June 26, 1917: First U.S. Troops Arrive in France

On this day 100 years ago, the first American troops of World War I set foot in France.  The landing location had been kept secret, but on that date, 14,000 American inantry troops landed at the Port of Saint Nazaire.  Despite the secrecy, an enthusiastic crowd was gathered at the port to greet them.  General Pershing quickly set up training camps in France to prepare the new recruits for war, and it would be four more months before they would enter combat.

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1937 Field Day

1937FieldDay

This weekend was Field Day, an activity in which Amateur Radio Operators set up portable equipment and make as many contacts as possible during a 24 hour period.

My own effort this year was very minimalist. I operated as I did for most of my National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activations, with my 5 watt Yaesu FT-817  with a Hamstick antenna mounted on the car. I only operated for about an hour, but made 13 CW (Morse Code) contacts to places such as Quebec, Florida, Kentucky, and North Dakota. My power supply consisted of my 12 volt fish finder battery,

Back in the day, both the equipment and the power supplies were much more intimidating, and a successful Field Day operation almost required a team effort. This video shows Field Day eighty years ago in 1937. The film shows W8NCD/8, the Charleston (WV) Amateur Radio Club. It is narrated by W8NCD, who is now a Silent Key.

Field Day has always been primarily a fun social activity, but it also has a serious side. It shows that amateurs are ready for emergency situations. In 1937, hams were able to set up at a remote location, without external electric power or any other infrastructure, and be in contact with the rest of the world. In 1937, there weren’t any cell phone towers, but hams managed to communicate around the world. Today, there are cell phones available, but in the location I was at today, at the bottom of the St. Croix River Valley at William O’Brien State Park, cell service is not available. But with five minutes of setup, I was on the air and communicating, just like they were in 1937



Electrocuting the Enemy: 1917

1917JuneElecExp

A hundred years ago this month, the cover of the June 1917 issue of Electrical Experimenter shows Hugo Gernsback‘s idea for “shooting with electricity.” In response to the German flamethrower (flammen werfer, or “liquid water”), Gernsback proposed a system inspired by a hapless firefighter who sprayed water on the third rail of an electric train. That fireman was knocked out, but not injured fatally, by the resulting shock, but Gernsback suggested that the same thing could be done in reverse. And if a more conductive fluid were used, then the results would be more lethal.

Gernsback proposed a solution of diluted sufluric acid (or chlorid of zinc or even ordinary salt water) in a tank on a soldier’s back. Another chemical is added to increase the pressure, resulting in enough pressure for a stream to reach the enemy line. The system is completed with a 10 HP gas engine driving an AC generator, whose voltage is stepped up to 10,000-15,000 volts. One side is hooked to the stream of liquid, and the other to ground (apparently through spikes on the soldier’s boots). The stream is directed at the enemy soldier. Assuming he is in contact with ground, “the enemy will almost certainly be rendered unconscious.”

As to the friendly soldier, Gernsback points out that “it is self-evident that his equipment must be such that he himself will not be electrocuted.” He suggests that this problem is easily solved by the simple expedient of his wearing a “special ‘high-tension’ rubber shoe, capable of withstanding 20,000 volts,” along with rubber gloves.



Eclipse Boy Scout & Girl Scout Camping

In earlier posts, I posted regarding hotel availability, with updates for the western United States and eastern United States for the total eclipse on August 21. I also have links regarding where to get your eclipse glasses , which you will need to safely view the eclipse before and after totality. In general, hotel rooms are still available (but going fast) in the eastern U.S., but are very scarce in the western U.S.

If your family is involved in Scouting (and in some cases, even if you are not), one option for camping in the path of totality might be Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps. The following camps have special camping events scheduled for the eclipse weekend. Some of these are open only to troops, but a phone call might allow your scouting family to join in with a local troop. Other events are open to individual scouts and their families. Other events are open to the public. If you still need a camping spot, one of these might be your best option.

These are the eclipse scout camping opportunities I’m aware of. If you know of others, please let me know.  They’re listed here from west to east:

Oregon

Camp Pioneer
Cascade Pacific Council, OR
Weekend event for Boy Scouts, Venturers, Explorers

Idaho

Camp Bradley
Snake River Council, Idaho
Event appears to be open to public

Grand Teton Council, Idaho
Various events

Wyoming

Teton High Adventure Base
Great Salt Lake Council, Utah
Teton Eclipse Adventure

Camp Laramie Peak
Longs Peak Council, WY
Solar Eclipse Weekend at Camp Laramie Peak

Missouri

Pine Ridge EclipseFest
Greater St. Louis Area Council, MO
Weekend event for Boy Scout troops

Illinois

Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois
Carbondale, IL
Total Eclipse of the Heartland for Girl Scouts

Kentucky

Pfeffer Scout Reservation
Lincoln Heritage Council, KY
Weekend event for Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs

Tennessee

Great Eclipse Campout
Boxwell Reservation
Middle Tennessee Council
Great Eclipse Campout

Georgia

Camp Rainey
Northeast Georgia Council
Scouts, Family Members, and the Public



1927 “Phonoscope”

1927JuneRadioNews

This cover illustration from the June 1927 issue of Radio News is more or less self-explanatory. But unfortunately, there’s little in the way of explanation given in the magazine, and I’m not aware of this form of video recording ever having been done in practice.

