Tag Archives: Kim Elliott

Radio Waves: New Quantum Receiver, Virus and Distance Learning by Radio, BBC Woofferton Early Days, and Hello Morse

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 Andrea, Kim Andrew Elliott, Dave Porter, and Phillip Novak for the following tips:


New quantum receiver the first to detect entire radio frequency spectrum (Phys.org)

A new quantum sensor can analyze the full spectrum of radio frequency and real-world signals, unleashing new potentials for soldier communications, spectrum awareness and electronic warfare.

Army researchers built the quantum sensor, which can sample the radio-frequency spectrum—from zero frequency up to 20 GHz—and detect AM and FM radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other communication signals.

The Rydberg sensor uses laser beams to create highly-excited Rydberg atoms directly above a microwave circuit, to boost and hone in on the portion of the spectrum being measured. The Rydberg atoms are sensitive to the circuit’s voltage, enabling the device to be used as a sensitive probe for the wide range of signals in the RF spectrum.

“All previous demonstrations of Rydberg atomic sensors have only been able to sense small and specific regions of the RF spectrum, but our sensor now operates continuously over a wide frequency range for the first time,” said Dr. Kevin Cox, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “This is a really important step toward proving that quantum sensors can provide a new, and dominant, set of capabilities for our Soldiers, who are operating in an increasingly complex electro-magnetic battlespace.”

The Rydberg spectrum analyzer has the potential to surpass fundamental limitations of traditional electronics in sensitivity, bandwidth and frequency range. Because of this, the lab’s Rydberg spectrum analyzer and other quantum sensors have the potential to unlock a new frontier of Army sensors for spectrum awareness, electronic warfare, sensing and communications—part of the Army’s modernization strategy.

“Devices that are based on quantum constituents are one of the Army’s top priorities to enable technical surprise in the competitive future battlespace,” said Army researcher Dr. David Meyer. “Quantum sensors in general, including the one demonstrated here, offer unparalleled sensitivity and accuracy to detect a wide range of mission-critical signals.”

The peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Applied published the researchers’ findings, Waveguide-coupled Rydberg spectrum analyzer from 0 to 20 GigaHerz, co-authored by Army researchers Drs. David Meyer, Paul Kunz, and Kevin Cox[]

Virus and distance learning by radio (1937, 1946) (AE5X Blog)

Six to eight decades ago polio was one of the most feared diseases in the US. In 1952 alone, 60,000 children were infected, 3000 died and many more were paralyzed.
The most severe outbreaks were in 1937 and 1946. My father was a victim of the 1946 epidemic, suffering minor paralysis in one leg as a child.

In 1937, many schools around the country closed, as did public pools, movie theaters and parks. But the Chicago public school system took an innovative approach.

During that period, 80% of US households contained a radio. This allowed 325,000 children in grades 3-8 to continue their education at home via radio lessons aired by six Chicago radio stations (WENR, WLS, WIND, WJJD, WCFL, WGN) that donated time for the purpose.

Program schedules for each day were printed in the morning paper. Home with more than one radio & more than one child often set up radios in different rooms so that each child could hear the appropriate grade’s lesson.

This continued for one month…until schools reopened in late September of that year.

Curriculum was developed by teachers and monitored over the air by school officials. After each episode, a limited number of teachers were available for phone calls. A large number of the calls were from parents distressed that they could not clearly receive the broadcasts.[Continue reading…]

BBC Woofferton Early Days (Ludlow Heritage News) [PDF]

Very few structures are left in the Ludlow area which can be traced back to the Second World War. However, look five miles south of the town towards the rise of the hills and a tracery of masts can be seen. Go closer, and a large building can be found by the road to Orleton, surrounded now by a flock of satellite dishes, pointing upwards. The dishes are a sign of the recent past, but the large low building was made for the war-time radio station aimed at Germany.

