This Week in Amateur Radio

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This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 1 hour 56 min ago

via the RSGB: Kraftwerk jams with astronaut on ISS

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
Pioneering 1970s electronic music band Kraftwerk performed an extremely unusual duet last week, playing live on stage in conjunction with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst aboard the International Space Station. The event took place as part of Stuttgart’s Jazz Open Festival on 20 July 2018. After introductions, they played a special duet version of the track Spacelab, for which Alexander Gerst had a tablet computer configured with virtual synthesisers. You can find full details on Gerst’s blog.

Broadcast-Quality Audio Processor Donated to W1AW

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
Orban Labs, headquartered in Pennsauken, New Jersey, has donated a state-of-the-art audio processor — the all-digital 9300 OPTIMOD-AM — to ARRL. Orban Labs Vice President of Business Development Mike Pappas, W9CN, arranged for the donation with the intention of improving the audio quality transmitted by W1AW during its evening phone bulletins. The 9300 OPTIMOD-AM is used worldwide at broadcast stations that want the best possible “sound.” W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, installed the 9300 OPTIMOD-AM into W1AW’s audio chain. After making necessary set-up adjustments and working with instructions that Pappas provided, he determined that overall average modulation had increased and audio clarity was improved.

via HACKADAY: Edwin Armstrong’s Battle for FM Radio

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
Chances are you have at least one radio that can receive FM stations. Even though FM is becoming less used now with Internet and satellite options, it still is more popular than the older AM radio bands. FM was the brainchild of an inventor you may have heard of — Edwin Armstrong — but you probably don’t know the whole story. It could make a sort of radio-themed soap opera. It is a story of innovation, but also a story of personal vanity, corporate greed, stubbornness, marital problems, and even suicide. The only thing missing is a long-lost identical twin sibling to turn it into a full telenovela.

RSGB: Ham Radio May Be at “the Dawn of its Greatest Era”

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) believes that Amateur Radio innovation is alive and well. “Amateur research and innovation is far from over; indeed, we may well be at the dawn of its greatest era,” the UK’s International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society concluded in an RSGB 2022 strategy narrative posted on its website. “In an age where the costs of commercial equipment can be as little as [about $25] for a new and capable VHF/UHF FM handheld, some may wonder if the incentive to experiment and construct may have withered,” RSGB observed. “However, the sheer variety and low cost of equipment, sophisticated parts, free software, and the advent of SDR [(software-defined radio) have] created unprecedented opportunities for those inclined to dabble, hack, and innovate. Across all our bands, we have already witnessed the rise in digital modes, software, and advanced equipment.” RSGB said such innovation forms a key element of its case at World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC 2019) favoring a “harmonized” 6-meter amateur allocation in IARU Region 1.

WRTC 2018 Teams Produce Amazing Contact Totals Despite Poor Conditions

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:53
A crack team of contesters from Lithuania has won the gold medal in World Radiosport Team Championship 2018 (WRTC 2018), held over the weekend in Germany. Operating as Y81N, Gedas Lucinskas, LY9A, and Mindis Jukna, LY4L, topped the real-time scoreboard for much of the event, which is held as a competition within a contest in conjunction with the IARU HF Championship. Lucinskas and Jukna had ended up in sixth place during WRTC 2014, held in New England. They posted a final score of 5,690,685 points, logging 5,139 contacts, with a heavy emphasis on CW. Conditions during the weekend competition were mediocre at best. Taking second place to the pleasure of the German sponsors was the Y81A team of Manfred Wolf, DJ5MW, and Stefan von Baltz, DL1IAO, with 5,273,488 points, with 4,936 contacts, a majority on CW. They placed third in a nail-biting finale for the bronze at WRTC 2014. The mostly German audience gave Wolf and Baltz a huge ovation.

US ARDF Champions Prepare for International Competition in Korea

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:50
Results of the 18th USA National Championships of Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) are now in the record books. Some of those who took part in that event now are hoping to win positions on ARDF Team USA, which will travel to Sokcho, Korea, in early September for the 19th ARDF World Championships. IARU rules limit national teams to three persons per age/gender category. This year’s USA National Championships took place near the ski resort town of Truckee, California. Events included foxoring, a combination of ARDF and classic orienteering on 80 meters; 80-meter sprint, and classic 2-meter and 80-meter ARDF competitions.

