Category Archives: Nostalgia

Radio Waves: Tallest Structure in Italy, Suggestion to Save AM, Online Radio Exams in Australia, and a Letter From Friends of ABC

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!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul Evans, Mike Terry, and Michael Bird for the following tips:


The tallest structure in Italy is a remote radio transmitter in Sicily. (Atlas Obscura)

WHEN TALKING ABOUT THE TALLEST structures in the world, one often thinks of skyscrapers above modern cities, but radio transmitters in remote locations also reach dizzying heights.

Italy is famous for its many architectural marvels built over the millennia, but its tallest building (a sleek, modern structure in Milan) is only 758 feet tall. The title of the tallest overall structure goes to a radio transmitter on the Sant’Anna hill near the town of Caltanissetta, in Sicily. (In between the two are a number of transmitters and power plant chimneys.) This antenna has a height of 938 feet, and was built by the national public broadcasting company, RAI, between 1949 and 1951. At the time it was also the tallest structure in all of Europe, until 1965 when a transmitting station in the United Kingdom was inaugurated.[]

Here’s a suggestion for how to save AM radio (Los Angeles Daily News)

Last week, I wrote a little about streaming audio and how, with the use of smart speakers, smartphones, and plain old computer streaming, the possibility of internet radio essentially replacing traditional broadcast radio.

This week I want to travel to both the past and one of broadcast radio’s possible futures, spurred on by the ideas presented last week, my absolutely illogical love of AM radio, and a letter to the editor that I read online at radioworld.com.

AM radio broadcasting is almost a century old in the United States – numerous stations in Los Angeles, including KHJ (930 AM), KFI (640 AM) and KNX (1070 AM) will celebrate 100 years of broadcasting in two years. That’s an impressive feat, especially considering the technology is essentially the same as it was in 1922.

As I mentioned last week, digital HD Radio, considered for a time as the savior of both AM — due to higher fidelity — and FM — due to potential higher fidelity and extra stations — just hasn’t made the impact many had hoped. For various reasons, many AM stations have turned off the HD signal, even while FMs continue to use it, and consumers don’t seem all that interested in either. But as I said last week, with smart speakers, what’s the point? And a related question comes up: is broadcast AM radio just a dead technology?

Christopher Boone thinks he has the answers. No, AM is not dead. But if you really want to improve it, bring back a technology that already “failed” … AM stereo.[]

Online remote exam sessions in Australia (Southgate ARC)

VEA (Volunteer Examiners Australia) is pleased to advise we are currently able to perform online remote exam sessions for both AMC and ARRL VE Examinations.

VEA has AMC Level 3 examiners that can conduct remote online examinations.

Also, the ARRL VEC has entrusted us by extension the FCC, to be examiners for FCC-issued license via remote online examinations, a volunteer examiner, must ensure the exam conducted fairly and that there is the same level of integrity as there would be for an in-person examination.

Candidates need to be aware there are conditions and eligibility in registering to do an ARRL online remote examination, e.g. living in a remote location, or the candidate is physically impaired to attend an exam session.

VEA does run bi-monthly AMC and ARRL VE exam sessions during the year,
so if you are interested, visit our website www.vea.org.au complete the online registration form.

VEA currently have AMC and ARRL VE examiners in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia.

VEA looks forward in supporting the ham radio community in providing this valuable service to both AMC and ARRL VEC.

73 from Peter VK3FN

Wireless Institute of Australia[]

An open letter to the Prime Minister from ABC Friends and supporters (ABC Friends)

Posted in Latest news from ABC Friends on 28 June 2020

ABC Friends have written an open letter to the Prime Minister in the wake of the recent staff and funding cuts.

Dear Mr Morrison,

I write on behalf of many angry Australians who want to know why your government continues to undermine Australian public broadcasting with ongoing funding cutbacks at the same time as the commercial media sector is favoured.

