access to the full archive of Medium Wave News (all 500 issues)
access to the latest 2020 Editions of the All Time DX Heard in the British Isles
a new section for news and feature articles
a completely new and re-written library
For the first time we also host the archive of the European MW Guide which was the most
complete directory of radio stations in Europe.
All the content is either new or completely revised and updated. Most importantly we want our website to be unique and that is why the features, photos, QSLs and audio clips are not to be found elsewhere online.
The new website has been carefully designed to work on desktop PCs, laptops, ipads and even smartphones. It has also been updated to improve security – you will notice the https web address & the padlock next to the url in your browser.
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 Grayhat, David Iurescia, Bill Hemphill, Harald Kuhl, and Troy Riedel for the following tips:
For the past 15 years, Ham Radio’s Mega-Focus on Receiver Dynamic Range (DR3) has resulted in the community ignoring other factors that are just as important to receiver performance.
Even though our receivers have made a quantum leap in performance in important parameters such as DR3, RMDR, etc., On-The-Air Reception has gotten worse.
Unless used at a multi-transmitter site, today’s typical user won’t detect a difference in the receiver performance between a radio with 90 dB DR3 and a radio with 110 dB DR3. That’s because Receiver Performance is not the limiting factor.[…]
World Amateur Radio Day 18 April 2021 (IARU REGION 2 Newsletter)
World Amateur Radio Day (WARD) is an opportunity to celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of amateur radio to the communications technology revolution which has dramatically impacted the daily life of virtually everyone on the planet. Many of these technologies and techniques started as experiments, not by governments or commercial enterprises, but by radio amateurs.
WARD 2021 commemorates the 96th anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union’s founding in 1925, where amateurs first met in Paris to band together to give voice to these early experimenters to national governments and international bodies representing all radio amateurs.
The almost universal adoption of mobile technology created ever increasing demand on a finite resource, the radio spectrum. Access to useable spectrum is the fundamental base on which amateur radio was built and continues to be developed. As a result, amateur radio is very different than decades ago. Embracing new technologies and techniques has greatly expanded what amateur radio is and opened further possibilities as to what it could be. The proliferation of technology also means that the ongoing experimentation and innovation in electronics, radio frequency technique and radio wave propagation is no longer only the traditional realm of the radio amateur but also includes university research satellites, the “maker” community, and other non-commercial experimenters: citizen scientists.
Looking ahead, this ongoing evolution of the telecommunications ecosystem makes it clear that the national Member Societies of the IARU and IARU itself must also continuously change and adapt. A century later, the future possibilities are as exciting as ever.
Celebrate World Amateur Radio Day. The pandemic and more localized natural disasters continue to demonstrate the value of ordinary citizens as technically skilled contributors to society. The original social network is robust. Expose someone new to amateur radio (properly distanced), get on the air and contact the many special event stations, on HF, VHF, or satellite.
Horgen/Switzerland, Erlangen/Germany: Starwaves, a developer and distributor of receiver technologies centered around the digital broadcast standard DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), joined forces with Fraunhofer IIS, a leading supplier in the field of broadcast encoder and receiver components for DRM, to develop an Android app that allows DRM reception on mobile devices. Starwaves enables Android phones and tablets to receive entertainment, text information, and emergency warnings via DRM Digital Radio – without costly data plans, independent from cell phone network availability, and based on innovative Fraunhofer technology.
Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) is the digital successor standard to the classic AM and FM radio services. In many parts of the world, terrestrial digital radio broadcasts are already an important and trusted source of entertainment and information. They do not require monthly payments and work reliably even if there are no cell networks available. Radio reception with mobile phones and tablets combines the mobility and flexibility of these devices with the benefits of free-to-air radio services.
Starwaves has been active in the field of DRM radio receivers for many years. The “STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio” app was developed in close cooperation with Fraunhofer IIS. Its goal is to ensure easy access to innovative DRM radio services for everybody. It is available from now in the Google and Amazon Android app stores. The app provides listeners with access to all the essential features of the DRM digital radio standard, across all transmission bands from DRM on long wave to FM band and VHF band-III.
