A site of endless curiosity

Posts Tagged ‘history of radio

Engineering Radio

leave a comment »

For those interested the technical aspects of Radio… and the really big stuff of commercial broadcast transmitters… and radio history … and some editorial comments thrown in for good measure… then this is a heck of a good find… and a tremendous effort by Paul Thurst…

Check out this web site –

Written by frrl

February 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Radio Archeology: The Story of Bill Halligan and Hallicrafters

with 3 comments

What’s around in the basement?  There they are – my Hallicrafters radios.  An S-38, S-40B, and a SX-130.  The SX-130 is loose and making the rounds in the main part of my home.  The other radios in the basement are waiting their moment of glory.  The radio above is an SX-130 that I picked up, in excellent working condition, for $80.

Note: When I look around the internet, it seems that my basement full of radios is nothing compared to some other folks that I stumbled upon.  So, its good that folks are keeping these radios, repairing them, learning from them, using them, and keeping them alive to pass on to future generations.  Don’t forget to check out the links at the end of this posting.

We have a few postings on this site dedicated to older Heathkits (here) and Kenwood Ham Radios (here).  This one is on Hallicrafters.

The history of people, not things

Hallicrafters, like other radio manufacturers, has a story.  And please realize, that the story of radio is really the story of the people who made this all possible.  It’s about people who have a passion, take risks, build companies, and make something for the world.

The story of Hallicrafters is the story of Bill Halligan –

Hallicrafters – Young Engineer does good…

William (Bill) J. Halligan, founder of Hallicrafters, was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1899.  He got his first ham license as a teenager.  Even at that age he considered himself a radio experimenter and built an early spark-gap transmitter.  Bill’s first job, at age 16, was as a wireless operator on excursion ships between Boston and other coastal cities.  

When World War I began, he put his skills to good use by serving his country as a wireless radio operator on the battleship Illinois.  After the war was over he attended engineering school at Tufts College and West Point, but left when he married in 1922.  He took a job as a newspaper reporter, and then left journalism in 1924 to sell radio parts.  In 1928 he decided to start his own company, and moved to Chicago, Illinois.  This salesman had ideas for improving the short-wave radios he had been selling. It was a brave venture, with almost no capital, manufacturing license problems and then the depression, but in 1933 Bill founded the Hallicrafters company that made him a legend. 

Hallicrafters built handcrafted receivers with state-of-the-art features at an affordable price.  By 1938, Hallicrafters was considered one of the “Big Three” manufacturers of amateur receivers (Hallicrafters, National and Hammarlund) and was selling not only in the U.S. but 89 other countries.  He had 23 different models of transceivers and was ready to start producing transmitters, beginning with the HT-1.  Instead of putting a lot into expensive cabinets, Halligan believed in providing every nickel’s worth into the performance of the chassis and the latest in circuit design.  His greatest salesmen were those who used his equipment and praised it to others over the air.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

October 9, 2010 at 4:05 am

The invention of FM Radio and the power to stifle the effect of technological change

with one comment

If you take a read of the book Free Culture (get the PDF for free) you will find the story from the early days of radio. 

It’s the story of the invention of FM radio in 1933 by Edwin Howard Armstrong and how this new (superior in audio quality) technology challenged the dominant technology (AM modulation) and the dominant corporation in the marketplace – RCA (Radio Corporation of America)

AM radio technology was at the heart of RCA Corporation and RCA saw FM as a threat.  RCA used its power to influence the government to its cause to undermine this new technology – FM Modulation of a radio wave.

RCA began to use its power with the government to stall FM radio’s deployment generally. In 1936, RCA hired the former head of the FCC and assigned him the task of assuring that the FCC assign spectrum in a way that would castrate FM—principally by moving FM radio to a different band of spectrum. At first, these efforts failed. But when Armstrong and the nation were distracted by World War II, RCA’s work began to be more successful. Soon after the war ended, the FCC announced a set of policies that would have one clear effect: FM radio would be crippled.

In the end, this was the tragic result

Armstrong resisted RCA’s efforts. In response, RCA resisted Armstrong’s patents. After incorporating FM technology into the emerging standard for television, RCA declared the patents invalid—baselessly, and almost fifteen years after they were issued. It thus refused to pay him royalties. For six years, Armstrong fought an expensive war of litigation to defend the patents. Finally, just as the patents expired, RCA offered a settlement so low that it would not even cover Armstrong’s lawyers’ fees. Defeated, broken, and now broke, in 1954 Armstrong wrote a short note to his wife and then stepped out of a thirteenthstory window to his death.

The insight

This is how the law sometimes works.  Not often this tragically, and rarely with heroic drama, but sometimes, this is how it works.  From the beginning, government and government agencies have been subject to capture. They are more likely captured when a powerful interest is threatened by either a legal or technical change. That powerful interest too often exerts its influence within the government to get the government to protect it. The rhetoric of this protection is of course always public spirited; the reality is something different.  Ideas that were as solid as rock in one age, but that, left to themselves, would crumble in another, are sustained through this subtle corruption of our political process. RCA had what the Causbys did not: the power to stifle the effect of technological change.

Here is the full text of the story from the Introduction of the book Free Culture: how Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity by Larry Lessig

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

July 13, 2010 at 11:42 am

Morse Code is not dead; Back in style by Russian Spies in 2010

with 4 comments

For Amateur Radio license requirements the FCC dropped the Morse Code requirement years ago.  There is no current military use of Morse code.

Just when you thought that Morse Code was dead.  The Russian spies, recently arrested in the US, are keeping the The Code  alive.

