Author Archives: Thomas

Jock’s radio-related book recommendations

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


Some radio-related books you might want to read

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Radio-related books – books in which radio is not the main subject but plays a significant role in the storyline or plot (whether it is fiction or non-fiction) – can inspire us. Whether we are shortwave listeners, HF utilities monitors, or VHF/UHF scanner fans, radio-related books can heighten our appreciation of what we do, I think.

With that in mind, below are some radio-related books that I have read and can heartily recommend.

This Is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, A Voice That Held It Together

In 1964, a 9.2 earthquake shook Anchorage, Alaska, with a ferocity not seen in North America before.

When the shaking stopped, night fell; the city went dark, and people began tuning their transistor radios to hear a familiar voice.

Genie Chance, a part-time reporter and working mother, would stay on the air almost continuously for the next three days as an eclectic group of officials and volunteers worked to begin picking up the pieces. This is a moving story about radio, ham radio (a bit), and people rallying together.

Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do

In 1978, in the midst of a blizzard, the tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound off the Massachusetts coast.

In response to Mayday calls, the Coast Guard dispatched a patrol boat. Within an hour, the Coast Guard boat lost its radar, depth finder, and engine power in horrendous seas.

Pilot boat Captain Frank Quirk was monitoring Coast Guard VHF radio and decided to act.

Read this book sitting by the fire, far from the sea. A chilling account.

The US Navy’s On-the-Roof Gang: Volume I – Prelude to War

Between WWI and WWII, the US Navy realized the need to intercept and decode Japanese military and diplomatic radio traffic.

Matt Zullo calls this book a novel because he had to fill in the blanks in some areas, but most of the book is based on official documentation and personal recollections.

It is a ripping good yarn, written in an engaging style, that spans the globe from Samoa to Greenland, and I found it fascinating and will soon be reading the second volume.

The Road Home

After an earthquake rips Seattle, Robbie and his father have to rely on their wits and some new-found skills to get home safely.

This fictional story includes many emergency preparedness and ham radio tips. Some are a bit dated, but many are still applicable today.

Well worth the reading.

The Day After

The sequel to The Road Home.

After learning that his neighbor Katy is injured, alone, and needs help, Robbie ventures out, and a short trip across the city will turn into a race for survival that cleverly illustrates useful emergency preparedness while emphasizing the importance of communication and thinking ahead.

Again, in my humble opinion well worth the time.

And now . . . it’s your turn!

What radio-related books – fiction or non-fiction — would you recommend? As a dyed-in-the-wool, unrepentant, not-on-the-12-step-program bookaholic, I’m always looking for a good read!

Please note that all SWLing Post Amazon links are auto-converted to affiliate links which support the site at no cost to you. Your purchase helps support the SWLing Post.

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Ham Radio Workbench episode explores Diversity Reception

The SDRplay RSPduo

I just finished listening to the most recent episode of the Ham Radio Workbench with John Fallows (VE6EY) as a guest.

John is an SWL and Ham Radio operator and speaks at length about how he uses diversity reception to mitigate persistent local RFI (radio frequency interference).

If you have persistent issues with radio interference or if you’ve been curious about using diversity reception for mediumwave and shortwave DXing, I highly recommend listening to this episode. John has been known to frequent the SWLing Post and actually comes into the discussion primarily from an SWL’s perspective.

If you’ve tried diversity reception or a noise-cancelling system like the Timewave ANC-4+ in the past with mixed results, you’ll definitely benefit from listening to John’s best practices.

In addition, John points out that the excellent SDRplay RSPduo is a very affordable way to explore proper diversity reception.

How effectively can you mitigate RFI with diversity reception? Check out this video on YouTube queued up to the point where John does a live demo with his Anan SDR and loop antennas: https://youtu.be/vu8D87aVUTQ?t=2011 (I also recommend watching to full video presentation for even more detail.)

I’ve embedded the audio for the Ham Radio Workbench podcast below, but you can also find it along with show notes on the Ham Radio Workbench website.

Ham Radio Workbench is one of my favorite podcasts; if you like exploring a wide variety of technical topics, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s available on all podcasting platforms.

Also, check out John VE6EY’s YouTube channel and web site/blog.

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Guest Post: 13dka Explores the International Beacon Project

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, 13dka, who shares the following guest post:


In search of benchmark signals: The International Beacon Project

by 13dka

If you – like yours truly – like to tinker with antennas and radios to get the most out of them, you likely have your own set of reference stations. If this is a new concept for you – reference stations are whatever stations you deem apt to check propagation, the general function of your radio, when trying to improve reception or comparing radios… They are ideally always on when you need them and come in various strengths and distances on several bands from all over the world. Traditional sources for that are of course time signals and VOLMET stations on HF, even though the latter are giving you only two 5-minute slots per hour for testing reception from a specific region and the former have their own specialities here in Europe:

A typical scene on 10 MHz, captured at home 30 minutes after the full hour: BPM voice ID from China mixed with something else, then Italcable Italy kicks in on top of some faint murmur possibly from Ft. Collins, in winter some South American time stations may stack up on that together with splatter from RWM 4 kHz lower…

