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The LOWDOWN This Month In the combined June-July 2018 issue of the club publication:
"DX Downstairs" Kevin Carey presents members' LF and VLF loggings.
"On The Air" Experimenters operating on the 160-190kHz and lower bands... and...
"The Top End" MedFER and HiFER beacon lists, and..
"Operator Contact List" ...and...
"The LF Notebook" Conducted by John Davis. News from, for, and about LWCA members. This month, two Tech Corner segments, one concerning beacon oscillator stability and the other providing background on Low Noise Vertical receive antennas; plus, the state of HiFERing 55 years ago (hint: it had to do with 11 meters, not 22).
"News From the Old World" Alan Gale keeps us informed of latest LF news from the "other side of the pond." Items about SAQ, the Bonito active dipole, and a new South Korean time station planned for early next year.
"Natural Radio" by Rick Ferranti. Natural Radio direction finding, and some San Fransisco VLF history.
"A (Moveable) Low Noise Vertical" by Paul Kelley.
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New Article on Alexanderson Alternators
With the SAQ World Heritage site at Grimeton, Sweden, recently operating the only surviving Alexanderson alternator to mark Alexanderson Day, it is especially appropriate that the Wikipedia article on Alexanderson alternators has received a significant update as of May 30. It now contains a more detailed history of alternator development, and a list of stations that used the devices, plus a history of the fate of some of the machines..
Fans of this classic radio technology can read the improved Wikipedia article here. It contains links to related topics as well, all of which seem to be current (a remarkable thing by itself in Wikipedia articles).
First US-UK QSO on 2200 Meters Completed in four nights using DFCW60.
On the morning of 28 March 2018, Paul Kelley N1BUG and Chris Wilson 2EØILY concluded a QSO over a 4731 km path on 137 kHz.
While earlier transatlantic exchanges on 2200 m had occured with Canadian stations, and while US Experimental Service licensees (who are not allowed to communicate with the Amateur Radio Service) had regularly been copied in Europe, this is the first known TA attempt since US hams acquired privileges on the band last September.
Located in Shropshire, not an exotic DX locale as you might suppose from the prefix, 2EØILY is a Foundation Class licensee. This is the UK's entry-level ticket, which affords very limited band privileges (including 2200 m, but not 630 m) at low power, and with only approved commercial gear or kits. Ironically, our own ARRL recently petitioned the FCC for more HF privileges for Technician Class here because it's not attracting enough newcomers, shortly after convincing the Commission not to allow Techs any LF privileges. ARRL argued that LF would be too advanced for our default "entry-level" ticket holders, despite Techs being allowed up to 1500 W PEP in bands ranging from 50 MHz to microwaves, and stating--apparently without asking anyone--that they "probably" wouldn't be interested anyway.
N1BUG is an Amateur Extra Class, so this accomplishment by the two dedicated experimenters demonstrates that the appeal of LF is not limited by level of experience, and that worthwhile results come to those who apply themselves in the best amateur tradition. Congratulations!
Paul's announcement can be read in this LW Message Board post.
Longtime LWCA Publisher Bill Oliver Dies at 89
It is with great sorrow that we inform you our long-time publisher, William E. Oliver, passed away on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in Lower Bucks Hospital, near his home in Levittown, PA. He was 89.
His obituary is available here.
There will be unavoidable drlays in publication of The LOWDOWN for an unknown interval. The April edition had not yet been assembled for the printing plant at the time of Bill's demise. A combined April-May issue was mailed to members on May 12. Deadlines have not yet been set for a June edition.
Please watch our About page for further announcements.
Sub-Radio Amateur Record Set First known East-West transatlantic crossing below 8.3 kHz.
On the night of February 18-19, Jay Rusgrove W1VD in Connecticut copied the 8270.100 Hz signal of Stefan Schaefer DK7FC from Germany, the first known successful E>W Atlantic crossing in what is sometimes called the Dreamers Band. The message consisted of a single character sent in a BPSK-based format known as EbNaut. With a symbol length of 30 seconds, GPS-locked frequency stability and timing is required at both the sending and receiving ends, and the "message" may have to accumulate across many repetitions to start to be decoded. The single character in this message was decoded in a single night; longer messages can require files recorded over multiple nights to be "stacked" (overlaid in processing).
To prove the first copy was not a fluke, Stefan switched to a two-character message which, after several difficulties at both ends of the path, was decoded by Jay on the morning of February 25. This time, it required stacking three nights' reception files to decode both characters.
