Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hackaday recounts an “An Unlikely Radio Story”


Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Michael Letterle, who shares this story from the excellent website Hackaday.

The following is an excerpt from Swans, Pigs, and the CIA: An Ulikey Radio Story:

Shortwave radio is boring, right? Maybe not. You never know what intrigue and excitement you might intercept. We recently covered secret number stations, and while no one knows for sure exactly what their purpose is, it is almost surely involving cloaks and daggers. However, there’s been some more obvious espionage radio, like Radio Swan.

The swan didn’t refer to the animal, but rather an island just off of Honduras that, until 1972, was disputed between Honduras and the United States. The island got its name–reportedly–because it was used as a base for a pirate named Swan in the 17th century. This island also had a long history of use by the United States government. The Department of Agriculture used it to quarantine imported beef and a variety of government departments had weather stations there.

…[T]he most famous occupant of Swan Island was Radio Swan which broadcast on the AM radio band and shortwave. The station was owned by the Gibraltar Steamship Company with offices on Fifth Avenue in New York. Oddly, though, the company didn’t actually have any steamships. What it did have was some radio transmitters that had been used by Radio Free Europe and brought to the island by the United States Navy. Did I mention that the Gibraltar Steamship Company was actually a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

Read the full story on HackADay…

Spread the radio love

Brittle ribbon cables: James cautions Sony ICF-2001D and ICF-2010 owners


Regarding the Sony ICF-2001D (or ICF-2010 in North America), SWLing Post contributor James Patterson writes:

I have a comment on the Sony ICF-2010. In New Zealand it is called the ICF-2001D, as labeled on it.

I bought the ICF 2001D at a sale. Brought it home and it seemed to perform almost perfectly on all bands. In fact I was very suprised on how well it worked. Audio was excellent, sensitivity was great, even the Air Band received very well. But I’m a very keen SSB DXer, meaning I monitor the Single Side Band [SSB] utility stations like HFAir, Marine, military, etc. so I needed to check the SSB in the radio.

[O]n official frequencies like 8.86700 HF AIR, it was well off, and came up readable around 8.86500, even with the tuning speed mode set to “slow”. So I then decided that with the age of the radio, over time it has drifted off zero beat, so I would need to re-align the BFO/SYNC coil.

I looked up on the internet at the signal board, and located the correct coil. Having the batteries out of the radio, I plugged in the DC power supply and retuned that coil and got the speech correct at 8.86700. I also checked the universal time signal on both USB and LSB and it was “Bang on”.

I was very pleased with myself, meaning I now had a Sony ICF-2001D working in perfect condition.

But just then the radio went dead. At this stage I still had the board lifted up, as I had just finished the realignment. I could not understand, after all my work, what had happened. So having a good look at the wires and the board, to my most disappointed dismay, I noticed one of two ribbon cables–Sony called it a “Flexible circuit board” had snapped right across and come apart.

There are two ribbon cables on the board. This was the short one. So,with the slightest lift of the board, this one snapped. I then felt the cable and noticed how frail it was with a piece just falling off. The ribbon cable as I call it, had become most fragile with age and probably heat from the sun(?) over the years the previous owner had it.

So all of a sudden I found I had a ICF-2001D no more. I looked at the other board, the CPU board underneath and noticed that ribbon cable was joined to the other ribbon cable side by side to become one cable, and spot soldered onto the board. Also on shifting the CPU board to view underneath it, the selective speed plastic slide switch snapped off.

Note broken ribbon cable and broken switch.

Note broken ribbon cable and broken switch.

Sony ICF 201D .Note broken ribbon cable and broken switch 001

[B]y now, I was in a state of complete disarray to say the least. Never was I going to have the ICF-2001D operational again.

So guys, be most careful if you ever need to do any repairs or realignment of that radio–remember the ribbon cables become very fragile and will just snap right across as mine did with the slightest lift of the board. I wish I had known this, and I would have taken the cable out of it’s socket first,then when finished, plugged it back in, and radio would still be working. But to realign it, the cable would need to be connected anyway. So I hope this does not happen to anyone else, especially if you don’t have spare parts, as I don’t have.

So Im keeping this one for parts now,and hopeing to replace it with either another 2001D or its older brother ICF 2001. I do have a small collection of vintage portable short wave radios; they all have SSB, and all work very well. Most have the varible BFO control knob and that seems to suit me better, rather than a radio with tuning steps and needing to perhaps realign it. I think the ICF-2001D is very similar to my ICF-SW7600G with only a few memories and no tuning knob. I think the older ICF-2001D would still be my radio of choice though.

