Showing posts with label Shortwave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shortwave. Show all posts

August 21, 2020

Radio Scouting: Earning the Radio Merit Badge at Summer Camp

The Radio Merit Badge was earned by 5,205 Scouts in the US in 2018 representing a 10.9% drop from the year prior.  We hams need to make sure we step up our support of scouting and act as counselors for the radio merit badge.  The Radio Merit Badge requirements are demanding and require both classroom learning as well as applied learning in front of a radio.  The radio merit badge looks great on a scout uniform sash with its wonderfully designed Morse code message and lighting bolts.

Scouts BSA Radio Merit Badge

I had the privilege to teach the radio merit badge with my daughter's Scouts BSA troop while at summer camp in the Sierras in Northern California in 2020.  We had a small group of scouts and parents which provided the scouts with more radio operating time and more time for discussion and questions about radio.  This made the merit badge class sessions more fun and engaging.

The scouts had a blast learning hands-on on how to setup the entire wilderness radio station including:
  1. Generator
  2. Power supply
  3. Kenwood TS-480SAT (HF+6m transceiver)
  4. Yeasu FT-8800 (2m / 70 cm FM transceiver)
  5. Kenwood TH-F6A (triband FM HT)
  6. External speaker
  7. 40 Meters home brew wire dipole
  8. 20 Meters rotatable dipole
  9. VHF/UHF antenna
Emergency communication rotatable dipole and VHF/UHF antenna packed up in its storage bag

The scouts made numerous contacts on 40 Meters, 20 Meters, 2 Meters, and 70 Centimeters.  We also tuned up and down on the shortwave broadcast bands and listened in on various programs from around the world.  This was an eye opening experience for the scouts who had never heard shortwave broadcasting nor made amateur radio contacts before.

Kenwood TS-480SAT Transceiver
Kenwood TS-480SAT Transceiver

The rotatable dipole worked like a champ having been serviced in the work prior to camp.  While on the workshop bench before camp, it was discovered that one of the elements had developed a break due to corrosion.  The repair was straightforward requiring a quick cleaning of the corrosion, resoldering, and shrink-wrapping.  The rotatable dipole helped demonstrate the directional nature of dipole antennas to the scouts.

Emergency communications rotatable dipole with VHF/UHF Antenna on top setup at summer camp 

One of our scouts, Sadie, earned her FCC Amateur Radio Technician license (KN6JYE) just prior to arriving in camp.  She had a blast using her license for the first time on VHF/UHF simplex calls, calls over area repeaters, and checking into various area nets including a fun 2m simplex net.  By the way, Sadie and her troop are running a popcorn fundraiser to help keep their scout program going.  Please stop by Sadie's Trails End popcorn storefront to make a purchase and support scouting and her troop.

Sadie, KN6JYE making contacts at elevation 3187m on top of Mount Lassen, California

The scouts were amazed and excited to experience the thrill of DX communication for the first time.  We made contacts on 40 Meters to other states and countries including Hawaii and New Zealand.  DX is alive and well even at the bottom of the solar sunspot cycle.

Amateur Radio Operator scout uniform strip

A big THANK YOU to the patient hams who talked with the scouts and helped them log their very first amateur radio contacts.  These hams helped the scouts to successfully earn their radio merit badges and we couldn't have done it without them.  It is the hands-on learning and radio operations that is the most inspiring and engaging aspect of the radio merit badge.  Several of the scouts expressed their enthusiastic interest in earning their own amateur radio licenses.  Please support scouting, radio merit badge activities, the annual Scout Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) special event, and youth learning the ropes on the air.  The next generation needs our support and encouragement just as much as we all did when we were their age.  Remember, it is youth who are the future of the amateur radio.

Good DX and 73,


November 23, 2018

MFJ-1886 Loop Receiving Antenna

Decided to order the MFJ-1886 loop receiving antenna to have some fun experimenting on MF and HF bands.  I have been wanting to try out a loop antenna for years and the MFJ-1886 fit my requirements.


  • Magnetic loop antenna design
  • Cover the medium wave broadcast band (525 kHz to 1705 kHz)
  • Cover the high frequency band (1700 kHz to 30 mHz)
  • Directional capability
  • Compact size
  • Weatherproof for outdoor use
  • SO-239/PL-259

Looking forward to giving the MFJ-1886 loop antenna a complete workout with MW DXing and shortwave listening.  Stay tuned for follow up articles.

