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Welcome to (Shortwave)

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Posted-By: auto-faq
Archive-name: radio/monitoring/shortwave-faq

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
[Last modified: June 22, 1996]

By Ralph Brandi,
128 Greenoak Blvd., Middletown, NJ 07748 U.S.A.

This posting contains answers to the following questions:

o What is shortwave radio?
o Where can I find broadcasts by Radio Foobar?
o Where can I find a list of broadcasts in the English language?
o Where can I find an e-mail address/web site for Radio Foobar?
o What kind of receiver should I get?
o Where can I get a shortwave radio?
o Could you explain the frequencies used?  What's the 40 meter band? etc.
o What is SINPO/SIO?
o Why can't I receive all of the broadcasts listed in Monitoring
o What are some books or other resources that can help me get started?
o Where can I find further information?

[Note from the author--This article is posted monthly on the USENET groups,, rec.answers, and news.answers.  It is
also available electronically on CompuServe, America Online, the ANARC BBS,
the WELL, from the ftp archive on , the official Usenet FAQ library , and from the
radio archive on , and in print 
from the ARRL.  A hypertext version with links to many of the items 
mentioned is available at the following URL: 

Thanks to Jay Novello and Pete Costello for making WWW service possible. If you
find this article somewhere else and/or find it useful, I would appreciate if
you could drop me a postcard or send me e-mail letting me know where you found
it, what the Last modified date on the copy you have is, and if you have any
suggestions to make the article more helpful. If you don't find it useful, I'd
like to hear about that as well.]

o What is shortwave radio?

From a purely technical point of view, shortwave radio refers to those
frequencies between 3 and 30 MHz.  Their main characteristic is their ability
to "propagate" for long distances, making possible such worldwide
communications as international broadcasting and coordination of long-distance

From a social point of view, shortwave radio is a way to find out what the
rest of the world thinks is important.  Many countries broadcast to the world
in English, making it easy to find out what a given country's position is on
those things it finds important.  Shortwave radio can also provide a way to
eavesdrop on the everyday workings of international politics and commerce.

o Where can I find broadcasts by Radio Foobar?

The World Radio TV Handbook is the standard reference for this sort of
information.  The WRTH provides SWLs (shortwave listeners) and DXers
(listeners specializing in distant [DX] and weak stations) worldwide with
virtually everything they need on frequencies, schedules and addresses.  It
comes out annually, right about the first of the year.  It covers virtually
every shortwave station in the world, and many of the medium wave (AM), FM,
and television stations as well.  The body of the book is a listing of
stations by country, with a cross-reference in the back by frequency.  It's
available from any radio store dealing in shortwave.  You can also contact the
WRTH through their publishers, Billboard.

World Radio TV Handbook 1995
ISBN 0-8230-5926-X

The past several years have seen competition of a sort for the WRTH, in the
form of Passport to World Band Radio.  Passport's main section is a
graph/table of what's on the air, by frequency.  The beginning of the book is
filled with articles of interest to the beginner.  There is also a
comprehensive review section of shortwave receivers currently available, one
of the few places all this information can be found in one place.  The book is
more useful for identifying a station you've already tuned in than for
searching out a particular transmission; the WRTH is useful at both, however,
rendering the purchase of this book not essential.  It can still be
worthwhile, though, especially for beginners who won't be put off by the "gee
whiz, look what we can listen to" tone of some of the articles.  The book is
unabashedly an advocate of making the hobby of "World Band Radio" accessible
to people who wouldn't have participated before the advent of good, cheap
portables.  There also seem to be efforts being made to address some of the
shortcomings of the book, such as a comprehensive address section (finally!)
that also contains useful information on how stations respond to
correspondence, based on the experience of other hobbyists.  Much of this
information has been difficult or impossible for hobbyists to obtain outside
of a small elite group, and provides a useful addition to the hobby.  It does
tend to weaken the focus of the book, which has previously seemed aimed at
mainly beginners.

For utility band (non-broadcast transmissions) listeners, there are a few
books that perform much the same function as the above two books, although due
to the nature of such point-to-point communication, not with the same sense of

Confidential Frequency List
Published by Gilfer Shortwave

The Shortwave Directory
Published by Grove Enterprises

Klingenfuss Guide to Utility Stations
Published by Klingenfuss Publications

o Where can I find a list of broadcasts in the English language?

