Tag Archives: AE5X

Radio Waves: New Quantum Receiver, Virus and Distance Learning by Radio, BBC Woofferton Early Days, and Hello Morse

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 Andrea, Kim Andrew Elliott, Dave Porter, and Phillip Novak for the following tips:


New quantum receiver the first to detect entire radio frequency spectrum (Phys.org)

A new quantum sensor can analyze the full spectrum of radio frequency and real-world signals, unleashing new potentials for soldier communications, spectrum awareness and electronic warfare.

Army researchers built the quantum sensor, which can sample the radio-frequency spectrum—from zero frequency up to 20 GHz—and detect AM and FM radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other communication signals.

The Rydberg sensor uses laser beams to create highly-excited Rydberg atoms directly above a microwave circuit, to boost and hone in on the portion of the spectrum being measured. The Rydberg atoms are sensitive to the circuit’s voltage, enabling the device to be used as a sensitive probe for the wide range of signals in the RF spectrum.

“All previous demonstrations of Rydberg atomic sensors have only been able to sense small and specific regions of the RF spectrum, but our sensor now operates continuously over a wide frequency range for the first time,” said Dr. Kevin Cox, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “This is a really important step toward proving that quantum sensors can provide a new, and dominant, set of capabilities for our Soldiers, who are operating in an increasingly complex electro-magnetic battlespace.”

The Rydberg spectrum analyzer has the potential to surpass fundamental limitations of traditional electronics in sensitivity, bandwidth and frequency range. Because of this, the lab’s Rydberg spectrum analyzer and other quantum sensors have the potential to unlock a new frontier of Army sensors for spectrum awareness, electronic warfare, sensing and communications—part of the Army’s modernization strategy.

“Devices that are based on quantum constituents are one of the Army’s top priorities to enable technical surprise in the competitive future battlespace,” said Army researcher Dr. David Meyer. “Quantum sensors in general, including the one demonstrated here, offer unparalleled sensitivity and accuracy to detect a wide range of mission-critical signals.”

The peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Applied published the researchers’ findings, Waveguide-coupled Rydberg spectrum analyzer from 0 to 20 GigaHerz, co-authored by Army researchers Drs. David Meyer, Paul Kunz, and Kevin Cox[]

Virus and distance learning by radio (1937, 1946) (AE5X Blog)

Six to eight decades ago polio was one of the most feared diseases in the US. In 1952 alone, 60,000 children were infected, 3000 died and many more were paralyzed.
The most severe outbreaks were in 1937 and 1946. My father was a victim of the 1946 epidemic, suffering minor paralysis in one leg as a child.

In 1937, many schools around the country closed, as did public pools, movie theaters and parks. But the Chicago public school system took an innovative approach.

During that period, 80% of US households contained a radio. This allowed 325,000 children in grades 3-8 to continue their education at home via radio lessons aired by six Chicago radio stations (WENR, WLS, WIND, WJJD, WCFL, WGN) that donated time for the purpose.

Program schedules for each day were printed in the morning paper. Home with more than one radio & more than one child often set up radios in different rooms so that each child could hear the appropriate grade’s lesson.

This continued for one month…until schools reopened in late September of that year.

Curriculum was developed by teachers and monitored over the air by school officials. After each episode, a limited number of teachers were available for phone calls. A large number of the calls were from parents distressed that they could not clearly receive the broadcasts.[Continue reading…]

BBC Woofferton Early Days (Ludlow Heritage News) [PDF]

Very few structures are left in the Ludlow area which can be traced back to the Second World War. However, look five miles south of the town towards the rise of the hills and a tracery of masts can be seen. Go closer, and a large building can be found by the road to Orleton, surrounded now by a flock of satellite dishes, pointing upwards. The dishes are a sign of the recent past, but the large low building was made for the war-time radio station aimed at Germany.

