The Weirder Side Of Wireless
As part of a drive to get commercial premises
to pay for licenses, the PRS (Performing Rights Society, the UK’s version
of ASCAP) has recently been targeting stables with phone calls demanding
payment—just as it has been doing for years with shops, bars, and cafés,
which have to apply for a license to play the radio.
The UK’s Andrew Cheatle may own the most reliable cell phone in the world. He told The Sun newspaper, “I was messing about with my dog, and my phone must have fallen out and been swept out in the swell. I kept calling it, but I gave up hope after a couple of days.”
A week later he was out shopping for a new cell phone with his girlfriend when her cell phone rang. She told him, “Your old mobile number is calling my phone.” The chap on the other end, trawlerman Glen Kerley, said he was gutting a large codfish that morning for his fish stall and found Cheatle’s Nokia 1600 phone inside. Kerley tried using the phone, but it didn’t work. So he removed its SIM card, put it in his own handset, and started calling numbers from the SIM’s phonebook to find the owner.
“I didn’t believe him, but went to meet him and found it was my phone—a bit smelly and battered—but incredibly it still worked after I let it dry out,” Cheatle said.
Kerley, of Worthing, West Sussex, said, “Cod are greedy fish—they’ll eat anything. They have big heads and big mouths. “I’ve found plastic cups, stones, teaspoons, batteries, and I’ve also heard of someone finding false teeth in one. “This fish was about 25lbs and about 4ft long—not unusual but bigger than average.”
Cheatle, who runs an online retail company,
apparently still uses the fishy phone, because cats follow him everywhere.
News, Trends, And Short Takes
by D. Prabakaran
VOA Audience In Russia “Obliterated” By BBG
Free Media Online reports that according to an independent study commissioned by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the total annual audience reach in Russia for the Voice of America (VOA) Russian-language radio, TV, and Internet dropped from 10.3 percent in 2007 to 2.5 percent in 2008. It is believed to be the greatest audience loss in the history of international broadcasting in a one-year period for a major media outlet which maintains its market presence. In fact, Free Media Online estimates that the annual reach for VOA in Russia is now well below 1 percent.
According to FreeMediaOnline.org president Ted
Lipien, the BBG is to blame for causing a 98-percent loss of audience in
just one year. Lipien said that BBG’s actions have caused hundreds of
thousands of U.S. taxpayer dollars to be wasted at a time when audiences
in Russia are faced with increased media censorship and need access to
objective news and opinions from the U.S.
Russia’s General Radio Frequency Centre has decided to introduce DRM in Russia in the medium and shortwave bands. The Russian General Radio Frequency Centre, the organization that coordinates national spectrum management issues, made the decision in January 2009 following a series of tests on the future use of transmission networks with digital technology. The Russian text of the decision is available on the website of the Ministry of Communications and Information of the Russian Federation.
After extensive trials in 2007, All India
Radio (AIR) has also decided that DRM is the best technology for
converting its vast public service broadcasting network to digital. After
conducting trials over a one and a half year period, AIR started regular
DRM transmissions from a 250 kW shortwave transmitter installed near the
capital city New Delhi in January this year. AIR is also in the process of
converting four shortwave transmitters (250 kW) to DRM mode. There are
plans to introduce DRM transmissions in 42 new mediumwave, 36 existing
mediumwave, and five new shortwave transmitters, though the cost and
availability of good receivers remains a critical issue in their
implementation strategy for the next five years.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority is gradually eliminating mediumwave broadcasts, a cost-cutting measure that will seriously harm Israel Radio’s news in English and a dozen other foreign languages. A date for closing the AM service completely has not been announced, but insiders indicated that the move was imminent.
Until recently, anyone wishing to ascertain the frequencies used by the IBA for its radio news could find details of both AM and FM transmitters on its website. The AM listings have, however, disappeared without any explanation. Asked about the development, an IBA spokesperson confirmed that AM broadcasts were being cut. The spokesperson said the annual cost of maintaining an AM transmitter is NIS (New Israeli Shekel) 20 million, a sum the IBA, in its current financial situation, can no longer afford.
Informed sources voiced particular concern
about the future of REKA, the foreign-language network that serves
immigrants, the diplomatic community, and anyone else whose Hebrew is
insufficient to follow regular broadcasts. They said that FM reception for
REKA is poor or non-existent in many parts of the country due to the
location and limited power of IBA transmitters. This includes many areas
Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications
by Richard Fisher, KI6SNby Richard Fisher, KI6SN
Milwaukee FM Pirate Fined $10,000 By FCC
A $10,000 fine has been issued by the FCC to a Milwaukee man for allegedly operating a pirate radio station on 92.9 FM, according to FCC documents.
Agents began monitoring the broadcast in 2006 after receiving complaints. The signal was tracked to a single-family home, later determined to be occupied by Steven Skalecki, the FCC said. After getting no response from a knock on the door, a notice was left warning about the penalties for operating an unlicensed station and directed that the station stop broadcasting.
A search of property ownership records gave agents the information they needed to mail the notice of violation directly to Skalecki. Subsequent FM transmissions on 92.9 MHz were repeatedly tracked to the same address in 2007.
Skalecki told the Commission that he had no transmitting equipment, that he had a weather monitoring station, and that the illegal broadcasts were coming from a nearby residence “on which several antennas are located,” according to the FCC report.
After review, the Commission discounted
Skalecki’s account and arguments and issued a $10,000 notice of apparent
liability and subsequently issued an order of forfeiture.
A Florence, Alabama, television station that
attempted to satisfy FCC requirements by broadcasting a test pattern for
24 hours has had its license and construction permit cancelled and the
station’s callsign—WYLE—deleted. The action came on the heels of the
station’s shutdown for a yearlong period beginning in early 2007.
In an effort to prevent license revocation, WYLE owner ETC Communications informed the FCC that on February 3, 2008, it had put the station back on the air for 24 hours before going off the air again. When the FCC asked what WYLE had broadcast, ETC responded it had been a test pattern “for the entire 24 hour period.”
According to a report on Broadcasting & Cable magazine’s website, the FCC’s Media Bureau determined that the station’s action “was insufficient to exempt ETC from automatic expiration of the station’s license,” and in March cancelled the license, the construction permit and deleted the WYLE call sign.
