Category Archives: Field Radio

Radio Waves: Absolute Radio Turns Off AM in UK, Carlos Latuff Interview, X-Class Flaring, and Morse Code Is Back!

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Absolute Radio to switch off all AM transmitters across the UK (Radio Today)

Bauer is removing Absolute Radio from Medium wave this month as it turns off all AM frequencies for the station across the country.

Absolute Radio launched exclusively on AM (as Virgin Radio) 30 years ago in 1993 using predominantly 1215 kHz along with fill-in relays on 1197, 1233, 1242 and 1260. Some of these have been turned off in recent years in places such as Devon, Merseyside and Tayside.

Whilst this is a historic milestone for the radio industry, it shouldn’t affect many listeners as just two percent of all radio listening currently takes place on AM.

Absolute Radio also lost its FM frequency in London in 2021 in favour of the ever-expanding Greatest Hits Radio network.

The move makes Absolute Radio a digital-only service, broadcasting nationally on DAB and online. [Continue reading…]

Coffee and Radio – with Carlos Latuff (Radio Heritage)

[…]Carlos Henrique Latuff de Sousa or simply “Carlos Latuff”, for friends, (born in Rio de Janeiro, November 30, 1968) is a famous Brazilian cartoonist and political activist. Latuff began his career as an illustrator in 1989 at a small advertising agency in downtown Rio de Janeiro. He became a cartoonist after publishing his first cartoon in a newsletter of the Stevadores Union in 1990, and continues to work for the trade union press to this day.

With the advent of the Internet, Latuff began his artistic activism, producing copyleft designs for the Zapatista movement. After a trip to the occupied territories of the West Bank in 1999, he became a sympathizer of the Palestinian cause in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and devoted much of his work to it. He became an anti-Zionist during this trip and today helps spread anti-Zionist ideals.

His page of Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/carloslatuff/) currently has more than 50 thousand followers, where of course you can see his work as a cartoonist and also shows his passion for radio. [Continue reading…]

X-CLASS SOLAR FLARE (Speaceweather.com)

A large and potentially dangerous sunspot is turning toward Earth. This morning (Jan. 6th at 0057 UT) it unleashed an X-class solar flare and caused a shortwave radio blackout over the South Pacific Ocean. Given the size and apparent complexity of the active region, there’s a good chance the explosions will continue in the days ahead. Full story @ Spaceweather.com ( https://spaceweather.com)

Looking to Ditch Twitter? Morse Code Is Back (Smithsonian Magazine)

For almost 20 years, Steve Galchutt, a retired graphic designer, has trekked up Colorado mountains accompanied by his pack of goats to contact strangers around the world using a language that is almost two centuries old, and that many people have given up for dead. On his climbs, Galchutt and his herd have scared away a bear grazing on raspberries, escaped from fast-moving forest fires, camped in subfreezing temperatures and teetered across a rickety cable bridge over a swift-moving river where one of his goats, Peanut, fell into the drink and then swam ashore and shook himself dry like a dog. “I know it sounds crazy, risking my life and my goats’ lives, but it gets in your blood,” he tells me by phone from his home in the town of Monument, Colorado. Sending Morse code from a mountaintop—altitude offers ham radios greater range—“is like being a clandestine spy and having your own secret language.”

Worldwide, Galchutt is one of fewer than three million amateur radio operators, called “hams,” who have government-issued licenses allowing them to transmit radio signals on specifically allocated frequencies. While most hams have moved on to more advanced communications modes, like digital messages, a hard-core group is sticking with Morse code, a telecommunications language that dates back to the early 1800s—and that offers a distinct pleasure and even relief to modern devotees.

Strangely enough, while the number of ham operators is declining globally, it’s growing in the United States, as is Morse code, by all accounts. ARRL (formerly the American Radio Relay League), based in Newington, Connecticut, the largest membership association of amateur radio enthusiasts in the world, reports that a recent worldwide ham radio contest—wherein hams garner points based on how many conversations they complete over the airwaves within a tight time frame—showed Morse code participants up 10 percent in 2021 over the year before.

This jump is remarkable, given that in the early 1990s, the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses all U.S. hams, dropped its requirement that beginner operators be proficient in Morse code; it’s also no longer regularly employed by military and maritime users, who had relied on Morse code as their main communications method since the very beginning of radio. Equipment sellers have noticed this trend, too. “The majority of our sales are [equipment for] Morse code,” says Scott Robbins, owner of ham radio equipment maker Vibroplex, founded in 1905, which touts itself as the oldest continuously operating business in amateur radio. “In 2021, we had the best year we’ve ever had … and I can’t see how the interest in Morse code tails off.”

Practitioners say they’re attracted by the simplicity of Morse code—it’s just dots and dashes, and it recalls a low-tech era when conversations moved more slowly. For hams like Thomas Witherspoon of North Carolina, using Morse code transmissions—sometimes abbreviated as CW, for “continuous wave”—offers a rare opportunity to accomplish tasks without high-tech help, like learning a foreign language instead of using a smartphone translator. “A lot of people now look only to tools. They want to purchase their way out of a situation.”

