October 31, 2005


The NEWARK NEWS RADIO CLUB - the pioneer of radio clubs - was founded in Newark, New Jersey, in December 1927 to promote the hobby of long-distance radio listening, "DXing."

The club evolved from a column in the old NEWARK EVENING NEWS entitled ``Broadcasts Winnowed'' by Charlotte Geer. Irving Potts served as the club's president from 1928 until his death in 1962. During Potts' tenure, membership swelled to about 2,000 ``DXers'' worldwide.

``Radio enthusiasts liked the idea of swapping yarns,'' according to a 1947 article in the NNRC BULLETIN commemorating the club's 20th anniversary.

Sadly, the original NNRC disbanded in 1982. The newspaper folded in 1972 after a strike.

Decades after the founding of the original NNRC, opportunities abound for long-distance radio listening - via satellite, on the Internet and on shortwave and medium wave.

Amateur radio has also advanced from the day's of ``spark gap.''

Mrs. Geer would be amazed!

In an October 1977 article marking the club's 50th anniversary, newsletter editor Bob Colegrove sounded an optimistic note: ``Things aren't they way they were in 1927 ... And, no doubt, they will be very different in 2027. We think the future is promising.''
Do you remember the old club?

Former member Charles Wackerman writes:

I was a member of the board of directors of NNRC at the time it went under. In fact, Matt Zahner, the longtime editor of the BCB column in the NNRC monthly and I drove to that meeting together and neither of us had a clue that the club was about to fold. Matt was a close friend, my son's godfather, and a fascinating person to know. He had been ill and I had run his column for some months prior to the shutdown though he did the final column. I was also the head of the Courtesy Program committee contacting all manner of BCB stations in the US to arrange programs and then listening on Sunday night for those rare chances to hear a station not otherwise available. Matt taught me to listen for Trans Atlantic staitions (splits -- because they were on frequencies between US/Canadian stations and caused hetrodines "hets" which with careful tuning and the right radio could be eliminated and the stations heard -- my first was Italy on I think 845. I reciprocated by teaching Matt how to listen for Long Wave Broadcast stations.

Bob Colgrove was also a friend back then and I was the one who collected his technical columns and made reprints available. Carrol Wyrich (spelling may not be right) an old time SWL and the editor of a monthly column on the clubs history was also an occasional visitor to my shack.

When the club closed down Ruben Degold (sp?), Matt, and I weren't willing to give it up so we founded the Association of DX Reporters which solicited former NNRCers as members. I printed the first copy of their newsletter on a spirit duplicator owned by my church. After that experience we went to photocopy or offset printing and eventually Ruben took over the operation. I was in an accident at that point and spent nearly a year in hospital and when I came out I had sort of lost contact with the whole thing. Your blog brought back the memories and I went to my picture collection to have a look.

I think ADXR went the same route as NNRC some years later but it did continue many of the columns and policies and memories of NNRC for a bit longer.


One of the principal aims of the original NEWARK NEWS RADIO CLUB was ``to assist members in logging stations, which for one reason or another, were difficult to hear,'' according to a history of the club written by Carleton Lord in 1947.

That led to the birth of the ``Courtesy Program'' in which radio stations - both shortwave and medium wave - transmitted special programs for DXers at off-hours, typically before dawn when interference was low.

``A list of stations which have broadcast programs for the club would comprise a substantial cross section of transmitters in the United States and Canada,'' Lord wrote.

Overseas stations participated, too.

``Older members will not soon forget the first overseas special from Cologne, Germany, arranged by Louis Hahn in 1930, nor the broadcast from HHK, Port-au-price, Haiti, which drew over 500 reports,'' Lord wrote. ``In 1931, Station TJW, a little 5-watter at Hamilton, Bermuda, received 348 reports from an NNRC special.''

Irving R. Potts, an office clerk at Newark Fire Department headquarters, was the driving force of the original Newark News club.

He served as president from 1928 until his death in 1962.

He wrote the weekly DX column in the Newark Evening News.

He edited the club's newsletter.

He held the club together in good times and bad.