RadioShack “Express Stores” to Open in HobbyTown USA Locations

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:13
According to a July 13 article in the New York Post, RadioShack is planning to open “express stores” within HobbyTown USA locations. The nearly century-old, twice-bankrupt retailer has signed a deal with HobbyTown USA to put a mini-RadioShack outlet in some 50 HobbyTown USA stores across the country that would sell items that might appeal to radio amateurs and experimenters. Those locations will be identified with RadioShack signage. HobbyTown markets remote-controlled cars and boats as well as drones and other hobby-related merchandise. RadioShack shuttered all of its company-owned retail outlets. Its last unsuccessful effort to bail itself out of debt involved a deal with cellular provider Sprint. HobbyTown USA has 140 retail outlets, and, according to the Post article, RadioShack eventually could carve out a presence — on the order of 500 square feet — in all of them. HobbyTown USA stores in Parker, Colorado, and Mooresville, North Carolina, will be among the first to host RadioShack express stores. “HobbyTown is purchasing the RadioShack merchandise and offering it to its hobbyist customers who need the tools, wires, and other accessories that RadioShack makes,” the Post article said.

via HACKADAY: Harley-Hardened Wire Helps High-Gain Antenna Hack

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
What does a Harley-Davidson motorcycle have to do with building antennas? Absolutely nothing, unless you happen to have one and need to work-harden copper wire to build a collinear antenna for LoRa. We’ll explain. Never being one to settle, [Andreas Spiess] needed a better antenna for his LoRa experiments. Looking for high gain and an omnidirectional pattern, he bought a commercial colinear antenna, which is a wire with precisely spaced loops that acts like a stack of dipoles. Sadly, in a head-to-head test [Andreas] found that the commercial antenna was no better than lower gain antennas in terms of range, and so he decided to roll his own. Copper wire is a great material for antennas since it can be easily formed without special tools and it solders like a champ. But the stuff you get at the home center is nowhere near stiff enough for a free-standing vertical whip. This is where the Harley came in: [Andreas] used his Hog to stretch out the 1.75-mm diameter (a little bigger than #14 AWG) copper wire. Not only did the work-hardening stiffen the wire, it reduced its diameter to the 1.4 mm needed for the antenna design. His vector network analyzer told him that ground-plane elements and a little fiddling with the loop diameter were needed to get the antenna to resonate at 868 MHz, but in the end it looks like the antenna is on track to deliver 5-dBi of gain. Of course there are plenty of other ways to stretch out a wire — you could just stretch it out with hanging weights, or even with a go-kart motor-powered winch if you’re ambitious. But if you’ve got a bike like that, why not flaunt it?

Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, Appointed General Chairman for Hamvention 2019

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
The Dayton Amateur Radio Board of Directors has appointed Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, of Springboro, Ohio, as the General Chairman for Hamvention 2019. Gerbs, who served as Assistant General Chairman for the 2017 and 2018 Hamventions, succeeds Ron Cramer, KD8ENJ, who served in the post for the 2017 and 2018 shows. “Jack worked very closely with me the last 2 years and is very familiar with all aspects of Hamvention,” Cramer said. “He was a big help during the move and is well prepared to continue making Hamvention better each year.” Gerbs thanked Cramer for helping him prepare for the position. “Ron kept me well informed and included in all the major decisions while adapting to Hamvention’s new home. I look forward to building on the solid foundation he set,” he said.

via HACKADAY: The Biggest Corner Antenna We’ve Ever Seen

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
Radio waves are received on antennas, for which when the signal in question comes over a long distance a big reflector is needed. When the reception distance is literally astronomical, the reflector has to be pretty darn big. [The Thought Emporium] wants to pick up signals from distant satellites, the moon, and hopefully a pulsar. On the scale of home-built amateur radio, this will be a monstrous antenna. The video also follows the break. In hacker fashion, the project is built on a budget, so all the parts are direct from a hardware store, and the tools are already in your toolbox or hackerspace. Electrical conduit, chicken wire, PVC pipes, wood blocks, and screws make up most of the structure so put away your crazy links to Chinese distributors unless you need an SDR. The form of the antenna is the crucial thing, and the shape is three perpendicular panels as seen in the image and video. The construction in the video is just a suggestion, but it doesn’t involve welding, so that opens it to even more amateurs. Even if you are not trying to receive a pulsar’s signature, we have hacks galore for radios and antennas.

