I recently purchased a home (built in the 50s, northern USA) and the man who previously lived there definitely did some DIY work around the house. I found a mess of (seemingly disconnected) wiring that connects to a thin steel cable in my basement ceiling, and I'd like to know what it is / was.

Within an air duct, there's a long pair of wires, perhaps 18 awg, orange and white. They go through some holes in the duct, and the orange wraps around a pipe, I assume to ground it. The white one is soldered to what looks like a thin steel cable that runs all throughout the basement. It is installed much more neatly, and I assume was professionally installed to once serve a useful purpose.

I'd like to know what the thin steel cable is, what it was originally for, and anything I should know when I pull out the orange and white wiring and disconnect them from it.

Here's the orange and white wiring seen in the vent

This is the thin steel cable it connects to

Here's how the thin steel cable terminates

  • 1
    I removed the "feel free to speculate" portion because that invites opinion and opinion-based questions are explicitly off topic.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 20, 2023 at 13:42
  • Just for what it's worth: there's a bare steel wire running from basement to attic in my house because I left it there to make pulling new cables easier in the future. But mine isn't secured anywhere near as neatly as this one.
    – keshlam
    Mar 20, 2023 at 20:12

2 Answers 2


Appears most likely to be an old long-wire Radio Antenna. Likely run through the duct to get to where the receiver was. Unlikely to have been a transmitting antenna.

Typical of "crystal" radio sets, and many shortwave receivers. More modern "crystal" designs generally use a commercial diode rather than a crystal acting as a diode. Usually shorthanded to crystal as they are otherwise quite similar.

  • the crystal part seems irrelevant
    – user253751
    Mar 21, 2023 at 4:29
  • Given it's by far the most common sort of radio attached to this sort of antenna, it's relevant.
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 21, 2023 at 13:03

It looks like simple half of the bipolar antenna (horizontal antenna) used in CB radio communication.

It operates in 27 Mhz range.

Since its total length is 11+11 feet it is difficult to hide outside..

CQ..CQ is the long distance call

For that frequency you do not need license.

  • 9
    27 MHz is CB radio, not amateur radio (Ham). CQ is a call to anyone willing to respond; it's not about long distance. Mar 20, 2023 at 13:02
  • 1
    How are you determining wire length? I see nothing in the question that would indicate the length. Mar 20, 2023 at 18:21
  • 2
    @manasse maybe because that is the proper length for this sort of antenna? Or perhaps Ruskes was the previous owner and installed the antenna :)
    – Conrado
    Mar 20, 2023 at 21:01
  • 1
    You can't quite see it in the picture I took, but the red marker says 11 1/4. I assumed it was from building the house, but maybe it's related to the antenna length. I didn't measure, but it certainly seemed longer than 11 feet when I was tracing it around in the ceiling
    – Jimbalaya
    Mar 20, 2023 at 22:48

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