Fraunhofer IIS is a significant co-developer of core digital radio technologies. This includes the innovative xHE-AAC audio codec, which provides high audio quality at lowest data rates, as well as the Journaline application, which gives radio listeners access to news, the latest sports updates, local weather forecasts, travel tips, and even radio schooling services without requiring internet access.
The app also supports many more DRM features such as the Emergency Warning Functionality (EWF), image slideshows, station logos, and service descriptions including Unicode support for worldwide application. To provide all these services, the app only requires a standard off-the-shelf SDR RF dongle that is attached to the device’s USB port.
“We are proud to launch the world’s first low-cost full-featured DRM digital radio reception solution for mobile devices, developed in close partnership with Fraunhofer IIS. Now everybody can easily upgrade their existing mobile phone and tablet to enjoy DRM digital radio with its undistorted audio quality and advanced features including Journaline,” says Johannes von Weyssenhoff, founder of Starwaves.
I order to meet the needs of everyday radio listeners and to clearly separate this app from the engineering-driven approaches of the past, usability was a primary development objective from day one. With only a few clicks on the clutter-free interface, users select their preferred radio service, navigate through the clearly structured menus, and gain instant access to the various advanced information services that DRM provides. By supporting multiple user interface languages, the app ensures optimized usability in many countries around the globe.
Found in 2005 in Bad Münder, Lower Saxony/Germany, Starwaves had set its focus on the development and distribution of receiver technologies around the digital broadcast standard DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). As far back as 2003 after both organizations, the DRM Consortium and the WorldDAB Forum, had expressed their appeal to the industry at IFA in Berlin to develop and produce multi-standard receivers compatible with both their systems, Starwaves developed its model ”STARWAVES Prelude”, the world’s first DRM-DAB receiver and presented it at CeBIT 2004 in Hanover. In 2006 Starwaves was again in the headlines with the ”Carbox”: It was the world’s first automotive DRM-DAB receiver which then was produced in volumes and enjoyed by lots of listeners worldwide – including many DXers thanks to its excellent analogue Short-Wave capabilities as well.
Since 2008 Starwaves moved its focus to Africa where it developed and tested an innovative approach of broadcasting community television in the L-Band with DVB-T2 in cooperation with ICASA – another world premiere. After DRM was chosen the national standard in India in 2012 Starwaves relocated its headquarters to Switzerland and started developing a new generation of DRM receivers.
Starwaves also initiated Africa’s first DRM trial in the FM Band in Johannesburg/South Africa and completed it with local and international partners. The trial report contains valuable discoveries regarding the feasibility of DRM for community radio which guided the South African government to adopt DRM in the FM Band for community radio and secured the report becoming an internationally recognized piece of standard literature, recently endorsed by ITU. Today, Starwaves offers various DRM receivers and broadcast solutions for consumers and the professional broadcasting industry.
For more information, contact email@example.com or visit www.starwaves.com/de/starwaves-drm-softradio
Ten more local BBC radio stations are turning off their Medium Wave transmitters for good this year.
BBC Essex, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Hereford & Worcester, BBC Radio Stoke, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle will be FM and digital only in May and June 2021.
In addition, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Gloucestershire will reduce AM coverage.
The BBC’s intention to close MW transmitters was first announced ten years ago in 2011.[…]
Briefly, this past Monday, was the 80th anniversary of the implementation of the “Havana Treaty,” which was actually signed on December 13, 1937, and finally implemented 80 years ago on March 29, 1941. It provided for reorganization of the “AM” medium wave band into frequency allocations for clear channel, regional and local stations.
AM radio was the Internet of its day. The invention of the telegraph notwithstanding, radio provided widespread, instant communication, albeit one way, to a vast population reaching hundreds of miles from the transmission source. It extended to the most rural parts of the country adding “A battery” and “B battery” to the lexicon.
The initial licensing process had been done with very little planning and forethought using 96 channels between 550 and 1500 kHz. The reorganization was the culmination of the need for some order to reduce mutual station interference and provide more reliable service to listeners. It involved frequency changes for about 1000 stations in several countries. March 29, 1941 was informally known as “moving day.”
The Wikipedia article details the changes made at that time and goes on to describe subsequent expansions of the AM broadcast band.
