Monthly Archives: October 2013

Listener Post: Ken McKenzie

Analog Radio DialKen McKenzie’s radio story is the latest in a new series called Listener Posts, where I will place all of your personal radio histories. If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Ken for sharing his personal radio history:

Ken McKenzie

My interest started somewhat like yours in that I “discovered” the family’s old WW2 Viking console radio in the basement. Besides the AM band it had 3 SW bands. The Viking brand name was made for a large coast to coast Canadian department store.
It still had the required license glued inside from the WW2 days.

Hallicrafters SX-25 Super Defiant Advertisement (Image: Rich Post)

Hallicrafters SX-25 Super Defiant Advertisement (Image: Rich Post)

I attached a 20 or 30 foot piece of wire to the antenna terminal and draped the wire over the back stair railing. Within 2 or 3 minutes I was listening to an English language broadcast from Japan. So, I got my dad to help me drag the old gal up to my attic bedroom. For the next 10 months or so every spare moment I had I spent spinning that dial.

Then about the Christmas of 1960 or 1961 my parents gave me a used Hallicrafters SX-25 Super Defiant. My dad had a customer who was a Ham. He asked him if he new of a shortwave radio he could buy for his son. Turns out VE7FC was selling the SX-25. He had won a contest with it. The winner was the 1st Ham to work a particular Antarctic station on CW. Someone had added voltage regulation to the SX-25 so it was a bit more stable than stock. For the next 15 years I was glued to that Hallicrafters!

Then one day there was a short in one of the capacitors and the whole chassis went hot with 380 volts. I unplugged the old girl and put her away as at that time I just didn’t have the money to fix it. I knew replacing one cap wasn’t the answer. I knew most had to be replaced. That was a BIG job and over my head at that point. Then with a new job my fortunes changed and in 1989 just as that wonderful sun spot cycle was on the way up I bought myself a Kenwood R-5000. Well you can imagine how that changed the game!



I was up at all hours chasing Utilities DX at that point. I added a Universal M-7000 RTTY decoder, 2 wire antennas, audio processing, tape recorders, etc. Then about 1996 I bought a JRC NRD-535D with the matching active speaker from a retired man in Saskatchewan Canada. He had received it as a retirement gift. Less than a year later he moved from the suburbs into the city a couple of hundred feet away from a power substation. His listening days were over. I got this radio for $800 and when he said it was mint he meant it!!! Absolutely spotless. Between the R-5000 and the 535D I was in heaven. 🙂

Now I have a little FiFi SDR to play with and am looking long and hard at a QS1R or an Excalibur or Excalibur Pro….still gathering data.

These days the M-7000 isn’t even plugged in but one of my PCs decodes HFDL and ACARS. A little RTL looks for Mode-S radar. So I am still at it. I still enjoy twirling the dials on the two “real radios” but have to admit the SDRs of this day and age have
SO many advantages when chasing DX.

Many thanks, Ken, for sharing your story!
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BBG changes: US shortwave broadcasts under microscope

voa logoIt appears the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)–the bi-partisan board who oversees all international broadcasts generated by the US government–is making some changes to its structure.

One of those changes will be the formation of a special committee to examine “the efficacy of shortwave radio transmissions.”

See full press release with video of the meeting below:

Chairman Jeff Shell chairs the Oct 23 meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (Photo: BBG)

Chairman Jeff Shell chairs the Oct 23 meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (Photo: BBG)

(Source: BBG)

WASHINGTON, DC – As a new member joined its ranks, the Broadcasting Board of Governors today announced a series of restructuring efforts to improve the way the bipartisan board operates.

“The work this agency does is vital, and we must do everything in our power to make sure we as a Board are doing the best we can – not only for our employees, but for the millions of people who depend on the news and information our networks provide,” said the Board’s chair, Jeff Shell.

Shell introduced and welcomed to the Board Kenneth Weinstein, who was confirmed by the Senate in September and sworn in on October 18. He also welcomed Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz, who was designated by Secretary of State John Kerry – a BBG board member – to represent him at today’s meeting.

Among the changes that the Board adopted is a simplified structure that includes an Advisory Committee and special committees focused on specific strategic issues. Two such special committees were immediately established – one dedicated to defining the responsibilities of and initiating a search for a Chief Executive Officer of U.S. international broadcasting and another to examining the efficacy of shortwave radio transmissions. The Advisory Committee is made up of Governors Shell, Armstrong, Meehan and Weinstein. Governors Shell, Armstrong, McCue, and Weinstein will serve on the Special Committee on the Creation of a CEO, while Governors Armstrong, Crocker, Meehan, and Weinstein now constitute the Special Committee on Shortwave Broadcasting.