FCC documents stated that “while the station
was silent, ETC entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell the
station to WYLE TV, LLC (“WTL”). Because WTL is commonly owned with the
licensee of WHDF (TV), Florence, AL, and there are less than eight
independently owned and operating television stations licensed to the
Huntsville-Decatur, AL DMA, the parties filed a failed station duopoly
What Is Communications?
by Rob de Santos
How do you communicate? Sign Language? Talking
in Swahili? Letters? Email? Ham radio? Twitter? The answer to that
question is directly related to the answer to this question: How will we
communicate in the future?
As readers of Popular Communications, we would certainly be considered a group that is more concerned than the average person with the current state of communications and its future. Most of us would classify ourselves as scanner hobbyists, SWLs, hams, low band DXers, etc., or even all of the above. If you read this column, I’d go a step further as you clearly must be interested in what is on the horizon of communications.
So what can we say about future
communications? To answer this I’ll pose the following hypothesis: “Future
modes of communication will be evolutionary developments of current
methods facilitated by unpredictable advances in technology.” Here’s what
I mean: Modes of communication are invariably evolutionary. The origins of
human language stretch unknown eons into the dim past, with the written
word tracing back “only” some seven to eight thousand years. Technology
though tends to have sharp points of demarcation, such as the invention of
the printing press, telegraphy, radio, computers, the Internet, etc. We
can date these inventions and their impact very specifically, but what the
technology did was facilitate more efficient means of using the modes we
You’re probably saying: “Okay, Professor Rob,
but what has all this got to do with my hobby?” Probably more than you
think. First consider how long you’ve been a communications hobbyist. For
me, depending on whether you count “DXing” with my transistor radio under
the pillow at age five, it encompasses 30 to 45 years.
The Father Of Modern Spy
To the few radio hobbyists who have seen one, a Clarke Instruments 167 receiver is just another unremarkable, old VHF receiver. Nothing about the radio hints that it is the root of decades of American superiority in telemetry and surveillance radios. Even more obscure is the remarkable man who made it, Allen S. Clarke.
Starting with Clarke Instruments, which he
founded in his home immediately after World War II, Clarke and his
employees founded an impressive group of early high-performance VHF and
UHF radio manufacturers, including Nems-Clarke, Communication Electronics,
Inc., (later known as Watkins Johnson, Gaithersburg, Maryland, division),
Astro Communication Laboratories, Defense Electronics Inc., and Regco.
Despite his many achievements and a Presidential Award, Clarke has simply
slipped into oblivion.
Allen Clarke’s interest in radio started when he built his first radio and transmitter and went on the air as an amateur radio operator in 1913. In 1917, he enlisted in the Signal Corps, where he rose to instructor for the 79th Division Signal School at Camp Meade, Maryland. Posted overseas, he became a technical sergeant in charge of communication equipment for the 157th Infantry Brigade and the 79th Division Headquarters.
After World War I, Clarke started a business supplying parts and radios to people who wanted to hear the early commercial AM broadcasts. Soon, he obtained an FCC commercial license and moved into the commercial radio supply business. He turned this business over to his brother in 1928, when he started a new business installing sound motion picture equipment for the new “talkies” in theaters across Virginia and North Carolina.
In 1930, Clarke obtained a construction permit
for WBTM, a 100 watt AM station on 1370 kHz in his hometown of Danville,
Virginia. He built and ran it as the sole owner until selling it in 1933.
He then went to work for the Radio Research Corporation (RRC), starting at
the bottom. By the time Vincent Bendix bought RRC in 1936, Clarke was
running the company. Though RRC became the core of the new Bendix Radio
Division, the ever restless and ambitious Clarke quit to found his first
engineering consulting firm.
Clarke’s consulting firm specialized in design and construction of AM radio stations and, as was often true throughout his career, he was in the right business at the right time. He engineered and supervised installation of broadcast stations all over the U.S. His business prospered until the prospects of another war put a damper on new station licenses.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Clarke was asked to join a small group at the National Bureau of Standards charged with adapting proximity fuse prototypes for large scale production. After practical designs had been developed, Clarke was promoted to the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. He set up and managed plant operations for producing proximity fuses at the Zell Corporation in Baltimore and Bowen and Co. in Bethesda, Maryland. For his efforts in making the proximity fuse a plentiful weapon in the war effort, Clarke received the Presidential Certificate of Merit in 1946.
At the end of World War II, Clarke became a
consultant for the Ordnance Development Division of the National Bureau of
Standards (NBS). He set up an engineering and design firm, Clarke
Instruments, to handle this and other consulting work. His first employee
was Miller Reddin, who later co-founded Defense Electronics, Inc. (DEI).
His third employee was Ralph Grimm, who went on to found Communication
Electronics, Inc. (CEI) and Regco. Clarke’s company expanded to nine
employees while still working out of his house.
An Internet Listening
Guide To Radio Station Belarus
For shortwave listeners on the West Coast (and elsewhere), Radio Station Belarus’ English program is one of those broadcasts that, realistically, under normal propagation conditions, just isn’t going to be heard. Radio Station Belarus’ English schedule of 2000–2200 UTC, transmitting in the 41-meter band, uses frequencies too low for normal reception at that time of the day in the Western U.S. (These shortwave broadcasts are primarily meant for Europe, where, in their evenings, 41 meters would work well.) But for those on the West Coast and in other areas where regular reception of RSB (or any number of other stations) isn’t possible on shortwave, there are other possibilities. This article is primarily intended as a primer for those new to Internet monitoring and to all the programming delights that await them, even if the propagation gods aren’t smiling.
Note: As we went to press, there were rumors
of the Beltelradiocompany, which owns Radio Station Belarus, shutting down
all shortwave transmissions. However, last-minute checks showed Radio
Station Belarus’ live and on-demand streams operating normally.
Radio Station Belarus has been broadcasting on shortwave since 1962. With programming at first in only Belarusian, the station added German in 1985, English and Russian in 1998, and Polish in 2006. There’s a great variety in RSB’s programming. Besides the usual expected news and analysis coverage, the station offers interviews with scientists, politicians, musicians, religious notables, folklorists, and sports figures. There are features about Belarusian culture, history, and spiritual life. And most broadcasts include music, ranging from classical and folk to pop and rock.