Previously, EbNaut signals from VO1NA in Newfoundland had been copied in Europe over a somewhat shorter W>E path, and on Dec 26-27, 2017, a three-character message from W4DEX was received in Italy by Renato Romero IK1QFK on 8269.9 Hz, a new record distance for decoding at 4,447 miles (Renato had previously detected an unmodulated signal from Dexter over the same path). More on the mode can be found at www.abelian.org.
LF-MF Ham Rules in Effect Many amateurs have received operating approval.
The Federal Communications Commission rules for the 630 and 2200 meter ham bands, are outlined in the FCC's recent Report & Order, were published in the Federal Register in June, and finally took effect on September 15, 2017, after procedures were worked out for the required PLC frequency coordination with Utilities Telecom Council. Details can be found in this post by W1TAG. Most of the new activity, as expected, has been at 630 meters, but more stations are gradually showing up on 2200 m.
In addition to these two new WRC bands, the Docket 15-99 changes will relieve HiFER hobbyists of CODAR interference in a few years, elevate the status of amateur operation between 1800 and 2000 kHz, and impact experimentation below 9 kHz as well, because radio spectrum is now formally allocated down to 8.3 kHz.
LW Resources & Additional Topics
Related Longwave Sites
William Hepburn's DX Information Centre has probably the best online list of aero and marine beacons based on official license information, plus lists of time signals and numerous resources for other types of DXing as well.
The searchable RNA database of LF beacons...not compiled from official sources, but a digest of signal reports from experienced listeners in North and Central America. It's a great tool for identifying those unknown signals. It won't always be up-to-date regarding decommissioned beacons, of course. This might somewhat limit its usefulness in targeting specific beacons to listen for, but it's still helpful if you pay attention to the most recent reported date for a given beacon.
Gunter Lorenz' VLF/LF Station List. More recently updated than some other VLF military/utility station lists; but as with any amateur band, take the listings around 137 kHz with a grain of salt.
LF/MF Amateur Radio Sites. Now that the 2200 and 630 meter bands are finally available in the US to amateurs, not just Part 5 licensees, there's even more interest in websites about ham operation. We'll be adding more links soon, but for now we'll begin with:
- 630 m QSO List by WØPRK, with link to N1BUG list as well.
- John Langridge's Site, primarily 630m with some 2200m.
- www.500kc.com Ralph M. Hartwell W5JGV documents (mainly the history of) the WD2XSH Part 5 license and its participants.
If you know of more ham sites that should be included, or find broken links, please advise us at firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP.
Radio Waves Below 22 kHz Renato Romero's eclectic collection of topics pertaining to both manmade and natural radio signals from near DC to the upper end of audibility. Includes the VLF Open Lab, and articles by many contributors...some fairly orthodox, and some not. Visit: www.vlf.it Not viewable online but a resource which can be ordered there...Michael Oexner's North American and European NDB Handbooks, now updated for 2018 (click link for info in PDF form). In addition to the two regional versions, Michael now offers a combined Global edition (CD & download only).
QRSS and WOLF Software
Rik Strobbe's QRSS software (for transmitting extremely slow CW) and Rik's other useful software at the ON7YD download page.
Continuing Development of Argo. Alberto di Bene posts the latest version of Argo, a receiving tool for displaying slow CW, that performs FFT spectral analysis and displays it in ways optimized for QRSS. Many of the transoceanic LF amateur records were set using Argo at the receiving end. Argo has somewhat similar performance to Spectran, but interacts better with the user's soundcard and is customized for QRSS modes.
WOLF. Stewart Nelson devised this unique mode, a variant of BPSK. See his announcement of the MS-DOS version for more details. Now, a GUI-based version by Wolf Büscher continues to increase the mode's popularity. Find the new software at the DL4YHF site.
Spectrum Lab, at that same link, is another of Wolf's creations. In conjunction with your computer's sound card, not only is it an especially advanced spectrum analyzer, but it's also a filtering and sound processing tool, and can serve as the demodulator part of a software defined receiver.
Slow CW for Linux. Claudio Girardi (IN3OTD) has released Slow CW software for users of the Linux operating system, currently v 0.42. The program (called glfer) contains both transmit and receive capability, the latter including an FFT-based spectrum analyzer somewhat similar to those found in popular Windows Slow CW programs.
As with much open-source software in the X-world, you have to compile the C source code yourself. Users will also need additional code libraries. Links to those, plus downloadable source code, can be found at Claudio's glfer page.