Category Archives: Radio History

Regency TR1: Anniversary of the first commercially available transistor radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Tilford, who shares the following:

Today is the anniversary of the announcement of the first commercially available transistor radio, the Regency TR1, in 1954. It wasn’t very good, but it started something.

You can tell something about the frequency allocations of the time by how the numbers are spaced.

To put the ad below in context, the median weekly family income in 1954 was about $81.00.

Thank you for sharing this, Bill! If you’d like to read more about the TR1 and view a wide variety of product photos, check out this dedicated TR1 website.

I’m curious if any Post readers own a Regency TR1. Please comment!

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Any off-air recordings of the Happy Station Show with Eddy Startz?

Eddy Startz (Source: Radio Netherlands Archives)

I was recently contacted by Shortwave Radio Audio Archive subscriber, Geoff Gilham, who asked: “Do you know if any recordings of Edward Startz exist?

That’s a very good question, because unfortunately, we have no off-air recordings of Eddy  Startz in the archive at present. Startz had a very long tenure at RNW retiring from the Happy Station at the end of 1969, so there must be recordings out there.

Post readers: If you have off-air recordings of Eddy Startz on The Happy Station Show, please comment or contact me. We’d love to add them to the archive! Many thanks!

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Radio Waves: NAB and DRM Compete for US Digital, 1937 Radio School, iPhone over AM Radio, and “War of the Waves”

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 Alan, Paul, Bruce Hardie, Josh Shepherd, and Paul Evans for the following tips:


NAB, DRM Spar Over AM Digital for U.S. (Radio World)

Digital Radio Mondiale says its technology deserves to be tested in the United States

The Federal Communications Commission has been hearing from the National Association of Broadcasters and other interested parties about whether to allow AM band stations to turn on all-digital transmission, and under what parameters.

In addition to publicly filed comments, the NAB, which supports the idea, has made presentations to FCC staff about certain specifics — including whether the FCC should allow Digital Radio Mondiale to be tested in this country. NAB says it should not.[]

Remote learning isn’t new: Radio instruction in the 1937 polio epidemic (The Conversation)

A UNICEF survey found that 94% of countries implemented some form of remote learning when COVID-19 closed schools last spring, including in the United States.

This is not the first time education has been disrupted in the U.S. – nor the first time that educators have harnessed remote learning. In 1937, the Chicago school system used radio to teach children during a polio outbreak, demonstrating how technology can be used in a time of crisis.

[…]In 1937, a severe polio epidemic hit the U.S. At the time, this contagious virus had no cure, and it crippled or paralyzed some of those it infected. Across the country, playgrounds and pools closed, and children were banned from movie theaters and other public spaces. Chicago had a record 109 cases in August, prompting the Board of Health to postpone the start of school for three weeks.

This delay sparked the first large-scale “radio school” experiment through a highly innovative – though largely untested – program. Some 315,000 children in grades 3 through 8 continued their education at home, receiving lessons on the radio.

By the late 1930s, radio had become a popular source of news and entertainment. Over 80% of U.S. households owned at least one radio, though fewer were found in homes in the southern U.S., in rural areas and among people of color.

In Chicago, teachers collaborated with principals to create on-air lessons for each grade, with oversight from experts in each subject. Seven local radio stations donated air time. September 13 marked the first day of school.

Local papers printed class schedules each morning. Social studies and science classes were slated for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were devoted to English and math. The on-air school day began with announcements and gym. Classes were short – just 15 minutes – providing simple, broad questions and assigning homework.

The objective was to be “entertaining yet informative.” Curriculum planners incorporated an engaging commercial broadcasting style into the lessons. Two principals monitored each broadcast, providing feedback to teachers on content, articulation, vocabulary and general performance. When schools reopened, students would submit their work and take tests to show mastery of the material.

Sixteen teachers answered phone calls from parents at the school district’s central office. After the phone bank logged more than 1,000 calls on the first day, they brought five more teachers on board.[]

Listening to an iPhone with AM Radio (Hackaday)

Electronic devices can be surprisingly leaky, often spraying out information for anyone close by to receive. [Docter Cube] has found another such leak, this time with the speakers in iPhones. While repairing an old AM radio and listening to a podcast on his iPhone, he discovered that the radio was receiving audio the from his iPhone when tuned to 950-970kHz.