According to his obituary, which is posted on ON THE SHORTWAVES.com:

Mr. Potts first became interested in radio through articles he read in The Newark News in 1924. In those days only a few stations were on the air, and pioneer listeners vied with each other to pick up different signals.

Reports of unusual feats of reception appeared frequently in those days on the radio pages of The Newark News, and before long Mr. Potts and other enthusiasts banded together under the newspaper's auspices.

Within its first five years the club enrolled more than 1,200 members in every state and many foreign countries. The organization's emphasis shifted from standard broadcast to shortwave as radio equipment improved and the number and power of stations increased.

Over the years, Potts logged 1,000 stations ``on ordinary receivers,'' according to the newspaper.

His column - ``Doings of DXers'' - in the Evening News appeared each Wednesday from the club's early days. The column shifted to the newspaper's Sunday edition in 1947. Potts' final column was printed in the same edition of the newspaper as his obituary.

Hank Bennett was another influential member of the original club.

Bennett, shortwave editor for Popular Electronics magazine from 1955 to 1970, edited the shortwave column for the NNRC newsletter as well, and managed the WDX radio monitor registration program. The WDX program, which was independent of the club, succeeded the WPE program once sponsored by Popular Electronics.

Bennett's column from the NNRC Bulletin featured a comprehensive list of stations and frequencies.

His December 1970 column noted:

No word has been received from the clandestine station WBBH that has reportedly been using our post office box number for a return address. The station is still on the air ... Our offer of "No 3rd Party" given last month still holds.

That pirate station, the column said, operated on 7260 KHZ.

What about the flagship newspaper?

According to Nat Bodian on virtualnewarknj.com:

One of New Jersey's great institutions, The Newark News, founded in 1873 by Wallace Scudder, and operated by the Scudder family for most of its life, died on August 31, 1972.

It had been for most of the 20th century until its demise, the newspaper of record in New Jersey and a highly respected news medium that wielded considerable political power and ranked with the country's best newspapers.

To many, myself included, the Newark News was "The New York Times of New Jersey" and a publishing institution that dominated the State's publishing scene.

The beginning of the end came as the 98-year old paper was already falling into a sharp decline, circulation wise, for the first time in its history being surpassed in both daily and Sunday circulation by the Newark Star-Ledger
The 'clincher' was in February 1971 when the newsroom, which had never been (union) organized, voted to go out on strike. They walked out in May 1971.

It took until April 1972 for the strike to be settled, and for the News to resume publication.

But by then it was too late
The paper's owners, Media General, which had bought the paper two years earlier from the founding Scudder family, had already sold the Sunday News, along with its presses, to the Star-Ledger.

The sale to Media General in 1970 had been made by Edward M. Scudder and Richard Scudder as co-owners. Edward was president. Richard was publisher.

During the lengthy strike, many of the Newark News top staffers had found jobs or were lured to jobs elsewhere. Longtime News readers had gotten used to the Star-Ledger for their daily news needs, and many large advertisers had opted for keeping their ads with what seemed like a more reliable Star-Ledger, which by now had a huge daily circulation of over 400,000.

A competitor of the Newark Evening News - the Sunday Call - was also a radio pioneer, broadcasting the baseball World Series for the first time.

According to Nat Bodian:

In 1921, the first year of commercial radio broadcasting, The Sunday Call made radio history by broadcasting a World Series baseball game, the first such broadcast ever, from New York's Polo Grounds.

Here is how that first World Series radio broadcast was set up:

The Sunday Call sent a reporter to the Polo Grounds and there he put the ongoing game, play by play, on a telegraph line to the Sunday Call office.

There the plays were handed to the Sunday Call sports editor, Gus Falzer, who read them into a telephone line to the newly-established broadcasting station of the Westinghouse Company at the corner of Plane and Orange Streets. From there, the phone call was broadcast over the air. Station WJZ was America's second licensed broadcasting station.