The early mechanical television signals were indeed, sent over the audio channel of AM broadcast stations, so it’s not far fetched to think that the audio could be recorded on a phonograph disk. I think the main problem would be the frequency response of the disk recording. As far as I know, the upper frequency limit for 78 RPM records, especially during that era, was around 5 kHz. I doubt if much video could be packed into 5 kHz bandwidth.

The magazine mentions, with no technical detail, only that John L. Baird was then working on the system, which he called “Phonoscope.”



GE Model 260, 1947

1947June22LifeSeventy years ago today, The June 22, 1947, issue of Life magazine carried this ad for the General Electric model 260 portable.  Shown in the ad is Monica Lewis, billed as a “popular star of radio and Signature Records.”

The set is touted as being self-charging, meaning that the 2 volt lead acid battery was constantly floating. When the set was run from 120 volts, the battery served as an effective filter capacitor. It had pushbutton tuning for the broadcast band, and also covered five shortwave bands, allowing it to “bring in U.S. and foreign stations galore.” It had “rugged military construction, and die-cast aluminum case that’s light as can be.”

The set’s tube lineup consisted of three 1LN5’S, 1LC6, and 1LH4. The internal battery powered a vibrator power supply, and when plugged in, the battery was charged while in the circuit, with a 3Q5GT serving as rectifier.

I actually owned one of these for a time.  By the time I owned it, the battery was long gone and unobtainium.  Without the battery in the circuit, the set did have a very pronounced 60 cycle hum.  It pulled in a few strong local stations, but shortwave was no longer an option.

Monica Lewis, who was 25 when this ad came out, went on to become the singing voice of “Miss Chiquita Banana,” a cartoon television commercial character. She made her way to the big screen, where she appeared in movies such as Airport ’77 and Earthquake. She died in 2015 at the age of 93.

You can see a video of the model 260 (along with a similar model that covered only the broadcast band) here:

And you can see and hear Miss Chiquita Banana here:

 



Last Minute Eclipse Hotel Options for Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska

For those planning to view the eclipse on August 21, 2017, hotel rooms are filling up fast. If you plan to travel to view the eclipse and want to stay in a hotel, you need to act fast. Yesterday, I listed inexpensive hotels which still have rooms available in and very close to the eclipse area. Those rooms are still available in many cities, extending from Lincoln, NE, to Charleston, SC. You can see a sampling of available hotels at this link.  I have more information about the eclipse, including where to order your eclipse glasses at this link.

If you live in the eastern half of the United States, you are probably within a day’s driving distance to view the eclipse, and nearby hotel rooms are still available. However, this is no longer the case if you live in the western half of the United States. There might be one or two reasonably priced hotel rooms left, but I can’t find them. West of Lincoln, Nebraska, it is no longer able to make a hotel reservation within the eclipse area, unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars per night.

Fortunately, however, you do still have some options. There are still a few hotels within a few hours drive of the eclipse. You can drive close to your final destination to a reasonably priced hotel, and then get up early on Monday morning and drive to where the eclipse will be visible. None of the hotels listed on this page will allow you to view the eclipse from the hotel. But for those in the western U.S., the cities listed below are among your last options to stay in a hotel to view the eclipse. These are suggestions for bases for your eclipse voyage as it passes through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and western Nebraska. All of these cities are relatively close to the path of totality, and have good road access for the final leg of your journey on the morning of August 21.

For all of the cities listed below, I have a link to one hotel that still has rooms available. Most are $100 per night or less. In most cases, additional hotels are available. By clicking on the link, you can view other hotels in the area.

Portland, OR

While the total Eclipse will not be visible in Portland, it is only about 30 miles north of the path of totality. Interstate 5 gives convenient access to the eclipse. If you drive south to Salem or Albany, you will be close to the center of the eclipse’s path. As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $69 a night:

 

Best Value Inns
Best Value Inns


Umatilia, OR

Umatilia is also north of the path of the eclipse, but provides relatively easy interstate access. You can take Interstate 84 137 miles to Baker City, OR, or continue on to Lime, OR, which is right on the center line for maximum viewing. You can also head south on US 395 through the Umatilia National Forest to Mt. Vernon, OR.

As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $66 a night:

Umatilla Inn and Suites
Umatilla Inn and Suites


Ogden, UT

There don’t seem to be any hotel rooms available in the state of Idaho anywhere close to the eclipse path. The best option for viewing from Idaho seems to be Ogden, Utah, which is about 170 miles south of the eclipse. From Ogden, you can take Interstate 15 to Idaho Falls, ID, which is close to the center line.

