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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Más Cuba

I logged another Cuban station this morning at 0530 UTC: Radio Rebelde on 670 kc*. Probably transmitting 50 kW from either Arroyo Arenas or Santa Clara, 1403 or 1390 miles to the south-southwest. The Elecraft KX3 and 80-meter inverted Vee were the receivers.

* Radio Rebelde runs multiple stations on various AM band frequencies from various locations in Cuba.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cuba! Cuba!

Last night, I entered Cuba into the AM radio log for the first time  not once, but twice!

At 0340, Radio Rebelde overwhelmed WOR on 710 kc, transmitting 200 kW from Chambas, 1387 miles to the south-southwest. The photo shows the Radio Rebelde equipment line-up during the Cuban Revolution. Looks like a typical ham radio station layout during that era. (At one time, I owned that Heathkit SWR meter sitting on top of that pile.)

At 0400, Radio Angulo identified at the top of the hour on 740 kc, transmitting 10 kW from Sagua de Tanamo, 1461 miles to the south.

I heard the Cuban stations with my Elecraft KX3 and 80-meter inverted Vee.

Radio Angulo was my 300th entry into the AM radio log, which I began on Christmas Eve four years ago.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I added two new stations to the log.

WESR on 1330 kc transmitting 51 watts, 307 miles south-southwest in Onley-Onancock, Virginia, monitored at 0000 UTC Tuesday on my Elecraft KX3 and 80-meter inverted Vee.

WTSN on 1270 kc transmitting 5,000 watts, 152 miles northeast from Dover, New Hampshire, monitored at 1140 UTC Wednesday on the stock AM FM radio in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

1070 Night

It was an interesting night!

With 1080 kc occupied by 50,000 watts of WTIC and its IBOC 12 miles away, 1070 kc can be challenging. So I always check 1070 to see what’s happening.

Last night, shortly after sunset, there was no interference from WTIC (was IBOC off?) and I could clearly hear a weak station playing Christmas pop songs with the KX3’s receiver and the 80-meter inverted Vee. I listened for a station id, but I could never decipher what the announcer was saying. I quit listening after the signal faded into the noise.

I checked again around 1 AM local time (0600 UTC) and same thing: one Christmas pop song after another, but the announcer’s voice was muddled and I could not get any useful information.

Up at 5 AM EST /1000 UTC to feed the menagerie, I checked 1070 again and Christmas pop songs are still on the air. I switched to the Terk Advantage loop antenna and heard more of the same, but turning the antenna about 30 degrees, I nulled out the mystery station, but now I could hear an even weaker station also playing Christmas pop songs (Elvis’ Blue Christmas).

I switched back to the 80-meter antenna and sat on 1070 for awhile. Finally, I could decipher what the announcer was saying. After a couple of ads for businesses located in “Greenville,” I figured I was hearing WNCT in Greenville, NC, transmitting 10 kW 481 miles to the south-southwest.

Friday, December 18, 2015

LORAN's Comeback

Radio station at the US Coast Guard Reservation in Lower Township, NJ

From the Press of Atlantic City comes this story:

LOWER TOWNSHIP - The radio navigation system that helped win World War II and then guided mariners and aviators in peacetime may be making a comeback.
And it starts right here in New Jersey.
It won’t exactly be the old Loran C system southern New Jersey fishermen and general aviation pilots grew up with. It would be better. The so-called enhanced Loran, or eLoran, is being tested here at a decommissioned Coast Guard base that ran Loran operations from 1947 to 2010.
New Jersey became the first state to turn the signal back on Friday afternoon as two private firms, engineering companies UrsaNav and Harris, provided seed money for the tests supported by the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies under something called a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA.

You can read the rest of the story here and if you are local or propagation is enhanced, you might hear the New Jersey eLoran signal on 100 kHz.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

This Day in Radio History

On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi successfully sent the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean.

Read all about it here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Top of the hour, specifically at 0000 UTC last night, the station ID of WEMJ popped out of the cacophony of 1490 kc. Transmitting 1,000 watts 152 miles to the north-northeast in Laconia, New Hampshire, I heard WEMJ on my KX3 and 80-meter inverted Vee.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


During my Monday morning commute, I decided to DX rather than play tunes on my iPod. So as I pulled out of the driveway. I tuned the receiver to 1160 where I could hear at least three stations simultaneously. And a minute later, in the midst of the cacophony, I heard the station ID of WODY as clear as a bell.