MFJ-1886 Receiving Magnetic Loop Antenna

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

August 3, 2014

An adventurous looking listening post at Disneyland

On a recent trip to Disneyland we spotted this rather adventurous looking listening post in line for the Jungle Cruise attraction.  We really loved the way the canoe has been transformed and repurposed as a bookshelf with all manner of adventurous paraphernalia including two vintage shortwave radios.

The radio inside the canoe-bookcase with the black cabinet is a Hallicrafters model S-53A general purpose receiver covering 540 Khz to 54.5 Mhz in 5 bands (circa 1951 to 1959).  Like its contemporaries, the S-53A was designed to use tubes including the 6BA6 (mixer, 1st & 2nd IF amplifiers), 6H6 (detector), 6C4 (oscillator), 6K6GT (AF output), 6CS7 (AF amplifier, BFO), and 5Y3GT (rectifier).  The original price when this radio was introduced in 1951 was $89.50.  At nearly 20 lbs, this would have been a tough piece of gear to lug around the jungle (other than on a boat).

Disneyland Jungle Ride queue includes a adventurous looking listening post made from a wooden canoe and vintage shortwave gear
Disneyland Jungle Ride Listening Post
The grey radio on the desk is a National Radio model NC-125 receiver (circa 1950 to 1956).  This AM/CW/SSB radio receiver employed 11 tubes in its single conversion superheterodyne design and provided continuous reception from 560 Khz to 35000 Khz.  The tubes included 5Y3GT (rectifier), 6SG7 (RF), 6SB7-Y (oscillator / mixer), 6H6 (detector / AVC / ANL), 6SL7GT (phase shifter, boost / reject audio amplifier), 6SL7GT (first audio amplifier / CWO), 6V6GT (audio output), OA2 (voltage regulator).  In its day this radio sold for $149.50.  The matching speaker isn't pictured.  The vintage high-impedance headphones give it a functional appearance.  Weighing in at 32 pounds this radio would also have needed a boat to deliver it to a remote jungle locale which is fitting with the ride theme.

National marketing's description of the NC-125: "Now at last, you can get immediate delivery on the receiver that gives you more selectivity per dollar - the only receiver with the famed Select-O-Ject circuit built in ! And that's only one of the many fine features that make the NC-125 tops in receiver value ! Covers 550 kcs. - 36 mcs. in 4 bands. Voice, CW, NFM (with adapter). Edge lighted, direct-reading scale. Amateur, police, foreign, ship frequencies clearly marked. National Select-O-Ject built-in (rejects any selected audio frequency 45 db - boosts 38 db). Three microvolt sensitivity (for 10 db signal/noise ratio on 10-meter band). S-meter. AVC, ANL, ant. trimmer. Variable CW pitch control. Separate R.F. and audio gain controls. Volt. reg., stabilized oscillator. Jack for phono or NFM Adapter. Audio essentially flat to 10,000 c.p.s."
Disneyland Jungle Ride Listening Post - love the canoe transformed into a bookcase

Disneyland Jungle Ride Listening Post - this scene simply oozes adventure

There is a little AM radio on the upper left in the canoe.  Not sure what make and model it is.  Please send an email with the make and model if you know it.

If you find yourself in Disneyland, do wander over to the Jungle Cruise and have a look at all the interesting items as you snake through the queue.  It is more interesting and entertaining than the typical Disney queue.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

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© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

May 20, 2013

Shortwave Listening Resource: Prime Time Shortwave

If you are interested in shortwave listening and looking to find additional programming in English you might want to check out the Prime Time Shortwave guide on the Internet.  This free resource provides a schedule of shortwave broadcasting in English to various parts of the world. 

The data is available for download in various formats to facilitate uploading into your own local database or spreadsheet for searching or formatting into your own custom directory of favorites.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

December 8, 2012

Shortwave Program: WTWW 9480 KHz QSO Radio Show

Found an interesting shortwave broadcast today on 9480 KHz on WTWW in Tennessee, USA called, QSO Radio Show with Ted Randall.

