Tag Archives: Covid-19

Radio Waves: A Century of Radio in Germany, Magic of ARISS, and Second Lockdown Special Callsigns in Belgium

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, Dennis Dura, Wilbur Forcier, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


How radio became a cult in its early years in Germany (DW)

A century ago, the age of radio began in Germany. Cultural broadcasts made radio popular before the Nazis appropriated it for their propaganda.

On December 22, 1920, the first radio broadcast in Germany hit the airwaves. “Attention, attention — this is Königs Wusterhausen on radio wave 2700.” This was how a Christmas concert by the employees of the German Reichspost was announced. Featuring a clarinet, reed organ, string instruments and piano, they played in the broadcasting building of the city of Königs Wusterhausen.

Modest sound quality

Transmission quality was poor: static and crackling accompanied the musical performance. Only official agents of the German Reichspost could listen to this transmission since in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, private citizens in Germany were forbidden from listening to radio signals.

Society on the move

Nonetheless, radio in Germany was born. Society at the time of the Weimar Republic was in transition. Painters were no longer merely depicting the natural worlds — Cubism, Dadaism and abstract art were unearthing new dimensions of the imagination that had no direct reference to reality. Musicians and composers were creating hitherto unheard-of sounds with jazz and twelve-tone techniques joining familiar rhythms and keys. Writers and poets were creating parallel plots and stories. Consumer products were being mass-produced. Aviation was connecting people over thousands of kilometers — and radio was booming.

The first official radio entertainment program in Germany was broadcast on October 29, 1923. The Allies had by then lifted the ban on listening to radio waves. The fact that we even have an acoustic record of it today is due to a coincidence: a few months after it was broadcast, the program was re-enacted and preserved on disc.

Broadcasting with a mission

Meanwhile, inflation was soaring in Germany. Poverty and misery were rampant, especially in the big cities. “Radio was welcomed in Germany like a liberating miracle, especially at a time of intense emotional and economic hardship,” Hans Bredow, considered the “father” of German radio, said at the time.

Like many radio pioneers of the Weimar years, Bredow had lofty ambitions to widen national perspectives in his position as Radio Commissioner to the German Reich’s Postal Minister. This new technology was to signal an end to the age of ignorance and prejudice.

In December 1923, there were a total of 467 listeners. One year later, there were already one million listeners within the Reich’s entire territory. And in 1932, there were more than four million paying radio subscribers — and at least as many non-paying listeners. The daily broadcasting time also increased steadily. In 1923, it was 60 minutes; by 1932, there were already 15 hours of radio programs every day.

Entertainment for the masses

It was the new possibilities of simultaneous acoustic reporting that captivated the “Radioten, ” a derogatory term that was used for radio lovers at the time. An extraordinary media event at that time, the radio achieved its exciting effect through its immediacy and “live” character. And it gave birth to a genre unknown until then: the radio play.

Meanwhile, heated debates abounded about the negative effects of radio on listeners, culture and politics. Many intellectuals and artists distanced themselves from the new medium. Among them was the Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg. “Broadcast media caters to the majority. At any time of the day or night, people are served a feast for the ears without which they apparently can no longer live today. I assert the right of the minority against this delirium for entertainment: one must also be able to broadcast what is necessary, and not only the trivial.”[Continue reading full story at DW…]

Earthlings and astronauts chat away, via ham radio (Phys.org)

The International Space Station cost more than $100 billion. A ham radio set can be had for a few hundred bucks.

Perhaps that explains, in part, the appeal of having one of humankind’s greatest scientific inventions communicate with Earth via technology that’s more than 100 years old. But perhaps there’s a simpler explanation for why astronauts and ham radio operators have been talking, and talking, for years.

NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock was just a few weeks into his six-month mission at the space station when feelings of isolation began to set in.

Wheelock would be separated from loved ones, save for communication via an internet phone, email or social media. At times, the stress and tension of serving as the station’s commander could be intense.

