Tag Archives: Hackaday

Radio Waves: Birmingham Museum (BBRM), Si4730 Radio, Ham Radio at Camp Lejeune, and the Oakland A’s Leave Radio

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’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Pete Eaton and Bill Patalon for the following tips:


The Rich History of Birmingham’s Black Radio Museum (Birmingham Times)

The Birmingham Black Radio Museum (BBRM) began as a project for Bob Friedman in 1992 to commemorate the first 50 years of a single radio station, 1400 WJLD-AM, and it grew to chronicle black radio in the Magic City.

After moving to Birmingham from his native New York City, N.Y., in 1987, Friedman worked at WJLD, where he started a 1950s vocal-group harmony show in April 1989 and later began a Saturday morning talk show, “Sound Off.” About two and a half years into his 22-year tenure at WJLD, he asked to produce a retrospective about the station’s first half century.

“I put together a pamphlet [about the station] and got people to buy ad space in it,” he recalled. “I also had a Saturday morning show, so I could promote it.”

Friedman, BBRM Founder and Director, recorded interviews with on-air personalities, including Ed “Johnny Jive” McClure, Jesse Champion Sr., and Lewis White.

“I started learning about this unbelievable history of black radio in Birmingham,” Friedman said. “And that sent me on a track, so that even though I left WJLD in 2011, I had already incorporated the BBRM.”

The museum, largely based online at www.bbrm.org, tells of stations that include WJLD, WENN, WAGG, WSGN, and Bessemer’s WBCO. Personalities include but are not limited to legends Dr. Shelley Stewart, Paul “Tall Paul” White, Willie McKinstry, the Rev. Dr. Erskine Faush, and Roy Wood Sr. The physical home is inside the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in the Carver Theater, which is currently closed for repairs.[]

All Band Radio Uses Arduino and SI4730 (Hackaday)

It is getting harder and harder to tell homemade projects from commercial ones. A good case in point is [Mirko’s] all band radio which you can see in the video below the break. On the outside, it has a good looking case. On the inside, it uses a Si4730 radio which has excellent performance that would be hard to get with discrete components.

The chip contains two RF strips with AGC, built-in converters to go from analog to digital and back and also has a DSP onboard. The chip will do FM 64 to 108 MHz and can demodulate AM signals ranging from 153 kHz to 279 kHz, 520 kHz to 1.71 MHz, and 2.3 MHz to 26.1 MHz. It can even read RDS and RBDS for station information. The output can be digital (in several formats) or analog.

The radio takes serial (I2C) commands, and the Arduino converts the user interface so that you can control it. The chip comes in several flavors, each with slightly different features. For example, the Si4731 and Si4735 have the RDS/RBDS decoder, and the shortwave mode is available on Si4734 and Si4735.[]

Fitting 19th Century technology into 21st Century warfighting (DVIDS)

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Feb. 7, 2020)— U.S. Marines with Information Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MIG) participated in a HAM Amateur Radio General Licensing Course as part of the group’s High Frequency Auxiliary Initiative on base, Jan. 27-31, 2020.

The course, taught by members of the Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club, out of Greenville, N.C., helps Marines learn the principles of high frequency radio operations as a contingency against a peer-to-peer adversary in real-world operations.

Throughout the duration of the course, Marines learned HAM radio frequency and propagation theory, frequency band allocation, conventional and field-expedient antenna theory in addition to HAM radio operations and control.

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Jordan Walzer, commanding officer of II MIG, created the High Frequency Auxiliary Initiative after recognizing the need for utilizing more options in a combat environment. He wanted the Marines to familiarize themselves with older technology to ensure their lethality in any situation.

“Embracing technology is great but overreliance leaves us vulnerable,” Walzer said. “In a peer-to-peer conflict, our space-based capabilities will be attacked. The next war will look less like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and a lot more like ‘Ghost Fleet’.”

Contrary to Saving Private Ryan, which was fought utilizing traditional land-based maneuver warfare, Ghost Fleet is a book set in the near future and includes the addition of space and cyber warfare.

So wars of the past were fought in the air, on land and at sea, whereas future wars will likely include the addition of space warfare, explained Walzer. U.S. forces need to create a cohesion of modern technology and analog throwbacks to mitigate hackers and drones.

HAM radios make effective alternate communication because they do not rely on satellites or internet, but instead, radio waves. They can travel directly or indirectly, along the ground or by bouncing the radio waves off of the ionosphere or troposphere layers of the atmosphere to communicate.

“Right now, our adversaries are aggressively pursuing counter-space weapons to target our satellites and ground stations,” Walzer said. “If our satellites get knocked out, what do we do then? [High Frequency] radio has been around for well over a century and is still used today. Why? Because it’s a reliable, low-cost alternative to satellite communications. With the right training and education, a Marine with a radio and some slash wire can communicate over-the-horizon for long distances, even between continents.”

HAM radios, also known as amateur radios, are communication devices created in the late 1800s. Depending how much an individual is willing to spend on equipment, someone can talk to others across town or across the world, all without the need for an internet connection. Although most people use HAM radios as a hobby, II MIG views them as potential lifelines in a highly contested environment.