10 Russian Spies Arrested in the US (6/29/2010)

According to CBS news

According to court papers in the case, the U.S. government intercepted a message from Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow to two of the defendants. The message states that their main mission is “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US” and send intelligence reports.

The complaint alleges that some of those charged had a long-term goal to become “sufficiently Americanized” in order to gather intelligence in the U.S. and to “recruit sources who are in, or are able to infiltrate, United States policy-making circles.”

The complaint says that the “agents” were trained in “foreign languages; agent-to-agent communications, including the use of brush-passes; short-wave radio operation and invisible writing; the use of codes and ciphers, including the use of encrypted Morse code messages; the creation and use of a cover profession; counter-surveillance measures” and more.

Good, the code is back in style

Check out this vintage military morse code training film –


Check out this related info on high speed CW

The R-353 is a Russian spy radio set developed and used at the height of the Cold War, in the early 1960s. It features an advanced built-in burst encoder for sending coded messages in morse code at very high speed, in order to minimise the risk of detection by enemy interceptors and eavesdroppers. Radios like the R-353 are very rare and only very few have survived.

Check out this great site on Shortwave Espinionage –

Written by frrl

June 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

The History of Communications – the past 150 years

leave a comment »

The Pew Internet Project has put together a retrospective of the past 150 years of communications. 

You can find a link to the full paper (24 pages) at the end of this posting.

In addition to the historical facts, this paper includes some interesting predictions made in the historical context in which these communications inventions emerged.

Here are a few predictions about radio from the time:

Sir William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, a Scottish mathematician and physicist, is quoted as saying in 1897:

Radio has no future.

According to a report in Dunlap’s Radio and Television Almanac, Sir John Wolfe-Barry remarked at a meeting of stockholders of the Western Telegraph Company in 1907:

…As far as I can judge, I do not look upon any system of wireless telegraphy as a serious competitor with our cables. Some years ago I said the same thing and nothing has since occurred to alter my views.

A June 1920 article in Electrical Experimenter titled “Newsophone to Supplant Newspapers” reported on an idea for a news service delivered via recorded telephone messages and also predicted the:

 radio distribution of news by central news agencies in the larger cities to thousands of radio stations in all parts of the world” leading to a time when “anyone can simply listen in on their pocket wireless set.

H.G. Wells wrote in “The Way the World is Going” in 1925: 

I have anticipated radio’s complete disappearance…confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to listening in, will soon find a better pastime for their leisure.

In 1913 Lee de Forest, inventor of the audion tube, a device that makes radio broadcasting possible, was brought to trial on charges of fraudulently using the U.S. mails to sell the public stock in the Radio Telephone Company. In the court proceedings, the district attorney charged that:

De Forest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public…has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company…

De Forest was acquitted, but the judge advised him

to get a common garden-variety of job and stick to it.

Here is the full paper –
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

June 14, 2010 at 4:44 am

German World War II Military Radios w/ Demonstrations & The History of Nazi Television Broadcasting

leave a comment »

The Torn.E.b was a workhorse of the German armed forces under Adolf Hitler. It was a very basic, 4-tube regenerative receiver. This example is completely unaltered from the time it was made 66 years ago. 7 out of 8 of the frequency ranges were perfectly tuned, while the other range was just slightly out of tune. I just had to replace one vacuum tube in the receiver to get it working.

German WWII Kriegsmarine Military (Naval) Radio Receiver Lo6K39a in Operation

German Wehrmacht Military WWII Radio Receiver Kw.E.a after restoration part 2 – operation

German Wehrmacht Military WWII Radio Receiver Kw.E.a after restoration – physical description

Documentary on the history of Nazi Television Broadcasting

This is the link to the first of six parts.  You can easily find the rest of the parts of you are interested

Written by frrl

April 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Radio Archeology – The Radio Experimenters Guide – 1923

leave a comment »

More radio archeology… a small pamphlet from 1923

The information compiled in these pages is based on material already published in the Radio Section of the Newark Sunday Call, which has gained a wide reputation among amateur experimenters for the accuracy of its data on radio construction.

The hook-up presented herein are therefore reliable.  Each one has been constructed and tested in the Sunday Call’s Radio Laboratory.  This is a policy which the Call has followed for two years in order to protect its readers from the waste of time, material and money on “trick circuits”.

In this booklet will also be found a complete list of the broadcasting stations of the world corrected to Novemver, 1923, a complete operating schedule of the broadcasting stations in the Metropolitan District, and a list of sloagans used by broadcasters

You can even find out how to “Radioize Your Home”

Take a read – Radio Experimenters Guide from 1923

Written by frrl

April 2, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

The Complete Manual of Pirate Radio

leave a comment »

Or, How the world has been transformed by free global communications

I came across this artifact of the history of radio.

Here is no date on this pamphlet.  But, there is a reference to Radio Amateurs Handbook from 1972.  So, this dates the pamphlet from that era.  In the introduction the author cites the reason for the work

This pamphlet is intended for everyone who has a message to communicate but no means with which to do it.  This piece will provide the information necessary to obtain that means.  So, if you’re interested in providing an alternative to corporate-controlled newspapers and magazines… read on.

In theory, freedom of the press exists in this country.  But in practice, only the individuals and groups with very large amounts of money can take advantage of that freedom.  For example, to start a daily paper in just one major city would require assets of at least five, and probably ten million dollars…. So, taking advantage of the much vaunted freedom of the press in this country is out of reach.

