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News, Trends, And Short Takes

by D. Prabakaran


VOA Adds Two FM Affiliates In Bangladesh

Radio Today and Radio Aamar, two FM radio stations in Dhaka, Bangladesh, became the newest affiliates of the Voice of America’s Bangla Service.

Radio Today (89.6 FM) now broadcasts five minutes of world and U.S. news produced by VOA’s Bangla Service daily between 11:45 p.m. and 12 a.m. (1745 to 1800 UTC). In addition, a 10-minute English-language newscast jointly produced by Radio Today and VOA will air nightly at 9:45 p.m. local time. The programs were formally inaugurated on March 3. Since March 12, Radio Aamar (101 FM) has broadcast the first 30 minutes of VOA’s daily one-hour Bangla-language program six days a week from 10:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (1600 to 1630 UTC). Every Wednesday, Radio Aamer broadcasts the entire 60 minutes, including the popular call-in show “Hello Washington.”

VOA Bangla Service broadcasts on radio, television, and the Internet reach an estimated 10 million people in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. There are more than 1,000 VOA fan clubs in Bangladesh.

VOA Expands Swahili Broadcasts To Kenya

In more VOA news, the station has expanded Swahili broadcasts to Kenya with an additional half-hour each day. The expanded radio coverage will offer news from a network of stringers in the region, interviews with a range of newsmakers, including ruling and opposition party representatives, political analysts, economists, local residents, as well as U.S. officials, UN, EU and AU mediators, and other African leaders.

The service will also begin a new series called “In Focus,” taking an in-depth look at issues such as land distribution, the constitution, ethnic tensions, national reconciliation, and the future of democracy in Kenya.

The new program will be broadcast at 0930–1000 UTC Monday–Friday, and at 1700–1730 UTC on weekends. Swahili broadcasts will now run for a total of two hours each weekday and one hour on Saturdays and Sundays.

Israel Radio Halts All Shortwave Broadcasts, Available On Internet

Israel Radio’s shortwave broadcasts, in all languages, ceased on March 31. Shortwave radio broadcasts have been under threat of closure for years, but were saved in the past by a barrage of protest letters from listeners around the world. From April 1, people who have been listening to shortwave radio will be able to pick up all their favorite broadcasts via the Internet.


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Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN


9-1-1 Education Month Strongly Endorsed By U.S. House

By a 381-to-0 vote, “National 9-1-1 Education Month” was endorsed by the U.S. House of Representatives in March, putting “Congress behind a national effort by seven national organizations dedicated to advancing public safety,” the E9-1-1 Institute reported. House Resolution 537, “directing the Administration to establish a National 9-1-1 education month,” was sponsored by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and John Shimkus (R-IL) and 56 House co-sponsors.

Organizations calling for the 9-1-1 education program include the E9-1-1 Institute, National Emergency Number Association, 9-1-1 for Kids, National Association of State 9-1-1 Administrators, Association of Public-Safety Communica-tions Officials International, CTIA-The Wireless Association, and COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance.
“They are calling upon public safety officials, schools, government officials and industry leaders to engage in a national effort to educate children, seniors and the general public about the importance of, and appropriate use of 9-1-1,” the Institute said.

“9-1-1 is a life-saving service that everyone should know how to use, especially children and senior citizens,” said Rep. Eshoo. “I’m very proud to have these dedicated national organizations join with me to expand 9-1-1 education for all Americans.” Rep. Shimkus said that “while most people know how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency situation, not everyone is aware of the limitations of the system, given the expanding variety of wireless devices we all use and the variations in service by location. Ensuring that 9-1-1 callers know when and how to use the 9-1-1 system must be a priority.”

2008 Global EmComm Conference Set For This Month In Germany

The state of emergency communications preparedness in each International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) region will be among the focuses of the Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (GAREC) Conference being held this month in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

The June 26–27 conference will also review the 2006 and 2007 EmComm Parties-on-the-Air, discuss the future of the Global Simulated Emergency Test, and WRC-03 modifications to Article 25 of the Radio Regulations regarding third party traffic during emergencies and exercises.

Three IARU region presidents will update conferees on EmComm in their areas. According to a news item from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), Seppo Sisatto, OH1VR, and Juha Hulkko, OH8NC, will talk about the plausibility of emergency communications centers across the globe.

“There will also be a talk on D-STAR (digital voice and data protocol specification developed for amateur radio) in emergency communications,” the ARRL said. “GAREC’s schedule is continuously being updated and subject to change,” the organization’s news release said. Dr. Hamadoun Toure, HB9EHT, secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is expected to make opening remarks at the conference. Ole Garpestad, LA2RR, will also participate.

The part of Article 25 concerning emergency communications says “amateur stations may be used for transmitting international communications on behalf of third parties only in case of emergencies or disaster relief. An administration may determine the applicability of this provision to amateur stations under its jurisdiction,” and “administrations are encouraged to take the necessary steps to allow amateur stations to prepare for and meet communication needs in support of disaster relief.”

GAREC delegates “will also have the opportunity to look at and discuss the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the IARU and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), as well as the MOU between the IARU and the ITU,” the ARRL said. “IARU vice president Tim Ellam, VE6SH, with assistance from IFRC Secretary General Markku Niskala and IARU International Coordinator for Emergency Communications Hans Zimmerman, HB9AQS/F5VKP, will lead the discussion. A representative from the ITU will also be on hand.”


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World Watch: Evening In Pakistan

Are Events Spiraling Out Of Control In The Country Some Call The “Real” Central Front Of Terrorism?

by Gerry Dexter


Things had not been going at all well for Pakistan long before that terrible December Thursday last year when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi while attending a rally of her supporters. Bhutto, leader of the Pakistani People’s Party, had already twice served in that position. Her administrations were seriously corrupt, which led to her removal from power both times. Nevertheless, she remained enormously popular. Having recently returned from a self-imposed exile, she had hoped to claim the prize for yet a third time. Those hopes died along with the popular leader and over 20 others at the hands of a suicide bomber.

