Will notes: first moderately priced TV manufactured in quantity

Television-TV-Nostalgia

(AP Photo/Ed Ford)

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Will Jones, who writes:
This television set [above], retailing for $100, is reportedly the first moderately priced receiver manufactured in quantity. Rose Clare Leonard watches the screen, which reproduces a 5×7 image, as she tunes in at the first public post-war showing at a New York department store, on August 24, 1945.
Although television was invented prior to World War II, the war prevented mass production. Soon after the war, sales and production picked up, and by 1948, regular commercial network programming had begun.
Thank you for that bit of history, Will!

Real-time Flight Status And Radar For All US/Canada Flights

FlightAwareFor those who receive (and send) flight data from ADS-B capable devices such as the RTL-SDR dongles or have Apps for their tablets and phones, FlightAware announced on Wednesday this change to their service:

Hi from FlightAware,

After months of development, we released a large upgrade to our back-end flight tracking engine on Tuesday. Not only did the upgrade include dozens of bug fixes and flight tracking improvements, but we added a massive enhancement for US and Canadian flight tracking — the flight status and radar data is now live with no more five minute delay! Previously, the US/Canada data feed contained a five minute delay in addition to our ~30 second processing time, but now all data is less than a minute delayed from real time. In addition to the general improvement, this yields a lot of additional benefits:

  • More seamless transition between RADAR, ADS-B, and MLAT positions
  • Flights will no longer transition from “Arriving soon” to “Arrived 5 minutes ago”
  • Fewer estimated positions due to delayed RADAR data

Now that the radar data in the US and Canada is real-time, we’ll soon be enabling public MLAT data in the US, which is real-time just like our ADS-B data.

This is a major upgrade in data for folks in North America, and it will make using programs like PlanePlotter even more useful!

For those who might be interested in building their own dedicated ADS-B receiver, information may be found here. Of course FlightAware may be used as an online flight checking service just for tracking the progress of a given flight, which is in itself a lot of fun!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

While Not Directly Radio Related . . .

While not directly radio related, this was too amazing not to share (so forgive me in advance! There is an Arduino involved, if that helps?!)

The video above is of a robot which can solve Rubik’s Cube in about 1 second.

I will not embarrass myself in telling how long it takes me to solve it . . . .

It is, however, easy to see how radio hobbyists could find these Arduino boards quite intriguing!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Garth Mullins: “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse”

Garth-MullinsGarth Mullins is an SWL and a radio geek–he’s also a Sociologist and radio producer.

Garth’s latest radio doc, “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse” was recently featured on the CBC program Ideas with Paul Kennedy.

While the documentary doesn’t focus on shortwave radio, Garth did give a nod to shortwave at the end (well played).

Listen to “The Coming Zombie Apocalypse” via the embedded player below, or via the CBC website:

Be sure to check out Garth’s website: http://www.garthmullins.com/ and his previous radio documentary “End of the Dial.”

goTenna: Turn your smartphone into a text transceiver

goTenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff who has apprised me of the goTenna: a small device that allows you to use your smartphone to send and receive messages and share your GPS location with others without the need of mobile phone service.

goTenna describes their device:

“goTenna is a small, rugged device designed to make “No Service” no problem. Just pair your smartphone with a goTenna and communicate off-grid with those near you who also have goTenna, anywhere on the planet, regardless of access to cell reception or wi-fi. goTenna allows you to send and receive texts and share GPS locations on beautiful offline maps, without ever relying on central connectivity. Depend on it in all kinds of situations: when hiking in remote areas, traveling, attending music or sporting events or during an emergency. Plus, because goTenna is end-to-end encrypted, it’s not just for when you’re off-grid, but when you want to be.”

Some sources claim the goTenna is based on “short-wave” radio frequencies;  I discovered that it operates between 150-154 MHz, so this is not the case.  Still, it would be fascinating the see the potential in a device that could use the HF spectrum to create a smart phone mesh network. Though the antenna would need to be longer, communication distances in rural areas could surpass that of VHF frequencies. In the end, text messages would be an ideal format for such a system.

