TUNING IN (PDF)

 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


INFOCENTRAL

News, Trends, And Short Takes

by D. Prabakaran

 

Worldwide Audience For U.S. International Broadcasting Tops 175 Million

U.S. international broadcasting now reaches over 175 million people weekly, up from 155 million in 2007 and a 75-percent increase since 2001. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman James Glassman announced the new global audience estimate in a May 15 speech delivered at the Heritage Foundation. BBG broadcasters include the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí).

In his speech, Glassman referred to recent events in Burma and Tibet, pointing out that VOA and RFA warned the Burmese people of the potential severity of cyclone Nargis days before official Burmese media, and both broadcasters provided breaking news coverage of pro-democracy protests in Tibet in March and the subsequent Chinese crackdown.
The BBG global audience estimate is based on independent surveys conducted worldwide in accordance with industry-standard research methods. Audience gains in Indonesia, Nigeria, and Syria, in particular, helped drive the increase.

Canadian AM Transmitter Goes Silent

CKPT-AM 1420 kHz in Peterborough, Ontario, is the latest Canadian AM station to sign off for good. The station became 99.3 Energy FM last August, and has been simulcasting on AM since then. Last year Peterborough’s remaining AM station, 980 CKRU, applied to also move to FM. Nearly a dozen other applicants are seeking Peterborough’s available FM frequency. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is expected to choose an applicant soon.

Two U.S. Lawmakers Urge Conditions On XM-Sirius Deal

The Federal Communications Commission should impose conditions on Sirius Satellite Radio’s proposed $3.95 billion acquisition of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings to protect consumers, two senior Democratic lawmakers said in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Representatives John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Edward Markey, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, urged the FCC to take steps to protect consumers in connection with any decision to approve the merger. Dingell and Markey called on the FCC to ensure the satellite radio companies adhere to pricing constraints they have already submitted to the agency. “Second, the commission should require the merged company to permit any device manufacturer to develop equipment that can deliver the company’s satellite radio service,” they said in their letter.

Under U.S. law, the FCC determines whether a communications deal is in the overall public interest. Sirius Chief Executive Mel Karmazin has promised that the combined company would let customers buy channels individually as well as let them block adult channels and get refunds for those blocked channels. Sirius has also said all existing XM and Sirius satellite radios would continue to work after the merger.

The XM-Sirius deal has been cleared by antitrust officials at the U.S. Justice Department but still needs the approval of the FCC.

 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


Making Radio—Pirate Style

The Rigs Behind Radio’s Renegade Voices

by Andrew Yoder

 

Tuning in to 6925 kHz USB, you hear the circus-like tinkling of calliope music and children laughing. Before long, a very deep-voiced, almost Wolfman Jack-sounding announcer says that Radio Ice Cream is “bringing you the hottest in heavy metal” and that they’re transmitting from a renegade ice cream truck. The signal is strong and clear, so much so that you look out the window, just to be sure that no white truck with suspicious antennas is delivering goodies to the neighborhood kids.

Aside from this real-life example, when was the last time you thought about where or how a signal was reaching your receiver? Various commercial interests have long pushed for the concept of audio streamed or stored on the Internet as being “radio.” It’s to the point now that the managers of government shortwave stations around the world seem to be confused between the definition of Internet and radio.

With pirate radio, there’s no confusion. If you can hear it on 6925 kHz, you can bet that there’s more to the operation than just uploading a file to an ftp site.

From the most basic to highly complicated arrangements, pirate radio stations exist in all forms, based on the desires of the operators. The only absolutely necessary parts of a station are an audio source, a transmitter, and an antenna.
A number of pirates have been on in past years with only an antenna, amateur radio transceiver, and a microphone (used for both announcements and held to the speaker of a stereo for music). Of course, this “kids playing radio” arrangement is not optimum, and most of the stations using this system eventually graduate to more equipment.

The audio system, transmitter, and antenna comprise a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link, to borrow from a stale (but accurate) metaphor. We’ll examine the other components in upcoming articles, but the transmitter is the keystone, so we’ll start there.

Pirate radio transmitters vary from homebrew designs of all types to amateur radio equipment (with or without modifications), and military surplus.

Mobility (Or Lack Thereof)

From a purely operational perspective, the ideal shortwave broadcast transmitter is one that sounds great in the AM mode and is built so well that it can operate for hours and hours at a time without any problem of overheating. The ideal rig would be either a commercial shortwave broadcast transmitter or a commercial AM transmitter that’s been modified for operation in the shortwave bands.

Of course, pirate radio violates a few rules of the FCC, so it might not be wise to illegally operate a transmitter that fits into a 6-foot rack and weighs no less than 750 pounds. It’s nothing you could take on a backpacking trip to the mountains.

Most pirates are always trying to balance the fine line between having the most portable transmitter possible and putting out a good signal. The stronger the signal, the better. Those stations using a fixed transmitter usually have something else up their sleeves, such as only broadcasting through massive snowstorms, etc.

 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


There Be Pirates Out There…

Plying The Radio Waves They Elude Authorities,
But You Can Catch Them

by Mitch Gill, NA7US

 

Times may have changed since early radio pirates first took to the waves to evade authorities, but the intrigue surrounding broadcasting’s renegades remains. The term “pirate radio” was coined by Danish newspapers after the appearance of Radio Merkur, a station transmitting from a ship in international waters off the mainland in 1958. It was shut down in 1962 when the Danish parliament passed a bill effectively prohibiting all participation in activities supporting transmissions, recordings, etc. into their country. But the name pirate radio stuck and today refers to unlicensed stations broadcasting in violation of the laws of the country they’re located in. However, if you ask a pirate he or she will tell you that it’s a “Free Radio Station.”