June 22, 2005


Collins 75S31

Shortwave bands

Shortwave broadcasters, by and large, operate on bands established by international convention:

120 Meters (2300-2495 KHZ)
90 Meters (3200-3400 KHZ)
75 Meters (3900-4000 KHZ)
60 Meters (4750-5060 KHZ)
49 Meters (5900-6200 KHZ)
41 Meters (7100-7350 KHZ)
31 Meters (9400-9900 KHZ)
25 meters (11600-12100 KHZ)
22 Meters (13570-13870 KHZ)
19 Meters (15100-15800 KHZ)
16 Meters (17480-17900 KHZ)
15 Meters (18900-19020 KHZ)
13 Meters (21450-21850 KHZ)
11 Meters (25600-26100 KHZ)

Tuning tips

Writing in the 1980 edition of ``Shortwave Listeners Guide,'' H. Charles Woodruff shed some light on shortwave reception:

Most international shortwave broadcasting stations employ direction antenna arrays to beam radio transmissions to a specific geographical area ... Due to overlap of target areas and because of the nature of shortwave radio wave propagation, you may hear broadcasts that are not specifically beamed to your area.

To compensate for adverse ionospheric conditions, interference from other radio stations, jamming and technical malfunctions, stations may use several frequencies beamed to the same general geographic area.

In the on-line publication ``Traditional Shortwave Listeners Guide,'' Bob Ellis notes that ``current radio conditions are an Act of God.''

Ellis writes:

In addition to the daily and yearly life of the sun as we see it from Earth, it also has a life of it's own. This is the eleven year long sunspot cycle. Without getting into heavy physics, the radiated energy from the sun rises and falls in this period causing a corresponding rise and fall in the ability of our ionosphere to act as a mirror reflecting far-away stations to our radio sets.

Ellis also writes:

Short-wave radio is split into broadcasting seasons. Traditionally, there are two major seasons, Winter and Summer, with two smaller ones centered on each vernal equinox. We DXers love the variable conditions an equinox can bring but to a Transmission Planner, a nightmare. All the stations try to get frequency allocations in all the bands so they can move to lower frequencies in Winter in a desperate attempt to be heard.

Hugo Gernsback on tuning

Pioneering electronics writer and editor Hugo Gernsback, in the March 1934 edition of ``Short Wave Craft,'' said ``there is no sense in tuning haphazardly.''

``Try at the outset to be methodical,'' Gernsback said.

He offered these tips, which are just as timely today:

Remember always, that there is such a thing as time difference, and that certain overseas stations come in best only at certain times.

The mere fact that foreign stations do not always transmit as per schedule makes listening a great sport. You can only find this out by searching every band very, very slowly from time to time.

It is best to stick to one band during the time which you know best reception is had for that particular band.

Personality traits

Shortwave bands exhibit unique personality traits.

William Orr, W6SAI, listed some of these traits in his 1957 book "Better Shortwave Reception.''

The 90 and 60 Meter Bands

The 90 and 60 meter bands are primarily used for local coverage broadcast work in the tropical areas. During the evening hours of the winter months it is possible to hear many South and Central American stations in these channels. The high static level reduces the utility of the 90 meter band during the summer months, but the 60 meter band is useful the year around.

The 49, 40 and 31 Meter Bands

These three bands form the "backbone" of shortwave broadcasting, as they contain a majority of s-w stations of the world. Over a hundred countries compete for your ears amid this beehive of electronic activity. These bands are all-year performers, and are "open" most of the hours of the day and night, with conditions peaking just before sunrise, and during the evening hours. The static level is much weaker than on the lower frequencies, and the main interference comes from the magnitude of signals.

The 25, 19, 16, 13 and 11 Meter Bands

These four bands, high in frequency, are considered seasonal bands. During periods of great sunspot activity, the ionosphere will support propogation at these frequencies. ... During the summer months the 11, 13 and 16 meter bands will be erratic, exhibiting their best characteristics during the fall and spring season. The 19 and 25 meter bands are all-year performers.

No habla Espanol

One of the more challenging aspects of DXing - for the language impaired at least - is deciphering languages other than English.

