle regenerative receiver remain popular with experimenters to this day. The 6SL7 vacuum tube has been used in AC powered versions.

The completed Dumpster Diver Special is loosely based on the Doerle, with some important changes. First, the type 19 vacuum tube has a 2-volt filament and was intended for use with a wet cell (lead acid) type A battery. Bob had only provisioned a single D cell holder on the Dumpster Diver Special. Using a type 19 tube would require two D cells and a rheostat to adjust the filament voltage down to 2 volts—as was done in our previous receiver projects using 2-volt 1H4 vacuum tubes. Alas, there was no room on Bob’s prototype to accommodate either item.

Another consideration was that the prototype included an octal socket, while the type 19 is a six-pin base. Also, while the type 19 isn’t particularly rare or overly expensive, I suspected there might a lower cost alternative. Finally, the 19 filament is current hungry and isn’t a good match for dry cells.

 

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Programming The GRE PSR-500 Advanced Digital Scanner Could It Be Any Easier?

 

by Rich Wells

 

With the Holidays just around the corner, it’s very likely that many readers will find one particularly exciting item under their trees: the new GRE PSR-500 digital handheld scanner! This scanner is likely the most technologically advanced receiver on the consumer market today. And while that’s definitely reason to brag, it might be a cause for concern for some would-be buyers.

One of the reasons GRE decided to pursue a direct sales path to customers is to more closely control the development of such complex radios. GRE has been concerned of late that scanning receivers have grown too complex to use, creating undue frustration. According to GRE, this has resulted in people leaving the hobby as well as fewer newcomers entering the fray. It’s hard enough to get people to part with several hundred dollars without requiring a degree in astrophysics to properly use these complex electronic marvels!

By communicating directly with end users, GRE is taking an aggressive approach to radio design, where advanced technology is coupled with ease of use right from the drawing board. The design team has gone to great lengths to make this radio as easy to use as possible. But this doesn’t mean it will be able to read your mind and program itself auto-magically!

With that in mind, at this festive season Pop’Comm is going to give you a little present: a quick tutorial to help get you up and running as soon as possible after you rip open that beautifully wrapped package.

 

Where To Start

The first place to start with any piece of advanced equipment is the owner’s manual, so take some time to familiarize yourself with this 120-page document. You don’t have to learn it all in your first sitting but start by getting a view of the big picture, begin to learn the various terms and develop a grasp of all this scanner is capable of doing.

Starting with the Introduction section would be wise. This is no generic, one-size-fits-all-type of superficial documentation. This introduction gives you a peek into the design process of the radio and how the design team came up with what’s called Object Oriented Scanning. By taking a 30,000-foot view of the organization of what gets programmed into a scanner’s memory, the design team came up with an approach that lends itself to an easy-to-understand methodology.

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GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE

 

IBA In Abeyance And More Dust-Biters

by Gerry L. Dexter

 

It’s getting to be an almost annual event, sans Ferris wheels and fireworks. Israel has made yet another cut in its international broadcasts. In this version it’s all phases and all departments at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which have taken hits. If the world map shows any country on the planet that needs a bigger and stronger international voice than does Israel, I have yet to spot it. Either that or my Rand McNally is really, really out of date! There is also word that all IBA shortwave broadcasts will end at the first of the year!

A fire at the transmitter of Deutschland Radio, Berlin, has put that station off the air and a rather large number of bucks (sorry, “Euros”) would be needed to put things right. And word is that the “Eur-tired” syndrome has sprung up and the station bigwigs aren’t going to bother with a rebuild. Thus 6005 from Germany is gone for good. Originally this was RIAS, Radio In American Sector.

It’s still sitting in the box labeled “rumor,” not yet finding its way into the fact file, but word is that Radio Atalia (formerly RAI) has not received Italian government funding for 2008. So it appears we may be looking at yet another shutdown before long, perhaps even before you’ve read these words. Another one bites the dust.

That Cotton Tree News (Sierra Leone) broadcast which followed those of Star Radio (Liberia) via Ascension has now been moved to Rampisham using 13760 at 0730, which should make reception still tougher. Neither of those two broadcasters have a shortwave facility in their own country.

Radio Vanuatu has reactivated its 3945 transmitter. Not only that but they’re getting two new 10-kW units, meaning that the outlet on 7260 will probably also be refreshed.

Radio Vision in Chiclayo, Peru, has been reactivated on 4790 and is being heard during our evening hours, usually with religious programming.

 

Reader Logs

Remember, your shortwave broadcast station logs are always welcome. But please be sure to double or triple space between the items, list them by country as they are here and include your last name and state abbreviation after each log. Also much wanted are spare QSLs or good color copies, station schedules, brochures, pennants, station photos, and anything else you think would be of interest. And, c’mon now, where’s that photo of you at your listening post? Okay, let’s get to it!