A reliable source of grassroots weak signals is particularly desirable for me because I enjoy proving and comparing the practical performance of radios at “the dike”, a QRM-free place on the German North Sea coast. In the absence of manmade noise and the presence of an ocean adding 10dB of antenna gain, finding benchmark stations with “grassroots” signal levels turned out to be a different challenge than it used to be: With somewhat sizeable antennas the stations tend to be (too) loud there, even with the baseline ionospheric conditions under a spotless sun in its activity minimum. In short, my old benchmark stations didn’t work so well anymore and I had to find something new. Continue reading

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Media Networks Vintage Vault: Jonathan Marks interviews RAE’s Tony Middleton

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Barraclough, who, in response to the recent news of Tony Middleton’s passing, notes:

Jonathan Marks on Facebook posted a link to Media Network August 26 2010 where he visits RAE. Tony Middleton talks about his work at the English service.

Click here to check out this recording at Libsyn.

Thank you for sharing this, Mike. Jonathan has such an amazing treasure trove of archived MN shows. Check out all of his shows by clicking here.

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Radio Waves: Radio Facsimile from the 1930s, Public Radio Saving Print, Unlicensed Experimental LW Radio, and RIP Tony Middleton & Milburn Butler

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


A Look Back at the Radio Newspaper of the Air (Radio World)

Radio facsimile technology never fully caught on, but what if it had?

In the beginning, there were newspapers.

And then radio arrived, challenging the newspapers’ journalistic monopoly.

At first, many newspapers fought the new competitor, refusing to print radio news or program schedules. But some went in the opposite direction, deciding to operate their own radio stations to augment their businesses. And finally, a few brave pioneering publications went even farther: They tried to deliver their newspapers via radio facsimile.

In the early 1930s, radio facsimile looked like the dream application for newspapers. They could use their own local radio stations to deliver newspapers directly to consumers during overnight hours. It would eliminate the cost of printing and distribution and shift those costs onto consumers, who would provide their own printers and paper.

This led several radio stations and newspapers to experiment with facsimile transmission during the late 1930s.

THE FINCH SYSTEM

The person most responsible for this technology was William G. H. Finch. He worked for the International News Service and set up their first teletype circuits between New York, Chicago and Havana. He became interested in facsimile machines and eventually amassed hundreds of patents. [Continue reading the full article…]

How public radio is trying to save print (The Verge)

Why Chicago Public Media and the Chicago Sun-Times are exploring a merger

The Chicago Sun-Times needs help. After being bought and sold several times over the last decade, the 73-year-old paper is looking for a more stable home to continue its award-winning reporting — and it may have finally found it in an unexpected place: a radio station.

Chicago Public Media, which owns the radio station WBEZ, is currently in talks with the Sun-Times to merge. A final deal would combine their newsrooms and audiences in hopes of creating a financially stable enterprise for both teams. Similar mergers and acquisitions have become a common way to bolster the struggling print industry, but if radio were to take on a major newspaper, that would be a first.

“Audio is a growth business,” says Jim Friedlich, chief executive of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, who advised CPM on the potential merger. “Now Chicago Public Media and other media with audio roots have both the wherewithal and the self-confidence to take a bold step like this.”

Since 2004, US newspapers have shut down at a rate of 100 per year, a pace that’s only accelerated since the start of the pandemic. To stay afloat, some smaller newsrooms have given up independence, being bought by news conglomerates or becoming joint entities with other local outlets — and public radio and TV stations have increasingly offered themselves up as partners. New York Public Radio acquiring the website Gothamist was one of nine similar deals in recent years, triggering researchers to document the trend by creating the Public Media Mergers Project. Public radio has been a particularly strong force, holding its ground amid digitization and the podcasting craze (partially because it’s participated in it), and it might be strong enough to help print do the same thing. [Continue reading…]

The low-down on long-wave: Unlicensed experimental radio (Hackaday via the Southgate ARC)

In the 125 years since Marconi made his first radio transmissions, the spectrum has been divvied up into ranges and bands, most of which are reserved for governments and large telecom companies. Amidst all of the corporate greed, the ‘little guys managed to carve out their own small corner of the spectrum, with the help of organizations like the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Since 1914, the ARRL has represented the interests of us amateur radio enthusiasts and helped to protect the bands set aside for amateur use. To actually take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to transmit on these bands, you need a license, issued by the FCC. The licenses really aren’t hard to get, and you should get one, but what if you don’t feel like taking a test? Or if you’re just too impatient?

Well, fear not because there’s some space on the radio spectrum for you, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of (legal!) unlicensed radio experimentation, where anything goes. Okay, not anything but the possibilities are wide open. There are a few experimental radio bands, known as LowFER, MedFER, and HiFER where anyone is welcome to play around. And of the three, LowFER seems the most promising.

