Sunday, January 25, 2015

MN.13.04.1989 Luxembourg

We covered developments at RTL Luxembourg several times towards the end of the 1980's as RTL phased out several mediumwave services (like the great 208) and invested in a station in Ireland (Atlantic 252). In this programme there's an extensive update of the scene in 1989, and we ponder on the problem of explaining wavelengths and frequencies to listeners. With the arrival of satellite, tuning information was becoming ever more complex.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Saturday, January 24, 2015

MN.12.07.1994. AFN Berlin closedown

This edition of the programme includes the news that the American Forces Radio relay in Berlin is to sign-off. We also reported on the death of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, as reported by Radio Pyongyang. BBC Caversham reports that Rwanda may be returning to shortwave, which we assumed was the transmitter site built by Deutsche Welle in Kigali. VOA is looking to expand their FM distribution in Africa.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.09.06.1988 Asian Relay Station

At one time, Radio Netherlands was planning to build a third relay station to improve its shortwave radio coverage into South Asia and China. the late Bert Steinkamp and Jim Vastenhoud went on a fact finding mission to look at possible sites. Jim Vastenhoud came into the Media Network studio to explain the findings. In the end, the BBC found the money to build a station in Thailand - and Radio Netherlands did not.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.30.11.1995. Quito Radio Profile

Twenty years ago, I was part of a Radio Netherlands delegation to a conference in Quito, Ecuador on the future of radio, especially community radio. At that time many local radio stations were finding it difficult to compete with the new giant (international) music networks delivering slickly presented music programmes via satellite. They were buying up local FM licenses across the continent. Most of this programme was recorded in Quito and includes several off-air montages of stations broadcasting at that time. Enjoy.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wereldomroep already no longer exists - gone and quickly forgotten

A couple of colleagues working on documentaries of the 1950's and 60's asked me what ever happened to the sound archives of Radio Nederland Wereldomroep, the Dutch equivalent of BBC World Service.

After a massive budget cut and reorganisation in 2012, the direct broadcast activities of the station were indefinitely suspended and parts of the archives moved to the Netherlands Sound and Vision Archive. It looks as though these assets are not going to be put on line. But I am surprised that none of the extensive collection put together by Martien Sleutjes seems to be available on line. You would expect that typing "Wereldomroep" into the national footage archive would at least come up with something. The Wereldomroep also made film material during it's lifetime. But, apparently, that is no longer the case. How quickly national heritage disappears, heritage which cost a small fortune to make.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Radio PC Magic with Jeffrey Stephenson

Underneath this hood is a PC not a radio. 

David Gewirtz of ZDnet tipped me off to the unique work of artist and cabinet maker, Jeffrey Stephenson who has an amazing talent for design. He mixes wood and off-the shelf components to build one of a kind PC's. It is clear that he takes his inspiration from the glorious days of valve radios. But inside Stephenson's cases you'll find gaming computers, audio amplifiers in fact anything but a radio. I wonder what an Internet radio would look like?

Jeffrey publishes his plans of what he does in his gallery. Unless you have excellent woodworking skills, it will be hard to copy to this level. But it would be great to team up with the maker community to have a go. 

David Gewirtz interviewed Stephenson for ZDnet and discovered this is simply a hobby project. He has exhibited several of his one-off designs at CES in Las Vegas.  

The inspiration for one of Stephenson's most recent computer designs
Tell us about yourself, your background, and what you do for a living.

Stephenson: I'm a technologist with a lot of time on my hands. I've been a sailor, engineer, accountant and IT director. Lived in San Francisco in the 60's and New York City in the 70's. First job was at Walt Disney World. Motorcycled across country. Sailed around the world. I'm now a gentlemen farmer and landholder.

Gewirtz: How long have you been making these wonderful mods?

Stephenson: It has been 11 years since I first shoe-horned a computer system into a desktop cigar humidor. Most people laughed and it was funny. It also started a lot of semi-serious discussions about computer design and personal tastes.

Gewirtz: What got you started?

