Guest Post: Mark explores a 1983 Voice of America information pack

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who shares the following guest post:


VOA Information Pack 1983

by Mark Hirst

Introduction

A recent guest post on this blog by Jock Elliott asked the question, ‘Why Listen to Shortwave?’

The comment I left at the time was my interest in how nations view themselves, and how they project that view to the world. This might be in the form of cultural exports like music, or teaching us about famous people or revered institutions in their country.

When I first started listening to shortwave in the early eighties, I never got into the habit of asking for QSL cards, being quite thrilled enough to receive programme guides in envelopes stamped with the postmark of other countries.

At the time, the primary stations for me included Radio Netherlands, Radio Sweden, Swiss Radio International, and the Voice of America. While most might send a small leaflet about their country with a frequency schedule, the information pack I received from the Voice of America stands head and shoulders above the others.

I thought readers might be interested in a brief description of this pack and with it a glimpse back into the world of 1983.

Please note that as you read the following sections, you can click on the images to view a larger version.

Package Contents

The package arrived in a manila envelope, with the logo and address of the VOA printed in the top left corner. In the top right corner is the logo of US Mail, with a declaration that postage and fees where paid for by the US Information Agency.

Package contents included:

  • Compliments Card
  • VOA Sticker
  • Steering the Course Magazine
  • VOA Magazine
  • May-October 1983 Programme Schedule

VOA – The Voice of America

This guide begins by outlining the mission of the VOA, emphasising its aim to be an authoritative and reliable source of news. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: Data RX via Web SDRs, Mystery Signals from Space, Public Media’s role in Democracy, and Pirates SPAM UVB-76

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Marty, Troy Riedel, and Rich Cuff for the following tips:


Receiving data with web based shortwave radios (Nuts and Volts)

Your computer and the Internet give you free access to over 100 web based shortwave receivers that you can use as if they were your own. Unfortunately, employing these radios to decode data transmissions can be very difficult or impossible — unless you know the secret.

[…]A while back, I discussed how to receive data signals with a low cost shortwave radio (N&V May 2015). Now, the concept takes on a new dimension since we are using virtual radios not in our possession.

As astonishing as it seems, many of these Web based shortwave receiver data signals can be processed and decoded using just your PC and some free decoding software. Yes, some signals are encrypted, and can’t be decoded. Fortunately, there are plenty of unencrypted data signals around to keep us busy for a long time.

However, as will be discussed later on, it does require a special trick to allow you to pipe the streaming audio signals from the Web to the decoding software. In this article, I will show you how to use these Web based shortwave receivers to access data transmissions and to get started in this exciting hobby. [Click here to read the full article…]

Unknown objects at the heart of the Milky Way are beaming radio signals, then mysteriously disappearing (Business Insider)

Ziteng Wang found a needle in an astronomical haystack.

Wang, a physics PhD student at the University of Sydney, was combing through data from Australia’s ASKAP radio telescope in late 2020. His research team had detected 2 million objects with the telescope and was classifying each one.

The computer identified most of the stars, and the stage of life or death they were in. It picked out telltale signs of a pulsar (a rapidly rotating dead star), for example, or a supernova explosion. But one object in the center of our galaxy stumped the computer and the researchers.

The object emitted powerful radio waves throughout 2020 — six signals over nine months. Its irregular pattern and polarized radio emissions didn’t look like anything the researchers had seen before.

Even stranger, they couldn’t find the object in X-ray, visible, or infrared light. They lost the radio signal, too, despite listening for months with two different radio telescopes. [Continue reading…]

Do countries with better-funded public media also have healthier democracies? Of course they do (Nieman Lab)

But the direction of causality is tricky. Do a democracy’s flaws lead it to starve public media, or does starving public media lead to a democracy’s flaws?

There’s a new book coming out in the U.K. this week called The BBC: A People’s History, by David Hendy. Its publisher calls it a “monumental work of popular history, making the case that the Beeb is as much of a national treasure as the NHS…a now global institution that defines Britain and created modern broadcasting.”

