"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.
Wavescan N445, September 3, 2017
The World's Smallest Shortwave Station
The world's smallest shortwave station, the smallest shortwave station of all time without question, had to be a little homemade transmitter with a rated output at just 1.5 watts. This transmitter was licensed originally under the Canadian callsign VE9CS, it was located at the top of the stairway in a church building in Vancouver British Colombia, it was inaugurated in the latter part of the year 1929, and it was on the air for just a few late night hours each week.
The parent mediumwave station for the little shortwave station in Canada was a Christian station, CKFC, that had moved a few months earlier from the nearby First Congregational Church at 1155 Thurlow Street in downtown Vancouver to the Chalmers United Church at 2801 Hemlock Street on the corner of 12th Avenue. A makeshift production studio was installed in a downstairs Sunday School classroom and the transmitter and a record player were installed at the top of the two storey stairway.
The shortwave transmitter was a home brew breadboard unit constructed by Cyril Trott, who operated his own radio business under the trade name Radio Service Engineers at nearby 734 Davie Street. Engineer Trott operated the shortwave transmitter VE9CS on 6070 kHz as a service on behalf of the United Church of Canada.
In 1931, two years after the little station was inaugurated, approval was granted for operation at 100 watts, though they planned to operate at just 50 watts. However, even this projected improvement was never implemented.
Also in 1931, Engineer Trott announced his intention to broadcast a special program beamed to Australia. This information was printed in the Australian radio journal Wireless Weekly, but we would suggest that at just 1.5 watts, the shortwave signal probably got lost on the way.
However, as time progressed through the 1930s, there was an increase in on air programming, usually on a daily basis around midnight. This increase in programming was for the benefit of local listeners, of whom there were probably very few back at that time.
In 1929, the studios and offices of the mediumwave parent station CKFC were moved into the new Stock Exchange Building at 475 Howe Street, though a new out of town location was chosen for the mediumwave transmitter. The evidence would suggest that the little VE9CS transmitter was also then installed at the new mediumwave transmitter location.
Seven years later (1936), the parent mediumwave station CKFC was leased to the Standard Broadcasting Co., along with the little shortwave station VE9CS as well. However, during the following year (1937), Standard Broadcasting was taken over by Sun Publishing, and so the studios and offices of mediumwave CKFC were transferred into the Sun Tower at 128 West Pinder Street in Vancouver.
When the 17-storey Sun Tower was constructed in 1912, it was the tallest building in the British Empire. The Sun newspaper has long since relocated, though the building has retained its well-known name as the Sun Tower.
According to the best available information, the callsign for shortwave VE9CS was regularized to CKFX in December 1938, though the old identification lingered on for another year or two. At that stage, shortwave VE9CS-CKFX was on the air at night, usually around 1 or 2 o'clock in the early morning hours.
During the year 1940, the licensing authority in the Canadian government asked the parent mediumwave station CKFC to surrender its broadcast license, and in that way station CKFC was closed. However at that stage, another mediumwave station in Vancouver, CKWX, agreed to take over all of the religious programming from the mediumwave station that was closing, and they also agreed to take over the small shortwave station as well.
Mediumwave CKWX was owned by Western Broadcasting and they were in the process of constructing a new transmitter station on Lulu Island, Vancouver. The engineering staff built a new 10 watt shortwave transmitter which was co-sited with the new mediumwave facility on Lulu Island. At the same time, the operating frequency for the shortwave unit was changed from 6070 kHz to 6080 kHz.
The shortwave antenna at the new location was described as a V beam, which was focused on the isolated coastal communities of British Columbia north of Vancouver. The communication transmitter/receivers in use in those areas back then could readily tune the 49 metre broadcast band, which included, of course, VE9CS-CKFX.
Over the years, several different shortwave antennas were installed for CKFX on Lulu Island, including a half wave omni-directional antenna with 30 buried radials as a counterpoise. Then in March 1993 a new 10 watt transmitter was installed at shortwave CKFX.
However, give three more years, and the transmitter malfunctioned. There was no real need for the 10 watt shortwave station, it was little more than a DX novelty, so the transmitter was never repaired nor replaced. That was the final and unceremonious end of the world's smallest shortwave broadcast station.
There were many occasions when the little 10 watt shortwave CKFX was heard way across the Pacific in New Zealand and Australia, and also over there in Europe. They were a very reliable verifier of listener reception reports, and loads of international radio monitors in many lands around our world hold the now historic CKFX QSL card in their collection.
Ancient DX Report 1912
The radio scene throughout the world during the year 1912 could be described best in just one word, proliferation. It could be estimated that the total number of wireless stations in existence throughout the world at that time - communication, shipboard, land based, amateur, licensed, unlicensed, experimental - would stand at around 5,000.
During the year 1912, the Marconi company in England could count 30 countries in which their equipment had been installed; and in total, there were wireless communication stations in 85 countries around the globe.
In the continental United States, according to a 1912 list of wireless stations, there were 156 wireless communication stations large and small across the entire land mass. The United States navy operated 46 wireless stations that were installed at strategic locations around the world, as well as 353 ships that were wireless equipped.
