Time station CHU in The Empire Strikes Back

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Earlier today, I published a post noting that I thought I heard the time station WWV in a scene of The Empire Strikes Back.

SWLing Post reader, RadioGeek, quickly corrected me: that’s Canadian time station CHU‘s data pips I’m hearing, not circa-1980s WWV.  Cool!

Listen for yourself

Here’s the clip from The Empire Strikes Back, Battle of Hoth

Now listen to the recording of CHU I made only moments ago–note the tone and duration of the data pips:

No wonder I mixed up CHU and WWV; I’ve listened to both for propagation since I was a kid.

I wonder which of the Lucas Film sound engineer(s)/artist(s) chose CHU for this scene? Anyone know, by chance? Or can anyone find out?

No doubt, that sound designer is an SWL or ham radio operator. Perhaps this may also explain the SSB-esque radio dialog between fighter pilots throughout the Star Wars films:

Please comment!

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8 thoughts on “Time station CHU in The Empire Strikes Back

  1. Mason

    Man, it’s a shame the linked video clip got taken down. Does anybody have another video clip I could hear this in? I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and a radio fan.

    1. Samuel Rhine

      Also I thought I heard something before about those CHU blips being copyrighted or something like that. I think it was the Official SWL Channel guy.

  2. Rod

    Not to be off subject, some of the Star Trek scenes has a bit of ham radio involved. Several of the control panels in Star Trek – The New Generation, has embedded codes of the artists / designers in Morse Code.
    Back to Star Wars, the Empire droid on the planet Hoth was communicating in what sounds like inverted SSB voice.
    The artist use technology to portray the future and what better example is radio!

  3. William Hansgen

    Perhaps filmakers are aware of a subliminal attraction (alarm?) we have to the precise ticking or buzzing or toning of the passing of seconds.

    After all, each of us are allotted fewer every day.

    Good job of sniffing this one out, Thomas!


  4. Chris Freitas

    If I remember correctly, SSB was also used for the communications between the Rebel pilots and base commanders in “A New Hope.” The convos definitely have that voice quality you expect to hear between ham operators.

  5. Dan

    I remember both scenes and thought the same thing at the time. I have to also jump to the conclusion that someone at Lucasfilm was a ham or swl. So glad you noticed this and posted it, for it had been moved to a dusty corner of my mind reserved for interesting things that nobody else would appreciate; even the most die-hard star wars fan would not get the radio references hidden there.

    One more example of why this blog is the Holy Grail for everything radio!


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