This little history attempts to tell the story of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s transmitting station at Woofferton near Ludlow in Shropshire during the first years of its existence. When and why did the BBC appear in the Welsh border landscape with a vast array of masts and wires strung up in the air? The story begins in 1932, when the BBC Empire Service opened from the first station at Daventry in Northamptonshire. Originally, the service, to link the Empire by wireless, was intended to be transmitted on long-wave or low frequency. But, following the discovery by radio amateurs that long distance communication was possible by using high frequency or short waves, the plan was changed. Later in the decade, the BBC expanded the service by also broadcasting in foreign languages. Although Daventry had a distinguished name in the broadcasting world, it was never technically the best place for a short-wave site, being on a hill and close to a growing town.

This article can be found in the Ludlow Heritage News: click here to download the full PDF.

 

Hello Morse: A collection of AI and Chrome experiments inspired by Morse code on Android Gboard (Google)

Developer Tania Finlayson found her voice through Morse code. Now she’s partnering with Google to bring Morse code to Gboard, so others can try it for accessible communication.

Morse code for Gboard includes settings that allow users to customize the keyboard to their unique usage needs. It works in tandem with Android Accessibility features like Switch Access and Point Scan.

This provides access to Gboard’s AI driven predictions and suggestions, as well as an entry point to AI-powered products, like the Google Assistant.[]

 


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Radio Waves: RCI Staff cut in half, DRM Newsletter Notes, and VOA in the Press

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 William Lee, Kris Partridge, Kim Elliott, and Jason Hauser for the following tips:


CBC’s plan for Radio Canada International sees its staff cut in half (CARTT.ca)

By Steve Faguy MONTREAL — This week, the CRTC began a two-week hearing into the renewal of CBC/Radio-Canada’s licences, a process which began more than a year ago. There will be days of questioning, dozens of intervenors appearing, and discussions of everything from children’s programming to the fees for CBC News Network to diversity, local news, online distribution and official minority communities. But one thing that probably won’t be discussed is a service the public broadcaster is specifically required by legislation to provide, relatively few know about, but that the company has seemingly treated like a forgotten stepchild: Radio Canada… [Note this article fades into a Paywall, but William recommends reading more at Fagstein.com]

Digital Radio Mondial Newsletter includes a number of announcements

Successful DRM for FM Simulcast Demonstration in Russia

The Russian company Digiton Systems, supported by DRM Consortium members, carried out a high-power field trial of the DRM standard in the FM band using the simulcast mode.  The trial report in St Petersburg covers the trial that took place from June – December 2019. The trial continues to be on air and its main findings will be collected in a more detailed ITU report.  Read more

The Indian Public Broadcaster Updates on 2021 Plans including digitisation

On the website of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Prasar Bharati (the radio and TV Indian public broadcaster) has today clarified that no AIR station is being closed anywhere in any Indian state, some “fake news” widely circulated recently in the press.

All India Radio (AIR) stressed the importance attached to localism and the news projects included in its 2021-2022 plan. In its press release of January 13th.  Prasar Bharati mentions that it is also moving ahead with its plans to introduce Digital Terrestrial Radio in India. Select AIR channels are already available through Digital DRM technology to the listeners in many cities/regions on an experimental basis. Listeners in these cities/regions can experience the power of Digital Radio through a choice of multiple radio channels available on a single radio frequency in digital mode. Specialised Digital Radio Services available on DRM transmitters include AIR News 24×7 dedicated to news and current affairs, AIR Raagam 24×7 dedicated to classical music as well as local/regional radio services and Live Sports.

AIR Announces Tender for DRM Receivers

All India Radio announced a tender for the supply of DRM receivers.  More here

DRM FOR EDUCATION DURING COVID-19 AND BEYOND

DRM offers a solution for tackling the global disruption in education at a local level. DRM not only provides audio but also multimedia services consisting of Journaline text services, slides, graphics, and images simultaneously.  In this article published by Broadcast Cable & Satellite, a much-respected Indian publication, Yogendra Pal (Hon Chair, DRM India Platform) and Ruxandra Obreja (DRM Consortium Chair), set out the benefits of DRM technology in facilitating distance learning for all.  Read more 

