Tag Archives: Ham Radio

Jock explores “The Essential Listening Post Part II – When the lights go out”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


Photo by Parker Coffman on Unsplash

When the lights go out: The Essential Listening Post – Part II

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

What’s the most valuable commodity in an emergency? Information.

Without information, it is very difficult to make decisions of what actions you should – or shouldn’t – take. Fortunately, as swling.com readers know, radio can come to your rescue.

As an example, I offer for your approval this minor incident that happened just a few mornings ago.

At 4:30 am, I awoke. That’s not particularly unusual; I get up early lots of mornings to run the Commuter Assistance Network on ham radio.

What made this morning unusual were the things I couldn’t see: the digital clock across the room, the tiny LED lamp that illuminates the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. They were both dark. In fact, the only light that I could see was the LED from the uninterruptable power supply for the computer in the next room. It was pulsing, indicating the power from the mains was out.

With the help of a flashlight kept within easy reach of the bed, I made my way downstairs. A peek out the windows revealed the surrounding area was dark; no lights in local houses, no street lights. A house across the ravine behind my house had a single light, but it had the bright white look of an emergency lantern. So this outage was wider spread than just the lane where I live. But how widespread was it? In early February in upstate New York, it’s winter; temperature about 6 degrees Fahrenheit on this particular morning. The thermostat on the wall has already dropped below where the furnace should have kicked on. With no electricity; no furnace.

With no house power, I had no internet, so I couldn’t look things up to find out why there was no house power. Because we use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), with no internet, no house phone.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Well, dummy, fire up your smart phone, and in a few moments you’ll have your answers.”

To that I say: “Not so fast there, pardner.

I consulted with a ham radio friend who makes his living in the commercial radio business. He consults with many companies, including cell phone companies, so he knows what he is talking about.

It turns out there are three things that could render your smart phone useless.

The first is whether your local cell tower(s) have battery back-up. Most do, but how many hours the batteries will run the cell tower can vary widely from just a couple of hours to perhaps eight. Depending upon when the power went out, you may or may not be able to connect.

The second is that many cell phone towers themselves connect to the rest of the network through wire or fiber optic cable. If a vehicle has taken down a pole, or a falling tree has taken down a cable, the network may be disrupted.

Finally, if there is high demand for your local cell phone tower, you may not be able to make a connection. My commercial radio “guru” relates that he went to an event at a local community college. There is a cell tower right on the property, but he had great difficulty connecting simply because so many people were trying to use the tower.

During emergencies, cell phone networks frequently go into gridlock because of high demand, so it’s a good idea to have other means of gathering information. An interesting aside: some years ago, I heard a presentation from one of the hospital administrators who was in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. They were unable to make voice phone calls, but apparently they could sometimes send and receive text messages.

Getting back to my small lights-out incident, I was in the actual act of firing up a radio to check out what local broadcasters on the AM (medium wave) band had to say, when the lights came on, the furnace started, and internet and phone service were restored. My greatest inconvenience was having to reset a couple of digital clocks.

But it raised a serious question: what should be your essential listening post if the lights go out, the fertilizer hits the ventilation equipment?

First and foremost, a battery-powered radio capable of receiving your local broadcasters. You need to know – or find out – which ones have back-up power so they can keep transmitting. Knowing that will do two things for you: first, tuning in to a station with back-up power will hopefully get you the information you need, and second, if stations that don’t have back-up power are off the air, that will give you an indication of how widespread the power outage is.

Knowing the extent of the blackout can be important. A couple of decades ago, on an August afternoon, my better half and I took our young son to a local park where there was a water fountain that the kids could run through. When we got home later, the power was out. I saw the neighbor standing in her yard and asked if she had reported the outage. “No point,” she said. “Why?” I asked. “Because the lights are out from Canada to Virginia.” Oh.

In addition to knowing which stations are likely to be on the air, it’s also good to know which local stations have news staff that are likely to collect and broadcast information that is needed during an emergency.

Second, if you live in the United States or Canada, you need a weather radio. Every state in the Union has bad weather of one sort or another . . . and some of them can kill you. NOAA weather radio is an excellent source of information. It’s free, and it does a fine job of delivering weather-related info in a concise and useful format.

Third, it would be very useful to have a scanner or ham radio capable of receiving your local 2 meter repeaters. This could be an additional source of useful information in a crisis.

So, are there any radios that I would recommend for “The Essential Listening Post” when the lights go out?

Yes, there are.

The C.Crane CCRadio 2E

First on my list would be the C.Crane CCRadio 2E (or CCRadio3). It receives AM, FM, NOAA Weather Band with Weather Alert and the 2-Meter Ham Band. It will run on house power or, if the lights are out, over 200 hours on batteries. By all accounts, it offers excellent performance on AM and FM, and it is one of the most sensitive NOAA weather radio receivers I have tested. I bought one and can heartily recommend it.