Fascinating! Thank you for sharing this bit of radio history with us, Bob!
Matt has also kindly shared an audio recording of this transmitter. He notes that the reception “was weak but readable” from his home:
What’s more, Matt’s tweet was picked up by The Drive and turned into a post, thus exposing our radio geekery to the populos at large. Many thanks to the numerous SWLing Post readers who shared a link to the article.
I have to assume someone from the DDOT was paying attention too because Matt posted that as of March 3rd, it appears the transmitter has been taken off the air:
This reminded me of another transmitter stuck in time that I thought David Goren once mentioned. I checked with him and he confirmed:
Yes, there’s a transmitter somewhere on MW in NYC that has been broadcasting: “this is a functional test of the text-to-speech capability of the [VR or BR 2000] software package”. They’ve probably been on at least 10 years.
Many thanks to David for sharing the following recording:
I recently took delivery of a better-than-new classic solid-state portable broadcast receiver: the venerable GE Superadio II.
This Superadio II was generously given to me by SWLing Post contributor, Chuck Rippel (K8HU), who has–in his spare time–been re-capping and restoring all three of the GE Superadio series models and bringing them back to life. Chuck wanted to send me one of the units he’d recently finished, knowing that it might help me when doing AM reception evaluations. He insisted “no strings attached.”
Besides thank you, all I can say is…
Note angels singing in the background.
When I received the Superadio II a week or so ago, I removed it from the box and it looked brand new; even sporting the original “Headset Capable” grill sticker.
This is a case, however, of a refurbished radio likely out-performing the original. Here’s a list of the main modifications:
All of the original dry capacitors replaced with Nichicon Audio Grade components
FM AFC and AM and FM IF and RF sections have been aligned
Rebuilt the volume control
I’m sure there are other modifications Chuck didn’t mention.
Chuck told me each radio takes a full day to restore. Some of the alignment, rebuilding, and re-capping is surprisingly tricky and varies with each of the three models. Why is he doing this?
Chuck told me, “My enjoyment comes from giving these radios a new lease on life.”
A new lease on life, indeed!
Last weekend, we had a break in the weather–and I had a short break in my schedule–so I took the GE Superadio II, GE 7-2990A, C.Crane CCRadio3, and Panasonic RF-2200 outdoors for some fresh air.
It was late afternoon and, frankly, I didn’t have the time to do a full comparative session, but having spent the better part of an hour tuning around and comparing the characteristics of each radio, I decided to make a short video to share.
The video features the GE Superadio II, but I speak to some of the pros and cons of each model. Keep in mind, this is very much a casual/informal comparison:
The SR-II not only has the best audio fidelity in this bunch, but it’s also extremely stable and has no noise floor to speak of. No doubt, this is the result of those Nichicon Audio Grade components and a skilled technician.
Side note: Chuck is well-known in the radio world because he used to restore the Collins R390A which must be one of the most mechanically-complicated receivers ever made.
I haven’t even properly tested the SR-II on FM yet because I couldn’t pull myself away from the mediumwave dial that afternoon!
I asked Chuck if he would consider refurbishing GE Superadios for other people and I think he would. If interested, contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Else, Chuck might leave details in the comments section of this post.
Chuck, thank you once again for sending me this SR-II. It’ll become a permanent addition here at SWLing Post HQ. Again, I’m simply amazed at the audio fidelity of this 1980s era receiver. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything made today that can even compare.
And thanks for doing your bit to refurbish these classic portables!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Balázs Kovács, who writes:
As it was first announced last September as a possibility now happens: (one of?) the last major independent talk radio station in Hungary, the Klubrádió is forced off the air (92.9 MHz, Budapest region) from Monday (they will continue online).
“There is a huge propaganda balloon built up by the government and Klubrádió was a little hole, a little piece of truth where the air could escape, so they had to close this little hole in the balloon and so they can construct their own propaganda world which does not reflect the realities of Hungary.”
The latest news in a shorter form at the CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/09/europe/hungary-klubradio-ruling-intl/index.html
“Finally, Ms. Karas says that Klubrádió still has a chance to be on air in case of a successful tender, but then right after this, she symbolically pulled the plug out of the transmitting equipment.”