The World Radio TV Handbook has a list of English Language Broadcasts,
starting on page 561 of the 1995 edition.  Unfortunately, since the WRTH only
comes out once a year the data tend to go out of date fairly quickly. There
are a number of sources for current lists:

-Monitoring Times magazine carries a listing every month.

-The North American Shortwave Association (NASWA) publishes a complete listing
twice a year in their bulletin, The Journal, sent to all members monthly; each
month there are updates to the list.  See the address at the end of this

-Tom Sundstrom, W2XQ, offers custom IBM PC-compatible software and a
subscription service with constantly updated electronic versions of his data
files (which are also the source for the NASWA listings, as well as forming
part of the listing in the WRTH).  The data files are in the standard dBASE
III format, capable of being imported into any software that reads DBF files,
and are distributed in a compressed self-extracting file for IBM PC users and
.ARC format for those using other operating systems. The data files are
available on the Pics OnLine BBS in Atco, New Jersey, U.S.A. (+1 609 753-2540
US Robotics HST, +1 609 753 1549 V.32 9600 baud), or over the World
Wide Web by arrangement with Tom.  Readers with access to the World Wide Web
can get more information about this software from Tom's web page at .  Gilfer Shortwave now is the official 
distributor for Tom's software.  See the address for Gilfer at the end of 
this file.  Gilfer also has a web page available at .

-Jim Frimmel offers a HyperCard program for the Apple Macintosh that offers
both frequency schedules and program schedules for international English
language broadcasts.  Jim also offers an quarterly update subscription
The program, called Shortwave Navigator, which is up to version 3.3, also 
offers computer control of a number of radios.  See the address for 
DX Computing at the end of this file, including e-mail.

-Jan Nieuwenhuis of the Benelux DX Club periodically posts a list of
broadcasts in English to Europe to  This list, as 
well as lists of broadcasts in German and French, are also available on
the web at .

-Paul Dwerryhouse's shortWWWave page in Australia at is another source on the
web of English language broadcasts, among other treats.

If you are interested in finding out what programs are on the air at a given
time, there are a couple of recent publications that attempt to provide
semi-comprehensive information:

-Grove Enterprises publishes *The Guide to Shortwave Programs* edited by
the Program Manager of its "Shortwave Guide" section of *Monitoring Times*,
Kannon Shanmugam along with the programming staff.

-One-man dynamo John Figliozzi produces *The Shortwave Radio Guide* each year,
for sale through the Ontario DX Association (ODXA), who do the actual
production on the book, and NASWA.

o Where can I find an e-mail address/web site for Radio Foobar?

The most up-to-date source of known e-mail addresses for radio broadcasters
is Thorsten Koch's *Internet Guide to Shortwave Broadcasters*.  It is posted
to periodically, or is available on the WWW at the URL or at a mirror site in the
U.S., .  The publication
also includes listings of web sites.

The 1995 WRTH also includes a few e-mail addresses, and the 1996 edition
promises to include many more as part of its regular listings.

One of the best starting points for radio-related web sites, including
those belonging to radio stations, is Pete Costello's Shortwave/Radio
Catalog, available at  If it isn't linked
to on these pages, it's linked to on one of the pages this links to.

o What kind of receiver should I get?

That depends largely on what kind of listening you expect to do.  There are
two or three basic kinds of radios.  The first is the travel portable.  These
usually cost between US$30 and US$250.  Their main characteristic is their
extremely small size, making them most suitable for the person who spends a
lot of time on airplanes.  They do an adequate job of receiving the major
broadcasters, such as the BBC, the Voice of America, Radio Netherlands, etc.
They are generally not capable of receiving hams, or utility transmissions,
and they do not do a good job on weak stations.  They may, therefore, not be
the best choice for expatriates wishing to listen to their home stations, for
instance, especially the less expensive radios.  Many of them also lack
frequency coverage beyond the major international broadcasting bands.  As
such, they cannot receive the channels outside the defined bands that often
provide clearer reception (due to lessened interference) of such stations as
the BBC, Kol Israel, and the Voice of Iran.