From The Pirate Evolution…
To The Rodent Revolution

As far back as 1940, there were radio stations transmitting outside established guidelines. One of the more famous was run by guitar pioneer Les Paul. Many musicians of the great band era, including Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, came to his basement broadcast studio to—illegally—play for the neighbors who lived in his apartment building.

Today pirates are still typically individuals operating a low-power station, playing music and providing news and satirical commentary. The station itself can be as bare-bone as a transmitter, microphone, and antenna in a suitcase, or it can be located in elaborate studios, sometimes in multiple locations, or in a vehicle or ship offshore (see “Making Radio—Pirate Style,” by Andrew Yoder, elsewhere in this issue for a look at some pirate transmitters). Some operate at sufficient power to be heard on other continents.

All pirates are unique and follow their own format and schedules. Some broadcast so they can play entire albums; few are political in nature except for their disdain of the FCC, their belief in their right to “free speech,” and that the public airwaves belong to everyone, not just large corporations. Some seem to be just having fun defying the FCC, and some are downright odd. While a number of pirates have moved to the Internet, avoiding the issue of radio broadcast regulations altogether, many can still be heard on the AM, FM, and shortwave bands.

One of the better-known shortwave pirate stations today is WBNY run by “Commander Bunny.” He claims to be the leader of The Rodent Revolution and his programming consists of music, skits, and the promotion of rodents as superior to monkeys (his euphemistic term for humans). In addition to fomenting revolution, Commander Bunny is supposedly engaged in running for President. WBNY also broadcasts using frequency modulation (FM), single-sideband (SSB) and slow-scan television (SSTV) modes on shortwave. Check out 6925 kHz, one of WBNY’s many broadcast frequencies. You can also refer to the constantly updated pirate loggings on www.FRN.net for times and frequencies to help you listen to Commander Bunny and other pirates.

Many low-power FM (LPFM) pirates, like Radio Free Olympia in Washington, see themselves as providing uncensored music and information to the local community. This microradio station has operated since 2001, transmitting only 100 watts, and provides music and information to the local community at 98.5 MHz. It’s pretty typical of local pirates, and there’s a good chance you might have a similar LPFM pirate in your community.

 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


SHANNON’S BROADCAST CLASSICS

Sabbath Day Pirates And Their Fast-Sinking Stations

by Shannon Huniwell

 

 

Anyone under 40 might find it impossible to imagine a six-day American business week. As a U.S. citizen just shy of quadruple decade status, I even consider it difficult to fathom a 24-hour shopping moratorium. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to claim ever having seen an empty mall parking lot were it not for several Christmas Day jaunts to grandma’s house in the vicinity of stores that were closed on this single remaining holiday from our seemingly eternal 24/7 commerce cycle. When, from the backseat of the Ford Country Squire station wagon, my brother and I would declare how “weird” all the dark stores looked, the folks quickly retorted that, “in the good old days, it used to be nice and restful like that every Sunday.”

What could our nation’s former tradition of quiet Sundays possibly have to do with radio history? Maybe not much that I can prove, except for the fact that—in those olden days of, say, pre-1975—lots of broadcast stations observed shorter schedules and sometimes complete silence on Sundays and big holidays, too. FCC broadcast operation rules still allow a Sunday respite, though few AM or FM outlets embrace such a break.

For contemporary music fans during the pre-1980s period, the traditional day of reflection and rest might not have resulted in their local Top 40 station’s transmitter being cold, but it often meant that it wasn’t rockin’ round the clock. Instead, public affairs and religious programming often occupied the Christian Sabbath airwaves. Many station owners considered the transmission of popular music on Sunday mornings bad taste. And, more than a few in rural media markets continued the musical moratorium through at least noon.

Arguably, not all motivation for the be-bop blackout was spiritually based. Broadcasters had a long tradition of reserving portions of the weekend schedule for specialty programs ranging from live church services to ethnic-themed shows, most of which paid cash on the barrelhead for the weekly airtime. Consequently, anyone who craved hearing the latest Beatles or Beach Boys record had to wait until dinnertime or, in the most conservative areas, maybe put the desire on hold until evening skywave beckoned the hits from some distant flamethrower spreading the pop music gospel via 50,000 watts of amplitude modulation.

In the absence of these signals, however, there were bound to be a few electronically creative, frustrated hit music lovers who would marry this programming void with their love of concocting audio moonshine—this from the “still” of an illicit transmitter and “secret remedy” antenna.

The Short Sunday Story Of WIRS

Allow me to preface this tale with the disclaimer that it came from my radio nut father and originally seemed far too coincidental to be true. He’d noticed a draft of my article’s first couple of paragraphs and quickly launched into an account of some “incredibly rare southern pirate station that operated out of a washroom on Sundays.” The only other thing dad recalled of the supposedly serendipitous saga is that the operator of this illegal outfit had written a letter to the editor of an electronics magazine asking “if the transmitter might short-out his house wiring, or something like that.”


To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


WASHINGTON BEAT

Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

 

Special Counsel Of FCC’s Spectrum Enforcement Division Steps Down

Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, Special Counsel in the FCC Spectrum Enforcement Division, announced plans to retire from the FCC “assuming the results of the second round of the PAVE PAWS/440 repeater monitoring in California present no complications.”

“It has been a privilege to work with and for the amateur radio licensees and the land mobile frequency coordinators,” he told the American Radio Relay League in May. “I am extremely fortunate to work for two wonderful groups of people: Those at headquarters in the Enforcement Bureau, and for the amateur radio operators.”

