Monthly Archives: February 2020

Help Brian identify this 1970s era interval signal

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Brian (W9IND), who writes:

I want to thank you for stirring a memory that I never thought I’d relive – even though it still doesn’t solve the mystery of what the heck I was listening to in the first place!

Back in the early 1970s, I was a teenage SWLer with a curiosity for the worldwide signals that emanated from the speaker of my shortwave radio. Bitten by the SWLing bug after stumbling across Radio Nederland’s Bonaire relay station, I spent many a happy hour twirling the dial in search of fresh game to hear and QSL.

But on one such occasion (I’m going to guess it was in 1971), I was surprised and fascinated by what sounded like a snake-charming horn playing notes at random. Stranger still, the transmission would seemingly go off the air for a couple of seconds and then return to play the strange melody again. I chalked it up to one of the countless beeps, hums and other electronic noises that often appeared on utility frequencies in those days.

I never recorded it, I never had a clue what it was, and I never heard it again.

Until recently. On the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

A couple of weeks ago, while looking for old shortwave interval signals from the 1970s, I saw a recording marked “Unidentified interval signal 1” listed right after the interval signals of Deutsche Welle and Radio Nederland.

“OK,” I thought. “Sounds like a challenge. Maybe I can even help figure out what it was.”

Then it played … and I almost fell off my chair! I literally sat with my mouth open as the long-lost sounds of the “snake-charming horn” played again. Could it indeed have been an interval signal – and if so, for what station?

I wanted to contact the person who recorded it, but then I learned the sad news that Mr. Greg Shoom is no longer with us.

So I remain mystified, probably forever. But it sure was fun hearing that weird recording again! Thanks for the memories.

Let’s see if an SWLing Post reader can help, Brian!

I know of at least a dozen readers who are experts on all that is interval signals, so hopefully someone can listen and ID this one.

I’ve embedded audio from this SRAA recording below. Note that the unidentified interval signal can be heard between time marks 1:27 – 2:07 in the following recording:

Can you positively ID this interval signal?  If so, please comment!


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Guy’s mind blown when he stumbles upon WBCQ’s Ampegon antenna

(Source: Ampegon)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Van Hoy, who shares a link to this YouTuber who stumbled upon shortwave station, WBCQ, while driving through rural Maine in 2018. He obviously didn’t understand what the site was at the time–nor the fact that the owner loves collecting vintage equipment.

The video gives the impression of WBCQ being a place of mystery and intrigue. If he only knew that he would have likely been welcomed with open arms and gotten a detailed tour had he only contacted the station!

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Sky News: “BBC could be forced to sell radio stations in ‘massive pruning back'”

(Image source: BBC)

(Source: Sky News via Dan Van Hoy)

The number of TV channels could also be reduced, the website scaled back and stars banned from taking well-paid second jobs.

[…]The Sunday Times quoted a senior Downing Street source as saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “really strident” on the need for serious reform at the national broadcaster.

The number of TV channels could be reduced, the website scaled back and stars banned from taking well-paid second jobs, the newspaper said.

There will also be a consultation on replacing the licence fee with a subscription model, the source said, adding: “We are not bluffing on the licence fee.

“We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has got to be a subscription model.

“They’ve got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back.

“They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service which is part of its core job.

Read the full article at Sky News.

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KiwiSDR: A brilliant new map portal!

Last month, we noted that the popular SDR.hu KiwiSDR portal now requires registration and an amateur radio callsign to use the site.  While SDR.hu is still online, we certainly get the impression all site development has been halted. This is not the end of the world because SDR.hu is only one of several KiwiSDR portals–we linked to others in our January article.

Personally, I only used the SDR.hu map view to keep track of KiwiSDR sites and found it quite useful because I typically select sites based on geographic location.

A better KiwiSDR map portal

I’ve just learned via the KiwiSDR Twitter account that Priyom.org has updated their KiwiSDR map portal using Dyatlov maps. The results are brilliant and, in my opinion, even better than the SDR.hu’s map.

The Priyom.org map uses the full window, is uncluttered and easier to navigate.

If you click on a KiwiSDR site, you’ll see a pop-up window with basic site information. If you hover the cursor over that site info, another window will pop up with current details about the receiver, number of users, antenna, SNR, and GPS clock (see above).

This is now my favorite way to geographically surf KiwiSDR sites.

Click here to check out the new map portal.


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Dan notes two eBay finds: one good buy and one too high!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who recently discovered two note-worthy items on eBay.

The first is a WinRadio Excelsior SDR.

Dan notes:

A seller on eBay is offering the WR-G39DDCi. Just picked one up on a Buy It Now for $200.

He still has some up without Buy It Now but the price is creeping up. Heck of a deal considering the price new….

Click here to view this listing on eBay.

That’s simply amazing you found an Excelsior for $200! WOW! Perhaps this eBay seller will post more WR-G39DDCi units with a BuyItNow price? I’d be willing to bet these may have all come from a commercial or government auction.

The second item Dan shares is a Sony CRF-230 with original box.

Dan notes:

This guy is trying to get too high a price, but these 230s are rarely seen with the original box. There are many 230s on eBay and prices are usually in the several 100s of dollar range. Anyone considering this one should insist on seeing a video of the receiver powered on and working. The seller’s starting price level is at lest 2 to 3 times what a SONY CRF-330K would be in LNIB condition.

Click here to view on eBay.

A rare bird indeed, but as you point out, Dan, the BuyItNow price is astronomically high.

Note the seller does have a Make An Offer option, too. I suspect that’s what they’ll end up accepting if they ever wish to sell this unit.

Thanks again for sharing your eBay finds, Dan!

