Tag Archives: Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF)

Paul attends “The Secret War” special exhibit at the Science Museum

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who writes:

From the SWLing roving foreign correspondent.

A couple of weeks before going to London on our recent trip, I was idly looking through the Science Museum web site when I spotted a special exhibit ‘The Secret War’ put on by ‘members of GCHQ’. It had to be booked in advance (but was FREE), so I duly registered and printed out our tickets.

Come the first full day of our visit, a short walk in Kensington took us to the museum and an 11am time slot. The exhibit was a little hard to find, way at the back of Floor 0 and down some stairs, however it wasn’t just shoved in a ‘lesser area’. Entry was through a computer check-in and helper. However, there was enough slack that anybody showing up could enter more or less ‘on demand’. The exhibit is limited to 100 visitors per hour (that’s the trick).

Well, it was very well done and went all the way through the earliest coding in Greece and Egypt, through WWII and Bletchley to GCHQ and modern exhibits such as Edward Snowden’s laptop.

We had the pleasure to hear G7VAK calling CQ on a straight key, so I went over and answered him and gave him a suitable signal report and we swapped cards. Paul is manning the show, it seems, through most of its run into next year [23 February, 2020]. We exchanged suitable quips about having to kill each other if we said what we couldn’t say. He had a letter about some questions asked at the exhibit printed recently in RSGB RadCom in the ‘The Last Word’.

Overall the Science Museum has improved very much, having moved from a place stuffed full of (fairly) boring exhibits, to a more open and curated layout. They have also added snack bars (very good quality but pricey) on each floor.

Well worth a visit to what is now one of the world’s best museums of any topic. One of the finest exhibits on the staircase entry to Mathematics is the recently finished Babbage machine. And it works!

P.S. Personal bias. My Uncle Fred was at Bletchley Park, Hut 6 for a couple of years before being placed overseas, including a couple of trips to the USA (shhhhhhh!)

Mum’s the word, Paul! Thank you for the quick review of this special exhibit.

If you’d like to book a free ticket for this exhibit, go to the Science Museum website and click on the “Book Now” link!

Spread the radio love

Paul’s report from the UK’s National Hamfest

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul W4/VP9KF, who shares the following report from the UK’s National Hamfest:


Your travelling foreign correspondent took in a visit to the UK’s National Hamfest held in Newark, Notts.

We arrived right on opening time (10am) and were the first in the door.

There was a ‘rush’ to the SDRPlay stand because they were giving away some nice FLASH drives to the first 25 people to get there. The author managed to get one and later found it was a) fast b) pre-loaded with software for all things SDRPlay. They were busy showing the new diversity software amongst other things.

bhi had some new hardware and I took the chance to thank them for a prize won in the W5KUB Xenia draws.

The hall was pretty empty (this was the second day and a Saturday). Noticeable was that some products were already sold out and on back order [such as the amazing nanoVNA].

It’s a shadow of the former Leicester Show which was the precursor to this event with a lot less parts on sale.

I had a long chat with Eric of Elecraft while twiddling with the K4 and suggested some improvements to the button usage, which he said would be tested in use. A date of the ‘beginning of the year’ for first shipments was mentioned and that the first batch would be ‘large’ [much more than 100] followed by smaller batches. Components are on order, some of which are on long lead times (and have to arrive in good shape for surface mount assembly down the line).

The K4 was ‘playing’ the 7 Area QSO Party on several bands and most controls were operable. This was streaming from an IQ recording and an RF modulator straight into the rig. Just exactly how close this was ‘to the original sound’ and TRUE performance of the rig and/or software is
to be seen.

The weather was fine for the show (although patchy – XYLs reported that it poured with rain back in Nottingham itself!). Turnout was very disappointing and a lot of grey hair was to be seen in the one (yes one) Hall Building.

73,

Paul W4/VP9KF [and G4BKI]


Thank you so much for the report, Paul. I do want to make a pilgrimage to the UK’s National Hamfest one year–any excuse to visit my home-away-from-home country! 

Spread the radio love

Parker Solar Probe gathering data from our local star

(Source: NASA)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF), who writes:

Parker Solar Probe supposedly going to yield some interesting data [see below].

