Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Electric Banana

I recently found this... Supposedly it was inspired by the work of an Andy Warhol. It's based on his painting of a banana that served as album art for the Velvet Underground. The Warhol Foundation has reported that it was not officially licensed.  They are rare as you might imagine, but they do have one at the International Banana Museum in Mecca, CA.  The image above comes from an old issue of  the Speigel catalog. Regardless.. one of the strangest record players I've ever seen.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Knights of the Gray Underwear

On admiral Byrd's second exhibition to Antarctica in 1934 he brought a team of 55 men and tons of equipment. That included a strange array of vehicles but also musical instruments and a radio transmitter.
They broadcast from amateur radio station, W2ZK operated by Amory H. Waite Jr.  Their weekly broadcasts included weather data,  news and singing from the Knights of the Gray Underwear.

The line up of the group included Joseph Hill, Charles Murphy possibly also Thomas Poulter, Epaminondas Demas and surely others. one of them played a home-made drum, another the jug, and Dr. Gill Morgan, their seismologist played organ. The Ohio State University Library actually has a 1934 recording of them singing an original composition titled "Penguins Parade." More here.

As a radioman Waite stands alone. He not only broadcast from Antarctica, but he kept a diary and that transcripts his weekly broadcasts are archived at the Ohio State University Library. [SOURCE] The archive is quite extensive. Just the Amateur Radio Sub-series contains one cubic foot of records dating from 1938 to 1984. These records document W2ZK including correspondence and station logs from 1938 to 1984.

He was born near Boston, MA in 1902 making him about 32 years old when they went to sea in 1934. He got hsi first amateur license as a boyscout at the age of 12. Waite joined the U.S. Navy in 1919 and went through the Naval Radio School at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. He later was a radioman aboard the U.S.S. Florida, and U.S.S. Arkansas. After being discharged in 1923 he attended MIT and graduated in 1926 with a degree in radio and electrical engineering. All that before shipping off to the ice caps.

One biography claims he was also once the Chief Operator of New England's first television station.. but does not identify it as WBZ or W1XAY.  But he did Waite later developed and patented a system to measure the depth of ice using radio waves. It's called radio ice depth sounding.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Radios That Work for Free II

After 40 years K.E. Edwards has written a new book "how to" book for Crystal Sets. His prior work remained the gold standard for almost 4 decades. You can get a copy here. You can read my review of his first book here or my interview with the man himself, here.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Car hits WZGV-AM

Marty Hurney was just wrapping up his afternoon show just before 3:00 PM at WZGV-AM, aka ESPN 730 in Charlotte, NC. He and his co-host Tom Sorenson were surprised to say the least. Two cars collided at the corner of Morehead Street and Church redirecting one of the cars into the one of the cars flew into their building at 801 East Morehead Street. The impact bent the window frame and broke a lot of glass but no radio station staff were injured. More here.

Because this is radio, you can now know what a car crashing into a radio station sounds like:

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Radar Bounced Off the Sun

 We are all familiar with the moon bounce, but the "sun-bounce" is much more obscure accomplishment.  The first successful attempt was transmitted on April 7th, 1959 at Stanford University. the radiomen on the job were Dr. Von Russel Eshleman, Lt. Col. Robert C. Barthle and Dr. Philip B. Gallagher, staff at Stanford University Stanford Electronics Laboratories. Their names appear together on a number of different astrological papers at Stanford:
1955 -  Regularly observable aspect-sensitive radio reflections...
1956 -  Analysis of a new type of radio scattering...
1957 -  Antenna array for studies in meteor and radio astronomy
1957 -  Meteor rate and radiant studies: experimental radio studies...
1958 -  Radio reflections from artificially produced electron clouds
1959 -  Theory of radar studies of the cislunar medium
1960 -  Radar echoes from the sun
The Stanford Electronics Laboratories group continued churning out white papers until 1961. It continued to make reports for NASA until at least 1973. It's notable that follows the departure of Gallagher. Barthe and Eschleman got all the press. Eschleman made the statement to the Stanford newspaper on Sputnik. Their quotes in Popular Mechanics weren't specifically credited.  [SOURCE] Sensibly Escheman and Gallagher went on to work for NASA and continued to write arcane papers that I barely understand for decades.

Their experiment required a 40,000 watt transmitter. The antenna consisted of 5 miles of wire spread over 11 acres of ground. To quote the Popular Mechanics article "...the sun was difficult to reach by radar because it was 93,000,000 miles away and because of the 'thunderous radio noise' arising from it's turbulent surface."  The signal's round trip took over half an hour.  The signal was a 30-second bursts of dots and dashes that was perceptible the random noise of the sun. The radar echo didn't come from the sun's visible surface but it's outer corona. The return signals were recorded to magnetic tape for further study with an IBM 707 computer.

The experiment was repeated on April 10 and April 12, and the data was published in the journal Science on February 5, 1960. Popular Mechanics wrote it up in May 1960. More here.