There are three courses taught on HAM radios by the Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club. The entry level class is called the technicians course, which gives people frequency privileges in very high frequency (VHF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) bands and some privileges in the high frequency range. A frequency privilege is just another meaning for permission to use a specific frequency. The HAM Amateur Radio General Licensing Course is the intermediate level course, which allows spectrum privileges on almost all spectrums that the government gives amateur radio operators. The expert class license, also called Extra Class, gives users full privilege on any frequencies allocated to HAM radios.

“I think the course was very informative,” said Sgt. Matthew Griffith, an intelligence surveillance reconnaissance systems engineer with 2nd Radio Battalion, II MIG. “It’s good to learn the things that make our equipment work. In my area of this field we use the equipment but don’t [always] know how the equipment works on the inside, which sometimes makes it harder to troubleshoot if a problem arises. Leaving the course with this knowledge will be invaluable for my Marines and me in the future.”

Dave Wood, the president of the Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club and instructor of the course, plans to conduct the first expert level course in the future after enough Marines have graduated from the intermediate course. The club plans to host the next entry level course during the summer of 2020 and train more Marines.

“The volunteers who make up our High Frequency Auxiliary are absolutely vital to us building a world-class capability,” Walzer said. “We’re drastically improving our skill by pairing experts with Marines who have a passion for HAM radio. They may not wear the uniform, but they’re American patriots serving our country in a different way.”

Whether the next conflict is fought in air, on land, at sea, or in space, one thing is clear; Marines will adapt to face those threats whether it is with the technology of today or equipment of the past.[]

Oakland Athletics off the radio waves in the Bay Area, commit to A’s Cast stream (The Mercury News)

The Oakland Athletics will not broadcast games over radio

The Oakland Athletics, who have led a nomadic existence on the Bay Area airwaves, pulled the plug on radio Tuesday, announcing that games will be available only online.

The A’s could have returned to KTRB, the station they teamed with just before the start of last season after an ugly split with 95.7 The Game, but instead chose to expand their use of a streaming service called TuneIn. The team launched A’s Cast on the service last season

Though the method of delivery is different, the voices are not. Ken Korach will return for his 25th season in the broadcast booth alongside Vince Cotroneo. (The team will continue to carry Spanish-language broadcasts on KIQI AND KATD.)

“There’s going to be some frustration because it’s something new,” said Cotroneo, who will mark his 15th season with the A’s. “It involves an education, downloading, and an additional step in what they are accustomed to basically their entire lives. Hopefully, it’s not difficult to get the product.”

The A’s say they are betting on a more tech-savvy generation. They planned to pursue an all-digital approach last season before the KTRB deal emerged . KTRB was the team’s 12th radio home since its arrival in 1968, and the fifth since 2000.[]


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Restoration of a USN version of the ARC-5 command set receiver

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Gregory Charvat N8ZRY writes on Hackaday about an un-modified-since-WW2 surplus CBY-46104 receiver with dynamotor.

He writes:

I’ve been told all my life about old-timey Army/Navy surplus stores where you could buy buckets of FT-243 crystals, radio gear, gas masks, and even a Jeep boxed-up in a big wooden crate. Sadly this is no longer the case.

Today surplus stores only have contemporary Chinese-made boots, camping gear, and flashlights. They are bitterly disappointing except for one surplus store that I found while on vacation in the Adirondacks: Patriot of Lake George.

Read the full story at
https://hackaday.com/2019/12/12/wwii-aircraft-radio-roars-to-life-what-it-takes-to-restore-a-piece-of-history/

Video

Video description: Repair and restoration of a USN version of an ARC-5 command set receiver. This model covers 1.5-3 Mc, runs off its original dynamotor, with no internal circuit modifications. This radio is original with the exception of a small number of caps that tested bad which were re-stuffed. Build date is Feb. 42, who knows where and what this radio may have been involved in?

I’ve always wanted a functioning ARC-5 command set to accompany my BC-348-Q receiver. This article has inspired me.

Post readers: Anyone own a functioning ARC-5 (or any variants)? Please comment!

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AM radio from a hand-wound coil and an oxidized British penny

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who shares the following video and article via Hackaday:

There’s been a spate of apocalypse related articles over the last few weeks, but when I saw an AM radio made from a hand-wound coil and an oxidized British penny, I couldn’t help but be impressed. We’ve covered foxhole radios, stereotypical radios that are cobbled together from found parts during wartime.

This example uses a variable capacitor for tuning, but that’s technically optional. All that’s really needed is a coil and something to work as a diode. Surprisingly, copper oxide is a semiconductor, and the surface oxidation on a penny is enough to form a rudimentary diode.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Hackaday.

Thanks for sharing this, Paul. I absolutely love simple receivers like this one. In the past, I’ve built several crystal radios and had great success hearing local AM broadcasters. Indeed, the very first kit I ever built was a crystal radio, then later a foxhole style receiver.

Post readers: Have you ever built a radio similar to this one that uses an oxidized penny?  Please comment!

Click here to read posts from our archives that focus on crystal radios.

