Tag Archives: Interviews

A Conversation with Eric Fetters-Walp

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

When the Top 10 DX of the Year 2023 Contest results were posted by the Top DX Radioclub on January 24, 2024 — https://swling.com/blog/2024/01/results-top-10-dx-of-the-year-2023/ —  I noticed that Eric Fetters-Walp had placed seventh overall and #1 in North America and #1 in the USA.

I was curious how he had achieved his results, so I contacted him, and he agreed to an interview.

SWLing: Tell me a bit about your history as a SWL.

EFW: When I was about 8 years old in the late 1970s, my Dad and I built a VHF airband radio kit; we were under one of the flight paths for LAX in the suburbs east of Los Angeles. I was into music on AM at the time, especially on 1020 KTNQ, a top 40 station back then.

By then time I was about to turn 13, we were living outside Seattle, and I wanted to upgrade to a better VHF radio. I bought a Realistic Patrolman SW-60, a big analog-dial radio with AM/FM/VHF/UHF and SW. I remember I had to earn the money doing chores, though my dad chipped in the last five bucks.

I brought it home and, while playing around with it, switched it to the shortwave band. I had never heard of shortwave before, but I almost immediately heard HCJB in Ecuador, and I was hooked. I was already a geography geek, so I’d listen while looking through a world atlas book I had. Even today, above my work desk, I have a map on cork board with pins in it.

I got really into collecting QSL cards from all over the world as I listened all through the rest of the 1980s. Shortwave really helped me become a news hound as I thought about studying journalism, and all the Cold War-era stations fed my fascination with history. For my college essay, I wrote about how I felt that being a shortwave listener as a teen helped me learn about the world.

I didn’t have an outdoor antenna at my parents’ house growing up, and I didn’t own a radio with a digital display until the 1990s. So, listening in that era taught me to be super patient, to sometimes just park on a frequency looking for signal to fade in.

By the early 1990s, as I was starting my career, working as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers, I mostly fell out of SWLing. Then, I got married and my wife and I had three kids. My oldest is now 21 and my youngest is 14, so I had started to have some extra time again just a few years ago.

In 2018, I dusted off my old Sony ICF-SW7600G, and I had a little Kaito radio my dad gave me, and I started listening again. A little later on, I acquired the Eton model that became the current Elite Executive. And I strung up a wire on the backyard fence about 60 feet. I have an advantage: our backyard backs up to a wide-open middle school athletic field, which seems advantageous for cutting down the noise. I also have an MLA 30+ loop, and I’ve just started playing with an SDR dongle for hunting signals.

SWLing: What about the contest?

EFW: The rules are you record your best 10 catches during the month of December; they all must be in different countries. The scoring is complicated, but basically you are trying to hear the lowest-power station from the farthest distance. However, no clandestines, no pirates, no military stations, etc.

The first year I entered was 2018 after I read about it on The SWLing Post. I was surprised to do relatively well.

The past few years, my strategy has basically been to map out a list of target stations and then try to catch as many as I can. I started early in this latest contest, and that’s good thing; reception was pretty bad the second half of month. My goal’s always to make a good showing and just not finish last.

In the first week of December, LRA36 from Antarctica could be heard; 300 watts, and that was a huge addition to my points (I checked with the contest organizers to make sure it counted). I also logged Rádio Clube do Pará on 4885 in Brazil, which comes in pretty regularly here, and worked down the rest of my list.

SWLing: Do you have any advice for SWLs?

EFW: Even if you don’t have the most expensive equipment, so much depends on getting an antenna outside—even if it hangs only 6 feet off the ground as mine does.

In addition, a key to success is a willingness to be patient. I listen to relax and try not to be frantic about it. Since I’ve started SWLing again, I have logged nearly 70 countries by doing just that. Also, while I feel like I’m pretty experienced now, I’m always learning from others in this hobby. There are folks out there who are just great DXers, and I’m still reading their tips online to learn more.

Click here to check out Eric’s 2023 Top 10 DX of the Year Notes/Logs (Google Sheets).

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An interview with Glenn Hauser

Glenn with his wrist-mounted altazimuth DX-398 for MW direction-finding.

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Since he was in grade school, Glenn Hauser has had the itch to receive broadcasts at long distance, and that interest, continuing throughout his lifetime, has led him to become one of the most respected authorities in the world of radio.

SWLing: How did you get started in radio?

GH: I started with TV DXing, trying to pick up Albuquerque 100 miles away, but often getting sporadic E skip stations more than 1,000 miles away. I also started tuning around medium wave. I was 8 or 9 years old.

SWLing: How did you get started with shortwave radio?

