Tag Archives: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Jock says, “It’s about time…and beacons!”

A WWV Time Code Generator

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:


It’s about time . . . and beacons

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Shortwave time stations can be incredibly useful for shortwave listeners, not just for checking the time, but also for finding out what’s going on with radio signal propagation. What makes these stations particularly valuable is that they are available all the time. I use them often when I am testing radio equipment or tweaks to my listening post.

Chief Engineer Matt Deutch at WWV/WWVB. (Photo: Thomas)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) maintains a couple of stations devoted to broadcasting time announcements, standard time intervals, standard frequencies, UT1 time corrections, a BCD time code, and geophysical alerts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado, according to NIST:

“radiates 10 000 W on 5 MHz, 10 MHz, and 15 MHz; and 2500 W on 2.5 MHz and 20 MHz. Each frequency is broadcast from a separate transmitter. Although each frequency carries the same information, multiple frequencies are used because the quality of HF reception depends on many factors such as location, time of year, time of day, the frequency being used, and atmospheric and ionospheric propagation conditions. The variety of frequencies makes it likely that at least one frequency will be usable at all times.”

In addition, WWV broadcasts the same signal heard on the other WWV frequencies on 25 MHz on an experimental basis. The power is 2500 W and, as an experimental broadcast, is may be interrupted or suspended without notice.

WWVH crew from left to right: Dean Takamatsu, Dean Okayama, Director Copan, Adela Mae Ochinang and Chris Fujita. Credit: D. Okayama/NIST

WWVH, based in Kekaha, Hawaii, transmits 10000 W on 10 MHz and 15 MHz, and 5000 W on 2.5 MHz. A NIST notes that the 5 MHz broadcast, which normally radiates 10 000 W, is currently operating at 5000 W due to equipment failure.

Photo Thomas (K4SWL) took in 2014 of the sign above WWV’s primary 10 MHz transmitter.

Both stations have voice announcements. WWV uses a male voice; WWVH, a female voice. They are staggered in time so that they don’t talk over each other. While doing research for this blog, one afternoon on 5 MHz and 10 MHz, I could hear the female voice, followed by the male voice, so I was hearing both Hawaii and Colorado. On 15 MHz, I could hear only Hawaii. Both stations transmit in AM mode, although I sometimes use upper sideband to pick the signals out of the noise.

CHU’s QSL card used in the 1980s depicting Sir Sanford Fleming, father of uniform times zones.

In addition, there is a Canadian time station. CHU transmits 3000 W signals on 3.33 and 14.67 MHz, and a 5000 W signal on 7.85 MHz.

The frequencies were chosen to avoid interference from WWV and WWVH. The signal is AM mode, with the lower sideband suppressed.

The same information is carried on all three frequencies simultaneously including announcements every minute, alternating between English and French. The CHU transmitters are located near Barrhaven, Ontario.

According to a posting on Radio Reference, there is also a time beacon in Moscow, Russia that transmits on 9996 and 14996 kHz in CW mode. I have never heard that station.

If anyone knows of additional shortwave time stations, please post the information in the comments section below.

Beacons

Another “standard reference” that can be used to figure out what’s happening with shortwave propagation is the International Beacons Project, a worldwide network of radio propagation beacons. It consists of 18 Morse code (CW) beacons operating on five designated frequencies in the high frequency band. The project is coordinated by the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) and the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).

This page shows the locations of the beacons and gives samples of the signals that can be heard. Each beacon transmits once on each band once every three minutes, 24 hours a day. A transmission consists of the callsign of the beacon sent at 22 words per minute followed by four one-second dashes. The callsign and the first dash are sent at 100 watts. The remaining dashes are sent at 10 watts, 1 watt and 100 milliwatts. At the end of each 10 second transmission, the beacon steps to the next higher band and the next beacon in the sequence begins transmitting.

Clicking around the International Beacons Project website will reveal a wealth of information, including a Reverse Beacon Network — https://www.ncdxf.org/beacon/RBN.html — no kidding.

Finally, if you would like to disappear down the rabbit hole of chasing shortwave beacons, here is a list of 411 beacons around the world: http://www.dl8wx.de/BAKE_KW.HTM

The listing includes the frequency, the location, and the power of the transmitter (among other things). If any reader has experience with these beacons, please post in the comments section.

