Skip to main content

RF Shorts for May 5, 2014

"AirChat" Viewed as Secure Internet Alternative

Ham radio operators have been sending messages around the world for more than 100 years using "digital" communications (Morse code), and employing more advanced digital transmissions (radioteletype or "RTTY" using 5-level Baudot codes) for more than half a century. Hackers working with Anonymous, an Internet "collective" organization, are using some of the techniques and software amateur radio operators developed more recently as the basis for their "AirChat" software.

Richard Chirgwin describes the project in his article "Anonymous develops secure data over ham radio scheme" in The Register:

"You're not going to get fast communications out of AirChat, since it takes the world back to the days of encoding data over voice channels. The group says 'We traded bandwidth for freedom, or to be more exact we traded bandwidth for freedom, simplicity and low cost'."

He notes, "The Anonymous contribution to the world of ham packet radio is twofold, the group says--to anonymise the communication, since ham packet radio doesn't have anonymity built in; and to ignore spectrum and user licensing," and adds: "The latter carries a risk, but AirChat's author or authors believe it's justifiable. Beyond the project's rhetoric about 'evil organizations like the FCC', it is reasonable to think that an activist communicating from a trouble spot doesn't have time to obtain a ham radio license before they start communicating (and anyhow, doing so doesn't let you preserve anonymity)."

Additional software and commentary are available on the lutzlabs AirChat GitHub project page.

San Diego’s KFMB-TV Celebrates 65 Years of Service

Larry Himmel writes about KFMB's 65th anniversary (Part 1) on " With a transmitter site on Mount Soledad, [San Diego’s] KFMB began broadcasting from the Pacific Square Ballroom on Pacific Highway in 1949. The station moved around the corner to a five-story building on a now-vacant lot on Fifth and Ash before settling into our current Kearny Mesa location in 1977. Over the years, some of your favorite personalities have passed through these portals. By 1950, singing cowboy Smokey Rogers, was on air three hours a day with his general store program. The show would last 10 years."

While the first sentence is the only reference to how the signal actually got on the air, Himmel does provide quite a bit of information about the people appearing in front of the camera. He writes: "Among the notable names who [sic] have enlightened and entertained us over the years was, weather girl Raquel Tajada, who would eventually become Raquel Welch, and [also] the affable Regis Philbin."

Himmel will shortly publish part 2 of the KFMB-TV history. Until then, enjoy his video and stories about the early days of TV in San Diego.

Comments and RF related news items are welcome.

Email me at

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.