Monday, March 18, 2019

Legal No Power LEGO Radio Station

"..There's a Lego set for almost anything you can imagine -- but not a radio station. One man wants to change that..." - KWY News Radio 1060

Help him do it at LEGO IDEAS site by submitting your support, it cost you nothing..

WLGO (get it?) in downtown LEGOLAND.

Matt McNeely submitted this representation February 19 and already has over 400 supporters (I'm #403).. 1,000 supports are required before it goes before the "Lego Review Board" for manufacturing..

"Set comes with 1 DJ minfigure, movable microphone, radio console, speakers, computer monitors, cool radio equipment and hours of fun!"

It doesn't specify how many parts it will consist of, but looking through the comments there's a lot of enthusiasm for it from broadcasters requesting that he add a few turntables, to which Matt replied:

"The deign I’m currently working on is a vintage studio, complete with turntables and cart machines."

One commenter made an excellent suggestion:
"I'm in! And if you could have blocks with our own call letters, that would be cool, too!"
I couldn't agree more, then all we'd need would be a miniature Rangemaster, Procaster, or even an ISS InfoSpot by the outer wall, or an IAM Talking House inside!.. yeah.

"Radio has always been a passion for Maneely, the operations manager and production director at Martz Communications in Malone, New York. His grandfather was on the air for more than 30 years in the same studios where Maneely now works. He also grew up with Legos..."
"So, using Lego Digital Designer software, he created a computer rendering of a plastic brick-constructed radio studio, and posted it to the Lego Ideas Site. Now, Maneely's looking for votes."

Let's get it done! Get over there and vote for it! It cost you nothing to support. It's simple and quick; create an account (just enter email and create password, they'll send conformation code) then you click the "Support Button" and your finished!
These would be great paraphernalia for our station studios!

Read the full article at KYW News Radio: 'You're listening to WLGO:' campaign promotes creation of Lego radio station where you can also listen to their broadcasted promotion for it.

Be sure to visit the LEGO IDEAS site to submit your support for this LEGO Radio Station..

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Retro Radio 1490 AM

Here's another part 15 station I came across about a year ago and have been meaning to feature. The  Montana State University's School of Film and Photography had  posted "Small Town Documentary:
 The Candy Shop
 It's about.. you guessed it, a candy store located on a main street in the small town of Red Lodge, Montana.

Of note; Red Lodge Montana is right there in the same vicinity of Butte, Billings, and especially Yellowstone.. Which so happens to be the primary locations directly involved with the creation and implication of the first Part 15 whip and mast type transmitters in the late 1960s and their expansion beginning in the 1970s. It was around these areas the initial rise of wide spread part 15AM use across the continental U.S. originated- In fact, that research is what indirectly led me to stumble across his part 15 station in Montana to begin with!
But let's get back to the present..
In that article it talks about the candy shop, but also mentions the following about the owner:
"..Interestingly, Mike also runs his own AM radio station: “Retro Radio” (1490AM), out of his office in the back of the store. It began when he purchased some old radios for the antique shop, and he realized there really wasn’t anything to be played on them. Now a huge hobby, Mike runs adobe software to organize his music and even makes his own jingles that are reminiscent of retro radio stations of years past. Mike in his office, otherwise known as Retro Radio headquarters. The station’s reach is within the town of Red Lodge and plays a little bit of everything from a classic era, including big band, country, rock, lounge, etc..." --Small Town Documentary: The Candy Shop
Well this intrigued me cause I knew it had to be part 15, so I googled but found no radio station website for it, but did find the Red Lodge Candy Europium main site:, but no mention of the station. Also went to their Facebook page and found that it made no mention of the station either!...
The 'Small Town Documentary' article above had been published in June of 2017.. Could it be the station no longer existed?  This "Retro Radio AM" station, if still operating, is only a local attraction of his town (naturally), but with no online presence at all to find out more. Perhaps I'll just ask..

On February 7, (2018) I used Facebook messenger to make a brief inquiry about the station:

I'm curious about your "Retro Radio" station. I'm a bit of a "part 15 AM" enthusiast, which is what I suspect your station is, and I'd like to hear a little bit of what your doing, I can't find a webpage for your station - Just curious. Hope to hear from you..

