Monday, 25 July 2016

40 Years of TV DXing

It was 40 years ago this morning that I started my bizarre hobby of trying to get distant TV stations on our antenna (in Niagara Falls, Ontario). Now after getting 1,086 stations from 9 provinces, 38 states and 15 countries, that keen interest still carries on.

The day before July 25, 1976, I decided I was going to get up early every morning and check the TV for distant stations. I had dabbled in TV DXing before, looking for those stations in the TV Guide that we never watched (or couldn't seem to get) as early as 1969, at the age of 6. I found my first "unlisted" station that same year, WICU 12 Erie, Pennsylvania, and then my first "real" DX in 1972 with WTOL 11 Toledo, Ohio. But now, this was going to be organized and I was going to keep a log.

WTOL had been my stagnant record for 4 years. That first morning, I was determined to find something equal or farther away. Luckily, conditions were favourable. I found a station battling with my semi-local Channel 6 Paris, ON, it ended up being WTVN 6 Columbus, Ohio. At a distance of 298 miles, I had already beaten my old record on the very first day. I was pumped wondering what I would get next.

On the 3rd day, in the evening at 6:29 p.m., I was totally blown away when I found a strong signal on Channel 3 that was showing the weather for Florida! That was crazy. It was in colour and easily watchable. It was WEAR Pensacola. Wow, how was this even possible? Florida? How come I couldn't get anything in between? Where was Ohio? Where was Tennessee? Why just one lonely station? My dad saw it too when he came to watch the news. He was impressed enough to tell the guys at work about it (but he also wanted me to change the channel, but relented).

Little did I know that what I saw was "sporadic E-skip", an unpredictable ionospheric propagation mode that was more like what you came across nightly on AM radio than on TV. I didn't find out about E-skip until I got hold of a brochure from the WTFDA (Worldwide TV-FM DX Association) in early 1977. I joined then and have been a member ever since.

WEAR-TV would turn out to be the only skip station I saw that summer. My tropospheric DX extended in all directions, with my best catch ending up being WOTV Channel 8 Grand Rapids, Michigan at 325 miles.

The next year, 1977, opened up the brand new world of E-skip DXing. By the end of that summer I was already up to 6 provinces and 20 states. I was hooked; and have been ever since.

Catches over the years can be found here...

Friday, 10 June 2016

1st Trans-Atlantic E-Skip

It wasn't on TV or any of the other broadcast bands, but I'm still happy to receive my first Trans-Atlantic VHF signal yesterday via E-Skip mode rather than F2 Skip. It was also my first VHF DX from Africa.

The station received was EA8DBM Tenerife, Canary Islands, a ham station transmitting CQ and QRA messages on 50.1 MHz in Morse Code. Time of reception was 1:48 p.m. EDT. The distance of 3,591 miles broke my old record of 2,491 miles to TV Channel 4 Trinidad.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Another odd-ball TV station

While we're on the topic of strange-acting analogue TV carriers, I found another one yesterday during an E-skip opening. So far it's a UTV (unidentified television station) as I could not get any discernible video. It really is odd as the carrier seems to FM-modulate then narrow again. It was on channel 5z. Time of reception : 9:28 p.m. EDT. The signal seemed to peak west. Openings to Nebraska-Kansas, Manitoba and Alabama were active at this time. Target Area: Missouri ?

Spectrum capture and audio version are below :

Audio of video carrier.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

CITO-TV 3 Timmins turns into a police car

This morning fellow DXer Ed Phelps in Kentucky reported hearing an analogue TV video carrier on channel 3+ that sounded like a police siren. Intrigued, I checked and found it too.

It appears to be CITO-3 Timmins, Ontario. At a distance of 376 miles, I can normally see the carrier from this station, and occasionally hear the audio. This morning the signal was enhanced. What you see below is a screen capture. At 61.25 you can see regular CICI1 Elliot Lake. At 61.26 you can see the misbehaving CITO carrier.

It really does sound a police siren, especially when off-tuned. The first audio file below is the sound of the carrier in USB. The second file is the carrier off-tuned.

CITO video carrier

CITO off-tuned video carrier

Now Ed Phelps is 878 miles from this station. He is likely receiving it via meteor scatter mixed with some lingering ionoscatter. Mike Bugaj in Connecticut also reports hearing the signal.

CITO's actual FM audio on 65.76 does sound normal, by the way.

For how long will CITO be an unintentional police siren alerting DXers of its presense for hundreds of miles around?