Monthly Archives: June 2017

1957 Underwater TV Camera

1957JuneRadioElecCover

Shown here on the cover of the June 1957 issue of Radio Electronics is a demonstration of an underwater TV camera, namely a special version of the Hancock Vicon IV made by HEC Corp., Redwood City, California. The camera was housed in a stainless steel cylinder with a small window on one end.

The camera itself was billed as extremely sensitive and not requiring additional lighting in most situations. The entrie camera weighed 95 pounds on land, but dropped to 12 pounds in the water. It came with a 500 foot cable, and could either be maneuvered by a diver or lowered by crane.

One valuable application was said to be in offshore oil drilling, or for inspections of canals, dams, irrigation canals, and ship hulls.

The original customer was the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wild Life Service, for underwater exploration of marine life. The Navy’s bureau of ships had also placed an order for hull inspection and salvage operations.

The camera, compatible with U.S. broadcast standards, came with a 500 foot cable leading to the associated controls and monitoring equipment.



Eclipse Campgrounds


Eclipse Camping Links

Most of the following campsites and dorm rooms are still available as of August 6.  Many of the campgrounds are temporary campsites with limited amenities.  In most cases, you’ll need to make reservations by phoning the owners.  This list is being constantly updated with new sites being added every day.  If you discover that any of these are no longer available, please let me know.  Also, if you have a site to add, please let me know.

Post-eclipse update: Most of the following links were temporary campgrounds for the 2017 eclipse, and many links will stop working. A few phone numbers were included on this list, but I have removed them.  The lesson for the 2024 eclipse is that plenty of campgrounds became available at reasonable prices, and there’s no need to pay too much for lodging.

If you are new to camping, see my page with advice on camping with inexpensive gear.

A few of these links are to Facebook posts, and you’ll probably need to be logged in to Facebook to view them.

Note:  I don’t have any direct knowledge of any of these links, other than what they have on their websites.  Please contact the owners directly and ask any questions before making reservations.  The sites listed here range from very expensive “glamping” locations to inexpensive spots to pitch a tent in someone’s back yard.  Some will take self-contained RV’s only and no tents.  Others will take tents only and not RV’s.  So do your homework! Most of the listings explain whether or not toilet facilities are available.  If you’re not sure,  be sure to ask the owner.

Oregon

Idaho

Wyoming

Nebraska

Kansas

  • Robinson, KS – tent sites on football field
  • Summerfield, KS – Campers, $30, tents $15, for reservations call 402-xxx-xxxx. Taco bar benefit supper Sunday evening, 50+ campsites.

Missouri

Illinois

Kentucky

Tennessee

Georgia

North Carolina

South Carolina

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Other Eclipse Links

Here are some links with more information regarding the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse:

General Eclipse Information:

Radio Links

Since radio propagation is affected by solar radiation interacting with the ionosphere, the brief period of “night” in the middle of the day can have measurable effects on radio signals, and some of these effects are not completely understood.  For that reason, there are some opportunities for citizen science by amateur radio operators during the eclipse.

I haven’t decided exactly how I am going to participate, but what I will probably do is send some beacon transmissions which will be picked up by stations of the Reverse Beacon Network.  This will allow me to participate with relatively little attention required by me while I watch the eclipse, but I’ll be able to review the data later and see how the eclipse affected my radio signals.

I will make this information available live during the eclipse, and you will be able to monitor how the eclipse is affecting the propagation from my transmitter.  At this point, I’m considering doing these experiments on 30 meters (10 MHz).  Effects will probably be more pronounced on lower frequencies, but higher frequencies will allow a more efficient antenna.  I think that 10 MHz probably represents the best compromise, but I’d welcome any input.

The following links include information on radio experiments to take place during the eclipse:

 

 



1957 Boys’ Life Hallicrafters Ad

1957JuneBLHallicraftersAdSixty years ago this month, the June 1957 issue of Boys’ Life carried this Hallicrafters ad, highlighting the excitement available on the shortwave bands.

The comic book style ad featured a young hero with the unlikely name of Billy Hallicrafters. Billy and his friend Tim have been out boating and were securing their boat after a quick storm blew up. Billy agrees that the storm is a bad one, and invites Timmy to come tune the marine frequencies on his Hallicrafters S-85.

An amazed Tim asks whether it’s really possible to listen to the fleet talking, and Billy assures him that it is. In addition to the exciting traffic from ships, he tells Tim that he can tune in police, fire, amateurs, planes, and foreign stations.

They get to Billy’s receiver, where on an international emergency frequency they hear a desperate distress call from a ship run aground on a reef and sinking. The ship tries in vain to raise the Coast Guard, but to no avail.

Our hero Billy quickly gets on the phone to the Coast Guard and gives the ship’s position. The Coast Guard tells him that they didn’t pick up the SOS, but had a cutter and plane in the area. Twenty minutes later, the Coast Guard has rescued the ship, which included an injured man.

In the next scene, Billy and Tim are down at the dock talking to the grateful Coast Guard officer, who tells them that this proves that shortwave listening is both exciting and fun.

An ambulance is seen waiting to take the injured man to the hospital, and it turns out that Billy had taken it upon himself to have the ambulance standing by.

Tim adds that he’s going to get his own Hallicrafters shortwave set.

Billy’s S-85 is revealed to have a list price of $119.95. For the more budget conscious Scout thinking of listening for distress calls, the ad also showed the venerable S-38D with a list price of $49.95.



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.

