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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Antenna Revival

I have a lot of vintage aluminum squirreled away in various locations on our premises. All of it is of the VHF and UHF variety except for one, a Hy-Gain 18 AVT/WB-A vertical intended for the 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meter HF bands. I bought it new in November 1980 for $81 and installed it at my old folks' home, but I seldom used it because I had a TET HB43sp 4-element beam that I favored for 20, 15 and 10 meters and I almost never got on 80 and 40. When I moved out of my old folks' home in the fall of 1983, I disassembled and packed up the Hy-Gain and never used it again.

Considering all my antenna choices, I thought about the Hy-Gain and wondered if it was a viable option. I found it in pieces in the shed and was surprised that it seemed to be in decent shape; most of the nuts and bolts were rusty, but otherwise, just dusty. However, there were parts missing ― the U-bolts for mounting the antenna and the four radials of the antenna's top hat.

None of the U-bolts in my hardware collection were the correct size, so I visited a big box hardware store, but none of the U-bolts they sold filled the bill. I probably will find what I need somewhere online, but in the meantime, I decided that two or three hose clamps would do the job temporarily.

Replacing the radials was more problematical. My plan was to use some Copperweld that I had on hand, straighten it as best as I could and solder ring terminals to the ends of each radial for mounting to the antenna. The only problem was that I did not know the proper length of each radial.

Reading various online top hat articles, it seemed the longer, the better was the recommended length for the radials. So I cut each radial to 24 inches, a length that was long, but not so long that the radials drooped much.

The weather finally cleared mid-morning on Field Day, so after lunch I assembled the antenna in about an hour and had it up in the air by the mid-afternoon. I did not have time to run a coax cable into the shack, so I brought the shack outdoors and connected my Elecraft KX3 transceiver to the antenna with a 25-foot run of coax and operated from my deck.

I went up and down the bands just to hear what I could hear and I was happy with the results. Reception with the vertical was on par with my 80-meter inverted Vee.

Next, I checked the SWR on each of the five pre-WARC bands and the KX3's internal antenna tuner was able to tune the antenna to 1.5:1 or better on each band.

I connected a microphone to the KX3 and began answering Field Day CQs transmitting 5 watts using the KX3's internal battery (1B Connecticut). I did not work all the stations I called and I did a lot more listening that transmitting, but in about 45 minutes, I worked a half dozen stations on 80, 40 and 20 meters. Nothing on 10 or 15 ― 15 meters seemed dead and the activity on 10 was sparse.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the antenna revival and plan to include the Hy-Gain as part of my antenna farm.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Radio Cap


Monday's post, The Radio Hat, reminded me that I own The Radio Cap, that is, a baseball cap with a built-in AM/FM radio. My mother gave it to me as a Christmas gift 15 to 20 years ago. The brand name is Headmates and it was made in China.

The radio and a 12-inch telescoping antenna for FM reception is on the right side of the cap and the batteries (4 AAs) are in a pocket on the left side of the cap. The speaker is on the lid and it includes a jack for earbud listening. The radio has three controls: an AM/FM switch, a power/volume control and a frequency tuning control.

During flat daytime conditions, the radio receives about 20 stations on AM and 30 stations on FM. Don't know what kind of antenna the radio uses on AM, but it is directional. The sound is typical for a small radio.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Radio Hat


This story came off the mojo wire this morning: The Radio Hat, a circa 1930 invention out of Europe that never caught on here or there. Reminds me of the antenna hats I've seen at various hamfests in the past.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Long Time, No Write!

It has been over three weeks since my last post here. I apologize for the lack of words, but I have been very busy... retiring!

Earlier this year, the company offered me an attractive voluntary severance package and I happily volunteered to take it. The last day of May was my last day in the office and I was busy the days before and after preparing for no more manic Mondays!

My regularly scheduled routines are no more and I am getting acclimated to a less structured schedule.

On the radio front, I have a lot of projects in the works: some new antennas to erect, new kits to build and a vintage radio to restore. But before I do that, I have to prep my little acre for the new aerials. I am over half way there and figure that the antenna work will begin shortly after Father's Day.

Also, I am looking for freelance writing opportunities. Writing has been my life for the over 40
years and I want to keep at it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

E-Skip Time


Yesterday, Mike Schaffer, KA3JAW, alerted me that E-skip season is upon us.

Mike wrote, "Es season in western EU started on Sunday, May 14th. Es season in US started yesterday, along the west coast inland towards Texas. Today Es started in Virginia and reached as far north as Wisconsin."