Showing the slide switch that snapped off the CPU board when trying to bend it slightly to get access to the board.This pic shows a small hole where the plastic tip of the switch was.The switch is unsoldered off the board.

Showing the slide switch that snapped off the CPU board when trying to bend it slightly to get access to the board.This pic shows a small hole where the plastic tip of the switch was.The switch is unsoldered off the board.

Showing soldered open ends of the computer cable.

Showing soldered open ends of the computer cable.

In this photo I have tried to replace the ribbon cable with an old Computer ribbon cable,but that job failed because the board underneath has the ribbon cable spot soldered on.There are two ribbon cables both joined side by side to become one.So the idea of replaceing the broken ribbon cable would disturb the other having to cut it away from it.

In this photo I have tried to replace the ribbon cable with an old Computer ribbon cable,but that job failed because the board underneath has the ribbon cable spot soldered on.There are two ribbon cables both joined side by side to become one.So the idea of replaceing the broken ribbon cable would disturb the other having to cut it away from it.

Spread the radio love

SPROUT SSTV and Digitalker Every Sunday

SPROUT SSTV and Digitalker active every Sunday

SPROUT SSTV and Digitalker Active Every Sunday – AMSAT-UK

AMSAT-UK Announces SSTV Activity Every Sunday

Slow Scan TV (SSTV) images in Scottie 1 format will be transmitted from the SPROUT satellite every Sunday (Japanese Standard Time) on 437.600 MHz FM (+/- 9 kHz Doppler shift). The Digitalker will also be active.

SPROUT, a 20 x 20 x 22 cm amateur radio nano-satellite with a mass of 7.1 kg, launched successfully with the L-band (1236.5 MHz/1257.5 MHz/1278.5 MHz) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite ALOS-2 on May 24, 2014 at 0305 UT. SPROUT is in a 654 km, 97.9 degree inclination Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

SPROUT (Space Research On Unique Technology) was built by students from Nihon University

— A FM Digitalker will enable the satellite to speak to amateurs around the world.

— The Voice Message Box will record transmissions from radio amateurs and play them back.

— Pre-loaded images from the Message Gallery can be transmitted using Slow Scan TV (SSTV).

— Pictures of the Earth can be transmitted by SSTV and radio amateurs can receive it using free software such as MMSSTV. As part of the Earth mapping project the team ask radio amateurs to contribute pictures they have received from the satellite for display on the SPROUT website.

Callsign: JQ1ZJQ

Size: 214x210x220 mm

Weight: 7.1 kg

Mode: 1200bps AFSK, 9600bps GMSK

CW downlink 437.525 MHz

FM packet downlink 437.525 MHz

Digipeater uplink 437.600 MHz

Digitalker downlink 437.600 MHz

SSTV downlink 437.600 MHz

Many FM radios can be switched been wide and narrow deviation FM filters. For best results you should select the wider filter designed for 5 kHz deviation FM.

— SPROUT English website

— SPROUT Japanese website

— Nihon-Univ. Miyazaki Laboratory on Facebook

— Telemetry Software

— Telemetry format

SPROUT launch data page’s from the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) are also available at

Free Slow Scan TV (SSTV) software MMSSTV

The JE9PEL website has information on other satellites on this launch

(Full details and links may be found here.)

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

Spread the radio love

The best shortwave radio for cross-continent cycling?


SWLing Post reader, Pat, is an avid cyclist and is seeking a radio for his next cross-continent adventure. There are a limited number of products on the market that meet Pat’s requirements, so I thought posting his inquiry might bring a few options out of the woodwork. Check out Pat’s requirements and please comment if you have a suggestion!

Pat writes:

I’m a professional ski coach from Colorado. When I’m not on skis, I like to get on my bicycle and go explore the world. I’ve ridden across the USA a few times, covering all 48 states in the Continental US. A couple of years ago I got my 49th state when I rode from Alaska back home to Colorado.

Next year I plan to ride to Argentina, a journey of 12,000 miles over six months.

One of the things that keeps me sane is to have a radio strapped to the handlebars of my bike. I used to have a cheap AM/FM transistor, but have slowly improved the choice of radios on each trip.