DRM Providing Distance Learning Without the Internet

In the Fourth Quarter Broadcast Technology publication published by the IEEE, Thimmaiah Kuppanda and Alexander Zink, Fraunhofer IIs, explain how DRM and Journline technologies rise to the challenge of providing distance learning solutions where there is no internet availability.  Read more

Article published reproduced with permission from IEEE

How DRM Contributes to UN Sustainability Goals

In the latest edition of the ETSI magazine, Lindsay Cornell (BBC & Chair of the DRM Technical Committee), sets out how DRM (the only open digital radio standard) delivers substantial energy savings and gives access to remote communities.  Read more

Dxers Diary New Programme Launched on KTWR

Arun Kumar Narasimhan from Chennai in India has been producing and presenting a new short programme called “DXERS DIARY”.  From Sunday January 3rd he was on air presenting a 5-minute weekly DX programme in KTWR’s DRM broadcast (13800 Khz at 10.26 UTC) every Sunday. The programme is designed to make it easy for listeners to contribute to the advancement of the DX hobby.  The programme will include listeners’ logs, band scans from across the world and news and information on frequency changes by various radio stations. Listeners can send logs, bandscans and reception reports about DXERS DIARY to our email to dxersdiary@gmail.com.

Women in Broadcast Technology

The DRM Chair, Ruxandra Obreja is featured in a profile in IEEE focusing on “Women in Technology”.  Read more 

DRM SW Recordings Brazil, China and India

DRM shortwave recordings to Brazil broadcast by Radio Romania, China National Radio and recording received on the road in India.

Voice Of America White House Reporter Reassigned After Questioning Pompeo (NPR)

Voice of America White House reporter Patsy Widakuswara was reassigned Monday evening just hours after pressing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on whether he regretted saying there would be a second Trump administration after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was apparent.

Pompeo had appeared at the U.S. government-owned international broadcaster’s headquarters in Washington on Monday to make an address. He did not address last week’s assault on Congress by a mob filled with President Trump’s avowed supporters in his remarks, nor was he asked about it in a congenial question-and-answer session by VOA’s new director, Robert R. Reilly. To date, Pompeo, a steadfast Trump ally, has not substantively addressed the attack on the U.S. Capitol at all.

As Pompeo walked out of the VOA building, giving a thumbs up to a man with whom he exchanged remarks in the crowded foyer, Widakuswara lobbed several questions. She asked what he was doing to repair the reputation of the U.S. around the world. She finally asked: “Mr. Secretary, do you regret saying there will be a second Trump administration?” Pompeo did not acknowledge the questions.

She tweeted out videotaped footage of that exchange, which showed a throng of people around. Contemporaneous audio obtained by NPR shows she then turned to press Reilly: “Mr. Director, why did you not ask any of the questions that we wanted to know about?”

He asked who she was, and Widakuswara identified herself as a Voice of America White House reporter. An irate Reilly can be heard saying, “You obviously don’t know how to behave,” adding, she wasn’t “authorized” to be there to ask questions.

Widakuswara: “I know, but I am a journalist, and I am paid to ask questions.”[]

Voice of America journalists demand resignation of top officials, protest sidelining of two staffers (NBC News)

“It is not out of order for VOA journalists to ask questions of U.S. government officials. It is our job,” the journalists wrote in a letter.

WASHINGTON — A group of Voice of America journalists has signed a letter demanding the resignation of the director of VOA and his deputy, accusing them of using the network “to stage a propaganda event” for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and for the “sudden and unexplained” reassignments of the chief news editor and White House correspondent.

The journalists said the actions of VOA Director Robert Reilly and Deputy Director Elizabeth Robbins violated the network’s decades-old charter, which states that the U.S.-funded outlet does not speak for the U.S. government, according to the letter obtained by NBC News.

Reilly and Robbins were recently installed by President Donald Trump’s appointee, Michael Pack, who runs the parent agency that oversees VOA, the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

The letter was sent to Pack, Reilly and Robbins and has so far been signed by two dozen journalists from the VOA’s staff of about 1,000.

At the network’s headquarters in Washington on Monday, Pompeo delivered a speech carried live on VOA, extolling the virtues of America’s free press and accusing the service of having overly negative coverage of the U.S. in the past. The broadcasters’ reporters were barred from asking questions and outside media were not allowed to attend, according to the letter and journalists who spoke to NBC News.

