The Russian Woodpecker movie: now online

woodpecker_movie-graphic

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who tweets:

The Russian Woodpecker movie is now on Vimeo, Google Play & Itunes:

http://www.russianwoodpecker.com/

Thanks, Andrea!

It appears the movie costs $9.99 (buy) or $3.99 (rent) via Google Play, $12.99 (buy) via iTunes, and $12.99 (buy) or $4.99 (rent) via Vimeo on Demand.

Via Amazon, the movie costs $9.99 (buy) or $4.99HD/$3.99SD (rent) but, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, it’s offered as a “free” stream. If I can finish a few projects on my table, I hope to watch this tonight.

Avengers ‘Age of Ultron’ scene: is that a Hallicrafters receiver?

Avengers-Ultron-Hallicrafters-Radios-1 With the recent posts about shortwave radio in films (Star Wars and Star Trek), I remembered a scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron where I thought I spotted a vintage Hallicrafters receiver.

In the scene, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is using an “old school spy method” to find the whereabouts of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). I remembered Haweye sitting in front of a 1940s era radio.

This weekend, I found the clip from the movie (first time I had seen it since the theatre) and sure enough, I’m positive this is a Hallicrafters. Click on the images above or below to enlarge.

Avengers-Ultron-Hallicrafters-RadiosI can’t quite determine the Halli model, though–can anyone ID it?

The images aren’t the best: the scene is dark and the radio at quite an angle. Still, there’s no mistaking that Hallicrafters glow.

My Hallicrafters SX-24

My Hallicrafters SX-24

I think there’s a good chance it’s the same model I have in my radio shack: the Hallicrafters SX-24 ‘Sky Defiant‘–but I can’t quite confirm. Perhaps it’s an SX-28?

Can anyone provide a positive ID? Please comment!

How Bob McGwier used a Cray-2 supercomputer to decode a ham radio transmission heard in Star Trek IV

Startrek4-MoviePoster-SmallIn response to our recent post with a message to us from Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt, SWLing Post reader, David Guilbeault, comments:

Here’s a similar story that circulated on the Internet around 1990 (pre WEB!). I worked in packet switching at that time and was very impressed with Bob’s achievement (even with a CRAY to work with) .

I reached out to Bob McGwier (N4HY), who is a Facebook friend, and he has kindly given us permission to share his message again here and with a few new comments:


Star-Trek-IV-Cap

Decoding HF packets in Star Trek IV

Originally posted on December 4, 1989 by Bob McGwier (N4HY)

Several months ago, Harold Price, NK6K, challenged me to demodulate what he thought might be HF packets in Star Trek IV.

Chekov-Uhura-Star-Trek-IV

During the scenes where Scotty is valiantly trying to beam both Chekov and Uhura back from the U.S.S. Enterprise, where they have been stealing Nuclear vessel high speed photons, Scotty is having a hard time hearing them.

Scotty-Star-Trek IV

Listen to the audio clip by clicking here or using the embedded player below (target sound is at 5 seconds):

One of the sources of interference is what appeared to Harold to be HF packet. Always being one to rise to a challenge, I took on the job of doing some fancy Digital Signal Processing footwork. Almost from the first I was certain that it must be an HF packet since my very first demodulator attempt clearly revealed flags before the start of a frame and end of frame was also clear. I knew it was HDLC of some variety.

Several things impeded the effort, including Scotty’s voice on top of the packets, some SSB from 20 meters was also nearly on top of the signal. All of this had to be filtered out. I spent an hour of time on the Cray-2 at work and used the fanciest FSK demodulator I could write and I finally had noisy baseband signal plotted on paper in front of me. I did my best to get an integral number of samples per baud as the signal was very noisy, and though the bits could be made out by eye, I could tell that it was going to take another hour of Cray-2 time to get the clock recovered and to make good bit decisions. In a couple of places, HDLC showed me what were clearly bit errors, and these could be done by eye as well.

A Cray-2 operated by NASA. (Source: NASA)

After the filtering, and building a demodulator for the badly mis-tuned signal (almost 900 Hz below), I took the bits to Phil Karn, KA9Q and he decoded the NRZI data and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was indeed an HF amateur radio packet. It was WA8ZCN-0 sending an RR for NR-3 to N6AEZ on 20 meters. I got Bill Harrigill, WA8ZCN on the phone and he agrees that it was probably him.

Thanks Harold for the challenge and Phil for the help.

Bob N4HY

P.S. A Cray-2 is about 50% faster than the fastest Pentium-Pro computer available today.

Again, keep in mind that the message above dates from 1989! This past week, Bob added the following comment when I contacted him:

The Cray Supercomputer on which the work was done was being operated on behalf of the National Security Agency by my research institute.

I received permission to “to test optimal algorithms for software decoding of FSK transmissions” and this was my test case!!!!

That is why Phil Karn was decoding the AX.25 bits by hand. I did not have permission to develop link layer protocol code, though I tried.

A few years later when half the bad guys in the world seemed to be using AX.25 and cheap ham gear I said “See, I told you so several years ago and you didn’t listen”.

I used that transmission in so many different ways I no longer remember them all.

That’s fantastic, Bob, and so great to know the back story on your decoding process! Thank you again for sharing this with us!

Star Trek fans can find the scene Bob references starting around time mark 1:12 in the film.

Star Wars sound designer is, indeed, a radio enthusiast

StarWars-LogoSWLing Post readers may remember a post I recently published in which I believed I’d identified a familiar shortwave time signal station in the Battle of Hoth scene from The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t read this post, feel free to do so and listen to the embedded video/audio clips.

