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The 1938 radio receiver that picks up text

1938 Philco receiver and laptopMeet the latest innovation in digital communications technology: a radio receiver built the year that Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It is a 1938 Philco console rigged by shortwave operator Gerhard, W6XH to pick up a Voice of America Radiogram. These radiograms are basically radio propelled text messages transmitted via the multiple-frequency shift keying method. The Philco has some help, of course; it is hooked up to a Radiogram software equipped laptop PC.

The result is something that looks like an e-mail, sort of (see below).

VOA radiogramWhy is this important? Project supervisor Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott explains: “We are doing this because shortwave transmitters might be a useful link when the Internet is disrupted by disasters [or] dictators. . . . Sometimes it’s useful to have news and information in text format, and occasionally in poor shortwave reception conditions, when the announcer’s voice is difficult to understand, text might get through with much greater reliability.”

Of course, dictators can try to block shortwave or AM too if they like (or they can try to ban the use of shortwave radios). But the more complicated we make it for them, the better.

Hat tip to Bennett Z. Kobb for bringing this to our attention.

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