So today, I began monitoring the VHF Propagation Map and all day long so far (it's 1700 UTC now), there have been big openings in the southeastern USA. The map does not differentiate between types of VHF propagation, but whenever a big red footprint appears on the map, it is worth investigating if you are under that footprint.

Still No Go

Thomas, K4SWL, posted a bunch of photos on his website (The SWLing Post) that he took at Hamvention yesterday as the booths were being set-up. He even had a photo of the TAPR booth, which I will share with you!

K4SWL photo
TAPR booth, Hamvention 2017 (K4SWL photo)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

No Go

I had to cancel my plans to attend the Hamvention this weekend.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Working on my "new" radio


I began restoring my "new" RCA Victor Model 56X5 AM/SW wood cabinet receiver.

First thing I did was remove the chassis from the cabinet to inspect its innards. The components all look intact, but who knows what condition they are in. 

The only apparent issue is the pointer assembly of the frequency dial. All the pieces seem to be there, but the pointer is not on its track and I have not figured out how it is supposed to be positioned on the track.

I removed the crusty dried-out power cord with its missing insulation and obtained a new power cord to replace it.

I found a replacement for the missing tuning knob from Holy Moly Tubes via eBay. 

That's all for now.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Xenia Marks the Spot


This time next week, I will be on an Interstate in Ohio heading for Hamvention. Although this will be my 30-something trip to the big show, it will be different this year because of the new Hamvention venue in Xenia – specifically, the Greene County Fairgrounds.

I will be staffing TAPR's booths (Building 5, booths 5001-5003) off and on Friday and Saturday and I will be attending the TAPR-AMSAT Annual Banquet Friday evening.

If you will be attending Hamvention, I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My "New" Radio


A friend gifted me her family's old radio, a circa 1945 RCA Victor Model 56X5 AM and SW wood cabinet receiver. The cabinet has some wear and tear from being used, one knob is missing and the power cord is dried out and missing pieces of insulation, but it looks complete otherwise.

The radio cost $35 when it was new. That $35 equals $470 in 2017 dollars, so it was an expensive radio post-World War II.

I plan to replace the power cord real soon now, power it up and hope for the best, but I suspect it may require more work than just a new cord to get it up and running.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lightning Strikes Again

Waste of money?
After dinner last evening, I was watching the news on the big TV set and BAM! – there was a lightning strike very nearby. The big TV flashed white and when the picture returned, it displayed the "No Signal" message, Uh oh!

The TV in the kitchen seemed fine even though it is part of the same Xfinity Comcast installation.

I spent over an hour monkeying around trying to diagnose the problem. I figured that either the TV or set-top box had been damaged.

I swapped TVs and the kitchen TV worked fine with the suspect set-top box, but the big TV would not work with the kitchen connection.

Next, I connected the big TV to my laptop and the big TV mirrored the computer's desktop. Finally, I connected the big TV to its original set-top box connection and now it worked fine!

Did the TV heal itself?

I was relieved that the TV and set-top box were working, but the vintage VCR and new DVD player that were connected to the set-top box would not power up. The DVD player's wall wart was outputting 12 volts DC, but the DVD player would have none of it.

All the equipment was connected to AC via a high-end GE surge protected power strip that had the following guarantee:  In the event that a power surge or spike occurs while equipment is properly connected to the surge protector, the manufacturer will repair or replace any equipment damaged up to the maximum value of $400,000.

But their guarantee does not cover lightning hits!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

1710 Mystery Station


Mike, KA3JAW, asked, "Do you hear a multicultural station on AM 1710 that also comes in during the day time at about  the same signal strength?"

I replied, "I have never heard it during the day. I do hear it occasionally at night (maybe once every two or three weeks). I thought it might be a pirate. If you are hearing it during the day, it is probably a lot closer to you than me."

That exchange started a weeklong quest to figure out what we were hearing. 

The only other stations I hear on 1710 are the Springfield (MA) Armory TIS and WQFG689, the Hudson County (NJ) TIS. I usually hear one or both each night, but the mystery station is a little rarer.

For about one week, I monitored 1710 whenever I had the radio on at home and in the Subaru. This is what I discovered:
When the station shows up, it is usually around sunset for 15 to 30 minute appearances. One time, I also heard it very briefly on the car radio at sunrise.
One evening, I was able to receive it very weakly on the directional antenna (a C.Crane Twin Coil Ferrite on a turntable). The signal peaked to the southeast/northwest, approximately 135/315 degrees. There is not much to the southeast... just some small towns in southeastern Connecticut, the eastern tip of Long Island and then the Atlantic Ocean. The northwest is more likely the source... Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, NY and Toronto and Hamilton, ON.
Mike mentioned that he thought he heard Canada mentioned a few times, so perhaps it is a Canadian station.