Latest news release in response to the state from the radio: https://www.klubradio.hu/adasok/klubradio-news-release-116227
with best regards,
Balazs also shared this video which captures the last broadcast of Klubrádió:
Thank you for sharing this Balázs. I’m certain there are other SWLing Post readers in Hungary and throughout Europe who appreciated this independent voice over the air.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, 13dka, who shares the following guest post:
Dipping my toes into transatlantic MW DX
Most of my SWLing life I wanted to dig into MW DX but never managed to make that really happen for some reason. Then last November, I fetched my first transatlantic station while I wasn’t even trying, in a rather surprising setting:
I have to explain that my home and neighborhood got so infested with a multitude of QRM sources that I did not put my outdoor antennas back up after a storm blew them out of the trees in winter 2018/19. I just used an ML-200 loop indoors, which also has to put up with my own additional QRM sources in my den, consisting of 3 computers running 24/7 and a couple of switching power supplies, a TV, LED lighting… allowing for very basic reception as long as my neighbors don’t watch TV or use the internet. On top of that, medium wave is badly beaten by a mowing robot’s boundary wire here, making reception on several portions of the band completely impossible.
I never expected receiving any US stations on MW in that noise, but I couldn’t sleep that night and scanned the bands a bit with the IC-705 hooked up to my new YouLoop hanging over my bed for testing. I had seen the characteristic transatlantic carriers on MW many times before on my SDRs, but for some reason I never picked up anything intelligible on them in any winter season, now a lot of these carriers were there again but on 1130 there was actually modulation and it wasn’t the only station!
Small bedside loop: SWL’s dreamcatcher!
Bloomberg Radio 1130 came in with almost enjoyable quality at times, but Bloomberg is also kind of a surefire station for MW DX over here. I also picked up a station on 1120 and another one on 880 which was briefly so strong that it surmounted the strong interference from BBC Radio Wales on 882 kHz. 1120 was confirmed the next night to be KMOX in St. Louis, 880 kHz was *not* KCBS in NY – I checked that immediately, I have a KiwiSDR set to that frequency booknarked on my cellphone in case I have a craving for the 1-877-Kars-4-Kids commercial. Powerwise likely candidates for that would be CHQT (50kW) in Edmonton, CKLQ (10kW) in Manitoba or KRVN in Nebraska (50kW class B station) but this may be hard to verify due to the dominance of the BBC on that frequency. Anyway, KMOX wasn’t a bad catch for a small, passive indoor loop, that’s 7,150km or 4,440 miles from here!
Bloomberg Radio on the YouLoop:
This was A) quite encouraging for nighttime DXpeditions to the dike (brrr…cold!), B) a testimony for the YouLoop’s good performance on MW and C) a testimony for the IC-705 having pretty much all one could wish for in a capable MW DX radio – notch filter, passband tuning on AM, stable ECSS, waterfall display to detect stations and last but not least loads of sensitivity to make the most out of low-output antennas down on MW.
Going to the dike
Of course I just had to put on some long johns and drive to the dike around 3:00am local a few nights later, to try my luck with my ML-200 (lacking a better idea) with an 80cm diameter rigid loop. I was mildly surprised that reception wasn’t that much better than with the YouLoop at home. The overall yield wasn’t exactly outstanding compared to other people’s logs but a lot of stations were hidden in the frequency ranges that are submerged in QRM at home. My log has US/Canadian stations on 20+ different frequencies, unfortunately most of them UNID. Here are some recordings I made that night, hunting for unambiguous station IDs from North American broadcasters:
ML-200, Nov. 16th, 2020
1130 Bloomberg Radio on the ML-200:
Presumedly WABC 770 in NYC: In MW DX, never think you ID’d something properly just because you heard a city name and the frequency has a clear-channel station located there!
This is more unambiguously 1010 WINS in NYC (with a twist described later)
1030 WBZ Boston, MA – the first part of the clip is showing how it sounds when the signal is good, the second part demonstrates how reliably propagation is taking a rest while a station identifies itself.
