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Surfin’: More TV DX

08/26/2011

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ is still sitting in front of the boob tube waiting for Cuba, Canada or Iowa to come rolling in on Channel 2.

Last week’s Surfin’ column attracted some interesting mail from you folks out in ham radioland.

Rick Tannehill, W7RT, commented on the claim made last week that chasing DX in the digital era is easier than in the analog era: “Actually, TV DXing these days is much harder. The reason is that almost all the low-VHF stations on Channels 2-6 have been replaced with 7-13 (Hi VHF) and UHF. Almost all analog TV DX took place below 88 MHz, and most actually on channels 2, 3 and4. This being the case, catching a DX station on 2-6 is much trickier now, since there are so few of them. There’s very little strong signal E-skip above 174 MHz.”

Erik Thoresen, K1OGF, complained about digital TV, in general: “I live in a hole/bowl in Ayer, Massachusetts, and don’t subscribe to a cable or satellite service. I use an antenna of many elements, an old Radio Shack VHF-UHF 200-miler on a 20-foot pipe with a rotor, a preamp at the antenna and multiple distribution amps. Terrestrial DTV just doesn't cut it! Most of the time I get decent signals from the local Boston, Worcester and New Hampshire stations. The biggest plague I’ve got is with tree reflections in the wind and prop airplanes -- they both rip up the digital picture and sometimes shut it down due to signal strength (you need power to maintain that digital stream so you don’t fade to snow like analog). DXing is zero during the summer due to wet tree attenuators; however, in the winter, I sometimes get stations in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine when the sap is in the ground. I have three modern receivers, each one a different brand name and they all have weird quirks to them, especially when trying to program them.”

I know what you mean. I ranted about digital TV in my blog back in February 2009. I live on one of the highest hills in the county, with a theoretical clear shot to most of the TV transmitters in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts -- and DTV still stinks! I used to be able to receive analog TV signals from the Empire State Building, a mere 84 miles away, but no digital TV signals make it here from the Big Apple.

Jeff Yanko, WB3JFS, related an interesting TV DX war story: “Back in the mid-’80s at my former Pennsylvania QTH, I was tuning around the channels and noticed that local Channel 2 -- KDKA (CBS) in Pittsburgh -- had severe interference. I could make out KDKA and another station at the same time. Then I completely lost KDKA for about three minutes, just enough time to find out that the other station was an NBC affiliate as The Tonight Show was coming on. Now I needed some IDs or commercials giving addresses and such. I copied a commercial with a Houston address. Doing some research, I found the station was KPRC (NBC) -- also Channel 2 -- in Houston. For the heck of it, I sent off a reception report, figuring nothing would come from it. A couple of weeks later in the mail I received an actual QSL card -- not a letter -- an actual QSL card listing the power and all of the pertinent information about the station. I was surprised to receive such a card.”

I’d be surprised, too. My QSL success rate with US commercial radio and television broadcasters has been abysmal!

Finally, John Gianotti, W9WY, relayed a TV DX war story with a twist: “Back in the mid- to late-1960s, I worked at a TV station in Terre Haute, Indiana: Channel 2, an NBC affiliate with the call sign WTWO. Most of the ID slides used a W-2 logo and everyone referred to the station as W2. Neat, huh? A number of the engineers -- including the chief engineer -- were hams and the chief used to hookup an old Johnson 6 meter rig (Channel 2 being just off the 6 meter band) to our station antenna, which was at about 1000 feet for some nice 6 meter DXing. Naturally this was after the station signed off for the evening.”

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, resides in downtown Wolcott, Connecticut, and is a member of the QQCC (QST Quarter Century Club), ie, he was a QST writer for 25 years. Since getting his ticket in 1969, Stan has sampled nearly every entrée in the Amateur Radio menu (including a stint as Connecticut Section Manager), but he keeps coming back to his favorite preoccupations: VHF and packet radio. As a result, he runs a 2 meter APRS digipeater and weather station from his hilltop location in central Connecticut. Stan has been a long time advocate of using computers with ham radio and wrote programs to dupe contests and calculate antenna bearings way back in 1978. Today he is on the board of directors of the Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR) and uses his Mac to surf the Internet searching for that perfect ham radio webpage. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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