Monthly Archives: February 2016

Happy Leap Day!

1908 Leap Year postcard. Wikipedia image.

Today is leap day. In order to accomodate the U.S. presidential election and the Summer Olympics, the years in which those events take place require an extra day, which is added on February 29. These events take place in years evenly divisible by four (2016/4 = 504), and for this reason, Pope Gregory decreed in 1582 that such years would contain 366 days, rather than the typical 365. The first leap year took place in 1584. Even though there was no presidential election or Summer Olympics that year, the new system showed incredible foresight.

The addition of a leap year also keeps the calendar in sync with the Earth’s orbit around the sun, which takes approximately 365-1/4 days. Without the modification to the calendar, the seasons would shift by about one day every four years.

However, the Earth’s period of orbit around the sun is not exactly 365-1/4 days. It is actually slightly more, but because of the effect of the Earth’s precession, it appears from the point of view of an observer on Earth to be slightly less, namely 365.24219879 days.

To get things properly in sync, a few more tweaks had to be made. Therefore, years divisible by 100 (which are divisible by 4, and would normally be leap years) are not leap years. Therefore, 1900 consisted of 365 days, and there was no February 29, 1900.

This correction by itself would make the average year measure 365 + 1/4 – 1/100 = 365.24 days. However, to refine the formula even more, another exception is made. Years divisible by 400 are leap years, even though they are divisible by 100. Therefore, 2000 was a leap year, and there was a February 29, 2000.

With this added factor, the average year length is now 365 + 1/4 – 1/100 + 1/400 = 365.2425 days, which is only 0.0003013 days more than the actual length of the year. This means that it will take 3319 years for the calendar to be off by only a single day. But that seems to be an adequate distance to kick the can, and our descendants can deal with the problem then.

Click Here For Today’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon

Hallicrafters S-40, 1946


Just six months after V-J day, Hallicrafters had the S-40 general coverage receiver on the market, as shown by this ad from the February 1946 issue of Radio Craft.

1975 QSL Card



I got a nice surprise in the form of an e-mail from Mark, AE6RT, formerly WN0OWP. He had googled his old call sign, and came across my Old QSL page, where I have listed the QSL cards I have from my first days as a ham in the 1970’s.

He included the photos of my card, which I sent to him in 1975 after a 40 meter CW QSO.  Of course, I still had his card and sent him a scan of it as well.

Click Here For Today’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon

Boy Scout Broadcasts, 1941


Shown here are the Scouts and Scoutmaster of Troop 3, Bloomington, Illinois, presenting a radio broadcast over station WJBC, Bloomington-Normal Illinois. The photo appeared in the February 1941 issue of Scouting magazine, along with pointers for troops and local councils to put on Scout broadcasts. The article stressed that putting on a broadcast was not a small undertaking, and would require a great deal of effort by the Scouts and Scouters involved. It did note, however, that stations could be receptive to the idea: “Local stations in all parts of the country make a practice of devoting a certain amount of their time on the air to educational sustaining programs. It is generally very easy therefore, for Boy Scouts to secure free time on the air.”

The National Council of the BSA made available scripts for use by local units, and the U.S. Office of Education made available additional scripts that might be appropriate for Scout programs.

Because of the scope of such a project, the article recommended that such efforts were probably best accomplished by local councils, rather than individual troops. In any event, the article stressed that approval from the council must be obtained prior to approaching any radio station asking for air time.

Click Here For Today’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon

RCA “Foreign Correspondent” Model 14-X Shortwave


75 years ago, this date’s issue of Life Magazine, February 24, 1941, carried this ad for the RCA Victor “Foreign Correspondent,” also known as RCA model number 14-X.  As the name implies, this set received shortwave as well as standard broadcast, and as the ad points out, the shortwave band was s-p-r-e-a-d for easy tuning.  The set covered 9.5-12 MHz, meaning that it did have reasonably easy tuning of the popular 31 and 25 meter bands.  In the evenings, the set probably did a good job of pulling in war news from Europe.

The set had a price tag of only $14.95, and looks like it was a fairly good performer for the price.  The set was a basic “All American Five,” with a tube lineup of 12SA7 12SK7 12SQ7 50L6GT 35Z5GT.  It had provision for an external antenna.  The limited shortwave frequency coverage probably did make it considerably easier to tune those bands.

A nicely preserved version can be found at the Radio Attic Archives.

1956 Boys’ Life Radio Contest


Sixty years ago this month, another Boys’ Life radio contest was underway, as shown by these scouts pictured above in the February 1956 issue of the magazine.

The issue carried an extensive article detailing how scouts could pull in numerous stations, both amateur and broadcast, from around the world.

1936 World Explorers


Shown here in the February 1936 issue of Radio News are the members of the World Explorers Club of Kern Road Junior High School in East Detroit, Michigan. According to the magazine, the club’s purpose was to enjoy and understand transmissions of the people of foreign lands over shortwave radio. The magazine noted that the list of stations they received regularly was too long to publish.

Washington’s Birthday Relay, 1916

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A hundred years ago today, American radio amateurs showed that they could successfully relay a message coast to coast, as part of the Washington’s Birthday relay.  At 11:00 PM Central Time on February 21, 1916, a soldier from the Rock Island Arsenal delivered a sealed envelope to W.H. Kirwin, 9XE, in Davenport, IA. By pre-arranged routing, the message was flashed across the country in a matter of minutes.

The message from the commander of the arsenal was delivered to the governors of the several states, to the mayors of large cities, and even to the White House.  The message read as follows:


A Democracy requires that a people who govern and educate themselves should be so armed and disciplined that they can protect themselves.

(Signed) Colonel Nicholson, U.S.A.




Fay Wray, 1926


Ninety years ago, this date’s issue of Radio Digest, February 20, 1926, featured this picture of eighteen year old Fay Wray, who is probably best remembered for her role in the 1933 film King Kong.

Her fame on the cover of this magazine was a result of her being named one of the thriteen WAMPAS Baby Stars for 1926, in a program broadcast by KNX in Los Angeles.  The honor was conferred by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers, which each year honored thirteen young actresses believed to be on the threshold of stardom. Other familiar names in the class of 1926 included Mary Astor and Joan Crawford.

Canadian-born Wray resided in Hollywood, and had appeared in a number of minor roles. After the recognition brought about by the WAMPAS award, she was contracted by Paramount, where she made more than a dozen movies. Her most famous role in King Kong was for RKO.

She died in New York in 2004 at the age of 96. Two days later, the lights of the Empire State Building were extinguished for fifteen minutes in her memory.