Half of the Pakistani population believes the government of President Pervez Musharraf was behind the killing (you’ve heard of conspiracy theories?). However, most experts believe al-Qaeda or a connected group was responsible and, indeed, arrests have since been made which tend to confirm that notion. Whoever was responsible, the assassination sent Pakistan into a whirlwind of rioting and violence and propelled the nation’s political situation to a very dark place.

A Global Tinderbox

Pakistan is believed to be the hiding place of Osama bin Laden; he’s thought to be in the Waziristan area in the rugged mountains along the border with Afghanistan. Or, if he has since de-caved, then perhaps he hides in the shadowy, tangled alleyways of Peshawar. Tribalism, ancient blood feuds and antagonism towards outside authority are thick in this area and it has proven very difficult for the government to make much progress in the anti-terror war, although Musharraf appeared to cooperate with the U.S. as best he could given the circumstances.

Of course, those circumstances changed drastically for Musharraf himself after the assassination. His relationship with the Pakistan military, already damaged, went further south and a growing outcry for his resignation as head of the armed forces came to a head. They demanded he resign. Hoping to keep the presidency, he stepped down. Meanwhile his popularity continues to tank and there is real doubt about his future moving forward.

When the election finally came off, Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N pulled a combined majority of votes and have since agreed to form a government.

In the meantime another car bomb goes off every couple of days, the military just shut down three (unlicensed) FM radio stations and arrested employees after the stations aired a speech by a pro-Taliban cleric, and Islamic extremists are apparently targeting aid workers. It’s business as usual. Now the world waits to see what will happen next in this shaky, nuclear-capable third-world country on the Indian subcontinent, which it also shares with equally unfortunate Bangladesh.

If all this doesn’t create a sufficient fear factor, you can add the seemingly permanent antagonism Pakistan has toward India (they’ve fought two wars, in 1947 and 1965), then stir in the craving both have for the disputed Kashmir region. Add a toxic jigger of opposing religions (Pakistan is Muslim, India, Hindu), Pakistan’s jealousy over India’s growing economy, and any number of other problems and it’s a boiling brew indeed.

One is reminded of the old cliché sports announcers used to throw around: “These two teams don’t like each other!”

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A High-Performance D-I-Y Store Yagi For 6 Meters

Whether You Need “Ears” For Field Day Or The Operating Season,
This Easy, Optimized Wideband Antenna Is A Great Performer

by Chip Margelli, K7JA


Have you ever had a beam blow down just before a contest weekend? Or maybe you’ve suddenly gotten a last-minute invitation to run the VHF station at your local radio club’s Field Day effort. Coming up with a high-performance beam on short notice may seem impossible, but a solution may be as close at hand as your local D-I-Y (Do-It-Yourself) home-improvement store.

This article describes the design and construction of a high-performance six-element Yagi for the 50 MHz band, using materials largely found at the hardware store. I’ve also included a sidebar about building a version of this antenna for Channel 2 TV DXing.
Sound like fun? Read on!

Electrical Design Concept

This antenna is based on the “OWA” (Optimized Wideband Antenna) Yagi concept1 pioneered by Nathan Miller, NW3Z, and Jim Breakall, WA3FET; all credit for this innovative and useful original design belongs to them. I favor the OWA design for several reasons.

For one, the beam presents a natural 50-Ohm impedance, so it may be connected directly to 50-Ohm coaxial cable (through a 1:1 balun), without the need for an impedance-matching network like a Beta or T-match. Secondly, the impedance is very stable over a wide frequency range, making the design forgiving of minor tolerance issues that can quickly arise on the VHF bands. Finally, the pattern of the OWA is very clean, with side and back lobes well suppressed, so this beam is very quiet on the receive side, thanks to the reduction of noise arriving from a direction other than that of the desired signal.

The OWA achieves these objectives, in part, through the use of a first director that is very closely spaced in front of the driven element. The tight coupling to the driver raises the feedpoint impedance and broadens the bandwidth at the same time (much as a “very fat” driven element might). The OWA design forfeits a tiny amount of gain (less than half a dB) compared to a gain-optimized design, but this difference can’t be heard in operation and the other advantages, namely ease of construction and excellent overall performance, far outweigh this “compromise.”

L.B. Cebik, W4RNL, has a wealth of information on the OWA design on his website (www.cebik.com/radio.html), and I used his article on 6-meter OWA Yagis (http://www.cebik. com/vhf/66.html) as the starting point for my final design. I claim no credit for any innovation regarding the electrical designs presented here; I just enjoyed the exercise of coming up with scrounged materials to build the actual beams.

For the purpose of this design exercise, I chose a six-element OWA Yagi design, which consists of a driven element, with a reflector behind it and four directors in front of the driver. The boom length, on 50 MHz, is 13.1 feet (about 4 meters) and slightly less than 12 feet (3.7 meters) for TV Channel 2 (see “Building The Six-element OWA Beam For TV Channel 2 DX”).

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The AOR SR2000A Frequency Monitor

by Ken Reiss


Part communications receiver, part spectrum display, part TV receiver but all cool is about the only way to describe this unique piece of equipment. AOR recently announced a revision to its SR2000 frequency monitor that represents a unique combination in the communications receiver area.

The most prominent feature of the SR2000A is the large, bright LCD screen on the front panel. This screen is used to present most of the information about the operation of the radio as well as a spectrum display up to 40 MHz wide and live television pictures where possible. Soft keys at the bottom of the LCD change their function depending on the mode.

To the right of the LCD panel is a keypad and a rotary knob used for controlling most of the functions of the receiver. The knob can be used for tuning as well as making selections depending on the control mode that’s active at the moment. The knob is very convenient for entering data or for short frequency changes, but it’s not weighty enough to use for large frequency panning.

The Basics

First and foremost, the SR2000A is a communications-grade receiver that covers 25 MHz to 3000 MHz (3 GHz). Currently only the government model is available in the United States, which means there are no blocks on the cellular frequencies in the 800 MHz band, but those will be blocked as required by law for the civilian version when it is released (hopefully by the time you read this, according to AOR).

The receiver is a triple conversion design and seems to perform quite well and without interference in the frequency areas I was able to check. It’s an impressive receiver by any standard. One thousand memories are available for storing frequencies, although you could happily own this receiver and never need anything beyond the 10 VFO positions available.