Skip ahead about 25 years to 1995 and the utter transformation of global communications made possible by the Internet.  Who now, in 2010, does not have the means of communication to a global audience – for free!  In fact, you are reading an example right now.  Get your own free blog on

Here is a piece of history – for which, the Internet has made irrelevant.

The Complete Manual of Pirate Radio –

Written by frrl

March 31, 2010 at 5:55 pm

The WX3K Collins 20V3 transmitter project

leave a comment »

With a lot of ancient broadcast AM stations either upgrading or shutting down it seems possible and perhaps easy to get your hands on a AM broadcast transmitter.

Check out this first video on a Collins 20V3 conversion project for use on Amateur Radio frequencies

Written by frrl

February 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Video Tour of the Voice of America Transmitter

leave a comment »

Voice of America (VOA) is the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States federal government. Its oversight entity is the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet around the world in forty-six languages, promoting a positive view of the United States.[1] Its day-to-day operations are supported by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

VOA broadcasts by satellite and on FM, AM, and shortwave radio frequencies. It is also available through the Internet in both streaming media and downloadable formats at VOA has affiliate and contract agreements with many radio and television stations and cable networks worldwide.

The History of it all –

Visit the site –

Written by frrl

February 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm

“Global” Communications 50 years ago

with 2 comments

Wow.  Try to explain this to a kid with an IPhone

Burt Fisher, K1OIK,  makes a contact from his 50 year old station, the Heathkit DX-40 and Hallicrafters S-76 receiver.

Written by frrl

February 14, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Coast to Coast – “The Unslumberous Night”

leave a comment »

If you are a radio listening and not a fan of Coast To Coast – then get with (check out)  the program.

You might also have caught a glimpse into one of the odder realms of modern media. Lately, night people listen, in huge numbers, to a syndicated program called Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. It’s by far the most popular overnight show in the country. And it’s probably the most successful program of its kind ever aired.

But just what kind of program it is, no one can quite say. Its topical breadth alone defies categorization: aliens, time travel, 9/11 conspiracies, suspicious murders, vampires, mediated telepathy, birds of unusual size. Shadow People seem to show up a lot.

Every evening, Coast to Coast offers a running commentary on what keeps people awake, in fear or fascination, through what Keats called the “unslumbrous night.

Check out the article in Atlantic on the history and genre of late-night talk radio

The article –
The web site for Coast To Coast –
Listen live (streaming) on this AM station (near midnigt in the Americas)  –

Written by frrl

January 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

A 1952 Gates BC1F 1,000 Watt commercial broadcast transmitter converted for Ham use

with one comment

“Never operate any transmitter that isn’t heavy enough to kill you if it falls over” – W4BVT

Take a look –

Written by frrl

December 26, 2009 at 1:00 am

Vintage and Antique Radio Resources

leave a comment »

Remembering the past.  Drake, Collins, Heathkit, and more.
Here are resources to get you linked up with the history of Amateur and Broadcast radio.

Drake, Collins, and Heathkit Radios
Vintage radio refurbishing and restoration (pictures)

Drake Virtua Museum

Antique Radio Parts

Boat Anchor Manual Archive

Nostalgia Air – Online Antique and Vintage Radio References

Written by frrl

November 25, 2009 at 1:23 am

Radio Hams – “Heroes of the air; serving humanity”

leave a comment »

Written by frrl

November 17, 2009 at 1:25 am

Learn Morse Code the Military Way

leave a comment »

From the treasure trove of You Tube – historical army training film

Written by frrl

October 27, 2009 at 1:32 am

The Story of Radio – from the BBC – across the pond

leave a comment »

Written by frrl

September 24, 2009 at 1:45 am

The History of Radio – Marconi to Telstar (1896 – 1960)

leave a comment »

This is a really great summary of the history of radio from Marconis “Telegraph without wires” up to Telstar 1 (1960’s).  Lots of nice pictures and diagrams and easy to read in 30 pages.

Written by frrl

September 13, 2009 at 1:46 am

Radio Shack history – catalogs and TV commercials going back to 1939/1976

leave a comment »

Radio Shack started in 1921 in Boston, Mass., by London-born Bostonian brothers Theodore and Milton Deutschmann. These brothers wanted to provide amateur and ham radio equipment to the public. At the time, this technology was cutting-edge and the field was wide open. To pursue their interests, the brothers opened a retail store (a block from the site of the Boston Massacre).  William Halligan, one of Deutschmann’s first employees and later the founder of Hallicrafters, suggested the name, “Radio Shack”.

The brothers thought the name was fitting since their store would supply the equipment for ship’s radio officers, as well as ham radio operators. But it wasn’t until 1939 that Radio Shack introduced its first catalog when it entered the high-fidelity music equipment market…

Read the rest of the history, view the catalogs going back to 1939,  and check out the videos at the links below

Main site –

Written by frrl

June 28, 2009 at 3:53 am

Postscript: Who is the audience for Shortwave Radio?

leave a comment »

Postscript: Who is the audience for Shortwave Radio?

This is a postscript to our article:  Terrestrial Broadcast Radio: The end of an era?
The quote below is from a Monitoring Times article cited in the original posting:
A Tuning Point for International Broadcasting: what does the future hold for shortwave.


Separating medium from message or specifically, separating the method of distribution from the content (station programming) begs the question of the identification of the audience segment(s) of shortwave listeners.

By observation, there are individuals that love dragging out the old Zenith Trans-Oceanic receiver or similar classic receiver, checking the schedule of shortwave broadcasters (time and frequency), tuning in and listening.

In contrast, there are individuals that will go to a web site like Reciva or directly to an International broadcasters web site and listen to via the Internet.

