Monthly Archives: August 2017

Radio Constructor, 1947-1981

1947AugRadioConstructorSeventy years ago this month, August 1947, the first issue of the British magazine Radio Constructor rolled off the presses, with the matshead bearing the names of editors Arthur C. Gee, G2UK, and W. Norman Stevens, G3AKA, and business manager C.W.C. Overland, G2ATV. According to the introductory editorial, postwar Britain was seeing a boom in short wave listening almost as big as the boom in broadcast listening after the first war.

1947AugRadioConstructor1The first of many receiver plans to be published by the magazine was a four tube (or three tubes, plus selenium rectifier) AC-DC broadcast set shown here. The first issue also carried a few theoretical articles, as well as the plans for one transmitter.

The magazine continued until September 1981, when the final issue was published.

The Elusive 16 RPM Record

1957AugPESixty years ago, the August 1957 issue of Popular Electronics carried an article about the forgotten stepchild of audio recording: The 16 RPM record. More precisely, the records played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute, and most moderately priced phonographs in the 1960’s would play the speed, along with the more common 33, 45, and 78 RPM speeds.

The 1957 article predicted, erroneously it turns out, that “the growing catalog of recorded material and new playback equipment in all price ranges proclaim that the tide may yet turn to 16 rpm and roll into the arena with quite a splash.”

A few musical recordings were issued on 16 RPM. Most notably, some records were produced for the benefit of Chrysler’s Hiway Hi-Fi experiment, which included a record player for the car. But the article noted that the speed, while longer playing, had inherently lower fidelity than higher speeds. At the time, the maximum frequency response went only to about 9000 Hz. The format was used mostly for “talking books.” The best seller was probably the Bible, which was recorded in the early 1950’s at the lower speed. If you search eBay today for 16 RPM records, the most common search result is this talking Bible.

As a kid, my record player had the setting for 16 RPM. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me, and I checked out a 16 RPM talking book from the library, just so that I could play it at home.

1957AugPE2The article does include an interesting adapter, shown here. While the mechanical details are not explained, it allows a 16 RPM record to be played on a 33 RPM turntable. Presumably, it is powered by the spinning 33 RPM platter, and gears this down to 16 RPM for the record placed on top.

1927 Book and Piano Radios


Apparently, the big fad in radio 90 years ago was radios that didn’t look like radios. These examples come from the August 1927 issue of Popular Mechanics. The first, shown above, looks like a book, but it’s actually a crystal set. According to the magazine, the set had recently come on the market and was nicely constructed. It had enough space inside to accommodate the headphones, antenna, and ground lead. It was said to pull in stations within a radius of 20-30 miles.

1927AugPM1The second example was a homemade six-tube set built in to a miniature baby grand piano. The speaker cone was mounted at the rear on the sounding board.

1942: Last of the Prewar Radios

1942Aug27ChiTrib75 years ago, many consumer products, such as radios, stoves, and vacuum cleaners were no longer rolling off the assembly lines now devoted to war production. Civilian radio production, for example, ended on April 22, 1942.  But these items remained available, as retailers sold the last of the remaining stock.

This ad appeared in the August 27, 1942 issue of the Chicago Tribune and shows some of the last prewar versions of these items.

The model number of the Silvertone radio-phono is not shown, but according to the ad, the set was an $89.95 value selling for only $68.88.  It featured an automatic record changer which could accommodate up to ten 12″ records or twelve 10″ records.  The six-tube radio tuned both standard broadcast and shortwave.

What to Do With Your Used Eclipse Glasses

Now that the eclipse is over, you probably have eclipse glasses that you don’t need. You might want to save at least one pair, since you can use them to view sunspots, to view the transit of Mercury* on November 11, 2019, or even to view the International Space Station when it crosses in front of the sun*. You can also save them, of course, for the next eclipse in 2024.

  • Update:  See the important note at the end of this post before attempting to view the transit of Mercury or the transit of the ISS. 