Hopefully it’ll bring forth some interesting new findings for Short Wave users!

(Source: Engaget)

Over the past months, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe flew closer to the sun than any other spacecraft before it — not once, but twice on two flybys. The probe obviously collected as much data as it could so that we can understand the sun better. Now its mission team at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland has just received the final transmission for the 22 gigabytes of science data collected during those two encounters. That’s 50 percent more than it expected to receive by now, all thanks to the spacecraft’s telecommunications system performing better than expected.

Parker’s ground team found out soon after launch that the probe is capable of a higher downlink rate. In fact, they’re taking advantage of that ability by instructing the probe to send back even more data from the second encounter in April. During that event, the spacecraft’s four suites of science instruments kept busy collecting information. That’s why the mission team is expecting to receive an additional 25GB of science data between July 24th and August 15th.

The mission team will release the data from the first two encounters to the public later this year. Before that happens, the spacecraft will conduct its third flyby, which will start on August 27th and reach closest approach on September 1st. Researchers are hoping that over the net few years the mission can gather the information we need to unravel some of the sun’s biggest mysteries, including why the sun’s corona (its aura of plasma) is far hotter than its visible surface.

Click here to read the full article at Engaget.

Spread the radio love

Hackaday looks back at the venerable RTL-SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF), who shares the following article from Hackaday:

Before swearing my fealty to the Jolly Wrencher, I wrote for several other sites, creating more or less the same sort of content I do now. In fact, the topical overlap was enough that occasionally those articles would get picked up here on Hackaday. One of those articles, which graced the pages of this site a little more than seven years ago, was Getting Started with RTL-SDR. The original linked article has long since disappeared, and the site it was hosted on is now apparently dedicated to Nintendo games, but you can probably get the gist of what it was about from the title alone.

When I wrote that article in 2012, the RTL-SDR project and its community were still in their infancy. It took some real digging to find out which TV tuners based on the Realtek RTL2832U were supported, what adapters you needed to connect more capable antennas, and how to compile all the software necessary to get them listening outside of their advertised frequency range. It wasn’t exactly the most user-friendly experience, and when it was all said and done, you were left largely to your own devices. If you didn’t know how to create your own receivers in GNU Radio, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do other than eavesdrop on hams or tune into local FM broadcasts.

Nearly a decade later, things have changed dramatically. The RTL-SDR hardware and software has itself improved enormously, but perhaps more importantly, the success of the project has kicked off something of a revolution in the software defined radio (SDR) world. Prior to 2012, SDRs were certainly not unobtainable, but they were considerably more expensive. Back then, the most comparable device on the market would have been the FUNcube dongle, a nearly $200 USD receiver that was actually designed for receiving data from CubeSats. Anything cheaper than that was likely to be a kit, and often operated within a narrower range of frequencies.

Today, we would argue that an RTL-SDR receiver is a must-have tool.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at the excellent Hackaday blog.

Of course, for all things RTL-SDR and beyond, I highly recommend bookmarking RTL-SDR.com.

The RTL-SDR.com blog also manufactures my favorite flavor of the RTL-SDR dongle along with a nice bundle of antennas. Click here to check it out on Amazon.com (this affiliate link supports the SWLing Post).

Spread the radio love

David Warren: Radio enthusiast who invented the “Black Box” flight recorder

As a schoolboy, David was fascinated by electronics and learned to build his own radio sets (Source: BBC and the Warren Family Collection)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul W4/VP9KFPaul W4/VP9KF, who notes that David Warren, inventor of ‘Black Box’ recorders was a ham radio operator and radio enthusiast.

The following short biography comes from this memorial website:

David Warren (full name David Ronald de Mey Warren) was an Australian inventor. He is most famous for his invention of the Flight data recorder (invented in 1956), or more commonly known as the “black box”

The “Black Box” is a device that records in-flight conversations and data. Warren came up with the idea of recording the flight crew’s conversation on a device that could be protected to increase its chances of surviving the crash. Although it has the name “Black Box”, it is coated with heat-resistant bright orange paint for high visibility in a wreckage, and the Black Box is usually mounted in the aircraft’s tail section, where it is more likely to survive a severe crash.