One night, as he looked out a window at the Earth below, he remembered the space station’s ham radio. He figured he’d turn it on—see if anyone was listening.

“Any station, any station, this is the International Space Station,” Wheelock said.

A flood of voices jumbled out of the airwaves.

Astronauts aboard the space station often speak to students via ham radio, which can also be used in emergencies, but those are scheduled appearances. Some, like Wheelock, spend their limited free time making contact with amateur radio operators around the world.

“It allowed me to … just reach out to humanity down there,” said Wheelock, who interacted with many operators, known as “hams,” during that stay at the space station in 2010. “It became my emotional, and a really visceral, connection to the planet.”

The first amateur radio transmission from space dates to 1983, when astronaut Owen Garriott took to the airwaves from the Space Shuttle Columbia. Garriott was a licensed ham who, back on Earth, had used his home equipment in Houston to chat with his father in Oklahoma.

Garriott and fellow astronaut Tony England pushed NASA to allow amateur radio equipment aboard shuttle flights.

“We thought it would be a good encouragement for young people to get interested in science and engineering if they could experience this,” said England, who was the second astronaut to use ham radio in space.[]

Living in space can get lonely. What helps? Talking to random people over ham radio (LA Times)

The International Space Station cost more than $100 billion. A ham radio set can be had for a few hundred bucks.

Perhaps that explains, in part, the appeal of having one of humankind’s greatest scientific inventions communicate with Earth via technology that’s more than 100 years old. But perhaps there’s a simpler explanation for why astronauts and ham radio operators have been talking, and talking, for years.

NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock was just a few weeks into his six-month mission at the space station when feelings of isolation began to set in.

Wheelock would be separated from loved ones, save for communication via an internet phone, email or social media. At times, the stress and tension of serving as the station’s commander could be intense.

One night, as he looked out a window at the Earth below, he remembered the space station’s ham radio. He figured he’d turn it on — see if anyone was listening.

“Any station, any station, this is the International Space Station,” Wheelock said.

A flood of voices jumbled out of the airwaves.

Astronauts aboard the space station often speak to students via ham radio, which can also be used in emergencies, but those are scheduled appearances. Some, like Wheelock, spend their limited free time making contact with amateur radio operators around the world.[]

Special call signs in Belgium during the second lockdown period (Southgate ARC)

Belgian amateurs activate the following special event callsigns to remind everyone of Covid-19 restrictions and express gratefulness to medical personnel:
OS2HOPE, OT5ALIVE, OT4CARE, OR20STAYHOME, OT6SAFE, OP19MSF, OQ5BECLEVER, OR6LIFE, OO4UZLEUVEN and OT2CARE.

Due to the recent stricter COVID-19 measures, many radio amateurs will be forced to spend most of the following weeks at home again. Many are obliged to telework. Teleworking is definitely becoming the new standard for several employees. COVID-19 has accelerated teleworking for almost all companies.

At the request of the Royal Union of Belgian Radio Amateurs (UBA), the BIPT has decided to once again grant permission to apply for customised special call signs. The exceptional conditions apply to special call signs with an encouraging meaning.

These appropriate special call signs may be used at the home address of radio amateurs. The conditions are the same as during the first lockdown in spring.
Radio amateurs are allowed to re-request the special call sign obtained during the first lockdown.

Operation until January 31, 2021.

For QSL information see QRZ.com


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Radio Waves: Ted Lipien Named Head of RFE/RL, The American Radio Archives, Drive-Thru Ham Tests, and VOA Broadcasts to Displaced Communities in Africa

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 Ted Lipien, Josh Shepperd, Ronnie Smith, and Gary Butterworth,  for the following tips:


Ted Lipien returns to U.S. international broadcasting as head of RFE/RL December 18, 2020 (USAGM)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), announced today that veteran civil servant Ted Lipien is returning to U.S. international broadcasting as CEO and President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

“Few people have a greater understanding than Ted of the multifaceted operation and mission of U.S. international broadcasting,” said CEO Pack. “Ted is an ardent and captivating advocate of democracy who will excel at sharing America’s founding principles and ideals with the world.”