Hollingsworth had announced a retirement date earlier this year, but subsequently rescinded his decision, stating at the time, “There are several issues on the table that I want to continue to work through with the amateur community.” He has targeted July for his departure. At the time of his announcement, a successor had not been named.
“Hollingsworth said he considered it an honor to have given something back to ‘the incredible enjoyment and benefits that amateur radio has given me since age 13. And to every one of the thousands of you that thanked us for our work, many of whom waited for long periods after a forum or radio meeting just to come up and express appreciation for what the FCC was doing in enforcement, you have no idea how much that was appreciated every single time. It sure wasn’t a 9 to 5 job, but it was a gift and a daily joy to work for the best group of people on earth,’” Hollingsworth told the ARRL.

Hollingsworth told the League he was “so very impressed” with the young people who are involved with amateur radio. “To the very young amateur radio operators I met at Dayton, who have dreams of being scientists and astronauts and communications engineers, we will be pulling for you,” he said. “I have a strong feeling we won’t be disappointed.”

“The Amateur Radio Service is part of the American heritage, and I am going to stay as actively involved in it as I possibly can,” Hollingsworth said. “Thank you all for working tirelessly to provide the only fail safe communications system on Earth and for helping this country keep its lead in science and technology. What an incredible gift it has been to work with you every day, and how fortunate we are to love the magic of radio.”

Petitions Related To Digital Communications Denied By FCC

The FCC has denied two Petitions for Rule Making (PRM) related to digital communications.

Mark Miller, N5RFX, was seeking to delete the FCC’s 2006 addition to how it defines data, amend the rules to prohibit automatically controlled stations from transmitting on frequency segments other than those specified in Section 97.221(b), and replace the symbol rate limits in Section 97.307(f) with bandwidth limitations, according to the ARRL. Miller is from Arlington, Texas.

Indicating he “did not set forth sufficient reasons for the Commission” to approve his petition, the FCC denied all three parts of Miller’s PRM, the ARRL Letter reported. “Should future experience substantiate Miller’s concerns, he may file a new, factually supported petition for rulemaking,” the Commission said.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


The US Coast Guard

Pop’Comm Takes The First Of A Multi-Part Look At Who
Is In The Military Branches That Serve Our Citizens

By R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL

 

 The Coast Guard, with 41,200 officers and enlisted, is only slightly larger than our biggest police department (New York City with about 38,000 sworn officers). Often a forgotten child among our military, “Coasties” are indeed counted among our fighting forces, as detailed in Title 14 of the United States Code: “The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times.” In February 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Because the Coast Guard is so small, yet have responsibilities as widely diverse as any other armed service it handles its staffing requirements in a unique way. The Coast Guard tends to have job descriptions that are broader than those of the other armed services. This requires the average Coast Guardsman to tackle a job with a wider range of responsibilities than his or her counterpart in another service.

Take for example an Avionics Electrical Technician. The Coast Guard flies the HC 130H Hercules, the HU 25A Falcon, the HU60J Jayhawk, and the HH 65A Dolphin. A Coast Guard AET might be working on any or all of these aircraft types depending on the mission of their station of assignments. The only distinction for an AET is made between rotary and fixed wing aircraft. A Coast Guard AET might be working on any or all of the aircraft types depending only on the mission of his or her station of assignment. Most of the other services keep their avionics techs with one type of aircraft.

Holding a “Highly Paid Job in Electronics” (just ask our own Bill Price of “Loose Connection” infamy how important that can be) with the Coasties puts you into one of only five of their 20 job categories or ratings. AETs inspect, service, maintain, troubleshoot and repair all the electrical systems on aircraft. They also cover things with the hydraulics, flight control, fire detection, and other systems aboard aircraft. Electronics Technicians (ETs) do the same type of work on sophisticated non-flying equipment that includes command and control systems, shipboard weapons systems, guidance and fire-control systems, navigation and search radar and computers to name a few. Information Systems Technicians (ITs) deal with computer systems, analog and digital voice systems, communications and computer systems on land and afloat.

Operations Specialist (OSs) finds its personnel in the tactical command and control rating. They work in Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement and Combat Informations Centers with the latest in computer, GPS, electronics charting, satellite and radio equipment. Intelligence Specialists (ISs) perform a wide range of duties associated with the collection, analysis, processing and dissemination of intelligence in support of operational missions.

Specific career fields are determined by the enlistee and a recruiter after a would-be Coastie has accumulated ASVAB (Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery) scores. He or she will usually go to Basic Training with a guarantee of what Technical or A School has been selected based on these. Those of us who remember the armed services of a few decades ago should know that not getting the A School of your choice is grounds for breech of contract charges against the military and can lead to discharge.

From The Inside

Pop’Comm recently talked to Joe Loveri, WS8X, at Command Center for Sector Lake Michigan where he is an Operations Specialist 1st Class. He said he was a casual operator who shoots DX and does some SWL from his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Joe joined the Coast Guard in 1999 and is an E6 in a sector that concentrates the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue mission. He has served as a telecommunications specialist and a ships radio operator from the Combat Information Center. Joe got the ham bug from his dad but waited until May of 2000 to get his ticket. He was clear, however, that having amateur radio experience prior to joining would have been very beneficial during his training.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


 HOMELAND SECURITY

Security Issues On The Ferry Systems—
You Can Make A Difference, Plus An Introduction

by Mitch Gill, NA7US

 

Let me start off by saying how excited I am to be working with Popular Communications as the new contributing editor for “Homeland Security,” but I also know I am filling some big shoes. Richard Arland and I have been friends since I deployed to Iraq in 2006. I hope that you’ll find this column as informative and interesting as it was under his tenure. There’s a lot we need to think about and act on, and as we go forward I will be giving you suggestions as to what to watch and listen for, suggest frequencies to monitor, and tips on how to report what you’ve heard.

My Background

A little background information is probably warranted. I joined the USAF in 1976. My first direct exposure to terrorism was the taking of the embassy hostages in Iran in 1979 and their subsequent release in 1981. I was in charge of all communications while serving at Rhein-Main Air Base, near Frankfurt, from the time of their incarceration to their release and return to Germany.

