Wednesday, September 19, 2018

9/19: International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Guess I should post the significance of the day. I've been away today during the best times for propagation & I missed out on Radio Ga-Ga.

I picked up a lot of ARRL Handbooks at a hamfest about six or seven weeks ago. What grabbed my attention was the name written inside the front cover and his place of employment: Glenn Hartong, Collins Radio. I ran some searches and found his obituary. Glenn worked at Collins for seven years, from 1953 to 1960. During the latter two years of his employment there, he was the project manager for the Collins Echo satellite tracking system.

He was also a founding member of the Mid Atlantic Antique Radio Club and a member of the Hudson-Essex-Terraplane club. He owned and restored four Hudsons. Being a fan of sorts of lesser-known cars, like AMC (and the companies that merged to create it) and Studebaker, I think his car restorations sound awesome. Of course, I'm a fan of antique radios as well.

I wish the obituary would have mentioned what projects he worked on prior to 1959. Maybe he helped design some aspects of the Collins S-line? I don't know. But Glenn was there during that time.

Monday, August 27, 2018

W3JJN recordings

On Saturday, I mentioned finding some interesting records at a flea market. I like to dig through old records anyway (for a variety of reasons), but one of the things I'm always looking for are homemade records, such as those by Recordio and some other companies. I think the amateur audio is great, but what I'm really looking for is recordings of radio.

The computer era is wonderful because I can record nearly every pirate that I hear. I have hours of recordings of Radio Free Whatever, WEAK Radio, and many others. But before easy to save and organize MP3 files, I recorded to cassette--and I was disorganized enough that I rarely did it. Still, many people did because everyone had cassette recorders and the media was inexpensive. In general, much fewer recordings from the radio exist from the '70s, '80s, and early '90s, but they're far from rare. Going back to the '50s and '60s largely predates the cassette, which didn't find widespread use until the late '60s. This was the era of the open-reel (a.k.a. "reel to reel") tape deck. I like to dig through boxes of open-reel tapes, in hopes of finding some radio recordings. Over the years,  I have found a few, but nothing monumental. A few minutes of KQV here and there, etc.

Before open-reel decks were wire recorders. Information was magnetized onto a fine reel of stainless steel wire. It was essentially the same concept as tape decks, whether open reel or cassette, only the tape system was a refinement (an oxide coating on a plastic tape), rather than trying to magnetize a wire. I was at an outdoor flea market about five years ago and I passed by a wire recorder and about a dozen radio broadcasts of Philadelphia baseball (I can't remember now whether it was the A's or Phillies). I could kick myself for letting that go, but the recorder was large, heavy (probably about 50 lbs.) and the owner didn't know if it worked. I was afraid of getting stuck with yet another nonfunctional chunk of electronics.

Before wire recorders were record recorders. These took an audio source and the needle cut a blank disc with grooves. From what I understand, these homemade discs weren't meant to be played back too many times because the needles wore into the grooves more quickly than commercially manufactured records. I'm not sure what they were all made from, but I know that some were aluminum discs with a thin layer of plastic.

I always look for the homemade records because there weren't too many options for audio sources back then. By the open-reel tape era, a lot of people were recording entire albums to tape, so they weren't necessarily recording the radio. But, for example, in 1940, the options were basically either family greetings, someone singing or a band playing, or the radio. And chances are good that any recording you find is the only one in existence.

I found three of these on Saturday.

Here's a photo of one. They are amateur radio QSOs from W3JJN to a couple of other operators. W3JJN cataloged the discs by side . . . and this was number 477. So, at least 237 other records existed in his homemade record collection at one time. The sides that I have are dated in late 1945 and early 1946. To me, this is an astounding find because I'm not sure how many recordings exist of any amateur radio operations prior to 1950, not to mention that this is still very early in the post-war period.

I did some searching on W3JJN and he was William E. Belz, who lived at that time on 1509 Linden Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. He was a TV repairman who was born in Duncansville, PA, and died in 1981 after a lengthy illness.

My big problem here is that these records are disintegrating. The plastic layer is cracking badly and separating from the aluminum discs. I guess what I really need is one of the laser turntables that can play back audio from broken discs and won't damage the grooves. I don't think I can risk playing any of these on a regular turntable, but I want to recover the audio quickly before the discs degrade further.

I think I'm going to try contacting the ARRL or one of the radio museums for ideas.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

WEDG 1620 kHz

I heard WEDG for the I heard WEDG for the first time in about five years, last Saturday! I was out driving and heard it with a fair/good signal on the car radio. Oldies and a clear W-E-D-G ID by an older-sounding man at 1800 UTC. This has got to be very low power, maybe even qualifying as Part 15. I needed to have a small portable receiver with an output jack & a laptop along so that I could record it. 

It's really fascinating to hear a station like this & I wonder if the operator ever searches the Internet to see if anyone logs him. If so, I've heard you twice and if you QSL, I'd love to have one!

It can be tough finding stations like this one. Unless someone is putting 20 watts or greater out on 1710 kHz, it's almost impossible to find the station. And these days of multiethnic programming and cash-poor AM stations with absent engineers, you can't just assume that the non-English-speaking program is a community pirate or that the station playing Christmas songs for hours with no IDs is a pirate. But it makes me wonder just how many low-power in-band AM (MW) pirates are out there.

Speaking of absent station personnel, how long is the technical difficulties announcement going to run on WQFG689? I think it's been looping for at least a month. I know some people who'd be happy to put some good programming on 1710 kHz, if they don't want to use it . . .

Still writing the Pirate Radio Annual. I was writing the entry for Union City Radio this morning.

