Tag Archives: David Korchin

Radio Waves: Chelmsford Radio at 100 Years, First Broadcast Station Site, Alfred Vail, and News Executives Purged from VOA

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 John Hoad, Bruce Atchison, and David Korchin for the following tips:


Chelmsford celebrates 100 years of radio with a play (Radio Today)

The city of Chelmsford is celebrating its status as ‘the birthplace of radio’ 100 years ago today with a special live stream of a new play about the Marconi Company tests of 1920.

Britain’s first ever radio entertainment broadcast took place on 15 June 1920, and featured two arias by Australian operatic tenor Dame Nellie Melba, one of most famous singers of the late Victoria era. The broadcast from the Marconi Factory was heard all over Europe and picked up as far away as Canada.

To mark the milestone, Chelmsford City Theatre is streaming a radio play The Power Behind the Microphone: The First Live Radio Entertainment Broadcast about the original broadcast, 100 years to the minute at 7.10pm this evening. International opera star Anna Steiger will recreate the concert given by Madame Melba as part of a radio play based on the story of that fateful night and the breakthroughs that made it possible.[]

Site of the World’s First Radio Broadcasting Station (Atlas Obscura)

Three plaques mark the spot where the “forgotten father of broadcasting” worked.

CHARLES “DOC” HERROLD WAS A pioneer. After founding his College of Engineering and Wireless in 1909 inside the Garden City Bank building at 50 West San Fernando Street in San Jose, California, he launched the world’s first radio broadcasting station, which beamed music, news, and notably, advertising to listeners on a regular basis.

Herrold and his team at Station FN, which included his own wife, the world’s first female disc jockey, epitomized the mantra of many a Silicon Valley startup today: “move fast and break things.” His early transmitting devices burned out one after the other, and Herrold had to use a water-cooled microphone. He stole wattage from San Jose’s street car line to power his innovative “Arc Fone” transmitter, and cut a deal with a local store to play records on a Victrola that he would point at the microphone.[]

Morse’s Partner Argued He Invented Famous Code—to No A-Vail (HistoryNet.com)

Alfred Vail came up with dots and dashes, but Patent Office gave credit to Samuel Morse, the better known inventor

In 1887, 18 years after his father’s death, Stephen Vail took up metaphorical arms to claim Alfred Vail’s place as a key figure in communications history. Starting a war of words that would last decades and end with a declaration carved into stone, the younger Vail bombarded newspaper editors with letters. Alfred Vail’s son insisted that his dad had invented the dot-and-dash system used in telegraphy and known to all, and most gallingly to the younger man, as “Morse” code.

Before telegraphy, the United States had been more a collection of outposts than a nation—when a treaty ended the War of 1812, word from peace talks in Europe between Britain and the United States took so long to creep across the Atlantic that two weeks after the signatures on the peace treaty had dried British and American troops were fighting the Battle of New Orleans. Until telegraphy arrived for good in 1844, information traveled no faster than horses could gallop, trains could roll, or ships could sail. News from Boston reached San Francisco and vice versa by traveling aboard vessels that had to round South America’s southern tip. Only dreamers spoke of rails crossing North America or a canal traversing the Isthmus of Panama. []

Trump administration purges news execs from U.S. agency meant to counter disinformation, leaving staff fearing more to come (CBS News)

The overnight purge of top news organization officials at the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) has raised concern among its federal government employees and reporters that their jobs, immigration status, and editorial independence may soon be at risk following the arrival of new CEO Michael Pack.

Pack, who is a conservative filmmaker and close ally of one-time Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and had just stepped into the job after being confirmed by the Republican-led Senate earlier this month, did not respond to a request by CBS News for comment or explanation.

“Pack uses deep state language. Is Bannon calling the shots?”

A USAGM source said this is the question being pondered by executives and journalists inside the organization now.

Four news division heads were removed from their positions, including Middle East Broadcasting Network chief Alberto Fernandez, who is a former US Ambassador, Radio Free Asia’s Bay Fang, Emilio Vazquez of the office of Cuba Broadcasting, and Radio Liberty’s Jamie Fly. Replacements have yet to be named.

Steve Capus, the former CBS and NBC News executive who had been serving as a senior advisor, was also dismissed. Earlier this week, the top director and deputy director at Voice of America resigned as did the head of the Open Technology Fund Libby Liu, which promotes global internet freedoms.[]


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Radio Waves: ABC Wage Freeze, A Titanic Radio, FCC “Tweaks” LPFM Rules, and Digitizing a DX-160 Display

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, Dave Zantow, David Korchin, and Alokesh Gupta for the following tips:


ABC must freeze wages, government warns (The Guardian)

The Morrison government has put the national broadcaster on notice that it expects the ABC to embark on a six-month wage freeze to bring it in line with other taxpayer-funded agencies during the Covid-19 crisis.

The warning follows the government’s decision in early April to defer general wage increases for commonwealth public servants for six months. The public service commissioner followed up that directive by writing to all non-public service agencies – including the ABC – informing them the government expected them to adopt the same practice.