With this meeting, the Board began using a consent agenda to adopt items of business that are non-controversial or routine. From now on, Board members will consider and vote on items of business as a group, though any member can request that an agenda item be considered separately. The use of the consent agenda, as well as a revised Board travel policy that was also adopted, were among the recommendations of the Office of Inspector General in its January 2013 inspection report.

The Board also announced the selection of Paul Kollmer-Dorsey as the agency’s General Counsel. Kollmer-Dorsey joined the BBG as Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel in June 2009. Prior to joining BBG, he served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Global Relief Technologies and worked for a dozen years in the international satellite communications industry. He earned his law degree from the Stanford School of Law.

And after three years with the BBG and decades of distinguished public and private sector service, International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard Lobo announced his retirement, effective on November 30. Board members expressed their gratitude for his service and leadership during a period of budgetary challenges.

“The agency and, in fact, the country owes Dick a debt of gratitude for what he did at the IBB,” Shell said. “Dick was instrumental in developing the proposal for establishing a CEO to streamline the agency as well as leadership of the IBB during a challenging period of uncertainty and tightening budgets.”

Lobo thanked Shell and the other Board members and read from the letter he had just sent to President Barack Obama: ”The proposed implementation of the plan, which I helped formulate, to create the position of CEO and to subsequently abolish the IBB Director’s position creates the ideal time for me to step aside. After more than five decades in broadcasting, I intend to retire and return to my native state of Florida.”

Turning to the latest events affecting U.S. international media, Shell acknowledged the hard work and sacrifice required of BBG employees during the partial government shutdown that ended on Oct. 17. Despite the furloughing of approximately 40 percent of the agency’s federal workforce, programs were produced and distributed around the world uninterrupted.

In addition to the administrative challenges of operating during the shutdown, Shell took time to acknowledge how in recent months, journalists across the BBG’s broadcast regions have been harassed, threatened, and wrongly detained as a result of their work.

The simple act of reporting on public demonstrations or events has brought physical attacks on a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reporter and a Voice of America (VOA) reporter in Herat province of Afghanistan, the detainment and release of correspondents for RFE/RL in Astana and in Minsk, and the arrest and beating of a VOA correspondent in Angola.

In Iran, officials have continued harassment against VOA and Radio Farda journalists and their families, and in an attempt to intimidate the press and control coverage of elections, Azerbaijan’s ruling political party has targeted RFE/RL and VOA broadcasts with complaints of illegal electioneering.

The Board also called for the immediate release of Alhurra TV reporter Bashar Fahmi as well as other journalists being held incommunicado in Syria. Fahmi has not been seen or heard from since he went missing while reporting in Aleppo, Syria in August 2012.

“The people who make up this agency are some of the most dedicated, courageous and selfless people I have ever known,” Shell concluded. “No hardship, whether it is a partial government shutdown, or unjust incarceration can stop the good work of our workforce. And for that we thank you.”

The Board paused to pay tribute to two distinguished colleagues who recently passed away – Jack Payton, an esteemed and accomplished newsman and senior editor at VOA, and Dave Strawman, recently retired manager of the BBG transmitting station in Tinang, the Philippines.

Video of October 23, 2013 BBG board meeting:

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The Spectrum Monitor: a new radio magazine finds a home in the digital world

The SpectrumMonitorI’m happy to announce that there is a new radio magazine on the horizon: The Spectrum Monitor (TSM).

The Spectrum Monitor, an e-magazine, will cover  amateur radio, longwave and shortwave listening, public service scanning, AM/FM/TV broadcasting, satellites, WiFi radio, vintage radio and more.

I have agreed to be the shortwave radio columnist for The Spectrum Monitor.

Why? TSM is picking up where Monitoring Times (MT) left off, and is being edited and published by MT‘s former managing editor, Ken Reitz (KS4ZR). Reitz has done a fantastic job of retaining the majority of MT‘s excellent writers and columnists. When he asked if I would be interested in taking over the shortwave radio column, his integrity and that of Monitoring Times helped me make a confident decision.

Best yet, I will have free reign to write about in-depth topics that I choose. Like Monitoring Times before it, The Spectrum Monitor will allow their columnists true editorial freedom.