In addition to the rapid proliferation of wireless around the world in the year 1912, there was also the terrible shipping tragedy, the sinking of the opulent White Star Liner the RMS Titanic, over the midnight hours of Sunday and Monday, April 14 & 15 (1912). The majestic ship Titanic was on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic from Southampton in England to New York in the United States. This grand passenger liner struck an iceberg that dented and buckled the underwater side plates, thus allowing a fatal inflow of water that ultimately doomed this mighty vessel.
As is so well known, the usage of wireless on land and at sea was directly responsible for the saving of more than 700 lives on that tragic occasion. It was the Cunard Liner Carpathia that rushed to the rescue as a result of Morse Code wireless communications with the Titanic.
Aboard the Titanic was a new Marconi wireless system, a 5 kW rotary spark transmitter that transmitted Morse Code signals on 500 kHz, with a center fed T type antenna. The organizationally allocated callsign for the new Titanic was a Marconi identification, MGY.
If there had been no wireless fixture aboard the Titanic, we could presume that the ship would have sunk without anyone anywhere else being aware of the tragedy, until perhaps next day another ship would unexpectedly steam through the field of debris. It would have been then too late to rescue any survivors drifting in the below freezing water and air temperatures of the cold Atlantic.
As a result of the Titanic tragedy, the governments in many countries around the world enacted new safety laws, requirements and regulations, regarding the installation and operation of wireless equipment aboard ships at sea. Wireless was required on an increasing number of ships, and additional wireless operators were required for a complete 24 hour day of service.
There were so many wireless developments during the year 1912, that all we can do in our program today is to choose a few of the most interesting and most significant. Some of the other wireless developments of that year can be observed in books and magazines found in libraries large and small in many countries around our world.
In the United States, two wireless experimenters/inventors discovered the principle of feedback regeneration independently during this same year. These wireless pioneers were Edwin Armstrong and Lee de Forest, and the successful procedure is to feed the partially amplified signal in the radio receiver back into the same amplification circuit.
The famous United States navy station NAA at Arlington in Virginia was activated during the year 1912, though not yet at full power. As soon as the three tower antenna system was completed, it was anticipated that the rotary spark equipment at the full power of 100 kW would be applied.
At that stage, Frank Conrad built a wireless receiver so that he could hear the time signals from the new navy station NAA. At the time, the family was living in Swissvale, near Pittsburgh, though they moved to Wilkinsburg shortly afterwards.
Another famous powerful station in the United States was the German constructed wireless communication station located at Sayville on Long Island, New York. Station WSL was described as one of the most powerful in the world at 100 kW, though through a special Telefunken design, there was an increase in radio frequency energy radiated from the antenna system.
During the year, Irving Vermilya received the first amateur experimental license issued in the United States, and the callsign for his wireless station was changed from the do-it-yourself callsign SNY to the regularized 1ZE.
Station 9YV was an experimental station operated by Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and it became the first radio station in the U.S. to offer a regularly-scheduled daily broadcast (in Morse Code) of the weather forecast.
During that same year (1912), the Federal Telegraph Wireless built a transmitting station at Point San Bruno, near South San Francisco in California. This new station had the tallest antenna towers in the world at a height of 440 feet, with more than 6-1/2 miles of wire strung between the two towers. The location for this new San Bruno Point wireless station covered 25 acres.
Also on the California coast, Charles Herrold installed a set of two transmitters and receivers in the Fairmont Hotel and another set of two transmitters and receivers in San Jose for the purpose of continuous two way transmission.
Over in England, Marconi constructed a brand new wireless factory; and the documents for the International Telegraphic Conference in London were signed on July 5. This important conference promulgated regulations for the issuing of callsigns for all wireless stations.
A new Marconi station was opened at Aranjuez-Madrid on February 1, and King Alfonso sent a message to London for forwarding to the New York Times.
The first major maritime wireless station in New Zealand was installed in a small building on the roof of the Central Post office in Auckland and it was taken into service on October 24, 1912 under the callsign NZK. The first two letters in this three letter callsign, NZK, stood rather obviously for the initial letters in the two word title of their country, New Zealand; and the K identified one of the letters in the city name, Auckland.
One thousand miles to the west, we find that Australia also was in the process of installing a whole alphabetic list of coastal wireless stations, six of which were inaugurated during that same year 1912. The first permanent AWA coastal station was installed at the Domain in Melbourne and it was taken into service with 2.5 kW on 500 kHz, on February 8 (1912).
The projected callsign for this station was AAM, with the AA reminiscent of a temporary maritime station in Sydney with the callsign AAA; the M in the AAM callsign obviously indicated Melbourne. When the station was inaugurated, the actual callsign was POM, indicating Post Office Melbourne, though soon afterwards this call was amended to the more familiar VIM.
Macquarie Island is located half way between Australia and Antarctica. The new 1.5 kW wireless station MQI made its first two way contact with AAU aboard the SS Ulimaroa on February 13, 1912. The SS Ulimaroa belonged to the Huddart Packard Line, and it plied across the Tasman between Australia and New Zealand. The name Ulimaroa is a New Zealand Maori name, and it was mistakenly thought back then that this was the Maori name for Australia.