Clearing the Airwaves

ANNOUNCER: We will now take you to our remote reception station where L. Ron Hubbard has assembled some data for you in the interests of good radio reception. The many questions which we have received concerning our method of getting radio programs from the States and the many complaints which we have had about local conditions we hope you will find answered in this special broadcast.

Take it away, Captain Hubbard.

SOUND: Four bells and a jingle.

RON: Here we are at the KGBU remote line station at Mountain Point in the midst of the equipment which enables KGBU to pluck programs from the atmosphere and relay them into your homes.

As the only chain broadcast station in Alaska, it is mighty important that KGBU receive these programs, especially at those times of the day when the highly magnetized and humidified air of this region resents being plucked by cracking and hissing instead of throbbing and crooning. To achieve this, Jimmy Britton, some time ago, put out a considerable chunk of change to obtain a twenty-four tube Super-Pro receiver, a remote station here and a telephone line seven miles into town. Jimmy, like the good radio engineer he is, exerted the fullest extent of his wide knowledge to make this reception as nearly perfect as possible.

The plot of this pick-up station is simple. An aerial tuned to the wave length of KOL and pointed straight down the channel at KOL’s broadcast station on Mercer Island in Lake Washington, takes the Mutual Broadcast System programs out of the atmosphere and brings them in to this professional receiver which is tuned to a hair’s width on the wave. A tork clock automatically turns this receiver on and off at the proper times. The Mutual program is then whisked through the phone wire to KGBU and through the Collins transmitter there and so is again released into the atmosphere with power behind it so that Alaska can have the best programs manufactured in the States without having to reach the States to get them.

A short time ago I came out to the station here to write a few stories, availing myself of the quiet and the distance from fascinating occurrences and Mr. Britton asked me to see what I could discover about the poor quality of the reception which had been his lot of late. Because I had been doing radio experimental work on beacon signals for the Navy Department, Fisher Research Laboratories, and the Cape Cod Instrument Company, I chanced to have some radio direction finders of high sensitivity. Some weeks ago, though I am not permitted to tell you the details, these direction finders played an exciting part in a slight adventure with a Nazi saboteur. They are so precise that a source of interference even if slight can be spotted at a distance of half a mile.

For instance, a sewing machine motor unfiltered will send out a radio signal strong enough for these direction finders to intercept and bracket, leading one to the house in which the motor is running and then into the roof of the house. Not, of course, that one uses them to find seamstresses, but only as an illustration of their sensitivity.

Playing with these scientific instruments, I chanced to make three minor discoveries. No credit to myself for when one has the equipment the task is simple and, so far as I know these are the first instruments of this kind to be so employed in this country.

The first thing they found was the existence of a type of set evidently still in use here in Alaska which spoils reception for one and all.

These sets are old-timers, not much in advance of the crystal set era, and they have two advantages in that they get long distance reception and are cheap. They have a decided disadvantage in that they put out a signal of their own.

These sets proved so annoying to reception that the government no longer tolerates their existence and, when one is found to be in use and attention called to it, the government puts the owner someplace and throws the key away.

New portable sets, ranging from seven to thirty-five dollars are too easy to operate and too cheap to buy for any listener to keep on spoiling his neighbor’s reception with regenerative radio receiver, vintage 1928.

That accounts for part of the bad reception. These instruments have located seven such sets in Thomas Basin and two at Mountain Point but of course it does not happen to be KGBU’s business to pick them up. Law enforcement agencies are far between in Alaska and it takes some little time for them to act.

The next point of reception interference which a listener might find of interest but which he probably knows already, is that an electrical household appliance is a miniature transmitter itself. An electric refrigerator, grinding away, throws a signal into the radio set in the house. A light switch, going on and off, sparks and does the same thing. Of course when one is listening to a strong signal such as that of KGBU with a few miles or a few hundred, this domestic interference does not bother one’s radio too much. However when one tries to get a faint signal from the States his set is strained to the point that he is liable to get household noises to the exclusion of a program.

The electricity which is being pumped into the Ketchikan home is so full of interference that it is a wonder anyone ever hears anything.

The question arises whose fault this is. Well all I know is that big town electricity is not dirty. About eight months ago in New York City I lived up on Riverside Drive. I was doing my work on a full electric model of an International Business Machines typewriter which is run by one-sixtieth of a horsepower motor. One-sixtieth.

This little motor made no disturbance upon my own radio on the broadcast band and so I thought nothing about it. Well, I opened the door one day to find a Consolidated Edison man there. He was carrying an interference locator. He came in and set down his pick-up beside my machine where it whirred and crackled. He sighed with relief.

"For two weeks," he said, "I have been on the lookout for that interference source. Thank God I’ve found it."

"But I said, "I don’t think it ruins any reception. My radio works with it going."

"Yes, but there are a lot of refugees in this neighborhood, sir, and they get Europe on their short wave sets and this is just enough interference to throw them out in the afternoon. Here is a filter for your typewriter."

New York’s power company, Consolidated Edison, is just that strict and accurate about its power. Any modern light plant is that strict.

If the electricity in a big town was dirty with domestic noises, then radio reception in the midst of millions of appliances would be impossible. But there are those appliances in a big town, connected in to the same power which runs radios and there is no interference in the power lines from those appliances. It seems that if one wants good radio reception he has to go into the center of millions of electrically animated horsepower to get it, for in big cities, public utility power is properly filtered and led.

If this juice at Mountain Point were clean then it would be possible for KGBU to give Alaska chain programs all the time with clarity comparable to these programs emanating from KGBU’s own studios. It is nearly impossible to run a receiver of this size on batteries or to receive programs with a smaller set.

Some of our listeners have advocated lynching people for letting this interference continue. However, we think this is extreme. All we want and need is clean juice. If KGBU has that and if you have that for your own radio the quality of your reception can be trebled.

Thank you.

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