Pompeo “used this opportunity to attempt to direct VOA journalists to cease critical coverage of the United States,” and Reilly, who was on stage with the secretary of state, “did not challenge him — a disservice to our international audience,” the letter said.[]


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Radio Waves: Media Network Returns, Pack Seeks Lasting Control, Airtime on ex-DW relay station, and KCRW Berlin Signs Off

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 Jonathan Marks, Kim Elliott, and Dennis Dura for the following tips:


Media Network Returns Jan 1st, 2021 (Critical Distance via Vimeo)

Media Network returns for a second series. Premieres here on Vimeo Friday January 1st 2021. In the meantime, how many faces do you recognise?

Trump Appointee Seeks Lasting Control Over Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia (NPR)

Michael Pack’s stormy tenure over the federal agency that oversees government-funded broadcasters abroad – including the Voice of America – appears to be coming to a close. Yet President Trump’s appointee has sparked an internal outcry by taking bold steps to try to cement his control over at least two of the networks and to shape the course of their journalism well into the Biden administration.

Pack, the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, also serves as chairman of the boards of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. Pack and the members of the boards have now added binding contractual agreements intended to ensure that they cannot be removed for the next two years. Pack stocked those boards with conservative activists and Trump administration officials, despite a tradition of bipartisanship.

In other words, although President-elect Joe Biden has already signaled he intends to replace Pack as CEO of the parent agency soon after taking office next month, Pack would maintain a significant degree of control over the networks. Pack and USAGM declined requests for comment.

NPR has reviewed the language of the contracts, which have yet to be signed by the new presidents of the two networks – both of whom were appointed by Pack this month. The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contract was slated to be approved on Wednesday but appears to have been withdrawn from consideration after internal objections and inquiries from Congressional aides, NPR and other media. It is unclear what the future holds for the initiative from Pack.[]

Click here to download the RFE/RFA protest letter.

Sri Lanka to sell airtime on ex-DW relay station to Encompass Digital Media (Economynext)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has agreed to sell airtime on a former Deutsche Welle relay station in Trincomalee in the North East of the island to UK based Encompass Digital Media Services, London.

Germany’s DW built the relay station in Sri Lanka in 1980 for mainly for international shortwave (HF) broadcasting. It also has a medium wave transmitter for South Asia.

The station was given to state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in 2012.

The rise of television and the internet had made international broadcasts more accessible, though SW retains audiences in many countries.

London based Encompass Media has proposed to transmit shortwave and mediumwave programs from the station. It has offered to pay 49,000 dollars and 16,000 dollars a month for the airtime.

The Cabinet of Ministers had approved the proposal in November 2020. (Colombo/Dec29/2020)[]

America’s voice goes silent in Berlin as last US radio station closes (Politico)

BERLIN — American radio is a Berliner no more.

The postwar American presence on Berlin’s airways that began in the summer of 1945 when the city was still digging itself out of the rubble of World War II ended this month as the last U.S. radio station in the German capital ceased operation. For years, the station, known in its final iteration as KCRW Berlin, offered listeners a daily helping of local English-language news and eclectic music.

The idea behind the station was to deliver Berliners a dose of unfiltered Americana and to serve as a transatlantic bridge. Even in an era of podcasts, the offering found a loyal if small audience, from daily commuters to American expats.

“It’s a sad moment embodying the end of a tradition,” Anna Kuchenbecker, a member of KRCW Berlin’s board, said, blaming the shutdown on the pandemic. KCRW Berlin was operated in partnership with a California public radio affiliate with the same call sign. The economic fallout of the coronavirus forced the U.S. station to make steep cuts, including layoffs.

The closure comes at a time of deepening estrangement between the U.S. and Germany following years of Donald Trump’s attacks on Berlin. The longtime allies have recently been at odds across a range of issues, from climate policy and trade to foreign policy.