There are a number of very low cost (under US$50) SW receivers that are the
subject of frequent inquiries in  In general, radios in
this price range can be expected to perform poorly, but may provide an
inexpensive introduction to the world of shortwave and acceptable reception
of the strongest international stations. The radios offered in this price
range tend to appear and disappear quickly and to be offered at different
outlets under different names.  The radios are pretty much interchangeable,
and you probably shouldn't expend a lot of effort trying to distinguish
between them.

The second category of radios overlaps with the first, and consists of
slightly larger portables.  Common among this category are radios like the
Sangean ATS-803A, (also sold around the world as the Emerson 803A, Siemens RK
651, and many other names), a fine starter radio with many capabilities for
the inexpensive price of US$200, or the Sangean ATS-818.  These radios often
have digital readout, making it easier to know which frequency you are tuned
to, and such features as dual conversion (which decreases the possibility of
your radio receiving spurious signals from other frequencies), audio filters
(which allow you to decrease interference from stations on adjacent
frequencies) and beat frequency oscillators (which allow you to decode morse
code and single sideband (SSB) transmissions on the ham and utility bands).
Current inexpensive favorites in this range include the Grundig YachtBoy 400
and the Sony ICF-7600G, both of which provide outstanding value for the money
(each about US$200 in the United States). The top range of this kind of radio
includes technically sophisticated radios like the Sony ICF-2010, Sony
ICF-SW77, and Grundig Satellit 700, which contain innovative circuitry to
lock on to a given signal and allow you to choose the portion of the signal
you want to listen to, depending on which part gets the least interference.
If you follow the newsgroup for any amount of time, you're bound to notice
some discussion of the relative merit of these features versus their cost
(about double that of the Sangean radios.)  The Sony ICF-7600G provides
access to this feature at a previously unheard of price (make sure you get
the radio with the "G" on it; Sony has made several radios with the "7600"
designation, only one of which contains this feature).  Many of these radios
can be and have been used to receive distant and weak stations from a number
of countries, and can provide a cost-effective way for expatriates to receive
programs from their native countries; they're also suitable for listening to
programs from the major broadcasters.  Most people should never need to buy a
more capable receiver than those in this category.

The third category of receivers is the tabletop receiver.  These receivers
cost from  US$600 upward, with a concentration of radios around  US$1000. 
These radios naturally contain many more features than the portables, and are
used by serious hobbyists who specialize in rare and weak stations.  Current
radios in this group include the ICOM R-71A, the Kenwood R-5000, the Japan
Radio Corporation NRD-535 and NRD-535D, the Lowe HF-150 and HF-225, and the
Drake R8A and SW8.  These radios can be very complex to operate, and are
generally not recommended for the beginner. Radios from the first two
categories can give a beginner a very good idea of what's on the air and where
their interests lie, at which point one of these radios may be an appropriate
acquisition.  Strangely enough, not all of these radios contain the kind of
innovative circuitry that are part of less expensive portables like the Sony
2010 mentioned above.  Newer radios, such as the NRD-535D, the Lowe radios,
and the R8A are starting to include such capabilities.

It must be mentioned that none of these radios, particularly the expensive
ones, are "magic boxes" that will allow you to receive any station you wish. 
Many people find that the jump in performance between a high-end portable
radio and a tabletop is more than offset by the increase in price.  You should
also understand that buying a tabletop radio will not likely allow you to hear
many more stations than a high-end portable.  The main difference between
high-end portables and tabletop radios are in reduced susceptibility to
internally-generated signals, the ability to modify the audio through the use
of filters to reduce interference, the ability to tune more finely (for
example, 10 Hz increments rather than 100 Hz or 1000 Hz increments), and the
stability of the radio, or its tendency to drift from the desired frequency. 
People have often purchased an expensive communications receiver only to
realize that a simpler-to-operate portable was better suited to their
interests and style of listening.

There are many sources for detailed information on specific radios, most of it
provided by two groups.  Larry Magne, who publishes the Passport to World Band
Radio, includes a review of virtually all shortwave radios currently available
in that publication.  For more extensive reviews of selected receivers, he
offers detailed "white papers", which run between ten and twenty pages or so. 
Magne also contributes a monthly review column to Monitoring Times.

