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There’s More Magic Than Ever


I am something of an old soul plopped down in a fast-paced technology world. I am, like many cars today, a hybrid. I like much of the technology today, but often long for simpler times when cars were simple to work on, radios had vacuum tubes, and a recliner called to you for some rest and contemplation with a pipe and a favorite beverage.

I find it is harder and harder to make my way to the recliner — my cat Shortwave notwithstanding, who often claims it for her own — partly because there is so much radio to enjoy. If you read my post about my recent computer woes, you will know things were in transition for my latest radio project, ADS-B reception.

The good news is the computer is back up and running — the bad news, it was down for almost a month waiting on the motherboard to be returned. To add insult to injury, it came back with no information. Did they fix something? Replace something? Do nothing? I still do not know. However, working upon the assumption they had either fixed it or found nothing wrong, I put the computer back together and the same problem occurred.

So, I decided to try a new power supply even though the old one tested properly, and ta-da! Everything came back to life just as it was before. So, other than a month of my life taken away by almost daily adding or fixing things on my laptop, I have my computer back and ADS-B software under Flightaware is running smoothly. As I write this there are 56 planes being tracked on a colorful display, and I am uploading data to the Flightaware servers for the benefit of others wishing to track flights.

And this is part of the magic to which I referred in the title. As much as I long for simpler times, I truly enjoy modern technology. This tracking capability just wasn’t available back in tube days, nor were the inexpensive dongles we use for so many things. And while computers were technically “available” — they certainly were not available for home use, and Al Gore had yet to invent the Internet.

Flightaware and similar programs are only a small part of what modern technology has brought us in the radio world. I regularly receive SSTV images from the International Space Station (when everything works right on both ends!). There are daily transmissions of slow-scan TV from various users on 20 meters and often 40 meters, as well as digital SSTV of HD-quality images.

Weak-signal software has made this recent solar minimum bearable, allowing me to work 40+ additional countries than I had been able to work with SSB. I am getting close to the 200 countries worked plateau, and I plan to celebrate when I reach number 200. Those numbers would not be possible right now given our solar conditions otherwise, especially given my antenna and space limitations.

On a different angle, if your interest is in FM DXing, have you noticed how much better even inexpensive FM radios are because of the DSP chips in use today? Analog radios just can’t compete on the FM side of things (AM is a different story – analog still rules over there!). Clarity, sensitivity, selectivity – all are better on FM with computer-aided signal processing.

With all of the technology advances today, radio has been a real beneficiary of these changes, without losing the ability to use the older, simpler, analog equipment which pervades the used radio market. The best of both worlds is available to us, so we need not choose just one or the other.

Radio still offers all of its old magic to us today, and more, as we have capabilities our forerunners in the hobby could only dream about.

Ah, I must go. My recliner is calling me . . . but my software is telling me there is DX afoot . . . . Decisions, decisions!!

Cheers! Robert AK3Q


1 Comment

  • Reply Jennifer 03/30/2019 at 11:53 am

    You ain’t nuttin but a hybrid – crying’ all the time!
    Sitting in my blue chair and playin with that cat!
    But I luv your clarity, selectivity & sensitivity
    cuz that mother boards a-workin
    and I married that Newbie + Elmers guy! J G

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