KCRW Berlin wasn’t eligible to receive any of the billions in broadcast fees the German government collects in order to finance domestic public television and radio. Former station officials say it would have been up to KCRW in California and NPR, which is partly funded by the U.S. government, to save the Berlin operation.

“The pain that we are feeling with KCRW Berlin going away is something that is not necessarily felt in the U.S.,” the station’s program director Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson said.

But even in its home city, the station’s death received little attention; Berlin media barely took notice of KCRW’s shuttering or what it signified, noting the move only in passing.[]


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Radio Waves: Guardians of Early Recordings, VOA Firewall, New DRM-Based HF Station, and Breakfast on BBC Essex Features Amateur Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’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, Benn Kobb, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


Meet the guardians of the world’s earliest musical recordings (LA Times)

The voice seeps in as if from another dimension, hissy and distant, like an AM radio broadcaster transmitting through late-night static.

“‘The Ambassador March’ by Brown’s Orche-streee for the Los Angeles Phonograph Company of Los Angeles, California,” a man announces with a gentlemanly accent. After a moment’s scratchy pause, a violinist opens with a melody, and a small orchestra jumps in. Led by a Long Beach-based bandleader named E.R. Brown, the song dances along for two minutes.

The fidelity is primitive by today’s high-definition audio standards, a quaint toss-away. But “The Ambassador March” and the Coke-can-sized wax cylinder upon which it was etched into permanence in the late 1800s open a portal to another era.

That wax cylinder and others like it — rescued from rural estate sales and dusty attics — have survived earthquakes, heat waves, mold and indifference. They feature Mexican folk songs; military band marches; minstrelsy songs of the kind that preceded American blues, folk and country music; and the voices of former Lincoln cabinet members, Southern senators, popes, preachers and comedians. Their survival is emblematic of a revolution that allowed sound to be freed from its origins. Once untethered, the world would be forever changed.[]

US international broadcasting: Rebuilding the firewall in the new administration (The Hill)

by Kim Andrew Elliott

President-elect Joe Biden, who as a senator had a key interest in U.S. international broadcasting, is looking at its future.

He named Richard Stengel, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, to head the transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Under USAGM are the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc., Radio Free Asia Inc., Office of Cuba Broadcast (Radio/TV Martí to Cuba) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc. (the Arabic-language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa).

With government officials under President Trump instructed not to cooperate with Biden’s teams, the transition for the time being will have to be done from afar. The Trump-appointed USAGM CEO Michael Pack, whose leadership has fomented several controversies since he was installed in June, might decide to be a benign, if uncooperative, caretaker until the new management comes in. Or he could impose personnel changes and alterations in content that could diminish the credibility of the USAGM entities, a situation that could take years to repair.

During his campaign, Biden promised to fire Pack. Pack might try to serve out the three-year term stipulated in the legislation that replaced the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with a politically appointed CEO (Pack being the first). If such an attempt ends up in court, a June Supreme Court decision overruling the fixed term of the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, a victory for the Trump administration, could, ironically, be the undoing of any plans by Pack to stay on at USAGM.

Pack has already left his mark by rescinding the firewall “rule” published in June by the outgoing BBG. The rule, however, was not an act of Congress or a presidential directive. It was simply language placed in the Federal Register “to codify and memorialize definitions and practices associated with the firewall.” On such shallow roots, this tree was easy to fall. In October, Pack issued a repeal, which waved away the firewall rule as readily as it was instituted.[]

A New HF Station that’s Similar, but Different (DRMNA.info)

On October 21, 2020, DPA Mac LLC filed a FCC license application for a new, DRM-based International Broadcast Station to be located in Maple Park, IL. The principal is San Francisco entrepreneur Seth Kenvin and its technical consultant is Tamir Ostfeld of Raft Technologies, an Israeli developer of low-latency HF systems for so-called algorithmic trading.

No station devoted to algorithmic trading has ever been authorized for regular commercial operation in the U.S., as there is no formal radio service or spectrum allocation for that purpose. Several such stations have been licensed in the Experimental Radio Service (ERS), which is ostensibly for scientific studies only.