“When I was a teenager in Communist Poland, I would listen to Radio Free Europe to find out what the government was not telling me,” said Mr. Lipien. “It had an enormous impact on my life, and on the lives of millions of others. I’m honored, and humbled, to be entrusted with helping this storied organization continue to break the hold of censorship and give voice to the silenced.”

Mr. Lipien has dedicated virtually his entire career to U.S. international broadcasting. He joined Voice of America (VOA) in 1973 and served as the network’s Polish Service Chief for 12 years, from 1981 to 1993, including the Solidarity labor union’s struggle for human rights and democracy in Soviet-communist-ruled Poland. From 1993 to 2003, he served as the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Eurasia Marketing Specialist and Director, first in Munich and, later, in Prague. Mr. Lipien then rejoined VOA, serving as Eurasia Division Director from 2003 to 2005 and Acting Associate Director from 2005 to 2006. He has interviewed a number of eminent public figures, including Cardinal Karol Wojty?a (Pope John Paul II), Lech Wa??sa, George H.W. Bush, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Czes?aw Mi?osz.

In 2008, after leaving the federal service, Mr. Lipien founded Free Media Online, a non-governmental organization committed to supporting free media worldwide. His pro-media freedom work has been noted in a variety of national publications, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. His articles have appeared in National Review, Washington Times, and Washington Examiner. Mr. Lipien earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations with distinction from George Washington University.

RFE/RL, headquartered in Prague, is a non-federal network funded by the United States Congress through USAGM. Daisy Sindelar, who had been serving as Acting President of RFE/RL since June 2020, is returning to her former role as the network’s Vice President and Editor-in-Chief.[]

On the Radio: The Library’s Special Research Collections to become home to the American Radio Archives (UC Santa Barbara)

The American Radio Archives, one of the world’s largest and most valuable collections of radio broadcasting will soon become part of the UC Santa Barbara Library’s Department of Special Collections.

Established by the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation (TOLF) in 1984, the archive is one of the first in the state and includes original recordings of Winston Churchill, as well as broadcast photographs, radio and television scripts, books and film dated as early as 1922.

“It is critical that such a wonderfully curated collection documenting the golden age of radio is preserved and accessible, said Thousand Oaks Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña. “UCSB has one of the largest collections of performing arts records, sound recordings and broadcast recordings on the West Coast as well as a state-of-the-art audio laboratory, making it our first choice and a natural fit for the American Radio Archives.”

The collection was established in 1984 and grew significantly with the purchase in 1987 of radio memorabilia from the estate of Rudy Valleé, one of the nation’s most popular singing bandleaders and personalities. Valleé documented his career, which took off in the1920s, through an extensive array of journals, photographs and original pieces of advertising.

The prominence of the Valleé collection attracted numerous celebrities and radio historians from around the world who gravitated toward the American Radio Archives. Among them were such luminaries as Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, Ron Howard, Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwin, Edward Asner, Walter Cronkite, Janet Waldo, Candice Bergen and William Shatner.

When Norman Corwin — dubbed America’s poet laureate of radio — donated his career files in 1990, it further increased esteem for the archives and generated significant interest among radio aficionados. As a result, many noteworthy collections were donated to TOLF, including, among others, those of radio station KNX-CBS; radio actor and radio historian Frank Bresee, who hosted “The Golden Days of Radio”; comedian Red Skelton; Carlton Morse, the creator of the long-running radio soap opera “One Man’s Family”; radio and television writers Milton and Barbara Merlin; and Allin Slate, a pioneer of the sports talk show format on KABC radio in Los Angeles.[]

Oregon ARRL VEC Testing Group Offers Testing from the Comfort of Your Car (ARRL News)

The coronavirus pandemic has made life difficult for everyone. On the plus side, however, it’s prompted creative solutions to work around the various roadblocks the pandemic has imposed. Volunteer Examiners in Grant County, Oregon, affiliated with the ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) put their heads together to overcome the adversity and hold a safe and secure exam session. Current health regulations in Oregon precluded both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Nonetheless, the Grant County Amateur Radio Club, the local ARES Group, and the Grant County Emergency Radio Infrastructure Coalition (ERIC) combined forces to offer five candidates the chance to obtain their first license or to upgrade their existing license, all from the comfort of their vehicles.