The other main source for equipment reviews is a group centered around Radio
Netherlands and the WRTH in Holland.  The WRTH, as mentioned above, has a
review section covering mainly new receivers, but also contains a table with
ratings of most currently available radios.  Radio Netherlands also offers an
excellent free booklet with receiver reviews, as well as occasional
single-receiver review sheets.  The WRTH has also released *The WRTH
Equipment Buyers Guide*.  The second edition of this book will be published
someday. The book contains extended versions of the reports available
in the previous five years of the WRTH, as well as new and updated reports.
It also contains information on accessories and antennas, as well as a fairly
technical tutorial on receivers.

There are also two books published by Gilfer Shortwave in New Jersey that
cover the subject of receivers, called *Radio Receivers, Chance or Choice*,
and *More Radio Receivers, Chance or Choice*.  These books are fairly out of
date now.

The Sony ICF-2010, Drake R8, Lowe HF-150, and older, "hollow state" radios
(those using tubes rather than transistors) have Internet mailing lists
devoted to discussions of their features among users.  Joining these mailing
lists can be a good way to keep up on modifications or workarounds for your
radio.  They tend to be quiet most of the time, with occasional bursts of
activity.  You can join the mailing lists with requests to the following

Sony ICF-2010:
Drake R8:
Lowe HF-150 (or other Lowe radios): hf150-request@batcomfs.Eng.Sun.Com
Tube Radios:

There is also a compliation of radio reviews from the net maintained by 
John Lloyd, posted every month to the newsgroup and available from the
standard ftp sites or through the World Wide Web at .

o Where can I get a shortwave radio?

Many stereo stores and discount chains carry the Sony and Panasonic lines of
receivers; the people there, however, generally don't know much about
shortwave, and you're not likely to find many accessories there.  Mail order
stereo sources like J&R Music or 47th Street Photo in New York generally give
the cheapest prices, but have the same problem.  There are lists available on
the photography newsgroups that can indicate whether a given store of this
type is reliable and provides acceptable service.  More knowledgeable, and
falling roughly between the two in price, are the mail order houses that
specialize in ham and/or shortwave radio.  Many of them offer catalogs that
contain useful tips for the beginner.  Addresses for some of the better-known
and respected businesses in the U.S. can be found at the end of this article.

The author of this article strongly supports these mail order houses, which
can offer knowledgeable advice on which receiver is appropriate for your
situation, how to set up the radio to best take advantage of it, and other
useful personal service not available from the box pushers at the photo
shops, stereo stores, and discount chains.  Many of these businesses 
contribute to the hobby in ways not obvious to the casual observer. 

o Could you explain the frequencies used?  What's the 49 meter band? etc.

As you tune around, you'll notice certain kinds of signals tend to be
concentrated together.  Different services are allocated different frequency
ranges.  International broadcasters, for instance, are assigned to ten
frequency bands up and down the dial.  These are:

3900-4000 kHz (75 meter band)         13600-13800 kHz (22 meter band)
5950-6200 kHz (49 meter band)         15100-15600 kHz (19 meter band)
7100-7300 kHz (41 meter band)         17550-17900 kHz (16 meter band)
9500-9900 kHz (31 meter band)         21450-21850 kHz (13 meter band)
11650-12050 kHz (25 meter band)       25600-26100 kHz (11 meter band)

In general, lower frequencies (below 9000 kHz) are better received at night
and for a few hours surrounding dawn and dusk, and higher frequencies (13000
kHz and up) are better received during the day.  The frequencies in between
are transitional, with reception being possible at most times.  In practice,
these guidelines are not absolute, with reception on high frequencies being
possible at night, and lower frequencies can provide decent medium-distance
reception during the day.  Additionally, these numbers can change slightly
with the changing of the sunspot cycle, which affects the ionization of the
upper atmosphere, and hence the propagation of shortwave signals.  In times of
lower sunspot activity, as is the case in 1995-96, higher frequencies are
generally less useful than lower frequencies, and the range of frequencies
used at any given time of day is generally shifted slightly downward.

Hams (who have their own newsgroups,*) and point-to-point,
or utility communications, fill most of the rest of the frequencies.  The
Confidential Frequency List and The Shortwave Guide mentioned above can
provide more information on what can be heard in these areas, as can utility
loggings in magazines like Monitoring Times and Popular Communications, and in
club bulletins.

o What is SINPO/SIO?