The receiver is also one of the first to feature the SFM or Super Narrow FM mode for listening to the new split channels with a bandwidth of 6 kHz, as opposed to 15 kHz for the usual Narrow FM that is currently in use with public safety systems. There’s also an AM mode and a Wide FM mode for TV audio and FM broadcast reception.

The receiver can have an optional P25 board installed for decoding APCO-25 transmissions. There is no action required by the user once the board is installed; rather if an APCO-25 signal is encountered, the decoder starts operating. There is a slight delay while it kicks in, and it should be noted that like all digital signals it takes a bit stronger signal to get good decoding (this seems to be true of all APCO-25 decoders I’ve tested and not a flaw of the SR2000A). The only thing missing for the scanner enthusiast is a trunking mode to go along with the APCO-25 decoding, and some more flexible scanning options. There is also a computer interface, so perhaps software could make up for that limitation.

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The Watergate Rig: The Most Infamous Spy Radio

One Radio’s Role In A President’s Unraveling

by Terry O’Laughlin


 Thirty-six years ago, a former U.S. intelligence agent, James McCord, used personal connections and presidential money to buy a radio. The political intrigue resulting from his use of that radio eventually forced the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Yet, this radio has disappeared from public memory even among most radio hobbyists.

McCord purchased a Communications Electronics, Inc. (CEI), RS-111. It was a specialized radio designed for use by the Department of Defense (DoD) and various intelligence agencies. Radios like this are typically designed, deployed, and destroyed with very little fanfare, and the general public rarely becomes aware of their existence. But this RS-111 became a notable exception. Its photo was printed in the Washington Post and the Washington Star. It was also a star exhibit in the Watergate Congressional hearings and was seen by the millions of Americans glued to their television sets. How did this all happen?

$3,500 Cash, In Crisp $100 Bills…

In May of 1972, James McCord walked into the Watkins-Johnson, CEI division offices, a nondescript office building at 6006 Executive Boulevard in Rockville, Maryland, with a crisp wad of new $100 bills in his pocket. He handed his business card to the receptionist and asked to buy an RS-111, a radio he knew from previous jobs as a wireman.

But not just anybody could walk off the street and purchase these specialized radios. One had to work for an authorized agency and have the proper security clearance. Very few people even knew that in this building, innocuously nestled in an office park, radios were produced that were highly prized by a variety of secretive government agencies. Who did this guy think he was?

McCord had retired early from government intelligence work on August 31, 1970, after 19 years of service (although in the book Secret Agenda, a detailed account of the actual wiretapping, author Jim Hougan questions McCord’s retired status). McCord then started his own technical security consulting business, McCord Associates. On the surface, running McCord Associates did not pay nearly as well as his previous job, though he appeared to be doing fine.

On October 1, 1971, McCord was retained as a part-time consultant by Richard Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) based on the recommendation of his longtime friend, Secret Service agent Albert Wong. He was promoted to security director for CRP, a full-time position, on January 1, 1972.

As McCord did not have the agency connections or proper clearance to purchase a radio from Watkins-Johnson, the receptionist returned his card and sent him across the street to the sales department. There McCord talked to Jack Bussler and Tracy Estabrook, both of whom he knew well from his days working for the government.

Bussler arranged for McCord to purchase an older demonstration RS-111 for $3,500. McCord peeled off thirty-five $100 bills to complete the transaction. Paying in cash was highly irregular, but the spy business is not regular business. The money came from $65,000 he received from G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy was the head of President Nixon’s Special Investigations Unit. (In Secret Agenda, Hougan incorrectly asserts that the receiver came from Bell & Howell, although later in the book he cites FBI transcripts stating it was a “Communication Electronics, Inc...Receiving System.”)

A salesman’s demo RS-111 was pulled off a shelf, sent to the test department, bench tested, and aligned to specification. Barry Wright, head of quality control, did the final inspection, signed the form and placed it inside the box with the radio. He wheeled it to the rear entrance and loaded it into McCord’s van. Thus began the unraveling of a presidency.

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Venezuela Strikes Out On Its Own, Plus Other Radio Regalings

by Gerry L. Dexter


We all hear Radio Nacional Venezuela relayed via Radio Havana Cuba, thanks to the buddy-buddy relationship between Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Now the YV guys are ready to go out on their own. Radio Nacional Venezuela will soon have its own in-country facility active with a 50-kW transmitter on 60 meters and five 100-kW units operating in the international bands. It’s been an eternity since the Caracas government had an official shortwave voice—their last splash in 1993 made only intermittent use of 9540. Based on the content of their current broadcasts we’ll probably get more enjoyment out of listening to the Venezuelan time station! However eagerly you await this momentous event I’m sorry that I can’t yet provide times or frequencies. Oh, the suspense!

During last winter’s attempted coup in Chad news reports said Radio Nacional Tchadienne had been taken over by opposition forces and implied that all sorts of pandemonium followed. Yet, once government forces had driven the rebels out of N’djamena, RNT was doing business as usual on 4905. It was later revealed that the damage done was mostly at the studios and that the resumed broadcasts were from a remote site. Well done! Over the year or so since RNT returned to 60 meters the station has been inching up from its long-used 4904.5 split frequency. The briefly used 6165 continues, as well as a new as yet unnoted outlet on 9515, and possibly even a frequency in the 11 MHz band!

Win one, lose one? I’ve mentioned recently the coming return of CFRX in Toronto on 6070 with its much-missed 24-hour relay of local CFRB-1010. Now there are bad vibes concerning the future of CKZN in Vancouver, which relays local CBU-960. Canada is urging their broadcasters to leave the AM band in favor of FM, and apparently CBU has a position in that in that parade. Someone needs to explain to them why such a move wouldn’t make it even more important to keep the shortwave relay alive.

RTV Malienne/Radio Mali has begun to use 9635 again, in addition to 5995. The 31-meter band frequency is in use from 0800 to 1800, after which it switches back to 5995.

Reader Logs

Remember, your shortwave broadcast station logs are always welcome. But please be sure to double or triple space between the items, list each logging by the station’s home country and include your last name and state abbreviation after each. Also needed are spare QSLs or good copies you don’t need returned, station schedules, brochures, pennants, station photos, and anything else you think would be of interest.