Slovenia Gains 60-Meter Band Allocation

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
According to the Association of Radio Amateurs of Slovenia (ZRS), radio amateurs in Slovenia now have a 60-meter band available to them as of July 14. The allocation is 5.351.5 – 5.366.5 MHz, with a maximum EIRP of 15 W, in accordance with the Final Acts of World Radiocommunication Conference 2015, with operation on a secondary basis. This band will be available to Class A licensees in Slovenia. — Thanks to IARU Region 1 HF Manager Tom Kamp, DF5JL, via Southgate Amateur Radio News

via HACKADAY: Global Radio Direction Finding in Your Browser

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
Radio direction finding is one of those things that most Hackaday readers are likely to be familiar with at least on a conceptual level, but probably without much first-hand experience. After all it’s not everyday that you need to track down a rogue signal, let alone have access to the infrastructure necessary to triangulate its position. But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, at least the latter excuse is now a bit less valid. The RTL-SDR Blog has run a very interesting article wherein they describe how the global network of Internet-connected KiwiSDR radios can be used for worldwide radio direction finding. If you’ve got a target in mind, and the time to fiddle around with the web-based SDR user interface, you now have access to the kind of technology that’s usually reserved for world superpowers. Indeed, the blog post claims this is the first time such capability has been put in the hands of the unwashed masses. Let’s try not to mess this up.

Marconi Birthplace to Host World Radiosport Team Championship 2022

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
The region of Italy that is home to the birthplace of wireless pioneer Guglielmo Marconi — Bologna, Italy — will host the next World Radiosport Team Championship, WRTC 2022. The official announcement that the Italian host committee’s proposal had been selected came from WRTC Sanctioning Committee Chairman Tine Brajnik, S50A, at the close of WRTC 2018 in Germany. “Thank you for trusting us,” WRTC 2022 Organizing Committee member Carlo De Mari, IK1HJS, told the WRTC 2018 audience. “It will be a very big challenge. Fingers crossed, everybody!” In a formal announcement, Brajnik said the Italian committee’s application “was well prepared, and, knowing their determination, we all expect another outstanding meeting and competition among the world’s best contesters in the Emilia-Romagna region.” Brajnik referred future inquiries for information and details of the WRTC 2022 qualifying process to the new WRTC 2022 Organizing Committee.

via HACKADAY: Digital Attenuator Goes from Manual to Arduino Control

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 13:11
[Kerry Wong] comes across the coolest hardware, and always manages to do something interesting with it. His widget du jour is an old demo board for a digital RF attenuator chip, which can pad a signal in discrete steps according to the settings of some DIP switches. [Kerry]’s goal: forget the finger switch-flipping and bring the attenuator under Arduino control. As usual with his videos, [Kerry] gives us a great rundown on the theory behind the hardware he’s working with. The chip in question is an interesting beast, an HMC624LP4E from Hittite, a company that was rolled into Analog Devices in 2014. The now-obsolete device is a monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) built on a gallium arsenide substrate rather than silicon, and attenuates DC to 6-GHz signals in 64 steps down to -31.5 dBm. After a functional check of the board using the DIP switches, he whipped up a quick Arduino project to control the chip with its built-in serial interface. It’s just a prototype for now, but spinning the encoder is a lot handier than flipping switches, and once this is boxed up it’ll make a great addition to [Kerry]’s RF bench. If this video puts you in an RF state of mind, check out some of [Kerry]’s other videos, like this one about temperature-compensated crystal oscillators, or the mysteries of microwave electronics.