The next day received a response from someone only identifying himself as the "tech guy":

"Hi Richard- I hired on for Mike Majerus as his tech guy for his stores, Montana Candy Emporium and Red Lodge Antique Mall and Gun Room. Mike has a career history in broadcasting, and that AM station is a low-powered computer automated system in the back of the candy store. We are going to get it streaming online, as well as get web pages back up and going for the stores, that's why they brought me on. It will probably be a couple months until everything is up and going, partly due to Mike's schedule and traveling. Thank you for asking about it, I think it's pretty cool myself."
I was happy to have received a reply. Ok, so I discovered Mike, the station owner was a veteran career broadcaster who now owned an candy store, an antique shop and gun shop, but the message really didn't reveal much I didn't know, but at least indicating it still in operation with plans expanding to the internet soon.
I browsed through the town of Red Lodge other websites looking for another mention.. Found one at The Cruiser Racer Car Show and Nostalgic Drag Races site which showed Retro Radio AM 1490 as one of their 2018 sponsors, then from there, via the internet archive I found Retro Radio had also been a sponsor in 2016 and 2017, but not in 2015 (although the candy shop did). This led me to surmise the station probably began in 2016..
It was an interesting find, but as time passed forgot about them, until when in late November noticed a post on their Facebook from a couple months prior (I seldom go to Facebook):
"Our radio station website is now up Please enjoy!".
Someone replied that it was great and if it would be broadcasting from towers, to which he replied: "you can listen to it anywhere anytime now. It's on the above website, and the Montana Candy Emporium Website, and the Red Lodge Antique Mall website. And it's still broadcasting low power in the downtown Red Lodge area.". 
Upon contacting him again via email he also replied to me:
 "..the station has been up and streaming consistently. We play it all day in both retail stores every day. We have tested them across all types of devices including Apple, Windows, and Android. It does stream and broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week..."

From that point on I found myself tuning into his station quite frequently. It has a vast mix of music and genres with vintage commercials and movie clips inserted here and there.. it's cool. When I had first began listening it was the holiday season, so there was rather consistent, though not constant Christmas music going on, just enough to keep the spirit without it getting monotonous. I like the way he's doing his programming. I still tune in on an almost daily basis. You should really check it out. You can play it right from their website page: , but I prefer using the free and elegant Radyo app, in which case this link: Radyo Retro Radio Link will load the station in the player.
Bill Defelice of commented: "Definitely well executed and the programming certainly doesn't make it easy to tune out. It's obvious they've taken care in their programming choices."  HB member Dave Richards mentioned: "Sounds like a neat station! - and 20 minutes later, I'm still listening. I recommend any readers of this thread to have a listen too. Very enjoyable station."
I had several rather sporadic email correspondences with the station but never really knew who I was talking to. Then a few days before Christmas received an email from Dave Hurst, Manager, Red Lodge Antique Mall: (Dave holding the giant gun, and Mike in cowboy hat):
"Our employee Shannon has been corresponding with you regarding our part 15 AM station. He has a computer, electronics & office equipment background, and has been very enthusiastic about learning the automation and other aspects of broadcasting. Looks like he has addressed your technical questions, but I wanted to give you some of the background information about the station's origins.
I have a background in the commercial radio broadcasting industry, having worked for many media groups in Salt Lake City and Denver, as well as smaller Montana markets. Mostly management positions such as Program Director, Music director but I  Also, traveling the country in a 40 foot mobile rig doing on-site event radio coverage was part of my experience with a production company. Celebrity talent field management was also in my job description, so interviews with professional sports athletes, TV personalities, race drivers, movie actors, politicians and the like was all part of the day to day duty.
We more recently put the Part 15 station on the air in Red Lodge so that we would have a close, local signal to show that vintage radios we have for sale in the Antique Mall are fully functional. Weak AM signals from Billings stations that barley come through on 1940's era (or earlier) tube radios could leave the impression with a potential buyer that the unit does not work properly.
The automated studio in our candy store is less than a block away.. Obviously we have world wide reach now that we added modern streaming, as you have discovered. But the 10 to 15 antique radios we have for sale at any given time in the store still need a traditional AM broadcast signal to show that they are operational. We found an estate source of a long time collector/restorer of radios from the 1920's on up, who had been that kind of hobbyist for over 50 years.
We bought over 200 radios from his family, so that was the basis for creating the Retro Radio Part 15 station here. Since older radios only go up to a dial position of 1500, we chose the available 1490 so that you can easily run the knob up to the top and back it down just a bit to find our signal quickly.

