Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Tuckerton Tower’s long (and unlikely!) history

The Tuckerton Tower circa 1916 (Souce: Tom Mcnally mcnally.cc)

The Tuckerton Tower, circa 1916 (Souce: Tom Mcnally mcnally.cc)

I love radio history, and I dive right into it when something especially piques my interest. This morning, a news item from a local newspaper in New Jersey about that state’s famed, but nearly forgotten, Tuckerton Tower did just that.

Built in 1912, the Tuckerton Tower was once the tallest structure in the US.  Indeed, it was at that time the second tallest structure in the world (the Eiffel Tower had it beat by 243 feet).  Though on US soil, it was originally built by––get this––the German government, in order to communicate with an identical tower in Eilvese, Germany (see comments); of course, it also communicated with naval vessels. According to many sources, the US government may have been completely unaware of the construction of this communication monolith until it neared completion.

But that’s just the beginning of the story:  When the US entered WWI, the US government took over the tower’s operations and placed Tuckerton’s German operators and engineers in a POW camp.  Then, post-war, the newly-formed Radio Corporation of America (RCA) assumed the tower’s operation with the intention of using it for the latest and greatest innovation in radio communications: voice over wireless. Tuckerton Tower continued under RCA’s operation until the US government drafted it into service again, this time during WWII.

But even though the tower survived two world wars, weather events like nor’easters, and The Great Depression, by the late 1940s it was considered obsolete. Several attempts were made to preserve the historic structure, but on December 28, 1955, it was torn down and cut for scrap.  Today, a lower section of the tower can be viewed at the Tuckerton Historical Society’s museum, while the concrete block anchors that once held the monolithic structure upright now rest, somewhat defiantly, in the center of a residential area.

If you find this tower’s history as remarkable as I do, check out this informative and detailed article in The Sandpiper and Tom McNally’s History of Tuckerton Wireless which includes some excellent photos of the tower throughout history.

Are there any readers of The SWLing Post with memories long enough to remember the Tuckerton Tower, or who have heard stories about it?  Please comment!

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Redsun RP-3100 ready for pre-order

Redsun-RP3100Radio Flynn writes:

I found some information about the release date of the Redsun RP-3100 and posted it on Herculodge – lets hope it is real:
http://herculodge.typepad.com/herculodge/2013/09/not-to-fan-the-flames-of-redsun-rp-3100-lust-.html

The Redsun RP-3100 has been rumored for ages.  Glad to see it’s coming to fruition!

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The Take Away interviews Ajit Pai

AjitPaiMany thanks to Dan Srebnick for sending a link to this piece on The Take Away.

In The Quest To Save AM Radio, John Hockenberry talks about AM radio nostalgia and then interviews Ajit Pai (who was mentioned in a post a few days ago).

Click here to download an MP3 of the interview or simply listen via the embedded player below.

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The Ten-Tec RX-320D and Model 1254 have been discontinued

Tthe RX-320D black box receiver

Tthe RX-320D black box receiver

I just confirmed with Ten-Tec that the RX-320D PC controlled receiver and the Ten-Tec Superhet receiver kit, the Model 1254, have both been discontinued.  A Ten-Tec representative told me the reason both of these models have been discontinued and removed from Ten-Tec’s product line is because one of the parts used in production is now obsolete.

A long run…

The RX-320 and RX-320D have had a very long product life as the RX-320 was introduced in the late 1990’s (1998, if memory serves)–pretty amazing.

I owned an RX-320D for a long time and thought that it was still a great value. Here’s a review I wrote in 2009.

The Ten-TEc Model 1254 "superhet" receiver

The Ten-Tec Model 1254 Superhet Receiver kit

As third generation SDRs have emerged, and become so affordable in the past few years, it’s hard to justify the purchase of a receiver whose control software was designed for Windows 95.

So long RX-320D, you’ve had a long run…

I have SWLing Post reader, Larry, to thank as his recent inquiry about the Model 1254 Superhet kit prompted me to call Ten-Tec for verification. 

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Looking back at the The 26th Annual SWL Winterfest

I originally wrote this article for the July 2013 issue of Monitoring Times Magazine. I hope you enjoy:

From Left to right: Sheldon Harvery (of The International Radio Report), Tina Shields and Dan Srebnick

Left to right: my good friends Sheldon Harvey (of The International Radio Report), Tina Shields and Dan Srebnick

Every year, I look forward to the only event I know that brings together both my avid interest in radio and my loyal radio-listening friends: the Winter SWL Fest. This is the one place where, among the 100-plus attendees, you can talk freely about all aspects of the shortwave hobby without any need of explanation as to why you find radio so fascinating. As a result, over the course of the five years I’ve attended the ‘Fest, it has begun to feel less like a technical hobbyists convention and more like a (most enjoyable) family reunion.