And, see here! My patience is running on empty! Someday soon you may have an unexpected visit from one of our “GIG” agents. So, if you’d rather not wake up some morning to find your antenna has been painted green, then send in that photo of you at your listening post I keep asking for!

Here are this month’s logs. All times are in UTC. Double capital letters are language abbreviations (SS = Spanish, RR = Russian, AA = Arabic, etc.). If no language is mentioned, English (EE) is assumed.

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Digital AM Doesn’t Do It In The Dark

by Bruce A. Conti


While digital FM HD broadcasting is gaining popularity, digital AM seems to have stalled. Limited bandwidth and nighttime skywave interference, combined with additional digital signals, are proving to be more than the already congested AM broadcast band can handle. Fully aware that digital AM broadcasting was problematic, the FCC still decided to let broadcasters duke it out rather than have digital delayed by regulatory bureaucracy. It’s been a year since the FCC decided to let digital loose on AM, and broadcasters are now beginning to realize the impact of the decision.

A Tight Fit For AM HD

Because the space between channels or assigned frequencies is only 10 kHz on the AM broadcast band, there just isn’t enough bandwidth available for an analog signal plus additional digital content. So the digital signal is positioned on adjacent channels. For example, while 1030 WBZ Boston continues to broadcast its 50 kW analog signal with a reduced bandwidth of 6 kHz centered at 1030 kHz between 1020 and 1040 kHz, its digital HD signal is broadcast on “sidebands” covering 1015 to 1020 kHz and 1040 to 1045 kHz, thus causing interference to analog radio stations on the assigned frequencies of 1020 and 1040 kHz. In turn, radio stations on 1020 and 1040 are allowed to cause digital interference to WBZ. In fact, with its HD signal 1040 WHO Des Moines has slashed the now-laughable WBZ self-proclaimed 38-state nighttime coverage area.

Normally an AM signal is limited to local groundwave coverage during the day due to energy from the sun and its effect on the ionosphere. At night, however, the ionosphere acts like a reflector, which allows mediumwave signals to bounce or propagate over hundreds, if not thousands, of miles, much like international shortwave broadcasts. In a rather feeble attempt by the FCC to lessen the impact of digital AM interference, the digital signal is required to be 6 dB below the analog power. Otherwise after submitting minimal paperwork to the FCC, radio stations are free to begin fulltime digital broadcasting without regard to interference with adjacent frequencies.

WYSL Complaint

Last year, 1040 WYSL Avon-Rochester, New York, became the first to file a formal complaint with the FCC challenging nighttime digital AM broadcasting. Specifically WYSL alleged that WBZ HD was causing harmful interference within the WYSL primary coverage area, effectively reducing the coverage area enough that advertising revenue would be lost because listeners were no longer able to receive WYSL for local news, sports, and weather. Details aren’t available to the public while the complaint is pending, but you can read general comments about HD posted online by WYSL Engineering at www.wysl1040.com.

Although the WBZ HD signal is supposed to be at a power of 12.6 kW, or 6 dB below the analog 50 kW signal, WBZ has a directional signal beamed west so the effective radiated power is actually higher in that direction. Even so, the WBZ HD digital signal is relatively useless at night, limited to a 15-mile best-case coverage area due to skywave interference from radio stations on 1020 (KDKA Pittsburgh) and 1040 (CJMS Quebec, WHO Des Moines, WCHR New Jersey, and WYSL upstate New York), yet WBZ HD is causing significant nighttime interference to those same radio stations. The digital signal produces a constant buzzing sound or loud white noise that, like a test tone or Morse code, can be heard over hundreds of miles at night, even though it’s well beyond the range for a digital receiver to lock on the signal.


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New, Interesting, And Useful Communications Products


HF/6m Transceiver From Yaesu

Yaesu has introduced a new transceiver, the FT-950, that according to the company’s website was designed to fit the needs of casual operators, serious DXers, and new HF licensees anxious to jump on the HF and 50-MHz bands. The FT-950 features a triple-conversion, super-heterodyne receiver with selectable first-IF roofing filters of 3, 6, and 15 kHz. The radio has a multi-function 30-kHz 32-bit Floating Point IF DSP with IF Width, IF Shift, Notch, and Contour features. Its front end includes eight bandpass filters. The FT-950 offers an oversize, high-visibility fluorescent display (VFD) to provide more contrast, brightness, and wider viewing angles than typical TFT (thin-film-transistor) displays. Other features to aid both DXers and newer HF operators include quick split function, transmit-frequency watch (TXW), CW zero-in, and CW spot.
The FT-950 has an MSRP of $1840. For more information, visit www.yeasu.com or www.vertexstandard.com.

Otter Products’ OtterBox 1933

The OtterBox 1933 is a sleek, semi-rugged, fully-interactive case with a slim fit design to protect BlackBerry 8800 Series smartphones from Research In Motion (RIM), specifically the BlackBerry 8800, BlackBerry 8820, and BlackBerry 8830 (World Edition) versions. The 1933’s features include additional bump, scratch, and drop protection; light rain protection; included belt clip; Donaldson Acoustic vents on the top and front speakers; fully interactive through-the-case design. It safeguards your smartphone with three layers of protection: thermal formed protective clear membrane protects the screen; hi-impact polycarbonate; and silicone skin to absorb bump and shock.
Note: This case is not fully protected against water. The case will provide some protection against water and dust. This case is not intended for underwater use.
The OtterBox 1933 sells for $49.95. For more information, visit www.otterbox.com.

Ultra-High Linearity Amplifiers From Spectrum Microwave

Spectrum Microwave introduced a new line of lower cost amplifiers, the QBH-8900 series, that provide ultra-high linearity and a low noise figure. These amplifiers feature a new lower cost surface mount package and are available with frequencies from 20 MHz to 4000 MHz, IP2 values to +75 dBm and noise figures as low as 0.9 dB; they offer gain from 10 dB to 28 dB and third order intercepts to +45dBm. Spectrum Microwave’s ultra-high linearity amplifiers do not require external circuitry, only a DC power supply and feature internal blocking caps, biasing circuitry, and RF matching. In addition to being cost effective, the new packaging for these high performance amplifiers is lightweight, and they are ideal for a wide range of applications including mobile communications platforms and point-to-point and multipoint radios.