Is it about the technology of distribution or the stations programming/content?

The question is, what are these two representative individuals after?  Assuming one has internet access why would one choose to listen via a traditional RF/radio rather than the internet?  Certainly, there is a hurdle listening via the RF/radio – one has to deal with fading, finding the frequency at the chosen listening time, and if the gods of propagation are not on your side, no amount of RF power is going to get the signal to your radio.

As Dieter Weirich of Deutsche Welle observes, there may be a segment of Shortwave listeners who listen to Shortwave simply because of the technology of distribution with the content being, more or less, irrelevant.  Certainly, choosing this segment as some sort of focus group to recommend or suggest programming will send an International broadcaster down the wrong path.

It makes far less difference to the station how the listener accessed the content, whether via shortwave, satellite, the Internet or CBC Overnight.  If the listener’s focus is content the station is interested in hearing from him or her.  But if the focus is confined to running up verification numbers, that relationship is not likely to be very welcome.

The article cited above and the quote was written 10 years ago.  Does anyone really ask for QSL cards from International broadcast stations in 2009?  I don’t think so.  That is a legacy of the past motivated by the lack of ubiquitous global communication.

One wonders, in 2009, how important is all this (expensive) RF infrastructure to International broadcasters when we consider these aspects:

  1. the audience that listens via traditional RF/radio may not be the target audience that the station is seeking.  ( These folks listen more because of the method of distribution (technology) rather than the content of the programming).  Why retain a distribution to an audience that you, as the International broadcaster, is not interested in pursuing?
  2. RF distribution of content is far more capital intensive and difficult than Internet distribution
  3. Internet distribution is in ascent; RF distribution is in decline.

The “true” shortwave listener by self-identification

With all this in mind, perhaps the only legitimate audience for International broadcasters are the folks that listen via the Internet.

Folks listening via the Internet have self-identified themselves as focusing on the stations content/programming as most important when other technology options are available.  Folks listening via RF/Radio have self-identified themselves as more interested in the distribution technology than the content since they have chosen a sub optional distribution method when superior methods were available ( i.e. the Internet).

So it comes down to this.  The “real” shortwave listeners are listening via the Internet.  The people with the RF/Radios – what are they after – really?  If the real “shortwave listeners” (the audience that the broadcaster is interested in) are listening via the Internet then we have redefined the traditional language.  Shortwave listeners (as traditionally defined using a RF/Radio) are NOT the audience International Broadcasters are seeking – the “Internet Listeners” are the true audience of the International broadcasters.

It’s clear that disruptive technologies and disruptive innovation also disrupts and redefines traditional language as well as business models, markets, market segments, and the identity of traditional organizations and corporations.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Written by frrl

May 15, 2009 at 4:54 am

Terrestrial Broadcast Radio: The end of an era?

with 3 comments

Terrestrial Broadcast Radio: The end of an era?


If you are a regular reader of this blog it should be no secret – I have an Apple iPod Touch and I am diggin’ it.  Before you spend several hundred dollars on a Wi-Fi radio you might want to see what the Apple iPod Touch – or some of your existing technology – can offer you.

What is Wi-Fi Radio?

“Imagine listening to more than 5,000 radio stations from all over the world in a radio in your home, office or hotel.

Internet radio stations offer an endless audio entertainment. Some of it is a simultaneous broadcast from NPR, ESPN, the BBC and so on. Others are Internet-only stations that serve both mainstream and niche tastes. The variety is staggering, all of it is free, and it is largely uncluttered by ads.

You tune into radio shows just like you have for decades, but the antennas of the radios are internal Wi-Fi that connect to a wireless home network. The reception is excellent: the wi-fi radio can pull in thousands of Internet radio stations from all over the world, without a single pop of static. It can also play podcasts, a copious source of free, generally ad-free prerecorded audio programs. The radio comes with several Internet stations already listed in the menus, sorted either by genre (Comedy, Kids, Latin, Hip-hop and so on) or by geographical location. At the service platform – you can easily add new stations of your choosing.”

What’s at the Apple Application Store for Wi-Fi Radio?

ipodRadio_iHeartRadioThere are an amazing number of free applications in the App Store for the iPhone and the iPod Touch that can get you linked into Wi-Fi Radio.  Of course, for the Touch, you need to have a home wireless network.  If you are going to use the Touch as a Wi-Fi Radio appliance surrogate then get a docking station.  My 50 Watt iPod Docking station was $50 – a good buy.

These are just a few of the Application that can link you into WiFi Radio

  • Shoutcast
  • Stitcher
  • iHeartRadio
  • FlyCast
  • NPR Mobile

All of these applications are free to download and use.  These applications provide you the capability to listen to literally thousands of radio stations.  The challenge of all of these applications is how to organize and present thousands of radio stations and internet streams in a usable form for search and selection.

ipodRadio_ShoutCastSome of the applications organize the stations by genre; some by city then genre; some apps organize by categories (sports, technology, world news); one application is focused on public radio broadcasts and archives of those broadcasts.  Some applications will tell you how many people are listening to the stream.

A clever feature in iHeartRadio is the “Shake It” city and genre selector.  You “Shake it” and two lists roll – and where she stops – nobody knows.  You can choose to listen to that city and that genre of try your luck again.

The benefit of the iPod Touch – small size and portability

No matter what audio stream you choose, the real advantage of the Apple iPod Touch is the small size and portability.  Choose your favorite station and listen via the built-in speaker or use the ear buds.  In either case, you can carry the Touch in your pocket or place it on the table where ever you are.  The device is small and portable.  You can’t do that with the Wi-Fi radio pictured at the top of this posting.

