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The Weirder Side Of Wireless

by Staff


No Longer For The Birds

According to the BBC, a British digital radio station, which became unexpectedly popular with listeners by broadcasting only birdsongs for 18 months, has been taken off the air. The birdsong programming was intended as temporary filler after the DAB OneWord station closed, but it attracted nearly half a million listeners, with some fans even setting up Facebook fan sites. Its replacement, Amazing Radio, features songs from unsigned artists.

Britain Joins Axis Of Evil?

A BBC 5 news announcer mistakenly said on national radio that the small town of North Yorkshire, England, had commenced illegal underground nuclear tests, it was reported on the Telegraph.co.uk website. The top news story was about worldwide disapproval of North Korea’s recent nuclear tests, but the newsreader mistakenly declared: “There has been widespread condemnation of North Yorkshire’s decision to carry out an underground nuclear test.” A BBC 5 spokesman said: “We are aware of the occasional tensions between North and South Yorkshire, but clearly this was a slip of the tongue. We have no fears about the good people of North Yorkshire.”

Hugo Chavez’s New Cell, Naughty Or Nice?

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has launched the Vergatario, one of the world’s most affordable mobile phones—with a very controversial name. During his weekly radio and television show, “Hello President” Chavez showed off the new mobile phone called “El Vergatario.” Costing about $15, the Vergatario’s name has its origins in a Venezuelan slang term for the male reproductive organ. Mr. Chavez, who nationalized the company that manufactures the phone, pronounced the Vergatorio “light, beautiful, good and cheap.” Despite its populist price, the phone has advanced features such as a web browser and MP3 player. “It is science and technology at the service of the people not the elites...the day will come when we manufacture phones for Cuba and Latin America,” Chavez said. “This telephone will be the biggest seller not only in Venezuela but the world. Whoever doesn’t have a Vergatario is nothing.” Chavez even telephoned his mother during the launch ceremony. Critics denounced the choice of name given to the phone as vulgar and in bad taste.

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News, Trends, And Short Takes

by D. Prabakaran


WRMI To Produce AWR’s Wavescan In Miami

WRMI has announced that the Adventist World Radio DX program, “Wavescan,” will be produced and distributed from its studios in Miami as of June, 2009. WRMI has broadcast “Wavescan” since its inception. For the past three years, the program has been produced at the AWR studio in Singapore. However, that studio was to be closed in June.

As of the June 7 program, “Wavescan” will be written each week by Dr Adrian Peterson, AWR International Relations Coordinator in Indianapolis, Indiana, and produced at WRMI in Miami. WRMI will also distribute the program to the various stations in the AWR network around the globe. Peterson will be entirely in charge of the content of the program, but segments of regional DX news will continue to come from “Wavescan” correspondents in several Asian countries.
(Source: WRMI)

Mexico Wants AM Stations To Move To FM

Radio World reports that the Mexican government wants to give the majority of AM stations in the country the opportunity to migrate voluntarily to the FM band, subject to availability of frequencies. However no FM frequencies have been awarded and the plan is bogged down in administrative complications. It’s unclear when it will move forward. According to SCT, the agency that sets communications policy, a station that wished to move would have a year from the time of authorization to put an FM station on the air and another year to give up its AM frequency and turn in that license. It’s been predicted that the majority of AM broadcasters in Mexico will shutter operations on that band within five years. There is a total of 1,580 radio stations in Mexico; 854 are AM and 726 are FM, according to the SCT.
(Source: Radio Netherlands Media Network)

BBC Mediumwave DRM Tests Reveal Problems After Dark

The BBC’s year-long test of digital mediumwave radio, dubbed Project Mayflower, proved that it worked well during daylight hours but disappointed volunteer listeners after sunset. Reception during daylight was good and most panelists rated the audio quality as comparable to FM, but not as good as DAB. However, at night there were serious problems with reception, with the signal breaking down entirely in some cases. The BBC said the problem could be solved, but would require it to replan its transmission network or build more powerful transmitters.
(Source: guardian.co.uk)

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Washington Beat

Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN


Congress Calls For Study Of Amateur Radio EmComm

A Texas congresswoman has introduced a bill in the 111th Congress calling for a “study of the uses of amateur radio for emergency and disaster relief communications, by identifying unnecessary or unreasonable impediments to the deployment of amateur radio emergency and disaster relief communications, and by making recommendations for relief of such unreasonable restrictions so as to expand the uses of amateur radio communications in Homeland Security planning and response.”

Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), H.R. 2160—The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009—would examine “the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio communications in emergencies and disaster relief” and report findings to Congress “not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act.” Six other House members were listed as co-sponsors.
The bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to “utilize the expertise of the American Radio Relay League, representing the national amateur radio community and seek information from private and public sectors for the study.”

Citing the contributions of “the nearly 700,000” amateur radio operators in the United States, the bill’s initial findings said that “emergency and disaster relief communications services by volunteer amateur radio operators have consistently and reliably been provided before, during, and after floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, earthquakes, blizzards, train accidents, chemical spills, and other disasters. These communications services include services in connection with significant examples, such as hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Hugo, and Andrew; the relief effort at the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon following the 2001 terrorist attacks; and the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995.”

NAB “Respectfully Opposes” Suggestion To Shorten FCC License Terms

The executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters said the organization “would respectfully oppose” any attempt to shorten the broadcast license term from eight to three years, as suggested by acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.

“Since we still need broadcasters to contribute to the democratic dialogue,” Copps said in remarks at a summit sponsored by the advocacy group Free Press, “we need clear standards that can be fairly but vigorously enforced. It is time to say ‘Good-bye’ to post card renewal every eight years and ‘Hello’ to license renewals every three years with some public interest teeth.”

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Communications And News Delivery

by Rob de Santos

When I first became a radio aficionado a main draw of the hobby was the ability to get news from the “source.” No longer did I have to depend on the often unreliable or non-existent coverage of foreign events by the domestic press, I could get news straight from the country of origin, often “as it happened.” I can recall hearing the sudden change of programming and music on Radio Moscow and knowing what none of my neighbors knew: the leader of the Soviet Union had died. The advent of the Internet gave me the perfect supplement to my shortwave radio and, over time, has replaced it to a great degree. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that.

The gradual demise of international broadcasting over the past several decades has made shortwave radio less important as a source of news and information, even in much of the Third World. The decisions of international broadcasters to reduce, discontinue, or to replace their newscasts probably marks the beginning of the sunset on the era where shortwave was the most important medium for the delivery of news. Will it ever return? Events may prove it otherwise, but right now it seems unlikely.

Similarly, we’re seeing major newspapers in the Western world struggle for survival as the economic downturn coincides with the movement of “eyeballs” from the printed page to the glowing screen. These trends aren’t just a reflection of bad business practices by the owners and management of newspapers, but perhaps represent a sea change in the entire means of delivery of news and information. Relatively few people under the age of 30 even purchase a newspaper.

What does the future hold for the delivery of news, and how will continuing development affect those of us in the communications hobby? Beyond the obvious, it seems that several trends are apparent: News will increasingly be delivered in smaller and smaller “bites,” and “pull” technology will dominate over traditional “push” technology. For the hobbyist, our consumption of news may well be driven by these same trends.

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World Watch: An Ear
Toward Mexico

Shaken By Earthquakes, Cartels, Germs, And More, Our Southern Neighbor Is Left Reeling

by Gerry Dexter


South of the border, down Mexico way, that’s where I fell in love when the stars above came out to play…” Well, maybe that’s taking the old song a bit too far. It was made popular in the 1940s by Gene Autry, with a significant assist from one of those great Roy Rogers-Dale Evans movies. Now, some 70 years later, that melody has seen better days. And, for that matter, in some respects perhaps has Mexico has also.

If we are to believe only what we hear in the news reports coming out of the seemingly always hyped media, Mexico is certainly a land of mucho trouble these days. Drugs are flowing across our southern border at something akin to the Rio Grande at full flood, and the cartel wars over the attendant profits have left a gruesome trail. And, of course, illegal (sorry, “undocumented”) immigrants also flow across the border and remain political a hot button.

At one time Mexico was the center of a highly sophisticated civilization that contributed significant developments in mathematics, the solar calendar, and medicine. In more modern times, elements of the society seem to have deteriorated into an almost pre-Colombian state. The drug world has recently reared its lawless head with a vengeance, and tales of kidnappings, murders, corruption, ruthless cartels and other horrors have grabbed headlines. That much of this is happening along our border highlights the need for greater security.

And if that weren’t enough to keep the locals awake at night, Mexico also garnered the unenviable title of Ground Zero for swine flu and what looked like the long-feared global pandemic. We still don’t know if we’ve seen the worst of that. Adding to an almost Biblical level of bad luck, multiple earthquakes in the area have rattled buildings and nerves already worn raw.

Mexico is a democracy with a market economy, what we typically think of as all the ingredients needed for achieving success. But somehow the formula seems to be missing something. Perhaps corruption is too entrenched still, or too many bad decisions have been made by too many “me first” politicians, or maybe it’s that for too long a period of time just one political party held the reins of power (the PRI from 1910 to 2000).
Nonetheless, despite its “grittier” aspects, out neighbor to the south has a lot going for it. It is superbly rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. People say Mexico is a great place to visit, so whaddya say we do. But let’s take the trip via radio—that way you won’t need a passport and it’ll be safe to drink the water!