As of this writing, RSB’s shortwave schedule
is as follows:
In 2005, RSB began Internet streaming in English. Currently, it offers 10 hours of webcasting a day, with two five-hour blocks (the second a repeat of the first). To view RSB’s website in English, visit http://radiobelarus.tvr.by/eng/default.asp. Here you’ll find the day’s news in text in the main body of the page, with various links running down on either side.
To listen to RSB online streaming, click the
LIVE Air link to your left. This will bring up a media application, such
as Windows Media Player, depending on how you have your operating system
configured, and stream the shortwave broadcast. At 2000 to 2200, you’ll
hear the shortwave English language service.
Here’s a brief breakdown of a webcast I recently enjoyed. The 2000 English broadcast began with news, focusing mostly on Belarus and the region. Coverage included Belarus-EU relations; devaluation of the Russian ruble against the Belarusian ruble and the latter versus the U.S. dollar; joint projects and relations between Belarus and China; and an economic report forecasting that the global financial crisis will have the least effect on Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan out of the former Soviet republics. Rounding out the segment were reports on topics as diverse as Belarusian holy water and sports.
There followed a piece of Belarusian folk
music and an in-depth cultural interview program about Belarusian
animation art. Next up was a pop music selection, then Theatre Life, and
another long, detailed program about stage arts in Belarus. After this was
more news and analysis, with a report on the Commonwealth of Independent
States (the CIS, made up of former Soviet republics), focusing on CIS
members Russia, Georgia, and Moldova. More pop music rounded out the
two-hour program. (Note: Some of the first part of the second hour of the
webcast repeated the first hour, but then departed into new programming.)
Help Save The New York Hall Of Science Amateur Radio Club
This Treasure Of Radio, Science—And A Community—Is Under Threat, But You Can Make A Difference…
by Ed Muro, K2EPM
Where did you first experience the wonder of radio communications? Where is the next generation of radio hobbyists coming from? Those are two very important questions. It’s easy for most of us to answer the first; the answer to the second is much harder to come by, but may be even more important.
For me, it all started on an obscure New York City street in the Corona section of Queens, New York. In my younger years, I was lucky enough to live on 46th Avenue. At one end of the block was my father’s auto body repair shop. The shop had a 40-foot tower and that’s where I first was exposed to commercial two-way radio and monitoring, listening to the local police communications on a Regency scanner and a bank of Sonar monitor radios. At the other end of my block was the entrance to Flushing Meadows Park, or as the locals called it “The World’s Fair” (it had been the home of that exhibition in 1964–65).
But best of all, within walking distance of my home was the New York Hall of Science Children’s Science Museum. My grandmother and mother would often walk me down the block and take me to the museum, and it became one of my favorite places (one of my uncles had actually helped build it as an iron worker).
At that time, NASA’s space program was going strong and the rocket display outside “The Hall” always made me feel warm and fuzzy. Inside The Hall, I loved many of the displays we’d visit, but the one that really left an impression on me was the amateur radio station. In an era long before the Internet and email, I was amazed that there was a way to communicate with people from all over the world. Little did I know then that this exposure to amateur radio at the Hall of Science would lead to a lifetime hobby and a part-time career as a writer. Nor, did I ever imagine that as an adult I would amass many dozens of friends around the country and around the world through the magic of radio.
Youngsters can still find inspiration there,
but maybe not for much longer.
At the New York Hall of Science Children’s Science Museum in Queens, New York, a group of about 100 amateur radio operators has been hard at work demonstrating the wonders of amateur radio to the public with its museum exhibit station, WB2JSM, which has active for more than 35 years. WB2JSM is a ham station in a glass-enclosed radio booth on the floor of the Hall of Science Museum, operated by the unpaid volunteers of the Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club (HOSARC) at no cost to the city or the museum.
According to the club’s president, Tom Tumino, N2YTF, HOSARC members, through their own donations and fundraising, pay all equipment and operating costs of the museum exhibit station.
The enterprising members of HOSARC have over the years erected an impressive station with a large rotatable HF Yagi on top of the museum at about 140 feet above sea level, along with 22-element VHF/UHF Yagis on an az/el mount for satellite contacts and dipoles for the lower HF bands, as well as repeaters on 2 meters and 70 centimeters. In preparation for a much-needed new roof, HOSARC had to temporarily remove its rooftop antennas this fall and has replaced them with more modest ground-mounted antennas. Equipment in the station includes a Kenwood TS-850 and TM-D700 APRS mobile, a Yaesu FT-847, a Uniden Trunk-Tracking Scanner, and much more.
Children who come to the museum are invited into the booth and shown some of the more unusual QSL cards from around the world. WB2JSM operators explain to the young guests that from the station they can “bounce their voices off the sky and talk all around the world,” and then “exchange postcards.” Sometimes guests to the shack are amazed that just that day WB2JSM has contacted several continents and some countries they haven’t even heard of.
The very youngest children are then shown a
Morse code practice oscillator, where a WB2JSM operator can tap out their
name and invite them to do the same. Older children and adults are treated
to a live display of notable ham radio contacts around the world (a DX
cluster) superimposed on a digital globe that is highlighted according to
live NASA data on radio conditions and space weather using a software
package designed and donated by Alex Shovkoplyas, VE3NEA.
Scanning On Vacation
by Ken Reiss
Summer typically brings with it outdoor activities and many other things to do with your leisure time besides play radio. But, paradoxically, there may be even more to hear, because as people get busier, more things happen. Lots of accidents, injuries, rescue operations, fires, and even squabbles between neighbors happen during the summer months.
Summer is also likely to include the family vacation. These days, with the economy in the mess it’s in, many people will probably be sticking closer to home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find things to do. And when you do head out, don’t forget to include your scanner when you pack up, even if it’s just a short day trip or a weekend getaway.
Of course, the first part of any vacation or
trip is the journey. If you’re driving, there should be lots of scanning
opportunities all along the route, but don’t leave your scanner in your
luggage if air travel is involved, either. You can’t listen during the
flight because of airline regulations that prohibit radio devices in
flight (and even if you did you wouldn’t hear much…you’re in an aluminum
can, remember?), but you can listen on the ground. There should be plenty
of time for that between changing planes, waiting to go through security,
waiting to board, and waiting for your luggage to return (and did I
mention waiting?). Your scanner can help pass the time. I’d probably
recommend headphones if you’re listening at the airport. With the
heightened security, you won’t want to call attention to yourself, or your
We’ll focus mainly on driving since getting ready for that takes a bit more preparation, but most of what’s suggested here applies to any other form of transportation, too.