The Spectrum Monitor Press Release

Ken Reitz published the following press release today at noon; if you enjoy the topics here, I encourage you to check out The Spectrum Monitor.

TheSpectrumMonitorPRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ken Reitz
e-mail: ks4zr1 [at]
Phone: 540-967-2469


A new electronic publication, The Spectrum Monitor, will follow the final issue of Monitoring Times, a paper and electronic publication covering amateur, shortwave and scanner-related topics, which ceases publication after a thirty-three year run following the retirement of its publisher, Bob Grove.

Managing editor, Ken Reitz KS4ZR, made the announcement in the November issue of Monitoring Times. “As the accolades poured in, all readers, regardless of how long they had been subscribers, expressed sadness and dismay at the closure of the magazine. I came to believe that there might be enough interest to warrant continuing the publication in some other form. I took it upon myself to explore the possibility of a follow-on magazine, not connected with Monitoring Times or Grove Enterprises, it’s publisher.”

The Spectrum Monitor will debut with the January 2014 issue, on December 15, 2013, and will carry virtually all of the current Monitoring Times columnists and feature writers. Reitz noted, “These are the experts in all facets of radio who have helped make MT the best, full-spectrum magazine available and we are all excited about continuing our work for the new publication.”

The Spectrum Monitor will be available only as an electronic publication in PDF format which may be read on any desktop, laptop, iPad™, Kindle Fire™ or any other device capable of opening a PDF file. Details on how to become a charter subscriber may be found at

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The Rebirth of The State We’re In: now a podcast via WBEZ Chicago

TSWI-logo-large-300x231You may remember The State We’re In (TSWI) from Radio Netherlands Worldwide and how sad I was to hear TSWI was cancelled in the wake of RNW’s cuts last year.

Well, I just heard the following brilliant news from TSWI:

“November 6th marks the rebirth of The State We’re In: The Podcast, produced every other week by Jonathan Groubert and WBEZ 91.5.” 

Jonathan Grubert (Photo:

Jonathan Grubert (Photo:

In my opinion, The State We’re In represents some of the best radio documentary out there: TSWI has won international honors, including three New York World Medals in 2010, awards at the 2013 New York Festivals, as well as a Gabriel. Ira Glass, the talented host of Chicago Public Media’s This American Life, has praised TSWI for its “amazing editorial judgment,” and Glass rightly called TSWI host Jonathan Groubert “one of the best news interviewers on public radio today.”

Don’t believe me? Listen to some of their archived shows, like Two Enemies, One Heart.  Powerful stuff.

I will be the first to subscribe to TSWI‘s podcast.  As soon as the RSS feed becomes available, I will post it here.

In the meantime, check out TSWI‘s new website:

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Listener Post: Alexander von Obert

Analog Radio DialShortly after posting my plea for your radio stories, I received several replies, including this excellent story from SWLing Post reader, Alexander von Obert, who lives in Germany.

I have created a new series called Listener Posts, where I will place all of your personal radio histories. If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Alexander for sharing his personal radio history:

Alexander von Obert (DL4NO)

My fate was sealed on my 12th birthday: As a present I got a redio experimenting kit (Kosmos Radiomann for the Germans among the readers). I could build a diode receiver (AKA detector receiver with a Germanium diode) from it. Adding an EF98 pentode (anode voltage 12 V) I could even build a tube audion, a 0V1 for the hams among the readers.

rbfjWithin a few months I outgrew it. My father, an engineer himself but completely absorbed by his job, showed me where a soldering iron gets hot. I managed to get hold of old radio and TV sets including Audions from the 3rd Reich area (“Volksempfänger”). First I simply dismantled them out of curiosity. Then I discovered the public library of my home town. The author of the time was Heinz Richter with titles like “Radiobasteln für Jungen”(radio building for boys).

Naturally I even tried to use these radios – especially those I managed to repair. I even listened to shortwave stations. In these times you found quite some German transmissions, notably from the BBC and Radio Sweden. Later, when my English knowledge blossomed, I discovered an even wider universe out there.

Then came the time where I wished to transmit myself. I never considered to do a radio program, I enjoyed experimenting with my equipment to much. Here in Germany transmitting without proper license was a criminal offence so my tests were few. CB had not been introduced here in Germany at that time, but I learned about ham radio. Somehow I found out about my local club and their license course. So I got the proud owner of the call DB1NO, a VHF/UHF license without Morse code test.

