Category Archives: Articles

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…

Dame Vera Lynn on the White Cliffs of Dover

Dame Vera Lynn

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen (K8RAT), who shares the following news about Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday:

(Source: The Mirror)

The face which inspired hope to a nation during the dark days of WW2 will once again light up the White Cliffs of Dover.

Forces Sweetheart Vera Lynn turns 100 today with a special tribute to the singer and the song she made famous…They’ll be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover.

(Source: The Mirror)

A 150ft image of the inspiring Vera is being projected onto the iconic white cliffs in Kent as she becomes the first centurion to release an album! [Continue reading…]

Mike adds:

“It is March 20, the 100th birthday of the wonderful Forces Sweetheart. Remember her boys who flew the Spitfires and the Lancasters. Remember her boys at Arnhem.

Remember them all.”

Mike knows I’m a WWII buff and also a fan of Dame Lynn.

Photo source: Decca Records

Indeed, back in 2015, I recorded The White Cliffs of Dover being played through my WWII era Scott Marine Radio Model SLR-M in honor of Memorial Day. If you missed it, click here to enjoy a little tribute to the Forces Sweetheart.

Wish I could be in Dover tonight to see the white cliffs–! Happy Birthday, Dame Lynn.

Mike also suggests this excellent pictorial timeline tribute to Vera Lynn via the BBC website.

North Korea: Information Gathering in the World’s Most Restrictive Nation

If you’ve been an SWLing Post reader for long, you’ll have “met” him virtually; if you’ve been in attendance the Winter SWL Fest recently, you’ll recognize him, may have heard him speak, and perhaps even have met him in person.  I’m speaking, of course, of my good friend, Post contributor, and fellow radio listener, Mark Fahey.

What you might not know about Mark, an intrepid Aussie and mediahound of remarkable facility and clarity, is that he has spent many years (and significant personal resources) compiling a fascinating and invaluable multi-media project in the form of an iBook he’s titled Behind The Curtain, which allows outsiders a frank view directly into North Korean propaganda.

What’s astounding is that this view is from within North Korea: Mark, having traveled to North Korea numerous times (until he made his research public, that is, thus limiting his re-entry), successfully rips back North Korea’s curtain of self-image to reveal, in all its stultified glory, the inner workings––and failings––of the”Hermit Kingdom.”

He’s now very near to publishing  Behind The Curtain, and he’s making available the iBook––as well as all of the media and research he’s curated––for free.

HOPE X

During the summer of 2014 Mark ventured to New York City to present his research at HOPE X (Hackers On Planet Earth). Yesterday, I rediscovered the video of Mark’s presentation at HOPE X on YouTube. If you’re interested in North Korea, propaganda, number stations, SDRs, and/or anthropology of any stripe, you’ll certainly enjoy this presentation, which is truly like no other:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Intrigued?  So am I!

Behind The Curtain doesn’t yet have a formal release date, but stay tuned to the Post for details about its availability, as well as any other presentations or projects on this (or any other subject!) by Mark.

Download Behind The Curtain from the Apple store by clicking here.