Your recent statement that “there have been no cuts to the ABC” sadly reminds us of Tony Abbott’s similar bold election promise in 2013, yet this was followed by major cutbacks in his first Budget as Prime Minister. Clearly in our current media environment there are facts and ‘alternative’ facts, it all depends on the presenter and the audience.

Many of us are more inclined to rely on information from your ABC Board Chair, Ita Buttrose, who said in her 2019 Forward to the Annual Report – “our task has been made harder by the imposition of the three year indexation freeze which comes on top of a $50 million a year cut now embedded in our base.”

We see the recently announced Five Year Plan as a brave attempt by the Managing Director, David Anderson, to live within your governments funding allocation, but obviously further staff cuts and downgrading of ABC services and programs is an inevitable outcome of reduced funding.

We all appreciate that governments rely on a degree of political spin to make their decisions seem more palatable, but do you seriously expect the community to believe that an ABC Managing Director would deliberately retrench so many staff and downgrade services and programmes if the ABC Budget was adequate?

We expected more of your leadership because you have a responsibility to act on our behalf, as ABC shareholders to enable the ABC to fulfil parliamentary approved obligations under its Charter. The Federal Government acts as caretaker of all our national institutions and in this regard the ABC ranks highly with the Parliament and the High Court in protecting the interests of all Australians.

Chair of the ABC Board, Ita Buttrose has consistently tried to work with you and your Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, to get a realistic re-assessment of the ABC Budget to meet the demands of a changing media environment and national emergencies. Yet these genuine efforts by both Board and Management have been repeatedly ignored. Furthermore, there has been a quite calculated misrepresentation of budgetary analysis since 2014 assuming that official promotion of fake news will provide an effective distraction from the reality of past and current government decision making, which has resulted in an ongoing 10% budget reduction.

Over the past six years the ABC has been the target of funding cuts, various enquiries, political attack and even a police raid. You can not be surprised that Australians are outraged about the latest announcement this week which will culminate in further job losses, valued services and Australian content. You regularly advocate protection of jobs and your COVID-19 employment protection initiatives are admirable. Yet successive Coalition administrations have caused the loss of 1250 ABC professional staff.

Can you explain to us why you are so determined to downgrade the ABC, which is a valued national treasure supported by over 80% of Australians? We understand that you are regularly lobbied by the Murdoch American News Empire and other commercial media interests, which are ideologically opposed to public broadcasting. Furthermore, we know that some members of your cabinet are members of the Institute of Public Affairs, which advocates privatisation of the ABC. However, ABC Friends would respectfully remind you that, as Prime Minister, your first loyalty is to the Australian people and our public institutions.

As a national organisation we have been overwhelmed by expressions of public concern about the way the ABC is being treated. So many comments express ongoing frustration that many of our elected representatives seem incapable of recognising the ABC as an essential public service on which Australians depend. We have received hundreds of letters and comments which we will be collating for public release, but here is just one example to offer you some insight into how Australians feel about the continued assault on the ABC.

“I am shocked, then saddened, then disgusted, then outraged by the governments attack on the ABC. The Federal Government should be creating jobs instead of destroying high quality ‘clever country’ jobs. Prime Minister Morrison led a government that was unique in bringing together differing interests across Australia to benefit the nation and lead us out of disaster. But now? The attack on the ABC is a fundamental attack by the Morrison Government on its claim to govern in the national interest.”

We urge you to reconsider your government’s responsibilities to the ABC by conducting immediate meaningful negotiations with the Ms Buttrose and Mr Anderson to plan a way forward to restore ABC funding. This discussion should include a commitment in the October Budget to recognise ABC staff and services as essential in post COVID-19 planning .

