The Hunt For Alien Radio Signals Began Sooner Than You Think

Every 26 months, Earth and Mars come tantalizingly close by virtue of their relative orbits. The closest they’ve been in recent memory was a mere 55.7 million kilometers, a proximity not seen in 60,000 years when it happened in 2003.

However, we’ve been playing close attention to Mars for longer than that. All the way back in 1924, astronomers and scientists were contemplating another close fly by from the red planet. With radio then being the hot new technology on the block, the question was raised—should we be listening for transmissions from fellows over on Mars?

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Retrotechtacular: How To Teletypewriter

This week, you’re going to learn the ins and outs of the AN/GRC-46 thanks to this army training film from 1963. What is the AN/GRC-46, you ask? Why it’s a complete mobile-tactical sheltered radio-teletypewriter rig capable of CW, voice, and teletype transmission.

The film covers the components that make up the AN/GRC-46, their functions, the capabilities of the system, and proper operation procedures. There’s a lot going on in the tiny 1400lb. steel shelter, so each piece will be introduced from the ground up.

You’ll become familiar with the voltage distribution system and the AN/GRC-46’s included accessories. This introduction will be followed by a short course in RF signal transmission and the Frequency-Shift Keying (FSK) that is performed by the modulator. The ranges of both the transmitter and receiver are discussed, along with the capabilities mentioned before: CW operation using the keyer, voice operation, teletype operation, and reperforation of teletype tape.

Finally, you’ll observe a seasoned operator make contact and send a teletype message with movements so careful and deliberate that they border on mesmerizing. When he’s not sending messages or taking long walks on the beach, he can usually be found cleaning and/or lubricating the transmitter filter.

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