Tag Archives: Kris Partridge

Radio Waves: Plant-powered Satellite Comms, BBC Pips, Filter Basics, and Replacing Shortwave

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 Marty, Dennis Howard, Dennis Dura, Kris Partridge and Richard Langley and for the following tips:


Plant-powered sensor sends signal to space (Phys.org)

A device that uses electricity generated by plants as its power source has communicated via satellite—a world first.

[…]The device can inform farmers about the conditions of their crops to help increase yield, and enable retailers to gain detailed information about potential harvests.

It transmits data on air humidity, soil moisture and temperature, enabling field-by-field reporting from agricultural land, rice fields or other aquatic environments.

The extremely low power device sends signals at radio frequencies that are picked up by satellites in low Earth orbit. It was developed by Dutch company Plant-e and Lacuna Space, which is based in the Netherlands and the UK, under ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES).[]

The eccentric engineer: a tale of six pips and how the BBC became the national arbiter of time (Engineering and Technology)

This edition of Eccentric Engineer tells the story of the BBC Time Signal and how, over the years, it has just got more complicated.

Every engineer needs to know the time, if only so as to not miss lunch. Since 1924, many Britons have been checking their watches against the BBC time signal, known affectionately as ‘the pips’.

The history of the ‘pips’ is almost as long as the history of the BBC itself. The first transmissions from what was then the British Broadcasting Company began in late 1922 and soon afterwards there were suggestions of broadcasting a time signal under the control of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich – then the arbiter of time in the UK.

No one seems to have seen a need for this degree of precision, but early broadcasts did use their own ad hoc ‘pips’, marking the 8pm and 9pm news programmes with a time signal consisting of the announcer playing the Westminster chimes on a piano and later a set of tubular bells. This proved rather popular with listeners, who could now adjust their clocks and watches daily, so the BBC decided to invest in some more high-tech clocks from the Synchronome Company. These provided audible ‘ticks’, which the announcer then simply counted down.[]

What Is Replacing Shortwave? (Radio World)

A joint effort is necessary to bring the digitization of radio to a successful end

Analog shortwave will celebrate about 100 years of existence in 2028 when many hope 5G will have been properly defined, tested and applied, though broadcasting is low on its long list of perceived advantages.

It’s true that shortwave was typically a medium of the Cold War that peaked in 1989 and that afterward its listenership dwindled. Many international broadcasters gave up on it as the post-war transmitters got rustier and the energy bills kept mounting.

After all, when budget cuts are needed, no transmitter will go on strike or write to the press, as happened when the BBC World Service tried to unsuccessfully close its Hindi shortwave transmissions in 2011. In 2020 these broadcasts stopped, when committed BBC Indian listeners, writers and thinkers who opposed it in 2011 did not protest too much.

The slow death of shortwave has been blamed on the internet and satellite. As technology and content are inextricably linked, shortwave created its type of content that is no longer favored by the savvy FM listener, internet user and cellphone obsessed.[]

Filter Basics: Stop, Block and Roll(off) (Nuts and Volts)

A casual observer might think that wireless systems consist primarily of filters connected by the occasional bit of circuit! Block diagrams of transceivers often include as many filters as any other function. This is true at the system level, just as it is at the circuit level — and many circuits behave in a filter-like way, whether intended to be a filter or not! That makes understanding filter basics important for wireless success.[]


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“The BBC and the Cold War”

A vintage radio from Kim Andre Elliott’s collection.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who writes:

With Saturday being the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, BBC OnLine has posted this to commemorate the anniversary:

https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/100-voices/coldwar

The Cold War was the defining global conflict of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Fought across multiple terrains, the “soft power” of international broadcasting placed the BBC on the frontline of the information war.To commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we explore the role the BBC played in communicating our understanding and experience of the Cold War, with the help of newly-released oral history interviews with those involved.

Click here to view this collection of stories and memories at the BBC.

Thanks so much for sharing this, Kris!

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GCHQ “hidden past” in the press

Benhall Aerial View (Source: GCHQ.gov.uk)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who writes:

You recently posted about the on going GCHQ exhibition at the Science Museum here in London.

I now offer you two more GCHQ items. Both radio related.

First one from BBC Radio:

How Scarborough saved the world

The Secret History of GCHQ

Stories from the intelligence agency’s hidden past – and how it’s been listening in for the last 100 years. With BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera.

Click here to listen online (when available).

This will be transmitted tonight at 20h00 London (BST, UTC +1) that’s at 15h00 East Coast time! This will be available after TX on BBC Sounds, the replacement for BBC iPlayer radio.

The second, also radio related, is/has US interest:

GCHQ’s secret hilltop site in Scarborough revealed as having pivotal role in Cuban missile crisis

he pivotal role in the Cuban missile crisis played by a secret outpost of GCHQ in Scarborough has been revealed.

The task of the tiny bunker on the North Yorkshire coast, described by staff as dank and often smelly, had been to monitor the Soviet Baltic fleet and merchant shipping in the northern hemisphere.

In 1962 this somewhat unglamorous job for Britain’s cyber spy agency was thrust into the centre of world affairs as tensions between the West and the Soviet Union threatened to escalate into nuclear war.

On October 16, 1962, US President John F Kennedy had been told the Soviet Union was secretly shipping nuclear missiles to Cuba, just 90 miles off America’s south eastern coast.

US forces established a naval blockade, preventing the arrival of any ships, but some Soviet vessels were already on their way to the island. Any confrontation between the two naval forces risked escalation into nuclear war.

The operators in the Scarborough bunker were able to intercept the Soviet ships reporting back their position and establish where they were heading.

