Category Archives: Articles

Lowell Thomas: “The Forgotten Man Who Transformed Journalism”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Patalon, who shares the following story from The Smithsonian:

The Forgotten Man Who Transformed Journalism in America

Lowell Thomas was the first host of a TV broadcast news program, and adopted a number of other new technologies to make his mark in the 20th century

By the time Lowell Thomas turned 25, he’d already worked as a journalist, earned multiple degrees, and found a place on the faculty at Princeton University. But seizing a rare opportunity during World War I changed him from youthful overachiever to media heavyweight. During that conflict he met T.E. Lawrence, soon-to-be famous as “Lawrence of Arabia”—and Thomas played a large part in giving Lawrence that fame. The encounter launched Thomas into the media stratosphere with a groundbreaking multimedia presentation that captivated millions.

But while Lawrence’s work ended abruptly with his untimely death, Thomas went on to live a long, remarkable life. He traveled Europe, the Middle East, India, Afghanistan, New Guinea and Tibet, even meeting the Dalai Lama. He made fans out of Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill and led a prolific career in the news, making reports by print, radio, and TV—and reshaping them all into more formal, serious mediums.

Yet for a man with such a hyperbolic life, his legacy has been largely forgotten. Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism at New York University, set out to remedy that lapse in public memory with his new biography, The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism. Smithsonian.com talked with Stephens about his book, and why Thomas still matters today. […]

Click here to continue reading the full article at The Smithsonian online.

Many thanks for sharing this, Bill! What a fascinating fellow.

How to build a Milk Crate AM Broadcast Loop Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Townley, who shares the following guest post originally posted on his Shortwave/Medium Wave blog:


540 kHz to 1700 kHz Loop Antenna (Click to enlarge)

AM Broadcast Loop Antenna

by James Townley

Several years ago, I became interested in medium wave DXing. One of my limitations was the size of my yard, so I developed an interest in tuned loop antennas to compensate, because setting up a beverage antenna was out of the question. I experimented with different sizes of loops, and found that the bigger the aperture, the more gain the loop would have. The tuned loop antenna is also very directional, which allows you to reject, or null out interference from either noise or other stations. Loops are considered bi-directional in that they receive to the front and back, but not to the sides. The tuned loop antenna quickly became my weapon of choice for medium wave DXing.

Recently when the weather began allowing me to enjoy the outdoors, I decided to make another smaller loop antenna from a plastic milk crate I had lying around. I saw the idea on the internet when I observed that someone had used a milk crate for their loop. Click here to see a variety of tuned loop antennas that others have made. Whichever material you decide to make your loop antenna from, just make sure that it is not a conductive material. Wood, plastic, and cardboard seem to be popular materials for loop making. In the photo above, I am using my Sony ICF-2010 to listen to WCCO on 830 kHz. This station is nearly 200 miles south of me, but I am able to receive it with 9 LEDs lit on my signal strength meter while using the loop. There is no direct connection of the loop to the radio, it is inductively coupling with the radio’s own ferrite rod antenna.

If you are interested in making a loop antenna like mine, here are the materials you will need:
120 ft of 18ga insulated wire (I bought a 100 ft spool of cheap speaker wire and pulled the 2 conductors apart):

1 – Plastic milk crate
1 – 15 to 365 pF air variable capacitor (found in many old radios, or a google search to buy one from an internet store)
1 – Tuning knob. Any knob will do as long as it fits the shaft on the variable capacitor.
1 – Tape or wire ties. I used tape to secure the wire while winding, then hot glue when finished.

When you begin to wind your coil, use tape or a wire tie to secure the wire, and leave about a foot of wire. This extra foot of wire will later be soldered to the frame on the capacitor. As you wind your coil, pull the wire snugly and with each turn leave about a quarter inch spacing between each turn. The spacing isn’t critical as long as the spacing is consistent.  I wound 21 turns on my crate. This may differ for you, depending on the size of your crate, or the value of you capacitor. If you find that the bottom frequency isn’t low enough, you can add more wire to make a few more turns. This will lower the bottom frequency for you.

After winding the coil, you can solder each end of the coil to your capacitor. The beginning of the loop gets soldered to the frame of the capacitor, and the other end of the coil to the rotor solder lug on the side of the capacitor. If you do not have a soldering iron, you can use alligator clips to connect your loop coil to the capacitor as well. I secured my capacitor to the inside corner of the crate with hot glue. I put a generous amount of the hot glue onto the bottom of the capacitor frame, and held it to the crate until the glue cooled enough for the capacitor to stay on it’s own. I used enough to get the job done, but not so much that it interfered with the plates in my capacitor. The hot glue seemed to adhere very well. I then checked the spacing of my coil turns, and secured them with the hot glue as well.

I was very impressed with the results after spending some time with the loop. It’s small enough to maneuver around easily, but big enough to give it some gain, so I can listen to daytime DX. I may make another tuned loop using two crates to see how much more gain I get with the larger aperture.

Happy DXing,
James Townley


Many thanks, James, for sharing your project with us! This loop appears to be relatively simple and accessible even to those with little knowledge of soldering or homebrewing. I’m now wondering how a loop made of four milk crates might perform!

