My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Two New Oldies are Old!

Tuning up and down the AM and FM bands yesterday afternoon and I came across a new oldies station where there used to be an old Hispanic station. For a moment, I thought I had a new entry for the log, but the station identified and it turned out to be WXCT on 990 kc, 4 miles away in Southington, Conn.

WXCT changed formats earlier this month and are now simulcasting the 60's oldies format with WACM on 1490 kc in Agawam, Mass. I tried to listen to WACM to see if they were really simulcasting, but I could not hear them and for what it's worth, WACM is already in the log, too.

By the way, I was using my C.Crane CC Skywave receiver sans external aluminum.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mail from the Mailman

A friend, who wished to be anonymous, responded to yesterday's post Mail from Mao:
I can go you one further with the Radio Peking monitoring. I also got a “Little Red Book”, which I still have somewhere.
What you apparently didn’t get was the type of letter I got from the Post Office circa 1964 indicating that an envelope addressed to me from China was “unsealed” and they determined that it contained propaganda. 
I had to check off one of four choices:
  • Please send all mail of this type.
  • Please send only this item.
  • Never send any mail of this type.
  • Don’t send this item.
Also worrying about a future reputation (I was in high school at the time), I chose the don’t send me anything more option. I do miss the calendars they sent, though. The photography was spectacular. 
I think it was the Supreme Court that declared this practice of the PO to be unconstitutional.
I looked it up and it was Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965), a landmark First Amendment Supreme Court case, in which the ruling of the Supreme Court struck down § 305(a) of the Postal Service and Federal Employees Salary Act of 1962, a federal statute requiring the Postmaster General to detain and deliver only upon the addressee's request unsealed foreign mailings of "communist political propaganda."

Under the stricken code, a recipient of material deemed "political propaganda" was required to indicate their intent to receive such materials before they were delivered and accept the material by indicating a desire to do so on a card provided by the Post Office. The card stated that except with the addressee's name and consent to receiving the material, it would be returned within 20 days, the Post Office assuming that the addressee does not want that publication or any similar one in the future.

The Court held:

the Act, as construed and applied, is unconstitutional, since it imposes on the addressee an affirmative obligation which amounts to an unconstitutional limitation of his rights under the First Amendment.

The Court was unanimous in the judgment (8-0, with Justice White recused). Justice Brennan wrote a concurring opinion (which Justice Goldberg joined) and Justice Harlan also wrote a concurring opinion. (Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mail from Mao

Folks get into ham radio following different paths. My path to ham radio in the 1960s is probably similar in some ways to the path of other hams in that era and unique in other ways.

I became hooked on AM broadcast band DXing when I received a Remco Radiocraft crystal radio kit one Christmas. Later, AM DXing sparked my interest in shortwave listening, and I saved money from cutting lawns to buy a Hallicrafters S-200 receiver for $50.

The S-200 covered the AM broadcast band and the international shortwave broadcast bands, but I discovered that if I forced the band switch in between stops, I could monitor AM ham transmissions on 75 meters (go figure). Monitoring 75 sparked my interest in ham radio and the rest is WA1LOU history!

When I was shortwave listening, everything in radio was new and exciting and every new station I logged was a thrill. I worked all the big international broadcasters and the QSL cards starting rolling in, often arriving in exotic envelopes covered with even more exotic postage stamps.

However, when I QSL'd Radio Peking, I opened a Pandora's Box. Not only did I receive a handsome QSL card from the Chinese broadcaster, but I received propaganda  lots of it. It seemed like every week I would receive something new from Radio Peking: books, magazines, Mao's "Little Red Book," calendars, a huge poster of Chairman Mao and more! While I was having a blast receiving all this stuff, my father was very concerned.

This was at the height of the Cold War, as well as the Vietnam War, and Pop was worried that after receiving so much Communist propaganda, my name was now on file with the FBI. He even went down to the post office to try and stop its delivery, but there was nothing the post office could do. To assuage Pop, I never QSL'd Radio Habana because they had a reputation of sending mass quantities of propaganda along with their QSLs, just like Radio Peking.

After snagging all the big broadcasters, my appetite was whetted for the tougher stations. The World Radio TV Handbook became my Bible; I used it to identify stations that were hard to identify because their broadcasts were not in English.

That is how I snagged Radio Hanoi. At least I thought it was Radio Hanoi. The operating time and frequency matched the schedule printed in the World Radio TV Handbook and the language spoken on the air sounded oriental, so I took a chance and sent my reception report off to North Vietnam, but I did not tell Pop.

Months passed and I heard nothing from Hanoi. I was not surprised because I was not positive that the station I heard was really Radio Hanoi, and during the war, mail service between the US and North Vietnam was convoluted or non-existent. After I had just about given up on it, a letter showed up in our mailbox plastered with stamps from North Vietnam and inside was a QSL and a note that said that Radio Hanoi would announce my name over the air as a listener!

The QSL and note took so long to get to me that the day they planned to announce my name had already passed   I could not even listen in to hear it! For the first time in my life, I would be pleased if a stranger mispronounced my last name.

I feared that the FBI would come knocking at our door any time now. In anticipation, I pulled the big switch on my S-200 and began practicing Morse code in order to get my ham license.

(The original version of this post appeared on the ARRL website.)

Building My Log

Radio Vatican's antenna farm as depicted on their circa 1967 QSL card.

Building my AM, FM, TV and shortwave log from QSL cards and letters I received before I became a ham was an interesting exercise.

The big takeaway was that unlike amateur radio QSL cards, commercial radio station QSLs lack key information.

Some QSLs lacked the frequency and/or time of the reported reception. A few even lacked the date of the reported reception. For example, the QSLs I have from BBC, HCJB and Radio Peking simply confirm my reception report, but do not repeat any data (date, time, or frequency) from my report. As a result, their entries in my log are kind of sketchy.

Also, I found it interesting that about 1/5th of the QSLs listed the operating frequency in Meters as well as Hertz.

While I was revisiting those QSLs, I recalled an anecdote that I will write about in my next post.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Got Log?


"What's the farthest people have heard stations?" was asked on the I Love AM Radio Facebook group last week.
My AM radio log has WWL on 870 kc from New Orleans as my farthest station at 1256 miles. But then I recalled hearing a station back in the 1960s that was farther away: the CIA's Radio Americas on Swan Island in the southwest Caribbean Sea, 1800 miles from my home. I could not recall the frequency of Radio Americas, but I had their QSL card handy, so I checked the card and 1160 kc was the answer. 

Then it occurred to me that I did not have a log of the stations (AM, FM, TV and shortwave) I heard before I got my ham license in 1969. I am sure I kept a log  how else could I keep track of the stations I tried to QSL? But I have no recollection of that log and I did not have a copy of such a log anywhere in my radio archives.

So I took the fistful of the pre-WA1LOU QSL cards and letters I had on hand and built a log from the information contained on those QSLs. It was an interesting exercise and I will blog about it in the next post.