GH: In 1954, the family moved to Oklahoma City. By 1957, I acquired a Hallicrafters S-38E and was listening to shortwave using a longwire antenna, sending off for QSL cards. I was still doing TV DXing.

Then in 1961 the family moved to Enid, better for TV DXing, away from all those local stations, also radio DX. I acquired a Hammerlund HQ160, which was quite an improvement.

SWLing: Were you professionally involved in radio?

GH: In college, I worked on the campus radio station and also at a classical music station, KHFM. My BA was in broadcast journalism. After college, I continued to work on classical musical stations as programmer and announcer. I was very interested in foreign languages, learned phonetic schemes of various languages and learned to pronounce them. Radio Budapest was particularly helpful with Hungarian, which some announcers find difficult. I spent my professional career working for classical music stations.

I spent a year in Thailand, working for the American Forces Thailand Network. I was a newsman on the air in 1969 and 1970.

I had the HQ160 and a small TV in a footlocker, and in my spare time, DXed TV from as far as South Korea and the Philippines and medium wave from Europe.

After four years in the USAF, I resumed classic music radio, notably at WUOT, Knoxville.

By then I was contributing to various DX programs on SW stations, clubs, and eventually started my own program World of Radio. You can find out when to hear my program on the Schedules page at www.worldofradio.com . One of the main places to hear it is on WRMI in Florida. I was SW columnist for Popular Electronics, and later, Monitoring Times. Also published my own magazines, Review of International Broadcasting, and DX Listening Digest; at first on paper, then online.

SWLing: How did you get involved in logging SW radio stations?

GH: It was a natural outgrowth of enthusiasm for hobby; I was a regular contributor to DX Jukebox on Radio Netherlands (monthly) and Radio Canada International’s DX/SWL Digest (weekly).

SWLing: What sort of equipment do you use?

GH: A JRC NRD 545 and an Icom R75 for shortwave and medium wave. For antennas, I use a Wellbrook loop, a 100-foot random wire oriented east-west outside, and some shorter random wires inside the house. It is noisy where I live, and I’ve been trying to get the local electric company to fix line noise radiation.

Here in the town, my property is limited in space for antennas. I’ve been known to hook on to a wire fence in the country as a de facto Beverage antenna.

SWLing: How many hours a day do you monitor?

GH: It varies. Because of my program and my logging reports, I have made myself a nexus for information, so a lot gets sent to me. As a routine, I am always tuning around at bedtime, as well as various times during the day. At random times, I may do a band scan to see what’s happening.

SWLing: What are you most memorable moments listening to SW?

GH: Certainly one was October 4, 1957, hearing Sputnik on 20 megahertz.

SWLing: Any tips, tricks or advice you would care to offer to SWLs or DXers?

GH: Become as well informed as possible by participating in groups such as https://groups.io/g/WOR . Be aware of various references online such as the big 3 SW frequency listings, Aoki, EiBi, and HFCC, among those linked from my homepage http://www.worldofradio.com . In addition, scan the radio bands until you are familiar with what’s there, so you can notice something new or different.

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DRMNA: Interview with Mike of PantronX, maker of the Titus II

titus 2 big

Those of you following the upcoming Titus II receiver will enjoy reading this interview with Mike of Pantronix. Here’s a short excerpt taken from DRMNA.info:

[DRMNA] Can you tell us a little about the process taken to develop the new receiver?

[Mike] We became aware of the need for a digital capable receiver by a visit from TWR representatives about three years ago. Having designed RF products and receivers in the past, it intrigued me that there were no low cost method to receive DRM. This began research into the problem. Initially we envisioned and designed what we call an ATU (Antenna Tuner Unit) that plugged into a ‘standard’ Android tablet. Unfortunately as time and testing proved, ready made tablets had varying problems from vendor to vendor, model to model. The decision was made about a year ago that we had to do our own Android ‘tablet’ and integrate the ATU into it. Hence the Titus II was developed.[…]

Click here to read the full interview on DRMNA.info.

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Interview on Syntone

SyntoneI’m honored that Etienne, with the French radio arts website Syntone, posted an interviewed he recently conducted with me.

For those of you who speak French, you can click hear to read the full interview–and I would suggest you also bookmark this excellent site. If you don’t speak French, you can always run the post through a machine translator.

Merci, Etienne!