Now I had 35 minutes on the road to ponder WODY. Where was it? Was it a new one? Since I was driving, there was no way to check my log until I got to the salt mine.

Arriving at work, I checked my log and was happy to confirm that WODY was indeed a new logging! Located in Fieldale, Virginia (near Martinsville), 510 miles to the southwest, WODY was transmitting a mere 250 watts!

Equipment used was the stock AM-FM radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Stretching Stretch

The 40-meter inverted Vee that I stretched for 80 meters last week is a keeper. So I wanted to do something more permanent about how the antenna was supported.

Each end of the antenna was tied to trees with a rope. There was no give, so if one of the trees swayed enough in the wind, the antenna might break apart.

In the past, I used weighted plastic bottles as counterweights. But I thought there might be a better and simpler way, so I searched the Internet for ideas.

Somebody suggested bungee cords. (Why hadn't I thought of that?) So I bought some new bungee cords, shortened the rope on each end of the antenna, and placed a bungee cord between eye hooks bored into each tree and the shortened ropes.

Worked like a charm!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Duo at Dusk

I logged two new longer distance AM stations at dusk Friday evening:

WKGM on 940 kc transmitting 10 kW from Smithfield, Virginia, 378 miles to the south-southwest.

WGBR on 1150 kc transmitting 800 W from Goldsboro, North Carolina, 510 miles to the south-southwest.

Both were logged with the Elecraft KX3 and an 80-meter inverted Vee antenna.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2 new in 3 minutes

I was connecting a new power supply (a Powerwerx SS-30DV) to the KX3 and PX3 when I noticed that the top of the hour was approaching. So I powered up the KX3 and ended up on 1390 kc listening to a commercial for something or other, then at 0000 UTC, the station ID, WFBL in Syracuse, NY, running 5 kW, 200 miles to my west-northwest.

I quickly moved over to 1380 kc and heard a woman speaking Chinese. It had to be WKDM in New York City. I don't understand Chinese, so I confirmed that it was WKDM by listening to it on the Internet's TuneIn. Running 5 kW, their transmitter is located in the New Jersey Meadowlands, 81 miles to my southwest.

Both new loggings were captured with the Elecraft KX3 and an 80 meter inverted Vee antenna.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


The weather on Friday was unseasonably mild for this time of year in this neck of the woods: sunny, dry, mid-60's temperatures with a slight breeze. It was probably our last gasp before the winter weather sets in, so I thought some antenna work was in order.

The performance of my 40-meter inverted V is adequate for 7 MHz, but not much else, so I decided to try an 80-meter inverted V.

I did not have the time (or inclination) to climb the tower, take down the 40-meter antenna and replace it, so I stretched it for 80 meters by splicing 30 feet of copper wire onto each end of the 40-meter antenna. It took about three hours to accomplish the task, which included almost an hour of tree trimming with my trusty old pruning pole.

I was very happy with the results. Received signals on all bands were considerably stronger with "Stretch" and the SWR was very good on all bands... so good on some bands that the automatic antenna tuner in my KX3 did not have to work up a sweat.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

WHVW in the log

Wednesday evening at 2200 UTC, I logged a new AM station: WHVW on 950 kc located in Hyde Park, NY, transmitting 57 watts 50 miles to the west. I used a C.Crane Skywave receiver with its internal antenna to nab WHVW.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Good Catch

This week, I monitored 1200 kc off and on because I could often hear other stations down in the mud under WXKS, which dominates that frequency here. Thursday evening at about 2345 UTC, I was rewarded with an unknown station broadcasting modern black gospel music; it was coming in so strongly that at times, I could not hear WXKS at all. The signal got stronger at the top of the hour approached, but I missed a station identification. However, I did hear the name of the program that was on at 0000 UTC: the Big Brother CJ Show.

Checking my sources, there are not many gospel stations on 1200 in my neck of the woods. I narrowed the choices down to WCHB near Detroit and WMIR in South Carolina. The station's signal peaked with my Terk Advantage loop antenna favoring the south and north, so WMIR was more likely than WCHB to the west. Checking with WMIR, they do broadcast the Big Brother CJ Show at 0000 UTC, so that is how I logged it using my Elecraft KX3 transceiver with the Terk.

WMIR is 630 miles to my south-southwest and was transmitting only 11 watts at the time!

