I first set foot in Latin America in January 1982 when I arrived in Tegucigalpa to begin three months of Peace Corps training. Three months later I moved to my Honduran home, the town of Santa Bárbara in the western mountains. For the next two years I worked as a teacher and resource person at the Escuela Normal Mixta de Santa Bárbara, a specialized high school that trained its students to teach primary school.
Santa Bárbara had a shortwave station, La Voz del Junco on 6075 kHz but it was rarely reported because it broadcast irregularly and was usually blocked by big international broadcasters when it was on the air. I had never heard it but I met Miguel Hasbun, the owner-manager, on my first visit to Santa Bárbara when he picked me up hitchhiking north of town. He told me that the shortwave transmitter had been broken down for a while but that he was going to fix it ‘soon’. Over the next year I kept inquiring about the shortwave and he finally did fix it. After that the station broadcast irregularly for the next year or so, mostly in the morning. I served as volunteer veri-signer and issued around fifteen QSLs. I even issued one to myself.
Santa Bárbara had one other radio station, Ondas del Ulúa on 1140 kHz medium wave (later 1150 kHz). They also announced 4770 kHz shortwave in their canned IDs and station staff assured me they would be adding shortwave “soon”. It never did happen but the WRTH did list the frequency as future plans for several years.
Ondas del Ulúa 1982 sign-off announcement mentioning 4770 kHz.
The department of Santa Bárbara had one other radio station, Radio Luz y Vida on 1600 and 3250 kHz in the town of San Luis. The founder, manager, and veri-signer for Radio Luz y Vida was a missionary from Oklahoma named Don Moore. Needless to say, this caused a lot of confusion in the DX world as some people assumed he and I were the same person. On the map, San Luis is only about thirty kilometers from Santa Bárbara but getting there involved a five-hour journey on two buses. I only went once and the other Don Moore was out of town, so I never met him. I did meet two nurses who were working at the mission’s health clinic.
These pictures were all taken in 1982 to 1984 while I lived in Santa Bárbara [click on photos to enlarge].
La Voz del Junco’s yellow sign on main street in downtown Santa Bárbara. The small tower on the left was the corner of what had been an army post but was being used as a regional prison in the early 1980s. I once went there every day for a week to supervise student-teachers doing adult literacy classes for the inmates. It was not a pleasant place to be.
Entrance to La Voz del Junco. The girl is examining a poster for the night’s showing at the makeshift movie theater that Don Miguel operated nearby. Continue reading →
The Antique Wireless Association/Museum recently posted another excellent presentation on YouTube; this time taking a look at the history of British Broadcasting. Here’s the description followed by the video:
Radio broadcasting in the UK followed a much different path than it did in the US, and there’s more to the story than the BBC. Tim Barrett tells the whole story in this history of British Broadcasting.
Get it while you still can: The Luxemburg-Gorky effect
The Radio Luxembourg longwave transmitter Junglinster in the 1930s [RTL Group]
“In radiophysics, the Luxemburg-Gorky effect (named after Radio Luxemburg and the city of Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod)) is a phenomenon of cross modulation between two radio waves, one of which is strong, passing through the same part of a medium, especially a conductive region of atmosphere or a plasma.” (Wikipedia)
That sounds pretty abstract, right? In my own words, imagine your radio is tuned to a station on let’s say 162 kHz, 500 miles away. Somewhere in the middle between your receiver and the 162 kHz transmitter is a station transmitting on a different frequency, let’s say 234 kHz. The Luxemburg effect is that you can hear the modulation of the 234 kHz transmitter in the middle, on the 162kHz station you are receiving. The effect is not depending that much on the frequency/wavelength though, the longwave station could affect medium wave stations and it has been created using shortwave frequencies far apart.
It was observed first in 1932, when listeners of the Swiss Beromünster 60kW medium wave station built just one year prior also heard a bit of Radio Luxemburg’s longwave transmitter (250kHz) on the Beromünster frequency (653kHz until 1934). Of course this was assumed to be some kind of crosstalk within the receivers and probably drove radio engineers insane until 1933, when Bernhard D.H. Tellegen, a Dutch electrical engineer and inventor suggested the true origin of the effect: The new (1932) 150kW Radio Luxemburg longwave transmitter in Junglinster was directly modifying the ionosphere hundreds of kilometers above, it “heated” the ionosphere in a way that it made the plasma’s charge and reflectivity follow the amplitude modulation of Radio Luxemburg, thus modulating waves of other wavelengths crossing this part of the ionosphere.
Even if you’re living in Europe, you may never have witnessed that effect and according to this article by Paul Litwinovich, chances to observe this in the US are rather slim, due to the relatively low power of the stations. I’m in Europe but never noticed it either – until recently: Continue reading →
The BBC is celebrating the centenary of its first official broadcast – a news bulletin that included a court report from the Old Bailey, details of London fog disruption, and billiards scores.