Larry Will of Area 51 presents an audio and video history of WBCQ

Larry Will of Area 51 presents an audio and video history of WBCQ

This year, and for the third year in a row, the Winterfest was held at the DoubleTree Inn and Suites in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia. The venue is spacious and comfortable, and all presentations are held within its generous environs.

Moreover, we enjoyed presentations on a number of interesting and unique topics that were, by no means, limited just to shortwave radio. A few topics catered to individuals who simply enjoy DXing in any forms. Here’s a sampling:

  • Ed Mauger started the forums off on a light note with a fun discussion on how to increase the size of your radio collection through online auctions and flea markets. His forum drew a large crowd–and many questions.
  • Larry Wills, of Area 51 fame, held the second forum, which was a look back through the WBCQ video and audio archives. During the course of his presentation, Larry covered many of the nuances of WBCQ’s history, including some of the people and circumstances surrounding the birth of this remarkable free speech radio station. Trust me when I say that it was not difficult to keep the audience engaged on this topic: WBCQ listeners are well aware of the variety of shows, not to mention the on-air personalities, that station features. Larry’s presentation put these in context. By the conclusion, I felt I had visited the WBCQ transmitter site in Monticello, Maine, myself.
  • Mario Filippi’s forum, DXing with a Dish, explained the hobby of TV DXing–in a sense, via Free-To-Air (FTA) satellite television and radio. His presentation was comprehensive, covering everything from the components of a home system to the free content currently available–and speaking of satellites, Dave Marthouse’s forum, Sounds from Space: Monitoring and Tracking Satellites Using HF, taught us how to monitor various orbiting satellites that can be heard throughout the spectrum. He also demystified the process, showing us how easy and inexpensive hunting space sounds can be.
  • Skip Arey presented a topic many ham radio operators can appreciate, namely, QRP: How Low Can You Go? Skip’s presentation made for an interesting juxtaposition to the kilowatt shortwave broadcasting world when he revealed how to communicate across the planet on 5 watts or less–!
  • Jef Eichner once again presented on the topic of loop antennas. As more and more of us are bombarded with radio interference (RFI) from consumer electronics, loop antennas make for an affordable means to an antenna that can help you cope with noise. Though this topic can get pretty technical, Jef kept the discussion at a level most anyone could understand. He even brought his own homemade loop for demonstration.
  • Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott and yours truly presented a forum on Digital Text via Shortwave Broadcast. We demonstrated how incredibly effective and simple it is to broadcast digital text modes used by radio amateurs (e.g., PSK31) on analog amplitude-modulated shortwave broadcasts. These modes can be decoded by anyone with a basic shortwave radio and and personal computer or smartphone. We proved that even when the human voice is difficult to comprehend because of poor shortwave reception conditions, digital text can be received with nearly 100% accuracy. The applications for this technology are numerous, but the service can be invaluable when the internet is disrupted by disasters (or by dictators). [Update: since publishing this article, Kim Elliott’s VOA Radiogram has enjoyed great success on the air.]
David Goren hosts the annual Shortwave Shindig

David Goren hosts the annual Shortwave Shindig

Of course, there are a few mainstays in the Winterfest forum line-up, forums we’ve come to anticipate:

  • The annual “Scanner Scum” forum, which this year focused on scanner antennas that are effective and affordable. The presenters also explained the differences in the numerous types of rechargeable batteries on the market; as a result, many of us now have a better understanding of discharge curves and their effect on radios.
  • The Annual Pirate Forum always attracts a large crowd. This year, George Zeller and a panel of pirate broadcast enthusiasts took the stage to introduce newcomers to the pirate radio listening hobby and review the pirate radio year. This year, Free Radio Weekly editor Chris Lobdell and the pirate station Captain Morgan were inducted into the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame.
  • David Goren (our resident Shortwaveologist) held his 10th Annual Shortwave Shindig, an evening celebrating the unique sonic properties of our favorite international medium. David showcased a number of his own shortwave audio productions and numerous intriguing recordings. Saul Brady played radio-themed folk music, and the talented Martin Peck quizzed the audience with his woodwind renditions of dozens of interval signals past and present. Martin even took requests from the audience and played interval signals on demand…Where else could you hear this stuff, but at the Shortwave Shindig of the Winter SWL Fest?

Left to right: Rich D'Angelo and George Zeller

Of course, there are also opportunities to buy and trade equipment at the Friday night swap meet–and if you’re lucky, you might just win a treasure in the silent auction (where all proceeds go to charity) or in the dinner banquet raffle. Indeed, since I’ve been going to the ‘Fest, I’ve been most impressed with the number and quality of items in the raffle. The odds are good, and this year yours truly even won a few items. This year’s grand prize? The newly introduced CommRadio CR-1 tabletop SDR.

