Is your ham radio rig made of iron and steel? Is it mechanically driven? Classified as a World Heritage Site? We didn’t think so. But if you’d like to tune in one that is, or if you’re just a ham radio geek in need of a bizarre challenge, don’t miss Alexanderson Day 2015 tomorrow, Sunday, June 28th
The Alexanderson Transmitter design dates back to around 1910, before any of the newfangled tube technology had been invented. Weighing in at around 50 tons, the monster powering the Varberg Radio Station is essentially a high-speed alternator — a generator that puts out 17.2 kHz instead of the 50-60 Hz that the electric companies give us today.
Most of the challenge in receiving the Alexanderson transmitter broadcasts are due to this very low broadcast frequency; your antenna is not long enough. If you’re in Europe, it’s a lot easier because the station, SAQ, is located in Sweden. But given that the original purpose of these behemoths was transcontinental Morse code transmission, it only seems sporting to try to pick it up in the USA. East Coasters are well situated to give it a shot.
And of course, there’s an app for that. The original SAQrx VLF Receiver and the extended version both use your computer’s sound card and FFTs to extract the probably weak signal from the noise.
We scouted around the net for an antenna design and didn’t come up with anything more concrete than “few hundred turns of wire in a coil” plugged into the mic input. If anyone has an optimized antenna design for this frequency, post up in the comments?
The device works by connecting two antennas to an enclosure that contains a speaker. The enclosure is intended to be worn on the back with a harness securing it in place and wrapping the arms around the wearer’s body. The antennas are incorporated into a pair of gloves. When the antennas pick up electromagnetic radiation, the speaker emits a low frequency sound waves. They vibrate the enclosure and the arms, which in turn vibrate the body, signaling to the wearer that he or she is in an electromagnetic field, also referred to as hertzian space. A good deal of detail about the project can be found on his blog, or if you prefer, download his thesis paper in(PDF).