No Apple iPod Touch?  Then use your PC or Mac

If you don’t have a small portable device on which you can listen to Wi-Fi radio then the next best thing is to use your PC or Mac desktop or laptop.  Again, no use to buy the $159 Wi-Fi radio appliance.

The big boys

ipodRadio_RecivaLogo The grand daddy web site of streaming radio/audio stations is Reciva.

You can get to Reciva via this link –

Registration is free.  You can listen without registering.  If you register you can build a list of favorite stations and listen with one click rather than searching for the station each time you go to the site.

How many audio streams are on Reciva?

Listen to any station, anywhere in the World  Reciva brings the world of Internet radio into your home. We provide access to an extremely diverse range of Internet radio stations from around the world, with broadcasts from nearly every country on the planet. We provide both live and on-demand (“listen again”) content and we support Real Audio, Windows and MP3 streams.”

Site Information: Our directory contains 16747 stations (and 21242 on-demand streams) in 280 locations and 67 genres.  86,145 registered users.

Reciva by Genre’s

|60s |70s |80s |90s |Adult |Adult Contemporary |Alternative |Ambient |Bluegrass |Blues |Bollywood |Christian |Christian Contemporary |Classic Rock |Classical |College |Comedy |Contemporary |Country |Dance |Discussion |Drum & Bass |Easy |Electronica |Experimental |Folk |Gospel |Greek |Hip Hop |Indian |Indie |Indie Rock |Jazz |Jungle |Kids |Latin Hits |New Age |News |News Talk |News Updates |Oldies |Pop |Public |Punk |R&B |Rap |Reggae |Religious |Rock |Soft Rock |Spanish |Sports |Talk |Top 40 |Unknown |Varied |World |World Africa |World Asia |World Caribbean |World Europe |World Mediterranean |World Middle East |World Tropical

Reciva By Location – Shortwave listeners, please take note

|Afghanistan |Albania |Algeria |American Samoa |Andorra |Angola |Anguilla |Antigua and Barbuda |Argentina |Armenia |Aruba |Australia |Austria |Azerbaijan |Bahamas |Bahrain |Bangladesh |Barbados |Belarus |Belgium |Belize |Benin |Bermuda |Bhutan |Bolivia |Bosnia and Herzegovina |Brazil |British Virgin Islands |Brunei |Bulgaria |Burkina Faso |Burma |Burundi |Cambodia |Cameroon |Canada |Cape Verde |Cayman Islands |Chad |Chile |China |Colombia |Comoros |Cook Islands |Costa Rica |Cote d’Ivoire |Croatia |Cuba |Cyprus |Czech Republic |Democratic Republic of the Congo |Denmark |Dominica |Dominican Republic |Ecuador |Egypt |El Salvador |Eritrea |Estonia |Ethiopia |Europe |Falkland Islands |Faroe Islands |Federated States of Micronesia |Fiji |Finland |France |French Guiana |French Polynesia |Gabon |Gaza Strip |Georgia |Germany |Ghana |Gibraltar |Greece |Grenada |Guadeloupe |Guam |Guatemala |Guernsey |Guinea |Guinea-Bissau |Guyana |Haiti |Holy See (Vatican City) |Honduras |Hong Kong |Hungary |Iceland |India |Indonesia |Internet Only |Iran |Iraq |Ireland |Isle of Man |Israel |Italy |Jamaica |Japan |Jersey |Jordan |Kazakhstan |Kenya |Kiribati |Korea |Kuwait |Kyrgyzstan |Laos |Latvia |Lebanon |Liechtenstein |Lithuania |Luxembourg |Macau |Macedonia |Madagascar |Malawi |Malaysia |Maldives |Mali |Malta |Martinique |Mauritania |Mauritius |Mayotte |Mexico |Middle East |Moldova |Monaco |Mongolia |Montserrat |Morocco |Mozambique |Namibia |Nepal |Netherlands |Netherlands Antilles |New Caledonia |New Zealand |Nicaragua |Nigeria |Norfolk Island |Northern Mariana Islands |Norway |Oman |Pakistan |Palau |Panama |Paraguay |Peru |Philippines |Poland |Portugal |Puerto Rico |Qatar |Republic of Korea |Republic of the Congo |Reunion |Romania |Russia |Rwanda |Saint Helena |Saint Kitts and Nevis |Saint Lucia |Saint Pierre and Miquelon |Saint Vincent and the Grenadines |Samoa |San Marino |Saudi Arabia |Senegal |Serbia and Montenegro |Seychelles |Sierra Leone |Singapore |Slovakia |Slovenia |Solomon Islands |South Africa |South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands |Spain |Sri Lanka |Sudan |Suriname |Swaziland |Sweden |Switzerland |Syria |Taiwan |Tajikistan |Tanzania |Thailand |Togo |Trinidad and Tobago |Tromelin Island |Tunisia |Turkey |Turks and Caicos Islands |Uganda |UK |Ukraine |United Arab Emirates |Uruguay |USA |Uzbekistan |Vanuatu |Venezuela |Vietnam |Virgin Islands |Wallis and Futuna |West Bank |Yemen |Zambia |Zimbabwe

What is the future of Terrestrial Broadcast radio?

So all of this begs the question – What is the future of Terrestrial Radio?

This blog is being written near Chicago, Illinois.  The 50,000 Watt blow torch AM radio station in the area is WLS.  On a business trip to Detroit Michigan I could not hear WLS on a radio near or in Detroit.  Fifty thousand watts and all the infrastructure to produce 50,000 Watts of RF energy could not make the trip 300 miles from Chicago.