Morse code, on the other hand, requires you to use “the filter between your ears,” Witherspoon says. “I think a lot of people these days value that.” Indeed, some hams say that sending and receiving Morse code builds up neural connections that may not have existed before, much in the way that math or music exercises do. A 2017 study led by researchers from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and from University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands supports the notion that studying Morse code and languages alike boosts neuroplasticity in similar ways. [Continue reading…]


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Introducing the amazing SULA: An affordable unidirectional DX-grade loop antenna that you can build!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor extraordinaire, 13dka, who brings us a three part series about the new SULA homebrew antenna project. This first article describes this affordable antenna and demonstrates its unique reception properties. The second article will focus on construction notes. The third and final article will essentially be a Q&A about the SULA antenna. All articles will eventually link to each other once published.

This wideband unidirectional antenna is an outstanding and innovative development for the portable DXer. I love the fact that it came to fruition via a collaboration between Grayhat and 13dka: two amazing gents and radio ambassadors on our SWLing.net discussion board and here on the SWLing Post. So many thanks to both of them!

Please enjoy and share SULA Part 1:


Introducing the Small Unidirectional Loop Antenna (SULA) 1-30MHz

A small and simple, unidirectional and DX-capable loop “beam” for SWLs!

by 13dka

In early June, Andrew (grayhat), SWLing Post‘s resident antenna wizard suggested a variation of the “cardioid loop” on the SWLing Post message board: The original “cardioid loop” is a small loop receiving antenna deriving its name from a cardioid shaped (unidirectional) radiation footprint. The design is strikingly simple but it has a few downsides: It relies on a custom preamp, it needs a ground rod to work and it is unidirectional only up to 8 MHz.

Andrew’s version had the components all shuffled around and it did not only lose the ground rod, it also promised a nice cardioid pattern over the entire shortwave, from a small, diamond shaped loop. Wait…what? It can be made using parts available on Amazon and your DIY store:

You need some 3m wire and PVC tubes to create a support structure to hold the wire, a 530 Ohm resistor and a 9:1 balun like the popular “NooElec One Nine”. Since it’s a “lossy” design, adding a generic LNA like the NooElec “LANA HF” would help getting most out of it. When you put that all together you have what sounds like an old shortwave listener’s dream: a small, portable, tangible, and completely practical allband shortwave reception beam antenna with some more convenient properties on top, for example, it is a bit afraid of heights.

That sounded both interesting and plain crazy, but the .nec files Andrew posted were clearly saying that this antenna is a thing now. Unfortunately Andrew suffered a little injury that kept him from making one of those right away, I on the other hand had almost all the needed parts in a drawer so I ended up making a prototype and putting it through some of its paces, with Andrew changing the design and me changing the actual antenna accordingly, then mounting it upside down. Let me show you around:

  •  Small, diamond shaped wire loop (with 76cm/29.92″ sides), needing as little space as most other small loops.
  • Unidirectional with a ~160° wide “beam” and one pronounced minimum with a front/back-ratio of typically 20dB over the entire reception range 1-30MHz.
  • Moderate height requirements: It works best up to 3m/10′ above ground, where it gives you…
  • …a main lobe with a convenient flat takeoff angle for DX
  • Antenna is comparatively insensitive to ground quality/conductivity.
  • Wideband design, works best on shortwave and is pretty good up to 70cm.

A functional small beam antenna for shortwave reception that’s just as small and possibly even more lightweight (prototype:~250g/9oz) than your regular SML, that can be easily made out of easy to obtain parts and easily carried around for mobile/portable DXing and due to its cardioid shaped directional pattern also for direction finding, a “tactical” antenna that’s also doing DX? Unlike conventional, Yagi-Uda or wire beams it can achieve a low takeoff angle at only 3m/10ft height or less, the front/back ratio is typically better than that of a 3-element Yagi, with a particularly useful horizontal pattern shape. That it’s rather indifferent to soil quality could mean that more people get to reproduce the good results and being a real wideband antenna is making the SULA an interesting companion for multiband radios and SDRs. Really? A miracle antenna? Is it that time of year again? If I had a dollar for every….

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A little off-line, off-grid camping

You might have noticed a lack of posts this weekend and that would be because I was completely off-grid and off-line, camping with two good friends in Pisgah National Forest.

It was brilliant, actually. I got to hang with friends I’ve known for over 30 years, test my new one person backpack tent (a.k.a. the “Bear Burrito”–the one on the right above), and of course I played a bit of radio.

Black bears are a fact of life here in the mountains of western North Carolina and we spotted three hanging out within 25 meters of our campsite.

By the way: the trick when camping with bears? Don’t put food in your tent, else that whole “bear burrito” thing becomes a reality.