The threat of terrorism was as real then as it is today, but at that time terrorists were mostly ideological Marxists, such as the Baader-Meinhoff Gang. We had to be vigilant where we were stationed as bombs were planted in our cars or near where we walked and traveled. I vividly remember learning that an unexploded bomb was found not 20 feet from the route I walked to my apartment. It had been there for months. It brought home to me that terrorists do not care who gets killed or maimed, and that has stuck with me ever since.

I left the USAF in 1987 and worked as a civilian in telecommunications, but when the jets struck the towers in New York I began searching for a way back into the military and joined the Washington Army National Guard. My responsibilities are in communications and operations, working for the Joint Operations Center (JOC), which deals with any and all emergencies, whether natural or man-made.

I was deployed to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and served a tour in Iraq, meeting and working with the Iraqi people. I’m also a former trainer to first responders in Weapons of Mass Destruction for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a trainer in the Automated Exercise and Assessment (AEAS) program and a member of Army MARS. Homeland Security is very much a part of my daily life and I hope that it becomes a part of yours as well.

Where Do We Start?

If you really want to help in this vital area you need to be monitoring as much as possible and reporting what you hear. I will provide that information later in this column but, for now, just remember that you are a critical piece in our efforts to thwart terrorists. They have many targets, which we will discuss and explore. We begin this month with the U.S. ferry system.

Ferries Are A Target

The ferry systems all across the United States still remain on a high alert. If you scan the news you’ll find many, many stories of suspicious activities detected on and near the ferries. The DHS issued a bulletin warning that terrorists were scouting ferry systems for a possible attack back in 2003. The major concern was for large ferries like the Staten Island run, but the Department believed that smaller ferries were at risk as well. The bulletin is still in affect today.

 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


THE POP’COMM TRIVIA CORNER

Radio Fun And Going Back In Time

by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL

 

Q. Physician Luigi Galvani discovered that a frog’s leg would jump if an electric current was passed through it. That was about 1786 in Italy if I remember correctly. Did anyone ever do any follow up experimentation along those same lines?

A. Yes, you are right about Galvani’s experiments, and other certainly did follow in his footsteps. And it was the French. In the February 1913 issue of Popular Mechanics was a write up on “Le Détecteur Français Cuisse de Grenouille” or “The French Frog Leg Detector.” Professor of Physiology Charles Lefeuvre of Rennes University in Brittany brought Galvani’s classic experiment to its logical conclusion. With text and diagrams the Professor showed how he had connected the output of a wireless receiver to the sciatic nerve of a frog’s leg. One end of the leg was secured and the other was attached to a recording pen. The Morse code letter D was recorded on a paper when a time signal was received from a station on the Eiffel Tower, 230 miles away.

Engineers may suggest that the frog’s leg was merely a transducer and not one that would continue its activity very long. However, they must also admit that with enough amplification the wireless signal might keep working for some time at speeds of nearly five words per minute. But then the French have always been a little crazy about frog’s legs.

 

Q. When the Doolittle Raiders approached Japan aboard the aircraft carrier Hornet they ran into some Japanese fishing boats, which made them think their presence might be reported to the Japanese military. The fishing boats were sunk by gunfire from the Hornet’s escorts and Doolittle took off earlier than initially planned (April 18, 1942). The fishing boat crews were civilians, weren’t they? Was the attack really necessary?

A. Those weren’t fishing boats. They were manned by civilians, including women and children, but they had been placed on picket duty by the Japanese to watch for American carriers. The sampans were 650 miles out to sea watching for American shipping. The 50 radio-equipped picket boats were sent out that far because the Japanese knew that no carrier-based planes could attack Japan from that range. What the Japanese didn’t plan on was that Doolittle wasn’t flying conventional carrier-based bombers. And, yes, two of the Japanese picket boats got off complete radio messages that reported sighting the Hornet but didn’t identify the type of bombers lashed to her deck.


 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


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

Scott Air Force Base—
Home To Air Mobility Command’s Showcase Wing

by Mark Meece, N8ICW

 

In this issue’s “Military Radio Monitoring” we travel to the heartland of America for a look at Scott Air Force Base. Scott AFB is located in Illinois about 20 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri, near Belleville, Illinois. Five separate headquarters within the Air Force call Scott AFB home, in particular the United States Transportation Command and the Air Mobility Command (AMC) whose primary mission is to manage our nation’s domestic aeromedical evacuation system. The Air Mobility Command also commands and manages all operational support aircraft within the United States. The base also provides initial qualifications for the C-9 pilot training program. Additionally it’s home to the 375th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserves, the 932nd Airlift Wing, and the 126th Air Refueling Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard. (See “Scott Air Force Base Units/Squadrons.”)

The History Of Scott Air Force Base

It was in April of 1917 during World War I that the area of southwestern Illinois was chosen to be a training base and flying field for this midwestern region.

The base is named in honor of Corporal Frank S. Scott. Corporal Scott was the first enlisted man to be killed in an aviation crash, which occurred in 1912. It wasn’t until five years later on September 2, 1917, however, that the first aircraft took off from Scott Field; it was a Standard Trainer Biplane. The next year, two Jenny aircraft were modified at the base into two air ambulances to carry wounded servicemen. This was the humble beginning of aeromedical evacuation, which remains Scott’s primary mission.

Today, Scott AFB is adjacent to the St. Louis-MidAmerica Airport, which opened in 1998 and is considered one complex. Scott occupies 3,230 acres with two runways, 14L/32R and 14R/32L. The 126th Air Refueling Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard moved from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Scott in 1999. The wing’s squadron, which is the 108th Air Refueling Squadron, flies eleven KC-135Es. It is the primary scheduling unit to operate in Aerial Refueling track AR-318, which runs from western Illinois across northern Missouri to northeastern Kansas.