[Docter Cube] states that he was able to receive the audio signal up to 20 feet away. A number of people responded to the tweet with video and test results from different phones. It appears that iPhones 7 to 10 are affected, and there is at least one report for a Motorola Android phone. The amplifier circuit of the speaker appears to be the most likely culprit, with some reports saying that the volume setting had a big impact. With the short range the security risk should be minor, although we would be interested to see the results of testing with higher gain antennas. It is also likely that the emission levels still fall within FCC Part 15 limits.[]

“War of the Waves: Radio and Resistance during World War II.” (American Economic Journal: Applied Economics)

Abstract: We analyze the role of the media in coordinating and mobilizing insurgency against an authoritarian regime, in the context of the Nazi-fascist occupation of Italy during WWII. We study the effect of BBC radio on the intensity of internal resistance. By exploiting variations in monthly sunspot activity that affect the sky-wave propagation of BBC broadcasting toward Italy, we show that BBC radio had a strong impact on political violence. We provide further evidence to document that BBC radio played an important role in coordinating resistance activities but had no lasting role in motivating the population against the Nazi-fascist regime.

You can find a pre-print at: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/202840/1/1016161859.pdf.


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Free Online Event: Matt Zullo presents the “The U.S. Navy’s On-The-Roof Gang, Prelude to War” October 8, 2020

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who notes that author Matt Zullo will give a free online presentation about his novel, The US Navy’s On-The-Roof Gang, Volume One tomorrow (Thursday October 8, 2020, at 16:00 UTC).

Click here to register for this free event.

Description:

THE US NAVY’S ON-THE-ROOF GANG: VOLUME I – PRELUDE TO WAR is an historical novel based on the unknown true-life story of the “On-The-Roof Gang,” the U.S. Navy’s fledgling radio intelligence organization in the years leading up to World War II. It is based on the real life of Harry Kidder, a U.S. Navy radioman who first discovered and deciphered Japanese katakana telegraphic code while stationed in the Philippines in the 1920s, discovering that he was listening to Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) radio communications. Kidder strongly believed in the future of radio intelligence and a chance meeting with Lieutenant Laurance Safford led to the birth of the Navy’s Radio Intelligence community. Kidder taught others the nascent art of intercepting IJN communications on the roof of the Main Navy Building in Washington, DC. From 1928 to 1941, 176 Sailors and Marines attended this training and were then stationed as radio intercept operators around the Pacific. These men would become known as the On-The-Roof Gang and were charged with keeping track of the IJN as they prepared for war with the United States. The circumstances of America’s entry into World War II hinged on success or failure of the On-The-Roof Gang, and Harry Kidder knew this. On-the-Roof Gang: Prelude to War concludes with the “date which will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941

Matt Zullo is a retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer who has more than 35 years’ experience in Radio Intelligence, now more commonly known as Communications Intelligence. He holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University, where he researched and wrote his master’s thesis on the On-the-Roof Gang. He has published numerous articles on the On-the-Roof Gang in the Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association’s Cryptolog magazine and on social media platforms. As one of only a few quantifiable experts on the subject, Matt has spoken at the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Cryptologic History Symposiums, as well as at several Navy events around the world. He recently (Nov 2019) attended the induction of Harry Kidder into NSA’s Cryptologic Hall of Honor and spoke about Harry Kidder at a subsequent event for the sailors of Cryptologic Warfare Group Six. Matt continues his research into the On-the-Roof Gang as he writes and edits his two-volume history about the group.

Click here to view the author’s website.

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Radio Waves: A Cryptologic Mystery, RSGB Opens Doors to Full Online License Exams, Secret War, and September Issue of RadCom Basics Availabe

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 Ron, John (K5MO) and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


A Cryptologic Mystery (Matt Blaze)

Did a broken random number generator in Cuba help expose a Russian espionage network?
I picked up the new book Compromised last week and was intrigued to discover that it may have shed some light on a small (and rather esoteric) cryptologic and espionage mystery that I’ve been puzzling over for about 15 years. Compromised is primarily a memoir of former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s investigation into Russian operations in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, but this post is not a review of the book or concerned with that aspect of it.