However, you might want to get them into the hands of someone else who can use them to view an eclipse. One option is to send them to Astronomers without Borders, which is collecting used glasses, and will distribute them to persons in other parts of the world before upcoming eclipses. You can find instructions at their website.

However, you can just as easily cut out the middleman. Astronomers Without Borders will need to sort the glasses and distribute them. You can just as easily send them directly to someone who can use them. It will only cost you $1.15, which is the international postage rate for up to one ounce, which is enough for two sets of glasses and a letter explaining what they are.

Coverage ofl eclipse of 15 Feb. 2018. Wikipedia, by Fernando de Gorocica - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Coverage of eclipse of 15 Feb. 2018. Wikipedia, by Fernando de Gorocica – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The next eclipse will take place on February 15, 2018. This will be a partial eclipse that will be visible in Chile and Argentina. It will just barely be visible in Buenos Aires, but the sun will be about 40% covered in southern Chile and Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego.

Argentina and Chile will also have two total eclipses, in 2019 and 2020. Therefore, it makes sense to get students in southern Argentina and Chile excited about the partial eclipse in February. After they see the partial eclipse in 2018, they will have time to make plans to go see the total eclipses in 2019 or 2020, just like we did in 2017.

It’s not hard to do. All you need to do is find the name and address of a school in southern Argentina or Chile. Then, you send them one or two pairs of glasses, along with a letter explaining what the glasses are for.

Here’s a sample letter in Spanish.  You can simply cut and paste this letter into your word processor.  If you want, you can add your name, address, and e-mail.  Or if you prefer, you can just send an anonymous gift.

Estimados [NAME OF SCHOOL]:

Encontré su nombre y dirección en Internet, y me gustaría presentarle este pequeño regalo. Éstos son lentes especiales que se pueden utilizar para ver con seguridad el sol durante un eclipse solar.

Hubo un eclipse solar total en los Estados Unidos el 21 de agosto de 2017, y vi esta espectacular vista en el estado de [STATE WHERE YOU SAW THE ECLIPSE]. No habrá otro eclipse solar en los Estados Unidos hasta 2024. Habrá eclipses en Argentina y Chile en 2018, 2019 y 2020. El proximo eclipse, un eclipse parcial, será el 15 de febrero de 2018 en el sur de Argentina y Chile. Por lo tanto, los estadounidenses han sido alentados a enviar sus gafas de eclipse a escuelas u organizaciones en Argentina o Chile. Estos lentes se volvieron difíciles de encontrar en los Estados Unidos antes del eclipse, y queremos asegurarnos de que tantas personas como sea posible tengan gafas para ver los próximos tres eclipses.

Hay más información sobre el eclipse y sobre estas gafas en el siguiente sitio de internet:

Esperamos que disfrute viendo los próximos eclipses tanto como disfrutamos del nuestro.

En amistad,

Here’s a translation in English:

I found your name and address on the internet, and would like to present you with this small gift. These are special glasses that can be used to safely view the sun during a solar eclipse.

There was a total solar eclipse in the United States on August 21, 2017, and I viewed this spectacular sight in the State of [STATE WHERE YOU SAW THE ECLIPSE]. There will not be another solar eclipse in the United States until 2024. There will be eclipses in Argentina and Chile in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The next eclipse, a partial eclipse, will be on 15 February 2018 in the south of Argentina and Chile. Therefore, Americans have been encouraged to send their eclipse glasses to schools or organizations in Argentina or Chile. The glasses became hard to find in the United States before the eclipse, and we want to make sure as many people as possible have glasses to view the next three eclipses.

There is more information about the eclipse and about these glasses at the following website:

We hope you enjoy viewing the next eclipses as much as we enjoyed ours.

In friendship,

Or, if you prefer, you can write your own letter, either in English or Spanish.  Even if your letter is in English, someone will be able to read it.  The letter includes a link to a page on this site, and that page includes more information in Spanish, along with links to other sites with information about the upcoming eclipses.