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Where radio history and art meet: An interview with Geoffrey Roberts

Fanciful and functional: A Marconi Mk III crystal shortwave tuner set in the service of Australian signallers. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

At the SWLing Post, we love radio history and that of technology in general; clearly, steps taken in our past indicate how we will blaze trails into our future. But that’s not the only reason to appreciate vintage technologies.  Developed in an environment with limited resources and infrastructure, the forms these technologies often took were resultingly unique:  hand-wrought, self-servicing, robust, efficient, interactive, engaging, elegant, and sometimes truly magical.  In other words, an art form.

And in the world of radio, form simply couldn’t follow function more intimately than in a crystal radio.

Even the name is magical, suggesting, perhaps, a receiver which culls sound waves from clear stone, or unleashes ancient voices long immured in ice.  But a crystal radio has yet another mystery up its sleeve:  it has no power source. These sets are passive receivers, meaning that while other radios use a power source (usually electricity) to amplify radio signals, the crystal set draws power from radio waves received via a long wire antenna. It’s the simplest type of radio receiver, and can be made from a few inexpensive parts, like an antenna wire, a tuning coil of copper wire, a crystal detector, and  earphones.

My first crystal radio set was made with a Quaker Oatmeal box, a bunch of wire, and a small earpiece.  Nothing elegant about it, but it was nonetheless magical, as I listened to the sound waves it drew from the ether.  Ultimately, all crystal radios have the same components as my oatmeal box variety–a tuning coil of copper wire, crystal detector, antenna and earphones–but fortunately not all follow the oatmeal box design. Indeed, some are worthy of an art museum, such as London’s Tate.

Introducing Geoffrey Roberts

Geoff Roberts' "HGW1 Time Machine." A crystal radio like no other. The Time Traveller would feel at home in front of this machine. (photo: Geoffrey Roberts

One glance at Roberts’ collection of hand-made crystal receivers, and it’s clear one is in the presence of a remarkable artist.

Roberts’ designs are very much inspired by the earliest crystal radios, and he also takes cues from classic science-fiction. The stunningly fanciful receiver to the right, for example, is titled, “HGW1 Time Machine.”

Indeed, his crystal sets would be absolutely at home aboard Nemo’s Nautilus or any steampunk time travel machine. They fire the imagination.  It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Roberts was recently asked by the curator of the Tate Britain to exhibit his singularly fascinating works, along with those of the Crystal Radio Club, in a show entitled the ‘Restless Times Exhibition,” which commemorates the work of artisans and artists for the period between the wars of the past century (1914-1945).

We simply had to know more about what makes Geoff Roberts tick, so asked him if he would allow us to interview him for the SWLing Post. He’s most kindly obliged–so with no further ado, I present crystal radio artist, Geoff Roberts.

SWLing: When you design a new radio, from what–or where–do you draw inspiration?
Geoff: When I’m designing a radio I have a particular circuit in mind that I would like to try out, and from the circuit diagram I can visualise what possible layout combinations it could have. The inspiration for the design is based upon a theme that I’m thinking of at the same time as the circuit, i.e., the ‘Time Machine’ or Captain Nemo’s Nautilus.

Side view of the HGW1. (photo: Geoffrey Roberts)

SWLing: Do you know what the radio will look like before you start building it? Do you make preliminary sketches, for example, or do you have an image in your mind?
Geoff: There is no initial engineering drawing with my radios; I complete a radio before I have put pen to paper, but there may be some thumbnail sketches of various parts that make up the whole design. Sometimes if I’m having difficulty resolving an idea I sleep on it, and it is more often than not resolved by the morning.

SWLing: Many of your radios are named after classic science fiction authors. Tell us about your relationship with science fiction.
Geoff: I have always had a fascination for science fiction in whatever form it is, be it TV series like Dr Who or Star Trek or the classic stories by Jules Verne or HG Wells. I do not actually read many science fiction novels–I simply do not have the time–it is reserved for practical things.

The Heart of Oak Crystal Radio (photo: Geoffrey Roberts)

SWLing: So why do you build crystal sets? Why not more modern pieces of technology?
Geoff: The crystal sets, to me, are a satisfying way to employ the combination of traditional hand craftworking skills and radio or electrical knowledge that I have learnt over years of practical experience. Crystal sets are a timeless electrical device that are just as appropriate today than yester year, possibly even more so in the coming ‘Green Age’ of renewable or low energy useage. It is still an evolving technology with better components, lower electrical loss materials, and Litz wires, plus highly-tuned circuits: these were just not available to the amateur builder many years ago at the dawn of radio. I have built many modern electronic devices employing integrated circuits or transistors, but there is an increasing complexity of circuitry and miniturization that really only favors the robot and not that of a human hand. I keep coming back to a simpler, more satisfying art form that is a collectable piece of equipment, rather than a disposable one.

SWLing: Tell us a little about your history in radio…when did you first become interested?

