Author Archives: Thomas

Cold War Broadcasting: Two articles feature RFE & Radio Liberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares the following article from the website Journalism Is Not A Crime:

From Propaganda to Journalism: How Radio Free Europe Pierced the Iron Curtain

The end of the Second World War signaled the beginning of an information war in Europe. As the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its main western allies — the United States and Britain — came to an end, the USSR backed small communist parties that asserted ever-tighter control over much of Eastern Europe.

Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” of totalitarian control sealing off half the continent. His speech heralded the beginning of an ideological “cold war” that would last for more than 40 years, a struggle in which citizens of the eastern camp were only meant to hear one side of the argument.

“We talk about the Iron Curtain as a physical barrier, but it was also an information curtain,” says A. Ross Johnson, a former director of Radio Free Europe and author of a history of RFE and its companion station, Radio Liberty, which broadcast into the Soviet Union. “All the communist regimes saw control of information as a key to their rule.”

Continue reading…

An SWLing Post contributor also recently shared the following PDF article by A. Ross Johnson for the Wilson Center. Here’s the summary:

To Monitor and be Monitored– Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War

Monitoring of Soviet bloc radios was an important input to Radio Free and Radio Liberty broadcasts during the Cold War. RFE and RL also monitored the official print media and interviewed refugees and travelers. Soviet bloc officials in turn monitored RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasts (while jamming their transmissions) to inform themselves and to counter what they viewed as “ideological subversion.” On both sides, monitoring informed media policy.

RFE and RL monitored their radio audiences through listener letters and extensive travel
surveys, while the Communist authorities monitored those audiences through secret police
informants and secret internal polling. Both approaches were second-best efforts at survey
research but in retrospect provided reasonably accurate indicators of the audience for RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasters.

Click here to download the full Wilson Center article as a PDF.

If you’re interested in Cold War broadcasting, I would also encourage you to check out Richard Cummings’ blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

How to safely archive QSLs, postcards, photos, and printed memorabilia

Recently, an SWLing Post reader asked this simple question:

“If you were me, would you laminate a super-rare QSL card?”

The short answer–?  Please don’t!

Never laminate a QSL card, photo, page or postcard

You should never apply heat-seal or adhesive (cold) seal lamination to a QSL card or any other paper memorabilia if your ultimate goal is to protect and archive it.

Why?  Doesn’t lamination, for example, make your card impervious to moisture (and spilled coffee)?  Sort of.  So that makes it safe for the long term, doesn’t it? Well…not exactly.

These forms of lamination, over time, basically destroy printed media. In the short term, laminating your cards can look great, and will keep some of the coffee off (though it may still seep in the sides); in the long term, however, the (petroleum-based) plastic can “off gas,” causing a detrimental chemical reaction with the media it attempts to protect.  Plastic can also be acidic.  Coupled with the lamination heat (or the adhesive, in the case of cold-seal lamination) these processes can actually speed up the aging process “causing progressive deterioration and eventual embrittlement,” according to one archiving source.

I feel fairly passionate about this because, during my undergraduate studies, I worked for my university archives department where I was taught (by an excellent and knowledgeable archivist) to handle, document, index, and preserve sensitive documents, books, photos, cards, slides and other forms of media (known in the trade as “ephemera”).  Many times, we’d receive important documents or photos from donors who had laminated them, believing they were archiving these items for future generations. Alas, we saw the results of the lamination damage first-hand:  decades-old items that had been heat-laminated were separating and clouding up, often tearing apart the item inside. Our head archivist likened laminating to a self-destruct mechanism.

Take away? Lamination is a very bad idea for the long-term protection of any print media.

How to archive a QSL card––or any document, for that matter

Archival sleeves come in all forms. This one holds four cards and fits in a three ring binder.

Fortunately, there are effective (and fairly affordable) ways to properly archive and organize your QSL card collection, as well as other sentimental and/or valuable ephemera.

Look for archival transparent sleeves supplied to libraries. These are generally made of polyethylene, mylar/polyester, or another transparent archival material that passes the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).

In short: If you find an archival sleeve, from a reputable seller that passes the P.A.T. test, you’ll know it’s safe.