It’s easy to find the name of a random school to send the glasses to.  Just go to Google Maps, and zoom in on southern Argentina or Chile.  Find the name of a town.  Then, Google the name of that town along with the word “escuela” or “colegio.”  Look through some of the results, and you’ll find the website of a school.  Look for their address on their website.  Put the glasses in an envelope with $1.15 postage, and put them in the mail.

A high school in Arkansas also needs a few samples of various brands of eclipse glasses.  You can see more details at this Facebook post to see if they still need a sample of your brand.

Update:   I’ve been informed that it’s not possible to see the transit of Mercury or the transit of the ISS with the naked eye.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to try, as long as you have your trusty eclipse glasses on.  But whatever you do, don’t try to kludge something together to use binoculars or a telescope in conjunction with your glasses.  If the glasses are at the end near your eyes, then there’s a real possibility that the magnified rays of the sun will burn a hole in the glasses, followed quickly by a hole burnt into your eyeball, which is not a good thing.  Putting the glasses on the other end of the telescope or binoculars isn’t quite as dangerous, but it’s still a really bad idea.

The person who brought this to my attention was concerned that someone would attempt to do these things, that they would do them in an unsafe manner, and they would then sue me.  You can, of course, sue anyone at any time for any reason.  But the lawsuit would almost certainly be unsuccessful, as explained in this case.

1947 Crosley Spectator


Seventy years ago, television was finally becoming a reality. The war was over, stations were coming on the air, and the enlightened radio dealer was getting ready to move into television. Crosley, the pioneer in radio manufacturing and broadcasting, had also made the move to television.  The Crosley Spectator is shown here, from the August 1947 issue of Radio & Appliance Journal.

The set boasted an image size of 6-3/8″ by 8-1/2″, had 27 tubes and three rectifiers, and tuned all 13 channels, 44-216 MHz, including the elusive channel 1, which was never put to use.

Those 27 tubes consumed 380 watts, and the set weighed in at 85 pounds.

The ad assured the dealer that the Spectator in the shop window as its own salesman, and each set sold would become the talk of the neighborhood and draw in even more business.

You can see a nicely restored example of this set in operation at this video:

Metal Tubes Go To War


Now that the excitement of the eclipse has passed, we will resume our normal programming, focusing mostly of the history of radio. We offer this advertisement from 75 years ago this month, showing the vacuum tube having gone off to war. But it’s not just any tube, it’s a Ken-Rad metal radio tube, made by the Ken-Rad Tube & Lamp Corporation of Owensboro, Kentucky, which assured that as soon as the war was over, metal tubes would be back for civilian customers.

Ken-Rad was founded in 1899 as the Kentucky Electrical Lamp Company. It was sold in 1918 and used to create the Kentucky Radio Corporation, later known as Ken-Rad. The company started making radio tubes in 1922, and also continued to make light bulbs. The company’s light bulbs were used to light the first Major League Baseball game played at night in 1935.

The lamp division was sold to Westinghouse in 1943. The tube division was sold to General Electric in 1945. The company’s building was torn down in 2007 and is now an Owensboro city park.

The ad appeared in the August 1942 issue of Radio Retailing.

Post-Eclipse Report

Minutes after totality.

Minutes after totality.

The total solar eclipse was awesome, and well worth the trip to Hastings, Nebraska!

Travel Report

We left Minnesota on Saturday and drove to Fremont, Nebraska.  The traffic was noticeably heavy on both Interstate 35 and Interstate 80.  Many of the vehicles we saw were obviously eclipse chasers, with cars packed full of camping gear.  The heavy traffic was very apparent when we turned off onto I-680 to get to our hotel room in Fremont.  That highway was deserted, which appeared all the more eerie after witnessing the extremely heavy traffic directly on the route to the path of totality.  On Sunday, traffic was heavier still as we moved back onto the interstate, but will still moving at posted speeds.

We were in position by Monday, so we didn’t experience traffic the day of the eclipse.  It was reported to be heavy, but with no major delays.  The only eclipse-related traffic issue was an announcement on the radio that the Nebraska Highway Patrol had closed both I-80 rest areas near Grand Island for safety reasons.  Gasoline and other supplies were readily available at normal prices.

