Tag Archives: Kim Elliott

Radio Waves: Quantum Sensors, Sinking Mi Amigo, Submarine Radio Network, and Video Games Over The Air

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 Kim Elliott and Dennis Dura for the following tips:


Scientists create quantum sensor that covers entire radio frequency spectrum (Phys.org)

A quantum sensor could give Soldiers a way to detect communication signals over the entire radio frequency spectrum, from 0 to 100 GHz, said researchers from the Army.

Such wide spectral coverage by a single antenna is impossible with a traditional receiver system, and would require multiple systems of individual antennas, amplifiers and other components.

In 2018, Army scientists were the first in the world to create a quantum receiver that uses highly excited, super-sensitive atoms—known as Rydberg atoms—to detect communications signals, said David Meyer, a scientist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. The researchers calculated the receiver’s channel capacity, or rate of data transmission, based on fundamental principles, and then achieved that performance experimentally in their lab—improving on other groups’ results by orders of magnitude, Meyer said.

“These new sensors can be very small and virtually undetectable, giving Soldiers a disruptive advantage,” Meyer said. “Rydberg-atom based sensors have only recently been considered for general electric field sensing applications, including as a communications receiver. While Rydberg atoms are known to be broadly sensitive, a quantitative description of the sensitivity over the entire operational range has never been done.”[]

Forty years ago today Sheerness lifeboat crew rescued Radio Caroline DJs from the sinking Mi Amigo (Kent Online)

It was the original ‘ship that rocked.’ But 40 years ago today (Thursday)the Mi Amigo, home to original pop pirates Radio Caroline, finally disappeared beneath the waves in a violent force 10 storm.

In a daring rescue which lasted 12 hours in appalling weather, the crew of the Sheerness lifeboat saved the lives of everyone onboard – including the ship’s canary.

Leading the operation was colourful RNLI coxswain Charlie Bowry, who was later presented with the Institute’s coveted silver medal.

It was during the day that the radio station’s 60-year-old ship started dragging its anchor and drifted 10 nautical miles onto the Long Sand sandbank off Southend.

As the tide rose, the ship started to float free. But the bottom of the boat began being buffeted on the seabed with such a force the steel plates sprung a leak and water gushed into the engine room.

When the bilge pumps couldn’t cope, the three British DJs and a Dutch engineer called the Coastguard who dispatched Sheerness lifeboat the Helen Turnbull.[]

The Radio Network that Allowed Communication with Submarines (Interesting Engineering)

Communicating with covert fleets during WWII required some special equipment.

What do you do when you need to communicate with a crew of 50 sailors submerged in a submarine in an undisclosed location across the world’s oceans? That was a difficult question to answer for Navy leaders in WWII.

Radio waves don’t easily travel through saltwater, which meant that getting active communication with a submarine crew meant making the submarine surface an antenna. This was the obvious solution, but it made a previously covert submarine now a visible target.

[…]Engineers tasked with finding a more covert solution soon discovered that radio waves with low frequencies, around 10 kHz, could penetrate saltwater to depths up to around 20 meters. They realized that if the transponders on submarines were switched to these frequency ranges, then they communicate with leadership on land.

The problem with this idea was that creating and broadcasting these low-frequency radio waves required massive antennas. Essentially, the lower the frequency of a radio wave, the longer and larger the antenna is required to be.[]

You Could Download Video Games From the Radio in the 1980s (Interesting Engineering)

Certain radio programs broadcast the raw data to video games for viewers to download.

[…]In 1977, the world’s first microprocessor-driven PCs were released. These were the Apple II, the Commodore PET, and the TRS-80. All these machines had one thing in common – they used audio cassettes for storage.

Hard drives at the time were still quite expensive, and everyone at the time had access to cheap audio cassettes. Early computer designers actually flaunted cassette storage as it aided in the early adoption of personal computers. As PCs became more common, so to did the emergence of their use as video game machines.