The station remains a mystery... maybe a little less mysterious, but still a mystery.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Conservative Logging - Part 2

Radio Algerienne's logo – An Algerian longwave
station I have heard regularly throughout this
winter on 252 kc with audio!
In yesterday's post, I wondered about logging the transatlantic carriers I hear on LW and MW. Do I log them as new stations when I am pretty sure I know who they are despite the fact there is nothing on-the-air, call sign or otherwise, to confirm their identity?

So far, I had been taking a conservative approach and not logging them as new stations even though I am 99% sure that the carrier I heard on 1215 kc is Absolute Radio out of the UK.

Curious about how other LW and MW DX'ers handle carriers, I posed this question on the International Radio Club of America (IRCA) e-mail list and received nine replies. The consensus was to take the conservative approach and not log a carrier unless you hear audio with contents that confirms the station's identity.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Conservative Logging

Moorside Edge transmitter site of BBC Radio 5 Live 909 kHz, Talksport 1089 kHz and Absolute Radio 1215 kHz. (Source: MediumWave.info)

Conditions on the AM band seemed pretty good this morning on the stock radio in my Subaru as I drove to work at the crack of dawn. The French Canadians were strong and WSB and WGY were so strong that you would think they were locals. But there was nothing new to enter in the log.

Last week was a good week for transatlantic DX'ing. Thursday evening, I heard weak audio on 171, 198, and 216 and weak carriers on 183, 252, 531, 549, 684 and 693. Friday evening there were weak carriers on 549, 684, 693, 855 and 1215.

The stations between 171 and 252 were already in the log. Everything in the AM band was not. Do I log carriers as new stations when there is no way to identify them to a certainty? It is likely that 1215 was Absolute Radio out of the UK, but without hearing any audio to confirm that fact, I don't log it as a new station.

Am I being too conservative?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

seventy-seven double-you aye bee see


When I was a teenager, I was an avid listener of AM radio station WABC in New York City. Day and night, it was loud and clear in Waterbury and my radio was tuned to 770 kc most of the time.

Awhile back, I purchased a DVD titled 1960’s WABC Radio Airchecks. In addition to airchecks, the DVD contains 75 hours of pure nostalgia from 77 WABC including “Actual Broadcasts By Big Dan Ingram, ‘Cousin Brucie’ Bruce Morrow, Ron Lundy, Scott Muni, Chuck Leonard & More,” like the Cousin Brucie theme song sung by The Four Seasons or the old Palisades Amusement Park commercial.

Seventy-five hours is a little much to listen to in one sitting, so I loaded the contents of the DVD into my iPod (by way of iTunes) and I hear random selections during my daily commute.

A 16-minute segment from October 7, 1964, with Dan Ingram spinning the platters was very entertaining and enlightening.

Here are some items of note from the broadcast:

đŸ“¶   Telephone numbers still used two-letter alphabetical prefices, for example, "PL 5-1516" instead of "755-1516" (in this example, the "PL" was short for "plaza").

đŸ“¶   Mailing addresses still used one or two-number postal zones instead of ZIP Codes, for example, "Waterbury 6, Connecticut" instead of "Waterbury, Connecticut 06706."

đŸ“¶   Firestone advertised snow tires: $24.24 for a pair.

đŸ“¶   During the broadcast, Dan Ingram announced score updates from the World Series. On the air, he admitted rooting for St. Louis (against the hometown Yankees). Can you imagine an on-the-air personality rooting against the hometown team today? (I can’t.)

đŸ“¶   This broadcast was during the height of Beatlemania and there were two commercials in a row: one for a contest to win a Beatles poster, followed by a commercial for the Beatles' appearance on Shindig! Both commercials used snippets from the Beatles’ hit She Loves You. Following the commercials, Ingram says, “Well, I guess it was inevitable” and the next song you hear him play was She Loves You.

Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Chasing DX with My Car


The stock radio in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport is very good. It is very sensitive on AM and FM and is very clean with regards to car-generated noise. The only negative is that the selectivity on FM could be better (strong stations spill over to adjacent channels).

I have logged 67 new AM stations and 29 new FM stations during my 22-mile daily commute with that car radio. Best AM DX was WAPA on 680 kHz in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1655 miles away; best FM DX was WLHR on 92.1 MHz in Lavonia, Georgia, 744 miles away.

I'd like to keep the radio if I ever sell the car, but the new owner might mind the gap.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quantum Phaser

Quantum Phaser under the ELAD FDM-S2
Quantum Phaser under the ELAD FDM-S2
I recently added a Quantum Phaser to my ham radio shack. This tool "combines the signals from two separate antennas and allows the manipulation of level and phase of the signals so that a single, steerable null results. It is optimized for use on the crowded MW band, can be used with antennas of virtually any type and is capable of snagging DX not usually obtainable with conventional antennas alone."