David Warren was born on the 20th of March, 1925, on Groote Eylandt, an island off the coast of the Northern Territory. He was the first child of European descent born on the island. When he was at the age of four, he was sent to Tasmania and Sydney to spend most of the next 12 years in boarding schools (Launceston Grammar School in Tasmania and Trinity Grammar School in Sydney).

Australia’s first major air crash in 1934 claimed the life of David’s father.

Warren had received a crystal set from his father just before the disaster that started his interest in amateur radio and electronics. Almost 20 years later, when the age of commercial jet aircraft was just beginning, Warren worked as a chemist, specialising in aircraft fuels at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories.

Dr Warren was working as a scientist at Melbourne’s Aeronautical Research Laboratory, where he was helping to investigate the 1953 mystery crash of a Comet jetliner. New fuels being used in Jets in the early 50’s were more likely to become explosive at altitude than conventional aircraft fuels and this was identified as a possible cause of the Comet crash. While listening to the arguments over possible causes of the Crash, Warren realised that the solution could be at hand if someone on the plane had been carrying a device similar to the then newly released “Protona Minifon” portable recorder that he saw at a trade fair.

The device would be fire proof (using steel wire as the recording medium like the “Pocket Recorder”) and erase itself so that the last hours of the flight were always recorded. The device consisted of a single steel wire as the recording medium and provided four hours of recording and automatically switched itself on and off with the aircraft. It was during this period that Dr Warren incorporated the idea of recording instruments on a separate channel – his interest in electronics as a schoolboy was brilliantly applied to turn instrument readings into recordable dots and bleeps.

The recorder was well received in England (where the name “Black Box” was made up by a journalist at a briefing) and also in Canada where the idea was seen as a potential addition to beacons being developed there.

Warren continued to lead the project, developing the Flight Memory device to record more instruments with greater accuracy. This led to the first commercially produced flight recorder-the Red Egg.

A further disaster at Wintoon in 1967 saw Australia become the first country to make both flight data and cockpit voice mandatory on all jets.

While a student at the University of Sydney, David met Ruth Meadows, who became his wife and lifetime supporter. Together, they raised a family and shared an interest in science and education. When he retired, David and Ruth lived in Caulfield South, Victoria, in regular contact with their four children and seven grandchildren.

David died at the age of 85 in 2010, 19 July, Melbourne, Australia. After his death, He was buried in a casket bearing the label “Flight Recorder Inventor; Do Not Open”.

Then in June 2012, the ACT Government named a road, David Warren Road, in the suburb of Hume in recognition of Warren. On 25 March 2014, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation renamed their Canberra headquarters to the David Warren Building.

Thanks for sharing this, Paul!  Fascinating…

Note that the BBC recently published an amazing piece about Dr. Warren on the 9th anniversary of his passing–click here to read.

Spread the radio love

A very “exciting” radio!

A two-channel atomic radio receiver. A mixture of cesium and rubidium is excited to Ryberg states and probed for changes in optical transparency at two different frequencies with lasers of different wavelengths. Source: C.L. Holloway, M.T. Simons, A.H. Haddab, C.J. Williams, and M.W. Holloway, AIP Advances 9, 065110 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5099036

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul W4/VP9KFPaul W4/VP9KF, who writes:

A very exciting radio! One that depends on excited atoms, of a sort…

(Source: Hackaday)

The basic technology of radio hasn’t changed much since an Italian marquis first blasted telegraph messages across the Atlantic using a souped-up spark plug and a couple of coils of wire. Then as now, receiving radio waves relies on antennas of just the right shape and size to use the energy in the radio waves to induce a current that can be amplified, filtered, and demodulated, and changed into an audio waveform.

That basic equation may be set to change soon, though, as direct receivers made from an exotic phase of matter are developed and commercialized. Atomic radio, which does not rely on the trappings of traditional radio receivers, is poised to open a new window on the RF spectrum, one that is less subject to interference, takes up less space, and has much broader bandwidth than current receiver technologies. And surprisingly, it relies on just a small cloud of gas and a couple of lasers to work.

Tuning into Atomic Radio: Quantum Technique Unlocks Laser-Based Radio Reception

Click here to read the full article at Hackaday.

Spread the radio love