With no clear response from the ABC to the 9 April missive, Guardian Australia understands the communications minister Paul Fletcher wrote to the national broadcaster this week flagging his expectation that the organisation would defer a 2% increase for all employees scheduled to take effect in October under the ABC’s enterprise agreement.[…]

Radio used by the Titanic to call for help can be salvaged, judge rules (CNN)

A federal judge has ruled that RMS Titanic Inc. can salvage the radio used to call for help by the fated ocean liner after it struck an iceberg in 1912.

To get to the radio, divers would need to remove a part of the ship’s deckhand to reach the room known as the Marconi Suite, which houses the device.

The ruling modified an order issued on July 28, 2000, that said that RMS Titanic Inc. could not cut into the wreckage or detach any part of it.

Virginia’s eastern district court amended that order “for a unique opportunity to recover an artifact that will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” Judge Rebecca Beach Smith wrote.

Experts in the case testified to the “significant deterioration” in areas above and around the Marconi room, according to the document, and photos showed the “increasing breakdown” in the deck above the suite.

The suite, made of steel, consisted of three areas: sleeping accommodations, an operator’s room and the silent room that housed the radio. Each area was separated by wood walls that officials believe have dissolved, according to court documents.

The Marconi device and the artifacts associated with it face “significant threat of permanent loss,” the judge said in her approval of the expedition.[]

FCC Tweaks LPFM Technical Rules (Radio World)

The FCC in April modified the technical rules covering low-power FM stations. It expanded the permissible use of directional antennas; permitted waivers of protections of television Channel 6 by a specific group of reserved channel stations; expanded the definition of minor change applications for LPFM stations; and allowed LPFM stations to own boosters. Read more about the changes here.

Michelle Bradley, founder of REC Networks, is an engineer and longtime LPFM advocate.

Radio World: What’s your overall assessment of the outcome and the scope of its impact in the LPFM community?

Michelle Bradley: While the FCC did not address three major issues that are impacting LPFM stations right now —the ability to address building penetration issues, the ability to reach “local” listeners in rural areas and the disparity in how LPFM stations protect FM translators vs. how translators protect LPFMs — the changes will benefit current LPFM stations by giving them more flexibility in moving locations, reduce the need for waivers and improve LPFM service in the southern border region. It will also open some additional opportunities for new LPFM stations in the next filing window.[]

RadioShack Shortwave Goes Digital (Hackaday)

If you spent the 1970s obsessively browsing through the Radio Shack catalog, you probably remember the DX-160 shortwave receiver. You might have even had one. The radio looked suspiciously like the less expensive Eico of the same era, but it had that amazing-looking bandspread dial, instead of the Eico’s uncalibrated single turn knob number 1 to 10. Finding an exact frequency was an artful process of using both knobs, but [Frank] decided to refit his with a digital frequency display.

Even if you don’t have a DX-160, the techniques [Frank]  uses are pretty applicable to old receivers like this. In this case, the radio is a single conversion superhet with a variable frequency oscillator (VFO), so you need only read that frequency and then add or subtract the IF before display. If you can find a place to tap the VFO without perturbing it too much, you should be able to pull the same stunt.

In this receiver’s heyday, this would have been a formidable project. Today, a cheap digital display will do fine.[]


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“Pour Reception”: An Arduino-based radio that uses glasses of water as an interface

Image source: Yanko Design

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Korchin, who shares a link to this article on Yanko Design:

We’re all used to turning a couple of knobs and pressing a few buttons to operate a radio, but have you ever played with glasses of water to change a radio channel? Probably not. Designers Tore Knudsen, Simone Okholm Hansen, and Victor Permild recently launched their art project ‘Pour Reception’. And it’s beyond anything you can imagine. Pour Reception consists of two internal speakers, an AUX input, a handy guide and two glasses that must be placed on the body of the radio. And no the glasses aren’t just to sip water from, though you could do that. The radio uses the two glasses filled with water as it’s interface!

[…]Pour water into the glasses, and the stereo starts! Transfer some water from one glass to another and you can change channels. Touch the glasses, and you can fine-tune the radio’s signal, eliminating distortion. Finally, pop a finger into the water to control the volume or to bring the radio to a halt!

This might seem like a scenario from an alternate universe, but the tech behind it is pretty common. Objects emit micro amounts of electricity, and touch tends to disrupt this and convert it into a signal. By using Tact library by NANDstudio (an open-source Arduino shield that turns any object into a touch and proximity sensor), the designers converted the radio platform, glasses, and water into different layers of a capacitive interface, allowing them to conduct minute amounts of electricity and transforming them into sensors. Utilizing a Wekinator (an interactive machine learning tool), various gestures such as touching the glass or dipping a finger into the water were mapped into commands for controlling the radio. The end result; a radio with glasses of water functioning as a “digital material interface”.[…]

Click here to see a photo gallery and read the full article at Yanko Design.

Oh now that’s a fun way to combine radio and art! Obviously, this isn’t an RF radio–it either grabs streaming content or (more likely) uses pre-recorded content on an internal storage device. Still, I think it’s a creative little project and an ideal way to play with Arduino Tact library.