The SINPO code is a way of quantifying reception conditions in a five-digit
code, especially for use in reception reports to broadcasters.  The code
covers Signal strength, Interference (from other stations), Noise (from
atmospheric conditions), Propagation disturbance (or Fading, in the SINFO
code), and Overall.  The code is as follows:

(S)ignal       (I)nterference   (N)oise        (P)ropagation   (O)verall
 5 excellent    5 none           5 none         5 none          5 excellent
 4 good         4 slight         4 slight       4 slight        4 good
 3 fair         3 moderate       3 moderate     3 moderate      3 fair
 2 poor         2 severe         2 severe       2 severe        2 poor
 1 barely aud.  1 extreme        1 extreme      1 extreme       1 unusable

In recent years, many broadcasters have tried to steer listeners away from the
SINPO code and toward the simpler SIO code.  SIO deletes the extremes (1 and
5) and the noise and propagation categories, which were confusing to too many
people to be useful.  In sending reports to stations other than large
international broadcasters who are likely to understand the codes, it is
better to simply describe reception conditions in words.

Radio Netherlands provides an excellent explanation of SINPO and SIO, as well
as a broader explanation of reception reports, in their free booklet "Writing
Useful Reception Reports", also available online from their web site at

o Why can't I receive all of the broadcasts listed in Monitoring

This is a fact of life on shortwave.  Because of propagation, antenna
headings, the kind of radio you have, your local environment, etc., you're
never going to be able to hear all the things you find in a list.  The lists
in Monitoring Times, etc., aren't lists of what's being heard in a general
location.  They're lists of everything that you could possibly hear, from a
daily powerhouse like the BBC to a once or twice a year rarity like Bhutan. 
They're listed because you *might* hear them, depending on where you are and
the given circumstances, not because they're necessarily being heard outside
of their immediate target area.

If you want lists of what is actually being heard in something roughly
analogous to "your area", the best source for these are the logging sections
of the bulletins of the SWL/DX clubs.  You might want to sample a few club
bulletins to see if they'll help.  The bulletins also offer articles from
experts on many facets of the hobby.

o What are some books or other resources that can help me get started?

*The Shortwave Listening Guidebook* by Harry Helms is a book that covers many
of the basics of shortwave listening in an easy-to-understand style.  The
book should be easily available from most shortwave specialty outlets and
many larger chain bookstores in North America.  It is also being published
directly by Mr. Helms, and is therefore likely to stay in print for a while.

Radio Netherlands offers a free Listener Services Catalog listing a number of
free single-topic brochures that they send out upon request.  The brochures
range from simple introductions to shortwave listening and antennas to
explanations of computers and solar forecasts.  Many of these brochures are
available online at Radio Netherlands' web site at

o Where can I find further information?

There are a number of hobby publications available.  Two glossy magazines
which cover the hobby are Monitoring Times and Popular Communications.  They
both cover a number of aspects of the hobby, including international
broadcasts, scanning, pirate radio, QSLing, and Utility broadcasting. 
Monitoring Times also contains listings of broadcasts and programs in English,
which gives it a slight edge.  PopComm is the one you're more likely to find
on your local newsstand, although Monitoring Times is starting to show up in
some larger book stores such as Barnes & Noble.

There are many clubs catering to the hobbyist, many of which publish
bulletins.  Many of these groups are part of an all-encompassing group known
as ANARC, the Association of North American Radio Clubs.  ANARC has a list
available of its constituent clubs, listing addresses, what the focus of each
club is, club publications, and current dues.  You can contact them by writing
to ANARC, 2216 Burkey Dr., Wyomissing, PA 19610, USA.  You should include some
form of return postage when asking for the club list.  The WRTH contains
contact addresses for the clubs that constitute ANARC.

ANARC has counterpart organizations in Europe and the south Pacific.  The
European organization is the European DX Council (EDXC).  More information on
their constituent clubs is available for 2 International Reply Coupons from
P.O. Box 4, St. Ives, Huntingdon, PE17 4FE, England.  In the south Pacific, the
organization is the South Pacific Association of Radio Clubs, or SPARC.  They
offer information from P.O. Box 1313, Invercargill, New Zealand.

A couple of clubs "went under" in spectacular fashion in early 1995, but you 
shouldn't let this dissuade you from joining one.  Any club member will tell
you that the quality and timeliness of the information contained in many
club bulletins is excellent.  And despite the rapid expansion of resources
like Usenet, the Internet, FIDONET, etc., the clubs provide a great deal of
information not available online, including the knowledge of many 
experienced members without access to such electronic forums.