“Many amateur radio clubs have experimented with exams via the internet,” said Steve Fletcher, K7AA, who is the ARES Emergency Coordinator for Grant County. “In eastern Oregon, with the cooperation of the County Roads Department, we chose to hold a ‘drive-up’ exam session on Saturday, December 12. Under the circumstances, we used four ARRL VEs for the exam instead of the required three.” Wheeler County ARES loaned Stuart Bottom, K7FG, to help as the third required Amateur Extra-class Volunteer Examiner.

Fletcher reports three new Technician licensees and two new General-class radio amateurs resulted from the session.

Required ARRL VEC forms contained pre-printed data — including the FCC Registration Number (FRN) — were given to the candidates on a clipboard. Each candidate took the exam in the front seat of their own vehicle. Cell phones, papers, and anything not required for the exam were removed.

“Everyone dressed warmly, and most candidates had their heaters running,” Fletcher reported. A camper owned by Ronda Metler, KB5LAX, and a communications van owned by Fletcher served as sites to check results and sign forms.

The Grant County Roads Department loaned its parking area for the exam session.[]

On International Migrants Day, VOA Expands Broadcasts to Displaced Communities in Africa (VOA Press Release)

As the world observes International Migrants Day on December 18, Voice of America continues to enhance its operations to serve the growing refugee populations in Africa. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reports that, in just the past few weeks, 50,000 Ethiopian refugees have joined the world’s 80 million forcibly displaced people, including more than 18 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

Recognizing the deteriorating conditions in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region in recent weeks, VOA rapidly added existing Tigrigna-language radio broadcasts to existing VOA FM radio stations in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Misrata. These newscasts reach not only the newly displaced civilians, but also Eritreans in both cities who arrived prior to the current exodus and still have ties to the crisis-affected area. Newly created “micro sites” deliver digital content in TigrignaAmharic, Afan Oromo and English from VOA regional reporting teams.

In Kakuma, Kenya, site of one of the world’s oldest refugee camps, VOA launched a new FM station to provide both refugees and the local community with news, music, and educational content in English, Swahili, and Somali. For the Dadaab refugee complex near Kenya’s border with Somalia, a new VOA station offers local residents and refugees a mix of VOA English and Somali language content that airs in Somalia and Djibouti.

“VOA is committed to providing vital news and information to underserved populations worldwide, including refugees and other forcibly displaced persons,” said VOA Director Robert Reilly. “In particular, as the only international broadcaster with a presence in Kakuma, VOA serves as a critical lifeline for individuals in this region with access to few other reliable media resources.”

VOA’s efforts to reach at-risk refugee populations expanded exponentially in 2017 in south Asia and Latin America. VOA’s Bangla language service began broadcasting in Rohingya to reach refugees in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp. Nearly one million ethnic Rohingya, who fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar, inhabit the site. When Venezuelans began to flee President Nicolás Maduro’s regime, the VOA Spanish language service significantly increased its coverage of this unfolding crisis for audiences all across the region.

VOA FM Frequencies

Existing in Libya: Tripoli (106.6 MHz); Misrata (99.1 MHz)

New in Kenya: Kakuma (99.9 MHz); Dadaab (106.7 MHz)


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Edward R. Murrow Transmitting station notes QSL delays to international recipients

VOA transmitter site in Greenville, NC

My friend, Macon Dail (WB4PMQ), is the Transmitter Plant Supervisor for the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station in eastern North Carolina, USA. He recently sent the following note and asked that I post it here:

“If anyone asks about the status of their QSLs from our station, please tell them that we had several returned over the past months as not deliverable. We think that the Covid-19 pandemic may have stopped some of the international mail delivery. I plan to resend them in the next week or so to see if they can make it through the postal service. “

Thanks for sharing the update, Macon!