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A Short Stroll Through Mexico’s Shortwave History

Soak Up Mexico’s Radio Past, Then Become Part Of Its Present By Logging Its Fascinating Stations

by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson


Ah, Mexico! It’s a land of duality, of enchantment and turmoil, a country where the ancient and modern blend into delightful tourist attractions, but that’s also witnessed more than its share of strife. Its timeless vistas lure wandering tourists from chillier climes up north to escape harsh winters and enjoy pleasantly warm weather on the edges of the rolling seas. In this land of contrast, luxury tourist accommodations stand next to ancient ruins that tell of mighty civilizations of long, long ago. Mexico also beckons another type of wondering tourist, the type that will travel from all over the world in search of something different and who is willing to penetrate deeply into varied forms of human endeavor.

In the same way, Mexico has a special appeal to radio aficionados who have a real interest in the history and the backgrounds of radio broadcasting in a (to some of us, at least) rather exotic country. During the era when the earliest experiments in wireless communication were developing in continental and islandic Europe, there were similar developments in the three countries of North America: Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Birth Of A Medium

The seminal wireless radio figure Guglielmo Marconi began his earliest electrical transmissions through unconnected space (hence wireless) in northern Italy in continental Europe in 1895. A few years later, he erected a huge wireless station at Poldhu in Cornwall in islandic Europe for communications across the Atlantic. These earliest wireless stations were so massive, in fact, that they had a circular antenna system with wooden towers 200 feet high or more. Their transmission wires, which were an inch thick, whipped around almost uncontrollably when the power was applied, and there was a thunder-like crash that was literally deafening when the Morse code key was closed.

In Canada, the year 1901 is historic for the reception of the first wireless signal across the Atlantic. The simple letter S, indicated by the repetition of three consecutive dots in Morse code, was sent from the aforementioned Poldhu and received at Signal Hill in Newfoundland, a British dependency at the time, which was confederated into the Dominion of Canada 47 years later.


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Remembering Paul Harvey

The Man Who Covered A Million Miles Of Main Street, 250 Watts At A Time

by Peter Hunn


When ABC Radio commentator Paul Harvey passed away in February 2009, an irreplaceable piece of broadcasting died, too. And the fact that his death, at age 90, was so prominently covered by the youth-dominated online vehicles that are eroding the traditional media that brought Harvey to national prominence somehow seems to make his life’s contribution especially poignant.

Harvey’s intangible assets consisted of distinctive traits largely rejected by 21st Century electronic gatekeepers: a grandfatherly voice, a knack for what interests the average Midwestern American, a stubbornly positive conservative salesman’s attitude, and the use something that normally scares the wits out of broadcasters—dead air. After having consistently attracted an uncommonly wide listener demographic for some 60 years, Harvey’s sudden silence signaled an end to a brand of radio companionship that was arguably already gone.

The Early Years

Born Paul Harvey Aurandt on September 4, 1918, the Tulsa native decided not to confuse listeners with a difficult to spell last name when, as a high school student, he hit the Oklahoma airwaves in 1933. His Tulsa police officer father had been gunned down by bad guys when Harvey was only three, leaving his mother to raise him and a sister. As an elementary school student, Harvey became infatuated with voices coaxed out of the ether via radio, and he built a crystal set in a cigar box chassis in order to hear them. He later liked to reminisce, “As a boy, I fell in love with words and ran away from home and joined the radio, and it was really something!”

That first gig at KVOO was done gratis. It represented a good investment in the future and resulted in an occasional chance to man the microphone while compiling a resume that soon opened radio studio doors in Abilene, Kansas; Oklahoma City; and St. Louis. At a station in that Missouri venue, Harvey fell in love with Lynne Cooper, a young education reporter who announced school news there. During a date, he told her she reminded him of an angel, an endearment that stuck, instantly proposed to her, and they were wed shortly thereafter, in 1940.
The couple moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where from 1941 to 1943, Harvey worked as WKZO’s program director as well as news director for the Office of War Information throughout Indiana and Michigan.


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Tech Showcase

Uniden Bearcat BC346XT
Analog Handheld Scanner

by Jeffrey Reed


If you’re a serious scanning enthusiast, and you haven’t made the jump to purchasing a rig with Trunk Tracker technology, it’s a good time to consider it. Monitoring without it is like conversing with outdated lingo on CB Radio with a 23-channel model. If you’re in the market to purchase an analog trunking portable scanner, then check out the latest offering from Uniden: the Bearcat BC346XT handheld scanner with TrunkTracker III analog Trunk Tracker capabilities.