We look forward to a fresh approach to public broadcasting policy and can assure you such commitment will be very much welcomed by the Australian public.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Reynolds
National President
ABC Friends

P.O.Box 3620
Manuka ACT 2603[]


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The Allocchio Bacchini RF4D: That mystery radio from “The Last Man on Earth”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrew, who correctly identified the radio Ed spotted in The Last Man On Earth as the Allocchio Bacchini RF4D. Andrew shared the following notes and links:

That radio is an Allocchio Bacchini RF4D (see photo below from this site):

Here’s a snippet from an Italian movie showing the same rig:

Another pic and notes can be seen scrolling down this page:

Year : 1940
TX Frequency Range : 1,270 – 4,300 kHz in 3 bands
RX Frequency range : 220 – 4,400 kHz in 5 bands
Facilities : CW and RT
Receiver Circuit (Valves) : Superhet. 7 tubes type 6RV (same as RF 4)
Transmitter Circuit (Valves): MO(P C05), PA (2x P CO5) Mod.(3x 6RV)
RF Output : 25 W
Aerial : Dipole
Power supply : 12 V storage batteries. Mains for battery charger.

And here you’ll find the shack of an Italian ham which shows an RF4D:

Photo: I5HGM

Further info and schematics can be found here.

Wow! Thank you so much, Andrew! I would love someday to operate an original RF4D.  What a fascinating WWII era radio. Thank you again for all of the details!

Post readers: I’m very curious if anyone here owns or has owned an RF4D.  Please comment!

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Video: 1954 Inauguration of REE/RNE Shortwave Radio Transmitters

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ulis Fleming (K3LU), who shares the following video via Twitter and notes:

Spain: Must see newsreel video of the 1954 inauguration of REE/RNE shortwave radio transmitters:

Click here to watch video at the RTVE archives.

Many thanks for sharing this excellent bit of radio history, Ulis. I was just telling a friend that Radio Exterior de España still has one of the biggest signals out of Europe into North America these days on 9690 kHz.

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Help Ed identify this mystery radio in “The Last Man on Earth”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

Recently I’ve been watching some pandemic-themed movies and found “The Last Man on Earth”, a pretty good 1964 post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film (which was remade in 1971 and 2007 with different titles.) In this film, the main character (well played by Vincent
Price) uses an HF transceiver in a fruitless effort to find other survivors of a global plague. It was shot in Italy, and the transceiver doesn’t look like any American radio I’ve ever seen. Perhaps some of your SWLing Post readers can identify it?

BTW: SWLing Post readers might also be interested in knowing this film can be downloaded for free from The Internet Archive.  https://archive.org/details/lastmanonearth-1964

What do you say, SWLing Post Community? Is this radio a fabricated stage prop, or a real model?  Please comment!

In the meantime, I’ll add this post to our ever growing archive of radios in film!

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Listener Post: Mike Stutzer’s love of radio began with a Hallicrafters S-120

Photo: Universal Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Stutzer, who recently shared the following listener post:

I started SWLing as a teenager. My favorite uncle gave me a Hallicrafters S-120.

My dad hung a longwire under an eave and through a casement window frame into my bedroom. I marveled at all the AM international stations broadcasting in English, listening to everything from BBC cricket coverage on Saturday morning to hysterically unbelievable Albanian political news coverage.

After college I could afford something better, so I upgraded to a “boat anchor” Hallicrafters SX 110. It had a useful crystal filter to improve selectivity, but it was still nigh on impossible to decipher a Ham on SSB.

Photo: Universal Radio

Many decades later I bought a house on a steep foothill. Realizing that it was a perfect QTH for a Ham station, I got licensed and now am President of the local ARC. Here is a loving look at the original SWL receiver that got me hooked.

Prof. Mike

Boulder, CO

Thank you for sharing this, Mike!

Mike’s radio story is the latest in our multi-year series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories. Feel free to submit your own by contacting me.