In fact, this is not the only shortwave station experiencing problems. If you’ve requested a QSL this year, it could take much longer to get a response. You might make a note to follow up with broadcasters once this pandemic is in the rear-view mirror. Not all will be as careful about following up like Macon.

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Covid-19: Popular Yaesu and Alinco rigs meet early demise

 

No doubt, the Covid-19 global pandemic has had a mostly negative impact on our daily lives. 

Surprisingly, I found that the impact on the amateur radio world, at first, was quite minimal. Not only did sheltering at home seem to increase the number of operators on the air, but I found that most of the radio items I needed to purchase were largely available.

Since mid-May, however, radio retailers have struggled to maintain inventory on certain items mainly due to shipping issues from manufacturers (especially when international shipping was involved). Covid-19 issues have also delayed the introduction of a number of transceivers and portable shortwave radios we should have seen in production already.

Most recently, however, I learned from a trusted source that Covid-19 has lead to the early demise of at least two popular radio models.

Alinco DX-R8T: Discontinued

The Alinco DX-R8T has enjoyed a long product life. I recall reviewing this fine tabletop receiver back in 2011. It has been a very popular radio because it’s been one of the only “legacy” tabletop receivers still in production.

I recently learned that Alinco will no longer produce the DX-R8T due to “parts issues.” One would have to assume that this will also affect the DX-R8E (EU version) and eventually the DX-SR8T which is the transceiver version of this model.

Retailers may still have some inventory of these models, but once those models have been purchased, there will be no more. I would certainly suggest purchasing the DX-SR8T transceiver as an alternative since the price difference is modest and it’s built on the same receiver as the DX-R8T.

Yaesu FT-450D: Discontinued

Like the Alinco above, Yaesu has announced that they are discontinuing production of the popular Yaesu FT-450D general coverage transceiver due to “parts issues.”

Yaesu FT-DX1200

It’s worth noting the venerable Yaesu FT-DX1200 recently met the same fate.

To be clear: parts obsolescence happens in the best of times.  Covid-19 has simply accelerated the issue.

If you’ve been considering the purchase of one of these models, you might bite the bullet now if you can find a retailer with inventory.

If I learn of any other radios being discontinued, I’ll publish updates here on the SWLing Post.

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Radio Waves: Radio Six on Shortwave Again, ATN Refrains from Politics, NPR Ratings Drop in C-19, and Grand Central’s Role in Standard Time

A WWV Time Code Generator

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 Michael Bird,  John Figliozzi, and Jack Dully for the following tips:


Radio Six Pops Up Again on Shortwave (Radio World)

Radio Six International has not been a full-time shortwave broadcaster for some time. But after two recent live broadcasts on 6070 kHz prompted by the pandemic, it says it will continue monthly broadcasts at least for now.

Radio World visited electronically with Tony Currie.[]

WLW’s America’s Truckin’ Network To Refrain From Political Talk (Radio Insight)

iHeartMedia News/Talk 700 WLW Cincinnati has eliminated political talk from its overnight “America’s Truckin’ Network” show hosted by Steve Sommers.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Sommers told listeners of the change on Monday morning’s show after multiple unspecified complaints.

In the on-air statement, Sommers blamed the change on a group of individuals who took offense with comments made by a caller a few weeks ago.[]

NPR Radio Ratings Collapse As Pandemic Ends Listeners’ Commutes (NPR)

Broadcast ratings for nearly all of NPR’s radio shows took a steep dive in major markets this spring, as the coronavirus pandemic kept many Americans from commuting to work and school. The network’s shows lost roughly a quarter of their audience between the second quarter of 2019 and the same months in 2020.

People who listened to NPR shows on the radio at home before the pandemic by and large still do. But many of those who listened on their commute have not rejoined from home. And that threatens to alter the terrain for NPR for years to come, said Lori Kaplan, the network’s senior director of audience insights.