Sure, Uniden’s Bearcat BCD396XT handheld unit and Bearcat 796DGV base unit both boast TrunkTracker IV, but the BC346XT also deserves a serious look for its myriad features.

The Basics

My shack includes a Uniden Bearcat BC246T Trunk Tracker III handheld scanner, and let me tell you, Uniden has greatly improved on this unit with the newly released BC346XT. Never mind the seemingly endless specifications; one listen alone will tell you something about the quality of the BC346XT. It is, quite simply, the best-sounding handheld scanner in my shack.

Before getting into the juicier details, this sound is produced simply through an attached 24 ohm 0.8 watt max. (1.26 in.) internal speaker. There’s a nifty Individual Channel Volume Offset feature, too. Controlling volume and squelch is done through a Function key at the unit’s side and a top Volume/Squelch/Set control knob—very easy to use and efficient. The BC346XT includes a handy SMA-BNC adaptor so you can either screw in the stock rubber ducky or attach a conventional antenna via BNC. Even with using the included stock rubber ducky, reception was excellent.

A solid casing provides security and durability in the BC346XT handheld unit. It measures 5.35 x 2.4 x 1.22 inches (HWD) without antenna, and without antenna and batteries weighs 0.37 pounds. You have the option of powering this unit with three “AA” rechargeable Ni-MH batteries (1800 mAh) or three “AA” Alkaline batteries, or an included 6 VDC 800mA regulated AC adapter. Of course, always be sure to remove the battery cover and select the proper battery type—rechargeable or Alkaline—with the included switch. The BC346XT allows you to set battery charging time (one to 16 hours, in one-hour increments), and includes a battery save feature, too.


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On The Borderline: Drug Wars, Influenza, And More To Monitor

by Ken Reiss


When our esteemed editor Edith (and since my column was late this month she’s really “a-steamed”) informed me that this issue would feature radio south of the Rio Grande, I thought it might be interesting to focus on the U.S./Mexico border, some of the controversy surrounding it, and how to listen in. Then the H1N1 strain of influenza broke out. While as of this writing, the feared worst-case scenario of pandemic has not materialized (thank heaven!), the virus is still out there and scientists are still looking to “Ground Zero” for clues. So, between drug wars, the ever-simmering political scene, and a lurking pathogen, I expect that this normally interesting area will be even more abuzz for scannists for a long time to come.

Virus Versus Borders

While most cases of the flu initially diagnosed in this country could be traced to tourists reentering the U.S. from Mexico through the airports, there are numbers from the CDC that indicate the outbreaks are higher in the southern states that border Mexico. At present, it turns out that there isn’t much to monitor in terms of radio traffic at this time. Most of the outbreaks are handled through routine reporting and the patients are treated at doctors’ offices and hospitals like any other types of patients. If there’s any radio traffic at all, it’s probably going over a cell phone.

Of course, things may change, and only time will tell what might yet develop. We just hope and pray that all developments are of the good kind.

Monitoring The Border

The controversy continues to rage over the border and controlling entry and exit by illegal means. The Secure Border Initiative is the formal name given to the project by the Department of Homeland Security. Its effectiveness is subject to heated debate, and plans for expansion of the fence line are currently on hold.

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Global Information Guide Radio
Squatters And Radio Shufflers

by Gerry L. Dexter


Round up the usual suspects! The clear-out of the 7.100–7.200 area isn’t quite complete. As these words go into the laptop quite a few countries have ignored the abandon ship order, leaving us with a number of interesting targets still active where they’re not supposed to be. The EiBi listing for the current A-09 season shows considerable activity still present. Namely:

7100 Voice of Korea
7105 Nei Menggu PBS, China
7110 Radio Madagaskara, Madagascar
China National Radio Radio Ethiopia
UBC Radio, Uganda
7125 PBS Xizang and CNR-8, China
7130 Sarawak FM. Malaysia
7135 Belarus Radio, Radio Mahiliou, Belarus
7135 Radiodiffusion du Moroc, Morocco
7140 Voice of Korea, North Korea
Radio Republika Sakha, Russia
Radio Rossii, Russia
7145 Lao National Radio
7145 Radio Hargeisa, Somalia
7150 China Business Radio
7155 PBS Xinjiang, China
7155 Radio Pakistan
7160 Radio ICDI, Central African Republic
China National Radio
7165 Nei Menggu PBS, China
Voice of Peace and Democracy,
Voice of Democratic Alliance,
Voice of the Broad Masses, Eritrea
Radio Ethiopia
7170 PBS Xizang, China
7175 Voice of the Broad Masses, Eritrea
7185 Firedrake Jammer, China
SLBC, Sri Lanka
7190 All India Radio, Mumbai
7195 China National Radio
UBC Radio, Uganda

In some respects the list is rather disturbing, from the point of the desire for law and order and all that. From another angle, we’re still left with some of the old targets and a few familiar voices in their old spots. Enjoy this listening bonus while it lasts.