In other words, the Quantum Phaser allows you to null out a strong radio station so that you can copy a weaker radio station on the same frequency that you ordinarily would not hear because of the stronger radio station.

Living where I live (about half way between New York City and Boston), there are a lot of strong AM radio stations and a lot of weaker stations on the same AM frequencies, so the Quantum Phaser has the potential of unearthing a lot of new stations for the log.

Problem is that I am antenna poor at this time. All I have outdoors is an 80-meter inverted Vee and an ICOM AH-7000 VHF-UHF discone, but I connected them up to the Quantum Phaser and gave it a try.

It did not take long to get the hang of using the Phaser and it was able to null out strong stations to hear weaker stations on the same frequency. The only catch is that the discone is a poor choice for MW DXing, so when I nulled out a strong station there was usually nothing left but dead air. I hope that when I get some more aluminum up in the air this spring, I will have more success hearing the weak stations.

Monday, March 13, 2017

364 vs. 83 miles

This morning, I got in the car to drive to work and the radio was tuned to 1010 kc. The signal was strong, but it did not sound like WINS out of New York City.

When the weather forecast mentioned snow accumulations in centimeters, I assumed I was listening to a Canadian station. Turned out it was CFRB out of Toronto. I already logged CFRB, but I stuck with 1010 in case anything else showed up.

Thirty-five minutes/twenty-two miles later, CFRB was still dominating 1010 with only occasional flickers of WINS. Both stations transmit 50,000 watts, but CFRB is 364 miles away while WINS is 83 miles away. So there was some interesting propagation this morning heard on the stock radio and antenna of my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport!

You can read CFRB's early history here, which is the source for the image above.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New Radio

On the anniversary of my 66th trip around the Sun, I received a new radio from my wife and daughter, an Eton Grundig Satellit 750. It covers LW, MW/AM, SW (including SSB), Air and FM (including stereo).

I played with it for awhile yesterday. It has a lot of nice features. I especially like the 360 degree, rotating AM antenna mounted on the top of the radio. I will have more to say about the 750 after I have given it a fuller workout.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dry Spell


Since my last post, conditions have occasionally been good, but I have not heard anything new. For example, two nights ago, I heard the data carrier from France on 162 kc, Radio Mediterranee audio on 172, BBC Radio 4 audio on 198, Radio Algerienne audio on 252 and loads of navigational beacons, but nothing new to enter in the log.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Groundhog Day 2016


I saw my first groundhog of the year yesterday afternoon. In the past, I did not see my first one until late March or early April, but the past few weeks have been so mild that they are ahead of schedule.

I expect to see my first grounder of the year real soon now, too!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lots of carriers and more

In this neck of the woods Friday evening, there were more carriers than usual on the LW and the non-standard (USA/Canadian) 9-kc MW channels.

đŸ“¶   162 – Allouis, France, IPHA data, strong steady signal

đŸ“¶   183 – Sauberg, Germany, with a weak carrier

đŸ“¶   198 – BBC Radio 4, with very good audio

đŸ“¶   207 – Iceland or Morocco, with a weak carrier

đŸ“¶   252 – Radio Algerienne, Tipaza, Algeria, with varying audio, music was better than voice but the language barrier probably had something to do with my ear's interpretation of the audio

đŸ“¶   585 – Unknown station with a solid carrier

đŸ“¶   684 – Unknown station with a solid carrier and very weak, unintelligible audio

đŸ“¶   855 – Unknown station with a solid carrier

Saturday evening was similar, but with some differences in the line-up and no 9-kc channel carriers.

đŸ“¶   162 – Allouis, France, IPHA data, strong steady signal

đŸ“¶   183 – Sauberg, Germany, solid carrier but poor unintelligible audio

đŸ“¶   189 – Rikisutvarpid Ras 1+2 in Iceland, solid carrier, no audio

đŸ“¶   198 – BBC Radio 4, solid carrier, no audio

đŸ“¶   216 – Radio Monte Carlo in France, solid carrier, poor audio

đŸ“¶   252 – Solid carrier, poor or no audio

Equipment used was the ELAD FDM-S2/SW2 and an 80-meter inverted Vee antenna.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mid-February Listenings

There has been some interesting propagation in my neck of the woods lately.

Saturday evening, Morocco's Radio Mediterranee Internationale on 171 kc was stronger than usual – probably the strongest I ever heard it.