“We anticipated these changes,” Kaplan said. “This kind of change was going to take place over the next decade. But the pandemic has shown us what our future is now.”

Commercial radio is experiencing, if anything, worse declines. But audience research commissioned by Kaplan indicates that NPR’s audience is disproportionately made up of professionals who are able to work from home and who are interested in doing so even after the pandemic subsides.[]

The Day That New York Had Two Noons, a Century After Losing 11 Days (Untapped New York)

New York’s history has included everything from transit strikes to riots over Shakespeare to immigration from nearly every country in the world. Yet, for much of this history, people didn’t always know the “correct” time or date. Until 1883, virtually every place in the country set local time according to the sun. According to Sam Roberts in his book Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America, “Typically, noon would be regularly signaled so people could synchronize their clocks and watches.” From dropping a ball down a flagpole in Manhattan to ringing a gong, settlements all across the country would alert people of noon. But as railroads spread throughout the country, it was nearly impossible to standardize the time.

“A passenger traveling from Portland, Maine, to Buffalo could arrive in Buffalo at 12:15 according to his own watch set by Portland time,” Roberts writes. “He might be met by a friend at the station whose watch indicated 11:40 Buffalo time. The Central clock said noon. The Lake Shore clock said it was only 11:25. At Pennsylvania Station in Jersey City, New Jersey, one clock displayed Philadelphia time and another New York time. When it was 12:12 in New York, it was 12:24 in Boston, 12:07 in Philadelphia, and 11:17 in Chicago.”[]


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Radio Waves: DXE Virtual Hamfest, USAGM Shake-Up, Ham Radio Breaking the C-19 Doldrums, and FCC Fines FM Pirates

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 Bill, Paul, Mike Terry and the Southgate ARC  for the following tips:


DXE Virtual Hamfest and DX Academy on July 25 (DX Engineering)

Join the Elmers at DX Engineering and a host of Ham Radio luminaries on Saturday, July 25, 2020, for the first DXE Virtual Hamfest and DX Academy—two online events combined into a full day of fun, learning, and drawings for DX Engineering gift cards (must be registered and present on Zoom during the drawings to qualify).

Both events are free and open to all—click here to register. Once signed up, you will receive a link to access the events in real-time on the Zoom webinar platform, or you can watch live on the DX Engineering YouTube channel.[]

US global media agency seeks to kick out international journalists (Southgate ARC)

CNN Business reports: Efforts to clean house at the US Agency for Global Media continued this week as leadership indicated that international journalists who work for Voice of America (VOA) will not have their visas extended and a widely respected top editor at Radio Free Asia was fired, explained three sources familiar with the decisions.

Under the new leadership of Michael Pack, who took the job as USAGM’s CEO last month, the organization which oversees US-funded broadcasters VOA and RFA among others has been thrust into a wide-ranging shakeup which appears to be politically motivated.

With indications that Pack is not going to allow visas to be extended for international VOA journalists in the US, there are dozens of journalists who could face retaliation if they are forced to return to their home countries.

Read the full CNN news story
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/10/media/usagm-voice-of-america-visas/index.html

In Colorado Springs and beyond, ‘magic’ of ham radio breaks doldrums of COVID-19 (The Gazette)

On the windswept prairie east of Colorado Springs, in a ramshackle trailer plastered with maps and codes associated with every sector of the world, strange sounds are coming from a radio.

Static mixes with R2-D2-like beeps and bops. Don DuBon has a microphone in one hand while the other twirls a dial, searching.

“Alpha, foxtrot, zero, sierra,” he says, speaking into the void. “Alpha, foxtrot, zero, sierra…”

That’s the call sign for the Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association, the group of enthusiasts who make this trailer their base.

Hams, as they’re also called, take special pride in their contact with each other across the globe. They keep log sheets. One here by DuBon shows contact made with a Chuck (call sign KI6HK) in California; a Jake (K4BOM) in England; a Brooks (K2CNN) in Alabama; and others in Uruguay, Brazil and New York.