Early in the book, as an almost throwaway bit of background color, Strzok discusses his work in Boston investigating the famous Russian “illegals” espionage network from 2000 until their arrest (and subsequent exchange with Russia) in 2010. “Illegals” are foreign agents operating abroad under false identities and without official or diplomatic cover. In this case, ten Russian illegals were living and working in the US under false Canadian and American identities. (The case inspired the recent TV series The Americans.)

Strzok was the case agent responsible for two of the suspects, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova (posing as a Canadian couple under the aliases Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley). The author recounts watching from the street on Thursday evenings as Vavilova received encrypted shortwave “numbers” transmissions in their Cambridge, MA apartment.

Given that Bezrukov and Vaviloa were indeed, as the FBI suspected, Russian spies, it’s not surprising that they were sent messages from headquarters using this method; numbers stations are part of time-honored espionage tradecraft for communicating with covert agents. But their capture may have illustrated how subtle errors can cause these systems to fail badly in practice, even when the cryptography itself is sound.[]

Online Full ham radio exams now available (Southgate ARC)

From today, Thursday, Sept 24, the RSGB are allowing Full amateur radio online exams to be booked. All 3 levels of exam required to get a HAREC certificate can now be done completely online

Potentially this could mean amateurs in other countries could take the RSGB online exams, get their HAREC certificate and then apply for an amateur licence in their own country. This would be beneficial in those countries where provision of local exams is virtually non-existent.

Currently there is a 4-5 week backlog for amateur radio exams, the next available exam slots that can be booked are at the end of October.

You can book online UK amateur radio exams at
http://www.rsgb.org/exampay

Details of onlne amateur radio training courses are at
https://rsgb.org/main/clubs-training/for-students/online-training-resources-for-students/

The Secret War (BBC)

The wartime BBC was involved in a range of top secret activities, working closely with the intelligence agencies and military.

by Professor David Hendy

As well as making programmes for the public, the wartime BBC was involved in a range of top secret activity, working with closely with the intelligence agencies and military. Here, newly-released archives lift the veil on the broadcaster’s role in this clandestine world of signals, codes, and special operations.

It’s always been known that just before the war began in September 1939, the BBC’s fledgling television service was unceremoniously shut down for the entire period of the conflict.

What’s less well-known is that, far from being mothballed, the television facilities of Alexandra Palace were carefully kept ticking-over by a small team of engineers – and that the transmitter which had supposedly been silenced for reasons of national security was soon sending out its signals again.

From May 1940, Alexandra Palace’s ‘vision’ transmitter was being tested for its ability to jam any messages passing between tanks in an invading German force. The following year, its sound transmitter was being deployed for something called ‘bending the beam’. One of the BBC’s engineers who remained on site was Tony Bridgewater:[]

September RadCom Basics available (Southgate ARC)

Issue 18 September 2020 of the RSGB newcomers publication RadCom Basics is now available online for members

RadCom Basics is a bi-monthly digital publication for RSGB Members that explores key aspects of amateur radio in a straightforward and accessible way.

In this issue:
• Magnetic loop antennas
• Metal bashing
• Station maintenance

Read the latest issue at
https://rsgb.org/main/publications-archives/radcom-basics/


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Guest Post: Spanish TV series “El Ministerio del Tiempo” prominently features Arganda del Rey transmitter site

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tracy Wood (K7OU), who shares the following guest post:


Arganda del Rey Transmitter Building

SWLing.com now takes “Spot the shortwave radio set in the movie or show” to new heights –

“Spot the shortwave radio station in the TV series”

The former Radio Exterior de España (REE) shortwave transmitter site at Arganda del Rey forms the backdrop for the fourth season of the hit Spanish TV series “El Ministerio del Tiempo” (the Ministry of Time).  The show’s premise – unlike today’s superpowers with their high-tech kinetic weaponry, Spain’s 21st century advantage lies in the nation’s time-traveling skills.

Grand Entrance looking down on actor

The show’s producers tip their hat to the “Centro Emisor de Onda Corta” facility as the Ministry of Time’s “headquarters” relocates this season to this historic broadcast complex.  The large engineering library, old shortwave transmitters, electric rectification hardware and even antenna field form a ready-made stage.