That, in a nutshell is our origin story."
I found it a bit difficult to maintain communications with him, but he did send several pictures. Also found out he broadcast with a premium certified part 15 transmitter; the Chez Radio Procaster.  I'm glad to have across Retro Radio 1490 AM, and enjoyed his story as I do his station. 
I suspect there's more part 15 stations out there than we know of, those who never visit forums, nor have an online presence at all.. and it is those, like this one, I attempt to seek out. Mostly because I just like to see how they're using their stations. Retro Radio is creative with their music station. It's high on my favorites list for sure.
Don't forget to tune them in.. If you don't fancy what's playing, either give it time or come back later, it'll grab ya!


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Showcase of new products favorites 1972

It's not uncommon that I browse through a lot of old radio-related magazines via the tremendous archives freely available located at website. They have most any publications imaginable, but that link above takes directly to the "Elementary Electronics magazine" section. In the July 1972 issue it features a showcase of that years "New Products"; below are a couple screen-grabs from PDF of the article, which struck me as fun or notable ..
The record cleaner sable brush I had only put aside to compare it to what they might be using for new models - but I didn't get around to it. The 'Kite Antenna' reminds me of an emergency transmitter used during Vietnam that involved a balloon and wire. Anyway, it's just a kite with the suggestion on using it to hoist an attached antenna into the sky. Then you have the $25 part 15 AM or FM models transmitter. And lastly the toilet paper radio, which I think is a good idea, and would be close enough to listen in the shower as well!.. 
The summer of 1972..


Monday, February 11, 2019

Earliest Notable Use of Part 15 AM Broadcasting

.. or perhaps it should be called the earliest specialized use of pat 15 AM (using 15.209 or 15.219) that I know of.. It took place in Vicksburg NMP...

Vicksburg National Military Park was established February 21, 1899 to preserve the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. The park,
located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, includes 1,325 historic monuments, 20 miles of historic trenches, a 16-mile tour road, a 12.5-mile walking trail, a 116.28-acre National Cemetery, 144 cannons, the restored gunboat USS Cairo (also known as the "Hardluck Ironclad") which  on December 12, 1862 became the first U.S. ship in history to be sunk by a torpedo, and also  contains the canal ordered by Ulysses S. Grant to be built by the Union Army for their ships to bypass Confederate artillery fire.

Bet you didn't know part 15 AM broadcasting existed in the 1800s, huh? Well it just so happens the following quote by President Abraham Lincoln was very likely to have been heard on radio via a part 15 AM broadcast:

 "See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket... We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can defy us from Vicksburg." 

Don't believe it? Its actually probably true --But of course that part 15 broadcast of Lincolns remarks occurred about a century later in the mid 1950s!..

circa 1940s
James McConaghie, (aka "Mac") was Superintendent of Vicksburg National Park from 1941 thru 1959. In the late 1940s he demonstrated a portable electric map that his staff took to schools. A decade later similar maps that would light by a visitors push a of a button became commonplace at historical parks around the US. He also noted the Washington Monument had a recorded message playing so he proposed to install coin-operated record players at Vicksburg tour stops, but his idea was shot down. Nevertheless, by the mid-1950s visitor-activated audiovisual devices came into wide use, and by 1963, 90 parks shared more than 100 audio stations and dozens of automatic movie and slide programs, and modern projection/sound equipment was installed in 46 amphitheaters and campfire circles. ~ INTERPRETATION IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

So needless to say, Mac had a tendency to know a good idea when he saw one, which brings us to the specialized broadcasting with part 15 AM in the 1950s. Something gave him the idea to use a 100mw hobby AM transmitter to lead caravan tours in the park. Such tours already existed but it involved tourist following and making frequent stops to exit their cars and hear the interpretation of every locale.. Mac saw that using radio would be a better option.. but there was a problem..

During the 1950s radio receivers in cars was still a bit of a luxury, they weren't a standard inclusion like they are today, it was often an extra which many opted out of paying, also the school field trips which arrived on buses, none of them had radios either.. But Mac took it upon himself to remedy that problem by buying inexpensive radios from junkyards, presumably then wired to be powered from the cigarette lighter, along with suction cup held roof antennas to provide as loners to those visiting the park which didn't have a radio already installed. So with that taken care of; all he had to do was transmit the messages to the moving vehicles