As the 1980s rolled around, engineers at the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, NOS, a Dutch broadcasting organization, realized something incredible. Since computer programs and video games were stored on audio cassettes, it meant that their data could be transmitted with ease over the radio. They started taking programs and video games and setting up broadcasts where people could “download” games onto their own personal computers.

The audio that was transmitted would’ve sounded reminiscent of a dial-up modem booting up.

[…]NOS started a radio program specifically for transmitting gaming data called “Hobbyscoop,” and it became incredibly popular. The company even created a standard cassette format called BASICODE to ensure computer compatibility.

Eventually, transmitting games through computers became so popular that radio shows popped up all around the world. A Yugoslovik station called “Ventilator 202” broadcasted 150 programs between 1983 and 1986. As the practice evolved, it became less of a novelty and rather a practical way for people to share calculation programs, educational tools, encyclopedias, and even flight simulators.[]


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Mike’s tips for decoding SW Radiogram broadcasts

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike (KA3JJZ), who writes:

Have you ever heard of the SW Radiogram digital broadcasts? These are produced by Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott and started way back when as the VoA Radiogram. They are now carried on 2 other stations (WRMI and WINB) on a schedule (check every week for a summary of images) that you can find on the SW Radiogram website;

https://swradiogram.net/

These tests consist of both text and images. Currently MFSK32 and 64 have been used, and an occasional ‘secret’ mode has been slipped in at the end of the transmission. The last time this was done, the mode was PSK125R.

You might ask how you can receive these broadcasts, and what you need to decode them. We have 2 wiki articles that go into great detail – one for PCs, and one for Android devices – here;

https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Decoding_the_SW_Radiogram_Broadcasts

https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Decoding_the_SW_Radiogram_Broadcasts_with_TIVAR

Yes, you can copy these broadcasts using an Android powered phone or tablet using an application called TIVAR. John VK2ETA has written a quick start guide which is available on the SourceForge website as well as the RadioReference wiki (the links are provided in the article)

These articles are written for folks who are just getting their feet wet, so the above articles touch on radios (no, you don’t need to use an expensive radio, though many do), antennas, propagation and more. The most popular software is FLDigi, but if you happen to have MultiPSK or DM780 (part of Ham Radio Deluxe), they can be used as well. Links are given for the software and any available support.

Along with Tumblr, SW Radiogram has both a Facebook and Twitter page (where members often post decoded images) here…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/567099476753304/

https://twitter.com/swradiogram

Thank you, Mike! Yes, I’m a big fan of the SW Radiogram–the community that has formed around this particular shortwave program is quite amazing. Thanks for all of the tips!

Click here to view the SW Radiogram website.

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The radio man of Kumartuli

Set against this unlikely backdrop, Amit Ranjan Karmakar’s little shop is easy to miss. In his mid-60s, the ‘radio man’ of Kumartuli sits surrounded by radio sets of all sizes and vintages. (Express photo: Shashi Ghosh)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares a link to this short but fantastic photo pdoc about Kumartuli’s radio man, Amit Ranjan Karmakar.

Click here to view at The Indian Express.

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More than mere nostalgia: why vintage technology still has appeal

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares a link to this CNN Business article that briefly explores why consumers still invest in vintage electronics:

New York (CNN Business) – That beaten up Walkman buried in your basement might be someone’s hot new accessory. The retro tech market is alive and kicking.

In May, Apple refreshed the iPod touch for the first time in four years. Vinyl record sales clocked in at 400 million on average over the past four years, according to data from data tracker Statista.

[…]Other gadgets that have stayed the course: camcorders, radios, clock radios, desk phones, and DVRs. Millions of these are still in use in US households in 2017, according to Statista.
What drives people to continue purchasing vinyl records, instant film cameras, and iPods, long after new products have made those objects irrelevant?

Older gadgets have a lot of staying power because they allow people to unplug from the constant ping of smartphones and tablets.[…]

This short article and accompanying video are worth reviewing. I for one, can certainly relate.

When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, shortwave radio was simply wireless magic. Even though the medium had been around for many decades, when my friends learned about what I could receive at home with my Zenith Transoceanic (which by then was a good 15 years old) they couldn’t wrap their minds around it.