Power rectification units

Up into the early 1990’s Arganda del Rey served as a shortwave and medium wave site.  When all the shortwave services finally migrated over to Noblejas (40 km SE) the Arganda del Rey center continued as the long-standing medium wave location for Radio Nacional de España’s Radio 1 (585 kHz 600kw) and Radio 5 (657 kHz 50kw).  Arganda is now completely inactive with the last transmissions being DRM tests on 1359 kHz with 10 kilowatts. The facility was replaced by Madrid’s Majadahonda site.

Ministerio de Tiempo viewers first get a hint of the radio connection as the character “Alonso de Entrerríos“ (played by José Ignacio “Nacho” Fresneda García) drives towards the new headquarters.  In the background we see the old Radio 5 antenna array.    As the character Alonso approaches the building he looks up and sees the historic “Radio Nacional de España” lettering above the building entrance thus confirming the “Headquarters” original purpose.

Cross Dipole Antenna

A DXer might mistake the Radio 5 array for a shortwave NVIS antenna but instead it is a rare medium-wave cross-dipole arrangement; it was also this antenna that RTVE used for the DRM tests.  The only remaining shortwave antennae at Arganda del Rey are some abandoned log-periodics which support a growing stork colony.

Satellite TVRO hobbyists also may recognize the “Arganda del Rey” municipality.   HISPASAT has established its main uplink facility in a nearby industrial park in this same Madrid suburb.

Radio textbooks and HF transmitter in background…

Many thanks to DXer Pedro Sedano, General Coordinator of the Asociación Española de Radioescuchas (aer.org.es), for confirming the complete abandonment of Arganda del Rey from an RF-perspective.  Also contributing is Ulis Fleming, K3LU, who several months earlier identified a NO-DO newsreel that helped tie the pieces together.

Links

An English-language description of the facility is here:

https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/centro-emisor-onda-corta-rne-arganda-rey

“ Located on the Chinchón road, alongside the Arganda Bridge, this former  Radio Nacional de España building, opened in 1954, is today popular for being the new headquarters of The Ministry of Time in its fourth season, the successful TVE series, as well as having appeared in other productions, such as a post office in Velvet Collection (Movistar +), and as the Medical Research Centre in La Valla (Antena 3).”

“The building, now abandoned, forms part of a set of buildings located on both sides of the road  in which RNE had the headquarters of the medium and short-wave radio stations, houses and warehouses, whereby the most representative is this monumental property that was home to the short-wave radio station. “

“The building was designed by the architect, Diego Méndez, following the guidelines of classic architecture from the Franco era. Inside, the entrance hall stands out, a square room decorated with polychromatic marbles, presided by an impressive staircase with two flights of stairs, which is also in marble.  On the first floor, there is all of the machinery for generating the necessary voltage and current for the short-wave transmitters, and the third floor has a library with important telecommunications books and articles.”

LAT-LON:    40°18’47.09″N     3°30’34.95″W

Show Wikipedia URL (in English):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_ministerio_del_tiempo

Additional URLs  (all in Spanish)

  1. Series Website:  https://www.rtve.es/television/ministerio-del-tiempo/
  2. A “NO-DO” newsreel showing the 1954 inauguration of two 100-kw shortwave transmitters and the building interior in context. https://www.rtve.es/filmoteca/no-do/not-604/1481595/
  3. Site overview with links to a four-part video tour. https://historiatelefonia.com/2019/07/12/centro-emisor-de-onda-corta-radio-nacional-de-espana-en-arganda-del-rey/
  4. RTVE publicity photos showing building and interior set (with shortwave transmitter in background) https://www.panoramaaudiovisual.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/MdT_EdificioRNE_DavidHerranz.jpg https://www.panoramaaudiovisual.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/MdT_RNE-archivo1_DavidHerranz.jpg
  5. RTVE press release about the Centro Emisor https://www.rtve.es/rtve/20200401/ministerio-del-tiempo-rueda-integramente-escenarios-naturales-su-cuarta-temporada/2010843.shtml
  6. Site Description (Historic) with Interior/Exterior Views http://archivo.ayto-arganda.es/patrimonio/fp.aspx?id=23
    http://archivo.ayto-arganda.es/patrimonio/BusquedaPatrimonio.aspx?id=23#

— Tracy Wood (K7OU)


Thank you so much, Tracy, for putting this post together!

Now I wish my Spanish comprehension was better as I’d love to watch this show–sounds like a fascinating story line! And the transmitter site is pure radio eye candy! Brilliant!