Putting in a permanent mobile installation is beyond the scope of this article, but even a temporary installation is adequate for fun scanning. There are about as many variations on mobile equipment as there are mobile scanning enthusiasts. Simple installations like using a handheld in the car may turn out to be the perfect traveling arrangement for you. Let’s face it, it’s supposed to be a vacation, and hopefully you’ll have other things to focus on besides the radio most of the time. Still, having a scanner in the car can be helpful for those long drive times, and in places where you might encounter traffic. Having a handheld can also prove convenient for times when you’d like to scan in the hotel, or around the camp fire at night. Earphones might be a good idea here, too, so that others can sleep.
You can also install a small base unit or mobile scanner in your car on a temporary basis. Just a simple cigarette lighter plug is about all you need for power (make sure the adapter you get is compatible both with the voltage and current of your radio) and, of course, watch the polarity. Most car cigarette lighters use a positive center (negative ground) and most scanners are wired that way, too, but once in a while you come across one that doesn’t work as expected. This is a good way to ruin a radio if you’re not careful. It’s been my experience that the radio will fail long before the fuse, so a little extra caution can save you a big headache. If you’re not sure, don’t do it.
You’ll get far better results in a mobile
installation if you can manage an external antenna. The metal body of the
car makes a great ground plane, so any quarter-wave whip or gain antenna
on a magnetic mount should provide reception for several miles. You can
also compromise on rubber duck antennas for handhelds, and if necessary,
suction cups mounted on the inside of the glass. They don’t work as well
as an external antenna, but something is better than nothing.
DTV Transition: Take Two
by Bruce A. Conti
As we all know by now, the cutoff date for
analog television was pushed from February 17 to June 12. Despite the
additional time to prepare for the switch to digital, for many the picture
remains the same. Millions of antenna TV viewers will likely lose service
if analog television broadcasting goes dark this month. We thought we’d
share the following anecdotal accounts, as they’re typical of the
challenges encountered by antenna TV viewers. For instance, reader Don
Hallenbeck, whose situation reflects that of many Americans, writes:
I’m dependant on rabbit ears for my TV viewing, using a set-top amplified model made by RCA. With a DTV converter box, I get the local CBS station WABI 5.1 and the CW station on WABI 5.2. If weather conditions are right I can also get the Maine Public Broadcasting Network (PBS) 12.1 and 12.2. If the weather is wrong I get nothing. When trying to watch something on PBS for example, if the weather changes, I’m out of luck as the signal shuts down till weather improves and the converter can figure out what’s what again.
Ed Morris, an antenna TV viewer well within the range of analog TV reception, reports similar unreliable DTV reception beyond 30 miles.
I am located in rural southwest Georgia, 50 to
55 miles from major network transmitters in Macon, Columbus, and Albany.
Two PBS transmitters are a little closer—40 and 42 miles. I have come to
the following conclusions regarding DTV: The maximum range of a full-power
station for consistent reception, using the typical outdoor rooftop
antenna at 30 feet above ground, is about 35 miles over average terrain.
The range can be extended to 40 miles or so by using an amplified antenna
at about 45 feet above ground. Again, I stress that these limitations are
for consistent reception, without dropouts or dead periods.
The AOR AR-Mini Handheld Communications Receiver
by Ken Reiss
There have been a lot of shirt pocket
receivers released over the years, but every once in a while one proves
highly distinguished. Such is the case with the AR-Mini, which is truly a
communications receiver in your pocket. Listing for $299 MSRP, it’s
certainly worth a good look.
From a pure receiver standpoint, the AR-Mini is impressive. The 100 kHz to 1299.95 MHz (less cellular, of course, in the U.S.) wide-band coverage in a shirt pocket-sized, 7.4 oz package is the real attraction of this receiver. Its 1,000 memory channels in 10 banks are also noteworthy, and a triple-conversion design rounds out the impressive specs on the AR-Mini.
The receiver also includes tone squelch, which is a welcome addition on a small radio. Both CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System, also known by the Motorola trade name, Private Line) and DCS (Digital Code Squelch) are available. Once again, these are somewhat rare features on such a small receiver.
Dual VFOs are available or, rather, simulated by using a special dual memory channel, or by using the VFO and a regular memory channel. This allows you to monitor both the VFO frequency and the frequency in the designated memory channel at the same time. It’s similar to a priority/VFO operation on many other receivers, and there’s also a priority function available on the AR-Mini. In short, there should be lots of options for listening to a frequency or two when using this receiver.
As an interesting aside, the AR-Mini supports the European 8.33 kHz tuning step used in the air band. Should that be adopted in the U.S. (and there have been discussions about that), you’ll be all set with this receiver, which should make an excellent air band scanner. It covers the military air band, as well; since this feature is becoming a rarity these days, the receiver may be of particular interest to MilComm fans.
Rounding out the AR-Mini’s impressive résumé
is a stabilized crystal oscillator and a receiver that’s very easy on
batteries (AOR claims up to 22 hours of operation on a single set of
As with many small handheld receivers, there are tradeoffs to be made for the size. The main tradeoff with the AR-Mini is that there is no numeric keypad on the receiver for direct frequency entry, which is no doubt a compromise based on the size of the unit. This presents a limitation on something billed as a communications receiver that goes anywhere and does everything. Entering frequencies manually is not impossible, but you certainly wouldn’t want to fill up 1,000 memory channels that way. There is a PC-based application that’s fairly easy to use for this purpose and it makes the AR-Mini a useful package.
The absence of a keyboard also leads to a general lack of controls and buttons to access functions. As a result, many buttons do several things based on which other buttons are pressed at the same time. Simple functions like volume and squelch are hidden on the top control knob, which also adjusts the frequency. Once you know where it is, it’s easy and quick to adjust, but finding it without the manual would be a challenge. Spend some time with the manual if you get one of these receivers.