While the 126th Aerial Refueling Wing’s primary mission is aerial refueling, the 375th Airlift Wing is charged with four primary missions. First and foremost it provides aeromedical evacuation within the United States, while also providing operational airlift support for government officials and security needs for nations. Finally, they provide support for the other hosts units at Scott, creating command and control for the entire United States’ military transportation system. There’s certainly plenty of action to catch; see “Scanning Scott AFB/MidAmerica (KBLV).”
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


 SCANTECH

For Scanning, California Is The Place You Oughta Be

by Ken Reiss

 

This month, by request, we feature California in our ongoing look at state police agencies. California, like many states with large areas to cover, uses a highway patrol as its state agency. Of course, the California Highway Patrol is a bit more famous—infamous?—than most because of the CHiPs series some years back. But that’s television’s version.

California’s Highway Patrol was officially formed in 1929 about the time the automobile was getting popular enough to become a problem. The logo on the door of police cruisers that I’ve been able to find says 1948, and I haven’t been able to find out why as of yet. If anyone knows that story, I’d be interested in hearing it!

The Highway Patrol is one of about 300 law enforcement agencies in the state, so California could become its own monthly column here in Pop’Comm just to keep track of them! According to RadioReference.com (great site) there are about 50 trunked systems in operation in just Los Angeles County, not to mention the state.

CHP has about 6,800 officers making it one of the largest in the country. It fulfills the traditional highway patrol duties of patrolling interstates and state highways, as well as more state police functions, like capitol security. Since 9/11, CHP is also charged with security for sites that have been designated as likely terrorist targets, such as the bay bridge in San Francisco.

If you’re interested in the history of the radio operations of the CHP, I’d highly recommend the site at www.mbay.net/~ wb6nvh/Motadata.htm. It’s divided into three sections and details the early radio equipment used by the patrol (and probably most other agencies) from 1938 to 1946. There’s a post-World War II page that details the shift from AM to FM and VHF, and then a modern era page starting with about 1963. Unfortunately, that page has way too many radios on it that I recognize.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


GLOBAL INFORMATION GUIDE

News From Equatorial Guinea, WRNO,
And Points South (Round Two…)

by Gerry L. Dexter

 

The Editor’s Investigative Commission on Missing Content has handed down its judgment in the matter of the disappearing August “GIG” column, declaring it a case of “Pilot Error.” Accused columnist Gerry Dexter readily admitted he was at fault, explaining that his weakened one-handed keyboarding ability, thanks to a broken wrist, had caused a wrong key combination to be struck which deleted all column text as well as log sections A and B. The EICMC issued no penalties other than the several hours required to rebuild the missing column while forced to listen to two hours of Brother Stair—wearing headphones (me, not B.S.).

Well, I guess it could have been worse. I confess that I don’t know what went wrong; when I called the column up to continue work on it, it wasn’t there! So now I have to try and recall what it was that I was going on about.

I remember that Equatorial Guinea demanded pride of place since Radio Africa/Radio East Africa from Bata has reappeared on 15190, still being brokered by Pan American Broadcasting and still carrying one gullible preacher after another, believing the PAB sales pitch that buying time on its facility means reaching millions of real live listeners. I don’t have the schedule but it appears to be operating from around 1900 until 2300. Radio East Africa is essentially the same thing, renamed for the weekends. But the EQ news doesn’t stop there: Radio Nacional-Bata has also resumed its transmissions on 5005. It goes on the air at 0500 and, during shorter daylight, can sometimes be pulled in around 2200. Programming is in Spanish. (To which I can only add “Bata Bing!”)

What was left of WRNO got heavily messed with by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The station has been “on its way back” ever since and now is claiming to have reached the land of “any day now.” So, if you believe in leprechauns, trolls, or the tooth fairy, keep a check on 7505 and 15590 for tests. Those frequencies were vacated by the late KTBN-Salt Lake, which gave up on shortwave at the end of March.

That unidentified Costa Rica station continues to air tests on 5954 for about an hour each day, beginning at around 2230, or sometimes an hour or more earlier. No new clues on this mystery have turned up yet.

Throughout all the turmoil shortwave has experienced over the past few years, the Brazilians have remained fairly stable. Now there’s word that old-timer Radio Clube Paranaense in Curitiba has ended its shortwave broadcasts. They were/are using 6045, 9725, and 11925. I say “are” because there have been one or two reports of them after the word about a closedown became known.

Reader Logs

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

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.

ALASKA—KNLS, Anchor Point, 9780 in GG at 0310. (MacKenzie, CA) 11765 in Mandarin at 0810. (Patterson, Philippines)
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


BROADCAST TECHNOLOGY

Antenna Tips For Great AM DX

by Bruce A. Conti

 

August is antenna month at “Broadcast Technology.” In past issues, we’ve discussed various outdoor broadband loop and random wire antennas for long-distance AM broadcast reception applications. Over the past year the focus has been on terminated broadband loop antennas, such as the Delta, Flag, Pennant, and SuperLoop designs (August 2007 and January 2008).

These antennas provide a wide cardioid beam for unidirectional reception with the advantages of a ground-independent or “floating” loop design, specifically low-noise characteristics and a relatively compact size versus the long wavelength of AM broadcast frequencies. The antennas also have another thing in common: They all require an RF matching transformer with ground isolation to match the high impedance of the antenna to the typical low-impedance coaxial lead-in and input of a communications receiver. This has resulted in a number of inquiries about the how, what, where, and why of RF matching transformers—how to build them, what they are, where to buy them, and why they’re necessary.