The "Jules Verne" (photo: Geoffrey Roberts)

Geoff: I first became interested in radio at an early age of eleven, when my uncle who used to visit us every Wednesday evening would always bring a small gift or piece of chocolate. One evening he was carrying a small oak box about six inches square. He opened the lid, and there were a few small brass parts on a black face plate.  There were three labels: “aerial,” “earth,” and “phones,” and a big knob in the middle. He connected up a pair of headphones, and put a wire round the picture rail, and one to an earth stake outside just below the back room window. I was amazed I could hear voices and music. I spent most of my early youth listening to pop music from Radio Luxembourg on that old crystal set, sometimes late into the night and under the bedclothes when, unknown to my parents, I should have been sleeping.
From that day onward I was hooked on radio more and more, and built my first crystal set from a toilet roll tube and wire from out of an old transformer that I found on a junk heap on waste ground nearby home.

Detail from the HGW1 dial pointer. (photo: Geoffrey Roberts)

I used to cut out the capacitors and resistors and started to make up a collection of commonly used parts. By the age of 12 I had been given a Philips Electronic Engineers Kit for Christmas. This kit was really for kids to learn basic electronics by using a simple breadboard designs.
One evening I built a one-transistor radio from the kit and heard two radio hams talking to each other. This was another big revelation to me in that it was possible to talk to a friend by using radio. It was not long after I had my own license to operate on the radio waves, and started a career with GPO telecommunications just after leaving school–but that is another story.

SWLing: When you listen to radio–on a crystal set, on shortwave or otherwise–what stations would we most likely find you listening to?

Geoff: I still have the fascination with radio now after nearly six decades have passed, and I still listen to my favorite pop music–as it was then, it still is now. Someone said, ‘All you need is Love’ and that is very true…

SWLing: What are your plans going forward? Do you have other radio designs in mind?
Geoff: I plan to build more radios in the next few years and have extended my workshop this year to take in more light engineering equipment. The Dr. Frankenstein radio is in my visualisation as a project; it will be made of spare parts, of course, but not too many dead bodies!! [haha]

SWLing: What was your experience like at the Tate Britain’s crystal radio exhibition?

"We did not have the use of a longwire or earth in the Tate Gallery so I made a frame aerial which performed very well inside the Tate considering the building was mostly solid stone and ironwork. (source: Heart of England Crystal Radio Club)

Geoff: It was a wonderful and awe-inspiring experience recently to be invited to exhibit and actually operate some of my crystal receivers in the Tate Britain ‘Restless Times’ exhibition a couple of months ago. A feeling that I will relish for the rest of my life, and that will always give me fresh enthusiasm.

SWLing: If I wanted to buy one of your crystal radios, where could I purchase one?
Geoff: I would be only too pleased to make a crystal receiver to order for you personally to your specification, or to my own design, and you can find full ordering details on my website or by emailing me direct…Thank you for listening to my little story.

Geoff Roberts, G8DHI "Thank you for listening to my little story."

SWLing:  The pleasure was all mine. Thank you, sir, not only for bringing forward such a simple, magical technology, but doing so with such artistry and spirit.  Best of luck!

Post Script
Geoff, you’re one cool guy. Thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Please do let us know when you finish “Frankenstein;” we’d love to publish some photos here, if we may–and warn the public, should it escape!

Many, many thanks to @NW7US who led me to the website of Geoffrey Roberts–Geoff’s Crystal Receivers–and, in turn, to this delightful gentleman, artist, and ham. Sure you’d like him, too.

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Myke Weiskopf on American Public Media’s “The Story”

Myke Weiskopf, lifelong shortwave radio listener and archivist, shares his passion for shortwave radio on APM’s “The Story”:

Myke Weiskopf wrote to us to say: “I’m an old-school radio man, sound-gatherer, and old-world obsessive. I’ve been lucky enough to take my shortwave all over the world … I’ve posted recordings from broadcasts in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan…” (His list goes on … and these are just the A’s!) This past summer, Myke went to Bulgaria and had a chance to meet the woman who started it all: the very first Bulgarian woman he heard singing on the radio whose voice has haunted him ever since.

Myke’s interview closes out this episode of “The Story”–you can listen to it online by clicking here.

More information:

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A Look Inside the 2010 World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) and Interview with Publisher

wrth2010The World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH)–a printed guide to broadcasts on shortwave, mediumwave, longwave, and FM, as well as on TV–is now available for purchase in its 64th edition. This guide is known as the key reference book for hard core DXers, shortwave radio listeners, broadcasters and radio enthusiasts of all stripes.

