WORLD OF HOROLOGY
WWV 100 YEARS OLD
(via Artie Bigley, OH, Sept 24, DXLD) Viz.:
Radio station WWV to celebrate 100 years
Station north of Fort Collins broadcasts the national time standard and sets radio frequency standards
By Jackie Hutchins | firstname.lastname@example.org |
Loveland Reporter-Herald PUBLISHED: September 22, 2019 at 7:28 am | UPDATED: September 22, 2019 at 10:45 am
The world’s oldest licensed radio station, which operates from a location just north of Fort Collins, will turn 100 years old on Oct. 1.
That may sound like a long time for a radio station, but WWV specializes in time.
The radio station is best known for the broadcast of the national time standard — the atomic clock — which is closely synchronized with Coordinated Universal Time, the measure by which clocks are synchronized throughout the world.
It also has played an important role through the years setting frequency standards for other radio operators. In those early days of radio, “people didn’t know where they were on the dial,” Dave Swartz of the WWV Centennial Committee said.
It continues in both those roles today.
But it almost didn’t make it to a full century. Swartz said the government considered closing the station down permanently to save its $6 million annual budget, but ultimately funded it.
‘The very beginning of radio’
Swartz noted the station has some prominent towers that people may have seen, but many in Northern Colorado may not be aware of its existence and history.
In 1919 the U.S. government licensed the station, a full year before the first commercial radio station in the country, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Swartz said.
“This was the very beginning of radio.”
Based in Washington, D.C., its early broadcasts were experimental in nature. Among those experiments, it provided the first announced broadcast of music.
It moved from Washington to the nearby city of College Park, Md., in 1931, and to Beltsville, Md., in 1932, staying in that community until 1966.
It went live in Fort Collins — moving to be nearer the Boulder laboratories where the national standards of time and frequency were kept, but not so close that it would interfere with scientific work there — on Dec. 1, 1966.
After World War II the station took on the job of announcing the time, at first by telegraphic code and starting in 1950 by voice announcements, offered at first every five minutes.
Another change came in April 1967 when the station began broadcasting Greenwich Mean Time instead of local time. It went to its current format of using Coordinated Universal Time in December 1968.
The time announcements were made every minute, instead of every five minutes, beginning in July 1971.
Today, anyone with a phone can call 303-499-7111 to hear what time it is — in Coordinated Universal Time, meaning the current time in London.
Swartz said the time is currently six hours ahead of Colorado, but will be seven hours ahead after daylight saving time ends here in November.
Time to celebrate
Swartz said some events are planned to recognize the historical, cultural and scientific importance of radio communications and the role WWV plays.
The Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club and the WWV Amateur Radio Club will sponsor a special event amateur radio station, call sign WW0WWV (W-W-zero-W-W-V).
The station will make as many amateur radio contacts as possible over a five-day, 120-hour operating period, starting at 6 p.m. Friday and going through 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, operating from the WWV site.
“Hundreds of amateur radio operators from around the country are converging at radio station WWV for the event,” Swartz said.
Amateurs and shortwave listeners can take part from their home locations in the Festival of Frequency Measurement, a citizen science effort to study ionospheric phenomena.
Swartz said that means study of how the atmosphere affects radio waves. Many people know radio signals travel farther at night. That’s because of the way the sun ionizes the atmosphere and affects signals, Swartz said.
Across the country, radio enthusiasts taking part will help track how radio waves are affected as the sun comes and up and moves through the day.
“It’s a phenomenon that changes daily,” Swartz said. “It’s getting to understand ‘space weather’ a little bit better.”
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, 408 Mason Court, will hold a public exhibit of amateur radio and displays about WWV at 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.
People can contact the station with help from the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club, try out Morse code, and explore the science and history of radio transmissions and the atomic clock.
The exhibit is free with museum admission.
The National Bureau of Standards will hold a special 100th anniversary recognition ceremony and reception on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the station located at 2000 E. County Road 58 in Fort Collins, starting at 9 a.m., with talks at 10 a.m. and tours of the station to follow.
The site is halfway between Wellington and Fort Collins.
The public is welcome, but space is limited and the station is a controlled-access facility so preregistration is required. Visit https://appam.certain.com/profile/54379 to register by Tuesday.
For information about the event or about WWV in general, visit WWV100.com (via DXLD)