Stephenson: A fascination with small things. Who doesn't love a miniature? When VIA came out with the Mini-ITX form factor, it created an explosion of creativity from people who saw the potential of sticking a fully functional PC into almost any object. It was a matter of survival at first, because of the dismal availability and outrageous costs of early cases. I discovered that an executive's desktop cigar humidor was the perfect sized enclosure for a Mini-ITX based PC.

Gewirtz: How did you learn how to develop the skills to create these mods?

Stephenson: I have no special background or extensive experience in woodworking or carpentry. My case cooling solutions come directly from knowledge gained during my service in the US Navy nuclear power program. As a kid I put together a lot of plastic models including many with really bad directions and poor quality parts. I got some quality problem solving and creativity-on-the-fly kind of skills from that experience, I'm sure.

I have a couple of cabinetmaker friends who mostly harass me about how I do things. I learned about lacquer finishing and other woodworking basics from them.

Gewirtz: You told me earlier that the cases don't get warm. How is that possible? My PCs put out a ton of heat. I would have thought the heat of the processor would warp the wood and weaken the glue.

Stephenson: I'm sure you are old enough to remember console TVs? Hot electronics in wooden boxes has a long history. I'm thinking the 20's was their heyday. I remember my parents stereo console from 1962 with its mid-century design.

Cooling a computer system is all about airflow. The material the case is made of doesn't have any role in cooling the system. The amount of heat actually conducted through the case is so small it isn't even worth considering. Contrary to common sense... aluminum cases don't run cooler than steel ones. It is one of those counter-intuitive things.

Don't get me started on "bursting into flames" stuff. Grounding and EMI issues are fun too!

Gewirtz: How long does it take you to make one of your projects?

Stephenson: From the first idea to completion can be years. Once I work things out in my head, then it takes about 6-8 weeks. I make 2-3 computers a year.

Gewirtz: Where do you find your inspiration?

Stephenson: I used to cruise eBay a lot looking at the art deco and machine age stuff. Got a few ideas from that. A theory I have right now is that travel is inspiring me. After traveling to SF in 2010 to display a few pieces I returned to a most successful creative streak. Within five months I built Level Eleven and Mid Century Madness. These two are responsible for 70% of the traffic to my website. The travel theory has yet to be tested.

Gewirtz: What's your workshop like? What tools do you use?

Stephenson: I try not to use power tools. I have a cordless drill and a Dremel that I use on occasion. I do most of my work on a table on my deck. Hand working doesn't require much space. I like to use non-toxic glues and paints as much as possible because I've been known to work indoors as well.

Gewirtz: Are there any special tricks you use?

Stephenson: I like to use optical illusions to manipulate the viewer's perception. Simple stuff like adjustments for perspective and using black to make things disappear. I'm always mindful of the piece's most common viewing angle(s).

Gewirtz: Do you sell these? Is this a business or a hobby? Are they exhibited anywhere?

Stephenson: It's a hobby. I take advantage of the fact that I can steal pretty much anything I want [from a design perspective] as long as I don't sell it. There is only one of my pieces in the wild. It was last seen in Taiwan. I've displayed at CES several times in the past decade, and in 2010, I got an opportunity to display at a museum. The Exploratorium was perfect because it was just down the street from where I lived at the Presidio in 1969.

Gewirtz: Do you have any suggestions for some of our readers who might want to start making their own hand-crafted cases?

Stephenson: If you have the tools and skills to build a birdhouse or dollhouse then you can get started right away. I have authored several extensive project logs that are publicly accessible. [Many of these are linked to from the gallery.] There is a huge volume of content out there focused on customizing computers and how it's done.

Don't forget to check out Stephenson's gallery
Another project: Dumont

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Very Happy New Year

It looks like the city of Amsterdam is trying to get into the sequence of global New Year fireworks sequences that is shown on TV screens around the world. But although I saw a lot from Sydney, Hong Kong, London and even North Korea, this sequence from Amsterdam was confined to Dutch TV screens. Perhaps others had a different experience? But wherever you are, let's make 2015 a year to remember.