Friday, November 6, 2015

2 New with the 2E

After my C.Crane Radio 2E Enhanced tied for first place in the Midday C.Crane Shoot-Out, I decided to spend some time using it to chase broadcast band DX. I immediately caught two new ones on the AM band:

CJEU on 1670 kc transmitting 1 kW from Gatineau, Quebec, 300 miles to the north-northwest.

WUNR on 1600 kc transmitting 20 kW from Brookline, Massachusetts, 100 miles to the east-northeast.

CJEU was playing contemporary French music, whereas all I heard from WUNR was its ID at the bottom of the hour and then it disappeared!

In both cases, I was using the C.Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna with the 2E Enhanced receiver.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Midday C.Crane Shoot-Out

It rained here Sunday morning, which postponed my plans to move leaves. Plan B was to play radio and that's what I did.

I now own five models of C.Crane receivers and after FARMERIK published a comparison of Sony receivers he owned on the Ultralight DX list, I decided to compare my C.Cranes in a similar manner using the radio's stock AM antennas.

I parked each radio in the same spot on my radio desk and in turn tuned across the AM band counting the number of stations heard. I did this between 1550 and 1655 UTC (1050 to 1155 local time/EST). My location is in Wolcott, Connecticut (41° 37' 48" N, 72° 56' 43" W) at 912 feet ASL. Radio conditions were flat.

Here are the results:

CC Radio 2E Enhanced: 60
CC Skywave: 60
CC SW Pocket: 53
CC Radio SW: 50
CC Pocket: 45

The CC Skywave and CC Radio 2E heard the same 60 stations with two exceptions: the Skywave heard a station on 850 kHz that the 2E did not and the 2E heard a station on 920 kHz that the Skywave did not.

Comparing the Skywave and the 2E, their sensitivity is similar on the AM band in my opinion, but the Skywave is more selective. 1070 kHz is a problem area at my location because the 50 kW of WTIC on 1080 kHz blasts through here 24/7. Until I added the Skywave (and an Elecraft KX3) to my radio shack, I never heard anything but QRM from WTIC on 1070 kHz. With the Skywave, I’ve logged four stations on 1070.

On the other hand, the 2E sounds much better than the Skywave. Of course, size matters and you would expect the 2E to sound better than its pint-sized cousin. The 2E is the best sounding AM radio I have ever owned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Two New Ones

Monday evening, I finally identified the Spanish language station on 920 kc: WURA transmitting 7 kW from Quantico, Virginia, 310 miles to my southwest. The station was very weak, but solid until sunset when it switches to 750 watts and lets WHJJ and CKNX vie for 920.

At 1056 UTC Saturday, I caught the station id of WKMB transmitting 250 watts from Stirling, New Hersey, 100 miles to my southwest. This was a nice catch because it was on the often difficult 1070 kc... difficult due to the IBOC QRM from the 50-kW WTIC on 1080 kc, 15 miles to my northeast.

Both new ones were captured using the Elecraft KX3 with the Terk Advantage antenna.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CKNX... not new

920 kc has been my hang-out for the past few nights. WHJJ in Providence dominates 920, but when I null it out with the Terk Advantage antenna I hear a Spanish station just after sunset, which gives way to a country & western station that competes unsuccessfully with WHJJ the rest of the night.

I have been unable to identify the Spanish station mainly because my Spanish is weak.

The country & western station has been too weak to identify until last night at 0220 UTC when it dominated 920 for about ten minutes. Turned out to be CKNX, about 450 miles to my north-northwest in Wingham, Ontario.

I thought CKNX was a new one, but I had already logged it back in June 2013.

Now, if I can only identify the Spanish station! I am sure it would be a new one.

By the way, I was using the Elecraft KX3 with the Terk antenna.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Top of the Mountain to You!

ICOM AH-7000 up on the roof
I am on vacation this week trying to get some antenna work completed before the weather becomes inhospitable for working outdoors. Monday I put my ICOM AH-7000 discone antenna up on the roof. My daughter assisted from the ground guiding the coax and antenna up to me on the roof. The install was successful.

After dinner I had an opportunity to test the antenna installation as well as finally get my Elecraft KX3 2-meter transporter (KX3-2M) on the air with a 2-meter antenna. After tuning around and hitting a bunch of repeaters, I settled on 146.52 MHz simplex where I found a conversation already in progress. They were locals who I did not know, so I hung back.

After that conversation ended, I heard WO2M in Mattituck, Long Island calling DX. I called him and he got right back to me, but cut it short because he said the band was open and he was looking for bigger fish to the south. No matter, I was pleased that my 2 watts into the discone managed to be heard 50 miles away.