If the FCC licenses DPA Mac, it will be the first such station to make the transition from the ERS to regular, non-experimental licensing. This station would be the successor to experimental station WI2XXG. Other than the license document, the FCC has withheld most of WI2XXG’s records from public disclosure since it was first licensed in 2017.

DPA Mac is similar to other DRM stations on which we previously reported: WIPE in Alpine, NJ, which is built and is waiting on its FCC license; and WPBC, proposed for Batavia, IL. With regard to their use for non-broadcast, private data transmissions, those stations made general and non-descriptive representations to the FCC. On the other hand, DPA Mac’s license application is fairly transparent. The station aims to transmit “investment data from points within the United States to locations outside the United States carried over a channel immediately adjacent to the HF broadcasts…a low-power, low-latency digital data transmission service provided to private investors, including small- and medium-sized firms.” [Continue reading…]

Amateur radio on BBC Radio Essex

On Tuesday, November 24, CB and amateur radio featured in Sonia Watson’s popular Breakfast show on BBC Radio Essex

Among those interviewed was the Chair of Essex Ham, Pete M0PSX, who talked about the resurgence of interest in amateur radio.

Listen to the interview at 1:38:20 in this recording
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08xv7dv

You can find out more about amateur radio and the free Essex Ham Foundation Online training course at
https://www.essexham.co.uk/train/foundation-online/

You can follow Essex Ham on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/EssexHam

 


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Radio Waves: Maritime Mobile Net Assists, Voice of Ambiguity, Promising Solar Cycle 25 Prediction, and the Future of Ham Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Rich Smith, Kim Elliott, and Pete Eaton for the following tips:


Maritime Mobile Service Network Comes to the Aid of Vessel in Distress (ARRL News)

The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) on 14.300 MHz came to the assistance of a sailing vessel on June 25. MMSN control operator Steven Carpenter, K9UA, took a call on 20 meters from Ian Cummings, KB4SG, the skipper of the Mystic Lady, then some 40 miles east of Florida. Cummings reported that his engine had failed as he was attempting to return to his home port of Stuart, Florida. He not only had insufficient wind, but a strong current was carrying the vessel out to sea.

Cummings had been unable to reach any station via his VHF marine radio, since he was too far from the coast. Assisting in the call was Robert Wynhoff, K5HUT, also an MMSN net control operator. Cummings said his vessel, with one passenger on board, was drifting northwest toward the South Carolina coast.

“A major concern was that the vessel was heading directly towards a lee shore,” the MMSN reported. “Lee shores are shallow, dangerous areas which are a hazard to watercraft. Vessels could be pushed into the shallow area by the wind, possibly running aground and breaking up.”

Carpenter contacted Cummings’ family, who had already called the Sea Tow marine towing service. Sea Tow advised Carpenter to tell the captain to head closer to shore by sailing west, if possible. Carpenter told Cummings that if he was unable to get nearer to shore, he would notify the US Coast Guard, which was already monitoring the situation.

As the MMSN reported, “The Mystic Lady was able to make some headway, but it was very slow. Members of the MMSN made additional calls via landline to the captain’s family as to the ongoing status of those on board. The family was concerned but relieved that communication was established and that all were well.”

Several hours later, the captain advised that the wind had picked up, allowing him to head close enough to shore for Sea Tow to reach the vessel and take it back to port.

The Pacific Seafarers’ Net, which monitors 14.300 MHz from the West Coast after the MMSN secures at 0200 UTC, kept in touch with the Mystic Lady into the night while it was under tow.

The tired, grateful captain later messaged the net, “A million thanks to everyone last night who helped rescue us on 14.300. Everyone chipped in as we drifted north in the Gulf Stream 60 miles headed to a lee shore. The MMSN net control and several others stayed with us for hours, phoned people, and were immensely helpful. The situation on board was dangerous. We are now safely under tow home. You folks are amazing!”

In operation since 1968, the MMSN monitors 14.300 MHz 70 hours a week to assist vessels and others in need of assistance. — Thanks to MMSN Net Manager Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL[]

VOA: Voice of ambiguity (The Hill)

From 1985 to 2017, I was an audience research analyst at the Voice of America. During that time I was preoccupied by the fact that the BBC World Service had a larger audience than VOA. VOA had a larger budget, so money was not the issue.

