Author Archives: Robert Gulley

What is the Radio Hobby? One Perspective

The Geloso G.215-AN

I have recently been re-exploring the hobby of photography, which is a lateral move from studying astronomy (my main interest being astrophotography). At one time in my life I was a semi-professional photographer, having studied photojournalism in college and dabbling in nature and street photography (as it is now named). And no, I was never a paparazzo!

Following a link from an article on today’s SWLing Blog I landed on an Italian radio/audio company’s archive, the company being Geloso.  The above image is an audio amplifier and it caused me to think about radios (and related equipment) in much the same way I have been currently thinking about photography. Allow me to explain.

I spent about a decade in photography back in the days of film, black and white and color. (This was back in the days when the earth was cooling and dinosaurs roamed the earth!) Film cameras are to modern-day DSLRs much like IBM PCs are to modern day Intel Pentium i7 computers — that is to say, technology has really changed! Seeing what modern cameras can do within the camera is rather astounding, and certainly far beyond what we could even dream of in the 70s. The same is true in radios, of course, with radios from the 40s and 50s in comparison to today’s rigs.

And yet, just like film cameras of old being used today producing incredible photographs, radios from the past can still produce incredible sound if maintained well and their operation understood. And yes, I am getting to my main point, but in an intentionally somewhat circuitous route!

As I have been learning about these modern cameras and watching copious videos on YouTube, I have heard a recurring theme come up. Back in my early days I, like many folks today, always believed the next lens or camera would take me over the top and allow me to produce incredible shots. Oh, I might not have stated it that way, but it certainly was present in recesses of my brain. Now mind you, I was producing good photographs, but I was always looking for those shots worthy of a portfolio, and thereby sometimes missing out on great shots right in front of me.

Having just recently  purchased a DSLR camera kit with two lenses, before I had even taken a handful of shots with it, I was starting to think, “What will I need to add to this setup to make it really good? Oops, old habits die hard! Today’s cameras (and optics) from the top 4 or 5 DSLR makers are all head-and-shoulders above what we had access to when I was in photography years ago. There is no reason to look for the absolute best optics unless you have literally thousands of dollars to spend for what are at best, modest improvements under specific shooting conditions. The talent is not in the camera or the lens, but rather in the person behind the camera.

The same holds true for radios today, whether receivers or transmitters. Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars on the top of the line receivers or transceivers, and under certain circumstances, such a purchase may be the right thing. But for most of us, which radio you use does not matter nearly so much as the skill of the operator using the radio. Both the camera and the radio are tools, nothing more. A skillful radio operator can pull signals out of the mud or work stations at the farthest reaches of the globe with a 1940s radio that has gorgeous audio with little to no filtering, or they can use a modern DSP-equipped, roofing filter-loaded rig to hear stations so close together a cat’s whisker could fit between them on the frequency dial. In both cases, it is the radio operator who makes the difference by understanding their rig and knowing how to get the best from it.

Now if you are the type of radio hobbyist who really enjoys playing with the newest radio to hit the market and can afford it, wonderful! You help the rest of us have options when we do decide it is time for a new rig. But if you are the type person who believes you can’t really enjoy radio without having that “other” radio with the slightly better specs derived from precise laboratory conditions with nothing to interfere with signal reception, you may just be missing out on what you have right in front of you.

Believe me, I am not one to judge because people in glass houses should not throw stones! I have simply been surprised at myself as these old instincts have arisen in me, when I thought I had put to rest such things! In the radio world I have resisted the siren call of enticing marketing for the latest whiz-bang radios, at least in these more recent years (!) and now must use that same resistance in my photography. In radio I have learned to get the best out of my gear, and the results are very satisfying. Here’s to hoping I can do the same behind the camera!

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

Sangean HDR-18 HD Radio/FM-Stereo/AM Wooden Cabinet Table Top Radio

For those who might be interested, Amazon currently has this radio discounted more than I have seen previously. Current price is $137.75 – as always, this may be a limited time or limited amount of radios available at this price. Here is the link:

Sangean HDR-18

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

Raspberry Pi Vintage Radio

This project was a winner in the Maker Share Mission May contest. While not strictly shortwave, of course, many of SWLing Blog readers enjoy, as I do, all things radio, and especially creative and new expressions of radio. Here is a brief excerpt from the MakerShare posting:

Vintage radios are fascinating. At one point the radio was the main method for mass communication of news and entertainment and was manufactured in a variety of styles to be prominently displayed in a home. Unfortunately, many vintage radios that have been physically preserved no longer function and it is impractical for them to be repaired. Described is the design and implementation of the Raspberry Pi Radio (RPiRadio), a device that bypasses the analog electronics of a vintage radio and digitally recreates the behavior of a vintage radio that is able to be tuned to vintage radio programming.

The whole posting may be found here, with extensive details on the building of the radio and how it was programmed for sound replicating the vintage radio era.

While I love tinkering with old radios and trying to bring them back to life, some radios are just beyond reasonable repair. This can bring old radios back to life in a way which seeks to honor their past – a very cool idea indeed!

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

Our Galaxy Expressed as Jazz

Rather than take pictures of the Milky Way, astronomer Mark Heyer decided to capture it in a completely different art form.

This amazing video is part of an article from Interesting Engineering  depicting the motion of the Milky Way translated into a musical score.

While most astronomers love capturing unique and stunning images of the Milky Way, one astronomer wanted to capture the galaxy in a unique way. Astronomer Mark Heyer expressed how the galaxy moves in the musical composition “Milky Way Blues.”

This is no Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” as the music isn’t simply inspired by the galaxy’s sounds; it is the galaxy’s sounds. The University of Massachusetts Amherst professor created an algorithm that transformed the data into a series of notes.

“This musical expression lets you ‘hear’ the motions of our Milky Way galaxy,” he says. “The notes primarily reflect the velocities of the gas rotating around the center of our galaxy.”

Heyer assigned notes to the atomic, molecular and ionized gases that can be found between the stars in our galaxy. He then gave different pitches, tones and note count to the velocity and spectra of each gas phase. For example, atomic gases were given an acoustic bass sound, molecular gasses got woodblocks and piano, and ionized gases became saxophone notes.

“Astronomers make amazing pictures, but they’re a snapshot in time and therefore static. In fact, stars and interstellar gas are constantly moving through the galaxy but this motion is not conveyed in those images. The Milky Way galaxy and the universe are very dynamic, and putting that motion to music is one way to express that action.” He chose to compose this piece using a pentatonic scale – with five notes in the octave instead of seven – and in a minor key, because “when I heard the bass notes it sounded jazzy and blue,” he said.

You can read more about this incredible process here.

Watch the video here.

Enjoy!

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