 

ALASKA—KNLS, 7335 in RR at 0945. (Barton, AZ) 1230 in EE, (Patterson, Philippines)

ALBANIA—Radio Tirana, 13720-Shijak at 2001 with ID, frequencies and times. (Charlton, ON)

ALGERIA—RT Algerienne, 9710 via Wooferton at 2126 with long AA talk, Koran recitations. (D’Angelo, PA) 11810 via Wooferton in AA at 1949 to 2000 sign off. (Ronda, OK)
 

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TECH SHOWCASE

 

The Motorola DTR410 Frequency-Hopping Radio

by Tom Berkshire

 

I have seen the next step in personal portable communications devices: the Motorola DTR series of Frequency-Hopping Spread-Spectrum (FHSS) radios. I’m always keeping an eye out for neat, exotic communications equipment and the opportunity to experiment with new radio technology, so when I discovered the DTR series two-way radios on Motorola’s product website, I had to check them out.

The DTR series is comprised of 1-watt license-free handheld transceivers, which operate in the 902–928 MHz band, along with many other Part 15 and ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) devices. (This 33cm band is also shared with the amateur radio service.) Unlike other license-free radio services, such as FRS, MURS, and CB, which operate on a single analog FM or AM frequency per channel, the DTR series radios use digital modulation and FHSS. This means they are less susceptible to interference and can’t be received by scanners, offering more privacy to users. Motorola claims a two-mile range with these units, just like many FRS radio manufacturers claim a two-mile range with their little 1/2 watt, 460 MHz handhelds. But anyone who has played with FRS knows that you’re lucky to get a half-mile to a mile under most circumstances. How well do these DTR radios work in comparison? Read on.

 

First Some Background

FHSS is nothing new. The military has been using it for years with their SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground/Air Radio System) radios. Instead of staying on one frequency when transmitting, a FHSS radio “hops” through a number of different frequencies in a pseudo-random sequence. This reduces the vulnerability of the communications to interference and interception. More commonly, FHSS is used by 802.11 “Wi-Fi” wireless computer networks and by many cordless telephones operating in the 902–928 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz ISM bands. Some amateur radio operators are experimenting with FHSS communications. But while FHSS is fairly common in industrial, government, military, amateur, wireless networking, and consumer telephone applications, until Motorola’s DTR radios were introduced there were no dedicated two-way FHSS radios

available in a relatively inexpensive, license-free package.

The company makes three models of DTR radios for the U.S. market. The basic entry-level version is the DTR410 (the model tested for this review). The DTR410 features six “public talkgroups.” For the purposes of keying-up and talking, think of these as channels on an FRS or CB radio. The other two models are the DTR550 and DTR650. These are interoperable with the DTR410 as they, too, can communicate over the same six public talkgroups. Additionally, the DTR550 and DTR650 can operate in a private “unit-to-unit” mode, and the DTR650 can act as a supervisor radio, enabling the user to remotely monitor and disable other DTR units. Other than these firmware differences, these are basically the same 1 watt, 900 MHz FHSS radio.

 

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MILITARY RADIO MONITORING ON VHF, UHF, HF, AND SATELLITES

 

A New Jersey Triad

by Tom Swisher, WA8PYR

 

Welcome to New Jersey, home to three important and well-known adjoining facilities of the U.S. military: McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix, and the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst.

Between them, they provide a lot to listen to, so let’s dive right on in.

 

McGuire Air Force Base

Part of the U.S. military since its opening in 1937, McGuire Air Force Base is an important part of the international mobility mission of the U.S. Air Force.

Originally called Rudd Field, and hosting a single dirt airstrip, the base was originally opened to provide for the aviation needs of the adjacent Fort Dix army base. Located 15 miles from Trenton, the base was dramatically expanded during World War II. It became part of the Air Force in 1947 and was then named for Major Thomas McGuire, a World War II air ace who was killed in action.

Home of the 305th Air Mobility Wing, McGuire handles a great deal of logistics traffic; using C-17A aircraft, the base can originate many flights carrying a vast amount of materiel to support the various military missions of the United States. Its proximity to the major cities of the northeastern United States means it is strategically located to meet those logistics needs.

Subordinate units of the 305th Wing include the 305th Maintenance Group, comprised of four squadrons handling maintenance operations; the 305th Mission Support Group, eight squadrons with responsibility for base operations, security, and communications; the 305th Operations Group, whose four squadrons handle airlift and midair refueling operations; and the 305th Medical Group, comprised of four squadrons responsible for the medical needs of the 305th Wing.