DuBon, N6JRL, is looking for others.

“Spain,” he says, recognizing the call sign heard through the clutter. “That’s a station in Spain. … He’s got a bunch of people calling him.”

“It’s called a pile-up,” says Jim Bishop, KD0KQL, fellow club member and retiree. The two are now gray but engaged in something that makes them feel young, still boys with their radios.

The Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association (PPRAA), counting a little more than 100 members mostly from generations past, is among an underground but bustling faction of American culture. Active call signs given by the Federal Communications Commission represent 0.25% of the U.S. population. In El Paso County, the ranks number about 3,500.[]

FCC Continues to Prosecute Pirate Radio Operators – Two Settlements with Identified Violators (Lexology.com)

Pirate radio operators continue to be a problem – particularly in major metropolitan areas. The week before last, the FCC resolved two long-pending cases against pirate operators through negotiated settlements. In one case, the FCC last year initially proposed a fine of $151,005 for the illegal operation. After examining the operator’s finances, the Bureau agreed to a $4,000 fine now, with a penalty of $75,000 should the operator violate the law again (see this decision against an operator called Radio Concorde). In the second case, the FCC had proposed a $453,015 fine last year, but agreed to take $5,000 now, with penalty of $225,000 if the operator violates the terms of the consent decree (see the decision dealing with operator Radio TeleBoston). Last year, we wrote here about the much larger fines initially proposed for these two operators.

In both cases, the FCC seemingly recognized reality in taking the small upfront payments now rather than trying to collect huge fines that likely were beyond the ability of the operators to pay. The FCC also required the surrender of the operator’s equipment and a commitment to stay away from pirate radio for 20 years or face much larger fines. The big fines initially imposed in these cases were set even before Congress enacted the PIRATE Act early this year. The new law allows for fines on illegal operators of $100,000 per day, up to a maximum total fine of $2,000,000. Even without the full effect of the PIRATE Act, these cases show the deterrent effect of these large fines.[]


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A Field Day weekend of rain, shine, battery power, pile-ups, and radio improvisation

If you’ve been reading the SWLing Post for long, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of portable radio gear. Whether it’s a portable receiver, an SDR, or a ham radio, I believe radios are made to be taken outside––rain or shine; hence I love programs like Parks On The Air (POTA ) and Summits On The Air (SOTA), and I’ve always loved ARRL Field Day.

Of course, this ARRL Field Day was a bit different than years past due to Covid-19––there were more individuals on the air with their own Field Day stations, while there were relatively few clubs on the air. Typically, the opposite is true.

This year I’d planned to operate from the field at various POTA locations in western NC; some contenders were the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, and Mount Mitchell State Park. In the past few years, my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) and I––with spouses in tow––hit the field together, but this year he was out of town, and I planned to go solo.

I plotted a few hours of Field Day time at Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The night before, I had my antennas and the Elecraft KX2, KXPA100, Heil Pro Headset, and 15 aH LiFePo battery (all packed in my go-packs, of course), in the car and ready to go.

Saturday morning.  I woke expecting fairly nice weather: partly cloudy with a chance of showers. Turned out, it was chilly, gusty, with total cloud cover and fairly constant rain. I’ll admit, it dampened my enthusiasm for Craggy, because while it’s a gorgeous site, it’s well above 5000′ ASL, thus the winds up there can be seriously gusty and the weather can turn on a dime.

So, I decided to put up my feet in the shack  and operate class 1E, meaning on emergency/battery power.

I started calling CQ at the start of Field Day and, to my surprise, worked a constant pile-up for nearly an hour. Within that fairly short space of time I found I’d already collected about 90 or more stations on 40 meters.

After that, I hunted and pounced for maybe an hour, then took a break; later that night, I operated intensively again for 30 minutes or so.  Had I been at a Field Day site, I would have been a much more dedicated operator, but frankly, I’m not even sure I plan to send in my logs. Still, it was fun.

My set up on a damp picnic table at the Craggy Gardens Picnic area.

