Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Radio Prague - Another R.I.P., I'm Afraid ...

I don't really want to appear to be a "doom and gloom merchant", but a chance series of events caused me to learn that we (shortwave listeners) are about to lose another source of programming on shortwave, that of the very well known and respected "Radio Prague".

The sequence of events to which I refer started with the fitting of a 6kHz AM filter to one of my "classic" old transceivers, my FT-107M.

The filter was acquired from a fellow amateur who had acquired an FT-101ZD complete with said filter, but who wanted to return it to its "factory condition". For those not in the know, the FT-101ZD though equipped with AM facilities (a special board had to be acquired) had a rather lame implementation of this mode due to the way the "IF Shift" was connected (long story). The bottom line of this tale was that this particular FT-101ZD owner and myself eventually figured out what the previous owner had done and the modification was successfully undone, and the grateful new owner awarded me the unwanted AM filter as my reward!

This was a mutually acceptable arrangement, and today was the day I decided I would fit this filter to my FT-107M, as that particular radio implements the AM mode "properly".

The fitting of the filter to this radio was simplicity itself, and when it was done I decided to have a little tune around the 7MHz, or "41 metre" band looking for broadcast signals.

In early morning there is no shortage of strong signals from Europe, and before long I found myself listening to Radio Prague on 7.345MHz for the umpteenth time in my life.

As is usual these days shortly before the radio station closed down its English broadcast the announcer gave out some information about how to find Radio Prague on the Web (, and a few minutes later I surfed into that very web site, like one does.

To my dismay my eyes alighted straight away onto a piece entitled "Radio Prague's shortwave broadcasting to end on January 31, 2011", the content of the article citing budget cuts as the reason why.

Now, the economics of shortwave broadcasting are a subject not unknown to me, as earlier in my life I worked in this medium, and was familiar enough with costs due to the fact that I actually signed cheques payable to the Regional Electricity Company who supplied the power to a major shortwave broadcasting station! Been there, done that, got the T-shirt ...

What I could never really relate to was the "value" in such broadcasting, as, being a Brit, I only ever was a "hobby" consumer of this medium. I was always told that overseas things were very different, and the average man-in-the street relied on shortwave to bring him news just as much, if not more so as he relied on his daily newspaper. I am sure this has been very true, but I wonder whether it is still true. I strongly suspect that it isn't, generally speaking, and, logically, many other broadcasting stations will soon be going the way of Radio Prague.

I would say, therefore, "enjoy them while you can" !

Friday, 21 January 2011

G8LBT flies again, or is it nostalgia taken a step too far?

Those who have seen my entry will know that I have been planning to resurrect my old G8 call. This has now happened, the paperwork arriving today. So I am now the proud owner of TWO UK callsigns!

It's a wee bit curious why as to why this is permitted, and though I tell myself I am not one to covet another man's possessions, when I learned some while ago that some of my radio friends were in possession of both their old class B callsign and their more recent one, I felt I had to join this particular club.

I have had one or two arguments with folk who say they were told upon upgrading their licence when they achieved the Holy Grail of the 12 wpm morse test, or whatever, that they could NOT keep their old callsign.

However, the current regulations allow for (and this is quite clear from the text of the current Amateur Licence Application Form OF346) that a LAPSED licence (Class "A" or Class "B") previously issued to the applicant can be reissued upon production of certain documentary evidence that the applicant did at one time hold that callsign.

This latter condition wasn't too difficult for one such as myself who hardly ever throws anything away, and faded correspondence between myself and the then regulatory body (Home Office) was scanned and reprinted, catalogued with a covering explanatory letter and compiled into a dossier complete with OF346 filled in, and hey presto, two weeks later G8LBT was reborn!

I'm still not quite sure why I did it! Maybe it rolls off the morse key a little more nicely than my G4 one?

Saturday, 8 January 2011

eQSL- why are so many hams so "sniffy" about it?

Apropos of nothing, today I received one of the occasional EMails I get say that there was an "eQSL" awaiting me at

When I logged in I was greeted with the news that my membership had been "downgraded" (in other words I hadn't made a financial contribution for over a year), so I duly fired up the PayPal screen and bunged them a few quid, as I have always thought that this service has been worth supporting. No big deal.

However this prompted a mental process which recalled all the "please no eqsl" messages I had seen scrolling across the screen whilst operating PSK modes, and I thought to myself "Why the heck not?".

It's completely understandable view from someone who has no PC or internet connection, but my experience is that the vast majority of hams across the world are now connected to the 'net, and therefore by definition (almost) must have a PC available to assist them in their hobby. Certainly virtually every PSK operator has a PC, as that is how that mode usually operates!

I realise that there are "issues" with eQSL not being "acceptable for awards", probably due to "authenticity" issues, (from the point of view of one who _doesn't_ chase awards), but on the whole I find it a splendid service; easy to use, inexpensive (you can use the system completely FREE OF CHARGE if you wish, albeit with some limitations in functionality, which I think is a pretty fair deal), and reliable (I can't recall any service outages over the period I have been using it).

The "accepted" alternative is the ARRL's LotW (Logbook of the World), which, apparently addresses the "authenticity" issues, but which is an absolute pain-in-the-arse to use (IMHO), and doesn't produce any kind of "QSL card" which eQSL does. When my LotW account needed revalidating recently, I had a heck of a job remembering and working out just how I was supposed do do it, and although I got there in the end, I was almost on the point of giving up before I hit on the correct combination of actions.

Some hams like to plaster their shack walls, or fill shoeboxes with pieces of cardboard commemorating contacts - I'm not included in this list, being perfectly happy to have a line in a logbook, or an electronic record such as provides, and I accept that it "takes all sorts", but "PSE NO EQSL" does seem to be a "dog in a manger" attitude to me!

One entry I came across the other day stated that paper QSL cards were "honourable", and implying therefore the eQSLs were not. I think you can tell that I do not share this opinion.