I found a couple of really interesting radio records this morning. Maybe I'll post about them tomorrow or later this week.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A few loggings: 7/28/2018

Just letting you know that I'm still out there and slowly getting the Annual written. I've finished about 250 entries and have about 70 more to go.

A few months ago, I was writing a close-out entry for the last Global HF Weekend . . . when I was finishing, the computer crashed and . . . well , . . that was it.

Have a few loggings because I feel like I should have some reason to be blogging rather than just to indicate that I'm still breathing. Seems like a pretty good opening to Europe right now on 48 meters.

Zenith Classic Rock: 5780, 7/28, 2315+ Not much is making it through at all, but I compared some of the tones that I'm hearing to the signal on the Twente SDR and, yes, that is some audio between the static crashes. It apparently doesn't have an address or QSL, but I don't have enough information to write in anyway.

Coast FM: 6285, 7/28, 2330+ Decent signal & I should be able to ID a song soon

Triple-L Radio: 6277.7, 7/28, 2333+ Good signal with light music from the '50s. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" Georgia Satellites

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Global HF Weekend: Saturday 3/31/2018

Last night, I heard DORM Radio and Clever Name Radio. I also had the carrier for Key Channel Radio on 6915 kHz around 0400 UTC. I set the recorder on for 3 hours last night & we'll see if it caught any audio. Also, I had Laser Hot Hits (6205) and Coast FM (6285) earlier. My antenna is still on the ground from the Nor'easter from the weekend of the Winter SWL Fest and we've been busy with family for Easter weekend, so what I hear is not the best gauge for what's on the air.

I heard yesterday that word of the Global HF weekend was passed along to the New Zealand DX League and the Australian Radio DX Club and that some of the members will be listening after 0500 UTC tonight.

2236 update: I've been away most of the day, but I did hear KOOT early in the afternoon on 6925 kHz. Overall, everything's been going really well with the Global HF Weekend. A relay of Lupo Radio was reported in North America in the late morning on 6973 kHz. Bryan Clark in New Zealand didn't hear any North American pirates last night, but he did hear Key Channel Radio on 6915 kHz between 0530 and 0600 UTC.

2320 update: If you're in Europe, tune to 6960 kHz USB now! I can hear Wolverine Radio on the Twente SDR, so I know it's audible in Europe.

2335 update: We have family visiting, but I snuck up to the radio room for a few minutes. Wow, good DX everywhere. Wolverine Radio with a HUGE signal on 6960 kHz USB, and carriers from Radio Batavia on 5830, Radio Enterprise on 6310, one of the South American stations on 6935, and Lupo Radio on 6973 kHz!

0237 update: Ran up to the radio again & I'm hearing Renegade Radio now for the first time in probably close to year. Wow, a lot of stations have been on in the past three hours!

0254 update: Renegade Radio signed off a few minutes ago (thanks for the shoutout). Tuning around & I'm hearing carriers on 6935 and about 6950.5 kHz. Not positive who these are.

0301 update: I checked out the Twente receiver to see what might be audible in Holland. I'm not hearing any pirates on shortwave period right now, But the medium-wave band is hopping with Eastern European stations. No idea who they are, but I'm hearing a strong one on 1650 + others on 1660, 1680, 1690, and 1700 kHz. My guess is that these are all from either Greece or Serbia, but I don't know which one, let alone what stations these are.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Global HF Weekend begins: Friday, 3/30/2018

Here's an update with schedules for the weekend:

Station 1, "various times and frequencies," 3/31 and 4/1
Station 2, 6915 or 6920 kHz, 3/31 0700 UTC to 4/2 1300 UTC sign off
Station 3, 6973 kHz, 1800-2100 or 2200 UTC sign-off, 3/30 to 4/1

Also, I received the following e-mail:

We would like to join the global HF Weekend.
We are a licensed station from Germany. Both frequencies are from 10:00 to 22:00 UTC. Currently our schedule is as follows:
6160 kHz: 12:00 to 18:00 UTC
3975 kHz: 16:00 to 22:00 UTC
It seems propagation conditions improve for the weekend, especially on 6 MHz. We are licensed to broadcast until 22:00 UTC, as I said. However, it would be interesting if we could reach the US at 20:00 to 22:00 UTC. We will switch on the 6160kHz transmitter during the weekend at that time. There might be the chance, our on/off time switch is malfunctioning on 6160 kHz. ;-) So, watch out for us. 

I'll update more schedules as I receive them.

Also, I was listening to the Twente SDR earlier today and heard Coast FM on 6285 kHz. It looks like it'll be on the frequency throughout the weekend, as well as Laser Hot Hits on 6205 kHz

Laser Hot Hits: 6205, 3/30, 1700+ Herman's Hermits song going out by request

Coast FM: 6285, 3/30, 1700+ '80s music by Survivor, Peter Gabriel, Asia, Irene Cara, Madonna, etc. + ads for cellphone companies, a British goods outlet, etc. 

Weekend Propagation Outlook: 43 meters

43 meters has been the hot frequency range for even long-range testing over the past few years. And I've already received a few scheduled tests broadcasts for the Global HF Radio weekend  . . . and all of these are for frequencies in 43 meters. I'll use 80 watts of SSB again, although many more stations, at least in North America, have been using AM-mode transmitters (such as the LuLu and Corsair) in the 10- to 20-watt range. Of course, these will have significantly less range.

One of the best times for hearing Dutch stations on 43 meters in North America this weekend appears to be around 0300 UTC, where it appears that there will be a weak opening to the West Coast:

Interesting also is the propagation prediction for 43 meters from Harrisburg, PA. At 0700 UTC, it should put a decent amount of signal into western Europe and also a weak band into eastern Europe:

I compared this to the prediction for the same time and other specs from the last Global HF Weekend and the results are significantly better!