I sat back waiting for him to catch the bigger fish. Meanwhile,  I heard three other stations: Pittsfield, Mass,  Clinton, Mass and Manasquan, New Jersey, 60, 85 and 120 miles away, respectively.

I was very satisfied with the operation of the KX3 transverter and ICOM discne antenna.

By the way, I logged a new AM station on Saturday: WENE on 1340 kc running 1000 watts from Gloversville, NY, 120 miles north-northwest. It was the first new logging using the KX3 (the antenna was my 40 meter dipole).

Today, the weather was wet, so I postponed my antenna work plans to tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Connecticut Radio History

Sourge: Bing Maps
Radio Historic West Peak in Meriden, Connecticut
Connecticut has a rich history when it comes to radio. Accordingly, the University of Hartford's radio station, WWUH, is now running a 10-part series, "Connecticut Radio Memories" that deals with various aspects of that history.

Dave Kaplan, WA1OUI, a former engineer at WTIC and current webmaster of the WTIC Alumni Site received permission to post the radio series on the Alumni Site (here).


Monday, September 28, 2015

Computer-Controlled Switch System

TASS (Totally Awesome Switch System) is a general purpose 8-port DC-150 MHz relay-based switch. The hardware is designed to be very generic, with an inexpensive processor such as an Arduino providing the system logic. Control is via USB, with Ethernet and other interfaces also available.

The TASS can be configured several ways, and multiple boards can be combined to create large switching systems. The TASS has many uses, from switching signal sources on a test bench or in a laboratory, to selecting receive antennas and filters in a ham or SWL station.

The TASS system has two boards:
  • The TASS-R relay board, which does the mechanics of signal switching and provides a very simple 10-pin interface.
  • The TASS-SHIELD board for use with an Arduino Mega 2560 microcontroller. The TASS-SHIELD allows up to four TASS-R boards to be controlled simultaneously.
Both boards are available now from TAPR as kits. They use through-hole parts and don't require any special assembly techniques.

The final component is open source software for the Arduino that acts as an interface between a host computer or other input system, and the switching hardware. The software is available for download from TAPR.

An introductory video is available here.

Software and documentation can be downloaded here.

You may order the TASS-R and TASS-SHIELD boards here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Taylor Swift and My KX3

In May, I bought an Elecraft KX3 radio kit with almost all the options at Hamvention. Out of stock in Dayton, Elecraft shipped the kit to me and it arrived about two weeks later.

After some confusion on my part about receiving some wrong hardware, I built the kit and as I wrote here, I initially thought the receiver was deaf. Elecraft came to the rescue and had me install the default configuration file because I probably messed up some settings that deafened the receiver.

As I wrote back in June, "the receiver came to life after loading the defaults," but despite what I wrote, I still thought that the receiver was not that receptive and not living up to its reputation.

My spouse and daughter went to Gillette Stadium to see Taylor Swift in concert on a Saturday evening in July, so I had the house to myself for a good hunk of the day and planned to use the time to install the 2-meter receiver in my KX3.

About 45 minutes into the process, I had to disconnect the cable that mated the HF antenna connector assembly to the automatic antenna tuner circuit board. Then I had to remove the automatic antenna tuner circuit board. 

After doing so, I noticed that the cable I had just disconnected seemed to flop around too easily. Examining the cable, I saw that only one strand of the stranded wire cable was actually connected to the HF antenna connector assembly! When I touched the cable, the remaining strand of wire broke. too.

I'm not sure what caused the cable problem. I may have broke it during the kit assembly, but I don't know how because I only had to deal with the cable briefly during assembly. It was not like I was moving it around a lot and weakening the solder joint.

Anyway, I closely examined what I needed to repair, but there was no way I could fix it. My eyesight isn't what it used to be and even with magnifying glasses, I was not sure where the cable was connected to the assembly. And even if I figured it out and soldered the cable to the assembly properly, the cable might now be too short to mate with the automatic antenna tuner circuit board. 

I called Elecraft Monday and explained my plight and they agreed to send me a new HF antenna connector assembly, which arrived a week later.

Meanwhile, serious family health issues required my attention and there was little time for radio throughout most of August. The health issue was resolved two weeks ago and after the dust settled, I hunkered down and began working on the KX3 again.