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Radio Waves: Life-Changing Song on Radio Australia, NZ Voices in the Air, NIST Test Signal on WWV/WWVH, and 1980s NYC Offshore Pirates

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 Paul, Dave Zantow, Mark Fahey, Jerome van der Linden, and Phil Brennan for the following tips:


A former Chinese soldier turned artist explains how a song on Radio Australia changed his life (ABC)

It was 1979 and Jian Guo was stationed at a military camp in Yunnan, a province in south-western China bordering Vietnam, when he listened to Radio Australia for the first time.

The then-17-year-old was patrolling the base one night when he saw a group of fellow People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers tuning radio equipment on the back of a truck.

He initially thought they were intercepting enemy signals, but, as he got closer, he realised they were listening to a radio broadcast.

It was the ABC’s international broadcasting service, which was considered an “enemy channel” at the time.

“The so-called ‘enemy channels’ included almost every station outside mainland China,” Guo told the ABC.

“The biggest ones were the VOA [Voice of America] from the US, Voice of Free China from Taiwan, and Radio Australia.”

Guo had joined the PLA in 1979 during the peak of the Sino-Vietnamese War but, thanks to his talent in the arts, he was chosen to be a secretary of his company, so he could avoid fighting on the battlefield.

Apart from painting propaganda materials, he also looked after weapons and communication equipment like the radios, which was an extraordinary privilege.

He was not supposed to use the equipment he maintained, and was fearful of breaking the rules, but after seeing his comrades listening to the Australian broadcast the curiosity grew inside him.

One night, alone in his room, he turned on a radio.

It took a while for him to find the right frequency, because of the interference put out by China, but then suddenly he was listening to Radio Australia and the song that would change his life.

“It was broadcasting The Moon Represents My Heart by Teresa Teng,” Guo said.

“That was the first time I knew such music existed in the world.” [Continue reading…]

Voices in the Air: Sarah Johnston on 100 years of radio (RNZ)

Kia ora koutou k?toa. Thank you to RNZ and National Library for organising this celebration of the start of radio in New Zealand, 100 years ago tonight.

Tonight is something of a game of two halves: first I will talk about the first broadcast of voice and music by radio and the start of radio broadcasting in this country – and then I’m also going speak about a research project I am working on, radio recordings made of New Zealand’s forces overseas during World War II.

I have always been a huge fan of radio, ever since childhood listening to the Weekend children’s request sessions, and then as a teenager, eating my breakfast with Morning Report coming out of the family transistor beside me. As a radio journalist I became one of those voices and worked for RNZ and Deutsche Welle in Germany, where I experienced the power of voices coming out of the air from the other side of the world. And as a sound archivist working with the Radio New Zealand archives, I learnt that that power of the voice doesn’t diminish with time – listening to a voice from 80 years ago can transport you not just through space but also time. Sound to me, has a power that in many ways seems different to that of visual images. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: WLW at 100, WWVB Upgrades, Ofcom Radio Amateur Data, and Unlocking the Airwaves

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 Mike Terry, Dave Zantow, and John Figliozzi  for the following tips:


WLW-AM Begins 100th Year On Air (WVXU)

It wasn’t Cincinnati’s first radio station, but WLW-AM is still the biggest.

Cincinnati industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr. began broadcasting WLW-AM over a 20-watt station from his College Hill home on March 2, 1922 – which means that the station is entering its 100th year today.

WLW-AM wasn’t Cincinnati’s first commercial radio station, but it is the oldest surviving station from the 1920s. WMH was operated by the Precision Instrument Co. from Dec. 30, 1921, to January 1923.  WMH was sold to Crosley and merged into WLW, says Randy Michaels, the former WLW-AM programmer and Jacor/Clear Channel executive who is the best radio historian I know.

In 1934, WLW-AM became “the Nation’s station” when President Franklin D. Roosevelt flipped a switch in the White House to activate the station’s unprecedented 500,000-watt experimental transmitter under its Tylersville Road tower. WLW-AM broadcast at “super power” around the clock for five years, through 1939, and continued the mega-wattage output midnight-2 a.m. until 1943. For years WLW-AM has boasted that the 50,000-watt signal reaches 38 states. (I’ve heard the station in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri.)

For 99 years, WLW-AM has broadcast some of the most popular personalities in town: Jim Scott, Gary Burbank, Bob Trumpy, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall, Cris Collinsworth, Jim LaBarbara, Bill Cunningham, Mike McConnell and Dale Sommers. Before them came Ruth Lyons, Bob Braun, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, newsman Peter Grant, sportscaster Red Barber and comedian Red Skelton.