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Radio Waves: RIP Dame Vera Lynn, 1928 London Noises, Repoliticizing VOA, and Shortwave Trading At the Speed of Light

Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020)

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!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Tracy Wood, Dennis Dura, David Goren, and Kim Elliott for the following tips:


Obituary: Dame Vera Lynn, a symbol of resilience and hope (BBC News)

Dame Vera Lynn, who has died at the age of 103, was Britain’s wartime Forces’ Sweetheart, and remained one of the country’s most potent symbols of resilience and hope.

With songs such as We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover, she inspired both troops abroad and civilians at home during World War Two.

As Britain’s cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes.

And 75 years later, the country turned to her once again as it faced another stern test.[]

Click here to read our SWLing Post tribute to Dame Vera Lynn from 2015 which includes a recording made from my Scott Marine Model SLRM.

London street noises 1928 (Sound and History)

THERE ARE NO BBC radio recordings surviving from before 1931, so the job of representing the 1920s falls to this curiosity from the Columbia Graphophone Company. It’s a 12” 78rpm disc made in 1928 in association with the Daily Mail newspaper.

It seems likely that the disc was somehow tied in with a Daily Mail campaign over urban traffic noise. The commentator on both sides of the disc is a man named Commander Daniel and he doesn’t approve of everything he hears in the city streets.

The recordings were made from single, static locations in Leicester Square and Beauchamp Place on Tuesday 11th and Thursday 20th September respectively. Columbia probably used a recording van equipped with a disc-cutter.[]

Repoliticizing Voice of America (The Hill)

When Michael Pack takes over as the first politically-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, his first task will be to comprehend the bewildering array of international broadcasting entities under the USAGM. This includes two government agencies: Voice of America and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), and four government funded corporations: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks (the Arabic-language Alhurra and Radio Sawa) and the anti-censorship Open Technology Fund. Within this structure are broadcasting outlets that straddle two entities, such as the Russian-language Current TV. All told, the entities distribute content in 61 languages.

When past that hurdle, Pack must then decide if he wants to maintain the journalistic independence of USAGM’s entities, or if he wants to move them towards advocacy of the administration’s policies.[]

Companies Pitch Shortwave Radio to Shave Milliseconds Off Trades (Bloomberg)

High-frequency traders will famously do almost anything to get the latest market data and send their buy and sell orders a few milliseconds ahead of the competition. They blasted through mountains to build the most direct fiber-optic routes possible between exchanges in a competition that transformed global markets and was made famous by Michael Lewis’s book Flash Boys. Soon, pinging light through glass fiber at more than 124,000 miles per second wasn’t fast enough—the glass slows things down—so traders moved on to microwave transmitters that send signals through the air.

But that has problems, too. Microwaves travel only roughly as far as the eye can see before they peter out and need a signal boost. Now two rival market telecommunications companies have signed a pact that they say will give traders more access to experimental wireless signals which can travel across oceans.

To do that, signals need a longer wavelength—known as a shortwave rather than microwave—that bounces between the water and atmosphere. It’s an imperfect solution. The waves can handle only a fraction of the data that fiber can, carrying about a kilobit per second vs. gigabits. And some signals can be lost.

Raft Technologies Inc., a startup based in Tel Aviv, says the trade-offs are worth it. Raft says it can send data over shortwave from Chicago to Frankfurt in 31.4 milliseconds, which it says is about 4.5 milliseconds faster than the best available fiber route. That’s an eternity in an industry that tends to measure improvements by the thousandth of a millisecond. The company says the signal is about 85% reliable, compared with 100% for fiber. Clients can use a fiber line in parallel as a fail-safe measure.[]


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Al’s 1967 Radio Denmark QSL

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Al Holt, who shared the following QSL and note on Twitter:

The posting about WRM and its originating from Denmark got me thinking about my early days SWLing and the wonderful QSL card I got from R. Denmark.

I hope to tune WRM on 19m soon!

Thank you for sharing this, Al!  That particular Radio Denmark QSL cards is one of my all-time favorites. I never received one myself, but I’ve always been fond of maps like this that highlight regional attractions/specialties.

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