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Looking At The Far Side Of The Sun

by Tomas Hood, NW7US


In March 2000 the SOHO/MDI science team announced the first images of an active region on the far side of the sun. Using a technique called, “helioseismic holography,” scientists are able to “see” the far side of the sun! This way of seeing the opposite side of the sun is a result of many years of analysis and modeling. In 1962, observers noticed patches on the surface of the sun that oscillate up and down with a typical period of about five minutes. For many years afterward these waves were a mystery.

In 1970, however, scientists identified the mysterious source of these oscillations, and confirmed their discovery by 1975. These five-minute-long surface oscillations are due to sound waves generated and trapped inside the sun. They refract away from the sun’s hot core and reflect back and forth between different parts of the photosphere. Pressure fluctuations in the turbulent convective motions of the sun’s interior cause the sound waves. The pressure fluctuations are about the size of California, and are like bubbles called “solar granulation.”

The photosphere is the visible surface of the sun. Since the sun is a ball of gas, this is not a solid surface, but actually a layer about 100 kilometers thick. This layer is sort of like one of the layers in our own atmosphere, say the troposphere, for instance. The photosphere is very thin compared to the 700,000-km radius of the sun.

A number of features can be observed in the photosphere with a simple telescope. (Note: Never look directly at the sun, including through a telescope. You should also use a good filter to reduce the intensity of sunlight to safely observable levels, as reflected sunlight may also cause damage to your eye). These photospheric features include dark sunspots, bright faculae (concentrated magnetic areas), and granules (see below). The flow of material in the photosphere may also be measured using the Doppler effect. These measurements reveal additional features such as the “supergranules” as well as large-scale flows and a pattern of waves and oscillations. These large-scale patterns contain the helioseismic information that reveals what is on the far side of the sun. The study of this phenomenon is “helioseismology.”

After many years of careful observation and analysis, today’s helioseismologists use these sound waves, and the modes of vibration they produce, to probe the interior of the sun the same way geologists use seismic waves from earthquakes to probe the inside of the Earth. This technique of seeing the far side of the sun using helioseismic information results in the holography that gives propagation forecasters and scientists a view of what is coming around to the visible side.

The apparatus that has been created to view the far side of the sun is the Michelson-Doppler Imager (MDI). Using the MDI, we can detect the progress of old activity, and detect new activity a full week or so before a group of sunspots rotates around to the Earth-facing side.

Since mid-2001 these far side images of the central area of the back of the sun have been prepared for each daily 12-hour period and made available on the Web. Also in that year a technique was developed that could provide sensitivity for the whole far side rather than just the central area possible with the original method. The new method was slow to compute and the transition between the central and surrounding regions was not smooth enough to make the method useful as it was, however.
The MDI team announced during February 2006 that they now had an improved analysis technique that revealed the entire far side of the sun, rather than just a region on the center of the side opposite the Earth. The new method is an extension and improvement to the original method. Analysts now combine the original method, of using the travel time of sound waves that bounce once from the underside of the surface going to and coming from each location on the far side, with a new method. The new method uses a one-bounce plus a three-bounce combination. By combining these methods, regions can be seen as they rotate right up to the visible limb and move onto the front side where we can view them.

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Edwards Air Force Base—More Of The Right Stuff

by Mark Meece, N8ICW


Deep in the Mojave Desert, a mere 100 miles or so northeast of Los Angeles, is the second largest base in the Air Force, Edwards Air Force Base. Edwards covers some 300,000 acres of the high desert, spanning Kern, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties in California. The base supports more than 10,000 military, federal civilian, and contract personnel that are assigned there. The 95th Air Base Wing is the host unit at Edwards.

Edwards History

For over 60 years Edwards has been nestled in the remote southern California desert. It’s home to 10 distinct flying squadrons, but it may be best known as the home of United States Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS). It’s also a landing facility for the Space Shuttle Program.

The base originally started on the Rogers Dry Lake Bed as Muroc Army Airfield in 1933. In 1949 it was renamed for Captain Glen Edwards, who was killed while co-piloting an YB-49 jet-powered flying wing aircraft that crashed near the base. Also in 1949 the USAF TPS moved from Wright Field, near Dayton, Ohio, to Edwards.

The Air Force Flight Test Center was activated there in 1951. As the program increased, the natural surfaces at both Rogers and Rosamond dry lakebeds provided large emergency landing sites perfect for testing aircraft. In the early 1940s Edwards was the testing site for the United States’ first jet-powered aircraft, the Bell XP-59A.

Other notable historic moments at Edwards have included Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, the first Space Shuttle landing in 1981, and the around-the-world flight of the Rutan Voyager in 1986.


Edwards hosts 21 runways, which range from 4,000 to 39,000 feet. The main concrete runway is 4/22. This runs just over 15,000 feet and can be combined with an additional 9,000-foot overrun of the dry lakebed, giving pilots experiencing an in-flight emergency one of the longest and safest runways in the world. Overhead airspace is part of the R-2508 Range Complex of restricted airspace that contains some six different restricted flight areas, or Military Operations Areas (MOAs). Rogers Dry Lake itself has been declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service because of the role it played in the development of the nation’s space program.
One of Edwards Air Force Base main tenants is the 412th Test Wing. The 412th is comprised of several subordinate units (see “Units And Aircraft Based At Edwards”). Recently the 418th FLTS refitted one of the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing C-130H with eight-bladed propellers in preparation for extensive testing. This is to support the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing for that unit’s “Operation Deep Freeze” mission in Antarctica.

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Ohio MARCS Spotlight!

by Ken Reiss


Formed in 1933, the Ohio State Highway Patrol began with a mere 60 officers. Currently about 1,400 officers and 1,000 support personnel are tasked with keeping the roadways of Ohio safe, emergency response services and investigations. The communications system in undergoing a major overhaul, as it is in many areas, with the implementation of an 800 MHz Digital Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS).