The program was amateur radio oriented with an guest interview discussing 6 meters.  This was an excellent program.  This broadcast was ending at 21:00 UTC on 12/8/2012.

If you are looking for interesting shortwave programming in English then be sure to checkout 9480 Khz for QSO Radio Show with Ted Randall.

Yaesu FRG-100 Shortwave Receiver

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

September 25, 2012

NJ2X.COM 1st Anniversary

Today is the 1st anniversary of our website NJ2X.COM.  It has been a year of learning for us and we enjoyed the experience a great deal.  Thank you to our regular readers for your support.  We hope you will help spread the word and share our link with others interested in amateur radio, ham radio, and shortwave radio related topics. 

Our free daily feature, "FCC Technician Exam Question Of The Day" has been very enjoyable to write and we hope it has helped at least a few people to prepare for and earn their ticket.

We particularly enjoyed preparing cartoons for our "Ab Absurdo" amateur humor feature.  It was rather fun coming up with radio related absurdities and translating them into cartoons.  This surprisingly turned out to be a very relaxing and creative activity to engage in.  Hope we gave a few chuckles too.

In case you didn't notice the link on our home page, we offer the NJ2X Kindle Edition for those using the popular Kindle devices.

Looking forward to another year of writing articles for NJ2X.COM and helping others interested in amateur radio, ham radio, and shortwave radio.



April 21, 2012

Prepper Essentials: Communication and Information

One of the top 10 most important assets to have during a crisis is communication and the information that can be acquired through communication.  Communication can make the difference between life and death in some situations.  It is easy to recognize the high level needs for communication:
  • Communicate with your family and friends
  • Coordinate with people that can help you
  • Acquire information about what is happening in your immediate area
  • Acquire information about what is happening nationally
  • Obtain information from alternative sources (not just the official channels)
We are entirely too dependent on infrastructure and services in our daily life and take continuity for granted.  Each new disaster demonstrates that "essential" infrastructure and services are surprisingly fragile and go down when we seem to need them most.
  • Mobile phones
  • Internet
  • Electrical grid
  • Natural gas
  • Public water
  • Sewage treatment
  • Public transportation
  • Fire
  • Police
  • Local broadcasting (TV and radio)
Being well-prepared for a disaster means having the ability to live independent from infrastructure and public services.  When it comes to communication and information, shortwave radio and amateur radio can provide people with capabilities without reliance on complex and fragile infrastructure.

Emergency communications antenna

At a minimum, every prepper needs to own at least one shortwave radio.  A shortwave radio provides access to information outside of your immediate area including broadcasts originating outside the country.  Many people consider having alternative to official Government information source to be very valuable in some scenarios.  Most shortwave radios also allow reception of the local AM broadcast band which can be extremely valuable (when still operating) during a disaster (evacution routes, traffic conditions, shelter locations, ...).

Here are some minimum features to look for:
  • Battery operated and portable
  • Receives the AM broadcast band
  • Receives the HF frequency range (1.8 Mhz through 30 Mhz)
  • Supports AM, LSB, and USB modes
  • Can be connected to an external antenna
A shortwave radio is a great investment and one you will want in advance of a disaster.  Local stocks of shortwave radios will certainly be cleaned out very quickly when real disaster strikes.  A shortwave radio isn't a difficult device to operate; however, it is something you must use and familiarize yourself with before you needed it.  There are some excellent resources on the Internet to help you locate stations and frequencies to listen to.

Remember, a failure to plan is planning to fail.

Happy listening.

See other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

December 10, 2011

Portable Rotatable Dipole

For our portable operations, we have been using a portable rotatable HF dipole from EmComm-Products (model RADS 9-11/A) since 2008.  This antenna is rated for up to 200W UHF/VHF / 250W PEP HF.  In our setup we run no more than 50W on UHF/VHF and 100W on HF.

One particularly useful feature of the antenna is that it provides HF and a second VHF/UHF antenna on top of the dipole which is fed by a separate cable.  This allows the operator to run both a HF radio and VHF/UHF radio concurrently on one mast.

The mast is sectional fiberglass, guyed, and goes up very easily with two people (takes about 15 minutes).  The Velcro cable ties used to neatly store the cable double as ties between the mast and cable.