McGuire also hosts the Navy’s Patrol Squadrons 64 and 66, Anti-Submarine Squadron 94, and Marine Air Group 49. Other units based at McGuire include the 108th Air Refueling Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard; the 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force; Detachment 1 of the 373rd Training Squadron; and the Air Mobility Com-

mand’s Test and Evaluation Squadron.

Also a part of McGuire AFB is the Air Mobility Warfare Center. While it’s physically located on Fort Dix, the AMWC is part of McGuire AFB. The function of the AMWC is advanced education, training, and testing of Air Force personnel. The AMWC handles, among other things, training and education in transportation flight, air refueling tanker tactics, air mobility, and combat aircrew training. A recent addition is the Air Mobility Battle Lab, which researches innovations in air mobility, logistics, and mobility command and control.

One of the most important functions of McGuire AFB—just as when it was first opened—is serving the aviation needs of adjacent Fort Dix. Fort Dix has for many years been a major transshipment point for military personnel heading overseas, and many thousands of them have started their journey via the runways at McGuire.

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HOMELAND SECURITY

In Pennsylvania, A Mecca For Military Gear Collectors And Aficionados

by Rich Arland, W3OSS

Each year, around the third weekend of the month of September, hundreds of military collectors and aficionados gather at the West End Fairgrounds near Gilbert, Pennsylvania, for what has become one of the major northeast gatherings of Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) and Military Radio Collector’s Association (MRCA) members. This is basically a “Show-And-Tell” on steroids!

MVPA/MRCA members from all over the Mid-Atlantic states and New England flock to the Gilbert Fairgrounds to show off their latest restoration efforts, buy, sell, swap pieces of military hardware and electronic equipment, meet old friends, and make new ones. The historical significance of this event is not lost on first-time attendees, either. The overall theme of the weekend is fun, fellowship, and keeping the history of the vehicles and electronics alive for future generations to enjoy.

This is my sixth trip to an MRCA meet, and each year the attendance has grown and the quality of exhibits and presentations has improved dramatically. Although the meet starts “officially” at 1200 L on Friday, true military communications (MilCom) collectors often arrive early on Friday morning. The truly dedicated arrive on Thursday afternoon to pick over the offerings at the flea market before others get there.

 

Friday Fun

Among the most interesting things about this yearly event are the radio exercises that are conducted on Friday afternoon. Following an official briefing by the event staff, several two- and three-person groups grab their radio gear, hop in a vehicle, and charge off to remote areas, like Big Pocono Mountain, to set up their gear, erect antennas, and make contact with the headquarters station located at the Fairgrounds. Each year participants push the capabilities of their vintage and antique military radio equipment to the limit.

This year was the first time near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) operation was tried on the HF bands. The overall consensus of the participants was that NVIS propagation worked quite well, even using 50- and 60-year-old radio equipment!

The evening culminated with a meal at Studebaker’s, the local home-style eatery in the immediate area. Well-fed MRCA members returned to the Fairgrounds ready for some telling of tall tales well into the night. I had my grandson, Llyam, with me and we decided that we had had enough fun for one day and took leave of our fellow MRCA members and retired to our camp trailer for a good night’s sleep.

 

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THE POP’COMM TRIVIA CORNER

 

Radio Fun And Going Back In Time

by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL

 

Q. The Battle of Midway was one of the main turning points in World War II. Did radio play any part in that decisive action?

A. It sure did. When President Roosevelt was asked by a radio newscaster where the planes for the Doolittle Raid (April 18, 1942) had come from he said, “from our secret base in Shangri La,” referring to the John Hilton book Lost Horizons, which was popular at the time.

Hearing that broadcast, Japanese Intelligence scoured the maps of the Pacific and thought that Shangri La might be a code name for Midway Island. Plans were drawn up immediately to expand the area of Japanese control by taking Midway.

About the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 8) American code breakers teased out a Japanese plan for a major offensive against an objective whose code designation was AF. American military planners looked for possible Japanese targets and came up with two places that might be AF, Midway Island and the Aleutian chain in Alaska.

Admiral Nimitz, who was at Pearl Harbor, ordered a fake unencoded message to be sent from Midway to Pearl Harbor indicating that Midway was having trouble with its saltwater treatment plant and was in danger of running out of drinking water. Soon Navy intercept operators learned the Japanese thought AF was running out of drinking water. This told the code breakers at Pearl Harbor that the traffic involving the major build up in the plan meant a major attack on Midway.

The Japanese and American fleets maneuvering around the Island maintained radio silence. When they launched planes, however, both fleet radio direction finding units gave everyone the locations of all the carriers during the battle (June 4 through 7). The rest of that heroic fight was up to the pilots and gunners and those who directly supported them.

