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From the category archives:

Opinion

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

HERE IS ORSON WELLES, ONE of the truly great voices of broadcast radio and film — and a very original wit — performing, in mock-Biblical style, a sendup of American politics circa 1972. Too bad H.L. Mencken did not live to hear this; I think he would have liked it very much.

The Begatting of the President was released as a vinyl album during the run-up to the ’72 elections, and introduced Welles to a whole new generation of young people who were into avant-garde comedy like the Credibility Gap and the Firesign Theatre.

Orson Welles: The Begatting of the President

(recording source: archive.org)

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The Story of the Electron Tube

by WB4AIO on September 16, 2012

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

HERE IS A WELL-DONE film created by Western Electric in 1948 which gives a brief history of the vacuum tube from AT&T’s perspective. The short part near the end about the War to Save the Soviet, during which all this technology was used to blast Western Civilization to bits and enslave its people, was a bit depressing — but the revolutionary genius of DeForest and the men who stood on his shoulders is quite inspiring, as are the pictures of America back before the Third World invasion. This is the world I was born into.

I wonder if, had our civilization not been derailed by the fall of the Classical world and the subsequent Dark Ages, we would have had electronic amplifiers and sophisticated radio communications in 948 instead of 1948. After all, we knew the Earth was a sphere, and its diameter, in 500 BC, and we had steam engines in 50 AD — though this knowledge was subsequently lost when the crazies took over.

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Amazingly Good-Sounding SSB (ESSB)

by WB4AIO on September 5, 2012

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

TO PROVE THAT STANDARD AM (a mode that is very close to my heart) isn’t the only HF mode offering good fidelity these days, here’s a 10 MB mp3 audio file I recorded (with one of the Flex SDR-1000s  I’ve been experimenting with lately) Labor Day evening of some ESSB operators on 3630 kHz. The band hadn’t completely formed yet, as these Central Daylight Time fellows were propagating to the East Coast at about 7:30 pm their time — full daylight. And static from the remains of Hurricane Isaac was very much present. Yet these only moderate strength signals — some just equal with the static crashes — are still quite intelligible. I think the good intelligibility is because of the wide broadcast-style frequency response, not in spite of it.

It’s amazing what excellent sound some of these experimenters are getting out of single sideband. For years — decades really — only (highly modified to broadcast standards) AM gear was getting this kind of audio quality on amateur radio. But improved techniques have really made SSB sound better than ever!

For best results, listen on a high fidelity set of speakers or headphones:

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I’m Looking for Work

by WB4AIO on July 30, 2010

Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

LIKE THIS SITE? Let me build one that’s just as nice for you or your organization. Since the government made me a fourth class citizen, it has become very difficult for me to support myself and my three children.

I am skilled in writing, editing, graphics, and publishing (both the print and Web varieties), and I have become quite expert at customizing WordPress to create online magazines, newspapers, and organizational Web sites. I’m also a skilled broadcast engineer. If you have any kind of paying work in these fields, no matter how small, please let me know. I’m eager to get started. Just click on the ‘contact’ link on this page.

If you don’t have any work for me now, but appreciate my past efforts, please consider making a donation.

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by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

THE SUMMER THUNDERSTORM season has made me do some reading and reasoning on the topic of protecting your amateur radio equipment from lightning.

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The AM-864U Broadcast Limiter

by WB4AIO on February 23, 2010

The AM-864/U broadcast peak limiter

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

THE AM-864/U broadcast peak limiter, which I purchased “new surplus” from John Meshna and Company in about 1974, was my first foray into true broadcast audio processing for amateur radio. Like my TCS transmitter purchase from them, the unit was beautiful and flawless out of the box. It cost me $35. I sold it in the 90s (probably a mistake) for about $100. It now has acquired a “reputation” in the recording industry, and good ones sell for over a thousand dollars.

It’s 600 ohms transformer-coupled balanced in and out, with a simple all-vacuum-tube and all-balanced audio amplifier and peak rectification and gain reduction circuit. It was built in the 1950s by the Federal Television Corporation (some were built by other contractors, I am told) for use in AM and shortwave transmitters run by AFRTS, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. It came with a manual, the most hilarious aspect of which was its instructions on how to destroy it (“use axes, knives, machetes, flamethrowers, incendiary grenades” etc.) in case it fell into “enemy hands.”

AM-864/U destruction instructions, from the operator's manual (click for the full-size image). And yes, the "enemy us" typo is in the original!

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My First Transmitter: The TCS-12

by WB4AIO on February 16, 2010

The TCS transmitter: Notice the RF output terminals on the upper left of the front panel, right next to the "antenna coupling" control. (click for a larger image)

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

RECENTLY I was listening to WA1HLR use his modified Navy TCS transmitter on 75 meters, and it brought back memories of my early days on the amateur bands. In 1972 I bought a World War II surplus Navy TCS transmitter, built by Collins, from military surplus dealer John Meshna, via mail order.

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Flex Radio Users Net

by WB4AIO on January 4, 2010

Power SDR screen shotsby Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

I’VE JUST DISCOVERED a new and worthwhile amateur radio net, meeting Saturday mornings on or around 3872 kHz in the AM mode. It’s the Flex Radio Users Net, devoted to discussions of the software-defined transceivers manufactured by Flex Radio Systems and related topics.

Flex Radio Users Net - 2 January 2010 - 3872 kHz

This week, the group was discussing both the theoretical and practical aspects of symmetrical versus asymmetrical modulation, modulation levels generally, and audio processing for HF amplitude  modulation transmission.

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HD Radio: Doomed from the Start

by WB4AIO on December 16, 2009

Here we see the HD Radio sidebands on either side of an analogue FM signal, as shown on a spectrum analyzer. Here we see HD Radio sidebands on either side of an analogue FM broadcast signal, as shown on a spectrum analyzer.

by Kevin Strom, WB4AIO

WITH 2010 APPROACHING, CNET just released its “The Decade’s 30 Biggest Tech Flops” anti-awards, and “HD Radio” was among the “winners.”

HD Radio was not only doomed from the start, it was such a serious blunder that it may well lead to the death of thousands of radio stations and the permanent stunting of the industry itself.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of digital radio.

Using modern firmware-upgradeable codecs, orthogonal FDM transmission, and a network of community transmitters in a dedicated digital band, great things could have been done:

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