There may be a new Trans World Radio outlet on the air from Benin in another year or two. Word is that TWR plans to apply for a license there.
CVC has cut back its operating hours on 6070, apparently in deference to CFRX, a long-time resident of 6070, the result being a stronger, cleaner signal out of Toronto.

If you’ve noticed Africa Number One has been down to a single frequency of late, that’s because technical difficulties have forced the closedown of both 15475 and 17630. At least one of the two frequencies should be back in operation by the time you read this. The old 9580 standby remained active all along.


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Broadcast Technology

AM Radio: Alive And Well Received
On The New CCRadio-2

by Bruce A. Conti


The CCRadio from C. Crane was introduced more than 10 years ago in the November 1998 issue of Popular Communications. The CCRadio represented years of development by C. Crane Company in partnership with Sangean engineers, culminating in the design of a portable radio featuring superior AM performance. I was intrigued by the introduction of this new AM/FM receiver, simply because it was so unusual to find a manufacturer interested in providing a radio with a high-quality AM section. Back then I said it was a keeper, and until now nothing had replaced it at my bedside. Now C. Crane has done it again, introducing the new CCRadio-2.

The Basics

The CCRadio-2 is a portable AM/FM clock radio reminiscent of the lunchbox-size portables of the 1960s and ’70s, yet the retro design doesn’t compromise the modern convenience of digital controls. Out of the box, it has an impressively solid and substantial feel, weighing in at nearly 5 pounds with four D-cell batteries installed. In addition to AM and FM broadcasts, the CCRadio-2 tunes in all seven of the NOAA Weather Radio broadcast channels and the 2 meter VHF ham band, which replaces the VHF TV audio reception of the original CCRadio removed due to the television broadcast switch to digital. Extra features found standard in the CCRadio-2 include AC power, a stereo headphone jack, external stereo audio input/output jacks, and weather alert capability.

Although operation of the radio is relatively straightforward, the instruction manual is well written for quick access to information about the few more complex functions, such as setting the alarm clock, weather alert modes, VHF squelch control, selecting the audio auxiliary input, and timed operation. The status of all active digital functions is clearly indicated on a large front panel LCD with frequency and clock displayed by 1/2-inch numerals and three selectable levels of backlighting brightness.

Tuning is in steps by front panel up/down buttons or a right-side mounted rotary knob, or by auto scanning for a strong signal. A rotary volume control is also located on the side, while separate bass and treble knobs are on the front. Four front panel pushbuttons are dedicated to alarm clock and timer functions. Preset buttons prominently positioned on the top of the radio allow for instant access to five favorite frequencies on each band, just like on a car radio. The power switch, band/aux switch, and weather alert switch are pushbuttons also located on the top. A right-side locking slide switch disables all function switches to prevent accidental power up or loss of settings. A telescopic whip antenna for FM, weather band, and 2 meter reception completely collapses to protect against damage.

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Radio Fun

Trivia And Toons

by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL


Q. What is a “burst transmission” and who first started using them?

A. A burst transmission is a transmission recorded at normal speed but sent at 30 or 40 times that speed. This is usually done to make it difficult to copy or even identify it as a transmission. The technique was first used by the Germans before World War I.

Q. General Patton moved the Third Army through Europe like a hot knife through butter. Was he assisted by SIGINTEL?

A. Yes, though in those days it was called COMINTEL for Communications Intelligence and included both regular radio intercepts and the high-level Ultra cryptology efforts of the British decoders at Bletchley Park. And Patton got a lot of help from radio intercepts from both sources.

My information comes from a report written by Major Warrack Wallace, who was assigned to the Third Army as an Ultra Recipient in August 1944. Wallace’s job was to receive Ultra material from the Special Liaison Unit which got it from England and to return it to the SLU. (Ultra material could only be held for 24 hours and needed a hand receipt going both ways.) Every morning Patton and about 40 staff officers would be briefed by his Intelligence and Operations Officers. After the 0900 briefing was over everyone would leave except Patton and about seven senior officers, who would then receive the Ultra briefing.