 

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UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST

 

Wait A Minute...It’s December Already?

by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ

 

It simply can’t be December already. It seems like I just wrote my December 2006 column last week! How can an entire year have possibly gone by that quickly? Impossible!

Oh, wait...my editor now informs me that it is, indeed, December, proving once again that behind every successful man, there stands a woman, telling him that he’s wrong. Okay, it’s December. That pile of snow outside the window isn’t the result of a hallucination, and the ice that has formed around the aluminum elements of your all-band vertical HF antenna is just that—ice, not cobwebs—and is a sign of the season rather than an indication that you need to use that antenna more often.

I still think you should use that antenna more often. Not only is radio fun, but maybe a 100 watts or so of good, old-fashioned RF radiation will send that ice somewhere else where it will be better appreciated. Somewhere like, say, the North Pole, where even as I type, Santa Claus is loading up his sleigh, while the elves give last-minute reminders to the reindeer on avoiding hazards to aviation, such as your all-band vertical HF antenna.

Exactly what he’s loading depends (as we all know, of course) on who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Just before writing this column, I visited Santa at the North Pole (just a routine part of doing research for the column, of course) and received an insider’s look at what Santa is bringing everybody this year. For example, for Edith Lennon, N2ZRW, our editor, an entire year during which nobody misses a deadline. My word, she must have been extremely nice this year!

Looks like Santa’s loading up a lot of neat goodies for all of you other nice boys and girls out there, too, but I’m not telling you what he’s got for all of you. It wouldn’t be right to spoil the surprise. I will say that I didn’t see a single stick or lump of coal anywhere in sight, unless you count the burning wood in the fireplace, where Mrs. Claus warms herself beside the fire. Turns out she’s a very nice lady, and even offered to knit me a pair of mittens, just like the ones she made Santa many years ago. It was truly a wonderful offer, but I had to politely decline. After all, I have a deadline to make, and it’s pretty tough to type while wearing mittens. Therefore, I left her, and Santa, with the same best wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season that I hereby extend to all who read these words. To deliberately misquote Saint Nick himself (along with Clement Clarke Moore, the guy who wrote the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”), “Merry Christmas to all, and to all, good DX!”

 

An “Old Friend” Returns To The Logbooks

 Back in the good old days when utility stations dealing with the weather were more plentiful on the HF bands, the frequency 11120.0 was part of a network used by the U.S. Air Force for weather information transmissions. Old-timers in the utility monitoring game will remember capturing RTTY and WeFax transmissions from stations with callsigns like KAWN (which was the USAF Automatic Digital Weather Switch, located at Carswell AFB in Texas, now known as NAS Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth) and KGWC (which was the USAF Global Weather Center at Offutt AFB in Nebraska; see Photo A).

 

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LOOSE CONNECTION

 

Ho-Ho-Holy Mackerel!

by Bill Price, N3AVY

 

The first Christmas I remember occurred when I was about three-and-a-half years old. I remember the smell of hot 3-in-One oil being made into smoke in the engine of an electric train, the lights on our tree were wired in parallel, so one bad bulb did not take an entire string with it. Those hot lights had their own smell, too—not unlike a dusty tube radio glowing in some corner of the living room.

My folks made Christmas magical for me, and I would sometimes arise as early as 2 a.m. on Christmas morning, just as Mr. and Mrs. Claus were retiring for the night, and they would head me off at the stairway with a convincing warning. I don’t think I ever slept past 6 a.m. on any Christmas morning, until I assumed the role of Mr. Claus and was dragged out of bed at some unholy hour by the young man who would carry on the family name. I knew that grandpa Claus was chuckling as he rolled over for another couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Even though I’m the “girthy” one, it was Norm who thought he should play Santa for a local service club. Norm has never done anything in a simple way. What I mean is that if there is an easy way and an extremely complex way to accomplish the same goal, Norm will always opt for—and talk me into helping with—the toughest way possible. Some of you may remember the tales of the bus. I rest my case.

We got to the costume rental place in plenty of time for Norm to get a good Santa suit, and one in his size, too. The shop even provided the padding so that we didn’t have to resort to pillows, and we got some help from a thespian friend who found us a white beard that glued on to Norm’s face so that those who gave it a tug would be surprised by its reality.

Norm tried on his suit and padding—even the hat and boots—but just held the beard on with string for the trial run. Other than being a bit shorter than your conventional Santa, he was perfect, and his years of public speaking gave him the polished voice of a convincing Santa. All he needed was a few reindeer and an unlimited charge account at Mega-Lo-Mart and he could take over the job for real.

 

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