Antenna Matching 101

Anyone who’s worked with amateur and CB radio antennas knows about the importance of antenna impedance matching. Impedance is a natural electrical property of all antennas in relation to frequency, essentially the combination of capacitance and inductance that determines the resonant frequency of the antenna or the frequency at which the antenna matches the wavelength or some harmonic of a desired frequency. When working a specific frequency, the lead-in and antenna can be cut to resonate with the wavelength of the specific frequency for a perfect match.

This, however, is impractical for AM broadcast reception over a wide range where operation from 150 kHz to 30 MHz covering long, medium, and shortwave frequencies is desired. An antenna tuner connected at the receiver can be used to force an antenna and lead-in to resonate, but then the antenna lead-in becomes part of the receiving antenna, which can result in noise pickup and compromise the beam of the antenna. To prevent noise pickup and maximize efficiency of the system (receiver, lead-in, and antenna), the antenna needs to be impedance-matched where it connects to the lead-in, thus making the lead-in invisible to the system. While there is no perfect broadband solution, an RF matching transformer at the antenna is the best overall approach for low-noise, low-loss performance. The RF matching transformer isolates the antenna from the rest of the system so the lead-in becomes part of the receiver instead of the antenna. This is the basis for any noise-reduced outdoor wire antenna design.

Balun Or Unun?

What’s the difference between a balun, unun, and RF matching transformer? There are basically two types of antennas: balanced and unbalanced. A loop antenna is an example of a balanced antenna. With no hardwired connection to earth ground, a loop “floats” and therefore can be installed just about anywhere. A random wire, vertical whip, or Beverage are examples of unbalanced antennas that require some kind of earth ground reference, whether it’s a ground plane, ground termination, ground rod, and/or radials to maintain “balance,” for lack of a better term.

The typical communications receiver antenna input is unbalanced, usually a two-conductor 50-ohm low-impedance coaxial connection with a center “live” connection and a ground shield connection. Both the balun and unun are RF matching transformers. A balun matches a balanced antenna to an unbalanced receiver input, while an unun matches an unbalanced antenna to an unbalanced receiver input. Often there’s no difference in the design of a balun or unun matching transformer, as the terminology refers to how the transformer is applied.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


THE PROPAGATION CORNER

The Summer Anomaly

by Tomas Hood

 

Are the daytime Maximum Usable Frequencies (MUFs) on signal paths spanning daylight regions higher during the summer than during the winter? With more hours of daylight, wouldn’t the increased exposure to solar radiation cause greater ionization? The surprising answer is that, no, that is not generally the case. A look at many signal paths reveals that there are higher peaks during the winter daytime than during the summer daytime. However, during the summer night, those same paths may have higher MUFs than during the winter nights. This is known as “the summer anomaly.”

It was believed that this anomaly was in part caused by temperature differences. This model held that during the Northern Hemisphere winter months the atmosphere is cold and therefore denser, and that because the Earth is closer to the sun more intense daytime ionization occurs; thus, winter daytime critical frequencies are high. During the long hours of winter darkness, on the other hand, the ionosphere has more time to recombine, and nighttime critical frequencies fall to very low levels. Conversely, in the summer the F2 layer heats up, causing it to expand during the daylight hours. This results in a lower ionization density than is observed during the winter. This, it was believed, creates summer daytime F2-layer critical frequencies that are lower than winter values. Moreover, because of the longer hours of daylight during the summer, recombination does not occur to the extent that it does in winter. This would mean that nighttime F2-layer critical frequencies during the summer months are significantly higher than they are during the winter months.

As scientists continue to explore, our understanding of how the ionosphere works becomes ever more accurate and clear. Research has revealed that the reason summer MUFs are lower during the day is due only in part to temperature differences. The rest of the story lies in ion chemistry, not a thinning of the ionosphere. (An interesting side-note: You can now take a virtual tour of the ionosphere by using free software available from NASA and Google.com. See Figure 1.)

In the lower part of our atmosphere, below 100 km, atoms and molecules are well mixed by wind and temperature. Above 100 km, atoms and molecules are distributed vertically by gravity according to their atomic weights. The heaviest atoms (argon) settle toward the bottom of the ionospheric layers, while the lightest atoms (hydrogen) extend to the greatest heights. The exact composition depends on temperature. In the winter, when atoms and molecules are colder, they move lower, in part causing the ionosphere to contain a greater density of oxygen atoms. During the summer, they move to greater heights as they warm up, and the ionosphere becomes dominated by a more even mixture of nitrogen and oxygen molecules. In this upper atmosphere, ionization is more affected by the geomagnetic field than by atmospheric turbulence.

Ionization is the creation of ions by atoms losing their electrons. This is caused by the energy of photons from sunlight breaking the electron away from the atom. In the absence of sunlight, these free electrons recombine with whatever nearby molecule or atom happens to be available.

Electrons do not always recombine with the relatively small number of positive ions available, and they may also become attached to some of the far more numerous neutral molecules, forming negative ions. This is a great thing for those who DX the lower part of the HF spectrum, as these electrons are not disassociated from the negative ions very quickly during the morning sunlight. Since these negative ions are more massive than electrons and positive ions, they do not absorb radio energy. This makes a morning window for low-band DXing.

During the summer, then, the ratio of atoms to molecules is less than the ratio during the winter. The make-up of the ionosphere during the winter favors the production of electrons from oxygen atoms over the losses of electrons by recombination in molecular interactions. Since the summer ionosphere has a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen molecules, more recombination takes place, and the ionosphere loses some of its ionization. If one looks at a given summertime signal path and compares it with the same path during the winter, it’s clear that the MUF will generally peak higher in the winter. However, the nighttime critical frequencies will generally be higher than in summer nighttime.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


RADIO RESOURCES

Reno Earthquakes And More Hot-Topics
For EMCOMMWEST Convention

by Gordon West

 

Emergency communicators were seen sporting hard hats at the recent Reno, Nevada, Emergency Communications conference. Even ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager, Dennis Dura, K2DCD, featured speaker, was prepared to take cover. The week prior to the conference, the Reno area had been rocked by over 300 seismic jolts, making earthquake disaster communications readiness a hot topic for this conference.