Another compromise that seems to be common with communications receivers is that they’re not ideal scanners. The AR-Mini will scan conventional memory channels, and even includes a unique Bank Link function that allows for multiple banks to be scanned together (a rather unusual feature on all but top-of-the-line communications receivers). Unfortunately, configuring the Bank Link list is a bit tricky (although not difficult once you get used to it) and would be inconvenient to do in a hurry if you wanted to focus on a particular bank where the action was. It’s also not the fastest scanner, rated at eight channels per second.
Global Information Guide
Happy News About The Happy
by Gerry L. Dexter
An old friend has returned: The Happy Station, the program, begun in 1927 by a young fellow named Eddie Startz on what was then PCJ in Holland. In the ensuing years PCJ became Radio Nederland and the program went on—and on, and on, and on—becoming one of the world’s most popular shortwave shows. Startz, with his “nice cup of tea,” stayed at the helm until early1970, when he retired. He was followed by hosts Tom Meijer, later Pete Myers, and then Jonathan Grouper, until the program went off the air in 1997—a run of 70 years!
The new version will be hosted by Keith Perron, who has been with several Canadian domestic stations, including RCI, as well as done stints with Radio Havana Cuba and China Radio International. He’ll be based in Taiwan where the show will be produced, and the connection with Radio Nederland will be in program name only. It will be available from several sources (or “platforms” in newspeak). For us shortwave guys, the resurrected Happy Station show, initially, will be on WRMI-9955 and will air on Thursdays from 0100–0155.
Shortwave has lost its “Solh”…at least it seems so. No one—not even the real hotshot DX guys—has been able to trace any broadcasts from Radio Solh, the U.S. Army “psy-ops” broadcast for Afghanistan. Oddly (or maybe not) the cessation seems to have occurred just a week or so after the new Obama administration took the reins in Washington. Nothing official has been said one way or the other.
An odd, apparent clandestine station has appeared in the Middle East. Radio Al Aqsa seems to be carrying programs in support of the Gaza uprising and appears to be the audio portion of a TV channel using the same name. There are hints that Iran’s DNA is on this operation in one form or another. When the radio is in operation, it’s been using 5815 and 5835. The few reports of it I’ve seen have been during daytime hours, which make for very difficult, if not impossible, U.S. reception.
There’s a new, and apparently unlicensed, station in Colombia. Radio Juventud (Youth) is testing occasionally on 5553.5, but that may not be where this one finally lands; it has the ability to use 5585 and 5590 as well. The station is in Pasto, Nariño Department, and uses only 300 watts.
Another new one that looks as if it will be on “level tough” is Amhara Regional State Radio in Ethiopia using 6090 from 0300–0600, 0900–1000 and 1400–1700 and broadcasting in Amharic. Also said to be in operation are 7264 (correct) and 9740. At this writing the station is still in test mode.
Lithuania has pulled the plug on Radio Vilnius. They are out of money. If the day ever dawns when they have enough litas in their treasury, they hope it will return to shortwave. We hope so, too.
KTMI is the call of a new shortwave station planned for Albany, Oregon, and about to go on the air with tests—or likely may be on already—using 6025, 9445, and 11615. The call stands for Transformational Media International (not “too much information!”). We welcome it, but I’m afraid we can expect a format consisting largely of still more commercial religion. The station plans to focus on the rather odd combination of Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and Kamchatka as its target areas.
The VOA Urdu service, Radio Aap ke Dunyaa,
which was discontinued at the end of December last year, is back. Those
broadcasts are scheduled from 0100–0200 on 9520 and 9820 and from
1400–1500 using 7440 and 9390.
Remember, your shortwave broadcast station
logs are always welcome. But please be sure to double or triple space
between the items, list each logging according to its 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, general information, and anything
else you think would be of interest. And c’mon now…how about that photo of
you at your listening post? It’s high time your face graced these pages!
Planes, Trains, And…
by Mitch Gill, NA7US
I’m so glad winter is over—I was really getting tired of the snow and the rain. This winter has been a hard one, with the melting of substantial snowfall causing flooding in quite a few areas of my state. I lost three antennas in the record snow, but I’m now in the process of replacing them so I can continue to monitor.
But enough of my farewell to bad weather,
let’s get down to business. In this month’s column I’m going to discuss
interoperability issues and how they may be resolved, we’ll look at the
proposal the TSA has made so they can “whisper” to each other over a radio
(no, I’m not making this up), and check in on what’s happening with out
It’s been eight years since we were attacked by terrorists and even though we are better protected today, the government still lacks the ability to safeguard all the areas that are vulnerable. For instance, there are still problems with our ports and our borders. Part of the dilemma is the ongoing issue of interoperability among the different agencies responding to any emergencies. The problem is not that they’re on different frequencies, but that they may be operating on older or newer systems, like analog and digital.
Adding to the quandary is that each company developed its own proprietary communications in order to protect their investments and in the hope of capturing a market. But in today’s world, proprietary is no longer desirable. Since 9/11, these same companies began embracing the concept of interoperability. Companies like Harris and Thales Communications developed radios that have the capability to “cross the lines.” These companies have developed radios so they can utilize both the old and the new technologies. Soon, all the radios will fall under one standard and one set of rules, and proprietary systems will no longer have a place in the market.
The new mandates of homeland security are forcing communications experts from federal, state, and local government entities to find new ways of sharing wireless information so they can respond quickly and efficiently in the event of a major domestic attack. The major force behind this is SAFECOM.
SAFECOM is a communications program of the Department of Homeland Security. It provides research, development, testing and evaluation, guidance, tools, and templates on interoperable communications-related issues to agencies throughout the United States.
SAFECOM is an emergency responder-driven program that works with existing federal communications initiatives and emergency responders to define future networks and radio communications in order to serve the community. If you would like more information, check out its website at www.safecomprogram.gov.
Interoperability, though slow in coming, is
the future of communications. It’s necessary in order for first responders
to be able to communicate and work together in any disaster.
In an effort to reduce shouting between its security officers at airport security checkpoints, and reduce overall stress levels for passengers, the TSA is planning to purchase as many as 20,000 land mobile radios that would enable its personnel to whisper to each other. I have a hard time believing that shouting between security officers causes passenger stress, but maybe that’s just me. Now instead of hearing, “Full body search needed here!,” they’ll merely whisper it through their radio and then politely walk up to you and advise you that you have been chosen.