As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $55 a night:

Motel 6 Ogden, 21st Street
Motel 6 Ogden, 21st Street


Buffalo, WY

Casper, WY, is directly on the center line of the eclipse, and all hotel rooms in the city seem to have been sold out months ago. However, rooms are still available 113 miles to the north in Buffalo. Interstate 25 provides convenient access. As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $44 a night:

Lake Stop Resort - Caravan Park
Lake Stop Resort – Caravan Park


Rapid City, SD

All hotels in western Nebraska seem to be completely booked. But if you stay in Rapid City, it’s a 156 mile drive south on US 385 to Alliance, NE, which is right on the center of the eclipse’s path. As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $76 a night:

Motel 6 Rapid City
Motel 6 Rapid City


Omaha, NE

A few rooms are still available in Lincoln, NE, and one of those would be your best choice for viewing the eclipse from eastern Nebraska. But those will undoubtedly be gone within a few days. When they are, the best choice would be to stay in Omaha, and then drive west 53 miles on Interstate 80 to Lincoln. For best viewing, you can continue on Interstate 80 to Grand Island, or head south on US 77 to Beatrice. As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $50 a night:

Travel Inn Omaha
Travel Inn Omaha



Bombardment of Fort Stevens, 1942

Shell crater resulting form Japanese shelling on Fort Stevens. - NARA - 299678.jpg

Servicemen examining a shell crater after the attack. Wikipedia image.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Bombardment of Fort Stevens,
the only instance during the war of a U.S. military installation within the continental United States being attacked.

The fort, which dated to the Civil War, was on the Oregon side of the mouth of the Columbia River. On June 21, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-25, which had been assigned to attack enemy shipping, entered U.S. coastal waters and followed fishing boats to avoid mines.

Late that night, Commander Tagami Meiji ordered the crew to surface at the mouth of the Columbia. The sub then fired a total of seventeen 5.5 inch explosive shells.

Upon the first sign of the attack, the fort’s commander had ordered an immediate blackout. Furthermore, he ordered his men not to return fire, since doing so would reveal the base’s location.

The strategy proved effective, and the only real damage done was the severing of some telephone cables. Most of the shells landed in a nearby baseball field or a swamp.

The sub was spotted by Army Air Corps planes on a training mission, and they called in the sub’s location for a bomber to attack. The bomber spotted the sub, but the sub was able to dodge the bombs and submerge undamaged.

The fort remained an active military base until 1947.  It is now part of Fort Stevens State Park.



Eclipse Hotel Update

For those thinking of viewing the eclipse on August 21, it is important to make your travel plans now, since hotels in and near the total eclipse are rapidly filling up. Most cities on and near the path are now completely booked, but some rooms are still available in the following cities at a reasonable price. All of the hotels listed here still have rooms available as of June 20 at a cost of about $50 per night or less.

For more details, please see my earlier post. Please note that some of these hotels might be near the path of totality, but not directly in it. So you might have to make a short drive from some of these hotels on Monday morning.

And to avoid shortages, don’t forget to order your eclipse glasses while they are still available and at a low price.  For more information, see my earlier post.

Lincoln, NE: Now 80% Booked:

Americas Best Value Inn Lincoln Airport
Americas Best Value Inn Lincoln Airport

 

Travelodge Lincoln
Travelodge Lincoln


Kansas City, MO:

Arrowhead Inn

Arrowhead Inn

 

Plaza Hotel
Plaza Hotel


Columbia, MO, Now 85% Booked:

Days Inn Mexico

Days Inn Mexico


Jefferson City, MO:

California Motel
California Motel


St. Louis, MO:

Motel 6 Hazelwood
Motel 6 Hazelwood

Crosslands St. Louis - Airport - N. Lindbergh Blvd.
Crosslands St. Louis – Airport – N. Lindbergh Blvd.


Nashville, TN, Now 75% Booked:

Super 8 Nashville Downtown
Super 8 Nashville Downtown

Rodeway Inn
Rodeway Inn


Greenville, NC:

Days Inn Washington NC
Days Inn Washington NC


Columbia, SC. Now 74% Booked:

Budget Inn Express-columbia
Budget Inn Express-columbia

Days Inn and Suites SE Columbia Ft Jackson
Days Inn and Suites SE Columbia Ft Jackson


Charleston, SC. Now 95% Booked:

Econo Lodge North

Econo Lodge North



1947 One Tube Mailable Radio

1947JunePS

We previously featured a 1940 crystal set that could be mailed as a post card. And today, we up the ante to this mailable one-tube radio from the June 1947 issue of Popular Science. This one won’t go as a post card, but at just a quarter of an inch thick, it is small enough to mail in a 6 by 9 inch manila envelope.

The set used a subminiature 2E32 pentode tube. In addition to the radio, you would need a 22-1/2 volt B battery, as well as a penlight cell to light the filament.

The flat coil is wound on a 4 inch cardboard disk. The 92 turns are tapped at various points. By connecting to different taps, and by adjusting the trimmer capacitor, the set would tune most of the broadcast band. Even though the set did not use regeneration, it was said to be able to pull in strong local stations with high impedance headphones (also not included inside the envelope).

1947JunePSschematic