Today, of course, international communications are effortless and nearly free via computers, tablets and smart phones.

And, I don’t know about you, but the shock value of what new technologies can do has worn off. A phone app that can control the lighting an appliances in your house? Sounds useful. A voice-activated wireless home camera system that allows you to talk to and feed your dog while you’re at work? My neighbor has one of those. A car that can drive itself? Sure. Why not?

Major technological leaps are happening at such a rapid pace that innovation is hardly appreciated…it’s expected. Ask any Apple stockholder.

And digital technologies are often incredibly affordable–but I would argue there’s a directly relationship between affordability and a loss of privacy.

As the article points out, vintage electronics have appeal because they effectively do their job without monopolizing your attention or personal space.  “Vintage” tech can be with you for the long run and doesn’t necessarily rely upon an app developer or company that may or may not exist tomorrow.

Maybe this article struck a nerve…

Like TV, digital devices tend to monopolize your attention. Almost all new apps, for example, default to “push” notifications that beep, buzz and effectively turn one into Pavlov’s dog. Human beings are wired to respond to this stuff!

It’s sad to have lunch with a friend that is constantly checking their phone because it’s pinging them with notifications. It’s like having an attention-deprived two year old in the room while you’re trying to carry on a meaningful conversation.  I have a rule: the only time I’ll answer a text or call when I’m with someone is if I’m expecting something urgent. Even then, I usually mention the possibility in advance and apologize when it happens. It’s an intrusion and I treat it as such.

Besides the nostalgic factor, I turn to “vintage” technologies because they lack the insidious nature of internet-connected digital devices.

When I turn on a radio, it’s on. When I turn it off, it’s off. It’s not listening to me, not reporting my shopping habits and not sending me notifications. It’s a companion.

Photo by Steve Harvey on UnsplashListening to a vinyl record is a proper experience too–one that’s high-fidelity, has unique character and won’t stop what it’s doing to tell you that you lost an eBay auction or that a friend took a photo of their Tiramisu.

Am I shunning internet-connected digital devices? No. [In fact, I’m sure I’ll get called a big fat hypocrite when I review the Google Nest Hub soon!] But I do advocate taming these devices and educating yourself about what they can do while they’re in your home.

Consider turning off their notifications, their microphones, their cameras, and even creating a single-use throw-away user account to tie to devices. Do what I do and unplug them when not in use.

I’m sorry for the Friday soap box and what seems to be an issue of Thomas’ Pet Peeves, but I’m willing to bet other radio enthusiasts feel as I do. Do you still use vintage tech in your daily routine? Do you attempt to tame digital devices? Or do you embrace notifications, automaton, and all things connected?

How do you strike a balance?  Please comment!


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On Thanksgiving, WPAQ will replay a 1948 Mount Airy H.S. Football Game

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares this fascinating story from WBUR:

For the past 70 years, WPAQ out of Mount Airy, North Carolina — population 10,000 — has broadcast bluegrass and old-time string music.

But music isn’t all you’ll hear on WPAQ.

“If folks call in and say they’ve lost an animal or they’ve found an animal, we will be happy to announce that,” says Brack Llewellyn, a part-time announcer who’s worked on and off at the station since the ’80s.

[…]Kelly Epperson took over WPAQ from his father, Ralph Epperson, who died in 2006. A few weeks ago Kelly was digging around his father’s old office.

“My dad, he held onto everything — it drove my mom crazy,” Kelly says. “And actually in the corner, I saw a box that was sort of halfway open. And I kinda kicked at it a little bit — just to make sure there were no snakes around, ‘cause we have a lot of black snakes up here. But anyway — it was heavy. And I opened up the lid. There were some records in there. And I looked at the label and I couldn’t believe it. It said: ‘Mount Airy vs. Laurinburg. Football. Nov. 25, 1948.’ ”

It was the state championship game, held on Thanksgiving Day.

Kelly didn’t have the equipment at WPAQ to play the records — they’re old lacquer discs — but he took them to a woman who did.