Upon hearing this, I went so far as to muse that the Star Wars sound designer might be a radio listener. I asked our readers if anyone could confirm this–?

Well, we’ve got our answer!  I’m truly indebted to an SWLing Post reader who passed my post along to his friend, Ben, who could provide this definitive response:

“This is Ben Burtt, sound designer of the Star Wars films. A friend sent me a link to this blog thinking I would like to comment.

Ben and old recorders

Ben Burtt with his recording gear, circa 1980. The mike on the stand at Ben’s feet is one from his grandfather’s ham radio station in the 1950s, or possibly earlier.

“The answer is yes, I have always been a ham radio enthusiast.”

 

“My grandfather, Harold Burtt, operated W8CD out of his home in Columbus, Ohio 1930s-1960s. I was enthralled as a kid listening to the sounds on his receiver. I heard alien worlds and cosmic ‘voices.’

Harold Burtt, (Chairman of the Psychology Dept Ohio State) with his attic gear approximately 1935

Harold Burtt, W8CD. (Chairman of the Psychology Dept Ohio State) with his attic gear,  approximately 1935

“So not only did I record his radio, but continued to do so on the Star Wars series and Star Trek as well.

My memory of the Hoth transmission was that it was WWV but it could have been CHU since I was recording all that interested me on the dial.”

Terrific! Thank you, Ben, for taking the time to respond. As I said, you’ve certainly started off this radio enthusiast’s year on the right wavelength…no doubt some of our readers will agree.

Indeed, the powerful sonic experience of the Star Wars and Star Trek films has, in my estimation, helped shape many of us into the radio/sound enthusiasts we’ve become–myself certainly included. Thank you, Ben, for this!  You’ve sharpened my ear to a greater appreciation of sound, especially filmic sound, and your work in particular.    

For readers who are less familiar with Ben Burtt’s work, check out his Wikipedia page and IMDB profile–you’ll find he’s been the sound designer on numerous influential films including the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A special thanks to Ben Burtt for sharing these wonderful photos and kindly giving me permission to use them here on the SWLing Post.  I must say, considering my love of radio in the thirties, I especially like that photo of Harold Burtt (W8CD) in his shack.

SRAA Recording: The Happy Station Show circa 1979

Crosley-Dial-BlackAndWhiteMany thanks to Shortwave Radio Audio Archive contributor, Richard Collings, who recently submitted this amazing off-air recording of the Happy Station Show. Richard notes:

The Happy Station Show of Sunday 23rd December 1979. A pre-recorded special Christmas show with Tom Meijer. Broadcast from 0930 to 1020GMT [on 9895 kHz and received in Plymouth, Devon, UK].

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Note that this is one of many archived off-air recordings found on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

Make time for some holiday listening

Santa-Christmas-Radio

Remember that there are some unique broadcasts to tune to today and throughout the holidays. Here are a couple of note:

Of course, many of your favorite international broadcasters will also have holiday specials throughout the week.

If you like pirate radio listening, you’re in for a treat as well. Typically, there are numerous shortwave pirates on the air during the holidays–especially on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

What? You’ve never tuned in a pirate station before? There’s no better time than now to log that first pirate! Click here to learn how.

Did anyone hear the Grimeton VLF broadcast earlier today? Though it’s nearly an impossible catch for me State side, I still tried. Sadly, a long line of (unseasonal) thunderstorms moved into the region and I was forced to unplug my large external loop antenna in the wee hours of the morning.  I hope they had a successful broadcast.

100_5513

While we’re talking about radio and the holidays, I thought I’d also share this photo (above) that SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi sent in last week.

He and his wife made this cake for the annual office Christmas party. Mario comments:

“Since I am the ‘go to’ radio guy at work, we decorated the cake with various radio icons and slogans with the hope of putting smiles on everyone’s face.”

No doubt, your cake was a success!

Good cheer!

The SWLing Post has an international set of readers. While not everyone celebrates Christmas like my family, there seem to be many celebrations and festivals that happen this time of the year.

However you celebrate, here’s wishing you and yours the best of the season! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Download the 1923 “first Wireless Christmas” edition of The Radio Times

RadioTimes1923

(Source: BBC Genome Blog via Mike Barraclough)

The much-loved Christmas edition of the Radio Times made its first appearance in 1923. 

It was all very different to today’s multi-channel, on-demand world. There was only radio, and London station 2LO had a meagre five-and-a-half hours of programmes on Christmas Day.

But to some extent, the first Christmas issue set many traditions which have prevailed for decades in various guises. The cover was a warm splash of colour and very festive in tone, while the publication’s austere masthead was festooned with snow and holly.

John Reith, who went on to become the BBC’s first director general, was given the first page to deliver a message to listeners, in which he deliberated the meaning of Christmas and then inevitably talked about the joy of broadcasting and the “first Wireless Christmas”.

“The loud speaker is such a convenient entertainer,” he wrote. “He doesn’t feel hurt if a cracker is pulled in the middle of a song, or offended if the fun grows riotous during his performance”.

While Reith was keen to talk up the virtues of broadcasting, the magazine was packed with adverts for radio sets and cartoons about the joys of consuming radio programmes.

But Christmas is all about giving, and we’d like to offer you the chance to download the first Christmas issue. It’s a fascinating document and we hope you will enjoy it. Happy Christmas fromBBC Genome!

Download a PDF version of the 1923 Christmas Radio Times by clicking on this link