Sunday morning.  The weather was much more pleasant from the get-go, with sun and wind, though thunder showers were in the forecast. Around 11:00 or so, my wife suggested we pack up and head to Craggy Gardens for a little radio fun followed by some lunch and hiking.

We reached the site–it was beautiful, but ominous. Thick fog and Saharan dust (no kidding) covered the site and surrounding mountains.  Still, I set up the station and my new Wolf River Coils TIA portable vertical.

My daughter and I deployed the TIA vertical in a matter of 5 minutes.

I think I logged two stations before the misty clouds rolled up all around me; then (remember that change-on-a-dime weather?) a sudden––and torrential––downpour came from nowhere. My wife snagged all she could carry and ran for the car, and I quickly covered my gear with my raincoat and packed everything in my packs as soon as possible. I had to make two trips to the car to pack everything, and needless to say, with my raincoat in the service of my equipment, I was drenched to the skin. I literally looked like I had jumped into a lake with my clothes on.  Fortunately my gear––at least, the important gear––was only a bit damp, but internally fine. Herein lies one of the great things about being a pack geek: quality packs tend to be water-resistant, if not fully waterproof.

But. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit I was a bit miffed that I got so little radio time before the heavens opened. We knew there would be a risk of bad weather and, frankly, other than the hassle of packing and unpacking, we actually acknowledge the entertainment value of a little WX from time to time. After all, this is the hazard of operating under a wide open sky.

My wife, sensing my disappointment, suggested we go to another site to play a little radio, but at that point I just wasn’t feeling it. What I felt instead was the damp…wringing wet-level damp…and my spirits were dampened. too. I suggested we make our way back.

En route, I saw a sign for the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace––a historic site that I knew was a POTA entity. I’d completely forgotten about this site, and decided to make a detour so I could scope out the site for a future activation. By now I’d warmed up a bit, and a bit of lunch helped revive my flagging spirits.

Turns out the site’s visitor’s center is closed on Sunday, but the gates are open so the public can enjoy the grounds. We drove up to their covered picnic area, although the cover was now peace of mind only, as the sun was again making an appearance. The setting was…well, ideal. And here I was. How could I not go ahead and activate this POTA site?

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

It was windy but warm, and while my wife spread out the packs, lunch cooler, and jackets to dry, I, too, found I was no longer dripping. By the time I set up the Wolf River Coils TIA vertical and my KX2/KXPA100, the togs were fairly dry, and indeed I was quite comfortable again. I hopped back on the air and worked a number of stations in short order, easily logging the ten needed to confirm the park activation.

The Wolf River TIA is outstanding in its field (sorry!)

Later, I discovered that the site was an “All-Time New One” (ATNO) in the POTA system. A bittersweet discovery, in a way, because Field Day is not the best time for POTA hunters to log a new site. Still, I wasn’t even calling CQ with POTA in mind; I just worked Field Day stations and had a great time.

Just as I finished, there was yet another downpour, but as the picnic area where I’d set up was covered, I no longer feared my gear getting soaked. This time, it was a sudden loud clap of thunder that gave me my cue to pack up quickly!

Still, all in all, I was very pleased with my weekend Field Day chase, and it was worth dodging rain storms for it. Sure, I would have loved to play radio at Craggy Gardens for a couple hours, but it was a pleasant surprise to fit in an ATNO activation before the end of the day. I’d have never guessed the Vance site was an ATNO, since it’s so accommodating and accessible. Indeed, I’ve discovered that, at this stage in POTA, most of the sites that haven’t been activated are either newly-incorporated into POTA or are very inaccessible. If you missed me there on Field Day, no worries: I plan to head out there again in the very near future.

Oh, and I did learn one more thing over the weekend: the Wolf River Coils TIA vertical antenna is incredibly easy and speedy to deploy. I’m very pleased with this recent acquisition!

Parkway and parks? I’ll be back soon. My radio’s already packed.

Did you participate in Field Day or put your receivers to the test by trying to log exchanges between stations?  Please comment!


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