This little history attempts to tell the story of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s transmitting station at Woofferton near Ludlow in Shropshire during the first years of its existence. When and why did the BBC appear in the Welsh border landscape with a vast array of masts and wires strung up in the air? The story begins in 1932, when the BBC Empire Service opened from the first station at Daventry in Northamptonshire. Originally, the service, to link the Empire by wireless, was intended to be transmitted on long-wave or low frequency. But, following the discovery by radio amateurs that long distance communication was possible by using high frequency or short waves, the plan was changed. Later in the decade, the BBC expanded the service by also broadcasting in foreign languages. Although Daventry had a distinguished name in the broadcasting world, it was never technically the best place for a short-wave site, being on a hill and close to a growing town.

This article can be found in the Ludlow Heritage News: click here to download the full PDF.

 

Hello Morse: A collection of AI and Chrome experiments inspired by Morse code on Android Gboard (Google)

Developer Tania Finlayson found her voice through Morse code. Now she’s partnering with Google to bring Morse code to Gboard, so others can try it for accessible communication.

Morse code for Gboard includes settings that allow users to customize the keyboard to their unique usage needs. It works in tandem with Android Accessibility features like Switch Access and Point Scan.

This provides access to Gboard’s AI driven predictions and suggestions, as well as an entry point to AI-powered products, like the Google Assistant.[]

 


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John’s “illicit friend from the good old days”

At the 1-watt setting (13.8V, 470mA DC in) The labels are Photoshopped here for illustration, ie they’re not on the actual case (Source: AE5X)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John (AE5X), who recently shared a link to the following story on his excellent radio blog:

[…]It was the late 1990’s in Montclair NJ. A friend played guitar in a local band and wanted to get some air time for a few of their original songs. He knew his chances of getting his tunes played on a commercial FM station hovered somewhere between zero and none. And – this is key – he’d seen Pump Up The Volume and knew that I knew a “bit about radios”.

My friend – I’ll call him “Don” since that was (and still is) his name – wondered if there was some way he could be outfitted with a radio similar to that in Pump Up The Volume, and, if so, what would his range be. I told him that a lot depends on the antenna’s location.

Funny thing about Don: besides being in a rock & roll band, he was also a caretaker for a Montclair church. A church with a very tall belltower. A belltower that he had access to. Do you see where this is going? Furthermore, Don and his wife lived on church property as part of his caretaker responsibilities.[…]

Click here to read the full story at AE5X’s blog.

What a divine alignment, John! 🙂 Fantastic story and, I’m sure, one that resonates with many here in the SWLing Post community.  Perhaps readers will comment with details  about their own “illicit” friends and radio escapades!

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John works with FCC to track down WX radar interference

Photo source: John (AE5X)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Harper (AE5X), who notes that he recently worked with an FCC crew to find the source of noise that was affecting a weather radar site. In the process, John got to check out, first hand, RF Hawk and some of the equipment the FCC uses to locate interference (including pirate radio stations).

Click here to read John’s full post.

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John spots a spark gap transmitter in Netflix series “Rebellion”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Harper (AE5X), who writes:

Your readers might be interested in the spark gap transmitter depiction in Rebellion, a series currently on Netflix:

https://ae5x.blogspot.com/2019/03/spark-gap-transmitter-depicted-in.html

Many thanks for sharing, John!

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Guest Post: Radio Australia, and a sea story

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Harper (AE5X), who is kindly allowing me to re-post the following article originally published on his excellent blog:


Radio Australia, and a sea story

by John (AE5X)

From London Shortwave: “It’s official: Radio Australia are no longer on shortwave…”

Four submariners on a surface ship (1989-1990)

Nine of my 10 years in the Navy were spent in the Submarine Service – the other year was spent aboard a research ship operating between Perth, Australia and Singapore. Our mission was to make detailed contour charts of the sea floor in that area using precision fathometers and new-at-the-time GPS.