“Over the past decade, EMCOMMWEST has become the premier regional emergency communications conference, starting in northern California, and moving to Nevada in 2003,” said Dick Flanagan, K7VC, conference president.

“EMCOMMWEST was the place where emergency communicators came to hone their skills, learn from each other, and prepare to serve their nation, state, and local community. This conference is the heartbeat of amateur radio,” said Don Carlson, KQ6FM, Nevada section EC/RACES officer, and ARRL PIO.

“We drew close to 400 premier emergency communicators, many in full uniform, with some bringing along their outstanding, specially equipped vehicles for the outside display,” said this event’s manager, Kevin Marriott, KE7BQX.

Friday night was the Welcome-to-Reno barbecue, hosted by Reno’s local Salvation Army communications team. The Salvation Army ham group (SATERN) was in full uniform and did an outstanding job of feeding the troops! Scanner enthusiasts, shortwave listeners, and licensed hams were joined by area public safety officials for great burgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings, plus Don Carlson’s famous fire-mouth chili that ARRL Pacific Division director, Bob Vallio, W6RGG, couldn’t get enough of! The chili is an annual Don Carlson event!

On Saturday morning, ARRL’s Dura drew a round of applause when he stated, “…emergency communications cannot stand alone. As an organization, we must have disaster plans in place, and know what we must do to continue operations when these plans are impacted. As licensed ham radio emergency communicators, we stay on the air no matter what!”

An Awful Lot To Learn And Enjoy

There were over 20 one-hour “break-out sessions,” with each individual room packed with enthusiastic emergency communicators. Many topics were addressed, including:

Public Relations During Disasters
EMCOMM 101
Agencies Served
Education and Recruiting
Go-Kits
CERT and Ham Radio Relationships
MARS
“You just wouldn’t understand—unless you have done it” (the story of the Oregon Weather Disaster Dec 2007)
Mini Weather Spotter
Disaster Intelligence
Net Control
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


THE WIRELESS CONNECTION

IF Stage Alignment For Beginners

by Peter J. Bertini

 

Lafayette Radio’s 1960s era HE-10 communications receiver again segues into this month’s discussion of IF stage alignment techniques for tube receivers. When electron tubes reigned supreme radio equipment was service friendly. Most radio amateurs and electronic hobbyists were more hands on and inclined to tear into their equipment when they had to deal with the day-to-day maintenance and alignment issues. The operating manuals commonly included complete schematics and detailed alignment procedures; this is something you’d expect to pay extra for these days.

Whenever I bring home a new radio orphan, I always invest in a copy of the manual if the original is missing. Since the HE-10 lacked the manual, I ordered one from my favorite vintage manual supplier: Peter Markavage, WA2CWA, otherwise known to his customers as the “Manualman”.1 I opted for the manual for the KT-200 on the chance that the information might be a bit more detailed than what accompanied the factory-assembled HE-10. If any of my readers can help out, I’m seeking an HE-10, HE-30, KT-200, or a KT-220 parts set that has good original knobs. If you can, I’d like to hear from you. I may do an HE-10 column detailing the mechanical restoration details, and those parts are needed.

The accompanying Figure is a partial scan of the schematic for the HE-10/KT-200 receiver. This will allow you to follow along as I mention various test points in the circuit. Let’s begin by doing the IF alignment per the directions provided by Lafayette on page 23 of the KT-200 manual. Later I’ll show more advanced techniques to better deal with the more troublesome alignment problems, especially for sets with multiple IF stages that have been severely misaligned!

Safety First!

While the Lafayette HE-10 is transformer powered, please, always use an isolation transformer when doing service work on any radio! This is especially critical for AC line-operated sets with hot chassis designs! Always take the safest and most prudent course whenever electricity is involved, especially when working around potentially deadly voltages.

Lafayette’s IF Alignment Method

I’m going to embellish on the Lafayette factory directions, as their instructions were rather terse for a beginner.

1. Start by removing V3, the 6BE6 local oscillator (LO) tube. This reduces the likelihood of tuning the IF stages to an internally generated spurious response that falls on the IF frequency. Note that the HE-10 uses a second 6BE6 as the mixer—in many designs a single 6BE6 will do double duty, both as mixer and LO. In those instances, I suggest disabling the LO by connecting a jumper across the LO coil.

2. Next, switch the BFO-MVC-AVC control to the MVC (Manual Volume Control) position. This disables the set’s automatic gain (AVC). Lafayette’s suggested IF alignment procedure measures the receiver audio voltage level (recovered from the signal generator’s internal tone modulator, measured at the speaker terminals) to perform the IF stage alignment. Disabling the AGC causes a greater variation for a small change in signal strength. As the IF stages are tuned to resonance the amount of recovered audio increases, as measured on a sensitive AC meter across the speaker terminals. This requires constant adjustment of the signal generator output level as each stage is peaked for maximum response to avoid over driving the IF stages.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


UTILITY COMMUNICATIONS DIGEST

A Visit To RAWNY Aboard USS Little Rock

by John Kasupski

 

This month, “Utility Communications Digest” goes on the road, paying a visit to the Radio Association of Western New York (RAWNY) aboard the USS Little Rock at the Buffalo Naval and Servicemen’s Park in Buffalo, New York. The club’s annual open house aboard this vessel corresponded with research I’m doing for a future feature article on ham stations aboard museum ships, but the visit produced more than enough material on this particular station than I will need for the article, so I’ve decided to share some of the “overflow” with our readers this month.