Communications World, a long departed periodical, discussed this dilemma in its Fall-Winter 1971 edition:

Obviously, you can never learn them all. There are hundreds of different languages and dialects to be heard on shortwave. The Latin American outlets use Spanish and Portuguese. In Africa, French and Swahili are important tongues. Arabic programming is aired by stations in North Africa and the Middle East.

But it's not necessary to be fluent in a language to pick out certain key words that will allow you to identify the station and tell something about its programming.

Program format and announcers delivery are helpful too. Even if you don't know a word of the language, soon you'll be able to tell a newscast by the manner in which the announcer speaks.

Political commentaries are often delivered with a tell-tale intensity of emotion that is distinctive. 

Dramatic presentations, with the back-and-forth dialogue in conversational tines, can also be recognized for what they are.


Your editor located the following item on the R.L. Drake Co. web site.

It was written by William Orr, W6SAI:

Sometimes simple is best. You already know that good reception depends on a good antenna. One of the best designs is a random-length wire, from 30 to 100 feet long, erected in the clear. It should be placed well clear of power lines (which are dangerous and also create radio noise). Try to get the horizontal portion at least 20 feet above the ground. It will work at a lower elevation, but height of the antenna is important. You can run a wire from the peak of your house roof to a nearby tree. You can also make an inexpensive antenna mast from five or 10 foot sections of TV mast or use a telescoping TV mast to support the far end of your wire.

Antenna insulators should be placed on each end of the horizontal wire. You can also buy suitable glass or ceramic insulators, or you can make your own out of one-half inch diameter plastic rod cut to about three inches long. Just drill holes at each end to pass the antenna wire and the supporting rope. Pass the wire through the insulator hole and wrap it back upon itself. It isn't necessary to solder the wire at this point. Use 14 or larger enamel coated wire for the horizontal portion of your antenna. The lead-in portion should be insulated to keep it from shorting to other parts of your residence, such as window frames, metal screens, etc. Stranded-18 wire (any color) will do.

Solder the joint where the the wires connect. You can coat the joint with a little asphalt roof paint, or wrap it with electrical tape. A weatherproof sealant is also available commercially that, when wrapped around soldered joints, effectively seals out moisture. Sealing the joint helps to keep rain or snow off the connection.

Orientation of the wire is not important. Just run it in a clear direction, away from as many man-made objects as possible. This is a basic shortwave antenna used by countless thousands of listeners. You'll be surprised at what you'll hear on the shortwaves with this easy-to erect sky-wire.

Transmitters and relays

Traditionally shortwave broadcasters operated their own transmitters and relay stations.

That has changed.

VT Communications - formerly known as Merlin Communications International - was organized after the British government decided to divest the BBC's global transmission network in the 1990s.

The company operates ``the world's leading commercial short wave network'' and ``delivers over 1,000 hours of both short and medium wave every day for international and religious broadcasters worldwide,'' according to the VT Communication's web site.

The web site also said:

We currently deliver broadcast services to our customers from 15 strategically located transmission facilities and broker services from a further 45 sites through established relationships with other major broadcasters around the world. Transmission customers include BBC World Service, NHK (Radio Japan), Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Canada International and Voice of America. VT Communications also has extensive experience in the design, build, operation and maintenance of radio broadcast facilities and networks worldwide.

VT Communications is a founder member of Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) a consortium committed to delivering a worldwide initiative to bring digital AM to the marketplace. The digital technical standard developed by DRM will see VT Merlin deliver near FM quality broadcast and data services to its short and medium wave customers.

Tropics, pirates and numbers

In addition to the BBC and other international broadcasters, ``exotic'' radio stations also populate the airwaves.

The web site of the magazine Monitoring Times explains:

Tropical Band DXing - As you might imagine, atmospheric conditions in the tropics throughout much of the year are terrible. That makes the AM band nearly useless for domestic local broadcasting in many countries which lie between the tropical lines on the globe. These areas use the frequencies between 2300-2400 kHz, 3200-3400 kHz and 4750-5060 kHz. In this hemisphere listen for Spanish language broadcasts.

Pirate Broadcasting - Eschewing government authorization, these unlicensed broadcasters cluster around 6955 kHz +/- 10 kHz using bogus IDs and playing an assortment of music and scripted comedy. Catch them if you can. Their transmissions are often short, funny parodies of the shortwave bands themselves. It’s insider radio humor at its best.