In audience surveys, I inserted a question asking those who listened to BBC more often than VOA: “why?” The answer provided most often was trustworthiness of the news.

I asked a listener from Burma (now known as Myanmar) why he thought BBC is considered more trustworthy than VOA. He replied that VOA is more closely connected to the U.S. government than BBC is to the U.K. government. I asked how he knows this. He responded that it’s because VOA says so every day.

He was referring to the “disclaimer” at the beginning of the editorials that, by the 1980s, were heard daily on VOA’s English broadcasts: “Next, an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.”

The daily editorial was a requirement handed down by VOA’s parent U.S. Information Agency. The editorials are drafted by the VOA’s policy staff, sent to the State Department for approval and finally broadcast after a sometimes lengthy back and forth.

Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, VOA’s present parent agency, is restoring the editorials to their previous prominence on VOA. In recent years, with diminished radio output, editorials were relegated to VOA’s little-viewed satellite television service and to a website separate from the main voanews.com. The revival of the editorials is a step in the repoliticization of VOA.[]

Newer Solar Cycle 25 Forecast Runs Counter to Consensus (ARRL Newsletter)

Scientists associated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and other institutions are offering a “bold prediction” on how Solar Cycle 25 will play out. In a paper, “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude,” they assert that the next sunspot cycle will be of major proportions. The forecast stands in stark contrast to the consensus of forecasters who predict that the magnitude of the nascent Cycle 25 may not be much different from the current unremarkable solar cycle, which appears to have reach its low point.

“From the dawn of modern observational astronomy, sunspots have presented a challenge to understanding — their quasi-periodic variation in number, first noted 160 years ago, stimulates community-wide interest to this day,” the abstract points out. “A large number of techniques are able to explain the temporal landmarks, (geometric) shape, and amplitude of sunspot ‘cycles,’ however, forecasting these features accurately in advance remains elusive.”

Monthly sunspot numbers since 1749. The data values are represented by dots, and the 12-month running average values are illustrated as a red shaded area. Vertical blue dashed lines signify the magnetic activity cycle termination times that trigger the rapid growth of sunspot activity.

The paper notes that recent studies have illustrated a relationship between the sun’s 22-year Hale magnetic cycle and the production of sunspot cycle landmarks and patterns, but not the amplitude of the cycle.

“Using discrete Hilbert transforms on 270 years of monthly sunspot numbers to robustly identify the so-called ‘termination’ events — landmarks marking the start and end of sunspot and magnetic activity cycles — we extract a relationship between the temporal spacing of terminators and the magnitude of sunspot cycles,” the abstract explains. “Given this relationship and our prediction of a terminator event in 2020, we deduce that Sunspot Cycle 25 will have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began. This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of Sunspot Cycle 25 magnitude.”[]

The Uncertain Future of Ham Radio (IEEE Spectrum)

Software-defined radio and cheap hardware are shaking up a hobby long associated with engineering

Will the amateur airwaves fall silent? Since the dawn of radio, amateur operators—hams—have transmitted on tenaciously guarded slices of spectrum. Electronic engineering has benefited tremendously from their activity, from the level of the individual engineer to the entire field. But the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, with its ability to easily connect billions of people, captured the attention of many potential hams. Now, with time taking its toll on the ranks of operators, new technologies offer opportunities to revitalize amateur radio, even if in a form that previous generations might not recognize.

The number of U.S. amateur licenses has held at an anemic 1 percent annual growth for the past few years, with about 7,000 new licensees added every year for a total of 755,430 in 2018. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission doesn’t track demographic data of operators, but anecdotally, white men in their 60s and 70s make up much of the population. As these baby boomers age out, the fear is that there are too few young people to sustain the hobby.

“It’s the $60,000 question: How do we get the kids involved?” says Howard Michel, former CEO of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). (Since speaking with IEEE Spectrum, Michel has left the ARRL. A permanent replacement has not yet been appointed.)