Once, at Avaranches in France, Patton was informed by Ultra (and only Ultra) that five German Panzer Divisions were planning an attack. Patton was able to plan a successful defense because of the time and information Ultra had given him. On another occasion, at the city of Chalons, France, an Ultra message reached Patton at 0100 hours that the Germans were planning to hit his line at 0300. His troops were, in Patton’s words “spread thinner than the skin on an egg.” Yet, with only a short time to prepare, Patton mounted another successful defense.

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Homeland Secuity

Are Terrorists Really Using The Air Waves?

by Mitch Gill, NA7US


Because I’m a member of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) I receive a weekly email of interesting tidbits and small brief articles that deal with amateur radio. Normally I just breeze through most of them, but one recent piece really caught my eye. It was about a police department that was using ham gear without a license (see “FCC, Indianapolis Police Department…”). Why was I so interested? Because it made me wonder how long they had been using the ham frequencies without anyone knowing.

I was not interested in the fact that the incident involved a police department, which resolved the problem as soon as the FCC advised them about it, but it made me think about whether terrorists are using ham radio equipment illegally. I wanted to know whether there have been any known incidents of commercial or amateur radio HF radios being used and how it might be being used today.

Learning From The Past

Looking back at past incidents can alert us to potential future areas to monitor. In 2002, when I was a member of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES), the US Coast Guard briefed us on an incident that occurred locally.

Late one evening a control operator on a local repeater (145–148 MHz) heard a faint voice asking for help. The voice would come on the air only for a short time, giving small bits of information. The police and the Coast Guard were called when the person stated that he and his wife had been taken hostage on their boat by two Middle Eastern-looking men with large suitcases. One transmission stated that they were headed toward Bangor, our submarine base in the Puget Sound, which of course put the US Coast Guard and all federal agencies on high alert.

After huge costs were incurred, it was determined that there was no boat and no hostage-taking incident. Two possible explanations were discussed at the time: One was that it was someone who thought it would be funny to see the reaction, and the other was that it was someone testing our response. What the actual answer was we may never know.

Terrorists Have Radios

My research led me to an article about an Australian company, Codan Limited, that unknowingly sold HF radios to an al-Qaida operative (see “Australian Firm Unwittingly Sells Radio Equipment to al Qa’ida”). This particular sale was also mentioned by the Department of Homeland Security to illustrate that terrorists who may be in hiding could have HF radio capabilities. As recently as September 2007, the Times Online reported that HF was the only reliable communications that al-Qaida could use. Indeed, Osama bin Laden’s personal driver was found to have a series of pink numeric code cards inside his vehicle. These were used over HF radio to refer to an action (like placing a bomb), object (like C-4) and people (like Bin Laden).

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Ham Discoveries

QRP—The New Norm?

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ


I’d love to see a graph that accurately depicts the typical ham’s average RF power output over the past 50 years. In the 1960s, when this graph would begin, I imagine that the average power output would have been rather low (somewhere around 50 watts), but leading into the ’70s and ’80s, I figure 100 watts or so would probably have been the norm. In the ’90s, however, I bet the graph would have begun a downward slide, as real estate hassles, deed restrictions, and homeowner’s associations reared their ugly heads.

Since then, on average, it’s been a lot more difficult to enjoy ham radio by simply putting up a reasonable antenna in the backyard and using it to transmit an average 100 watts into the ether (like we did in the ’70s and ’80s). Ham radio has been under siege, and more and more ops have had to modify or even curtail their pursuit of
the hobby.

Adaptations have been many, and they include stealth operation with hidden antennas, remote stations linked by the Internet or on VHF/UHF (for the fortunate few), a shift to mobile and portable hamming, weekend contest operating at someone else’s shack, etc. Many of these “ways of operating” involve running a lot less than “the 100 watt average” when it comes to power output. Whether backpack portable or condo-bound, running 100 watts is probably impractical. It’s too difficult to lug around the required power for it, and running 100 watts to an indoor antenna is probably going to cause more problems than it fixes—for you and your neighbors.

As I’m sure my imaginary graph would show, hams don’t seem to be running as much power nowadays—and that’s not all bad.

Regardless of how we got to this point, take comfort in the fact that there’s still a lot of fun to be had running low (or lower) power. In fact, since the beginning of hobby radio, a small but dedicated cadre of hams has chosen to run low power simply for the challenge and the fun of it. Dubbed QRPers (from the ham radio Q Signal QRP, which used to mean “please reduce your power”), these ops know the dirty little secret of radio propagation: 5 or 10 watts works just about as well as 100 watts in almost every situation.

True QRPers aren’t concerned in the slightest that other ops on the band are running 100 to 1000 watts or more. After they’ve logged a few low-power QSOs, the sky’s the limit (even if their power isn’t). So, let’s set aside deed restrictions and the like, including all the above-mentioned factors that might be forcing us to reduce our power, and let’s take a look at QRP operation from a bright and shiny perspective.


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Military Radio Monitoring

Dover Air Force Base: The DoD’s Biggest And Busiest
Air Terminal

by Mark Meece, N8ICW


The Monster Mile is the nickname given to Dover International Speedway because its concrete surface has the tendency to eat the tires off the race cars traversing its one-mile oval. A mere four miles south on US Route 1 is the location of this issue’s column subject, Dover Air Force Base, where it’s the tires on some of the Air Force’s largest aircraft that take a punishing.

A History Of Change

Dover Air Force Base is situated in the center of the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) two miles south of Dover, the capitol of Delaware. Construction was started in March 1941, and the facility opened in December of that year as Municipal Airport, Dover Airdrome. On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and weeks after the attack the facility was converted to an Army Air Corp airfield.

Over the next few years the base would go through a flurry of name changes. On April 8, 1943, it was renamed to Dover Army Airbase; two months later on June 6, 1954, it became Dover Subbase (when it was considered a subbase of Camp Springs Army Airfield, Maryland). The following year on February 2, 1944, it was changed to Dover Army Airfield. When the United States Air Force was established a few years after the end of hostilities of World War II, it was finally renamed Dover Air Force Base on January 13, 1948.

With the military requiring a training airfield, the facility first opened for operations on December 17, 1941, and construction commenced on the runways and hangars. The airfield’s first assignment was to the First Air Force. The 112th Observation Squadron of the Ohio National Guard based at National Airport in Toledo, Ohio, was the first unit to arrive at Dover on December 20, 1941. The 112th OS would fly anti-submarine patrols off of the Delaware Coast. A few months later, in early 1942, three bomber squadrons flying the Mitchell B-25 arrived with the 45th Bombardment Group. The 45th BG was charged with patrolling the Atlantic Coast and assuming the anti-submarine mission.

On June 6, 1943 the anti-submarine mission came to an end. Almost immediately a huge upgrading project began and construction crews worked to lengthen the main runway to 7,000 feet. It was during this construction phase that Dover became a subbase of Camp Springs Army Airfield, a status that continued into June of 1944.

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The Wireless Connection

A Noise Generator Project

by Peter J. Bertini

Last month’s column touted the benefits of using a noise generator for RF stage alignment. Just in case you missed it, I’m going to give a short recap before going ahead with this month’s continuation of the topic.

Have you ever noticed that many sets suffer from significant oscillator pulling while the final touchup of the RF trimmer (antenna stage) for the highest shortwave frequency is being attempted? The common solution is to rock the tuning, or signal generator, back-and-forth over a range of several kHz in an (often futile) effort to keep the signal centered in the IF band-pass as you’re trying to find the true peak for the antenna trimmer. [Sigh]. This interaction between the oscillator frequency and RF tuning is the nature of the beast for many inexpensive 1930s vintage consumer grade receivers. Here’s how I align those radios using a broadband white noise signal generator.

The schematic for my homebrew noise generator is shown in the accompanying Figure. Similar circuits have been in circulation for many years, and my adaptation comes with no claims of originality.

Noise Source

Here’s how it works: A Zener diode (named in honor of Dr. Carl Zener, who first discovered the effect in 1934) is forward-biased to its breakdown region, which is 6.2 volts for the 1N3735. Zener diodes are intended to provide known reference voltages for electronic circuits; they also generate a broad spectrum of white noise when in the avalanche mode. While these noise products are very undesired artifacts for voltage references, here we’re going to put that unwanted characteristic to good use!

An inexpensive 1N4735 6.2 volt Zener diode serves as the broadband noise source for our generator. You may substitute a Zener diode with a voltage rating of 5 to 6.6 volts if a 1N3735 type diode is readily not available. The value of the 1500 ohm resistor biasing the Zener diode can be tweaked to maximize the noise level. In a pinch, another 2N3904 transistor can be used as a noise source in lieu of a Zener diode. Connect the base to ground, leave the collector unconnected, and use the emitter as the “cathode” lead. The current limiting resistor must be changed from 1500 ohms to about 2700 ohms.

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The Propagation Corner

Demystifying HF Radio Propagation

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

This month, we focus on the exciting opportunities available to the Technician class amateur radio operator. Because of the new rules that allow the Technician to transmit in the high frequencies (HF), it’s now possible for you to communicate well beyond your local area. You could easily make two-way contacts around the world, even during this period of very low sunspot activity.