I had a fabulous time putting my Elecraft KX1 “Ruby” on the air. I made perhaps 15 contacts in CW (Morse Code) with 3 watts of power.

One of the cool things about the KX1 is you can change the mode to SSB and actually tune through several shortwave broadcast bands (if you have the three or four band version of the KX1). Of course, I had to do a little SWLing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m also a proper coffee snob and I firmly believe coffee tastes better when brewed outdoors. Yesterday morning, I brewed a pot of Rock Creek French Roast.

Off-grid, off-line camping recharges my internal batteries and it’s for this reason, I’ll be doing a lot more this year with my family.

It’s is also a brilliant way to experience an environment without any forms of radio interference (QRM or RFI). If you want to do some proper DXing, take your radio on some primitive camping experiences. It’ll remind you what life was like before switching power supplies ruled the world!

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How Giuseppe protects his Icom IC-705 during travels

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who writes:

Dear Thomas and Friends,

Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW) here from Formia, central Italy.

This my latest video is about everything I have done to protect and transport my Icom IC-705.

I bought an aluminum case, light and very resistant with everything one needs inside to be able to use the IC-705.

    • 2 power banks, one of which is solar-charged to be able to recharge the battery while in operation
    • 2 wire antennas: a dipole type with BNC / banana socket with 10 meters of cable per arm and a 20 meter row, monopole, to be used in reception as you saw during the DXpedition to the Island of Ponza
    • I also bought the Mydel protective “cage” with antenna attachment on the front and PVC protection of the display

Given the high cost of this little jewel, it is advisable to take all precautions for its safety during transport and use.

Click here to view on YouTube.

I hope I made you happy …
Thank you all,
73. Giuseppe Morlè iz0gzw.

This is great, Giuseppe! Like you, I’ve taken extra measures to protect my Icom IC-705 as well. Your kit looks comprehensive–I love the fact that pretty much everything you need is inside. 

Thank you again. We always enjoy your posts from beautiful Italy. Ciao!

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Today (14 May 2022): Annual Armed Forces Day Crossband Test

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ulis (K3LU), who notes that today is the annual Armed Forces Day Crossband Test.

Click here to download a PDF document with all details including frequencies, schedule, and QSL info. Thanks for the tip, Ulis!

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Egil is pleased with his new Belka-DX and Tecsun ICR-100 cases

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Egil (LA2PJ), who writes:

Hi Thomas,

In the middle of march, Steve Allen (KZ4TN) posted this article showing a case for the BELKA-DX.

I found his idea so good that I ordered two of the small boxes, using the Amazon link given in his article.

The boxes arrived here in Norway just twelve days after ordering, and was delivered to my door by a local transporter.

Never before have I experienced that kind of service on any purchase via Amazon!

 

Tecsun ICR-100

While packing the BELKA-DX in one of the boxes, I discovered that my Tecsun ICR-100 speaker/audio recorder fit snugly in the other box. The two boxes also contains a six meters long wire antenna, charging cables for both units, earphones, and even an USB charger, just in case I get the opportunity to recharge the batteries.

Belka-DX and accessories

The attached pictures show my new setup. Two items are not shown in that picture: a wire antenna plus a 20Ah powerbank from Anderson. We are going to an off grid cabin for the Easter holidays, and hope that when leaving home with everything fully charged, the powerbank will keep this setup plus my smartphone happy for a whole week.

73s Egil – LA2PJ

Thank you so much for sharing this, Egil!  It’s absolutely amazing that the shipping service to Norway was so efficient. 

I think you’ll have no problem at all enjoying hours upon hours of DXing with the Belka-DX in your off-grid cabin.  No doubt you’ll be escaping the RFI and enjoying much lower noise floors while on vacation–this will give you an opportunity to truly take advantage of the Belka-DX receiver. You’ll have to report back with your experience and photos (hint, hint!).

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Guest Post: Following the Ethiopian war over shortwave radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares the following guest post:


Carlos Latuff at Catacumba Park in Rio de Janeiro, monitoring Ethiopian broadcasts.

ETHIOPIA: A WAR THROUGH RADIO

by Carlos Latuff, special for The SWLing Post

We just entered 2022 and the civil war in Ethiopia has already completed 1 year. On the one hand we have the  Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) guerrillas from northern Ethiopia and its allies, and on the other hand we have the armed forces of Ethiopian government and its allies. The dead are piling up, accusations of war crimes from both sides, local and international political interests at stake, and no perspective for a peaceful solution. Without going into the reasons for this new war in Ethiopian territory, I’d like to focus on the use of radio waves by both parties of this conflict.

I monitored shortwave broadcasts from Ethiopia and to Ethiopia between October 21, 2021 and January 4, 2022. The receivers were Tecsun PL-606 and XHDATA D-808, using both the telescopic antenna and a long wire. In all cases, listening was carried out in Brazilian cities.

Carlos at Catacumba Park monitoring and recording clandestine Ethiopian broadcasts.

The monitored stations were: Continue reading

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