It was broadcast by London station 2LO, but new research shows many early BBC moments came from northern England.
Manchester station 2ZY aired the first children’s show and introduced the first regular weather forecast.
Birmingham’s 5IT station broadcast the first “official concert”
The BBC that began broadcasting at 6pm on 14 November 1922 was not the British Broadcasting Corporation of today. It was in fact the British Broadcasting Company and was made up of separate stations around the country operated by different companies.
London 2LO was run by the Marconi company. Manchester’s station was operated by Metropolitan-Vickers.
However, in these early days few records were kept of what was broadcast.
But new research on the BBC’s very early days has been carried out by Steve Arnold, a self-confessed Radio Times obsessive.
His tricky task was to try to piece together the BBC’s schedules before the Radio Times – so named as it listed the times that the new medium’s shows were being broadcast – was first published in September 1923.
He explained he found information in “gossip columns [in regional newspapers] mainly, people saying we listened to this last night and this is the only record of some of these things”.
Now, using sources from archive documents and newspapers, Steve has begun to piece together a picture of what the early BBC was doing. [Continue reading at the BBC…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post series:
Don Moore’s Photo Album
by Don Moore
When I discovered DXing over fifty years ago I also discovered the world. Through my ears I traveled to other countries and explored other cultures. But DXing has also literally taken me places. My early interest in Latin American DXing developed into a broader interest in Latin America. That led to me joining the Peace Corps after college and working three years in Honduras. That experience furthered my interest in Latin America and I have continued to travel in the region whenever possible. For me DXing and travel were always intertwined. I’m one of a handful of hobbyists who took DXing beyond just listening and went knocking on broadcasters’ doors to visit the distant stations I heard. My ex-wife dubbed this ‘door-to-door DXing.’
To date I’ve visited over 150 radio stations in thirteen countries. A few were medium-wave or FM only, but I was always most interested in visiting broadcasters that used shortwave, either at the time of my visit or a few years before. As my station visits were primarily made in the 1980s and 1990s, almost all of the stations are long-gone from the shortwave bands. However, many are still around on medium wave and FM and often also via streaming on the Internet. As much as I miss the magic of shortwave I know that these stations reach more listeners today via streaming than they ever did with their low-powered shortwave transmitters. Honestly, I sometimes enjoy tuning them in without the fading and static of shortwave. But the memories of what shortwave once was are still there.
Photos also bring back memories. I took dozens of pictures on my station visits and enjoy scrolling through them now and then. You may have seen some of them. Many of my photos were printed with articles I wrote for various DX publications and I’ve done a few slide-shows at DX get-togethers over the years.
In this series of columns I want to share my old photos once again. If you’ve been DXing as long as I have maybe they’ll bring back memories of what you once heard. And if you haven’t been around that long you will have a better understanding of the good old days we oldtimers talk about.
Ecos Del Torbes
There is no better place to start this journey than with Ecos del Torbes. Using ten kilowatts on 4980 kHz, this Venezuelan broadcaster was possibly the most consistent station in the sixty-meter band throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. If you were DXing the tropical bands during those years you surely logged them a few times. If you were lucky you may even have heard their one kilowatt signal on 9640 kHz. They were a very good verifier and for many DXers Ecos del Torbes was among the first Latin American stations QSLed.
Just after Christmas in 1994, my then-wife, four-year-old daughter, and I flew to Mérida in western Venezuela for a family vacation. For ten days we had a great time in this Andean city and then Theresa and Rebecca returned to Iowa while I stayed another week to visit radio stations. I was also getting paid by the Voice of America to research and write a study on the media scene in Andean Venezuela. The now very-out-of-date report can be read at my Patepluma Radio website (which hasn’t been changed in over twenty years and is in need of a facelift).
In that week I visited fifteen radio stations in six towns and cities and Ecos del Torbes was the highlight. I arrived at their doorstep unannounced but was immediately treated as an important guest. I was given a great tour and even got to sit in on a live newscast to see the famous Venezuelan doorbell being used live. I was there about ninety minutes and then walked a block up the street to sister station Radio Táchira. Their facilities were smaller but that’s where the technical offices were and Chief Engineer Ivan Escobar had been told to expect me. Ivan gave me a tour and invited me to visit the Ecos del Torbes transmitter site with him in the afternoon. On the way we stopped by his house where his wife had lunch waiting for us. Visiting Ecos del Torbes was not just the highlight of this trip but ranks as one of my all-time favorite station visits. These pictures bring back many good memories.
Ecos del Torbes was located in the second floor of this building in downtown San Cristóbal. The entrance was the door on the side.
The small plaque next to the door was easy to miss. I walked right by the first time.
Edgar Fabala of the news department showed me around. Here he demonstrates the mini-xylophones that Venezuelan stations used to make the distinctive ‘doorbell’ sound that separated items in the news reports.
Announcer in the studio preparing to read the news.
The adjoining control room.