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Al Williams’ Hackaday article about Moon Bounce

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Al Williams WD5GNR writes on Hackaday about bouncing amateur radio signals off the moon

One of the great things about ham radio is that isn’t just one hobby. Some people like to chit chat, some like to work foreign countries, some prepare for emergencies, and there are several space-related activities. There are hundreds of different kinds of activities to choose from.

Just one is moonbounce, and [Ham Radio DX] decided to replicate a feat many hams have done over the years: communicate with someone far away by bouncing signals from the moon.

Read his post at
https://hackaday.com/2019/10/01/bouncing-signals-off-the-moon/

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Hackaday looks back at the venerable RTL-SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF), who shares the following article from Hackaday:

Before swearing my fealty to the Jolly Wrencher, I wrote for several other sites, creating more or less the same sort of content I do now. In fact, the topical overlap was enough that occasionally those articles would get picked up here on Hackaday. One of those articles, which graced the pages of this site a little more than seven years ago, was Getting Started with RTL-SDR. The original linked article has long since disappeared, and the site it was hosted on is now apparently dedicated to Nintendo games, but you can probably get the gist of what it was about from the title alone.

When I wrote that article in 2012, the RTL-SDR project and its community were still in their infancy. It took some real digging to find out which TV tuners based on the Realtek RTL2832U were supported, what adapters you needed to connect more capable antennas, and how to compile all the software necessary to get them listening outside of their advertised frequency range. It wasn’t exactly the most user-friendly experience, and when it was all said and done, you were left largely to your own devices. If you didn’t know how to create your own receivers in GNU Radio, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do other than eavesdrop on hams or tune into local FM broadcasts.

Nearly a decade later, things have changed dramatically. The RTL-SDR hardware and software has itself improved enormously, but perhaps more importantly, the success of the project has kicked off something of a revolution in the software defined radio (SDR) world. Prior to 2012, SDRs were certainly not unobtainable, but they were considerably more expensive. Back then, the most comparable device on the market would have been the FUNcube dongle, a nearly $200 USD receiver that was actually designed for receiving data from CubeSats. Anything cheaper than that was likely to be a kit, and often operated within a narrower range of frequencies.

Today, we would argue that an RTL-SDR receiver is a must-have tool.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at the excellent Hackaday blog.

Of course, for all things RTL-SDR and beyond, I highly recommend bookmarking RTL-SDR.com.

The RTL-SDR.com blog also manufactures my favorite flavor of the RTL-SDR dongle along with a nice bundle of antennas. Click here to check it out on Amazon.com (this affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

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My Radio Spectrum Archive HOPE XII presentation on Hackaday

Wow! Thank you, Hackaday:

HOPE XII: TIME TRAVEL WITH SOFTWARE DEFINED RADIO

by: Tom Nardi

It’s easy to dismiss radio as little more than background noise while we drive. At worst you might even think it’s just another method for advertisers to peddle their wares. But in reality it’s a snapshot of the culture of a particular time and place; a record of what was in the news, what music was popular, what the weather was like, basically what life was like. If it was important enough to be worth the expense and complexity of broadcasting it on the radio, it’s probably worth keeping for future reference.

But radio is fleeting, a 24/7 stream of content that’s never exactly the same twice. Yet while we obsessively document music and video, nobody’s bothering to record radio. You can easily hop online and watch a TV show that originally aired 50 years ago, but good luck finding a recording of what your local radio station was broadcasting last week. All that information, that rich tapestry of life, is gone and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Or can we? At HOPE XII, Thomas Witherspoon gave a talk called “Creating a Radio Time Machine: Software-Defined Radios and Time-Shifted Recordings”, an overview of the work he’s been doing recording and cataloging the broadcast radio spectrum. He demonstrated how anyone can use low cost SDR hardware to record, and later play back, whole chunks of the AM and shortwave bands. Rather than an audio file containing a single radio station, the method he describes allows you to interactively tune in to different stations and explore the airwaves as if it were live.[…]

Continue reading the full article at Hackaday.

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Thai cave rescue employed ham-designed 87 kHz transceiver

(Source: Hackaday via bernieS)

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably heard a little about the thirteen people — mostly children — trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. What you may have missed, though, is the hacker/ham radio connection. The British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) was asked for their expert help. [Rick Stanton], [John Volanthen] and [Rob Harper] answered the call. They were equipped with HeyPhones. The HeyPhone is a 17-year-old design from [John Hey, G3TDZ]. Sadly, [G3TDZ] is now a silent key (ham radio parlance for deceased) so he didn’t get to see his design play a role in this high-profile rescue, although it has apparently been a part of many others in the past.

The HeyPhone is actually considered obsolete but is still in service with some teams. The radio uses USB (upper sideband, not universal serial bus) at 87 kHz. The low frequency can penetrate deep into the ground using either induction loop antennas like the older Molephone, or — more commonly — with electrodes injecting RF energy directly into the ground.

You can find a very detailed article about the radio from 2001 if you want more details. The system is somewhat dated, but apparently works well and that’s what counts.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Hackaday.

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