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Video: The Bell Telephone 1940s era mobile network

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon this Bell Telephone short film about the beginnings of the mobile phone network:

I don’t know about you, but I love the view inside the trunk of the car! I bet that tube receiver and transmitter both weighed over 100 pounds. Although the system wasn’t full duplex, it must have felt pretty amazing to place phone calls while mobile.

For more vintage films like this one, check out the Periscope Film YouTube channel.

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A Compact RSPdx & Wellbrook Loop Kit for the Beach — My Approach

I have enjoyed three to four medium wave and shortwave DXpeditions per year since 1988, to sites on the Washington and Oregon coasts. I love the chance they give to experiment with antennas in a (hopefully!) noise-free location, and concentrate on catching stations that might not be heard from home.

All of my DX trips have been via car–until now! I’ve just returned from nine vacation days in Hawaii (Waikoloa Beach, on the Big Island), and I thought others might like to see the radio related items I chose to take along for air travel. I’m pleased to report that everything worked as planned, and I have five days of SDR IQ WAV files of the MW band for review, all recorded in the time frame surrounding local dawn.

My goal was not the smallest, most compact portable setup, but one with high performance and modest size. Fitting everything into a day pack was another requirement. A simple wire antenna and an even smaller Windows tablet or laptop than the one I’ve used (and a smaller SDR like the HF+ Discovery, for that matter) would make a much smaller package. However, the items I’ve assembled worked excellently for me during my enjoyable Hawaii vacation. The directional loop antenna provided nulls on medium wave of 30 dB during preliminary tests indoors, a less-than-ideal test situation.

Waikoloa Beach–just one of a zillion picturesque scenes in Hawaii.

Here is a list of what I’ve put together for my DXing “kit”:

    • SDRPlay RSPdx receiver
    • Short USB cable for receiver<>PC connection, with two RFI chokes installed
    • Lenovo X1 tablet— a Windows 10 device with magnetically attached keyboard; this model is a competitor to Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet
    • Wellbrook Communications’ ALA1530 head amp module, modified for female SO239 connectors enabling use of large diameter LMR-600 coaxial cable as a 2-turn loop element. My antenna setup is similar to Wellbrook’s commercial flexible loop
    • Wooden base for the antenna (ALA1530 is bolted to the base)
    • 20 feet of lightweight RG-174 coax
    • Wellbrook DC interface module for the ALA1530
    • 3.0 Ah LiFePO4 rechargeable battery for the Wellbrook antenna
    • 15 foot long section of high grade “Times Mfg.” LMR-600 coax cable with PL259 connectors (bought from Ebay already assembled/soldered)
    • Fold-up beach mat
    • Small day pack to hold everything

All the contents of this DXing setup fit a standard size day pack.

You’ll note the absence of headphones in the list. This is because my intent from the start was to record all the DX (MW band) as SDR WAV files for DXing post-vacation. That said, I did have headphones in my travel luggage for later spot checks of a few frequencies. That’s how I found 576 kHz Yangon, Myanmar lurking at their 1700 sign-off with national anthem and English announcement. The remainder of the DX to be uncovered will have to wait until I’m back home near Seattle!

The LMR-600 is a very thick and stiff coax cable, whose diameter approaches that used in the standard aluminum tubing ALA1530 series from Wellbrook. It has the benefit of being self-supporting in a 2-turn configuration and will also coil up into an approx. 12-inch package for transport. It just barely fits within the day pack I’m using. As I understand it, magnetic loops with tubing or large coax as the active element, versus simple wire, are more efficient in operation. Whether or not this holds true in practice remains to be seen.

I fashioned a wooden disc 3/4″ thick to attach the ALA1530 head amplifier, as I didn’t want to bring along a tripod or other support stand. The Wellbrook antennas all work well near or at ground level, so I was able to get great reception with the antenna right on the beach. The diameter at two turns of the coax is only a few inches smaller diameter than Wellbrook’s aluminum tubing loops. Three strips of strategically placed Velcro straps help keep the turns together when deployed as well as during storage.

In theory a two-turn loop should give 5 dB less gain than a single turn version; however, my older ALA1530 module has 5 dB more gain than the newer “LN” type, according to Andrew Ikin of Wellbrook Communications. The net result is that my two-turn antenna should have equal gain to the larger one-turn variety. Future experimentation with this DIY coax loop antenna is in order!

The Wellbrook loop antenna, RSPdx receiver, and Windows 10 tablet on the beach in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Another view of the DXing position. Being this close to the water with my radio gear was unnerving at first, but the wave action on a calm Hawaii beach is totally different from the Oregon/Washington beaches with waves that can move in and out by a hundred feet or more.

The Wellbrook “DIY FlexLoop” works fine at beach level, and is less conspicuous this way, too.

The ALA1530 module is bolted to the 11-inch wooden disc for support. I’ve modified the module’s sockets to securely hold SO239 female connectors.

The commercial Wellbrook FLX1530LN is a fine product, and worthy of your consideration as a compact and high performance travel antenna. Full details can be found at this link.

SDR WAV Files for Download

One of my goals from the start for my Hawaii trip was to bring back SDR “IQ” WAV files for sharing with others. These approx. 900 Mb files cover the entire medium wave band as heard from my beach location in Waikoloa.

The overall page is: https://archive.org/details/@4nradio   Clicking on any of the entries will bring you to a details page. From there just right click on the “WAVE” link, and choose “Save as…” to download. For a few of the recordings I also posted the file that precedes the one that goes across the top-of-the-hour, because things seemed a bit more lively prior to 1700 (which  was at local sunrise, give or take a couple of minutes).

The IQ WAV files are only playable with suitable SDR radio software: SDRuno is first choice (but you need a RSP receiver connected). The files are also is compatible with HDSDR and SDR-Console V3. It may also play on Studio 1 software.

I hope other DXers enjoy the chance to tune through the MW band, as heard from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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