Click here to view James’ Shortwave/Medium Wave blog.

Disappointment when the power comes back on

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, for sharing this column from The Athens News. I’m sure many of us relate to Dennis E. Powell (note this is only an excerpt):

If you lose power at just the right time, it can enrichen your life

This is being written last Monday night.

Several hours after the storms of earlier in the day passed, the sun shining, the birds singing, and all apparently right with the world, the electricity went out. Because there is no cellular telephone service in my part of the county, this necessitated a drive much of the way to Athens to register a report with the power company. The power company’s outage report line is the first entry in my cellular phonebook.

[…]The evening was (and as I write this, is) cool, with a bit of wind passing through the open windows, so there was no panic, as there is when the power disappears in the dead of winter or in the 100-degree summer – both of which I have experienced. But there was no fire to build, no need to think of a reason to drive to town for a few hours in some place air-conditioned.

Instead, I remembered that just a few days ago I had pushed the battery-charge button on one of a couple shortwave radios I have around here, this one a decade-old C. Crane CC Radio SW. It has a big speaker and a pleasant sound, though it’s not the sort of radio you get to dig faint signals out of the mud. It is just right for such an evening as this. So I brought it to the living room, extended its built-in antenna, and fired it up.

Shortwave radio is like Forest Gump’s mama’s box of chocolates, and that’s part of its appeal. Poking around the dial I find some Ohio shortwave amateurs putting on a bit of a panel show, passing the mic metaphorically from one to another. Because they are shortwave amateurs, all they talk about was their shortwave equipment.

The power is out all over the neighborhood, so there is not a single static scratch, no 60-Hz whine of interference. And the ionosphere seems stable, no fading in and out of signals.

Heading up the dial, I find a station in accented but easily understood English. I have to listen for a while before I learn that I am listening to Radio Romania International. That broadcast ended, so I retune and find a cranky man and a cranky woman who are discussing how awful things are and how the only thing you can count on is gold.

Moving along, I find an impassioned man with a deep Southern accent. He, too, is discussing how awful things are – and how they soon will be especially awful for those who put their trust in gold or other things of this world.

There is a broadcast from somewhere – from the accents I’d guess the Caribbean or Africa – that features a man and woman talking spiritedly and sweetly about English idioms.

Now I’m listening to the Argentine national shortwave service, which had a talk program in English though they’ve switched to Argentine music.

[…]I do hope the power comes back. Just not tonight. Tomorrow, maybe. Or the next day.

(Note: Just as I set this to email itself eventually to the Athens NEWS, minutes after I was done writing, the power came back on. And it really was a little disappointing.)

Read this full story via The Athens News online…

Tecsun S-8800 – The Birdie Problem

Recently, Tecsun announced and released onto the market the new S-8800 receiver. Thomas Witherspoon has indicated that sensitivity, selectivity and audio fidelity are very good for this new unit.

BUT…..in his post on February 12, 2017, entitled Tecsun S-8800 Update, Thomas discovered that his new S-8800 has a serious fault, one that could potentially drive radio enthusiasts mad! In tuning around the dial, he found the radio has many “birdies”. In the same post, he notes that Bertrand Stehle F6GYY also found birdies on 4 spots in the mediumwave band and 63 frequencies across the entire shortwave spectrum. Not good!

In reading the comments that followed Thomas’ post, I noted that a few writers seemed a little confused about what a birdie is and how it differs from radio frequency interference. Hopefully, the following explanation will shed some light.

The term “birdie” is, I guess, derived from the type of sounds that are emitted from a receiver having this problem. It can take on a variety of forms, like a squealing or whistling sound, or perhaps a warbling sound, or a hash noise, or indeed, even a silent carrier. In a particular radio, a birdie could appear on one or many frequencies across longwave, shortwave, mediumwave or into the VHF spectrum. And it will usually be permanently there on the same frequencies every time.

Occasionally, you will find birdies smack bang on the very frequencies where you might want to do some listening. But, unfortunately you can’t really do anything to get rid of these nuisances because the design faults are in the the receiver itself. You can test to see if what you are listening to is a birdie by simply disconnecting the antenna. If the squealing/whistling/warbling/hash/silent carrier is still there without any antenna, then it’s a birdie – an internally generated carrier by the receiver’s own circuitry.

Click here to continue reading the full story.

Rob Wagner, VK3BVW, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. He also blogs at the Mount Evelyn DX Report.

Former Radio Caroline DJ strives to become leader of Seborga, Italy

(Source: The Telegraph via Andy Sennitt)

A British-born DJ from Crawley is vying to become the ruler of a tiny self-declared principality in Italy, an honour that would earn him the enviable title “His Tremendousness”.

Mark Dezzani hopes to become the Prince of Seborga, a village overlooking the Italian Riviera that unilaterally declared its independence from Rome in the 1960s, arguing that it was never properly incorporated into Italy when the country was unified in 1861.

He will go head to head with the current ruler of the miniscule territory, His Tremendousness Marcello I, a businessman and former speedboat champion whose real is Marcello Menegatto.

Click here to continue reading…