Tag Archives: Medium Wave

When WLW was the one and only “Super Station”

WLW's diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox radio tower at night (Original photo by RP Piper via Creative Commons)

WLW’s diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox radio tower at night (Original photo by RP Piper via Creative Commons 2.0)

(Source: National Endowment for the Humanities)

For a Brief Time in the 1930s, Radio Station WLW in Ohio Became America’s One and Only “Super Station”

by Katy June-Friesen

When President Franklin Roosevelt, sitting in the White House, pushed a ceremonial button on his desk in May 1934, a five hundred thousand-watt (500 kW) behemoth stirred in a field outside Cincinnati. Rows of five-foot glass tubes warmed. Water flowed around them at more than six hundred gallons per minute. Dozens of engineers lit filaments and flipped switches, and, within the hour, enough power to supply a town of one hundred thousand coursed through an 831-foot tower.

Thus began WLW’s five-year, twenty-four-hour-a-day experiment: a radio station that used more power and transmitted more miles than any station in the United States had or would. The so-called super station—licensed by the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a temporary basis—amped up the debate among broadcasters, government regulators, and listeners about how radio should be delivered to serve the “public interest,” a mandate laid out in the Radio Act of 1927, and influenced legal, programming, and technical decisions that shape the broadcast system we know today.

Since radio’s beginnings in the early 1920s, industry and government leaders promoted it as the great homogenizer, a cultural uplift project that could, among other things, help modernize and acculturate rural areas. The challenge was how to reach these areas, many of which received few or no radio signals in the mid-1930s. One solution was high-powered, clear-channel stations that could blanket large swaths of the country with a strong signal. These stations operated on “cleared” frequencies that the government assigned to only one station to prevent interference.

WLW had operated on one of forty designated clear channels since 1928. The station’s creator and owner, an entrepreneur, inventor, and manufacturer named Powel Crosley Jr. frequently increased the station’s wattage as technology and regulation allowed. In 1934, when WLW increased its power from 50 kW to 500 kW, all other clear-channel stations were operating at 50 kW or less. Now, WLW had the ability to reach most of the country, especially at night, when AM radio waves interact differently with the earth’s ionosphere and become “skywaves.” People living near the transmitter site often got better reception than they wanted; some lights would not turn off until WLW engineers helped rewire houses. Gutters rattled loose from buildings. A neon hotel sign near the transmitter never went dark. Farmers reported hearing WLW through their barbed-wire fences.

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Bayrischer Rundfunk to shut down four MW transmitters end of September 2015

Bayerischer-Rundfunk-Logo

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Alexander (DL4NO), who writes:

“Today I found a message that Bayrischer Rundfunk will shut down its four MW transmitters at the end of September:

http://www.br.de/unternehmen/inhalt/technik/mittelwelle-abschaltung-radio-100.html

The two higher-powered transmitters (Munich 100 kW, Nürnberg 20 kW) are on 801 kHz. The two smaller transmitters (Würzburg and Hof, both in the northern part of Bavaria) are on 729 kHz. The message also says that the BR is intensively updating its DAB+ transmitter net.

Personally I see positive and negative aspects: the 100 kW transmitter is about 15 km from here. Ist field strength tests the large-signal capabilities of my active receiving antenna. The negative aspects should be obvious.”

This is a very good point Alexander. When I listen to clear channel MW stations here in the evenings, I often wonder what it must be like for radio listeners nd amateur radio operators living in close proximity.

Many thanks for relaying the message about  Bayrischer Rundfunk.

Tinkering with the Credit Card Crystal Radio

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio-2

A few weeks ago, we published a short post about a credit card crystal radio from an eBay seller in the UK.

I purchased a kit–at $17-18 US shipped, it’s quite a modest investment for what might be a fun little project.

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio

The crystal radio arrived while I was traveling during Easter break, but my free time has been so (extremely) limited lately, I was only able to unpack and try out this new arrival yesterday.

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio-1

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that this isn’t really a kit–the board is fully populated and requires no soldering whatsoever. The board feels of very good quality.

All that is required is connecting the high-impedance earphone, earth/ground and aerial/antenna to the board. Since all of these components can be connected with the supplied alligator clip cables, getting it on the air took all of 20 seconds. I simply hooked up the ground and connected the aerial to my sky loop wire antenna.

I instantly heard a signal and station ID which confirmed it was our closest local broadcaster on 1010 kHz.  This station isn’t of the blowtorch variety, but is the strongest one I receive on the MW band simply due to its proximity. Audio was quite faint through the earpiece, but I believe if I tinkered with antenna length and the two variable capacitors, I could improve reception.

SWLing Post reader, Richard Langley, received his crystal radio and had a very similar experience with reception.

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio-4

With any crystal radio (especially one this small), performance is directly correlated with antenna length, availability of a good ground connection and, of course, strong broadcasters in your vicinity.

I plan to spend an evening tinkering with this little receiver and see if I can pick up some of the night time powerhouse AM stations on the east coast.

I can say this: if you’re looking for a simple, uber-compact emergency receiver for your go-bag, bug out bag or emergency kit, this one will certainly fit the bill. This crystal receiver and all of its components weight no more than a few ounces and could easily fit in compact pouch or sleeve.

Have any other readers have enjoyed tinkering with this little emergency crystal radio?

If you would like to purchase one, try searching eBay with one of the links below. The product will only appear in the search results if currently available.

Jay’s mega medium wave review

SX-99-Dial

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Ron, who points out this mega medium wave radio shoot out Jay Allen has published.  Indeed, “mega” may be an understatement as Jay included and ranked several dozen current and classic radios. Amazing.

Click here to read Jay’s mega medium wave radio shoot out.

Medium Wave DXer, Johnny Bråtveit, interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting

SX-99-DialCheck out this excellent in-depth interview with medium wave DXer, Johnny Bråtveit, via Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPD):

“About a month ago, our station received a fascinating email. It came from a Norwegian man named Tore Johnny Braatveit. He wrote: “I am one of those people who still really enjoys hunting for long-distance radio signals on the AM band. I am glad to tell you that I was able to pick up the AM signals of KOAC in arctic Norway.”

Braatveit sent us a recording of what he heard, and there’s no mistaking our litany of OPB stations beamed more than four thousand miles away.

Braatveit, who said we can call him TJ, says the serendipity of the search is what makes collecting radio signals appealing. “It’s the same as for a hunter or a fisher,” said Braatveit, “They know what they want, but they don’t know what they will get.”

Braatveit has been DXing – a hobby to receive, record and identify faraway broadcasts – since the early 1980’s. DX-ers use receivers along with computer software to collect the signals before reaching out to the stations with “reception reports” to verify what they picked up, hence the email he sent us.”

Listen to the full interview via OPB’s SoundCloud:

Tore Johnny Bråtveit also maintains a blog where you can listen to many of his medium wave audio samples. Click here to visit his site.