Six Meters: Bring Back The Magic!
by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ
Hams know 160 meters as the Gentleman’s Band, or Top Band. The whole swath from 160 through 30 meters is referred to as the Low Bands. The High Bands, as you might expect, comprise 20 through 10 meters. So what’s 6 meters called? I call it “the highest band that average hams can still build stuff for,” which is grammatically atrocious, but everyone else calls 6 meters the Magic Band!
Why? Because propagation is strange, odd, eerie, and mysterious in the No Man’s land between 50 and 54 MHz. And quirky, too! Sometimes it’s like HF, sometimes it’s like 2 meters. On SSB and CW, the band might be deader than a mackerel for a week at a time, then boom: wall-to-wall signals from hundreds or thousands of miles away! If your area has a 6-meter repeater, its operation isn’t “sporadic” like its weak-signal counterparts. Six-meter repeaters—when and if you can find them—work like any other VHF repeater system, and signals are usually steady and predictable.
Despite the Magic, or perhaps because if it, 6-meter ops could easily vie for the right to call their favorite slice of spectrum the Gentleman’s Band, because they’re definitely a friendly bunch. And that should bode well for my newest ham buddies, Garrett and Kevin, KDØGTI and KDØGTJ, respectively.
You may have seen photos of the pair’s outrageous TV DXing antennas in this column over the past few months. They’re younger ops, in their early 20s, and they got into ham radio via TV DXing (and through seeing the usual goodies in my shack). The DXing part I get. The TV thing, not so much. But over time I learned that it was a VHF thing that drove their interest.
TV, digital and analog, is a VHF/UHF happening, and through the process of maximizing their TV receiving setups they learned about antennas, feed lines, towers, VHF/UHF propagation, etc. As a ham, I could contribute lots of practical information and advice to enhance their efforts (stuff not always forthcoming from other TV enthusiasts). They were especially interested in the many unusual propagation modes that take place above 30 MHz.
Being their de facto Elmer and a generation-plus older, I wanted to find some common operating ground with my new radio buddies, and none of my present ham stuff was going to work. These guys, raised on video games and fast Internet, were totally uninterested in HF—ham or SWL! Uuh! It was like a stab to the heart! Not interested in HF and working hams in faraway foreign lands? Unthinkable (to me, anyway)!
When I was a kid, HF was my lone desire. I worked mostly DX, with some contesting and a bit of rag-chewing. But no VHF. And no UHF. There were only four hams in my town, and no repeaters. The ham who gave me my Novice test had a tribander on a tower and a Swan 350C HF transceiver. He was a DXer through and through, which was right up my alley. I learned later that his wife, a somewhat unenthusiastic ham, had a Swan 250 transceiver for 6 meters! It put out a ton of power and worked a lot of TV sets back in the days when Channels 2 through 4 were right above the Magic Band (which was then known as the TVI Band)!
So here I am, after 30 years of HFing, hooked up with a pair of VHF guys. If I want to operate in their hemisphere (which I do), I will need to get something going on 6 and 2 meters. I’m sure they’ll eventually ratchet through the bands to 10 GHz or so, but because they’ve never operated anywhere, I’m sure they’ll cut their teeth on the Magic Band and 2 meters.
That should be fun for me, too. I’ve worked
through a repeater or two in my day, but have never worked even a single
station on 2-meter SSB or CW. About eight years ago I had an Alinco DX-70
transceiver (160 through 6) that provided a summer of fun on 6 meters.
With 10 watts and a three-element beam at 20 feet I worked stations from
coast to coast (almost all SSB), but no “DX” other than Canada. I was
rarely in my shack during sporadic openings, so I’m sure I would have done
better if I’d been able to operate more.
THE PRACTICAL SIDE
The Propagation Corner
Tropospheric Propagation And VHF DX
by Tomas Hood
Propagation on VHF and higher frequencies is typically thought of as “line of sight.” But is it possible to receive these signals beyond the horizon?
Most propagation on VHF and above occurs in the troposphere. There are a number of well-documented modes of tropospheric propagation. The most common is line of sight, which can, depending on the height of the transmitting and receiving antennas, extend to about 25 miles. When you hear police, fire, or amateur communications from your local area, you’re hearing typical line-of-sight tropospheric propagation—the propagation of the radio signal through the lower level of our atmosphere.
Diffraction, where radio waves are somewhat bent back toward Earth, is a mode that allows the VHF/UHF signal to follow the curve of the Earth out beyond the horizon, to about 70 miles. Knife-edge diffraction in mountain areas is a better-known but special case of diffraction. Another propagation mode that extends the reach of a radio signal to about 70 miles is refraction, where radio waves are bent towards the Earth due to the changing density, temperature, and humidity of the atmosphere. This slight bending of radio waves is similar to the bending you see when you dip a pencil into a glass of water. The refractive index of water is different from the refractive index of air. The object appears to bend once it enters the water because of the differences in the speed of the light waves through the different densities of each medium. Diffraction and refraction of radio waves combined extends the line-of-sight range, but signals will experience a lot of fading.
Troposcatter is yet another VHF/UHF mode of propagation. This mode can extend the range of the signal to up to hundreds of miles, but it requires higher power and high-gain antennas to ensure reliable communication. It relies on the scattering of the radio signal off many small disturbances and areas of differing refractive indexes.
While serving in the United States Army as a Signal Corps communications soldier, I had the opportunity to work with microwave communications using this troposcatter method of propagation. Using two diversity receivers, and over 1000 watts, we would create a microwave radio link between two very distant locations. The transmitted microwave signal would be “shot” in a very high-gain, somewhat narrow beam slightly above the ground plane, but not at too high of an angle, in the hope that the radio waves would be scattered by temperature and humidity gradients, forward toward the distant station. The receiver would then “vote” between two receiving dish antennas for the maximum signal.
It required a lot of patience and the use of an HF working channel to iron out the fine tuning because finding the “scattered” signal, and then maximizing it for a reliable circuit, could be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Once we had locked in the circuit, however, it would be mostly reliable. If we had major changes in weather, however, we would have to work on keeping alive the connection.
DXing troposcatter is not an easy task for VHF weak signal hobbyists. To maximize the signal, you would need to use high-gain antenna systems, perhaps with diversity feeds and a voting receiver, and you would have to have them pointed at the scatter region. Nevertheless, there are often times when the VHF DXer will hear troposcatter-mode signals from DX stations.