As in most states, agencies around the state of Ohio realized that they could not talk to each other using the independent radio systems that most are using. The events of September 11, 2001, underscored the need for rapid and reliable communication between agencies as first responders and administrators alike were trying to sort out the actual damage and prepare for any other attacks that might be forthcoming.

Begun in 2002, the system will be utilized by all Highway Patrol units and many agencies statewide (apparently any government agency that wishes to participate and can fund the equipment). It’s a Motorola APCO-25 Digital Type II trunking system with Smartzones to facilitate statewide communications as needed.

The system is made available to agencies on a subscription basis. The government agency wishing to participate purchases the radio, and then subscribes to the MARCS service as a cost of operation. The current cost according to the MARCS website (http://oit.ohio.gov/SDD/Marcs/MARCSInfo.aspx) is about $19 per month per unit.

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Personal Preparedness In Uncertain Times

by Rich Arland, W3OSS


I’d like to start out with an apology to my readers for having to sit out the last two issues because of unavoidable circumstances. I’m sorry for keeping everyone waiting on our Mobile EmComm project, and appreciate your patience. But even this month, I have one more apology regarding the Scamp retrofit. With all the rotten weather we’ve had over the last three months here in Northeast Pennsylvania, I’ve been at a virtual standstill on the radio project.

Luckily the last couple of days here in mid-March have been a lot warmer and (dare I say it?) there’s been NO RAIN! Yeah! In the July issue, we’ll get back to that along with the herculean effort that a good friend of mine, Ralph Fellows, K5FTV, has undertaken to convert a small trailer into a mobile comm facility/camper. You gotta see this!

When Things Go Bump On Wall Street…

I’m writing this column on the day that the Federal Reserve just bailed out Bear Stearns, the fifth largest investment bank in the United States, when it could not meet its financial obligations. The Dow dumped almost 200 points, the S&P 500 was down almost 30 points, the Nasdaq slipped over 50 points, and Wall Street is in a tizzy about what to do should other major banks have to be bailed out by the Fed!

If you’ve been watching the overall economy over the last couple of years (or are just alive) you’ve undoubtedly noticed the huge debacle in the housing market. People are unable to make their mortgage payments, and are walking (or being escorted) out of their houses, and mailing the keys to the bank. It’s my uneducated opinion—I don’t have a degree in economics, but I do have half a brain and can identify an iceberg off the starboard bow when I see one—that we’re on the edge of a major shake up in the economy of the United States. And that can have some serious consequences.

…Other Things May Start To Bump

Are you ready? Can you cope? Do you have what it takes to gut it out if we’re suddenly thrust into a full-scale recession and eventually a depression that would make the 1930s look like a picnic?

Survivalist (as defined in the Webster’s Dictionary): a person who advocates or practices survivalism; especially one who has prepared to survive in the anarchy of an anticipated breakdown of society—survivalist adjective.

Okay, now before you condemn me for living in an armored yurt in the wilds of Colorado, let me assure you that I don’t even have a yurt. As for living in Colorado, I can only wish!

We have skirted this topic upon several occasions in this column, but the main point of this column has been how to identify and analyze threats to yourself, your family, and your way of life, become prepared to meet these threats, understand how to cope in an emergency, large or small, and to utilize your special talents (namely your involvement with the radio hobby) to help mitigate said emergency.


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Radio Fun And Going Back In Time

by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL


Q. Most veterans remember Military Amateur Radio Service (MARS) operating from Vietnam. When did MARS open up their service between “the Nam” and “the World”?

A. The first message from Saigon to McClelland Air Force Base in Sacramento, California, came on December 15, 1965. Back then, traffic was sent both ways in RTTY, CW (Morse), and voice. In 1997, MARS and the military both dropped CW.

Many newspapers interviewed MARS operators, military personnel, and their families and gave a lot of ink to the effects on morale of MARS messages going both east and west. Some newspapers printed MARS message forms to let their readers send messages to troops overseas. MARS operators kept up their volunteer message handling until just before the Americans left Vietnam. Today MARS is still on the job—proud, professional, and ready.

Q. Has amateur radio ever helped with an election?

A. In North Carolina’s Primary Election in the spring of 1968 six TV stations wanted to beat everyone to the punch and get the election results out to the entire state. They enrolled the aid of four amateur radio emergency nets and their 500 members. Only nine of North Carolina’s 100 counties were not set up as part of the May 4 net. Five million Tar Heels got their election results from the six TV stations, which gave all the credit to the amateur radio operators who had passed the results along on their 75 meter nets on election night.

Q. Was the Army or the Navy the first to develop ground-to-air radio communications?

A. Actually it was a joint operation. The Army developed the first practical mobile radio set in 1906. In 1908, they used it to communicate with Navy fixed-base stations at Arlington, Virginia, and Annapolis, Maryland. The Army signalmen were working the Navy stations with CW from an Army balloon’s basket. In 1911 the Army started sending wireless messages from airplanes to ground stations. In 1912 the Navy started sending radio traffic from aircraft to Navy vessels and ground sites. In those early days receivers were so heavy that airplanes could send but did not carry the equipment necessary to receive. Interestingly, it was 1912 when the Navy dropped the term “wireless” in favor of “radio.” The Army followed suit shortly thereafter.

Q. Hitler rose to power in Germany on January 30, 1933. How long after the Nazi’s took over did they started controlling the media?

A. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German theologian, made a speech on the radio two days after Hitler came to power. Bonhoeffer’s theme was “The Young German’s view of the Fuhrer.” His view was critical of Hitler’s desire for a “God-like” status as the leader of Germany. Part way through his talk Bonhoeffer’s mic went dead. Undaunted, Bonhoeffer actively continued to resist Hitler and, in time, was arrested. He was executed at the Flossenberg concentration camp in early April 1945.


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The Serendipitous Summer Of The Old Hallicrafters, And A Last Hazy Hurrah

by Shannon Huniwell


Like an oldies station DJ who loves playing his audience’s favorite hits, my father finds great joy in giving gifts that bring back happy memories. This past Christmas, Dad surprised me with a little billboard that he found at a model train show. Dating from the early 1950s, the miniature sign pictured a fellow smiling in his living room easy chair. One of those big old televisions in a tall wooden cabinet stood a few feet in front of him.