Cross the pond: While Americans generally like PBS and NPR, I wouldn’t expect them to come up quickly if you asked someone on the street to begin listing national treasures. (I’m even more sure America’s health care system would go unmentioned, too.) Who “created modern broadcasting” in the U.S.? It certainly wasn’t the two public broadcasters that didn’t hit airwaves until 1970. And what TV network is a “global institution” that “defines” the United States abroad? Apologies to PBS Newshour, but that’s CNN.

No one says “Auntie Peebs.”

It’s obvious that the U.S. approached the new broadcasting technologies of the 20th century in ways wildly different from their European peers — and in ways that reflect on the countries themselves. American radio began wild and unregulated, experimental, a bubbling font of creativity — and then quickly became commercialized, optimized for mass audiences and massive profits. The BBC, which turns 100 this year, was more structured, more statist, more controlled — but has remained more central to residents’ lives, more civic-minded, and more beloved. [Continue reading…]

Pirates Spammed an Infamous Soviet Short-wave Radio Station with Memes (Vice)

The UVB-76 numbers station took a break from being a suspected communications tool of Russian intelligence to blast ‘Gangnam Style’

Pirates hijacked an infamous short-wave radio station, which dates from the Soviet era but is still online today, and used it to broadcast everything from Gangnam Style to audio that draws memes when inspected under a spectrum analyzer.

For decades the numbers station known as UVB-76 has emitted an enigmatic series of beeps and a voice reading numbers and names, in what people suspect is a long running communications method for Russian intelligence. Since the broadcast is public, pirates are able to use their software-defined radio (SDR) transmitters to effectively flood the frequencies with noise and memes.

The recent barrage of attacks on the station come as Russia prepares to invade neighbouring Ukraine, where radio enthusiasts speculate at least some of the pirate broadcasts originate. [Continue reading…]


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WBCQ TESTS 4790 KHZ IN FEBRUARY


That’s not a typo, in addition to its flagship frequency 7490 kHz, WBCQ will be running staggered propagation tests of 4790 kHz during February for a new entertainment program
block sponsored by Angela and Allan Weiner and curated by Uncle Bill Tilford.  When the
regular schedule begins in March, it will be 2 hours per night of music and other entertainment from around the world.  Several new programs under development will participate.
The February tests will use archival episodes of From the Isle of Music, Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot,
Marion’s Attic, Behavior Night, Rock Wave, Tom Call Theater and Jetzt Geht’s Los!, a wonderful
program from Germany of Weimar-era jazz.  In March these programs will be joined by several new ones from around the world.
The first week’s tests will run from February 1-5 from 6-8pm EST (2300-0100 UTC).  Each following week will run an hour later to determine optimum transmission times.  An eQSL will
be available for reception reports sent to 4790info@gmail.com
Watch these pages for weekly updates.

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FTIOM & UBMP, Jan 30-Feb 5, 2022


From the Isle of Music, January 30-February 5, 2022:

This week our guest is Cuban jazz trumpeter and composer Diego Hedez, who helps us present his new album Distante.
The broadcasts take place:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Sofia, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK)
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0100-0200 UTC on WBCQ, 7490 kHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US).
3 & 4. For Europe and sometimes beyond, Tuesday 1900-2000 UTC and Saturday 1300-1400 UTC (NEW FOR B21) on Channel 292, 6070 kHz from Rohrbach, Germany.
Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/fromtheisleofmusic/
Our V-Kontakte page is https://vk.com/fromtheisleofmusic
Our Patreon page is https://www.patreon.com/tilford

Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, January 30-February 5, 2022:
Episode 253 presents Oy, Canada, a celebration of Canada’s Jewish entertainers, with special guest Fred Waterer.
The transmissions take place:
1.Sunday 2300-0000 (6:00PM -7:00PM EST) on WBCQ The Planet 7490 kHz from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe
2. Tuesday 2000-2100 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 kHz from Rohrbach, Germany for Europe.
3. Saturday 0800-0900 UTC on Channel 292, 9670 kHz from Rohrbach, Germany for Europe with a directional booster aimed eastward.
Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/UncleBillsMeltingPot/
Our V-Kontakte page is https://vk.com/fromtheisleofmusic
Our Patreon page is https://www.patreon.com/tilford

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The conclusion to “Off the Shortwaves: Unhappy & Despondent”


From SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel:

I’d like to thank the SWLing Post Nation for their input re: my EMI/RFI issue (see: this previous post). It’s been a long 4-months and I’d like to share the results and outcome of my situation.