Monday evening, I replaced the HF antenna connector assembly and Tuesday evening, I finished installing the 2-meter transverter. After buttoning up the radio, I connected it to my 40-meter dipole, powered it on and held my breath. 

The radio came to life tuned to WTIC (1080 kc) and the Red Sox game was in progress. I immediately noticed that the receiver sounded a whole lot better than before the Taylor Swift concert.

I tuned up and down the AM band and could hear one or more stations on most of the AM channels, which was not the case before Ms. Swift took the stage. I switched to the HF ham bands and the receiver seemed much more sensitive than before.

Now I was worried about the transmitter. Was it stressed transmitting into that single strand of wire? I inserted my HF SWR/watt meter checked the transmitter's output and it did not seem worse for wear with the meter measuring 10 watts more or less.

I am not an engineer, just a ham who has been around the band a few times, so I don't know if the single strand of wire was the cause of the receiver's deafness. Would the receiver care if it was connected to the antenna via a single strand of wire or multiple strands of wire? My guess is not and perhaps there were other issues with the HF antenna connector assembly.

Anyway, I am very happy with the KX3 now and plan to build the PX3 on Saturday when my spouse and daughter go to the Big E to see Kansas in concert.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

DXing without the Red Sox

Monday afternoon, I received word that WTIC (1080 kc) would go off the air for transmitter maintenance after the Boston Red Sox game.

I live 12 miles line-of-sight from WTIC's transmitter and its 50,000 watts 24/7 have made it impossible for me to hear anything but WTIC on 1080. So I planned to stay up for the down-time despite having to get up at 5 AM to go to work the next day.

As luck would have it, the Red Sox game started late and was almost four hours in length ending around 11:15 PM. The post game show ended about 11:45, when they finally pulled the plug at WTIC.

I listened intently to 1080 and could only detect one station way down in the mud playing MOR tunes that I did not recognize. When an announcer came on, he was unintelligible, but I hung on hoping that the signal would get stronger.

After about 10 minutes of down-time, WTIC came back on the air briefly, then went off again. About a minute later, it came on again.

After a minute or two, I assumed they were staying on the air for good, so I gave up and went to bed with nothing new in the log.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

DXing with the Red Sox

Around sunset Saturday evening, I tuned across the AM band with my C.Crane CC Skywave receiver looking for broadcasts of the Boston Red Sox baseball game. Being a long-time Red Sox fan, I am very familiar with the voices of the Red Sox radio announcers, so I was able to identify broadcasts of the games even if the signal was down in the mud and/or competing with other radio stations on the same frequency. And as soon as I heard a game, I could identify the station quickly by referring to the list of radio stations on the Red Sox Radio Network (there are only a couple of stations on the same frequency).

I heard the game on a half dozen stations and two of them were new loggings:

  • WDEV on 550 kc transmitting 5 kW 186 miles to my north in Waterbury, Vermont at 2242 UTC.
  • WGHM on 900 kc transmitting 910 watts 108 miles to my north-northeast in Nashua, New Hampshire at 2252 UTC.

About 20 minutes later, I logged yet another station on the Bloomberg Radio Network:

  • WTWK on 1070 kc transmitting 5 kW 205 miles to my north in Plattsburgh, New York at 2317 UTC.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TV E-skip from Mexico

Mike Schaffer, KA3JAW, in Easton, Pennsylvania, sent me a report about some great sporadic E propagation he experienced last month. 

Mike wrote, "The summer Es season had ended on August 1. But ten days later I grabbed a 1,580 mile Es double-hop television station in southern Mexico. It was an analog channel 4 call sign, XHKYU in Valladolid, Yucatan emitting low power at 4 kW."

Equipment used:
  • Memorex MVDR-2102 - Full Format DVD Recorder, Analog TV Tuner
  • Panasonic SA-DP1 DVD Stereo System 100 Watts
  • Visteon HD Jump HD Radio
  • No Brand TFT Color Monitor - For Automobile
  • 55 Ft. RG-6 Quad (25' near antenna end, 30' near TV tuner end)
  • Antennacraft Yagi model Y526 (cut-to-band) for VHF channels 2-6
  1. Antenna azimuth: West (270 deg.), Elevation: +30 deg. (shed roof pitch)
  2. No antenna preamplifier was used
Mike posted videos of the event on YouTube:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

DX on 1320 Revisited

In my previous post about my Wednesday night monitoring of 1320 kc, I wrote:
While I was trying to identify WCVR, I could occasionally hear another station playing Middle Eastern music that was most likely not emanating from this side of the Atlantic. Checking the World Radio TV Handbook this morning, I might have heard a station in Iran about 5600 miles away (Radio Tabriz transmitting 50 kW from Joifa on 1323 kc).
KAZ e-mailed me of a more likely source for what I heard on 1320: CJMR from Toronto, which broadcasts "Asian Vision / Rangla Punjab" in the time slot that I was monitoring.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

DX on 1320

I have not posted here for over two weeks because my family and I had been dealing with the impending death and finally, the actual death of an immediate family member, who passed away early Labor Day morning.