The detailed charts allow US submarines to get navigational fixes by correlating their soundings with the data we had collected without having to come to periscope depth for a satellite fix, thus the need for a small contingent of submariners on a surface ship. Gathering this data required the ship to stay at sea 28 days at a time, going back and forth in straight lines across the eastern Indian Ocean. At the end of those 28 days we would pull in to either Fremantle or Singapore for a week, then out again.

We enjoyed the sunlight, fresh air and the presence of civilian women onboard (oh, the stories I could tell if this weren’t a family-friendly blog!) but what we missed – and missed greatly – was news from the world. Big things were happening at a fast pace in those days as the Iron Curtain began to crumble and we knew nothing of it for long, event-filled month-long chunks.

There is a huge psychological disconnect that comes with being isolated from the world for a month at a time. We starved for news and any kind of connection to the outside world so, during a port call to Singapore, I bought a Philips D2999 shortwave receiver. It was small enough for shipboard life, ran on AC or batteries and even had a BFO for occasionally listening to hams.

After having it for a few days and mentioning to the other crewmembers various things that were happening around the world, their interest grew and I eventually moved the radio from my stateroom to a common breakroom so that anyone could listen whenever they wanted. For a while we even had a printout of news events – a one-page daily newspaper – that we posted in various locations throughout the ship. Many of us were glued to the radio during the week of events in December 1989 that culminated in the Christmas Day execution of Romanian President Nicolae Ceau?escu.

Some of that news came from the VOA, some from the BBC and even from Radio Moscow. All had good signals into the Indian Ocean area at times. But regardless of time of day or ionospheric conditions, Radio Australia was always there, like a beacon – reliable, dependable and with great fidelity due to no selective fading. It was our primarily source of news.

Frequencies of many stations and the best times to hear them were posted near the radio but everyone knew our two main frequencies for Radio Australia without having to look it up. We listened to Radio Australia so much that the announcers eventually lost their accents.

The beauty and utility of shortwave was introduced to people who otherwise would have had no interest in it. Thanks mainly to Radio Australia, we not only knew what was going on in the world, more importantly, we felt more a part of it and less isolated than we had been before.

The end of Radio Australia and so many other shortwave stations marks the end of an exciting era. What an amazing thing it was, in a pre-internet world, to be able to get information on the high seas, thousands of miles from land.

Farewell, Radio Australia and thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.


And thank you, John, for sharing your memories with us!

Post Readers: I encourage you to bookmark John’s brilliant ham radio blog!

Do you have any memorable Radio Australia moments?  Please comment!

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John takes the Elecraft KX2 on the shortwaves

ElecraftKX2

I just noticed that John (AE5X) has updated the firmware on his KX2 and made a short video of a shortwave band scan. On his blog, he notes:

Before getting my ham ticket, I was a SWL and am very happy that AM capability has been added to the KX2, making a fantastic radio even better.

[…]We have a very powerful AM broadcast station near my QTH on 740 kHz. I was not able to receive it at all with the KX2. Unlike some, I see this as beneficial – it tells me the 80m filters (the KX2 doesn’t operate on 160m) are doing what they were designed to do.[…]

Read the full post on John’s excellent blog.

Click here to view John’s video on YouTube.

Update: I’ve had my KX2 for 24 hours now! I’ve already updated the firmware and will post a couple AM audio samples soon.

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Arvin Model 68R05: John’s 1967 transistor radio

arvin_68R05

Many thanks to John Harper (AE5X) who shares the following in reply to our post about transistor radios:

Attached is a pic of a like-new transistor radio from 1967 [see above].

Remember the days when they bragged about how many transistors a gadget contained?! Sort of like bragging about RAM or clock speed today I guess.

That’s a cute little Arvin radio, John!

You’re right, too–radio manufacturers used to boast transistor compliment like nothing else. Crosley, Zenith and RCA did the same thing–boasting tube/valve numbers–in their 1930s consoles as well. Thanks for sharing the photo of your pocket radio!

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