While there, I caught sight of the ‘thing’ in the photo to the left. As any fool can plainly see, it’s an NRC DIGFET Altazimuth loop¹.
OK – what’s that? You’re entitled to know.
When I was growing up… in fact, until the early 70s, I was a BCB DXer. That’s a person who listens to distant stations on a plain AM radio.
I heard the easy ones easily. It was those stations between the stations, the really long hauls with weak signals, that interested me.
There was (actually there still is) a club for these dweeby shut-ins desperately trying to identify what they were hearing: the National Radio Club. Its DX News, published by volunteers pounding on manual typewriters, was my source of knowledge… albeit months old by the time it got to me.
The loop antenna made it possible to eliminate local stations, allowing the distant ones to come right in. I know it sounds impossible, but by turning the antenna to just the right angle, vector math nulled the strong signal.
The rumor was, the guy who designed the antenna, an MIT grad student whose name I won’t mention, was really working for the CIA. Having the ability to monitor local radio stations from afar… let’s say Albania from Turkey, for instance, was a valuable tool in the Cold War.
While working in Charlotte, NC at 50,000 watt WBT, I could turn the antenna to hear KFAB in Omaha. They were both on the same frequency, with KFAB purposely sending very little signal in my direction!
I used that antenna to listen to the Radio Dakar in Senegal on 764 kHz and the BBC on 1214 kHz from my dorm room at Emerson. The signals weren’t great and I didn’t really mind.
In Cleveland in the early 70s, I caught a station ID from KORL 650 kHz in Honolulu while WSM in Nashville was off-the-air for weekly transmitter maintenance. I only heard a few seconds, but they included a jingle for “People Power,” their talk format slogan at the time.
Since I wanted to be in radio, having this amazing antenna allowed me to listen to disk jockeys and radio stations not normally available.
The antenna still works. Until Major League Baseball began streaming games on the Internet, we used it to hear the Phillies on 1210 kHz, even though there’s a station here in Hamden on 1220 kHz!
I really have no use for my ugly antenna anymore. I do nearly no AM listening, and haven’t BCB DX’ed in years.
There’s not a chance I’ll throw it away. You might not understand why. I’m the only one who has to.
¹ – NRC is National Radio Club. DIGFET is short for “dual inverted gate, field effect transistor.” It’s a low noise amplifier to increase the signal strength. Two were used in a push-pull configuration. Altazimuth referred to the antenna’s ability to turn and tilt in order to find the perfect spot to null out a station.