Truth be told, my father didn’t get the initial reaction he’d hoped for, as I had no idea why he’d bought me the toy billboard and then taken the time to wrap it in a
sheet of newspaper that advertised high-definition TVs.

“The ad in the paper represents the latest consumer video technology,” Dad said, “and the tiny billboard shows something quite the opposite. Take a look at the caption,” he urged, figuring it would help me recall. I squinted to decipher the miniscule lettering. It identified the guy in the living room as a professional TV cameraman and credited him with bragging, “In my home, we have a Hallicrafters—the set the experts own.” “Hallicrafters...Hallicrafters,” I whispered to myself, hoping for the name to ring a bell and connect with some experience my father obviously remembered much better than I.

“Think about the summer you were seven,” he prompted, “when we took you out of school so we could enjoy that Connecticut Shore vacation.”

“Were we doing some shortwave listening on a Hallicrafters receiver or something?” was my initial guess. But, when Dad pointed at the tiny TV on the billboard and slowly annunciated, “Oh Dear! Shall I call the volunteer fire department?” his clue instantly opened a memory window that brought me back to the early summer of 1977. In her Katherine Hepburn-like voice, my mother had uttered the fireman query after seeing me engulfed in a blackish-yellow billow of electrical smoke—a smelly haze resulting from short, sharp flames bursting through the seams and venting of an ancient television set. After a few gags, sneezes, and theatrical coughing, the three of us in that little living room survived with a story to tell my 13-year-old brother, Shawn, who—under the laissez faire eyes of our grandparents—was finishing out his first year of junior high back home in New Jersey.

“Never had a TV die happier!” Dad began the saga for Shawn and my Grammie on one of the twice-weekly check-in phone calls. It’s a tale that I’ll recount now, in the hopes of providing a fitting memorial to vintage video and the soon-to-be-lost possibility of analog TV DXing.

The Setting And The Cellar

In mid-May 1977, one of Dad’s co-workers came into some money rather mysteriously, suddenly quit his job, and became quite generous towards my father. At diner one night, Dad had barely finished recounting the sketchy details of his acquaintance’s fast fortune and exit when the telephone rang. My mom raised her eyebrows as if to be heralding, “Kids, this sounds like one of your father’s situations that is likely to lead to some sort of strange adventure.” And, in fact, that’s exactly what it turned out to be.

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Multi-Use, Multi-Approved HF Radio

by Gordon West, WB6NOA


I recently discovered a 100 watt, fully synthesized, 100-channel, high-frequency transceiver offering multi-type approval by the FCC, including strict adherence to many international telecommunications bureaus. This relatively inexpensive, 100 watt HF transceiver carries all marine ITU channels. It’s a fully programmable or single-channel HF land radio and can also play high-frequency ham radio as well. This equipment has been in the Vertex (Yaesu USA) product line for years, with apparently little thought about promoting it to long-range sailors or for rural use on land, and doesn’t even show up in ham radio catalogs. Priced at around $999, it’s a sleeper!

My work on Christmas Island (T32GW) with the Ministry of Health only allows single-channel HF transceivers set to 7312 kHz USB, with absolutely no capability to be user programmed for any additional frequencies (see “Radio Resources” in the December 2007 Pop’Comm). The Vertex System 600 meets the spec through a proprietary configuration, programming-enable jumper module that’s factory obtained and made available by the dealer selling the equipment.

Here’s what it offers:

• Configuration 1 Land Mobile International
• Configuration 2 Marine Single Sideband
• Configuration 3 Amateur Radio, VFO and/or Channelized

This workhorse 100 watt HF transceiver tunes from 50 kHz to 30 MHz on receive and 1800 kHz to 30 MHz on transmit. It has some “sleeper” plug-in accessories.

• Cat system computer interface
• Voice inversion/rolling code encryption unit
• High-stability reference oscillator
• Pre-programmed full marine ITU channels
• IF crystal filter options
• Weather fax low-level output
• Selective calling (SELCAL)
• Cloning and computer loading
• 100 watts, 100 memory channels

The Vertex System 600 has been in continuous use, working off solar cells and the RadioWavz dipole antenna at Christmas Island for over a year. It’s been through sand, wind, and rain without failure, and completely meets the single-channel radio requirement set forth by the Tarawa Minister of Communications.


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Portable Power: Big Tech In A Small Package

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ


Despite the June cover date of this issue, you still have time to take advantage of an amazing improvement in portable power before Field Day activities get started on the weekend of June 28. And even if Field Day isn’t your cup of tea, more and more hams are operating away from their traditional shacks for a host of reasons. Whether you’re camping by the lake, setting up shack at a mountaintop wayside rest area, working VHF contest stations as a rover, or passing traffic during a communications emergency, the ability to hold a kilowatt of clean, quiet AC power in the palm of your hand is something to behold (or be held, as it were!).

Up here in the North Country, portable generators are especially handy for watching satellite TV while ice fishing, watching the big game while tailgating in the stadium parking lot, and keeping the diet pop cold when the weather is hot. From power outages to natural disasters to powering AC tools and devices at construction sites, the uses for compact, yet powerful, clean AC power are almost limitless.

Until recently, the big fly in the ointment for portable generators has been the wild and wooly AC power that comes out of them! As I covered in much greater detail in this column in early 2007, most affordable generators are designed for powering lights, electric motors, and heating elements—all of which can operate on sloppy, quasi-regulated AC power (or even DC). Plug your sensitive and expensive ham radios and computers into an inexpensive “construction site” portable generator, however, and you never know what might happen. It might work, or it might go boom.

As we’ll see in this month’s column, which focuses on the smallest available inverter generators, the use of new technology has eliminated virtually all of the negatives associated with small portable generators. Their development has sort of paralleled that of modern ham transceivers, which went from big and expensive to tiny and powerful, becoming more affordable all the while.