Numbers Stations - Relics of the height of the Cold War, these stations are said to be sending coded messages to operatives in the field by way of these “spontaneous” transmissions. Often a female voice in Spanish enunciating numbers in groups of 5, these messages come and go mysteriously. It’s been spook-filled fun for the last 40 years.


And as we spin the dial, let's not forget the HF (high frequency) amateur radio bands, commonly known as ``ham radio.''

Here's a list from the web site of Monitoring Times:

HF CW BANDS: 160 Meters 1800-2000 kHz 80 Meters 3500-3750 kHz 40 Meters 7000-7150 kHz 30 Meters 10100-10150 kHz 20 Meters 14000-14150 kHz 17 Meters 18068-18110 kHz 15 Meters - 21000-21200 kHz 12 Meters 24890-24930 kHz 10 28000-28300 kHz

HF VOICE: 160 Meters (LSB) 1800-2000 kHz 75 Meters (LSB) 3750-4000 kHz 40 Meters (LSB) 7150-7300 kHz 20 Meters (USB)14150-14350 kHz 17 Meters (USB) 18110-18168 kHz 15 Meters (USB) 21200-21450 kHz 12 Meters (USB) 24930-24990 kHz 10 Meters (USB) 28300-29700 kHz

How did ``ham radio'' get it's name?

The ARRL - the national association for amateur radio, formerly known as the American Radio Relay League - offers an explanation:

"Ham: a poor operator. A 'plug.'" 

That's the definition of the word given in G. M. Dodge's The Telegraph Instructor even before radio. The definition has never changed in wire telegraphy. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession.

In those early days, spark was king and every station occupied the same wavelength--or, more accurately perhaps, every station occupied the whole spectrum with its broad spark signal. 

Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other's receivers. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful. Two amateurs, working across town, could effectively jam all the other operators in the area. 

When this happened, frustrated commercial operators would call the ship whose weaker signals had been blotted out by the amateurs and say "SRI OM THOSE #&$!@ HAMS ARE JAMMING YOU."

Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves in true "Yankee Doodle" fashion and wore it with pride. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared.

Medium Wave

The AM broadcast band, formally known as medium wave, is also fertile ground for DXing, and the ``graveyard frequencies'' - 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450 and 1490 KHZ - are especially enticing.

The web site of the National Radio Club Inc. - ``The World's Oldest And Largest Medium Wave DX Club'' - explains:

Originally called 'Local Channels', due to the fact the stations on these frequencies were intended to serve only small communities, and were allowed to operate non-directional with a maximum power of 250 watts, they were dubbed "Graveyard" by those who DXed the channels. DXers found these channels extremely challenging, due to the fact each was filled with about 200 stations, and picking out any particular station was very difficult. To me, a Graveyard is a very quiet place, so the logic escapes me. However, the name has stuck through the years.

These lists are divided into two categories: pre-1960 and post-1960. On January 1, 1960 the FCC acknowledged the fact that some of these 'small' communities had outgrown the coverage area of their 'local' station. So, they allowed all stations on the six aforementioned frequencies to increase their daytime power to 1000 watts. Then in the early 1980s, authority was granted to allow the stations to operate 24 hours at the higher power. Thinking was, 'they will only interfere with each other', which they do. Canadian and Mexican stations soon followed both plans.

Now, most stations on the six GY frequencies operate with 1000 watts day and night. Just a handful employ directional patterns to suppress interference to another station.

Station registration

A license isn't required to be a shortwave radio listener.

And yet, W1GFH/6 recalls:

Believe it or not, during the 1960's, POPULAR ELECTRONICS magazine issued callsigns (WPE prefixes) to "Shortwave Monitors". All you had to do was send them QSL's representing a minimum number of stations heard/confirmed (perhaps 5) and they would ship you a spiffy 8 x 10 certificate with a sequentially-issued callsign emblazoned on it next to your name.