There are the also rare tropospheric modes of
propagation, like temperature inversion propagation and tropospheric
ducting. Temperature inversion propagation can extend the signal out to
about 150 miles or so. When temperature and humidity suddenly increase at
greater heights, it could cause radio waves to be reflected back to Earth.
Ducting via the troposphere can propagate signals great distances, say
from Hawaii to California. In tropospheric ducting, radio waves are
trapped in a type of natural wave-guide between an inversion layer and the
ground or between two inversion layers. Ducting causes very little signal
loss and often signals are only heard at each end of the wave-guide.
Shannon’s Broadcast Classics
The List Lovers’ Guide To An Obscure Power-Tune Portable And Some Vintage Radio Directories
by Shannon Huniwell
Admittedly, what follows is a melancholy way to start a saga about an odd transistor radio and AM/FM logbooks, but I thought it best to get the sad part behind us quickly. Through a brief email, Pop’Comm reader Will Miller got me trying to count up all the White’s Radio Log genre of listings that were readily available as promotional freebies or easy to find in even the most rudimentary drugstore magazine rack. There’s no particular sadness in that challenge, but a subtle tone in Will’s note got me thinking that his request had a wistful side—something that had more to do with a lost relationship than with finding radio call letters.
Anyway, in a series of subsequent emails, I decided to gently press buttons, and soon uncovered a story that had begun during the fall of 1966 in an 8th grade Tennessee homeroom. Will told me that the Good Lord used the alphabet to get him in proximity to the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. She was Wendy Miller, a sandy blonde lass assigned to a desk in the fifth row, directly in front of his. Will said that it was fortunate that she faced away from him, because he instantly fell in love with her and couldn’t think of a lucid thing to say whenever he got a glimpse of her big green eyes and button nose.
By spring 1967, he still hadn’t been able to manage more than a few words to her, but sensed his feelings might not be one-sided. A nosey kid taking attendance for the homeroom teacher interrupted the roll call after checking off Wendy Miller and Will Miller. “Hey,” he wondered, “are you two related?” Seemingly without thinking about it, Wendy softly drawled, “Not at this point.” While her reply didn’t mean anything to anyone else, Will hid those four words in his heart, and he mustered the courage to tap her on the shoulder and attempt conversation a few times after that. The next fall, she asked him to the 9th grade Sadie Hawkins dance. Cutting to the chase, I’ll tell you they were married three months after their high school graduation and moved into a little place originally designed as a roadside tourist cabin.
The radio piece of the tale entered when Wendy, aiming to show Will appreciation for his diligent devotion as a husband, community college student, full-time employee at a gas station, and part-timer at a small department store, spent most of her mad money on a very unusual 10-transistor Channel Master “Signal Seeker” AM portable and a subscription to Communications World magazine. Will listened to a day-timer in nearby Athens, Tennessee, and whenever they happened to drive past it, he’d share with Wendy his dream of going into broadcasting at a local station. Her gift was intended as encouragement for him to pursue that dream.
The story took a tragic turn before Will ever knocked on a station’s door or, for that matter, got to use the Channel Master more than a few times. A week before her 20th birthday, Wendy was killed by a speeding Chevy Vega driven by some guy high on something. Will’s life went into freefall. He admits it wasn’t until nearly three years after the tragedy that a bit of light entered the tunnel.
Years later still, while looking through boxes he’d hastily packed after Wendy’s funeral and his move a couple of months later to a job in the Atlanta area, Will found the Channel Master and a stack of Communications World publications. The radio was wrapped in Wendy’s favorite sweater. Memories flooded Will’s entire being. Somewhere in those recollections, he felt such closeness with his first love that he resolved to rekindle a relationship with Wendy’s long-ago gift. Almost immediately, Will drove to a nearby convenience store and bought a blister pack of double-A batteries. He used them to enliven the radio after its long sleep, and he now reports having spent many enjoyable hours with the unique Channel Master, first listening to the most easily received Atlanta stations and then DXing the AM band. “All these years later,” Will told me, “the experience somehow still includes a little bit of that button-nosed girl in the junior high homeroom.”
Military Radio Monitoring
Hill Air Force Base
by Mark Meece, N8ICW
Stretching for 160 miles from southern Idaho into central Utah are the chocolate-colored mountains known as the Wasatch Range. Considered the western edge of the Rocky Mountains, they also border the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake. The valley of Salt Lake City lies at the feet of the range. Thirty miles to the north of Salt Lake and 15 miles south of Ogden, along Interstate 15, we find the focus of this issue’s column, Hill Air Force Base.
The Ogden Air Logistics Center (OO-ALC) is the
largest and host organization based at Hill; in fact it’s one of the
United States Air Force’s largest logistics centers. The base itself
covers 6,698 acres across Davis and Weber Counties, and manages another
962,076 acres across Northern Utah.
A temporary Air Corps depot was established in Salt Lake City in 1931. As time passed, top level officials decided a more permanent site was needed, and began a search of the area for a suitable location. Several sites were selected, with the site of the current base near Ogden chosen as the ideal location. In 1934 the Air Corps Material Division, now known as the Headquarters of the Air Force Material Command (AFMC), gave its recommendation for the depot to be located at this site. In August 1935, Congress passed Public Law 26, known as the Wilcox-Wilson Bill, to provide for the addition of new permanent Air Corps stations and depots. Four years later, $8 million for the Ogden Air Depot was approved with the supplemental Military Appropriation Act of July 1, 1939.
In December of that year, the War Department designated the facility “Hill Field” to honor Major Ployer Peter Hill, who was Chief of the Flying Branch of the Air Corps Material Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Major Hill died in 1935 at Wright Field in the crash of an experimental Boeing Model 299, a prototype of the B-17 “Flying Fortress.” The crash occurred not long after then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Wilcox-Wilson Bill into law. Near the South Gate Visitor Center, stands a monument to Major Hill.