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Radio Waves: A “Calm” Solar Cycle 25, WWJ History, Czech Radio’s Digital-Only Future, and UK Ham Radio Exam Stats

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 Ron, Mike, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


As Disasters Roil Earth, A New Sun Cycle Promises Calmer Weather — In Space (NPR)

Giant flares and eruptions from the sun can cause space weather, and stormy space weather can interfere with everything from satellites to the electrical grid to airplane communications. Now, though, there’s good news for people who monitor the phenomenon — the sun has passed from one of its 11-year activity cycles into another, and scientists predict that the new cycle should be just about as calm as the last.

That doesn’t mean, however, zero risk of extreme weather events. Even during the last, relatively weak solar cycle, drama on the sun triggered occasional weirdness on Earth like radio blackouts, disruptions in air traffic control, power outages — and even beautiful aurorae seen as far south as Alabama.

Over each solar cycle, the roiling sun moves from a relatively quiet period through a much more active one. Researchers monitor all this activity by keeping an eye on the number of sunspots, temporary dark patches on the sun’s surface. These spots are associated with solar activity like giant explosions that send light, energy, and solar material into space.

Counting of sunspots goes back centuries, and the list of numbered solar cycles tracked by scientists starts with one that began in 1755 and ended in 1766. On average, cycles last about 11 years.

Based on recent sunspot data, researchers can now say that so-called “Solar Cycle 24” came to an end in December of 2019. Solar Cycle 25 has officially begun, with the number of sun spots slowly but steadily increasing.[]

WWJ in Detroit: A 2020 Centennial Station (Radio World)

Iconic AM station just celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first broadcast

It was shortly after World War I that Clarence Thompson, a partner of Lee de Forest, formed a new company Radio News & Music Inc. in New York. His goal was to encourage newspapers to broadcast their news reports by wireless, using de Forest transmitters.

The franchise offer — available to only one newspaper in each city — offered the rental of a de Forest 50-watt transmitter and accessories for $750. Just one newspaper signed up for the deal; it was the Detroit News, led by publisher William E. Scripps.

He had been interested in wireless since investing in Detroit experimenter Thomas E. Clark’s wireless company in 1904. Scripp’s son, William J. “Little Bill,” was an active ham radio operator, operating a station in the Scripps home.

People Might Laugh

Scripp proposed accepting the Radio News & Music offer and building a Detroit News radio station in 1919, but he met resistance from his board of directors. It was not until March of 1920 that he was given the go-ahead to sign a contract.

The de Forest transmitter was shipped to Detroit on May 28, 1920, but was lost in transit; a second transmitter was constructed and sent on July 15. This delayed the installation of the station until August.[]

Czech Radio has expanded DAB + coverage to 95 percent of the population and announced the switch-off of medium waves (Digitalni Radio)

NOTE: This is a machine translation of the original post in Czech.

Czech Radio has entered another, important phase of radio digitization. To date, the ?Ro DAB + multiplex signal has reached 95% population coverage. Ten new transmitters were launched in Bohemia and Moravia. You can find a detailed description of them below.

DAB + technology is becoming a common distribution channel for Czech Radio, which will be placed on the same level as analogue FM / FM broadcasting. All marketing activities will already include the “DAB + More Radio” logo. ?eské Radiokomunikace is planning to start certification of receivers next year in order to protect customers and facilitate orientation in the range for them and retailers.

According to the CEO of Czech Radio, René Zavoral, the public service media is proceeding in accordance with a long-term strategic plan. The head of communication and press spokesman Ji?í Hošna describes the step as a turning point that can affect the direction of the entire radio market.[]

UK amateur radio exam report released (Southgate ARC)

The RSGB Examinations Standards Committee (ESC) report covering 2019 is now available for anyone to download

The report contains statistics for the both the RSGB amateur radio exams and the Air Cadets Organisation (ACO) exam which Ofcom considers to be equivalent to the RSGB Foundation.

Ofcom has been concerned about the participation of women in amateur radio and STEM disciplines. They requested the ESC to publish figures for the number of women taking the exams. Unfortunately the results are disappointing with only 9.9% of all exams being taken by women.

Download the ESC report from
https://rsgb.org/main/blog/examination-standards-committee-reports/2020/09/18/examinations-standards-committee-report-2020-for-activities-during-2019/


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