Before we get too far, though, you must remember that, despite their new-found glory, portable generators are still potentially lethal. You must treat them with respect, observing all necessary safety precautions. A good place to learn more about portable generator safety is www.dom.com/about/safety/generator.jsp.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Standard, non-inverter generators rely on engine speed alone to maintain an output that’s as close to 117-V, 60-Hz AC. If the engine is running too fast or too slow, the unit’s voltage and frequency will be high or low, accordingly. For most consumer models, the only correct engine speed is a noisy 3600 RPM. You get potentially questionable power—and enough noise to drown out a shouting match (about 70 to 85 dBA at a distance of 21 feet).

Many “gens” use mechanical “governors” to keep the shaft turning at about the right speed. If the shaft slows down (because of increasing generator demand), the governor “hits the gas” to bring the shaft speed up to par (and vice versa). Sophisticated units also have electronic regulators to help keep things steady near 120 V/60 Hz.

For power saws and light bulbs, the fluctuations in voltage and frequency that occur when generator loads change and the governors engage isn’t a problem. But it can be catastrophic for sensitive equipment.


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For Newcomers To Utility Monitoring, A Warm Welcome

by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ



As I sit down to write this column for the June issue of Pop’Comm, I am somewhat surprised at how much I wish it were June. Right now, it’s only mid-March (there being a three-month lead time on production of the magazine). March is nearly spring for much of the United States, but not here in the Buffalo, New York area, where spring may officially begin in March, but snow often continues to fall well into May. In fact, I have personally stood on the ramp at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport on the day before Memorial Day and watched aircraft being deiced prior to departure.

Earlier today, the last of the snow from the most recent snowstorm here finally finished melting off the roof of my truck. I can actually see the antennas again. Unfortunately, I can also see the next snowstorm approaching on Doppler radar. Yes, right now, I wish it were June. But, alas, as Jean-Luc Picard once observed, wishing for a thing does not make it so.

However, by the time this column reaches you my wish will have finally come true. It will indeed be June at long last (or very nearly), and not a minute too soon, for in Buffalo, June means that I probably won’t have any more snow on the roof of my truck (not for a few more months, anyway). June means that in another month it will be July, and I won’t have to put a parka on to go outdoors at night. June means sunshine and birds, antenna work, flea markets, and hamfests, and…well, it means summer is right around the corner.

But back to spring and hamfests. Spring, of course, also means the Dayton Hamvention, the “mother of all hamfests,” with an approximate attendance of 20,000 radiophiles—and the June Pop’Comm will be hot off the presses there. Thinking about this, it occurred to me that for many in attendance there, this issue of Pop’Comm may well be their first exposure to the magazine—and, by extension, to this column. If you’re one of the newcomers, whether you discovered it at Dayton, on the newsstands, or elsewhere, here’s hoping this first issue won’t be your last.

So, for the new folks, here’s a little introduction to the “Utility Communications Digest.” It deals with a facet of the radio hobby known as utility communications, one of the many interesting things in radio that happens outside the ham bands. Utility encompasses a variety of communications for government, military, and commercial purposes. The focus of this column is on the HF bands; basically, if it’s on HF, is not a broadcaster or a ham, and is not a personal communications service, such as CB, it’s utility.

This takes in quite a bit of territory. On one frequency, you may hear a commercial aircraft on a regularly scheduled overseas flight checking in with a ground station. On the next frequency, you may hear an oil company checking in with a drilling platform somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Twist the dial again, and you may hear an aircraft under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff relaying direct orders from National Command Authority to a nuclear submarine deployed in some remote part of the world. Of course, utility stations not only use voice communications, but also employ various digital modes. RTTY, SITOR, CW, and even “sound card” modes, such as the PSK-31 mode popular with hams, can all be heard in use by UTE (as we in the business often refer to them) stations as well.

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Radio History You Can Hold In Your Hand (If You’re Lucky), Or “We’re Smarter Than They Are…”

by Bill Price, N3AVY (and Son)


I’m fortunate enough to have a CD-ROM of about 50 hours of “The Shep”—that is Jean Shepherd—from old air-checks from WOR-AM and FM in New York City. I’m not sure of all of the dates, but I think some date back to almost 1960. That year, for whatever significance it might hold, is the first year that I heard the New Year ushered in by listening to the WWV time-tick instead of some inaccurate clock and silly ball on television.

“The Shep,” for those of you who do not yet know of him, is no longer with us, but if you think you’ve never heard of him or his works, you have only to remember that great yuletide movie, A Christmas story, in which Ralphie is cautioned that he’ll shoot his eye out with that BB gun he so desperately wants. That movie is based on several short stories written by Jean Shepherd and read on his radio show for many Christmas Eve editions. You can even see Shep in his brief cameo appearance, dressed in a black hat and overcoat in the line to see Santa in the department store scene, where he tells Ralphie that the end of the line is “back there, kid.”

I’ve noticed that old time radio—as I enjoy it on the now nationwide “Big Broadcast” on WAMU-FM on Sunday evenings, brings back early radio shows typically from the 40s and 50s—some of which I remember hearing for the first time while riding in my father’s car. The difference with Shep’s work—besides the obvious difference in the work itself—is that much of it took place in the 60s and perhaps on into the 70s (I’ll have to check my references) when the “Golden Age of Radio,” had long since given way to Top 40 and other music-based formats.

There are plenty of websites where a person can find recordings of Shep’s works, and my point isn’t to promote them, even though I think they’re great. He also wrote a few books, which you can probably find in used book stores, as I have. A good one to look for is In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash.

But Shep didn’t just bring an interesting and entertaining format to radio. He turned a good part of the public completely upside down with an idea, which came to him one night.

During his first “shift” with WOR, as he spoke with his midnight-to-five-a.m. audience, he discussed some lists—lists such as the Top Ten best dressed, the best movies and TV shows (according to some expert), and some other equally important (or unimportant) lists, and it was then that he also realized that there were two distinct groups of people in the world. There were those who listened to him from midnight to 5:00 a.m., and those who slept during those hours and lived normal lives. He began to refer to the two groups as “us” and “them.”

He also thought—correctly, it turned out—that his group could play an amazing trick on the others. So began the tale of the great novel, I, Libertine.

On pretty much the spur of the moment, Shep made up the title, an author, and a publisher, and told his late-night listeners to stop in to as many bookstores as they could the following day and ask for the book—and keep the fictitious nature of the project a secret—which they did.

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