This question of how to attract younger operators also reveals deep divides in the ham community about the future of amateur radio. Like any large population, ham enthusiasts are no monolith; their opinions and outlooks on the decades to come vary widely. And emerging digital technologies are exacerbating these divides: Some hams see them as the future of amateur radio, while others grouse that they are eviscerating some of the best things about it.[]


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High-Frequency Parties asks FCC to question proposed Chicago DRM broadcaster’s true mission

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bennett Kobb, who shares an FCC Informal Objection he drafted and filed together with Kim Elliott and Christopher Rumbaugh.

Click here to download the Informal Objection. (PDF)

Radio World published a great summary of the filing today:

There’s a plan in the works to build a new international shortwave radio station in Illinois, one that would use the Digital Radio Mondiale modulation system. But now several prominent members of the U.S. shortwave community are asking the Federal Communications Commission to take a closer look first.

Parable Broadcasting Co. in April asked the FCC to allow it to build the station in Batavia, Ill., west of Chicago, using the call sign WPBC. It wants to offer “broadcasting and data services.”

Specifically, Parable wrote that the station would “serve the areas of Europe that may be authorized by the commission. The planned broadcast content includes religious and educational programming, as well as data content provided by third parties.” It added that it wants to “take advantage of the recent push by the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters to develop and provide content for the growing DRM market.”

Now three individuals, collectively called the High-Frequency Parties, filed an informal objection. It’s that wording about data content that concerns them.

Bennett Z. Kobb, Kim Andrew Elliott and Christopher D. Rumbaugh said international broadcast stations in the U.S. are intended “to be received directly by the general public in foreign countries.”

Now they told the FCC that it is impossible to tell from the Parable application whether all of the data services and data provided by third parties will qualify. [Continue reading at Radio World…]

Bennett clarified with me:

The [FCC] rules require these [broadcasters] to be 100% broadcast stations, not a cover for some other kind of service.

Because there is no established radio service for international shortwave trading, some have used the workaround of calling them “experiments”. Quite a few such “experimental” stations have been licensed, some at rather high power levels.

See for example this article.

But legally, the Experimental Radio Service is supposed to be for temporary scientific purposes, not ongoing for-profit operations. We don’t know what those stations are really up to because the FCC has kept the details secret. All we know is some technical data such as callsigns, frequencies, QTH.

Instead of experimental stations, others wanting to get into the data business — including the Turms Tech station in New Jersey, and this Parable station in Batavia IL — seem to be using the work-around of the International Broadcast service. That is, proposing an audio programming station that uses the DRM data channel for trading messages.

We are not in the 1970s or 80s. There’s not enough money today in broadcasting audio to other countries, to justify the millions spent on real estate, engineering, antennas and transmitter plant. Most SW broadcasting around the world is not commercial. So it is very peculiar for new entrants to drop major bucks in this field.

The new guys are probably not getting in to spread the gospel. That is a surface paint. There are already several U.S. HF stations with religious content, as you know, including WTWW, WWCR, WRMI, WRNO, WINB, WWRB, WHRI, WBCQ, WJHR etc. and most would welcome new customers for airtime.

No need to construct new stations.

So what is this new station really? Get it out in the open and ask them how they intend to comply with the existing rules. If they are in the business of carrying secure messages for traders, that does not qualify and will need some special FCC action to allow it. Let the public see the reasoning.

The rules that exist are very old. We think FCC needs to do a top-to-bottom review of the HF broadcast rules and scrap a lot of it. FCC should permit stations to be built for U.S. domestic audiences, and they should reduce the minimum AM power (50 kW) to lower this barrier to
entry.

And they should perhaps consider how data communications could be formally authorized. Maybe it wouldn’t be just a broadcast service any more, it could be a HF Communications Service with the old restrictions on languages and advertising discarded and more opportunities for people to try out creative ideas.

So we’re pressing the issue that this needs to be examined. Thanks for reading.

Thank you for sharing this, Bennett! We hope your filing gets its due attention. I also agree on one of your final points, that the FCC lower its 50 kw AM power requirement of a shortwave station as it places a huge barrier in front of would-be shortwave broadcasters.

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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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