References

 

 



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.  Also see my list of over 100 eclipse campsites.

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

Girl Scouts of Montana & Wyoming
Camp Sacajawea
Casper, WY
Wyoming Eclipse Event for Girl Scouts

Nebraska

BSA Cornhusker Council, Du Bois, NE  SOLD OUT
Camp Cornhusker, viewing and camping, open to public.

BSA Overland Trails Council
Doniphan, NE
Camp Augustine, viewing & camping, open to public

Nebraska Girl Scouts
Camp Cosmo
Grand Island, NE
Solar Eclipse Camporee for Girl Scouts & Families

 

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

Kentucky 4H Camp for Ages 9-18

Tennessee
Boxwell Reservation
Middle Tennessee Council
Great Eclipse Campout

Camp Buck Toms
Great Smoky Mountain Council, TN
“Be Totally There” for scouts & scout families

Georgia

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

South Carolina

Indian Waters Council
Columbia, SC
Camp Eclipse 2017 for scouts and families

The BSA is offering an eclipse patch that scouts can earn.



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

Update:  As of August 4, inexpensive rooms were still available in:

  • Kennewick, Washington
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Topeka, Kansas
  • Omaha, Nebraska

None of these cities is within the path of totality, but these are probably the closest hotels with rooms available. Traffic is expected to be very heavy, and you will need to leave your hotel very early Monday morning, or even Sunday night, to reach the path of totality.  For more information on anticipated driving conditions, please see my eclipse gridlock page. To make reservations, click on the individual links below.

For hotels in the eastern United States, see this link.  

At this time, camping is probably a better option for most of the western United States.  Many campgrounds are available in all areas, many at reasonable prices, and you can make reservations to guarantee yourself a safe spot to stay and view the eclipse.  For a list of camping locations, see this link.   If you are new to camping, I have a page with tips for beginning campers and suggestions on the most inexpensive way to get the equipment you will need.

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.

The hotels on this page are outside the total eclipse, some of them significantly so.  Travel times to view the eclipse from these hotels might be significantly greater than normal on the morning of August 21.  This is particularly true on north-south interstate highways such as Interstate 5 and Interstate 15.  If you plan to stay at any of these hotels on Sunday night, you will need to leave for your final viewing position very early, probably in the middle of the night Sunday night.  For traffic predictions, please visit my “Planning for Eclipse Gridlock” page.

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/Vancouver WA

Hotel rooms are no longer available in Portland, OR, or Vancouver, WA.  Late cancellations might be possible (some eclipse chasers booked hotels in two cities).  The hotel shown below was the last hotel in Portland with inexpensive rooms available.  You can click on this link and check availability for August 20.  If any rooms are available in any area hotel, they will be displayed.

Note that Portland is more than 30 miles from totality.  You will need to drive south the morning of August 21.  Traffic on Interstate 5 is projected to be extremely heavy, since visitors from Portland and Seattle will pour into the area.  The normally short drive may take many hours.  You will need to leave Portland very early the morning of August 21.

Value Motel

Value Motel

 


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.

Update August 4:  Hotel rooms in Umatilia are now completely booked.  Rooms are still available in Kennewick, Washington, which is a 162 mile drive on Interstates 82 and 84 to Baker City.  As of July 9, rooms were still available at this hotel for about $64 per night:

Super 8 Kennewick

Super 8 Kennewick

 


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.  Note that traffic on I-15 is expected to be extremely heavy, because this will be the closest route to the eclipse for much of the southwestern United States.  You should plan to leave Ogden very early.  Plan ahead and prepare, since it might be necessary to leave Ogden on Sunday and drive all night.

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

Hotel rooms are no longer available in Buffalo, WY.  Late cancellations might be possible (some eclipse chasers booked hotels in two cities).  The hotel shown below was the last hotel in Buffalo with inexpensive rooms available.  You can click on this link and check availability for August 20.  If any rooms are available in any area hotel, they will be displayed.  Buffalo is about 113 miles from the path of totality.  You will need to leave Buffalo early the morning of August 21.

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


Topeka, KS

From Topeka, you can drive north about a hundred miles on US 75 to the path of totality.  There might be heavy traffic on US 75, due to this area being the closest route for most of Texas and Oklahoma.  Other north-south highways are available, so bring a map and be prepared to use alternate routes. Rooms are also available in nearby Manhattan, KS, and Junction City, KS.  The following Topeka hotel has rooms available for under $40:

Motel 6 Topeka Northwest

Motel 6 Topeka Northwest


 

Omaha, NE

If you need a hotel to stay overnight for the eclipse, Omaha is probably one of the very best choices for cities with available hotel rooms.  Omaha is about 50 miles away from the path of totality.  The advantage of Omaha is that the traffic into the eclipse area, even though heavy, will probably not be nearly as bad as other areas.  This is because Interstate 80 runs east-west through the zone of totality, and there are few population centers with this highway as their main route to the eclipse.

If you are traveling by air to view the eclipse, Omaha is probably one of the best choices.  Fly to Omaha on or before Sunday, rent a car, and you will be able to drive to the eclipse Monday morning.

From Omaha,  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.  Another option from Omaha is to drive south on Interstate 29 toward St. Joseph, MO.  While there will probably be heavy traffic northbound on I-29 from Kansas City and points further south, there will probably be less southbound traffic.  As of June 20, rooms were available in this hotel for about $50 a night:

Travel Inn Omaha
Travel Inn Omaha
 (Use coupon code TRAVEL8).