This year, WRTH‘s publisher sent me a copy of their latest reference directly from the UK; as has often been the case, I found myself immersed in its pages within moments of opening the mail package.

This year in particular, it is my belief that WRTH will become even more important to radio listeners.  The main reason for this is the fact that in 2009, International Broadcasting Services, Inc., decided to halt production of its fine broadcast guide, Passport to World Band Radio. [To learn more about this, check out previous posts here and here].

On SWLing.com, I had always suggested newcomers to the hobby check out Passport (PWBR) over WRTH simply because the main body of its guide was laid out in a “TV Guide”-like fashion, easy for a beginner to understand. In other words, it sorted broadcasts by Universal Time and listed all of the broadcasts available (primarily in English) with information about program content, where you could find it on the radio dial, and even included mini-reviews–often humorous–of the shows. This format was very accessible for those who may not yet have a full grasp of the nuances of shortwave radio listening.

Although not intentionally formatted for newcomers, WRTH is also reasonably easy to use, and a much, much more comprehensive guide to broadcasts than Passport to World Band Radio. Indeed, I find that I when I hear a unknown broadcast in a language that I also don’t know, I reach for WRTH to solve the mystery.

What’s inside WRTH?

The bulk of WRTH is a tried-and-true radio reference book with major sections delineated by convenient side bars which make navigating through this substantial book much easier.

Click to see sample of WRTH's International Radio section.

Click to see sample of WRTH's International Radio section.

WRTH offers the following:

  • Features and Reviews
  • National Radio
  • International Radio
  • Frequency Lists
  • Terrestrial Television
  • Reference

The “Features and Reviews” section is always the first thing I read when I receive my new copy of WRTH. This year, for example, WRTH features receiver reviews of the Icom IC-7600, IC-7000 (ham transceiver), Eton Satellite 750, and a selection of very low-cost portables. They also feature mini-reviews of some “Cold War Classics,”  as they are known, like the Collins R390, Racal RA17, Harris RF-590 and the Rohde & Schwarz EK 070.  [By the time I finished reading about these fine classic rigs, I’ll admit, my mouth was watering…] They also feature the BBC World Service, Samoan Radio, a Digital Update, and more.

As a shortwave and medium wave (AM broadcast) listener, I find that I use WRTH based on the way I’m listening to radio.  Either I listen for a particular station or country by looking it up in the national or international sections of WRTH, then listening on known frequencies at the appropriate time.  Or, I simply tune through the bands, and when I locate something of interest on my radio dial, I turn to WRTH‘s frequency list to see what station I’m hearing. WRTH will also give you useful information for QSLing and identifying the coordinates of the transmission site any given broadcaster is using. Indeed, WRTH gives you more info about a broadcast than any other radio reference book with which I’m familiar. This is one of the reasons it has become a staple reference for serious radio listeners.

An Interview With Nicholas Hardyman, Publisher of WRTH

This year, in particular, I had a few questions that only WRTH could answer–so I asked Nicholas Hardyman, WRTH‘s publisher, if he would agree to a brief interview.  He accepted with enthusiasm.

Thomas (SWLing.com): WRTH is now in its 64th edition; how has your content changed over the years?

Nicholas (WRTH): The biggest changes have been in the large increase in stations following deregulation across the globe. This is most evident is the explosion in the number of FM stations, although this is also happening in some countries that are still fairly heavily regulated. We have also seen a large increase in TV stations which we cannot, unfortunately, fully reflect in WRTH. The change that is coming is obviously the switch to digital transmissions both for TV and radio. It will be very interesting to see how that plays out.

Thomas: How do you gather all of your detailed broadcast information and update it each year?

Nicholas: Through the hard work and dedication of the finest set of contributors and editors any publisher could hope for. We have a very extensive and deep contributor network and consequently get a lot of information.

Thomas: Passport to World Band Radio has decide not to publish a 2010 edition; do you feel your customer base is broad enough to support your future publications?

Nicholas: Yes, I think it is. We serve several markets and different specialties within those markets so I hope our readers will continue to support our unique offering.

Thomas: Who are some of your typical readers?

Nicholas: DXers and listeners are our largest market, and of those, our typical reader is a man aged 50+ with a strong interest in technology and a loyal commitment to WRTH. We also have a lot of readers who have a professional interest in radio and others who are most interested in global transmissions.

Nicholas, thank you for the interview; I believe I speak on behalf of Shortwave radio listeners around the globe when I say that DXing wouldn’t be the same without a copy of WRTH at hand. Keep up the good work, and happy DX!

If you would like a copy of WRTH, simply click on one of the following to order your copy:

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