I will pick up where the last post ended and if anyone needs a review of the situation you can re-read the link to the original post in the previous paragraph.

At my expense, I hired an independent Master Electrician outside of the pool contractor. He and I reviewed everyone’s suggestions (I hope I’ve remembered to capture them all below but if not, rest assured it was fully explored and investigated). I have copied reader comments exactly as they left them back in October: Continue reading

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Guest Post: Comparing the Reuter Pocket and the Icom IC-705 from an SWL’s perspective

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Uli (DK5ZU), who shares the following guest post:


SWL with a Reuter Pocket and the Icom IC-705

by Uli (DK5ZU)

Some time ago I asked how the IC-705 performs on longwave and I got some great feedback. Thanks a lot again. Since the HAM bug bit me again, I wanted to do SWL and HAM Radio portable with one rig. I started with SWL some weeks ago (just before the bug bit). I acquired a second hand Reuter Pocket RDR 51 Version B2. It is a standalone SDR Receiver 0 … 30 MHz / 50 ..71 MHz, and in my B2 version it has also FM (Stereo/RDS) and Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). You may find the detailed specs here:
https://www.reuter-elektronik.com/html/pocket.html

The Reuter Pocket could, at one point, be configured as an QRP Transceiver, but it is no longer supported. There is a new RDR 52 small tabletop models, which can be ordered as a transceiver, too. But due to Covid related supply chain problems and price changes for the components, the new model is currently postponed.

The IC-705 is available, though. And for portable HAM operations it is a no brainer; obviously with a high price tag, but comparable with a new Reuter RDR 52 tabletop. And since my budget for the hobby is limited, I thought about funding part of the IC-705 price by selling the Reuter Pocket. But I wanted to do a side-by-side comparison so I ordered the 705 and was able to check them both on one antenna. The goal was to compare their sensitivity and selectivity on the lower bands: BC on AM and HAM bands for SSB. I did not compare CW since I am not a CW operator.

The antenna is a MiniWhip from PA0RDT which works quite well on the lower bands.

This comparison is not at all scientific and reflects just my opinion and what I heard. But anyway, there may be some people out there interested in this. So much for the intro.

Let’s start with my overall findings. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Crystal Radios – Construction, Listening, and Contesting

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Day (N1DAY), for sharing the following guest post:


Crystal Radios – Construction, Listening, and Contesting

By David Day – N1DAY

The date was November 2, 1920 and the world was about to change forever when radio station KDKA out of Pittsburgh PA made its first broadcast of election results from the 1920 presidential election.  For the first time in history people knew who won the election before reading about it the next day in the newspaper.  Radio had arrived!

However, hearing the election results was not as easy as powering up an AM radio receiver because radio electron tubes had only been invented a few years earlier and they were still too expensive for most people to afford in a radio set.  After KDKA’s historic broadcast, large 50,000 watt stations began popping up in all major cities around the world.  Even though a tube-driven radio was not yet commonplace, many people listened to these stations on their crystal radios.  The frenzy around radio in the 1920’s was not unlike the excitement around cell phones and the internet today.  If you didn’t have one, you were simply living in the past.

A family listening to a crystal radio in the 1920’s

Fortunately, in the early 1920’s the crystal radio had been around for a while and it was easy to make or purchase a completed set on a limited budget.  The beauty of the radio was that it was a passive device needing no power source other than the radio station’s broadcast that was received by a good antenna about 50 feet long and 15 or so feet above the ground.  Crystal radios derived their name from use of galena crystals as detectors. Continue reading

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