CC Skywave SSB

The CCrane Skywave SSB receives AM, FM, NOAA Weather band plus Alert, Shortwave (1711-29.999MHz) with SSB, VHF Aviation Band. It doesn’t receive the 2 meter ham band, but it will receive hams on HF frequencies, which might come in handy in an emergency. It is not quite as sensitive as the CCrane 2E on NOAA weather frequencies, but, as I reported last year it was the most sensitive NOAA weather radio receiver I took to Sodus, NY. It is very small and portable and will run for over 50 hours on batteries. I bought one and can heartily recommend it.

The Eton FRX3+

The Eton FRX3+ is an interesting alternative for a “when the lights go out” radio. This battery-powered radio receives AM, FM, and NOAA weather radio with alert. It has a couple of LED lights for navigating in the dark and can be charged by a built-in solar panel, hand-crank, or USB cable, and can even be used to charge your cell phone. Eton Corp. sent me one of these, and I find that it offers worthy performance on AM and FM, and excellent sensitivity on NOAA weather radio. Recommended.

In the future, I hope to offer some additional useful information about NOAA weather radio as well as a comparison of different ways to receive NOAA weather radio, including dedicated weather radio, consumer radio, scanner, and ham handi-talkie.

-Jock Elliott

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Radio Waves: Radio Atlantique, Car Radio History, BBC Norfolk Features CW, and IC-R30 Firmware Update

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 Trevor, Dennis Dura, and Markku Koskinen for the following tips:


Radio Atlantique Broadcasts Against All Odds (Red Tech)

Its broadcasting territory is restricted and unlikely to grow significantly, and for good reason. Since 1982, Radio Atlantique has been broadcasting in the heart of the French overseas territory of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, a 252 square kilometers, self-governing Atlantic clump of islands just off the south coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland. The radio station has cultivated its uniqueness, becoming a key partner in the local life and cohesion of the 6,000 or so Miquelonnais. However, this state of mind has not prevented the project from going through difficult times and bringing uncertainties to its future.

Broadcasting in the territory of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon is an extraordinary adventure every day. For example, coverage of the entire archipelago was only concluded in 2010 with effective broadcasting in Miquelon, only 18 nautical miles away from the main island. This challenge for the station has only reinforced its unique place within the islands’ society. The population on the islands is highly mixed, and the vast majority of the inhabitants have French and Basque origins. [Continue reading…]

The history of car radios, from AM to Apple (The Globe and Mail)

“Hey, Google. Play Toosie Slide by Drake.”

Within seconds, the Toronto pop singer’s silky voice wafts from the speakers of the ELS Studio audio system of my Acura MDX. Ten speakers in the cabin pump out trilling highs and chest-thumping bass, transforming my vehicle into a soothing audio studio on wheels. Bored, I flip over to SiriusXM for a little Hip-Hop Nation.

Modern car audio systems are so highly evolved, so seamless and so intuitive, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way. But it’s been 90 years since the first mass-produced car radio appeared, and the road to audio perfection has been a bumpy one indeed.

Michael Lamm remembers. At 84, the California-based auto historian’s car-ownership experience spans back to the early 1950s, when staticky car radios were powered by primitive vacuum tubes.

When he was growing up in Texas, he says he “didn’t really care that much about radio,” in part because programming was so limited. “I didn’t listen to the preachers who were constantly haranguing everybody.” [Continue reading…]

BBC Norfolk features ham radio Morse code (Southgate ARC)

January 11 was Learn your Name in Morse Code Day and Roger Cooke G3LDI was interviewed on BBC Norfolk by Chris Goreham about Morse

Roger has been a keen proponent of the advantages of Morse code since he started teaching it as a teenager when he was first licenced in 1956.

You can listen to the interview by fast-forwarding to 1:54:27 in this recording
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0bcktml

Free Morse training courses are available Online, see

New Icom IC-R30 Firmware Update (via Markku Koskinen)

Updated Icom IC-R30 firmware has been posted on the Icom Japan web site.

Battery health status (Normal/Caution/Warning) judgment has been improved.

Click here to check it out and download at Icom Japan.


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Radio Waves: Pocket SSB Transceiver, Radio On The Bay Event, New Book on History of Spaceweather, and PSK31 on 437 MHz from the Moon

The uSDX/uSDR QRP transceiver (Chinese version)

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!


Ham Radio SSB Transceiver Fits in Pocket (Hackaday)

Talking about this Chinese ham radio transceiver requires a veritable flurry of acronyms: HF, SSB, QRP, and SDR to start with. [Paul] does a nice job of unboxing the rig and checking it out. The radio is a clone of a German project and provides a low-power radio with a rechargeable battery. You can see his video about the gear below.

SSB is an odd choice for low power operation, although we wonder if you couldn’t feed digital data in using a mode like PSK31 that has good performance at low power. There are several variations of the radio available and they cost generally less than $200 — sometimes quite a bit less.

