November 1958 Popular Electronics
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular
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confirmation of having made a contact (QSL in ham-speak) with a
radio operator behind the communist Iron Curtain was a real achievement
during most of the 20th century. Russian and Chinese citizens were
routinely imprisoned for such activity, and if you did manage to
elicit a response to your CQ (request for contact), there was a
good chance it was with a government propagandist posing as a civilian.
was put in orbit on October 4, 1957, a whole
new realm of DXing (long distance communication) opened up by providing
satellite relay paths. Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial
satellite, broadcast a series of pulses at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz
that were tracked and reported by both professional and amateur
radio operators. Vital data was learned based on the time and strength
of signals that allowed scientists to ascertain the physics of upper
atmosphere characteristics. Not wanting to give the impression that
the assistance of the rest of the world's capitalist pigs was needed
or wanted (although it definitely was), virtually no acknowledgement
was forthcoming from Radio Moscow. This is a story of one Ham's
successful effort to obtain a - in those days (1957), rare - space
route QSL card.
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QSL from Sputnik
How one SWL managed to get his prized space verification
By C. M. Stanbury, II
you heard Sputnik? Yes. Have you received your QSL? Unless you live
on the other side of the iron curtain, chances are pretty good you
haven't. Despite the fact that Radio Moscow has repeatedly asked
for reports on the Soviet satellites, until now the highly prized
space-QSL's have not been crossing the "red divide."
needed to verify Sputnik? An address? Yes, that will help a little.
How about transmission data to prove your reception ? Yes, knowing
how to get this is essential. But even more important is your approach.
Without the proper approach, a DX'er is a very dead duck so far
as Sputnik verifies are concerned. The Proper Approach.
The key word of this approach is frankness. Most of you know that
the opposite seems to be the standard for at least 90% of the broadcasts
coming from Radio Moscow. The same evasiveness carries over into
their handling, of DX reports. The following excerpt is typical.
call letters of the Chinese language transmission you heard are
the same as the ones used for the North American broadcasts - the
first bars of Dunaevsky's "Song of the Motherland."
To meet this kind of thing with more evasion would result in
an endless series of correspondence which would net the DX'er nothing
but propaganda. On the other hand, following a straight-line approach,
cutting through the Soviet curves, will - nine chances out of ten
- bring you what you are after.
The following are
the final paragraphs of the letter that brought home my SPUTNIK
am going to speak frankly. Even if you had not promised to verify
reception of your Sputniks, it would be an act of bad faith not
to do so. Many listeners all over the world took the time and trouble
to receive and report reception of your satellites. They certainly
deserve QSL cards or letters for their efforts.
Thank you very
much for the cards and letters you have sent me in the past. I do
hope you or somebody else will correct this most unfortunate QSL
Radio Moscow, like any other International
Short-Wave Service is dependent upon the world's SWL's. A letter
such as that above would seem to leave them very little choice but
to fulfill their obligations. You'll note, however, that the letter
is courteous. Any station has the right to ignore a rude or insulting
DX report. Transmission Data.
will need transmission data to prove your reception. Easiest to
obtain are the number of beeps per minute. Merely count the beeps
in a 30-second period and multiply by two.
have a slightly musical ear, you can make your report considerably
better. Estimate the modulation frequency by comparing the Sputnik
signal with the alternate 440- and 600-cps tones transmitted by
your receiver is poorly calibrated on the upper short-wave frequencies,
the WWV signal on 20,000 kc. can be used to zero in the satellite's
frequency of 20,005 kc. First locate WWV. If the signal is strong,
tune to its upper edge. If WWV is being received weakly, tune just
above the edge. In either case, retune every 10 or 15 minutes (unless
WWV has disappeared) to decrease the danger of missing the Sputnik
if you are slightly off frequency or if your receiver is drifting.
Where to Report.
If you have already sent
a report either in care of Radio Moscow or to The USSR Committee
on the International Geophysical Year, wait one month for a reply.
If you have not yet sent a report, send your first
one to the committee and wait three months. Make this a standard
report with a casual request for a QSL.
If you do
not get results, send a second report to: Eugenia Stepanove, North
American Service, Radio Moscow. Ask her to forward it to the proper
agency and say why you think you deserve a QSL.