LowFER, as the name would suggest, contains the lowest frequency range of the three, falling between 160 kHz and 190 kHz, with a whopping wavelength of around one mile. Also known as the 1750-meter band, this frequency range is well-suited for long transmission paths through ground wave propagation, a mode in which the radio signals move across the surface of the earth. This can easily carry even low-power signals hundreds of miles, and occasionally through some atmospheric black magic, signals have been known to travel thousands of miles. These ground wave signals also travel well across bodies of water, especially salt water.

Read the full Hackaday item at:
https://hackaday.com/2021/10/19/the-low-down-on-long-wave-unlicensed-experimental-radio/

RAE bids farewell to its historic English voice, Tony Middleton (RAE)

We regret to inform our listeners that our colleague Juan Antonio “Tony” Middleton passed away in Buenos Aires due to health complications, at the age of 82. His distinctive British accent is part of the history of RAE, where he hosted the English-language program for almost three decades. English-speaking listeners around the world remember his warmth and clarity on the air, not to mention his classic opening line: “This is the international service of the Argentine Radio”.

Born in Argentina and son of British immigrants, he ventured into acting in the English language with the group “Suburban Players”, while he was engaged in various commercial activities with his family. In 1981 he had the opportunity to join RAE as a substitute, thanks to his impeccable English and his pleasant voice. In 1983 he joined as a regular and went on to become head of the English-language department at the station, until his retirement in 2008. [Continue reading…]

Milburn Garland Butler Dec 1, 1935 – Oct 10, 2021 (Dignity Memorial)

Mlburn Garland “Gil” Butler was born December 1, 1935 in Bradenton, Florida. He attended local schools, where his mother was a teacher. He grew up in a community where electrification was still being developed, where the Saturday morning movies were an all-day entertainment for kids, and where families would gather in the town square on Sundays for band music and ice cream. After a brief stint in the Army (serving as a quartermaster at a base near Washington, D.C.), Gil Butler went to college in Colorado, returning to Florida where he graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in radio engineering. Along the way, he met and after a whirlwind courtship married Judith Bunten, who would become his lifelong companion. Gil Butler began working as a DJ at a small radio station in Bradenton, Florida in the early 1950s, spinning disks from the very beginning of Rock and Roll. His love of music of all sorts, from Jazz to Rock to Classical, his collection evolved through several formats (LP, cassette, CD, and MPs), and his special chair was always surrounded by the music he would enjoy while reading in the evening. Professionally, Gil moved up to larger stations and more challenging positions in radio and television; working for radio stations around the Tampa Bay area. His first TV gig was as a general reporter for WTVT in Tampa. From there, he moved to WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan, before moving to Silver Spring in the Washington D.C. where he worked as a White House Correspondent for local CBS affiliate, WTOP, covering Washington politics under presidents Nixon and Ford. During this period, Gil appears briefly in Timothy Crouse’s The Boys on the Bus (a recounting of the White House Press Corps during the Nixon Era). He was one of the six “Knights of the Green Ottoman,” named for an item of furniture in the 1972 White House press complex, where the newsmen would gather and share notes. In one passage, he is described: “Gil Butler… the reporter for TV station WTOP, who was chuckling over a volume of Mencken…” This description will surprise no one who knew him, as Gil was a voracious reader. He was always in the middle of a massive nonfiction volume about politics, military history or the Space Race. After WTOP, in 1978, Gil began his ultimate career at the Voice of America, the United States Information Agency’s international radio network. Over a nearly three decade career with Voice of America, he covered 68 countries, working abroad in Cairo, Egypt, Beiruit Lebanon, Beijing, China, London, England, as well as covering the State Department and Pentagon during his time at home between foreign assignments. At the Voice of America’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, Gil received the Meritorious Honor Award for his work in Cairo covering the assassination and funeral of Egyptian President Sadat and its aftermath. Twenty-seven years later, Voice of America News ran a story looking back at that work and the restraint and integrity he exercised in waiting for confirmation before reporting that Sadat had been killed. [Continue reading…]


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Video: Story of Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation’s move to a new broadcasting house

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tracy Wood, who writes:

While searching the revamped Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation’s website (gbc.gi) I came across a recent documentary that might be of some interest. It’s titled “GBC: The Move”. The GBC website states it’s a “story about the move from our home of the last 41 years to the ‘new’ Broadcasting House on Rosia Road, a project 4 years in the making. Featuring interviews with staff, the build, history and insight to the huge undertaking that is moving whilst staying ‘”on air’.”

The documentary includes photos of the former 1458kHz top-loaded medium-wave originally located at the Bastion downtown, before it’s relocation to a site above Engineer Road with a much larger “top-hat.” The program covers aspects of both the radio and TV services. (GBC offers three radio services – Radio Gibraltar, Radio Gibraltar Plus FM, Radio Gibraltar Plus AM. The Plus services include two hours of Spanish Monday-Friday and run in parallel except when the AM service covers Gibraltar Parliament sessions.

https://www.gbc.gi/tv/programmes/gbc-move-1189

Direct URL :
https://www.gbc.gi/tv/programmes/gbc-move-1189/clips/gbc-move-627

Runtime: 54:16

GBC’s radio service and locally-originated TV programs are available at www.gbc.gi.

This is fascinating! Thank you for sharing this, Tracy!

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