There isn’t much on the front of the radio. There are a few buttons, a rotary encoder, and an LCD along with a speaker and microphone built-in. There are ports for power to run the radio if you want to not use the battery and a separate port for battery charging. There are also ports for a key, external microphone and speakers, and audio connections that look like they’d work for digital modes. According to commenters, the radio doesn’t have an internal charging circuit, so you have to be careful what you plug into the charging port. [Continue reading…]

(SIDE NOTE: I have been testing one of the USDX / USDR transceivers (a Chinese version–not the open source homebrew project) over at QRPer.com and have been very displeased with performance. So much so, I returned it for a refund. One of the biggest issues being spurious emissions that were produced in harmonics, but also the receiver is one of the worst I’ve ever tested. -Thomas) Continue reading

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BBC Newshour and the first shortwave Transatlantic Tests

Former BBC World Service HQ – The Bush House

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Doug and Kris, who both share a link to BBC Newshour which was broadcast yesterday (Dec 12, 2021).

The final segment of the show focuses on the birth of international shortwave radio and the first Transatlantic tests. You can listen to this report over the next month via the BBC Sounds website. This is the final piece in Newshour and starts at the 45:05 mark. Very much worth your time!

Click here to listen to this segment on BBC Sounds (starting at 45:05).

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Large archive of CW off-air recordings from Italy

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, LUIGI Ciampoli (IZ4KBW), who writes:

Some time ago with a friend of mine I created a very big archive of CW QSO recordings available for everybody who want to listen to CW traffic. The idea was born by the need to give to newcomer HAMS material to train on real CW traffic on the bands (with QSB, QRN, QRM, etc.).

So we started to record our ragchewing, ordering files with date/calls of participants/frequencies/keys used and WPM speed of QTC. At the beginning it was not a serious matter, but nowadays the archive counts thousands of records with local and international radio friends…hours and hours of “swinging morse code.” Some of these QSOs are made with ex professional RT involved on radio ham bands spending time talking about the past golden era and having QSO with OMs on the radio.

We released this large archive of recordings in a Google drive folder that can be shared. The archive is located at the following link : https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1XaF3Mvwa6WvgOCzZjp0NwzgnYdNHsW2Q

de IZ4KBW/op Luigi

Sample recording made on November 21, 2021. I8QFK, IZ8VKW, IU1MRY (Using a Paddle on 7036 kHz):

Thank you for sharing this, Luigi! What a wonderful idea. I think I will approach you about adding a few of these to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive as well as there are very few ham radio CW recordings.

Click here to check out IZ4KBW’s CW QSO off-air recording archive.

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Radio Waves: Cassette’s Role in Creation of Internet, AU2JCB Special Event, Joel Hallas (W1ZR) SK, and Shortwave Chatter

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 Datta (VU2DSI), Kim Elliott, Ron, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


How the Cassette Tape Helped Create the Internet (WNYC Studios)

In 1983, Simon Goodwin had a strange thought. Would it be possible to broadcast computer software over the radio? If so, could listeners record it off the air and onto a cassette tape? This experiment, and dozens of others in the early 80s, created a series of cassette fueled, analog internets. Our friend Simon Adler at Radiolab reports.

This is a segment from our November 26th, 2021 program, How Cassette Tapes Changed the World. [Read and listen to this piece at WNYC Studios…]

AU2JCB operation 19 NOV to 14 DEC 2021 (Datta, VU2DSI)

AU2JCB is a special event callsign to commemorate the birth date (30 NOV) & to pay homage & tell about the great INDIAN scientist Aacharya JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE who is recognized as the “Father of Wireless Communication” by the scientific community of our world.
VU2DSI- Datta Deogaonkar will operate with this AU2JCB special event call sign. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: UNESCO on Radio, Fallout After Reciva, Local Radio Appeal, 2022 Hamvention a Go, and Pandemic Ham

Radio Taboo FM in rural Cameroon

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!


Why UNESCO Believes in Radio (Red Tech)

Chief, Media Development and Media and Information Literacy at UNESCO Mirta Lourenço shares insight on radio’s evolution and challenges. She explains how the international organization is working to support radio stations around the world to ensure they’re able to accomplish their crucial mission.

RedTech: How do you view the role of radio in our society?

Mirta Lourenço: Thanks to radio, we benefit from many essential public services that we seldom reflect on. These include global positioning systems, satellite navigation, environmental monitoring, intelligent transport systems, space research, etc. Radio broadcasts offer information and the possibility for people to participate, regardless of their literacy levels and socio-economic situation.

The medium is also especially suited for multilingualism. Audiences may need to hear programs in their primary language, particularly if said language is local and endangered, or in the case of refugee radio or isolated communities. Also, when literacy levels are low, local languages are crucial to the populations’ access to information, as radio constitutes the main source for reliable journalism. History has shown us that radio is the most effective emergency communication system and in organizing disaster response.

All this does not mean that radio broadcasting is free from challenges. Continue reading

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