According to reports, traffic was heaviest after the eclipse as hundreds of thousands of visitors headed home.  Still, no major issues were reported, and traffic, while somewhat slower than normal, was moving along well.  We drove home Tuesday.  While traffic appeared normal by the time we were on the road, many cars were obviously those of other eclipse chasers, as evidenced by the camping gear filling many of them.

Viewing the Eclipse

The eclipse in Grand Island. NBC Nebraska.

The eclipse in Grand Island. NBC Nebraska.

On Monday morning, we set up in American Legion Park in Hastings, a small city park just across the street from our hotel.  Other viewing areas were packed, but we shared the park with only about a dozen other visitors, mostly from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.   There were street lights on the neighboring road, but we stayed clear of them and they didn’t present any obstacle to our viewing.

We didn’t bother trying to take photos of the eclipse.  We only had two minutes, so rather than fiddling with cameras during that time, we simply enjoyed the spectacle and left the photography to professionals.

The best representation I’ve seen so far of what we experienced is from NBC Nebraska at this link.  if you click on Part 3 of the video at that link, and then advance to the 4:00 minute mark, you’ll see a live report from a Middle School in Grand Island, about 20 miles north of where we were.  The video does a good job of capturing the darkness of the sky, as well as the reaction of those present.  The video doesn’t do justice to the corona itself, but all of the other elements reflect very well what we witnessed.

It’s also evident from the video what I kept saying before the eclipse: The eclipse was something that kids needed to see!  The reaction of the middle school kids in this video was overwhelming, and the eclipse is something that they will never forget.  It’s a shame that some schools locked their kids inside rather than taking them to see it.  There are now undoubtedly many future astronomers and scientists among the kids in Grand Island and other places where enlightened educators made it a unique learning experience.  The kids who were left inside for the eclipse did not get that inspiration, and any school administrators who took that approach should be ashamed of themselves.

In Hastings, there were thin scattered clouds throughout the morning.  However, with the cooling caused by the eclipse, the sky was clear during totality, the clouds not reappearing until about 10 minutes later.   It was noticeably cooler starting a few minutes before totality.  Even though the surroundings were not noticeably dimmer to the human eye until just before totality, the direct sunlight didn’t feel warm as it had in the morning.

We saw the diamond ring both before and after totality.  I did not see Bailey’s Beads, nor did I see any shadow bands.  The horizon in all directions had the orange glow of sunset.  Venus was plainly visible.  I didn’t notice it before totality, but it persisted for a couple of minutes after the sun returned.

Radio Experiments

EclipseQSOPartyAs shown here, I was doing my part for science by operating in the HamSci Solar Eclipse QSO Party.  Along with other amateur radio operators, I was operating in this event to generate data which researchers will use to understand the ionosphere and how it was affected by the eclipse.  Radio signals are reflected by the ionosphere, and the effect varies depending on frequency, and depending on the amount of solar energy hitting the ionosphere.  The eclipse gave a rare opportunity to show the effects when the amount of solar energy varies over small areas, such as the path of totality.  I concentrated mainly on making short transmissions to be picked up by remote receivers.  Some of these receivers are connected in real time to the Reverse Beacon Network, which displays received signals almost immediately on the Internet.  Unfortunately, my signals were not picked up by these stations, but other software-defined receivers were continuously recording the radio spectrum, and it’s likely that my transmissions were recorded and will be available at a later date.

I didn’t spend much time trying to make two-way radio contacts, but I did make three contacts, which are shown on this map:


All three of these contacts were made before totality.  I was operating on the 40 meter band (7 MHz) with only 5 watts of power, and the distances of these contacts does seem much greater than would normally be expected that time of day.  The most distant contact was with WA1FCN in Cordova, Alabama, 776 miles from my location in Hastings, Nebraska.  We made this contact at 12:29 PM local time, about 30 minutes before totality.  It seems likely that this contact was possible only because of the eclipse.  The contact with N5AW in Burnet, Texas, 680 miles away, was made at 12:10 local time, and the contact with W0ECC in St. Charles, Missouri, 438 miles away, was made at 11:08 local time.  In all three cases, the partial eclipse was underway at both locations when we made our contacts.