BBC: 'shortwave radio listening continues its steep decline'

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 14:39
Figures published by the BBC show more people are listen directly to World Service English via the internet than by any other method The Global Audience Measure (GAM) figures indicate how many adults the BBC reached weekly with its news and entertainment content in the year 2017/18. The BBC World Service, which has just undertaken its biggest expansion since the 1940s, has seen its audience increase by 10m, to 279m. The total global news audience has risen by a million, to 347m. The shortwave radio audience has virtually disappeared in Pakistan, and is down substantially in Nigeria. Read the BBC report at

University of Alabama students selected for antenna design contest

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 14:32
A team of engineering students at the University of Alabama is one of six selected to compete in an international contest to design a portable radio system capable of locating a hidden radio transmitter in real time. The UA team is competing in the 2018 Annual Student Antenna Design Contest, held by the Antennas and Propagation Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology. The UA team won the contest a year ago. “We are very fortunate because this is a worldwide competition, so we are very happy our students were one of the top six,” said Yang-Ki Hong, team adviser and the E.A. “Larry” Drummond endowed professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the UA College of Engineering. The UA team is made up of students from Hong’s lab including Hoyun Jay Won, a graduate student from Incheon, South Korea; Katelyn Isbell, an undergraduate student from Chesapeake, Virginia; Leo Vanderburgh, an undergraduate student from Dayton, Ohio; Jonathan Platt, an undergraduate student from Lumberton, New Jersey.

Scanner chatter goes quiet as police agencies turn to encryption (Virginia)

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 14:25
Across the land, the scanners are going dark. Several law enforcement agencies in Virginia have moved recently to encrypt the messages they send over the radio, leaving dead air for listeners of police scanners — long the source of information for the news media and titillation for thrill-seekers. On Monday, police in Richmond and surrounding Henrico and Chesterfield counties encoded their radio signals. Virginia Beach has proposed a nearly $5 million encryption project. And soon, police and firefighters in Roanoke County and Salem will encrypt radio traffic, both as part of a shift to new technology and as a reflection of trends nationwide. Law enforcement agencies in Nevada, Ohio, Iowa and elsewhere have already encoded channels. Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers struck down a bill that would have banned departments from encrypting radio signals. The move toward encryption is setting up a debate over who should control the flow of information, and when.

Man Arrested for Threatening FCC Chairman Pai's Family

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 14:09
According to the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia, a California man has been arrested and charged with threatening to kill the family of FCC chairman Ajit Pai last fall because the man was angry over the repeal of network neutrality rules. Makara Man, 33, of Norwalk, Calif., allegedly sent three emails to Pai Dec. 19 and 20, 2017, the first claiming a child had committed suicide because of the repeal, the second threatening to kill Pai's family members, and the third included an image of Pai with a framed photo of his family. Federal agents tracked the emails and confronted Man, who admitted to writing the emails because he wanted to "scare" Pai.

Medway Queen plays host to international chats in Gillingham (UK)

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:55
Amateur radio operators communicated with countries as far as Russia as they transmitted from the Medway Queen. The amateur radio operation, which was set up at Gillingham Pier, Pier Road, Gillingham, was designed to spread awareness of museums worldwide as part of International Museums Week. The Medway-based operation was one of many around the UK to set up a small ham radio station and communicate with other radio amateurs around the world.

via HACKADAY: Eight Transistor Stereo Amplifier From The Days Of Yore

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:55
Reading an article about the first transistorized Hi-Fi amplifier, [Netzener] got the itch to make one. But what to use for the starting point? Enter an old Radio Shack P-Box stereo amplifier kit. After a few modernizations and tweaks, the result is an 8-transistor stereo amplifier that’s aesthetically pleasing, sounds great, and is fully documented. The Radio Shack kit used germanium transistors, but with their high leakage current and low thermal conductivity, he decided to convert it to work with silicon transistors. He also made some improvements to the push-pull bias circuit and limited the high-frequency response. As for the finished product, in true [Netzener] style, he assembled it all to look like the original completed Radio Shack amplifier. He even wrote up a manual which you’d think, as we did at first, was the original one, giving that old, comfortable feeling of reading quality Radio Shack documentation. Check out the video below where he uses a 9 V battery and half a watt per channel to fill a room with clear, stereo sound.