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Wired: Hunting Radiosondes

Image source: NOAA

(Source: Wired via David Korchin)

SOME RETIREES TAKE up fly fishing. Others pick up golf. But when Roland—or “F5ZV,” as he’s known on ham radio—left his job in Belfort, France a decade ago, he devoted his newfound leisure to a far more peculiar hobby: hunting radiosondes.

The white plastic boxes contain instruments to measure things like wind, temperature and humidity; meteorologists send them skywards on balloons, and they transmit data back over radio waves. But somewhere around 100,000 feet, the balloons burst, and the radiosondes parachute back to earth.

Roland began using a radio receiver and antenna to track them to the rooftops, parking lots, and random cow pastures where they land. “He was completely obsessed with radiosondes,” says Swiss photographer Vincent Levrat, who documents the chase in his quirky series Catch Me If You Can. “He would wake up at night just to hunt.”

By Roland’s own estimation, there are hundreds of other radiosonde hunters across Europe who monitor launch schedules for weather station balloons. They begin each hunt by using software called Balloon Track to predict the general area where a radiosonde might land; Balloon Track calculates the trajectory based on wind speed and burst altitude.[…]

Click here to read the full article on Wired.

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Rams: a teaser trailer

(Source: Vimeo via David Korchin)

A short teaser for the documentary RAMS, about legendary German designer Dieter Rams. A film by Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified, Urbanized), with original music by Brian Eno.

hustwit.com/rams

For over fifty years, Dieter Rams has left an indelible mark on the field of product design and the world at large with his iconic work at Braun and Vitsoe. The objects Dieter has designed have touched the lives of millions of people––so many of us have had a Braun coffeemaker, shaver, stereo, calculator, speakers, or alarm clock. Or an Oral-B toothbrush. Or a Vitsoe 606 shelving system. Or any of the hundreds of other products Dieter has designed or overseen the design of. His work has influenced the way most of today’s consumer products look and function.

But one of the most interesting parts of Dieter’s story is that he now looks back on his career with some regret. “If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer,” he has said. “There are too many unnecessary products in this world.” He has long been an advocate for the ideas of environmental consciousness and long-lasting products. RAMS is a design documentary, but it’s also a rumination on consumerism, materialism, and sustainability. Dieter’s philosophy is about more than just design, it’s a about a way to live. It’s about getting rid of distractions and visual clutter, and just living with what you need.

The film is currently in production as will be released later in 2018.

Click here to view on Vimeo.

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Zello: A PTT (push to talk) app surges in popularity with Hurricane Irma

(Source: The Washington Post via David Korchin)

As Hurricane Harvey dropped anchor over Southeast Texas last week, Zello became the go-to app for rescuers working to save thousands of people trapped by floodwaters.

Within days of Harvey’s arrival, the app saw a 20-fold increase in usage in Houston, according to Bill Moore, the Austin based startup’s the chief executive.

As Hurricane Irma hurtles across the Caribbean toward the coast of Florida, Zello continues to boom in popularity. The free Internet “walkie-talkie” app — which relies on cellphone data plans or WiFi and is designed to operate in places where signals are weak — became the top app on iTunes and Google Play Wednesday.

The latest influx began Tuesday and, at one point, Moore said, 120 people were registering for the app every second. In recent days, the app has also trended on Facebook and Twitter, offering another example of the pivotal role social media is playing in natural disasters.

“The heat map of where the registrations are occurring looks like the hurricane’s forecast path,” he added. “It’s very dense at the tip among the Caribbean islands and then fans out across Florida.”[…]

Continue reading at The Washington Post online.

I find Zello quite interesting. If you think about it, this app mimics the concept of traditional PTT/two-way radio which certainly has traffic management advantages during times of emergencies. Of course, Zello has many features traditional two-way radio does not (voice history, the ability to leave messages, native GPS and mapping functionality, etc.).

Zello does rely on some sort of Internet connectivity via 4G, 3G, WiFi, GPRS and/or EDGE. During disasters, these services may not always be accessible. Of course, amateur radio, CB and other traditional radio services do not require Internet connectivity.

Zello requires no license, no radio, nor any other accessories–just a smart phone–and is free. That’s a powerful combination and, as The Washington Post reports, Zello is obviously helping with Irma relief efforts. Thanks for the tip, David!

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DK’s Barn Find: A GE Super Radio II

My good friend, David Korchin (K2WNW), has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough.

He’s been known to find a radio that needs TLC, take it home and restore a bit of its former glory. He’s had some amazing luck in the past.

Recently, DK sent a video of of his recent acquisition: a beat-up GE Super Radio II he purchased for two dollars. This radio will win no beauty contests, but it still plays well.

Check out DK’s video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks, DK, for allowing me to post this video. It goes to show you that you should never pass up an opportunity to adopt a Super Radio. Even if the telescopic antenna is all but missing, the internal ferrite bar is where the money is!

Play on!

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