Although WLW-AM likes to promote itself as “news radio,” it’s perhaps best known for carrying Reds and most Bengals games, plus University of Cincinnati football and basketball and Xavier basketball.[]

WWVB broadcast system upgrades may include temporary outages (WWV)

The WWVB broadcast system is being upgraded with new equipment to improve the reliability of the signal. In order to install this equipment, beginning on March 9, 2021 the WWVB signal may be operated on a single antenna at approximately 30 kW radiated power for periods up to several days in duration, and may have occasional outages. Periods of reduced power operation lasting longer than 30 minutes will be logged on the WWVB Antenna Configuration and Power web page, and any outage longer than five minutes’ duration will be recorded on the WWVB Outage web page. Upgrades are expected to be complete by March 31, 2021.

Ofcom released age of radio amateurs data (Southgate ARC)

Following a Freedom of Information request about the age of radio amateurs Ofcom said they do not hold Date-of-Birth information for many radio amateurs but released what information they do have

Ofcom say “We do not hold a full breakdown of the age of issued amateur radio licensees as date of birth is not a mandatory field for licence applications.”

In September 2000 the then communications regulator (RA) abolished the ban on people under 14-years-old holding a Full amateur licence, since that time a person’s date of birth has served little regulatory purpose.

The data Ofcom released showed they only had Date-of-Birth information for:
7,312 out of 28,845 Foundation licences
4,104 out of 12,127 Intermediate licences
44,944 out of 54,072 Full licences

As of March 1, 2021 there was a total of 95,044 valid UK amateur radio licences.

Download the FoI reply and the available age data at
https://ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/214915/age-of-amateur-radio-licensees.pdf

You can submit a Freedom of Information request to Ofcom online at
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/new/ofcom

Unlocking the Airwaves (UMD)

Unlocking the Airwaves: Revitalizing an Early Public and Educational Radio Collection is a comprehensive online collection of early educational public radio content from the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). The forerunner of CPB and its arms, NPR and PBS, the NAEB developed and distributed educational radio programs and accompanying print materials to schools and communities across the United States. What’s more, the NAEB lobbied extensively to unlock the airwaves—to access precious frequency space—in order to bring the voices of poet Robert Frost, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and conservationist “Ranger Mac,” among many other individuals, into American homes and classrooms.

The NAEB’s history is the dramatic story of idealists who believed in the utopian possibilities of technology for education and social uplift and who faced considerable challenges in pursuit of those goals, including economic depression, world war, and the scarcity of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s a story that has much to tell us about 20th century American culture, as well as the 21st century’s environment of online educational technology and podcasting that we live in today.

Despite its historic importance and contemporary relevance, most of the NAEB members’ programs were never heard again after their initial brief moments on the air. The archives for the radio programs and their related paper documentation have been split for over 25 years between two institutions: the University of Maryland and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Unlocking the Airwaves reunites the split collections, finally realizing the potential of the collections of the NAEB for exploration and and the broader public.

Click here to explore Unlocking the Airwaves.


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KUNC piece features WWV

Chief Engineer Matt Deutch at WWV/WWVB. (Photo: Thomas)

(Source: Southgate ARC via Eric McFadden)

Broadcaster KUNC reports that a little-known radio station in Fort Collins might one day save the world

An array of radio towers sits behind security fences amid farms and pastures north of Fort Collins. This is home to WWV, the country’s oldest radio call letters. The station’s high-frequency broadcasts can be heard around the globe if you have the right kind of radio.

Now playing: pulsing sounds, every second, followed by an announcement of the exact time.

The station is run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, which is home to the atomic clock. WWV is capable of more than telling time. It could, if need be, save the world.

“Could be,” said Elizabeth Donley, chief of NIST’s Time and Frequency Division. “It’s an important part of our work.”

This year the station conducted communications exercises in coordination with the Department of Defense. Thirty-seven states, National Guard units, emergency management agencies and others participated in simple announcements. They were meant to see how many listeners are out there and how far away they can be reached. The answer: there are thousands of listeners as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Mark Jensen, a civilian planner with U.S. Northern Command, the military’s homeland security operation in Colorado Springs, called WWV a “most essential asset to our nation.”

Should an emergency arise, volunteers would jump into action. They’re part of a program the military dubs MARS, which stands for Military Auxiliary Radio System. While jokes abound that the operators should not be confused for Martians, their work is serious. It’s doomsday stuff, like responding to the aftermath of a nuclear attack because the associated electromagnetic pulse could wipe out most communications.

