Tag Archives: Kim Elliott

Radio Waves: RIP Dame Vera Lynn, 1928 London Noises, Repoliticizing VOA, and Shortwave Trading At the Speed of Light

Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020)

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 Tracy Wood, Dennis Dura, David Goren, and Kim Elliott for the following tips:


Obituary: Dame Vera Lynn, a symbol of resilience and hope (BBC News)

Dame Vera Lynn, who has died at the age of 103, was Britain’s wartime Forces’ Sweetheart, and remained one of the country’s most potent symbols of resilience and hope.

With songs such as We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover, she inspired both troops abroad and civilians at home during World War Two.

As Britain’s cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes.

And 75 years later, the country turned to her once again as it faced another stern test.[]

Click here to read our SWLing Post tribute to Dame Vera Lynn from 2015 which includes a recording made from my Scott Marine Model SLRM.

London street noises 1928 (Sound and History)

THERE ARE NO BBC radio recordings surviving from before 1931, so the job of representing the 1920s falls to this curiosity from the Columbia Graphophone Company. It’s a 12” 78rpm disc made in 1928 in association with the Daily Mail newspaper.

It seems likely that the disc was somehow tied in with a Daily Mail campaign over urban traffic noise. The commentator on both sides of the disc is a man named Commander Daniel and he doesn’t approve of everything he hears in the city streets.

The recordings were made from single, static locations in Leicester Square and Beauchamp Place on Tuesday 11th and Thursday 20th September respectively. Columbia probably used a recording van equipped with a disc-cutter.[]

Repoliticizing Voice of America (The Hill)

When Michael Pack takes over as the first politically-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, his first task will be to comprehend the bewildering array of international broadcasting entities under the USAGM. This includes two government agencies: Voice of America and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), and four government funded corporations: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks (the Arabic-language Alhurra and Radio Sawa) and the anti-censorship Open Technology Fund. Within this structure are broadcasting outlets that straddle two entities, such as the Russian-language Current TV. All told, the entities distribute content in 61 languages.

When past that hurdle, Pack must then decide if he wants to maintain the journalistic independence of USAGM’s entities, or if he wants to move them towards advocacy of the administration’s policies.[]

Companies Pitch Shortwave Radio to Shave Milliseconds Off Trades (Bloomberg)

High-frequency traders will famously do almost anything to get the latest market data and send their buy and sell orders a few milliseconds ahead of the competition. They blasted through mountains to build the most direct fiber-optic routes possible between exchanges in a competition that transformed global markets and was made famous by Michael Lewis’s book Flash Boys. Soon, pinging light through glass fiber at more than 124,000 miles per second wasn’t fast enough—the glass slows things down—so traders moved on to microwave transmitters that send signals through the air.

But that has problems, too. Microwaves travel only roughly as far as the eye can see before they peter out and need a signal boost. Now two rival market telecommunications companies have signed a pact that they say will give traders more access to experimental wireless signals which can travel across oceans.

To do that, signals need a longer wavelength—known as a shortwave rather than microwave—that bounces between the water and atmosphere. It’s an imperfect solution. The waves can handle only a fraction of the data that fiber can, carrying about a kilobit per second vs. gigabits. And some signals can be lost.

Raft Technologies Inc., a startup based in Tel Aviv, says the trade-offs are worth it. Raft says it can send data over shortwave from Chicago to Frankfurt in 31.4 milliseconds, which it says is about 4.5 milliseconds faster than the best available fiber route. That’s an eternity in an industry that tends to measure improvements by the thousandth of a millisecond. The company says the signal is about 85% reliable, compared with 100% for fiber. Clients can use a fiber line in parallel as a fail-safe measure.[]


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Radio Waves: AM/FM in Teslas, Odd Crosleys, CW Club Membership on the Rise, and 2020 Contest University is Free

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 Kim Elliott, Dave Anderson, and Paul Evans for the following tips:


“Infotainment Systems” In Cars Portend Safety, Privacy, And Competition Issues (Forbes)

Almost all new cars include so-called “infotainment systems,” which provide navigation and various sources for music and news. Most companies have begun to outsource these systems to the Silicon Valley mainstays such as Apple, Amazon, and Google. The electric car manufacturer Tesla, however, has developed its own infotainment system that is far more integrated with the car itself.

Tesla recently announced an “upgrade,” which would allow users to watch Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube (when the car is parked). This innovation has a flip side: it removes AM / FM radio capabilities. Tesla and other electric car manufacturers claim they have removed AM radio in many of their models due to concerns over interference. But Tesla’s announcement is peculiar because electric engines do not interfere with FM radio reception.

Former FEMA director Brock Long worries that Tesla’s decision could prevent the government from transmitting crucial information in emergencies. Long’s concerns are valid, particularly in a crisis like the ongoing pandemic, when broad communication with the public is necessary to protect national security. AM/FM radio reach places that television and broadband do not, and that is why the government has invested tens of millions of dollars to ensure radio stations can remain on the air during periods of widespread threat to the public – including the current one. As the coronavirus reminds us, our nation still has public safety needs that no amount of technical wizardry can obviate.

The public safety concerns are real, but Tesla decision to remove AM/FM radio also raise the perennial tech issues of privacy and competition.

Tesla has contracts with tech companies such as Spotify and Pandora, many of which are pay services. These tech companies are no doubt pleased that Tesla is contemplating taking out AM/FM radio, which is still the most listened to audio platform—and constitutes meaningful competition. However, these conflicting interests creates mismatched incentives for Tesla.

Because Tesla’s market share is small, and the upgrade is optional, this conduct likely does not rise to anything close to an antitrust violation. However, the vertically integrated model which Tesla is following raises the same type of concerns as when Big Tech firms pick and choose what apps and services customers can favor. If Google, Apple, and Amazon, which have their own podcast and streaming audio services, begin to demand that auto manufacturers carry their services exclusively, then more serious competition problems will arise.[]

Odd Crosley Radios from the 1920s (Hackaday)

You may sometimes see the Crosley name today on cheap record players, but from what we can tell that company isn’t connected with the Crosley Radio company that was a powerhouse in the field from 1921 to 1956. [Uniservo] looks at two of the very early entries from Crosley: the model VIII and the XJ. You can see the video of both radios, below.

The company started by making car parts but grew rapidly and entered the radio business very successfully in 1921. We can only imagine what a non-technical person thought of these radios with all the knobs and switches, for some it must have been very intimidating.

The model VIII had two large knobs, three small knobs, and a switch. Oddly enough there were very few markings on the knobs, as you were expected to know how to use a tuned RF radio. The large knobs were for tuning capacitors and the switch was for coil taps, while the three small knobs controlled the tube filament supplies.[]

Increase in CW Club membership (G4BKI.com)

The rate at which amateurs are joining CW clubs has gone through the roof with ‘lockdown’.

The fastest growing club (SKCC) has tripled its daily new members rate and is now increasing by 14-15 per day. Information and files can be found at: http://www.g4bki.com/club_call_history.htm

Contest University 2020 will be held online free via Zoom (Contest University)

Contest University 2020 will be held online free via Zoom (Link will be available on May 7th)

Thursday, May 14th 9:00 am EDT

CTU 2020 outline is available on the 2020 Course Outline Page

Click here to read more information.


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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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