But, in the hotel room with wireless internet I was able to listen to WLS in crystal clarity on my laptop – via Reciva.

The New Paradigm

Way back in 1997 Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School wrote a book: “The Innovator’s Dilemma When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”.

From the work of Christensen came a number of new terms.  Among these were “Disruptive Technology” and “Disruptive Innovation”.

… a disruptive innovation is a technology, process, or business model that brings to a market a much more affordable product or service that is much simpler to use. It enables more consumers in that market to afford and/or have the skill to use the product or service. The change caused by such an innovation is so big that it eventually replaces, or disrupts, the established approach to providing that product or service.

Of course the disruptive technology is the Internet.  And what it disrupts, in this case, is the traditional delivery/distribution mechanism of “Radio”.  The term Radio is now in quotes as the disruptive technology put’s the term into question.  What is radio?

TerrRad_QuoteRaisonWhat do we mean by “Radio”?

It is important to make a distinction between the medium and the message.  Traditionally, these have been conflated.  Ten or twenty years ago when one heard the term “Radio” it generally denoted a delivery mechanism and an appliance that was designed specifically to receive that delivery.  What was delivered was a variety of audio content based on the market served.

So, “radio” mostly signified a form of delivery.  Shortwave Radio was also about delivery and also denoted a special type of content or programming.  You can read the sidebar’s for the special focus on Shortwave Radio.

So what happens when you radically separate content from delivery mechanism?  What happens when you free the content from the constraint of a particular delivery mechanism?


The game changer is all about the opportunity of radical change in distribution and the radical reduction of cost of distribution.  Prior to the public Internet, radio RF was the only viable global delivery mechanism.  Distribution of content by RF can be expensive.  There are huge capital and infrastructure maintenance costs in RF distribution of any content targeted to a global audience.

When I posted the information on the radio station WLW – a 500,000 blow torch –  I found an article with an anecdotal comment that the street lights dimmed with this station went to full power.  That gives you some idea of the power required to run a one-half million watt radio station – the cost of distribution of the stations audio content.

Cost of distribution

With the Internet, what is the cost of distribution?  If WLW wanted to distribute it’s audio content via the internet what would be the ratio of costs of Internet distribution vs distribution via 500,000 Watts of RF?  The difference in cost is staggering.

What happens when the cost of distribution is reduced by many orders of magnitude and all distribution is worldwide by default?

It disrupts markets.  For example, WLS programs to the local Chicago area market within a competitive space of other local radio stations.  But what happens when it is as easy for a listener in Chicago to use an Internet Radio to listen to any radio station in any city in the United States or any city in the World?  The competitive landscape for WLS programming has now changed radically.  Geographic boundaries are erased.  WLS competitors are no longer limited to local radio stations.

The same disruption of distribution is now well known to newspapers and magazines.  Traditional newspapers and magazines are now affectionately known as the “dead tree edition”.  No longer do local newspapers compete only on a local basis only.  A person with a internet connection can view newspapers from a thousand different cities.

Who wants to wait for a magazine to be published on paper and delivered to your door step or the local news stand?  Again, its about distribution – cost and speed.  If I can get the information at the speed of light why would I prefer a delivery mechanism that only delays the information?

And the US Post Office?  The medium on which information rides is slow, cumbersome, and inefficient.  Again, I can send e-mail at the speed of light at nearly zero cost.  The US Post Office will charge me 40+ cents and take days to deliver my message.  What is the future for this business model and service?

New Vision; New Mission; New Goals; New Strategy

Let’s get back to radio.  If the playing field has been leveled on distribution so that no radio station has an advantage on distribution and geographic boundaries are erased then what remains?  Content.

Traditional shortwave radio stations will most likely be at a greater disadvantage than local stations.  The unique programming of traditional shortwave stations could be seen as irrelevant post Cold War. The advent of ubiquitous global communications over the past decade made possible by the internet has made the mystery of other cultures evaporate.  What is the reason for the existence  of shortwave radio?

“Radio” minus its unique distribution mechanism (RF) will collapse into the aggregate category of “content provider”.  These “radio stations” will enter a new competitive landscape along with “television”.  Like “radio” traditional “television” stations separated from their unique mechanism of distribution will also collapse into the aggregate category of “content provider”.  The same for traditional newspaper and magazine publishing – they are all (merely) “content provider’s” when stripped of their unique delivery and distribution mechanisms.

Digital Convergence of all content providers

Once distribution and delivery from all content providers converge in the digital internet pipe there is nothing to distinguish between “radio”, “television”, “newspaper”, “magazine” or anything else that was once distinguished by the method of delivery and specialized appliances for reception.

This creates a new competitive space for all content providers where there was none before.  This will cause all content providers to re/think and re/invent themselves.  At least it will present to them this opportunity.

What business are you in?

For these content/programming providers to redefine themselves might be the key to their survival.  How an organization or company defines itself limits them or positions them for new opportunities.  For example, at the turn of the 20’th century what business were Railroads in?  If Railroads had the idea that they were in the Transportation business as opposed to the Railroad business (=tracks and engines) then how much better would they be positioned at the dawn of aviation.

What about the Oil companies?  Are Oil companies in the oil business or are they in the “Energy business”?  If Oil companies understand themselves as fundamentally in the Energy business then they are well positioned for the future beyond the nations dependence on oil.

The same analogy can be applied to traditional radio stations.  For a radio station – what business is it in?