The Little Rock, CG-4, was originally launched on August 27, 1944, as a Cleveland-class light cruiser and later converted to a Galveston-class guided missile cruiser. It served as the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in 1962, 1969 to 1970, and from November 1970 to the spring of 1971. Among those who served aboard her were Ray Mabus (who subsequently server as Governor of Mississippi), George McCorkle (founding guitarist of the Marshall Tucker Band), Carl E. Mundy, Jr. (eventual Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and now on the board of directors of General Dynamics), Vic Voltaggio (a memorable Major League Baseball umpire), and James Elliott Williams, the most highly decorated enlisted man in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Shortly after arriving at the picturesque waterfront park in the midst of a light rain, we were greeted by RAWNY’s public relations chairperson, Lee, KC2RBL (see Photo A). Lee led us down a gangplank and onto the deck of the USS Croaker, an historic World War II submarine that was credited with sinking over 19,000 tons of Japanese shipping during the war. From there we walked with Lee across the deck of the Croaker and up another gangplank onto the Little Rock, following Lee through a hatchway and into the interior of the vessel and eventually arriving in what once was the atomic strike room aboard the ship. It’s here and in two nearby rooms that RAWNY has its club ham station, callsign W2PE, aboard the ship.

Upon stepping into the former strike room, you can tell that the old standard “I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons aboard any U.S. Navy vessel” is at odds with what the eye can see. Directly above the heavy steel door (protected by a combination lock and guarded by two U.S. Marines during active duty days) you see a circuit breaker box labeled “atomic strike” and numerous red panels (the color indicates that they provided access to classified systems) offering further evidence of what the room’s purpose once was: control of the nuclear capable Talos surface-to-air missiles once carried aboard the ship.

Delightfully, there are even more original artifacts aboard Little Rock, and some of them are still in working order. For example, in what used to be the flag plot message room, I noticed the callsign plate of Navy MARS station NNN0NLR (see Photo B). I have to apologize for the quality of the photo, which I had to take through a Plexiglas window since the room was padlocked; however, you can also see part of an original WRT-2 transmitter, which is in working condition.
There are additional usable WRT-2s elsewhere aboard the ship and entire equipment racks complete with antenna tuners in excellent condition, including back in the former strike room where I also found a working AN/UCG-6 RTTY setup. This setup was moved into RAWNY’s station area from the original radioteletype room located one deck down, directly below the strike room, and restored by a club member. Today, RAWNY uses it to make RTTY contacts on the ham bands during Field Day and other events, such as the annual “Museum Ships On The Air” weekend.
 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications 


 LOOSE CONNECTION

Come Fly With Me…

by Bill Price, N3AVY (and Son)

 

Cannot find server. There is no dial tone. The lawn is two feet tall and has gone to seed. The ferrets are fine, the cats are fine, one of the rats (pets, that is) had escaped and our good friends and ad hoc pet feeders were not adept at recapturing a rat that likes exploring what is laughingly called my “office.” Food and water had been left out for him. He was glad to see me when he reappeared.

It has been years since we have left the stately Price manse here in Cowfield County for two whole weeks. But our son was just married and we got to spend some wonderful time with friends who have become family. We have sworn to retire to the desert just as soon as we can vacate “Humid World.”

I have missed you readers during this away time, particularly because my “Gimme That Old Time Radio” column drew more reader response than any other in the dozen or so years I’ve been privileged to be here on this back page. (Also, I was away from all Internet connections save for one evening). Yes, I get the hint; there will be more to come. I’m going to nag some of the sources of recorded old-time radio to advertise in the pages of Pop’Comm so that all of you can take advantage of some of the wonderful enjoyment I’ve found. Enough about that for now.
As many of you know, although I have a lovely SSB rig complete with all the trimmings, courtesy of Norm, I have not been on the air since sometime before Eisenhower was a sergeant. I have also not owned a 2 meter rig since the demise of a wonderful antique radio given to me by W1JR, perhaps one of the smartest engineers I know and someone who would probably try to remain anonymous except that he can’t have an unlisted callsign.

So it was off to Utah with nothing more than a cell phone, which I’m sorry to say has replaced the need (not the want) for a 2 meter rig while traveling. No chatty QSOs, no meeting a few readers on some repeaters I’ve never signed onto before, but at least some communication.

Utah is apparently divided into two communication areas: “The Valley,” which runs down the center of the state and has cell service, and “The Rest of the State,” which has a cell site or two here and there if anyone happens to live nearby, or if I-80 passes through.

I should add that that’s not the fault of the people; our government owns most of what’s not populated, and it frowns on people just building a house or town on its land. I always thought we created the government to do our bidding, but I must have missed something along the way.

The difficult parts of the trip were going to, from, and through airports. I used to fly to and from the southwest quite frequently when selling television transmitters and translators through the ’80s and beyond. Flying was easy then, and I got a free duffle bag every time I rented a Town Car for $39.95 a day. That was then.

It was surprisingly easy* to take four handguns and ammunition onto my flights in each direction. Not so for my harmonicas, which were carry-on luggage. TSA was okay with my doing a bit of target shooting at my destination, but those evil-looking chromatic harmonicas caused quite a stir. And although my insulated camera bag held only one digital camera, it was stuffed with batteries, re-chargers, medicine, gaffer tape, memory chips, and enough densely packed electronics to cause a delay and require examination. The ice surrounding my insulin was an issue, so I just dumped it at the checkpoint and got fresh ice inside the secure area rather than measuring to see if it exceeded the 8-ounce limit and whether it might be considered a liquid or a gel, depending on how long I’d been waiting in line.
 

 

To read the entire article, subscribe to
Popular Communications