To rotate the antenna we simply give the mast a twist.  This is usually enough to cause the dipole to turn in the in the desired direction.  We have also used a light line tied to one end of the dipole to guide the rotation.
Dipole that can be rotated manually
NJ2X's Rotatable HF Dipole Antenna on the beach in Hattaras Island, NC

The dipole sections can be changed out and manually "tuned" for all HF bands from 160m to 10m and also VHF on 6m.  Tuning is accomplished by adjusting the telescopic sections.  A roll up tape measure and guidebook in the bag helps with the adjustment for specific bands and frequencies.

The entire antenna system packs up neatly into a heavy duty military green water resistant bag.  This makes it our preferred field day antenna.  We have also used it for mini-DX expeditions.  Pictured above is the antenna setup overlooking the beach on Hatteras Island, NC.

Emergency communication rotatable dipole antenna packed up in its go-bag

This antenna system has been a real pleasure to use and we look forward to breaking it out again for Field Day 2012.  Now only to decide where we will take it...



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© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 4, 2011

Hunting Shortwave Broadcast Radio Stations

A common pattern among amateur radio operators is to have developed an interest in radio from having access to a shortwave radio.  Sadly the trend over the last decade has been a decline in the number of shortwave broadcasters.  However, there are still stations on the air and shortwave listening (SWL) has remained a wonderful way to enjoy "playing radio" and experience the "magic".

As a youth, we would simply turn on the radio and tune up and down until finding an interesting station.  It was mostly a random process.  Over time, we learned to identify stations and programs and could tune to the right place at the right time.

Yeasu FRG-100 50Khz to 30MHz Receiver
We still do spend time tuning up and down the bands on our Yeasu FRG-100 or Sangean ATS-909X.  We also take advantage of the power of the Internet for improving our ability to locate radio programs and identify shortwave radio stations.  An excellent SWL resource is the website

This site offers several useful tools including:
  • World map identifying the location and frequency of stations currently on the air
  • A query tool for finding stations transmitting in English (or any other language) at a given time
  • A query tool for finding stations presently transmitting on a certain frequency is easy to use and enhances the shortwave radio listening experience with information.  It can help you spend more time listening and enjoying and less time randomly tuning.

If you are interested in becoming a shortwave listener, checkout the Monitoring Times article, "Getting Started in SW Listening" by Ken Reitz for some helpful information.

If you are ham, checkout our related article, "Hunting LoTW Stations",

October 21, 2011

IF Shift Magic

One of our favorite controls on our Kenwood TS-480SAT HF transceiver is the Intermediate Frequency Shift (IF Shift).  With a simple turn of the IF Shift knob it is possible to reduce interference from an adjacent frequency without changing the center frequency.  IF Shift is effective at improving signals with voice (SSB), CW, and digital modes.  It does not improve AM or FM signals.

The IF shift is also useful to shift the tone of a voice (SSB) contact by cutting or boosting audio frequencies in the high or low end.  This little magic trick sometimes makes the difference between copy and no-copy for signals buried in the noise.  IF Shift is useful on radios with and without DSP.

Combining IF shift and selecting a specific IF filter center frequency and IF filter bandwidth is amazingly effective with CW and digital modes.  If you are unfamiliar with exploiting IF Shift on your rig, do give it a try with noisy signals.

Also try playing around with the various filters and IF Shift on your rig while monitoring the waterfall display on a computer with a program like Ham Radio Deluxe DM780.  The waterfall display provides an excellent way to visualize how the received signal is affected by the radio's filters.

With a little trial-and-error and practice you will quickly find that you are able to zero in on weak stations and improve the audio enough to make the contact.  We have used this technique countless times with PSK31, CW, and SSB with excellent results.  This technique is also useful to shortwave listeners equipped with a receiver offering SSB and IF shift capability.

Good DX and 73,


By Michael Maher (NJ2X)

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© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

October 16, 2011

Amazing SWL shack NL6777

Here is a remarkable video of a Dutch shortwave listener's shack (Eric NL6777).  Eric lives in Breda, NL and has one of the finest listening posts we have ever seen.  Excellent gear, thoughtful layout, and professional installation.