A short time later started my military service. I had to do quite some night shifts, a good opportunity to train Morse code hearing. When my comrades saw my cassette recorder they disappeared knowing about the “music” I would be listening to over the next half hour. After two years I did the code test. I have been DL4NO ever since.

No question about it: After my military service I got an electronics engineer. What I learned at the university I quite often considered as the theoretical background of things that I had known before. In that time I discovered microprocessors. You had to build your machines by yourself. My first computer used a regular cassette tape recorder as “mass storage”. Only the fourth homemade machine had a floppy disk drive – of the 8″ form factor variety, with about 1 MB of capacity per medium. I could only laugh about the first IBM PC with its 320 kB floppies.

During that time ham radio was mostly a social activity for me. I held contact with the OMs around on 2m FM and had no shortwave station at all. Microprocessors, studies, and later my first job, occupied most of my time. OK, I even had discovered girls 🙂

Now, as my job slowly settles down, I have upgraded my ham radio activities. I have built a mobile station that can operate from 7 to 440 MHz. My most important objective is to reduce the effort as far as possible and to stay within the traffic regulatory. For example I have proven that you can operate a 100W SSB station from a standard 12V outlet. Down to 14 MHz you can even use magmounts without really bad effects.

vy 73

Alexander also adds this note:

How I operate my station from a standard 12 V outlet in my car is described at The picture and the circuit diagram  at the bottom of the page should be clear enough even if you don’t understand German. At you see how a magmount antenna works on 20 m. The magmount has 200-300 pF to the roof of the car. This is an impedance of about 50 Ohms, that can be compensated. The magmount moves the resonance frequency a bit higher as you can see in the SWR diagram.

Many thanks, Alexander, for sharing your story! Readers, be sure to check out Alexander’s ham radio website at

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Sean crunches language numbers: Tibetan shows increase

Sean Gilbert, International Editor for the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH), posted the following information on WRTH’s Facebook page. He has kindly given permission to share this on the SWLing Post.

WRTH2013Sean writes:

“I have just been looking at the reductions in SW/MW output by international broadcasters and SW output by domestic broadcasters (where possible) in a language-by-language form. I have been keeping records of the top 19 languages used by broadcasters, since the B10 season, and I can see a reduction in output on 18 of those 19 languages. The only language to show an increase is Tibetan.

The languages that have suffered the most reduction (since the B10 season) are:
#1 German (-53%);
#2 Russian (49.6%);
#3 Farsi (-48.8%);
#4 Spanish (-45.7%);
#5 Portuguese (-43.7%);
#6 Indonesian (-36.9%);
#7 French (-32%);
#8 English (-31.2%);
#9 Arabic (-28.5%)
#10 Vietnamese (-22.5%)

This is based on the schedules we use in WRTH and, as the data is processed in the same manner each season, this does give a reasonable portrayal of the situation.

In contrast to this, Chinese is only down by -5% and Korean 1.1%, while Tibetan is UP 7.3%. The Far East languages, to be fair, tend to have a much slower decline than the more Westerly languages.

The table below shows the top languages in order of popularity (i.e. frequency of use). Chinese is the language that stands out as being the one with a noticeably slower decline. This is borne out when you tune the SW broadcast bands! I will fill in the B13 data after WRTH has been published.”

Language Chart

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David Korchin’s photography captures ETOW radios in the hands of kids

Click here to view David Korchin's photography

Click here to view David Korchin’s photography

A truly rewarding experience I am privileged to enjoy as the director of Ears To Our World is to work directly with kids and teachers in the countries where we extend our mission.

This year, photographer/SWLer/radio amateur–and good friend–David Korchin (KC2WNW) accompanied me on an ETOW distribution trip to inner Belize City. Besides grabbing a few moments to enjoy a little SWLing, we worked with ETOW partner organization, The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, to place radios with some of the children attending their annual summer camp.  This was the third year we’ve worked with the BCVI, and it’s been a very rewarding journey.

Can you imagine what impact a self-powered shortwave radio might have on a child who is visually-impaired, but whose family can’t readily afford batteries? If you can fill in the answer, you’ll know why I do this.

Today, David posted his photos from the trip, documenting these truly inspirational children.  The photos are nothing short of amazing. Click here to view the photos on his website:

You might recognize the radios we’re distributing; they were generously donated by Eton Corporation and are shortwave versions of their clever little wind-up workhorse, the Rover. Eton, incidentally, is celebrating their 27th anniversary today.

And, David–many, many thanks!

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