Natural VLF radio

Any of you HAM types ever make anything like this: ? Turns out, you can actually hear aurora borealis on the cheap with one of Steve McGreevy’s WR3 radios, which is a minor upgrade to the first link. I had always assumed the required radio hardware would be very pricey.

I’ve got an email in to him asking permission to make this into a kit. Would be great if I could find a radio geek to help with the hardcore electromagnetic stuff. My eyes glazed over trying to grok all the technical details he provides.

Have a listen to one of the Whistler recordings . Very cool stuff. We’re coming up on the peak of 11 yr sunspot cycle next year, so this will be fun and educational toy to have.

Why would I want to build one of these receivers when I can listen to my wife snoring? ???

I guess I am one of those “HAM types”. But I have never gotten interested in VLF stuff. Sounds interesting for a high school science fair project.

[Mike gets on soap box]

When I got into ham radio it was high technology. I was able to talk to people all over the world and work with new methodologies such as single sideband.

Today, you can communicate all over the world via the internet with such software as AIM and Skype. High speed data for hams is 300-1200 bps. There are a few interesting new technologies, but they are basically linking ham equipment to the internet or using digital voice.

The average age of a ham today must be approaching 65+.

[Mike reaches for his coffee cup and falls off soap box]

The idea spun off of my son’s interest in aurora. We get more opportunities than most in the US to see them being just shy of 45°N. Hearing them at the same time adds that extra cool geek factor. In this case, for a small $$ investment. Definitely science fair material.

[Detour down memory lane]

“Back in the analog days” (70’s) I had an uncle who was a HAM fanatic. He also helped put DEC on the map for a living, inventing mainframe hardware with a team of MIT grad students. Very smart guy… unfortunately, his expertise passed with him before I absorbed very much.


What was your uncles name, or call letters if you remember?

I used to live in Acton Mass, which was near Maynard. I belonged to a ham club which had lots of members who worked for DEC. I lived there from 1984-89.

His name was Alan Blackington. He lived in Cornish, NH, but had a debilitating stroke in the mid 80s. I can possibly hit up a cousin for his callsign. I might also see if she hung onto any of his gadgets. Doubtful, as it’s been a long time, but I would be psyched to find a nixie tube or three.

Something like this already exists I think. It’s the FunCube (USB) dongle, but you will need a HF converter to go below 64khz. A friend of mine is a HAM fanatic and is trying to talk me in to getting one, but I’m imune for the HAM virus (probably doesn’t mix with the .NET virus).

I have been thinking of a device to control an ICOM through serial, over an IP connection… The protocol is pretty well documented.


The name does not sound familiar. If he lived in NH he would not have joined a club in Mass.