“Traditionally just another task at the bottom of Scarborough’s priority list, suddenly escalated to the very top priority for British intelligence,” Tony Comer, GCHQ’s historian told the BBC.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full story at The Telegraph.

and [from the BBC]:

Scarborough’s role in the Cuban missile crisis revealed

A secret base in Scarborough played a key role in resolving the Cold War’s Cuban missile crisis, it can now be revealed.

Up on a hilltop, not far from a caravan park in England’s North Yorkshire coast sits what is believed to be the longest continually running listening station in the world.

The GCHQ base at Scarborough was established just before World War One because its position was ideal to intercept German naval radio signals in the North Sea.

During World War Two, it helped locate German U-boats in the Atlantic. By the Cold War it shifted to monitoring Soviet communications.[…]

Click here to read the full story at the BBC.

I hope, for you in time to hear it “live”, and the online version for your blog readers.

I managed to do just that, Kris! Thank you so much for sharing these links and stories. I especially look forward to the Radio 4 piece later today.

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Radio World: Construct an EAS Receive Loop Antenna

The completed antenna, showing the F-connector on the tee box. (Source: Radio World)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following antenna construction article from Radio World:

Ken Beckwith is a field engineer with EMF based in Nebraska. Being a hands-on engineer, Ken has done his share of construction over the years. One of his projects was the construction of an octagonal-shaped AM loop EAS antenna using PVC pipe.

[…]The antenna has a broad coverage angle with a deep null when the antenna is broadside to the signal. Aim the “edge” of the loop toward the AM station you want to receive. The strongest signal will be received when the antenna end or edge is pointing to the signal source. The antenna can be mounted on a mast with U-bolts, hose clamps or whatever else works.

Here’s the construction parts list:

A 10-foot length of 3/4-inch diameter, schedule 40 PVC conduit cut into the following lengths:

2 – 4-inch
1 – 2-inch
1 – 2-1/4-inch
2 – 2-1/8-inch
6 – 9-1/2-inch
1 – 23-1/4-inch

Whatever is left over can be discarded, but before making your cuts, cut the flared end off, so all cuts are even.

1 –  3/4-inch 90 degree elbow
2 – 3/4-inch tee
8 – 3/4-inch 45 degree elbows
1 – 3/4-inch cap
1 – 3/4-inch tee box, plastic, with weatherproof gasket
1 – 7-foot piece of Belden 8777 or other three-pair shielded cable
3 – 7-foot single-pair shielded cables can substitute for Belden 8777
PVC primer and cement
Wire nuts or other connectors
1 – 3/8-inch ring terminal
F connector barrel with nut

[…]

Click here to read the article which contains step-by-step instructions.

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BBC: “Finnish radio drops Latin news after 30 years”

(Source: BBC News via Kris Partridge)

The Yle public broadcaster has told its ‘carissimi auditores’ (dear listeners) that “everything passes, and even the best programmes reach the end of the road. This is now the case with our world-famous bulletin, which has broadcast the news in Latin on Friday for the past 30 years”.

The core members of the ‘Nuntii Latini’ (News in Latin) team – Professor Tuomo Pekkanen and lecturer Virpi Seppala-Pekkanen – have been with the five-minute bulletin since it was first broadcast on 1 September 1989, although other newsreaders and writers have joined since.

Professor Pekkanen took gracious leave of Yle, saying that, “judging by the feedback, Nuntii Latini will be missed around the world – and we send our warm thanks to you all for these past years!”

[…]Latin news addicts won’t have to suffer withdrawal symptoms for long, as the language’s greatest remaining bastion, the Catholic Church, launched its own weekly news bulletin in Latin the same week as Yle’s programme went off air. [read more here]

The key difference is that Yle offered a broad world news agenda, rather than Vatican Radio’s more focused ‘Hebdomada Papae’ (The Pope’s Week) – not to mention the fact that the Catholic Church uses its own, Italian-influenced pronunciation, rather than the Classical version preferred by scholars.[…]

Read this full news item at BBC News.

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Site shares story of the BBC’s wartime reporting

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following note following our recent series of posts about WWII radio:

The, nearly, full story of the BBC’s wartime reporting can be found here. Yes, I hope another interesting read both for your good self and the readers of The SWLing Post:

http://www.orbem.co.uk/repwar/wr_action.htm

What an excellent read! Thank you for sharing this link, Kris!

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The Guardian: The loss of rural radio leaves US communities with “another cultural and informational gap”

(Source: The Guardian via BJ Leiderman and Kris Partridge)

America’s rural radio stations are vanishing – and taking the country’s soul with them

When I arrive at the radio station, Mark Lucke is standing in the doorway, looking out at the spitting, winter rain. He’s slim and stoic, with sad, almost haunted, eyes. The first thing he asks is if I’d like to see “the dungeon”. Who wouldn’t?

Lucke pulls on a Steeler’s jacket and a baseball cap over brown hair that falls halfway down his back, and leads me across the five-acre yard. Out here, 90 miles east of Tucson, the desert is a long sweep of brush the color of beach sand. Lucke seems to slip through the rainy day like a ghost.

The radio station, whose call letters are KHIL, has long been the daily soundtrack for this frontier town (population 3,500) that prides itself on its cowboy culture and quiet pace of life. But six decades after the founding of the station, the property is in foreclosure, with utility disconnect notices coming nearly every month.

Small-town radio is fizzling nationwide, as stations struggle to attract advertisement dollars. And as station owners are forced to sell, media conglomerates snap up rural frequencies for rock-bottom prices, for the sole purpose of relocating them to urban areas. In a more affluent market, they can be flipped for a higher price. With limited frequencies available, larger broadcasters purchase as many as possible – especially those higher on the dial – in a race not dissimilar to a real estate grab.[…]

Click here to read the full article at The Guardian.

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