Listen to program and read the full story at
https://www.kunc.org/post/how-little-known-radio-station-fort-collins-might-one-day-save-world

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FY 2019 NIST budget looks good for time stations

WWV Chief Engineer Matt Deutch. (Photo: Thomas Witherspoon)

Many thanks to the number of SWLing Post readers who have forwarded this article from the ARRL News that notes the WWV Special Event Station, planned for later this year, is a go. This is great news indeed.

With regards to the FY2019 budget uncertainty surrounding NIST radio stations WWV, WWVH and WWVB, the ARRL notes:

“The NIST budget for WWV, WWVH, and WWVB will remain level for FY 2019.”

As I mentioned in a recent post, this is the feedback I’ve received as well–that the portion of the budget that includes NIST radios station will remain the same as it was last year. Last year, the NIST internally-allocated funds for the stations and it appears it will this will happen again! Brilliant news, indeed.

With that said, I do wonder if the next budget request (which is only a few months away) will include all of the NIST radio stations.

Time will tell…

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End of WWV weather information

Photo taken in 2014 of the sign above WWV’s primary 10 MHz transmitter.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:

As monitored here in NB on 15 MHz today (31 January), WWV ended the National Weather Service Atlantic and Pacific marine high-seas and storm warnings after 19:00 UTC. Before that time, announcements about the ending of the warnings were transmitted during minutes 4 and 7 after the hour with the Atlantic information in minutes 8 and 9 and the Pacific information in minute 10. So, the last storm warnings were during the 18:00 UTC hour. After 19:00 UTC, the announcements in minutes 4 and 7 were discontinued and the storm warnings in minutes 8, 9, and 10 were replaced with an announcement about the ending of the warnings. Presumably, there was a similar transition on WWVH.

Thanks for the report, Richard!

In terms of an overall update about WWV in the 2019 NIST budget, there has been no real news to report. It seems the funding level for the Laboratory Programs (where the radio stations reside) will be funded at the same level as it was in 2018. Of course, NIST can internally-allocate many of their funds as they wish. Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, who’s been keeping an eye on this budget process.

I must admit that I find it interesting WWV, WWVH and WWVB all continued to operate as normal during the Federal Government Shutdown.

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Update: Discontinuation of NWS High Seas and Storm Warnings on WWV and WWVH

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mohamed, who comments with an update about the loss of NWS High Seas and Storm Warnings on WWV and WWVH. Mohamed writes:

The decision to terminate the broadcasts has not been retracted. It has only been delayed to January 31, 2019:

(Source: National Weather Service)

NOUS41 KWBC 151610
PNSWSH

Service Change Notice 18-102
National Weather Service Headquarters Silver Spring MD 1210 PM EST Thu Nov 15 2018

To: Subscribers:
-NOAA Weather Wire Service

-Emergency Managers Weather Information Network -NOAAPORT
Other NWS Partners, Users and Employees

From: Craig Hodan, Chief Dissemination Systems Branch

Subject: Discontinuation of NWS High Seas and Storm Warnings
over NIST Time Frequency Broadcasts Effective January 31, 2019

Effective Thursday, January 31, 2019, at 200 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) or 1800 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the NWS will discontinue dissemination of High Seas and Storm Warnings portion of the National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) time frequency broadcasts as issued by WWV and WWVH “shortwave” radio covering the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.

This service is being terminated because weather information in the current broadcast format does not support frequent enough updates for changes in marine weather and cannot provide enough detail in the allotted window required by mariners to avoid hazardous weather. Additionally, alternative technologies and numerous media outlets that provide weather information in various formats have overtaken the need for providing weather information through the NIST frequency signals.

Other sources of marine weather and high seas alerts and detailed forecasts are available over satellite, telephone, the Internet, Marine Fax, Radio Fax and VHF radio. Currently the NWS, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the U.S. Navy (USN) provide multiple dissemination methods for storm positioning, high sea areas, observations, forecasts, outlooks and warnings for both coastal and oceanic marine zones near the United States using Navigational Telex (NAVTEX), Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and High Seas SImplex Teletype Over Radio (HFSITOR) in compliance with World Meteorological Organization (WMO) policies and the International Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention.
Please refer to the following websites for more information on how to use these technologies:

1. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/navtex.htm (NAVTEX)

2. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/gmdss.htm (GMDSS)

3. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfsitor.htm HFSITOR)

4. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/inmarsat.htm (SAFETYNET)

5. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/marine/vhfvoice.htm (USCG VHF)

For additional information, please contact:

Gregory Zwicker
National Weather Service
Dissemination Systems Branch
301-427-9682
gregory.zwicker@noaa.gov

National Service Change Notices are online at:

https://www.weather.gov/notification/

NNNN

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