Thursday, June 07, 2018

New Chronohertz Station in India

A news item in the April issue of the Australian DX News informs us that India is planning to construct a new chronohertz station with two towers that will stand three times higher than the Qutab Minar in Delhi.  The height of the Qutab Minar is listed at 240 feet, which would mean that the new radio towers would stand at around 720 feet, the tallest self standing towers in India.

The Qutab Minar is a famous ancient landmark in New Delhi nearly two thousand years old.  It is constructed from ornately carved red sandstone and marble, with an internal staircase of 379 steps.  The design of the Qutab Minar in India is described as basically Persian in style, though it was patterned after the Minaret of Jam in a remote area of western Afghanistan.

The location for this new longwave radio station in India has not yet been chosen, though it will be a function of NPL, the National Physical Laboratory.  Interestingly, NPL did operate a chronohertz shortwave station many years ago, and its standard time and frequency signals were heard on three shortwave channels, 5 10 and 15 MHz.

In our program today, we go back and take a historic look at the earlier station ATA, the old chronohertz station in India; and just as a matter of interest, we begin with the measurement of time, as it was in the ancient eras of antiquity.

It was way back more than four thousand years ago that people in the old middle eastern world were measuring time with what we would call today, shadow clocks.  That is, as the shadow from a fixed object moved as the sun appeared to move, then an approximate calculation of local time could be gauged.

According to current historians, the first known specific reference to a sun dial, that is, in the old concept of how they were made, is found in the Bible.  It is stated that King Hezekiah was familiar with the progress of the day with a sun dial that his father KIng Ahaz had constructed, and that was way back around 700 BC. 

This sun dial was a function of the palace structure in his capital city, Jerusalem, and it was probably a building somewhat similar to that which was built in India three hundred years ago, not a small brass plate with a projecting gnomon like we use today.

A QSL card issued by All India Radio in New Delhi back in the 1980s shows a picture of a
similar structure known as Jantar Mantar).  This structure, located on Parliament Street quite close to the long time headquarters of All India Radio, was constructed by Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur in the year 1724, though some historians had mistakenly given an incorrect date a few years earlier. 

A cluster of buildings at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, large and small, was designed in such a way that the time of day, right down to a second, could be accurately measured from the shadow of the sun as it moved across one of the buildings.  All of the fourteen geometric structures at this location were designed to accurately predict the movement of planets and stars, as well as to predict eclipses of the sun and moon.

However, as time went by, other methods of measuring time more accurately were needed.  It was back in the year 1368 that the first public clock was made in England, and it was more than a
century later that the first domestic clock was made in Germany.  The first watch was made in the year 1510.

In our more recent electronic era, more accurate methods of time keeping are required, and it was in 1937 that the American chronohertz station, WWV in Washington DC, began to broadcast time signals.  It was in 1955 that the atomic clock was invented in England.

Now, back to the story of the Indian radio station ATA.  Just one year after the infinitely accurate atomic clock was developed in England, plans were formulated to establish a chronohertz station for India, based on a concept similar to the American station WWV. 

Three years later, the new ATA was inaugurated at the National Physical Laboratory on Hillside Road, Kalkaji, New Delhi on February 4, 1959.  A Westinghouse transmitter began a temporary experimental service with 2 kW on exactly 10 MHz, using a horizontal dipole antenna at the height of one wavelength.

However as time would tell, another sixteen years passed by before another transmitter was installed.  This was a 5 kW unit that was rated at 10 kW PEP, and this took over the broadcast service on 10 MHz on August 1, 1975.  This new shortwave transmitter that replaced the original 2 kW
Westinghouse unit, was made by Marconi in England.

The third transmitter at station ATA, another 5/10 kW unit, also built by Marconi in England, was inaugurated almost a year later.  The schedule for this transmitter was night time on 5 MHz and day time on 15 MHz.

Way back then, there was a nice co-operation between the old DX program from Adventist World Radio in Asia, Radio Monitors International, and the chronohertz station ATA.  Each year in the RMI DX program, an ATA Day was conducted to commemorate the service rendered to the radio world by ATA.  In addition, a QSL card was designed for ATA in the AWR office in Poona, and changes and
developments at ATA were announced over the air in the AWR DX program.

However, as Jose Jacob, VU2JOS at the National Institute of Amateur Radio in Hyderabad tells us, station ATA left the air some time around the year 2000, due to ailing equipment.  The time signal and frequency service was transferred from radio to satellite and also to the telephone system.

During its more than 40 years of on air service, station ATA utilized just three shortwave
transmitters, not four, as previously thought.  The original 2 kW Westinghouse unit was on the air from 1959 to 1975; and the two subsequent Marconi units were inaugurated in 1975 & 1976.  These
shortwave transmitters were all withdrawn from service in the year 2000.

Initially, QSL letters and prepared QSL cards were issued during the first era of on air activity from station ATA.  Subsequently, just one batch of QSL cards was printed for ATA usage, and these were in black print on yellow card. 

And now, it seems that chronohertz station ATA may be back on the air again one day, perhaps under a different callsign, and this time not on shortwave but rather on longwave from two tall towers.

Interestingly, the callsign ATA has at times been in use also from other radio stations in India.  For example, the callsign ATA was in use on shortwave by the meteorological station in Delhi with weather information.  Then too, the amateur callsign prefix in use for the Indian Antarctic Expedition some years ago was also ATA.
(AwR-wavwscan/NWS 482)