Ecos del Torbes had one of the largest record libraries in Venezuela. The LPs were color-coded by type.
Julio Achila was a control room operator who had worked at the station since it opened in 1947.
This pennant was considerably larger than the ones sent to DXers.
Sister station Radio Táchira was located a block up the street on the fourth floor of this building.
The Ecos del Torbes transmitter building.
The 50 kilowatt medium wave transmitter on 780 kHz.
Chief Engineer Ivan Escobar and Don Moore next to the 31 meter transmitter. The larger transmitter was for the well-heard 4980 kHz frequency.
The antenna array used for 4980 kHz. The medium wave tower is in the background.
Dipole antenna used for 9640 kHz.
San Cristóbal once had a third broadcaster on shortwave. Radio San Sebastian used 6070 kHz in the early 1970s. (They were not affiliated with Ecos del Torbes).
That was nearly three decades ago and a lot has changed. Ecos del Torbes and Radio Táchira have been gone from shortwave for over twenty years.
In 1995 Ecos del Torbes was at the corner of Calle 9 and Carrera 8, the same address as when I first QSLed them in 1972. Sometime since my visit they moved an outer neighborhood about two kilometers to the east. To find the new offices locate San Cristóbal on Google maps and then search for “Grupo Radial Gonzalez Lovera”. The transmitter site is still where I visited it and can be seen by plugging the coordinates “7.7885, -72.2725” into Google maps and switching to satellite view. (Ignore the picture that pops up to the side. That’s not it.) Zooming in, the medium wave tower is clearly visible but there are no signs of the old shortwave antennas. I suspect they were sold for scrap years ago. I never have found out where the Radio Táchira transmitter site was.
I’d love to go back to Venezuela someday and see some of the other cities that I used to listen to, such as Barquisimeto, Valencia, El Tigre, and Sucre. Unfortunately the political and economic situation there doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look as if it will improve any time soon. But when it does, I’ll be back.
The BBC’s 100th anniversary has been marked in the town that enabled it to make nationwide radio broadcasts.
Opening on 27 July 1925, the Daventry Transmitter was the world’s first long wave transmitting station.
Known as 5XX, it was on Borough Hill in the Northamptonshire town and its first transmission was with the a poem called “Daventry Calling…”.
Sophie Good from the town’s museum said: “Daventry has got a strong affiliation with the BBC.”
The BBC chose the position so the transmitter could cover the maximum land area.
It brought the total audience within listening distance to 94% of the population.
When it opened, the poem by Alfred Noyes was followed by speeches from the postmaster general, external and the mayor of Daventry, introduced by Lord Gainford, BBC Chairman.
The then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin sent a message, published in the Radio Times, which said he saw “Daventry as another milestone on the road to the social betterment of our people”. [Continue read at the BBC…]
LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. marked 100 years of broadcasting on Tuesday, a century after a group of wireless manufacturers founded the company and began filling the airwaves with its first daily radio service.
The BBC was founded on Oct. 18, 1922, in London and daily broadcasting began a month later. The broadcaster is marking its centenary with a series of special programs, including a guest appearance from King Charles III on The Repair Shop, a program featuring expert craftspeople restoring antiques.
Actress Jodie Whittaker will make her last appearance as the Time Lord on a special episode of Doctor Who on Sunday, before Ncuti Gatwa takes over the role. [Continue reading…]
In September 2022, Ampegon Power Electronics AG and RNZ (New Zealand public broadcaster) signed a contract to supply a new TSW2100-V4 100 kW shortwave transmitter to New Zealand. The transmitter will broadcast the RNZ Pacific service to millions of people living across the Pacific with high reliability and energy efficiency: Ampegon wins a new Shortwave Transmitter Contract with RNZ – Ampegon.
I received the following inquiry from Neal Lavon via the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive contact form. Check out Neal’s request below and if you have any information or leads that might help him, please comment.
I am working on a project about a Voice of America broadcaster from 1952-54 named Billy Brown. He was a 16 year-old kid who launched a Pen Pals club by speaking on a Voice of America broadcast to the Near East, particularly Pakistan.
The announcements were so successful they generated hundreds of responses and led to him getting a 15-minute weekly radio program on VOA in English that was later translated into Urdu. The programs were broadcast on Friday nights at 1530 GMT on 17750, 16.90; 15130, 19.30. The relay were TAN 17780 16.87 15230 19.70, and Colombo 15120 19.84. At least, I think those are the frequencies; it comes as close as I can get it.
So far, I have not been able to find any surviving tapes of this broadcast at the National Archives or the Library of Congress. The family does not have any tapes. So I am wondering, hope against hope, if somehow, somewhere, someone in the region or someone else might have a copy of this. I would greatly appreciate it.
Neal Lavon, Takoma Park, Maryland, former VOA Staffer.
This would have been in the very early days of home recording so I imagine it might be difficult to find audio from Billy Brown’s broadcasts. If you have any leads, please comment.
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