On November 7, 1940, Ogden Air Center’s first commanding officer, Colonel Morris Berman, arrived, thereby activating the base while construction was ongoing. By the fall of 1941, four 7,500-foot runways were completed; around this same time maintenance was underway on the Douglas A-20 and Lockheed Hudsons. The Hudson was the first substantial production aircraft for the fledgling Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and was used as a light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft. Production on the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, which became the primary focus of the base, began on February 14, 1943, and by July 6 the maintenance goal of completing one bomber per day was reached. The B-24 remains the most-produced combat aircraft in American history.
It was during World War II that Ogden Air Depot reached its peak strength in terms of personnel and production, serving 15,780 civilians and 6,000 military personnel. Hill Field served as a critical maintenance and supply base throughout the war, and countless battle-damaged aircraft were brought to Hill for structural repair, engine overhauls, and an endless flow of spare parts, in an incredible effort by the men and women at Hill to support the war effort and return thousands of aircraft to combat.
As the war was nearing its end, Hill Field was
assigned the responsibility for long-term storage of surplus aircraft and
support equipment. More than $200 million worth of aircraft was preserved
in near perfect condition by the end of 1947. As the Army Air Corp
reorganized into the United States Air Force in September 1947 and
“fields” were renamed as “bases,” Hill Field officially became Hill Air
Force Base on February 5, 1948.
THE PRACTICAL SIDE
Gordon West’s Radio Ways
Seventeen Station Radio Responder Boot Camp
by Gordon West, WB6NOA
Fall in!...with a platoon of American Red
Cross Radio responders, and score some radio training techniques learned
at boot camp (Photo A). And this is a very special kind of boot camp
indeed. The radio responder Boot Camp is an annual training event for
radio enthusiasts in southern California. Every kind of radio service gets
front and center attention, including:
Radio responders, representing their own emergency response groups, come together for immediate field deployment of their radio specialty service. Their venue is a wide open field or parking lot, clear of any overhead power pole and wire dangers. Incoming radio teams approach Boot Camp on an assigned call-in frequency, taking parking instruction directly off the airwaves.
The Boot Camp net control operators will publish check-in frequencies well ahead of the event, on multiple radio systems. Hams might check in on 2 meters simplex, CERT members check in on the Family Radio Service Channel xx, and CB radio operators check in on a specific AM CB channel.
Incoming radio responders are assigned widely
spaced parking locations and are instructed to begin their station setup.
Each group picks a specialty for “show and tell.” This is how it broke
“Our Orange County chapter of the American Red
Cross offers Boot Camp once a year,” says Tom Woodard, KI6GOA, Disaster
Specialist. “This one day event is a great opportunity to meet our
partners in emergency response and preparedness, as well as share
information and learn new radio techniques,” Woodard adds smiling, knowing
the Boot Camp Drill Instructor will likely introduce surprises during this
one day field operation.
Each participant, working out of his or her assigned field position, will have 10 minutes on a portable PA system to describe their specialty operation. All the other “troops” gather around, and watch this 10-minute live-radio demo.
Then the one-minute Field Test fun begins: The
Drill Instructor will ask each station to perform a specialty task. No one
knows in advance the nature of the specific specialty task. For example,
the high-frequency station is asked to make a single radio contact, more
than 500 miles away, in one minute.
The 2 meter ham station gets 60 seconds to
switch to an out-of-area 2 meter repeater channel, encoding CTCSS or DTS.
THE LIGHTER SIDE
The Loose Connection
Norm Is A Breath Mint!
Norm Is A Candy Mint!
TWO! TWO! TWO Norms in ONE!
by Bill Price, N3AVY
Okay, so Norm’s not really a twin, but it’s like when my smarter brother, Mycroft Price, surfaced several years ago to talk me out of a lackluster future as a private investigator. This time Beezer (of course not his real name) has surfaced after all these incognito years since he worked with Norm and me at that place which must remain un-named. And as much as Beezer is nothing at all like Norm, there are some profound similarities—so much so that it’s like having an extra Norm around.
Beezer’s job (which I shall also cleverly disguise) sends him all over the country fixing and maintaining techie stuff, so when he was near Cowfield County, he called, and we gabbed the night away reminiscing of past lunacy and catching up on things that have happened since many years ago. He’s another one who’s beating on me to get back on the air, although at least he wants me to get on so we can pound brass together, whereas Norm has always wanted me to compromise my principles and speak into a microphone.
Beezer watched as I was fired from that place which must remain un-named, which sure put a damper on our carrying-on, but we did stay in touch until I moved to Cowfield County to take my HPJIE*. He, too, drifted around a bit until he latched onto something similar (but his gig takes him traveling around the country), and it turns out that he and Norm now live within a few hours of each other. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until some outlandish antenna projects will be undertaken without me there to supervise!
I do get the feeling, though, that I’m going to have to string some sort of antenna and blow the dust off the rig that Norm brought for me. No microphone, though. I’ve got my principles. I can see it now…I’ll start sneaking on to some of the CW frequencies and all of a sudden the Internet will come alive with stalkers! Tens, or maybe even twenties of loyal readers longing for the elusive N3AVY QSL card will cause an enormous pileup lasting all of three or four minutes. Joe Maurus will have his grandson helping shoot a longwire over a tree in Idaho with a trusty slingshot so he can get onto HF. I may single-handedly put a spike in the amateur radio economy, all because Beezer wants someone to pound brass with. Whooda thunk it?
As we talked into the night, Beezer reminded me of one of the many reasons I became persona non grata at that place which must remain un-named. I’d forgotten about the time he, Norm, and I were in Dayton, riding in a rented car with the CEO of that place when we happened past an enormous billboard touting an (to me) overpriced brand of plastic wristwatch that people with too much money seemed to be buying. I believe it was Norm who saw the billboard and asked, “What’s a (insert brand name of overpriced plastic wristwatch here)?”
Before anyone else in the car had a chance to answer, I volunteered, “Oh, it’s some overpriced piece of *&#@! plastic wristwatch that’s worth about a dime and sells for thirty dollars!” at which time our CEO raised his wrist from the steering wheel and showed his, and said, “Like this one!”
Rather than be put squarely into my place, I went for the laugh, immediately chiming in, “Although some of them are very fine indeed!” as the boss made a mental note to fire me as soon as we got back to the office.
And so it went. For a while, I picked up
Beezer on the way to work each day, since I passed the place he stayed. He
had gotten a room in a very nice old home owned by a retired couple who
seemed quite normal when he took the room.