The HamSci researchers at Virginia Tech will have a lot of data to analyze, but I think it’s clear that the eclipse was having an effect on propagation.  The 40 meter band is generally limited to shorter distances during the day, and the path lengths here seem more consistent with the type of propagation normally seen in the evening.

For those who are interested in the details, my station consisted of my 5 watt Yaesu FT-817 powered by a 12 volt fish finder battery.  The antenna was a 40 meter inverted vee with its peak about 15 feet off the ground, supported by my golf ball retriever.  The two ends of the antenna were supported by tent stakes in the ground.  The station was similar to what I used in 2016 for many of my National Parks On The Air activations. The antenna was running north-south in an effort to have its maximum signal along the east-west path of totality.  Since the antenna had an acceptable match on 15 and 6 meters, I also made a few test transmissions on those bands, although I concentrated on 40 meters.

Nebraska and the Eclipse

The State of Nebraska, the City of Hastings, and all of the other towns we encountered along the way, did an excellent job of planning for the eclipse and accommodating all of the visitors.  While traffic was very heavy, there were no real problems.  The staff of our hotel, the C3 Hotel & Convention Center, was extremely well prepared for what was probably the hotel’s busiest night ever.  The accommodations were excellent!

Since virtually all of the hotel rooms in the state were filled, dozens of temporary campgrounds sprung up, and visitors were able to find safe campsites at a reasonable price as homeowners, farmers, and ranchers opened their land for camping.

The only traffic-related problem that I’m aware of was the closure of two highway rest areas shortly before totality.  Unrelated to the eclipse, the City of Seward, Nebraska, experienced an ill-timed water main leak, leaving the city without drinking water during the eclipse.  We did see units of the Nebraska National Guard on the road, but as far as I know, other than to distribute drinking water in Seward, their services were not needed during the eclipse.

The entire state deserves high marks for its preparations in making the eclipse an unforgettable event for the hundreds of thousands of visitors.


Monitoring My Eclipse Radio Signals Online

IonosphereOn the day of the eclipse, you will be able to view my radio signals live as I send transmissions to determine how the ionosphere is reacting to the eclipse. The map and list shown below will be constantly updated. The map will incorrectly show that my signals are originating from Minnesota, but my signals will actually be originating in Hastings, Nebraska. The locations of the receiving stations will be correctly shown on the map. If you want to view this as a separate web page, go to:

I predict that during as the eclipse begins in Oregon, propagation will be enhanced toward the west, and as it moves to the east, propagation will be enhanced in that direction.  You will be able to follow this live at this site.

If you have a shortwave receiver, you will also be able to hear me directly on the frequencies listed above.  Transmissions will be very short, so tune to the frequency of the last transmission and listen.  The receiver should be set for CW/SSB reception.  You will hear me send in Morse code TEST DE W0IS:


Even if you don’t have a shortwave receiver, you can tune in using one of the many shortwave receivers that are connected to the Internet at  Pick a receiver close to one of the locations where my signals are shown as being received on the map above.

For other ways that you can “listen” the eclipse by radio, please visit my Eclipse Radio Experiments page.

Sunday Traffic Update for Nebraska

Traffic today between Lincoln and Grand Island on westbound I-80 was very heavy, but moving along at or near posted speeds.  US 30 and state highways between Freemont and Lincoln had very little traffic.  Rest area parking along I-80 was almost full.  I do recommend that if you see a parking spot on the truck side as you pull in, then you should take it.  Once you get to the end of the car parking, there’s no place to turn around.

We did see units of the Nebraska National Guard out and about, but there doesn’t appear to be any need for their services at this time.

Eclipse glasses appear to be unavailable.  But they’re not needed, so don’t let that stop you from coming.

The Cornhusker State seems to have everything under control.