[…]The 2018 Mount Airy Bears had a bye week coming up. There was a Friday night open on WPAQ’s calendar.

So on Sept. 28 at 7:30, when residents of Mount Airy, North Carolina, turned to 740 on their AM dials, they heard this.

“N.W. Quick — co-captain and right tackle of the Laurinburg Scots from Scotland County — the Fighting Scots they’re called — will be kicking off for Laurinburg on the 40-yard line.”

Kelly and Brack say they started hearing from listeners right away.

“We went about as viral as you can in this area with our broadcast,” Brack laughs.

“And I’m trying to concentrate — I was running the board — and I was getting all these messages,” Kelly says. “They were blowing up my phone. I couldn’t handle it. Saying, ‘This is unbelievable! I’m hearing my dad play. I never thought I could ever do this. My dad is playing a football game.’ “

Brack says he heard from one friend who grew up in Laurinburg and recognized the name of a player on the Scots roster.

“And the player whose name he heard grew up to be the doctor who delivered him,” Brack says.

[…]I’d tell you how the game ends, but I don’t want to spoil it — because you’re going to get another chance to listen. WPAQ is rebroadcasting the game one more time, this Thanksgiving Day at 2 p.m. ET.

“So who wants to watch the Detroit Lions when they can hear the 1948 North Carolina 1A State championship game?” Kelly laughs.

You can tune into WPAQ out of Mount Airy, North Carolina, via an online live stream. Click here to listen

Click here to stream WPAQ live on Thanksgiving Day (today at 2:00 EST).

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FCC Audio Programming Inquiry: Implications for HF Broadcasting

Many thanks to Bennett Z. Kobb, Kim Andrew Elliott, and Christopher Rumbaugh for authoring “Comments of the High Frequency Parties” that is now filed with the FCC.

Update: please also check out this FAQ.

Here’s the introduction:

The Public Notice in MB Docket 18-227 requests comment on “whether laws, regulations,
regulatory practices or demonstrated marketplace practices pose a barrier to competitive
entry into the marketplace for the delivery of audio programming … [and] concerning the
extent to which any such laws, regulations or marketplace practices affect entry barriers for
entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the marketplace for the delivery of audio
programming.”

The Commission’s Rules do pose barriers to entry and unnecessarily restrict the licensing
and delivery of programming by International Broadcast Stations.

These rules originated in a period when the government utilized or countenanced privately owned, high-frequency (HF, 3-30 MHz) broadcasters as voices against foreign adversaries.
The rules prohibit stations directed primarily to U.S. audiences. They impose detailed
language, announcement, advertising and record keeping practices, require monitoring of
foreign market particulars, and mandate a minimum DSB transmission power level that is
excessive for domestic service and textual and image content.

These and certain other obsolete restrictions are overdue for review and revision or deletion.[…]

Click here to download and read the full document as a PDF.

Click here to check out the FAQ regarding the HF Broadcasting Filing.

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School of the Air celebrates 60 years and a vision of independence

(Source: ABC News vi Kim Elliott)

Parents of children in South Australia’s outback are calling for the state’s School of the Air to become independent so it has more control over how students learn.

The school at Port Augusta in the state’s north has marked its 60th anniversary of delivering lessons to students in remote areas.

When the school began in 1958, lessons were given via high frequency (HF) radio, but are now done over the internet.

In 1991, the School of the Air amalgamated with the SA Correspondence School to become Open Access College, which is based in Adelaide.

At a recent meeting in Port Augusta, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association called for the School of the Air to become an autonomous education provider.

The association’s north-west branch president Lynly Kerin said it was “no longer beneficial or manageable” for the school to be part of the college, and that its 49 students were being overlooked in the college’s cohort of 5,600 students.

Ms Kerin said the School of the Air community felt “overshadowed by decisions being made by people who may not understand the needs of our kids out here in remote areas”.

“At the very least, we request that the Minister look at an investigation into the change that we’re proposing,” she said.[…]

Continue reading at ABC News.

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