Winterfest-SocialAs interesting and varied as the forums are, and as rewarding as the silent auction and dinner/raffle can be, I believe many of the ‘Festers would agree that one of the strongest attractions is the yearly opportunity to socialize and connect with all of radio’s kindred. At times radio listening can feel like a very solitary hobby, as voices drift in and out of the ether; perhaps the beauty of the Winter SWL Fest is that it brings everyone together face-to-face to socialize and to theorize on the ever-widening scope of radio communications and broadcasting.

Many thanks to Festmeisters John Figliozzi and Richard Cuff

Many thanks to Festmeisters John Figliozzi and Richard Cuff

In short, the SWLing Winterfest is always a unique and dynamic event–but don’t take my word for it. Next year, you might just want to check it out for yourself! It will be held February 28-March 1st, 2014 somewhere in the greater Philadelphia area.

Click here to go to the SWLfest website and plan to join us in 2014.

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Cameroon takes a note from Mugabe, shuts down 11 media outlets

cm-map

Cameroon (Source: CIA)

While I certainly can’t confirm they got the idea from Robert Mugabe, nonetheless, it seems more than coincidental that as Cameroon enters an election cycle, the government is closing down media outlets that journalists describe as critical of the current government.

(Source: VOA via Andy Sennitt)

Cameroon’s National Communications Council has closed down 11 newspapers, television and radio stations, for what it describes as disrespect of ethics and professional norms. But journalists say these private media outlets are being silenced because they are critical of the government.

On Friday morning, Cameroon’s state radio CRTV announced the suspension of three radio stations, a television station and seven newspapers.  The report said Cameroon’s National Communications Council also suspended a journalist and two publishers.

The journalists and media organs were accused of failing to respect professional norms and ethics. But Ngah Christian Mpipgo, publisher of the Guardian Post— one of the suspended newspapers — called the act an abuse of press freedom.

“I mean, I look at it as some kind of repression,” he said. “It is understood that the Guardian Post is too critical of government action, and then coming at a time when we are preparing for elections, I have to just conclude that it is a way of stopping us from exposing a well-planned government rigging machinery,” said Ngah.

The publisher said the law stated publishers should be informed and warned before any government sanctions were meted out.  But that was never done.

“We have never received a warning,” he said.

However, some journalists said the Communications Council had called on media practitioners to be more professional, but the calls were largely ignored.

Simon Lyonga, president of the Yaounde chapter of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists, said that many of those working in Cameroon’s media industry were, in his word, quacks.

“We are in a profession where anybody comes in, they usually do not know the ethics of the profession and so go against it.  So I think if somebody is sanctioned for not respecting the ethics of the profession, to me [that] is not press censorship,” said Lyonga.

Some media outlets in Cameroon have published articles warning of alleged actions by the government to rig upcoming municipal and council elections in favor of the ruling party, Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement.

Kilian Ngalla, a journalist who has been closely observing these developments, said the closure of the media outfits could be interpreted as an initiative to silence critical voices.

“At a time elections are coming, it is curious that the government chooses this time to start banning press organs.  When you look at the composition of the National Communication Council, the president there is appointed by the president of the republic. And that director is executing the opinion of the head of state.  I think they are actually gagging the press,” he said.

The suspension order said that except for one radio station, the media outlets may be re-opened next month – after the September 30 elections.

I’ve added this article to a growing list tagged: Why Shortwave Radio?

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Want to buy a 100 kilowatt shortwave transmitter?

logo_RIZ-HR_resize(Source: National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters via Alokesh Gupta)

To Whom It May Concern:

We are contacting you as we are selling our 100 kW SHORTWAVE TRANSMITTER and accompanying equipment and thought that you may be interested. The equipment is fully functional and was in use until recently.

Below is a list of the items that we are selling:

  • 100 kW SW Transmitter RIZ OR 100-K-02/A (built acc. to german ARD Standards)
  • Compressor-Limiter w/ DCC transmitter control
  • Balun transformer 50 Ohm asym. to 300 Ohm symetric
  • Artificial antenna for testing 100 kW transmitter
  • Coax pipe, 4 1/8″, 20 meters
  • Elbow EIA, 4 1/8″, 5 pcs.
  • Connector, 4 1/8″ for HF 5″, 2 pcs.
  • Coaxial switch, 1 pc.
  • Remote control panel

If you are interested or know someone who may be interested please let us know and we will send more details. The equipment is currently located in Deanovec, Croatia.

For further information feel free to contact me, I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Ante Beljo, Director
Croatian Information Center
Meduliceva 13
10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Tel.: +385 1 4826 040
Fax: +385 1 4846 944
Mobile: +385 98 318 842
abeljo@hic.hr

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