"Mac" explains how it was accomplished with only a $30 budget: A little over a third of the expense went towards
the purchase of a "Knight Wireless Broadcaster" kit which the 1956 Allied Corporation Catalog shows on page 64:
The Knight transmitter kit was $8.75 (tubes included).
It's instruction manual and diagrams was 10cents.
The crystal mic with a 5ft cable was an additional  $3.95,
On page 204:
A 96" stainless steel whip for $5.14 or a cadmium-plated one for $3.67.
Economy base body antenna mount for $5.07 or bumper mount for $4.09,

That's about $23 so far but I presume some kind of ATU would be required to use a whip with the Knight kit, but that alone showed to be $24 which blows the $30 budget, so maybe he constructed one from scratch for $7.00.
If you wanted to include a copy of the FCC part 15 rules from the Government Printing Office that would have been another $

The following article reporting this part 15 AM broadcast was written in 1957, but those broadcast had already been going on for some unspecified amount of time prior to publication and his interpretive radio caravan tours probably continued for years after.

There have been several similar audio tours since with part 15, but documented reports (other than this one from the mid 50s shown below) didn't begin showing up until the 70s and thereafter.

In the present day Vicksburg's NMP still provide similar audio tours, however they apparently have abandoned the part 15 AM way of doing it,  opting instead for other methods such as the “GPS Ranger” using your smart phone or purchasing their CD which you play in your car for the tours... Takes away the charm of it all I think, using traditional radio would be better. However other parks still utilize part 15 for their audio tours; one example is the Savannah Wildlife Reserve driving tour featured in a previous post:   
We part 15 broadcasters could produce similar type caravans today should some kind of group  mobile event occurs. Or maybe you can create a special mobile event of your own!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Interview with Bill Baker

This post is in relation to yesterdays post about the small company "TouRadio" which quickly grew to become 'Information Station Specialist" (ISS), the foremost provider of T.I.S. stations in the U.S.

A couple of nights ago I listened to what I found to be an extremely interesting interview with Bill Baker from about 5 years ago. It's one of the KDX Low Power Hour episodes, a few others of which had been featured here before. While this episode is not really specifically about part 15, it is addressed, and does prove to be a fascinating listening experience for any part 15 hobbyist... or for that matter, you're listening audience. 
Download and listen: Low Power Hour # 78 - T.I.S.

Low Power Hour # 78 - T.I.S. Sept. 3, 2013 (54:56)  Low Power Hour No. 78 is titled "T.I.S." for "Traveler's Information Stations," bringing a visit with Bill Baker of I.S.S., "Information Station Specialists." It's an in depth step into an alternate low power universe with all kinds of creative angles.

Here's my summery and overview of this episode:
Carl introduces the episode and proceeds with the usual "Low Power in the News" segment including announcements of 6 AM NOUO, 5 of which by the same agent being the same who cited KENC, and Gerald Gaulle, others for some on 1710, and curiosities of only 15.209 citations with no mention of 15.219.. And then something about Indian tribes getting kicked off the air.. Carl also ponders upon just who it is making the complaints.. those self righteous rats!.. Carl expresses outrage but the mood quickly changes as Bill Baker enters the scene, then quickly ducks back out again for a moment as Carl fills the gap with a delightful presentation of a low power lesson with fictitious caricatures... Bill Baker returns and the interview begins....

Bill Baker Interviewed. TIS and Part 15 options:
Baker talks for the majority of the hour and there's several things that really jumped out at me - although most of it is about licensed TIS, he does talk a little about their part 15 method towards the end of the interview and some places it's being used, as well as it's installation methods including use of the ATU, even some about linking multiple transmitters in analog, but that discussion is rather brief, most of the interview concerns licensed TIS.-nevertheless in his discussion of TIS he talks about some things that can, or possibly can be applied to part 15..

Groundplanes and Alternatives:
For example he talks about their patented pre-made "powerplane" which some of us have utilized or are at least familiar with ISS' patented PowerPlane® Factory-Assembled Groundplane. You don't see much mention of this on their site anymore because after 20 years of them utilizing it, ISS doesn't really use them anymore since they came up with a better and ultimately less expensive option that they've been using over ten years now; it's easier to install, doesn't tear up the property, and their test have shown it emulates almost equally the results of a 10ft wide ground radial system does- I've noticed the described system on their site before but never really paid much attention to it, is the "Vertical Profile Antenna System" which utilizes a "conductive vertical shaft" made from solid copper as it's base which goes into the ground and supports the antenna, it's all shipped out as one piece on a truck and basically plopped into the ground... It seems like something similar could somehow be modified and utilized for a part 15 system? -I don't know, I'm just speculating.