ETOW’s HumanaLight featured on HamNation

hn600I would like to give a hearty shout-out to the good folks at HamNation, via Leo Laporte’s TWiT network, for so prominently featuring Ears To Our World–and ETOW’s new HumanaLight kit!–in the latest episode.

This year at the Dayton Hamvention, I was pleased to meet George Thomas (W5JDX), who produces the excellent “Solder Smoke” series of instructional videos which teach novices how to build kits and other electronic projects. I’ve always found these videos clear, highly comprehensible, and easy to follow. George kindly agreed to make an instructional video for us, clearly illustrating how to build the HumanaLight.

George is also a co-host of HamNation, but I never thought he would include the HumanaLight in an episode. I was surprised to find that he made the HumanaLight kit a “Solder Smoke” segment, then went on to prominently promote ETOW...truly an honor. His video, moreover, does an excellent job showing viewers how to build the HumanaLight (and mentions that you can purchase one at Universal Radio).

For the interesting history behind the HumanaLight, read this post or check out HumanaLight.org.HumanaLight

The ETOW HumanaLight now at Universal Radio

If you’ve been an SWLing Post reader for long, you probably know that I’m the founder and director of Ears To Our World (ETOW), a charity built on the belief that access to information is access to education. And that access is achieved, of course, via radio:  self-powered radios distributed to schools and communities in remote, impoverished regions throughout the world.  ETOW is my passion; we see tangible results come from this practical, simple mission.

Even if you’re familiar with ETOW, most likely you’ve never heard of the HumanaLight because it’s a new product, and we haven’t been selling it for long. If you’re interested, click here to find out…

What is the HumanaLight?

HumanaLight-Front

At ETOW, we receive feedback from the teachers, children, and communities where we regularly work; through them, we’ve learned how important the little LED lamp on our self-powered radios is, especially in communities that live largely or entirely off-grid.  At the same time, because there is often a glut of used-up batteries (and other trash) in the communities we serve, I wanted to find a way to recycle this waste product.

I realized this might be a good opportunity for an innovative LED flashlight that would offer longevity, shining longer than flashlights that can be purchased locally. Inspired by the Joule Thief, a simple flashlight circuit that cleverly allows light to be produced from a depleted or “dead” AA battery, I wondered if the design could be made even more efficient, and even easier to build…perhaps easy enough for a school-age child to build?

I contacted ETOW volunteer engineer, Gregory Majewski, who immediately set to work on the HumanaLight project. His goal: to make a bright, highly-efficient LED flashlight that could be easily built from common, inexpensive electrical parts, and powered by either new (or used) batteries. And what did this talented engineer deliver? The HumanaLight.

Greg’s HumanaLight design was astonishing: it produced light–continuously, meaning, without being turned off at all–for two full weeks on a depleted cell. A fresh battery yielded four full weeks of usable light. The original HumanaLight prototype (affectionately known as the “TrashLight”) could be built on most anything, including scraps of wood or plastic. This design, now used in the field, requires no soldering whatsoever and can be built almost entirely from recycled components.  Moreover, it can be sold, and the profits reinvested in local schools, health clinics, and other crucial services.

In 2011, I presented this light at the IEEE’s inaugural Global Humanitarian Technology conference, where it generated much interest.

The HumanaLight Kit

This year, with the assistance of another volunteer engineer, David Cripe (NM0S), we set about the creation of a simple HumanaLight kit that we can offer for sale here in North America, in order to apply the proceeds to ETOW’s mission.  School children, makers, experimenters, and hobbyists of all stripes will all find this a fun kit to assemble–and a useful light in times of emergencies.

Ears To Our World, and those we serve, are very much in debt to our volunteer engineers who made this possible. Many, many thanks to Gregorgy Majewski for developing and designing the original HumanaLight circuit; he put many hours into testing this amazingly efficient circuit and bringing it to fruition. We also heartily thank David Cripe (NM0S) for designing the HumanaLight circuit board and kit.  And David’s design makes this kit affordable and functional, too, in support of the light’s original purpose.

If you would like to purchase a HumanaLight kit–and support Ears To Our World–please purchase at Universal Radio.  Thanks!