Shortwave Radios

This is a continuation of my post about the cyber attack on Morgan Hill, CA.  In that post, I mentioned how the “ham” radio operators helped out, and suggested that people either get their license, get a CB radio, or befriend someone who has one.  I want to discuss part of this today.

If you have a scanner and your local ham radio club has a repeater, then you’re half-way to the goal of being informed.  What you’ll want to do is find out the frequencies that they use, and program them into your scanner.  If you don’t want to be bothered with the idle chit-chat that happens on the repeater, simply lock the frequencies out until such time as you need them.  This is also beneficial if they provide storm chasing or skywarn for your area.

Buying a CB and antenna is pretty simple.  You really don’t need to spend a lot of money—although you may want to spend a little more to have it properly installed.  One thing to keep in mind is that using a CB nowadays is not like “Smokey and the Bandit” or “Convoy”.  If you act like the characters on those movies, you’ll probably be ignored.  While the lingo is similar (“Break 19” or “10-20”) the attitude is way different.  You’ll find people having normal conversations on there more than anything else.

The title of this post is about shortwave radios.  I purchased an old tube-type radio (built in 1942) from my parents who were antique dealers.  With it, I was able to get QSL’s from stations in the Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, China, and Japan.  QSL’s are basically confirmations that you actually heard their broadcast.  It’s an inexpensive hobby.  And it exposes you to viewpoints other than those of your country.  Plus in times of emergency, it will give you a better sense of what’s happening.

This especially ties into yesterday’s blog post.  Quite a few of the shortwave broadcasters are turning off their transmissions in favor of digital (satellite or Internet-based broadcasting).  That’s fine, except for the events in Morgan Hill prove that your station (or your radio) can be cut off simply by cutting a cable.  Had one of those stations been located in the San Jose area (Morgan Hill) they wouldn’t have been heard at all. 

I’m encouraging the people in general to look into the shortwave listening as a hobby.  And I’m encouraging the broadcasters to not completely give up on the medium for transmission.  The more people who request QSL’s from stations, the more encouraged the stations will be to continue broadcasting.  Because the more that they receive requests, the greater the chances that any advertising or other money-making ventures being used on the SW broadcast will be successful. 

The incident in California this month should strengthen the resolve not to do away with the old but tried-and-true methods.  While the Internet is the way of the future, it’s not foolproof and it’s not the only way that works.

If you’re interested in learning more about Shortwave, I recommend http://www.shortwavelog.com as one source.  That will provide you with a means of tracking your logs and finding out what you may be able to hear.  Plus, certain people offer their stations up for you to listen via the Internet. 

You can also find out about the radios that are recommended.  You don’t need to purchase the high-end radio receivers.  I actually have received a lot of my QSL’s on a Grundig Mini 300 receiver which got low rankings in all of it’s reviews.  It cost me about $30.00 or so.

Have a great day everyone.  I’m off to fire up the tube-type radio and see what I can get with the lightning storm passing through.  The electro-magnetics may give me something interesting…..

Patrick.

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