New Competitors

There will be some surprises.  A classic book on corporate competitive strategy is Michael Porters “Competitive Strategy”.  In that book Porter lays out five competitive forces that determine the intensity of competition of a particular market or industry.  One of those 5 forces is the threat of new entrants.  Some of the barriers to entry of new competitors are: high capital requirements and proprietary technology.

Decades ago the barriers to entry of new competitors into broadcast radio included huge capital requirements.  How much does it cost to build out the infrastructure for a new 50,000 Watt radio station?  Today in 2009, anyone with the technical knowledge of a high school student can set up a audio stream on Shout Cast and make the stream available globally.  Capital cost is negligible and technology is simple and free.  The barriers to entry in this area are nearly erased.

So the surprise might be new competitors that incumbents have never considered.  The same surprise was experienced by traditional brick and mortar bookstores when Jeff Bezos and bust onto the scene in 1995.  The business model of selling books at a discount on-line (enabled by the disruptive technology of the Internet) caught traditional booksellers off guard.  It took them many years to catch up to a competitor who entered the market from outside the traditional bookseller industry.

Ding – What do we do now?

One of my favorite quotes from Apple CEO Steve Jobs is: “I want to put a ding in the Universe”

Well, someone did, and it’s called the Internet.  Probably the most disruptive technology of the 20’th century.


So forget all this.  Let the corporate strategists figure it all out.
Let’s just have some fun listening to the “radio” – or whatever it is now.

If you have an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch – iHeartRadio, ShoutCast, FlyCast, or Stitcher in the App Store – free.
If you have a PC or Mac desktop or laptop – is the hottest game in town.


The sidebar is from this article from a decade ago in Monitoring Times (January 1999) –  To their credit International Broadcasters were thinking about disruptive technologies and re/evaluating what business they were in against a changing and uncertain environment.
A Tuning Point for International Broadcasting: what does the future hold for shortwave.

Clayton Christensen’s web site –

A (old)  classic book on Corporate Competitive Strategy –
Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (Hardcover) –  Michael E. Porter

One of the best books I have read on how to deal with strategic uncertainty.
The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it)  by Michael E. Raynor

More on WLW the 500,000 Watt blow torch of  Cincinnati

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Written by frrl

May 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

Servicing Superheterodynes

leave a comment »

We have a real classic fom the History of Radio. In the 1930’s to mid 1940’s Rider published a book called “Servicing Superheterodynes”.  You can find a real hardcopy on ebay.  We have a PDF version.

At the time the first edition of “Servicing Superheterodynes” was published the superheterdynereceiver was first becoming generally known to the public.  As the years passed, so did the tuned radio frequency set pass out of popular favor to be replaced by the well liked and today, well behaved, superhet.  Today, everything is the superheterodyne… The few t-r-f receivers, which are still being produced, are completely overwhelmed by the number of receivers based on the heterodyneprinciples. And – if you please, these receivers are becoming more and more complicated daily.

– John Rider from the 1934 edition

Servicing Superheterodynes

And please, don’t forget this modern book by Richard McWhorter.

The Vacuum Tube Shortwave Radio: Understanding and Troubleshooting.

The PDF of the book is password protected.
The password is “allamericanfiveradio”

Written by frrl

May 11, 2009 at 4:21 am

Radio Broadcast History

leave a comment »

Take a weekend or so and take a read on early radio broadcast history and view some videos on historic transmitters

Early Radio History

History of American Broadcasting – Thank you Jeff Miller

500 KW WLW AM Transmitter video tour – Thank you Jim Hawkins

Historic film footage of the Navys 1 Million Watt transmitter

Want to take a few more tours of broadcast radios
Take a look at Jim Hawkins Radio and Broadcast Technology Web Page

Fasten your seat belts and take a ride back to the future.

Check out Digital TV coverage maps for your area (excellent)

Written by frrl

May 9, 2009 at 4:11 am

Tour of the W1AW Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station

leave a comment »

W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station, is a living memorial to the “Father of Organized Amateur Radio”, located at ARRL Headquarters in Newington CT. When visiting ARRL HQ, most amateurs choose W1AW as the place to see where Amateur Radio comes alive.

Can’t visit ARRL Headquarters yourself?  Then watch the video tour compliments of Randy K7AGE

Read an article on W1AW and see some pictures –

Written by frrl

April 28, 2009 at 4:17 am

Collins Designed R390A/UUR Military Reciever

leave a comment »

The Collins designed, R390A/URR general coverage HF radio receiveris considered to be the finest HF radio receiver ever built. Tuning .5 to 31,999 mhz and employing 21 vacuum tubes and weighing in at 85 lbs, this electro-mechanical wonder was designed in the early 50’s and released for military use on February 24, 1954. Thanks to features such as a 6DC6 first RF amplifier, a suite of 4- Military Grade Collins mechanical filters teamed up with full tracking RF and IF sections, the R390A is capable of copying AM and CW signals down to its -143db noise floor, close to the galactic limit. All this while maintaining the capability to operate in high overload, strong signal environments…


Detailed Technical Manual covering the operating, theory of operation, troubleshooting, maintenance, and much more.  If you ever wanted to know what is inside one of these 85 pound military monsters, then this is the manual for you.  309 pages.
R-390A/URR Technical Reference

Images of pallets of R-390’s awaiting recycling – Image one and Image two

A R-390 in action – makes a nice 85 pound desktop broadcast AM reciever

These radios regularily show up on e-bay

Written by frrl

March 28, 2009 at 4:23 am

How to make a FoxHole Radio

leave a comment »

During World War II GI’s in foxholes in Europe and POW’s would build radios out of whatever was available. No matter how bad your situation you might be able to get a hold of some wire, a razor blade, and a pin or pencil.  If you had all these things you could build a simple receiver to hear local broadcasts.
These simple radios made by GI’sand POWs  during WWII were generically known as Fox Hole Radios.  Check out our collection of videos, other assets and build your own fox hole radio.  A good family project with your kid.