Let’s take a look at a real-world situation. The illustrations for this month’s column are derived from the propagation prediction program, ACE-HF PRO, available at http://hfradio.org/acehf/. ACE stands for Animated Communications Effectiveness, a coverage display technique
originally developed for U.S. Navy submarine communications.

ACE-HF’s advantage is that the effects of solar phenomenon and the day’s passage may be easily understood. ACE-HF shows when the HF bands will be open in different world areas. More accurately, the program is known as system simulation and visualization software, a powerful tool for an amateur radio operator that allows you to simulate a radio signal path between two points. The simulation includes the most current propagation modeling, and visually provides the results of your analysis.

I’ve used the ACE-HF PRO System Simula-tion & Visualization program to illustrate how useful propagation predictions can be to you as you begin this journey. Version 2.05 of ACE-HF, reviewed in the May 2006 edition of our sister publication CQ, has been called the “Cadillac of propagation programs.” That name isn’t surprising since the design derives from the professional ACE-HF Network software for government and commercial HF network operators, which is used by the military and commercial groups. This edition of ACE-HF has many features for the radio amateur, as well as powerful tools useful to shortwave listeners. (See http://hfradio.org/ace-hf/ for my various reviews and application notes for ACE-HF PRO, version 2.05.)

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Utility Communications Digest

Utility’s Back...Please Excuse The Dust

by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ


This month, the “Utility” column returns to the pages of Pop’Comm following a temporary absence caused by your columnist taking some sorely needed time off. While I didn’t travel, I did get to spend some extra time in front of the radios. I also did some work on my computers, and the one I do my writing on now sports a nifty new quad core CPU and a 1.5TB hard disk.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that since we missed a few issues, we have a treasure of logs to catch up on, so this column will be cut kind of short to leave room for extra logs.

I also have to admit to having made an oversight in allowing my domain name registration for the website that supported this column to expire; it was promptly snapped up by one of those vulture operations that grabs expired domain names in the hope of selling them back to the original holders (for a ridiculous fee, of course).

I want to stress that the “Utility Communications Digest” website was not an official site and was entirely my own responsibility, not that of the magazine or its publisher, so please don’t send hate mail to anyone other than me. The oversight was entirely mine. I was the one who created and maintained the site, entirely on my own, as a subdomain of my personal site and simply forgot to renew the domain name registration. In baseball terms, I committed an error.

In the future, I anticipate reviving the site, which will have an entirely new URL. This will occur as soon as I conjure up a new domain name, register it, and get enough spare time to rebuild the site.

Catching Up With NASA

While I was enjoying my R&R, some additions were made to the NASA mission and launch schedule, so those of you who enjoy monitoring NASA launch communications now have three events on the docket for this month.

In the first of these missions, the Space Shuttle Discovery has a targeted August 6 as a launch date to blast off from pad 39A (Photo A) at the Kennedy Space Center. Discovery will carry experiment and storage racks to the International Space Station.

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The Loose Connection

The Dinosaur Drives A Wedge

by Bill Price, N3AVY


Once I was an active ham. I loved working CW, but I quickly lost interest in discussions of equipment, and weather, equipment and weather, and weather and equipment. I’d hoped to find someone on the CW bands with whom I’d have at least some common interests, but I didn’t, so I swapped the transceiver for a receiver and never looked back. Now the same Internet that’s decimated the king of hobbies provides me with the narrowest of categories: keeping me in touch with other armed harmonica players with pet rats. Some of them are even hams, which brings me to burning question: Why not CW over the Internet?

We can send still photos, movies, and audio files. We can chat over the net with cute mics and headsets or pay a few dollars (gasp!) and use VoIP, yet no one even bothers to offer a jack where I could plug in a key (if I hadn’t given them all away). Maybe IBM isn’t interested in that, but I’d like to think maybe MFJ would come up with an Internet-based CW system for those nights when the ionosphere is not co-operating.

In Coast Guard radio school, classrooms were connected by a CW intercom. It was odd to us at first, but after a while it seemed like the best way.

And what about those “push to talk” phones that connect you to anyone, anywhere, in an instant? A person would think they could at least offer a built-in keyer as an option!

When I drove a ’66 Plymouth (something else that’s discontinued due to lack of interest), I had a Lafayette “imported” speed key on the console, connected to an oscillator. I wanted to connect it to the horn, but my father warned me that the horn-relay would die an early death. I likely would have annoyed our friends in the law-enforcement community, too. I passed many hours and miles polishing my sending skills; hard turns and bumps took their toll.

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