Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Shortwave Listening Resources Online

Finding up-to-date information online regarding international shortwave broadcast frequencies and schedules can be challenging. Many sites I've checked have shut down; others have tons of broken links on their webpages and obviously aren't being maintained anymore. I have found a few sites that appear to be actually making an effort to keep their listings current.

These are as follows:

If any readers have good online resources for shortwave listening they'd like to share, please contact me or post a comment here and I'll get those posted as soon as I can.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

TenTec Model 1054 Shortwave Radio Kit - The Latest Update

A couple weeks ago I posted an update about the TenTec model 1054 regenerative shortwave radio kit I had built a while back. As regular readers will recall, this radio had issues with the regeneration control not working smoothly. And after a couple unsuccessful attempts at contacting TenTec's service department, I finally got an answer. One of the techs said he'd send me some replacement components to hopefully fix the problem. Here's what happened:

I installed the two new FET transistors and trimmer potentiometer the man sent. Upon testing the radio post repair, the problem was exactly the same - perhaps slightly worse. I calibrated the bands by setting the regeneration control to full oscillation and listening for that signal using a borrowed shortwave receiver. In doing this, I made another discovery:
The sensitivity of the TenTec 1054 was grossly inferior to that of the borrowed radio.
On the borrowed radio - using ONLY a 12 inch cliplead for an antenna, I could CLEARLY hear the WWV time signals on 15 MHz and 10 MHz. On the TenTec, using a 20 FOOT longwire antenna - no sign of WWV. I have always said that if you can't hear WWV on a shortwave radio, you won't hear much else, either. Indeed this was the case. The TenTec could pick up China Radio International, some strong Spanish-speaking stations and a couple strong religious broadcasting stations, but I could not pick up ANY ham traffic. Again - the borrowed rig could get a few ham stations even with a foot long cliplead as an "antenna".

Lest anyone think that maybe something got messed up during the repair, I want to emphasize that I had NEVER been able to hear WWV, or more than one or two ham stations, on the TenTec radio. Prior to having access to a decent quality receiver to check it with, I simply chalked it up to not being able to determine where the unit was actually tuned.

One final test - I took the TenTec to my friend's house. He has a 100' longwire antenna and a good ground system. ONLY by doing this was I able to hear WWV and a few hams. But the WWV was NOT strong as it should be - in fact it was rather faint.

I have built regenerative radios in the past and while they had relatively poor selectivity compared to commercially built superheterodyne receivers, sensitivity was NEVER an issue before.

In view of the sensitivity issue, I think I will NOT invest any more time, energy, or money in this project. The return is simply not there.

What I think I WILL do is when I have the funds, find an older "classic" shortwave radio, buy it, and restore it. For that matter this would NOT be a bad way to get good ham gear, too. The new stuff is entirely too expensive. And once you have restored a radio you would know intimately how it works and how to maintain it.

And as an added benefit - older vaccuum tube gear would tend to be fairly EMP proof.

General Class Amateur (ham) Radio License

As some folks may know, a few years ago I had allowed my amateur radio (ham) license to lapse. As a result, I needed to take the exam to requalify for a license.

Today, I successfully took and passed the General CLass amateur license exam. I got 33 out of a possible 35 questions right. The volunteer examiner (V.E.) offered me the opportunity to sit for the "Extra" class license test. I took it, expecting to fail since I did NOT study that material. Indeed I did fail the "Extra" test - but only by 3 or 4 questions. But what I came away with besides a General Class license is that with some minimal preparation, I can probably pass the Extra one within a few weeks.

In a recent post, I listed some resources where one could take practice tests, find reading material, etc. to prepare for FCC exams.

Another observation I made is that the General exam I took today has been really watered down since when I took it years ago. Today, there were few, if any, electrical calculations. Back when I originally took the Technician exam - which was actually the WRITTEN portion of the General license test, there were a number of calculations dealing with reactance, resonant frequency of a parallel or series circuit using a capacitor and inductor of given values, ohm's law/power, etc. Today I think I encountered one calculation dealing with the turns ratio v.s. the voltage ratio of a transformer. The test I took years ago also had more questions relating to electronics trouble-shooting, reading schematics, etc.

Given all this, and the fact that there is no lnger any morse code requirement for ANY amateur license class, the FCC has removed some major hurtles that kept many from getting ham licenses. Many folks will argue that this had hurt amateur radio by "lowering the bar" on the quality and skills sets of applicants. Others contend it has helped amateur radio in that people who otherwise would not have made it before can now get licenses - thus helping keep the amateur radio service alive and healthy.

The good news in all this is it should be relatively easy for someone to get an amateur license if he/she wants one. And that could really save the day during any kind of civil emergency.