The grandpa of AM broadcasting, 1020 KDKA:
Moving away from the east coast, this is WHAS 840 in Louisville, KY:
760 WJR Detroit, MI
Here’s a tough one, the religious content I heard with a great signal before doesn’t warrant a proper ID alone, and as per usual the station ID’d while fading out. I could ID this only with a set of big, closed headphones, which is a mandatory accessory for all extreme DX (CHRB 1140 in High River, Alberta):
Of course I was occasionally checking other bands too and got some serviceable signals from Brazil:
Clube do Para on 4885 kHz:
VOA Pinheiro from Belem, Brazil on 4960:
Going to another dike, this time it’s personal!
Time to try something completely different: A ~1,000m/3,000′ straight (and preliminary considered continuos) stretch of mesh fence along the dike heading ~345° (NNW), pointing roughly to mid-/western mainland North America. I had briefly tried its aptitude for being a “natural” Beverage antenna before – with mixed but encouraging results: Due to the fence not being terminated at the far end it may be kind of bidirectional, and according to my latest insights a Beverage style antenna doesn’t work well over very good (conductive) ground, probably even less so close (maybe 200′) to the ocean. Also, I forgot to pack the 9:1 balun I prepared for that purpose, so I just had some wire with alligator clip to connect the fence to the radio. Boo.
Accordingly, what I saw on the waterfall display didn’t look so much different than what I got from the ML-200 before – there were clearly more stations visible (as a carrier line on the waterfall) but nothing was really booming in. However, I managed to log a few more stations, such as WRKO in Boston and (the highlight of the night) 1650 KCNZ “The Fan” in Cedar Falls, IA which has only 1kW to boot at night to make the 6,940 km/4,312 mi to my dike. This may or may not be an indication that the “Beverage sheep fence” isn’t so bad after all!
“Fence”- reception, Nov. 18th, 2020:
VOCM 590, St. Johns, New Foundland, Canada’s easternmost blowtorch is like Bloomberg an indicator station for European MW DXers:
680 WRKO, Boston, MA:
1040 kHz, presumed to be WHO, Des Moines, IA: No ID, only a matching frequency and a commercial for “Jethro BBQ”, which has locations only in and around Des Moines:
Here’s 1650 KCNZ, Cedar Falls, IA with 1KW:
To put that into some relation, this is what 1KW sounds like on a very quiet 40m band in SSB (K1KW from Massachusetts on 7156 kHz producing a 9+20 signal that morning on the “Fence antenna”):
BTW, interesting bycatch – not the first time I caught WWV and WWVH on the same frequency but that morning was the first time I could hear both on 5 MHz:
So where have you been all my life, American AM stations?
A question remains – how could I miss the existence of these stations forever, then in modern SDR times see the carriers on the spectrum scope and still miss the modulation on these carriers? Or the other way around – why did I hear them now?
To begin with, when I started out with the radio hobby many decades ago, the reason for the occasional whine and whistle on some stations (particularly past midnight) wasn’t obvious to me: The last thing I suspected was that this could be interference from across the pond, with the pitch of the whine (or “het”) having a direct relation to the 9kHz vs 10kHz difference in channel spacing. Of course these stations were there all my life! Then, with just some regular radio you’d have to pick one of very few frequencies where a strong station from across the pond coincides with a nice silent gap in the local channel allocation. But until this millennium, European medium waves had no such gaps and a lot more local blowtorches.
Since that time many MW stations were turned off and demolished and whole countries abandoned MW here in Europe, so we’re in a much better spot now for transatlantic DX. Unfortunately the opposite is true for listeners on the left side of the pond, you guys still have a very crowded AM band but less potential DX targets in Europe. On the bright side, the remaining European stations are often not restricted to 50kW and you have another ocean with very distant and rewarding DX stations that are very, very hard to catch in Europe!
Wrong time, wrong place
Another bunch of factors are – of course – propagation, season and location/latitude. The MW DX season is roughly fall to spring nights (when TX and RX are in the dark) with a period of increased absorption in the middle (the “mid-winter anomaly”), signals are potentially stronger at lower latitudes and weaker at higher ones but the distance to the noisy equator and a lack of stations interfering from the N can be a huge advantage for using over-the-pole paths on higher latitudes. The big showstopper is solar activity: Good condx on shortwave can be rather bad for skywave propagation on medium wave, so a solar minimum is the long-term hotspot for (transatlantic) medium wave DX.
