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Another Hollywood Blockbuster Features Amateur Radio


The summer of 2011 is replete with big movies, ranging from action-adventure flicks to comedies to coming-of-age dramas. And already this summer, Amateur Radio has played a part in not one, but two movies. In Mr Popper’s Penguins, ham radio was featured, albeit incorrectly, on the big screen. And now Super 8 -- a film set just outside Dayton, Ohio in 1979 -- uses Amateur Radio in a crucial scene.

Super 8 revolves around a group of six middle-schoolers who witness a mysterious train crash in the fictional town of Lillian. Soon after the crash, the Air Force arrives and strange things start happening in the small town. The kids, a group of young film makers (hence the title of the movie) begin to investigate the creepy phenomena.

One of the kids’ dads is Deputy Lamb. After the Sherriff mysteriously disappears, Deputy Lamb takes over and holds a town-wide meeting to help allay the fear. One woman thinks that all the strange goings-on are the work of the Soviet Union. But when Deputy Lamb calls on Mr McCandless to ask a question, the man complains that he is hearing strange transmissions on his ham radio. As soon as Mr McCandless mentions ham radio, the residents at the meeting just ignore him.

But when Deputy Lamb privately questions Mr McCandless, he tells the deputy that he can no longer listen to 13.201 (no reference is made to kHz or MHz) due to the strange noises he is hearing. Deputy Lamb mentions this to another deputy, and that deputy says he can bring in his scanner and voice inverter from home so they can monitor the frequency. After the rigs are set up, the deputies overhear vital information about what the Air Force is trying to hide.

While credit has to go to Super 8 set decorator Fainche MacCarthy for finding a radio of the right era, the “scanner” that the deputy brings in is a Heathkit Seneca VHF-1, a 2 and 6 meter CW and AM transmitter. Introduced in 1959, this rig complemented Heathkit’s TX-1 Apache transmitter, RX-1 Mohawk receiver and KL-1 Chippewa linear amplifier.



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