During my Alaska ride I used a Degen DE1123, which was a great item. Not a great radio, but having an mp3 player built in made a world of difference. There were some mighty long distances without radio signal, so having the mp3 was great. But like I said, the 1123 wasn’t the most user-friendly item. Plus, it ate up AA batteries, which were pricey in the Yukon. So I upgraded to the Degen DE1125. Certainly an improvement, but still some things that could be improved. [See photo above.]

For my Argentina trip I want to have something really good; something that works well and will hopefully last six months. Also, I really like the idea of having a radio with a mini SD slot. I’ll have to download a lot of music and podcasts to keep me happy.

Someone suggested the Melson S8. I purchased one and it is a great unit, but way too big to fit on the handlebars.

You obviously have experience with many different portables and I was wondering if you could give me your suggestions. Maybe something from Degen, ShouYu, Tecsun?

Things that are important:

  • Ease of use (I’ll be using the controls while pedaling)
  • Weight (smaller and lighter is better)
  • Durability
  • Mini SD capability
  • Radio reception
  • AM, FM and SW capability
  • Li-ion batteries

Not overly important:

  • Ability to scroll through songs/find songs
  • Sound quality (I’ll have wind in my ears anyway)

Things that are not important:

  • Recording ability (I don’t foresee recording anything along the way)
  • Looks
  • Cost (I don’t want to spend $150 on a CC Crane, as the radio may get broken or stolen, but I’m willing to spend some money on a quality product if available).

[…]I’d love to select the best option for this silly ride I’m taking next summer and will happily take any advice.

A cycling trip to Argentina? Nothing silly about that, Pat! What an adventure!

Shortwave radios with MicroSD slots are somewhat limited in numbers, but more and more models have appeared on the market in the past few years.

Readers: can you help Pat with some suggestions/options?  Please comment!

Spread the radio love

DIY Kit for Aircraft Band Monitoring

Aircraft-Band-RadioThere is an interesting kit being sold on eBay designed specifically for aircraft monitoring of 118-136 MHz (meaning it could also cover a number of ACARS frequencies). The receiver is being sold as a DIY kit, a completed kit, or an assembled kit and enclosure. Prices range from ~$16 to $38 plus shipping from Hong Kong. I purchased a kit and enclosure, as building it is part of the fun for me. I will let you know how the construction goes and how the receiver performs after I get the kit together. Delivery time is estimated to be between 2 and 3 weeks, typical of things coming from Hong Kong.

Here is a picture of an assembled board:


If anyone has experience with this kit let us know your results!

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

Spread the radio love

Dave’s Sproutie SPT Beacon

The Sproutie “SPT” Beacon. (Photo source: Dave Richards)

The Sproutie “SPT” Beacon. (Photo source: Dave Richards)

Dave Richards (AA7EE), has just published a brilliant post about his new beacon: the Sproutie SPT Beacon.

Click here to read Dave’s post with detailed instructions for building your own
low power, legal beacon

Dave’s beacon is located on 13,558 kHz–he would love your reception reports. Dave notes in his post:

“If you hear the SPT beacon on 13,558 kHz, please send a report – either to the e-mail address listed on my QRZ account [look up call AA7EE], or as a comment underneath this post. Reception reports will be very eagerly received. One gentleman in Seminole County, FL, reported that the area around the SPT frequency was a cacophony of noise in his area, and he stood no chance of hearing it. Those kinds of reports are useful too.  If you put your own HiFER beacon  on the air, do introduce yourself on the LWCA message board, and John can include you on the list of known active HiFER beacons.

Readers: let’s give Dave some reception reports! Though I live on the opposite side of North America, I will certainly be listening!

Dave, thanks again for publishing such an informative and detailed post! You’ve inspired me to build my own beacon.

Spread the radio love

James’ restored Sony ICF-5800H

Sony Vintage radio ICF 5800H 001

SWLing Post contributor, James Patterson, has recently restored a Sony ICF-5800H. James sent me a few photos and I decided to post them here.

Sony Vintage radio ICF 5800H 003

I absolutely love the design of Japanese analog radios from this era. They have signal meters, large backlit dials, carry straps, and proper large controls–buttons, switches and knobs–that can even be operated when wearing gloves in the winter.

Sony Vintage radio ICF 5800H 002 (1)

Great receiver you have there, James!

Spread the radio love