I’m glad that I learned how intense that relationship is right away: When I discovered that Bloomberg is pretty good on my indoor YouLoop at home, condx were pretty down with SFI in the low 70s and very little excitement of the auroral zones. 2 weeks later the SFI was only slightly higher in the 80s-100, many of the carriers were missing on the waterfall and Bloomberg could be heard only in much bigger intervals.
Speaking of which – even with favorable condx, a proper radio and a half-proper antenna, patience is key! In my very fresh experience the fading cycles on those over-the-pond signals are long! So far I have seen everything fading in and out over the course of a few minutes to half hours or more, with less favorable conditions or a worse antenna it may take much longer until it sticks out of the noise for a while. So you may have to park on a frequency for a long time to not miss the station coming up so much that it becomes readable at the right time to ID it. Multiple DX stations on the same channel can make identification difficult unless one station really dominates the other and that all may take hours or days until it happens. Here’s a lucky example on 1010 kHz:
Lucky because in this case one station is already known – it’s WINS but it often has another station underneath and I was curious what that station might be. On this occasion, the station ID’d itself as “Newstalk 1010” (which is CFRB in Toronto, 0:05 in the clip) just in a short talking break on WINS. Again, this can’t be heard on my laptop speakers but on headphones:
Waiting for a moment like this to happen isn’t exactly fun, that’s why spectrum recordings are incredibly valuable particularly on MW – you won’t miss a possible station ID on frequency A because you were listening to frequency B, but a part of me thinks this is taking a bit of the challenge away, like blast fishing. 🙂
The IC-705 fits snuggly-wuggly into my steering wheel for extra-comfy tuning!
Fun fact: While Bloomberg NY on 1130 was (kind of) booming in at home so I knew for sure it was there, I could hear it even on the XHDAtA D-808 with its tiny loopstick and only average sensitivity on the AM band! So for “easy”, loud and undisturbed stations some persistence and a simple portable radio may suffice to catch some transatlantic DX. But most of the stations will be hit by interference from closer stations, then the radio needs at least to be capable of stable sideband reception, with a corresponding narrow filter and proper suppression of the unwanted sideband – luckily this isn’t an unusual feature on inexpensive portables anymore. So if you already have an SSB capable radio that’s all you need to address the most common issue with transatlantic DX, US and EU stations being too close in frequency. Of course passband tuning and notch filters are most helpful assets in a radio for this, rescuing reception in even more severe interference situations and the spectrum/waterfall display on an SDR helps a lot with finding the carriers and SDRs also have all the nice tools but with some more patience you may find stations with many conventional receivers.
Of course antennas are the crucial component again: If conditions are excellent, even a loopstick may bring the first stations into the log, some small magnetic (wideband) loop could dig up some more stations, from there it’s quickly going a bit esoteric – AFAIK there are no commercial offers for multi-turn (tuned) loop antennas nor are FSL antennas easy to come by, you can’t buy EWE et al antennas either and Beverage antennas for MW are quite a project – not that hard to get a kilometer of wire and there are even kits to buy but it could be much harder to find a place to roll it out in the direction you’re interested in, in an area that doesn’t have electric fences or high voltage power lines within a radius of at least several miles. I guess once you become addicted, you’ll stop asking yourself whether or not it’s worth the effort.
So it’s pretty clear what happened: For catching TA DX stations, the ionospheric conditions must be good, to receive that with a loopstick they must be ideal and that’s what they are currently – it’s winter in what’s still a deep solar minimum and on top of that, some of my radios are very apt for MX DX and I was lucky to listen on the right time on the right frequency. When I started writing this article, my enthusiastic bottom line was supposed to be something like “MW DX isn’t rocket science”, which is certainly true but I think my history with it shows that it’s not exactly trivial either. Maybe that’s why it’s so rewarding, it sure is some hardcore DX challenge that complements the shortwave activity quite nicely and may give you something to look forward to when solar activity is down.
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