Archival products are acid-free, lignan-free, and chemical softener-free, thus should not interact or bind with the media you’re preserving as non-acid-free items are prone to do. With anything I wish to archive, I go with archival quality all the way.

For example, I make sure not only the clear sleeves or pages are archival, but that the binder or box containing the items are acid-free and of archival quality, as well. Any labels I use are archival, as well . That may seem like overkill to many, but it’s just what an archivist would do!

Storage of the media is also important; you don’t want to put your cards in archival sleeves and then leave them in a damp shed or shack where moisture can become trapped between your card and the encapsulating archival sleeve; mold could still develop.  So a dry, somewhat temperature-controlled environment is key.  Generally speaking, keeping ephemera indoors where you live may be a better option.

Sources of Archival Materials

A simple acid-free box can store hundreds of QSL cards in archival sleeves sleeves.

Archival products are more expensive than standard office products, but they’re worth it. Make sure you’re purchasing the best quality you can afford. Two of my favorite suppliers are Gaylord Archival and Light Impressions, though there are many other reputable ones out there.

Amazon and eBay offer sources of archival quality products, as well, and pricing can be more competitive than either of the retailers I’ve listed above.

As for myself,  I only buy archival products from retailers that specialize in them. Both Light Impressions and Gaylord Archival have helpful staff you can call on the phone. They’ll help you find the best material for the preservation of your collection of QSL cards or whatever else you may want to protect.

I’d rather support Light Impressions with my purchase knowing that their standards are strict and their reputation rides on their products meeting strict archival standards. If you’re going to pay for something to protect your memorabilia, I say, go for quality!

And in the meantime…give the heat lamination a miss.

Good luck with your long-term archiving!  And don’t forget to share those rare QSL cards with us here.

2017 Hamvention attendance tops 29K

(Source: Hamvention Press Release)

29,296 Attendees at Dayton Hamvention® 2017

Chairman’s Message

It took a while to collect all the information but the numbers are in and it has been a most successful year. This is quite an increase over last year’s attendance.

We knew this would be a big year but this was even beyond our expectations. The challenge was great to reinvent Hamvention® at a new venue, The Greene County Expo Center and Fairgrounds in a very short time period. From all the emails, letters, and calls I have received over the last few weeks, we have accomplished it successfully. Thanks to all who provided constructive criticism, each idea is being evaluated. Please thank all our 657 volunteers from around the world for their over the top dedication to make Hamvention the success you wanted it to be.

We all recognize the traffic, rain, mud and parking issues, but part of those issues were corrected even before show weekend was over. Other issues are being worked on already for next year’s show. We are working with Greene County, Xenia Township, City of Xenia officials and the Greene County Fairgrounds and Exposition Center Advisory Board. We can’t control the rain but we promise there will not be some of the other issues next year. There may even be some new surprises in store for you. We have three extra months and a successful plan to start with.

We thank all who came to the show this first year in Greene County and hope to see you again next year. For those that thought they would wait and see how we did, sorry you missed the show but look forward to seeing you next year. Our rough edges will be smoothed out for you by then.

Thank You, and Hope to see all next year at our New Home,

Ron Cramer
Hamvention® General Chair

Video: Air traffic on the HF bands

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Hawkins, who writes:

Air traffic bands on VHF is well-known.

Not so well-known are the shortwave (HF) communications networks that must be operated by transoceanic flights.

This is an ARINC station for San Francisco, California. I am located about 70 miles inland from this station. I assume ARINC is using a directional antenna system beamed westward toward the Pacific Ocean.

I recorded this video of an ARINC station late last night for my YouTube channel.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks, Dan!

I enjoy monitoring air traffic on VHF and often forget that when I’m outside the range of an airport’s tower, I can still hop on HF and often hear international traffic. Thanks again!

Alan Roe’s A17 season guide to music on shortwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alan Roe, who writes:

Hi Thomas

As always, thank you for your regular SWLing Post – it’s always an interesting read!

I have just completed my Music on Shortwave listing for A-17 season, and attach it here for you to consider including in a future SWLing Post.

My regards

Alan Roe, Teddington, UK

Click here to download the A17 Shortwave Music Guide (PDF).

Alan, I always look forward to your music guide and keep a printed copy in my shack. Thanks so much for sharing it here with the community!