Who owns TIS and Rule Changes on Permitted Content:
Also found it interesting that about 20% of the TIS stations are actually owned and operated by private entities yet with the license held by the state to meet the FCCs requirements of only government organizations making use of TIS. He also talks about some recent changes to the rules that weather and emergency info can be broadcast - I remember reading about this a few years ago when the rule was changed and thought it ridiculous that it hadn't already been allowable, but as Bill explains there had been several citations issued to TIS stations (evidently sometime around 2007-2009) who had been 
The American Association of
Information Radio Operators
broadcasting such info, and in response to these citations the AAIRO (which Bill and some others had founded) submitted request to the FCC for clarifications on permitted content, which in turn resulted in a rewrite of the rules in relation to permitted content, as well as who may make those determinations of when such content is permissible. Also new permissions where granted of making use of multiple TIS station networks synchronized to broadcast the same feed. So today, due to the AAIROs efforts, TIS are permitted to air such information. This was a big change (although at the time of this broadcast was still in consideration). Bill says ISS created has created an acronym to describe this; "TIDE Broadcast" T=Travel, ID= Imminent Danger, and E=Emergency.

Inexpensive Field Strength Meter
SMR Receiver
Another thing, and it being something I've seen asked several times before.. in fact someone asked just recently again in the forums about where to fond an inexpensive field strength meter.. Where here's an answer.. Bill explains, ISS not only sells but usually also performs the installations of those TIS systems, for which they utilize a Potimatic field strength meter,
Project Manager Tom Coviak compares
size of Potomatic to the SMR Receiver.
but they also do provide a special Signal Measurement Radio Receiver to every agency that has TIS stations installed. He says ISS test have shown that these SMR receivers which have an S-meter on it that registers in increments from 15-99 has demonstrated itself able to provide reading rather accurately in comparison to their own very expensive Potimatics, they also offer these radios separately.. but there's no price shown. I never knew about these but after hearing him talk about it and then finding it on their website (link above), made and inquiry just today.. Haven't heard back yet, but will return with an update. However, truth be told it's really not a necessary item for a part 15 station, but if the price is right it certainly would be a pretty cool addition!

"The SMR Receiver is the first device of its kind capable of measuring and displaying AM signal levels with a useful level of precision... This handheld, battery-operated receiver can be utilized in the field to estimate signal intensities of broadcast radio stations. Though not a calibrated measurement device, it displays relative signal intensity in dbu, which can be used for rough translation to millivolts per meter (mV/m) in a given frequency range using an included correlation chart..

Anyway, I think any part 15 broadcaster would enjoy and find this interview of great interest. Carl also has a lot of other episodes that feature interviews with part 15 operators and their stations. There are a substantial amount of those episodes which I considered to be just as exceptional as this one was with Bill Baker; You can browse the full list of " The Low Power Hour" and download episodes from his archive at: Most, but not all of them have descriptions providing an overview. You must contact Carl for permission to rebroadcast on your own station.

A couple other Low Power Hour episodes I've reviewed:
(I really thought there were more, but evidently I never got around to it) 

Charles Hefti - Car Tunes, and the first(?) stereo broadcaster
 LPH #3 Neil Radio8Z

Update already!:
As mentioned above I inquired about the SMR radio a few hours ago and have already received a response:

Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 10:26 AM
Subject: SMR Receiver
Hello, What radio is that and what's the price?

Thank you,

======= The response was.. ==========
The price is $144 plus a little freight, Rich.
It includes a correlation data so you can determine approximate relative electrical field intensity using the display.
Bill Baker
Information Station Specialists
PO Box 51
Zeeland, MI  49464 USA
616-772-2300 (ext 102)  fax 616-772-2966
Founded in 1983, Information Station Specialists is the USA's best known source for information radio stations, advisory signage and related products and services.

He didn't respond what make/model it was, my hopes were to find some online reviews about it as just an AM/FM/SW/LW receiver as compared to something premium like one of the CCrane radios, which if proved positive would be an added bonus for everyday use (my use of it for only field strength readings would be far and few between, but I'm enthused about that feature) . I was already guessing it would be about $130 so I was close on my estimation. Chances are it's a good quality radio but I could not find a visual match while searching online. It's going to have to wait till this summer but I will be getting one... When I do I provide my novice review about it.
If anyone picks one up before I do, please leave a review in the comments or contact me directly.
See more details about it on their website here: Signal Measurement Radio Receiver