After spending most of two days making arrangements and fielding phone calls, I needed a break. So last night, I grabbed my CCrane CC Skywave receiver and plopped myself in a lawn chair outdoors to see what I could hear.

There are a few AM channels in my log that only list one station because those logged stations are too close and/or too powerful to permit me to hear anything else. 

One of the usual suspects is WATR on 1320 kc. When I was growing up, I lived one block away from the WATR antenna farm and WATR was the only thing I could hear on my crystal radio. Now I live 7 miles away from WATR, so last night I thought I would work on 1320.

No matter which was I positioned the Skywave, I could not null out WATR completely, but I was able to position the radio so I could peak another signal that was also on 1320. 

The other station was broadcasting the Red Sox game. The only station in the Red Sox radio network on 1320 is WCVR in Randolph, Vermont, so I thought it was most likely WCVR.

I never heard a station identification, but after the game, there were ads for businesses in Randolph and nearby Waterbury, Vermont, so that confirmed it for me and I put WCVR in the log at 0255 UTC running only 66 watts, 160 miles to my north.

A nice catch, but there's more! 

While I was trying to identify WCVR, I could occasionally hear another station playing Middle Eastern music that was most likely not emanating from this side of the Atlantic. Checking the World Radio TV Handbook this morning, I might have heard a station in Iran about 5600 miles away (Radio Tabriz transmitting 50 kW from Joifa on 1323 kc).

Now that would be a very nice catch!

Sunday, August 23, 2015


After a few fruitless days of scanning the AM band, I finally logged a new one this morning at 0435 UTC  WCAP in Lowell, Massachusetts, transmitting 5 kW, 108 miles to my northeast. Playing 1960's oldies, "the Beatles and before," the station was vying with two other stations, one unidentified, the other identified as "ESPN 980" (probably WTEM in D.C., which I logged previously).

I used my C.Crane CC Skywave receiver with my Terk Advantage antenna to catch this new one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I was on vacation last week and on Friday, I managed to get away from the chaos with a shotgun trip to Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. On the way, we drove through Wells River, Vermont, and passed right by WTWN on Route 302. I added WTWN to my logbook back in February and I thought it would be cool to get a snapshot of the station.

So on the return trip, we slowed down as we passed the station and I snapped a few photos with my iPhone 6. The best of the bunch is above.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Listening with the Meteors

While sitting in the dark watching the Perseid meteor shower, I bagged two "new" stations with my barefoot C.Crane CC Skywave receiver:

CFZM  This Toronto station is a fire-breather running 50,000 watts on a clear channel (740 kc) 354 miles to my north-northwest. I was surprised that I had not logged this one before and when I checked the log, I discovered I had worked it on 2011 when it was CHWO.

WTEL  Transmitting 5,000 watts on 610 kc from Philadelphia 164 miles to my southwest, like CFZM, I had logged this station before using a different callsign... in 2013 when it was WIP.

I did see two meteors last night, one a whizzer, and then the clouds rolled in and obscured my view.

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 is 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. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Saw WB6ACU Last Night

Joe Walsh, WB6ACU
My daughter Hayley phoned me on my way home from work yesterday; she scored two tickets to the Eagles concert in Hartford and invited me to go with her.

Initially, I was a little reluctant
--> I had some weed whacking to do and after that, I planned to settle down and watch two or three episodes of Law & Order.
Then I asked myself when would I be able to see WB6ACU and the boys play again any time real soon and how many more times will I be able to go to a concert with my daughter, so I accepted her invitation.

We had excellent seats on the floor, 15 rows from the stage. Being so close, I was worried that the sound would be too loud, but it turned out that the sound was just right.

The concert was great and Joe was outstanding. The group played all their hits, as well as Joe's hits from before he joined the flock.

We had a great time sure beats watching Lenny Briscoe.