Category Archives: Nostalgia

Shortwave Radio Recordings: KNLS test transmission circa 1983

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We’ve just posted yet another excellent recording by Tom Laskowski to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. I thought a number of Post readers might appreciate this one.

Tom notes:

KNLS – Anchor Point, Alaska, from what I believe is a test transmission on August 1, 1983. According to Wikipedia, KNLS signed on the air July 23, 1983. The program consists of the sign-on ID in English and Russian then is mostly a mix of Big Band music. This recording is 31 minutes long.

Tom’s receiver was a Sony ICF-2001 and he started recording at 09:00 UTC on 11.820 MHz. His location, at the time, was South Bend, Indiana (USA).

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

You can listen to more archived shortwave recordings at the SRAA website, or by subscribing to the audio feed via iTunes. You can also listen to the archive on TuneIn radio.

1953 film anticipates the transistor’s impact on technology

TheTransistor-Film

Many thanks to an SWLing Post reader who shared this brilliant 1953 documentary film about the anticipated impact the transistor could have on technology.

Here’s the film description from the AT&T YouTube channel:

Made between the 1947 invention of the transistor at Bell Labs and the 1956 awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics to its creators, this documentary is less about the discovery itself than its anticipated impact on technology and society. The intent of the film was clearly to give the public of that era their first understanding of what a transistor was and why it mattered so much.

Made for a general audience, the film provides a clear and concise presentation on technological developments that began with the vacuum tube, showing different types of transistors and explaining the significance in their ultimate replacement of tubes.

Included are visions of “things to come,” concepts and creations of how the small transistor might free up an encumbered world: the wrist radio, similar to Dick Tracy’s, but with a cool lapel sound speaker worn like a boutonniere; a portable TV set, which must have seemed astonishing at the time given the huge, heavy cabinetry required to accommodate the plethora of tubes inside 1950s TVs; and the “calculating machine,” or computer, whose size, we’re told, will one day be so reduced because of transistors that it will only require “a good-sized room” rather than a space the size of the Empire State Building. The concept of how small computers could be still remained decades away.

While The Transistor’s vision of the future seems somewhat quaint in retrospect, it captures a moment in time before the transistor became ubiquitous; a time when Bell Labs wanted the world to know that something important had occurred, something that was about to bring tremendous change to everyone’s daily lives.

Click here to view the film on YouTube, or simply watch via the embedded player below:

WWII Correspondence Collection highlights POW radio letters

Atwater-Kent-Dial

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, who shared the following article via the Winter SWL Fest email group:

(Source: Ithaca.com)

He Got News to Families of POWs

The word “archives” can conjure up an image of dusty boxes of documents and sepia photographs. Do not be deceived. In fact, the files in the Tompkins County History Center Archives are filled with stories and all manner of tantalizing clues and evidence about the lives of those who came before us. And in the hands of Archives Director Donna Eschenbrenner—knowledgeable, helpful, ever eager to assist—those files can come alive.

Such a collection is file V-63-7-6, the ‘Meredith Brill WWII Correspondence Collection. In early 1944 15-year-old Caroline resident Meredith (“Bub” to his family) Brill was a shortwave radio enthusiast. What made Brill remarkable is that he was able, with his radio, to get information from Nazi-occupied Europe thousands of miles away, about American servicemen who had been taken prisoner by the Germans. He wrote the names, ranks serial numbers and home addresses down, and then sent letters to the families of the prisoners. He wrote dozens of such letters. The archives file is comprised of thank-you letters from those families, Brill’s notebooks and some of his letters that were returned unread.

His own letters are extraordinary. They are simple without being blunt, and his all-caps typewritten directness doesn’t disguise the very human impulse to ease a family’s anxiety. “I hope this information will be of help to you because I know many parents worry a great deal about their sons and daughters in the service.”

Shortwave radios captured the imagination of a lot of young people in those days. The technology has been called the “first internet.” A shortwave radio uses frequencies just above the medium AM broadcast band, and it can be used for very long distance reception by means of “skip propagation,” in which the radio waves are reflected back to earth from the ionosphere. It allows communication around the curvature of the earth. Sound quality can vary greatly, and it depends on the season and time of day, but you can hear broadcasts from around the world. Generally, the signals are best at night.[…]

Continue reading at Ithaca.com…

Back in 2011, I posted a short review of Lisa Spahr’s book, World War II Radio Heroes, which also focuses on these amazing POW messages. Such a fascinating piece of WWII radio history.

Tubes and Valves: Dan’s research uncovers three vintage films

Hammarlund-SP-600

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who writes:

I have been working on my Hammarlund SP600-JX-21 for the last two weeks. Results of the filter cap replacement were encouraging. I’m going after an AVC issue that is probably capacitor-related as well before doing a re-alignment with the signal generator.

All of this activity has turned my attention toward vacuum tubes. I found three vintage industrial films online that caught my interest…

The Mullard Radio Valve Company produced The Blackburn Story in 1962. The film was shot at what must have been close the peak of vacuum tube mass production. This presentation is unique in its finely detailed documentation of miniature tube construction. The hand labor required to build some of these tubes is incredible, considering it is a mass production operation. A surprising degree of automation is present for manufacture of some of the more popular tube types. The video resolution is not the best but I found myself ignoring this limitation after the film got underway. I have a few Mullard tubes in my tube boxes.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Western Electric presents A Modern Aladdin’s Lamp (1940). This look at the electron tube is hosted by none other than Lowell Thomas. From the age of four pin and octal base tubes animation shows how tubes work.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Electronics at Work (1943) is a WWII offering by Westinghouse. The description of vacuum tube technology is a little more detailed and again animation is employed for visual impact. A variety of vacuum tube applications in industry and the military are shown from curing plywood to producing X-rays. The excellent animation was contributed by Famous Studios (when they weren’t doing the wartime Popeye cartoons).

Click here to view on YouTube.

Wow–thanks for sharing these excellent videos, Dan!

From the BBC Archives: The first 21 years of the World Service

BBC-AT-WAR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares a link to the excellent archived radio documentary, The first 21 years of the World Service, via the BBC World Service‘s online audio archives.

The recording/broadcast dates from December, 18 1953. Here’s the description of the recording:

The first 21 years of the World Service: how it began in 1938, its important role in WW2 and its aftermath, including historic moments as they were first broadcast by Churchill, de Gaulle, Eisenhower.

Click here to listen to the documentary via the BBC World Service.

VOG Interval Signal

I learned an interesting fact in this documentary: I had no idea that the BBC used the Greek radio interval signal for their Greek language service while Greece was occupied in WWII. After liberation, the BBC Director General “solemnly” handed the famous interval signal–“the sound of shepherds’ pipes mingling with the bells of their flocks”–back to Greece. Amazing.

The Greek radio interval signal is one of my all-time favorites. Indeed, my mobile phone’s ringtone is the VOG interval signal:

If you would like to add this ringtone to your mobile phone, check out this post from 2013.