You could even compete for DXCC-type "award endorsements". It was the next best thing to being a real, licensed ham operator, especially for a 10 year-old kid like me with a Hallicrafters S-119 "Sky Buddy II" receiver and 50 feet of copper wire strung beween two pine trees. A Mastercrafters 24 hour clock, a pair of Brandes headphones, and a world map completed my "listening post".

My callsign was WPE1FYE. Funny how after so many years I still remember it. Apparently, a lot of others remember theirs, too.


QSL cards

Many listeners mail reception reports to shortwave broadcasters in exchange for confirmation cards - known in the hobby as QSL cards - as well as program schedules, frequency lists, pennants and other souvenirs.

``One of the more satisfying aspects of DXing,'' according to the Ontario DX Association, ``is collecting QSL cards and letters from stations you have heard.'' (QSL is morse code shorthand for verifying the contents of a transmission.)

Some stations even accept reception reports via E-mail.

`` International broadcast stations use reception reports, among other means, to judge the quality of their signal,'' according to ODXA. ``The sooner they receive it the more value it is to them. So waiting weeks or months after the program can be counter productive for you both.''

The web site of the magazine Monitoring Times notes:

Most shortwave broadcasters will send you a QSL card verifying reception of their signal if you send them a detailed report of what you heard and when you heard it. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Many small countries are strapped for funds and may not send a QSL card unless you send a self-addressed return envelope with International Reply Coupons (IRCs) enclosed. It can also take weeks or months for a reply.

Advice from Ontario

The ODXA offers the following advice for corresponding with shortwave broadcasters:

QSLing these stations involves writing an accurate reception report of a station you have heard, mailing it to the station, and waiting for a reply. It sounds easy enough, and it is, but some techniques can help to improve your success rate.

· When and how the station identifies itself.

· The name of the program.

· Content of the news or other program.

· Names of the announcer(s).

· Items unique to the locality of the station.

How much detail you can record often depends on reception conditions and the nature of the program. But the more detail the better. Also include an indication of how well the signal was received. Shortwave reports use the SINPO code which is described as follows.

· Signal. Refers to the strength of the signal received.

· Interference. Indicates whether other stations were interfering with the signal.

· Noise. Identifies the presence of atmospheric or other noise on the frequency.

· Propagation. Refers to the fading characteristics of the signal.

· Overall. Tells the station how well you received their signal.

For each code use the digits 5 to 1 meaning 5 - excellent, 4 - good, 3 - fair, 2 - poor, 1 - poor. So if you heard Radio Australia with an excellent signal, but had some fairly strong interference from Russia, no atmospheric noise, and slight propagation you might use the code 53544 to record the quality of your reception.

Some international broadcasters will want you to send postage. But the major broadcasters do not require it. Using a guide such as the World Radio and TV Handbook can help to identify stations that require postage. When necessary, postage can be sent in the form of an International Reply Coupon (IRC) available at all Canada Post outlets.

Advice from Holland

Radio Netherlands offers the following hints:

A report on one single frequency on one day has little value these days, though the station will probably still send you a QSL card.

The experienced listener does one, or both, of the following:

Notes the reception quality of a number of frequencies carrying the same programme over a period of three to six days.

When a particular channel is blocked by interference, a check is made to see whether another frequency nearby is more suitable as an alternative.

Be candid!

DXing.com says listeners should be candid in their comments because ``most international broadcasters today rely upon reception reports more for listener input about programming than they do for information on how well they are being heard.''


Don’t be afraid to candidly state what you really liked or disliked about their programming, and feel free to make suggestions about what you would really like to hear. Some major changes have been made as a result of these suggestions.

For example, at the height of the Cold War in the late 1960s, the USSR’s Radio Moscow referred to American men who had no formal government title, such as "Governor Smith," simply by their last names, as in "Smith" and "Jones."

A letter from an American listener pointed out that this sounded rude and uncultured, and that letter was read on Radio Moscow’s "Moscow Mailbag" program.

The hosts said they were unaware of how this was perceived and no offense had been intended, and from that day forward Radio Moscow used the title "Mister" when referring to American men in its newscasts and commentaries!