This morning at the crack of dawn, I tuned my car radio to 1070 kc just for the heck of it and was surprised to hear two stations. Usually backwash from WTIC on 1080 interferes with everything on 1070, so either conditions were very good this morning or WTIC had their IBOC turned off. I was only able to identify one of the two stations, CHOK in Sarnia, Ontario, which I had previously logged with my C.Crane CC Skywave receiver.

I have logged some new stations recently:

đŸ“¶   WBPZ (1100 UTC February 12) on the 1230 kc graveyard frequency transmitting 1 kW from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, 237 miles to the west-southwest.

đŸ“¶   WBYN (0000 UTC February 14) on 1160 kc transmitting 1 kW from Lehighton, Pennsylvania, 153 miles to the west-southwest.

đŸ“¶   CFRA (0500 UTC February 19) on 580 kc transmitting 30 kW from Ottawa, Ontario, 283 miles to the north-northwest.

All three were heard on my ELAD FDM-S2/FDM-SW2 receiver and 80-meter inverted Vee antenna.

Friday, February 3, 2017

WCNL vs. WINS

I bought some new shelves and have been renovating the radio shack the past two weeks, but I have managed to squeak out two new station loggings during that time.

đŸ“¶   WYNY on graveyard frequency 1450 kc transmitting 1 kW from Milford, PA, 98 miles to the west-southwest, using my ELAD FDM-S2/FDM-SW2 receiver and 80-meter inverted Vee antenna.

đŸ“¶   WCNL on 1010 kc transmitting 10 kW from Newport, NH, 126 miles to the north-northeast using the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport. WINS usually dominates 1010, but on my way home from work yesterday, WINS was battling with a country-western music station. Just as I pulled into my driveway, WCNL identified. Good timing!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Three So Far This Year


I have been listening everyday and hearing a lot of DX, but almost all of it is already in the log. For example, the BBC carrier on 198 was strong enough last night that I could actually hear audio, but BBC on 198 has been in the log since 2012 (5 years ago to the day).

Since the first of the year, I have had three additions to the log:

đŸ“¶   YAT on 260 kc transmitting 125 W from 'Wapisk' Attawapiskat, ON, 898 miles to the north-northeast

đŸ“¶   WTEL on 610 kc transmitting 5 kW from Philly, 270 miles to the southwest

đŸ“¶   WSPG on 1400 kc transmitting 1 kW from Spartanburg, SC, 669 miles to the southwest

All three were logged with the ELAD FDM-S2/FDM-SW2 receiver and the ICOM AH-7000 discone antenna.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

WCBS 880: 50 Years of News


Without a doubt, I listen to WCBS (880 kHz) more than any other AM radio station. This year is the 50th anniversary of the station's switch to an all-news format. To celebrate the switch, the station will have a variety of related presentations on their website and on the air throughout 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017


December 30, 2016, I knew conditions were excellent when I could hear DDP, the navigational beacon in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I have not heard DDP since I originally logged it five years ago.

The previously-logged trans-Atlantic stations were stronger than I have heard them in the past. France on 162, Morocco on 171, BBC on 198, Radio Monte Carlo on 216 and Algeria on 252.

I found these excellent conditions when I turned the radio on at 0600 UTC. About 20 minutes later, power went out and all the neighborhood QRN went with it. Since my ELAD FDM-S2 is powered by my computer's USB port, I was able to continue enjoying the excellent conditions until the battery power in my laptop dissipated about 90 minutes later.

New stations logged:

→ Navigational beacon MT on 209 transmitting 500 W from Chibougamau, Quebec, 570 miles to the north.

→ Navigational beacon ZEM on 338 transmitting 25 W from Eastman River, Quebec, 778 miles to the north-northwest.

→ Navigational beacon YXL on 349 transmitting 1 kW from Sioux Lookout, Ontario, 1078 miles to the northwest.

→ Navigational beacon OW on 395 transmitting from Stoughton, Massachusetts, 99 miles to the east-northeast.

→ Navigational beacon ZST on 397 transmitting from Alpine, New Brunswick, 430 miles to the northeast.

→ Broadcast station WPWA on 1590 transmitting 1 kW from Chester, Pennsylvania, 179 miles to the southwest.

→ Broadcast station WMGE on 1670 transmitting 1 kW from Dry Branch, Georgia, 845 miles to the southwest.

Equipment used: ELAD FDM-S2/SW2 SDR receiver/software and 80-meter inverted Vee antenna

By the way, during this session, I briefly listened to the news at the top of the hour on WTIC (1080 in Hartford) and was very surprised to hear an advertisement from C.Crane for their AM, FM and SW radios. I don't ever recall hearing an ad for radios on the radio before.