One alternative to consider is joining a local or regional club, which can 
provide members with the opportunity to meet face-to-face periodically to
swap tips, test or trade equipment, or meet visiting luminaries.  One example 
of a club with a strong local presence would be the Michigan Association of
Radio Enthusiasts (MARE) in southeastern Michigan.

And, naturally, listening to the radio can provide you with excellent
information on radio.  There are a number of excellent "DX" programs on the
air for the radio hobbyist.  The WRTH contains a comprehensive list of such
shows; Tom Sundstrom also has a list as part of his Shortwave Database
subscription service.  Different shows have different strengths.  DX Party
Line on Ecuador's HCJB is directed toward the beginner, although their "Quito
Log Book" feature provides information of interest to the DXer specializing in
Latin American stations.  Sweden Calling DXers on Radio Sweden is a compendium
of news about shortwave and satellites, increasingly focused on Scandinavia,
including frequency changes, station reactivations and deactivations, and
such. Radio Netherlands's Media Network is a slickly produced general-coverage
program.  Radio Havana Cuba's "DXers Unlimited" often offers construction tips
for people who like to do things themselves, especially for antennas.  And
Glenn Hauser's World of Radio, which covers mostly DX tips, is available on an
ever-shifting number of stations and times.

o Addresses

BPI Communications                     WRTH Editorial Office
1515 Broadway                          P.O. Box 9027
New York, NY  10036                    1006 AA Amsterdam
United States                          The Netherlands

Radio Netherlands publications         Passport to World Band Radio
English Department                     International Broadcast Services, Ltd.
Radio Netherlands                      Box 300
PO Box 222                             Penn's Park, PA  18943 USA
1200 JG Hilversum                      
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 35 724242
Fax: +31 35 724239

Electronic Equipment Bank              Gilfer Shortwave
137 Church St. N.W.                    52 Park Ave
Vienna, VA  22180 USA                  Park Ridge, NJ  07656 USA
800 368 3270 (orders)                  800 GILFER-1 (445-3371) (orders)
+1 703 938-3350 (local and             +1 201 391-7887 (New Jersey, business
   technical information)                 and technical)
+1 703 938-6911 (FAX)                  Free Catalog
Free catalog                           E-mail:

Grove Enterprises                      
(also Monitoring Times)                
P.O. Box 98                            
Brasstown, NC 28902 USA                
800 438-8155 (toll free N. America)    
+1 704 837-9200
Free Catalog

Universal Radio                        Popular Communications
6830 Americana Pkwy.                   76 North Broadway
Reynoldsburg, Ohio  43068 USA          Hicksville, NY  11801 USA
800 431-3939 (toll free N. America)
+1 614 866-4267
SWL Catalog:  US$1.00

NASWA                                  TRS Consultants
45 Wildflower Road                     PO Box 2275
Levittown, PA 19057                    Vincentown, NJ 08088-2275
Membership costs:  US$26/yr;           +1 609 859-2447
inquire outside of N. America          +1 609 859-3226 (FAX)
sample issue  US$2                     E-mail:
E-mail:                 GEnie E-mail: T.SUNDSTROM  WWW:

MARE, Inc.                             Canadian International DX Club
P.O. Box 530933                        79 Kipps Street
Livonia, MI  48153-0933                Greenfield Park, PQ
(US$9.50/yr to USA and Canada          CANADA J4V 3B1
 others inquire)                       (C$26/yr to Canada, US$25/yr to USA
E-mail:       others inquire)

Klingenfuss Publications               Ontario DX Association
Hagenloher str. 14                     P.O. Box 161, Station A
D-72070 Tuebingen                      Willowdale, ON
Germany                                CANADA M2N 5S8
+49 7071 62830                         +1 416 853-3169 (phone and FAX)
+49 7071 600849 (FAX)                  (C$30.76/yr to Canada, US$26/yr to USA

DX Computing
232 Squaw Creek Road
Willow Park, TX 76087
+1 817 441-9188
+1 817 441-5555 (FAX)
America Online: DX Comp
Ralph Brandi     att!mtunp!ralph

Stay idiot-proof.  --Log, "Idiot Proof"

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