How to make a FoxHole Radio
Fox Hole radio by a 10 year old kid
Another kid tells his story – ( obviously a budding video producer)

The Technical Stuff

Cat’s Whisker Detector’s-whisker_detector
Some History (read the disclaimer)

Written by frrl

March 27, 2009 at 4:24 am

How Radio Works – from 1937

leave a comment »

Written by frrl

March 8, 2009 at 4:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

100 Years of Radio

leave a comment »

Video on the milestones of radio.  100 years of radio, spark gap, ham radio, and all the rest.

Written by frrl

February 28, 2009 at 4:38 am

Long Live The All American Five. Or, Recovering a Piece of Radio History

with 9 comments


“Watching” the Radio

Right now, in 2009, radio and “wireless communication” is ubiquitous and part of the landscape.  As such, no one really notices it.  It is a taken for granted reality of everyday life.

aa5_jackbennyIt’s hard for modern people to put themselves in the position of people in the early 1900’s when radio was a new invention.  Imagine, hearing voices and music from across the country, or across the world – without wires.  Instant communications.  You don’t have to wait for the newspaper to find out what was going on. Entertainment?  Sure.  Turn on the radio and hear Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, The Great Gildersleeve, The Inner Sanctum, Sam Spade, The Shadow,  GI Journal, and hundreds more.

It’s always interesting see pictures from the 1930’s and 1940’s of a family sitting in the living room “watching” the radio.  Watching the radio as if someone was talking directly to them – from hundreds or thousands of miles away.  And that is exactlywhat it was – astrounding.

Recovering the Past

I can only imagine that some folks who collect old broadcast radios have some sort of appreciation for this era.  When you get that radio from the 1920’s to 1940’s one can imagine how many families sat in front of that radio listing to music, news, or entertainment.  Perhaps, in 2009, that family has passed away.  But the radio, which you have in your hands right now, just may remember.  On that radio from the 1940’s perhaps they heard the call to buy war bonds.  Or, that was the radio on which they heard the start of the D-Day invasion, or the end of the war.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

January 22, 2009 at 7:15 am

Shortwave on the Internet – Medium vs Message

with 2 comments

Shortwave on the Internet –
Medium vs Message

 Confounded and Conflated

When one talks about listening to “Short Wave” (radio) what does that mean?  Really, the communication is confounded in the sense that “Listening to Shortwave Radio” conflates the medium and the message.  The medium and the message are separable.

It the past – oh so 5 minutes ago – certain messages could only be communicated through a specific medium.  For example, international broadcasts via RF transmissions in the Shortwave RF spectrum.  But what happens when communications become aligned with new mediums?  Then when one says, “I am listening to Shortwave Radio” maybe post modern people don’t understand what you mean. 

What you are really telling them “I am listening to shortwave” is that you are listening to a medium – but what is the message?  When messages that have been so historically aligned with a specific and irrevocable medum become detached then talk about the medium (Shortwave) makes no sense.

What about Television?  “I am watching Television”.  Now you are talking about an appliance.  Why would you watch an appliance?  You would watch an appliance if that was the only medium by which you could recieve certain types of communications – Video communications in the case of a TV.

“I am on the Telephone”.  Get it?  The Telephone is an appliance for which only certain messages, based on  circumstance, can be communicated.

The Internet Changes Everything

In a word – Convergence.  Convergence enabled by the Internet changes everything.  Now, you don’t need a Television to watch Television – you can watch “Television” on the Internet  ( )without a Television.  You don’t need a Telephone to use the Telephone – you can use Voice Over IP on the Internet for phone calls without a Telephone applicance.

When the idea of convergence becomes part of the taken-for-granted landscape then folks talking about listening to the Radio appliance, watching the Television appliance, and talking on the Telephone appliance will seem strange.  You can do all this on a converged device – such as an apple iPhone or any Internet-connected PC desktop of Laptop.

All of this applies to the traditional sense of “Listening to Shortwave Radio”.  What one means in the legacy sense of this statement is that they are probably listening to international broadcasts.  So why not say “I am listening to International Broadcasts”?  Because the medium (RF Shortwave) has so long been indelibly linked to the message.  It was the only way (the appliance) one could get the message.

Prometheus unbound

International Broadcasts have been liberated from the appliance

Listen to any station, anywhere in the World

Reciva brings the world of Internet radio into your home. We provide access to an extremely diverse range of Internet radio stations from around the world, with broadcasts from nearly every country on the planet. We provide both live and on-demand (“listen again”) content and we support Real Audio, Windows and MP3 streams.

Our directory contains 15062 stations (and 21242 on-demand streams) in 277 locations and 65 genres.

Check out the web site that powers most of WiFi Radio

“Gett’in it”

If you read the title of our posting “Shortwave on the Internet’ and it didn’t bother you as nosensible then now, if you “got it”, then “Shortwave on the Internet” should be incomprehensible.  How can you listen to an appliance on the Internet?


All of our postings have a summary in conclusion.  This one is simple – “Go Listen” –

Other resources

“Television” liberated from the Televsion appliance

Written by frrl

October 26, 2008 at 6:05 am

%d bloggers like this: