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The SWL, amateur radio, and RF hobby thread

Dan

Dear Leader
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When I was a dorky kid, one of my hobbies was SWLing, or listening to shortwave radio stations. I wasn't a tinfoil hat-wearing teen; I was just fascinated that, with a decent radio and a long wire antenna, I could receive radio signals from all around the world. If I verified reception with a station, sending them a signal report and a self-addressed envelope with a couple of international reply coupons, I'd receive a QSL card in return. The 1970s and early 1980s were the golden years of shortwave radio. The Cold War was still being fought, Vladimir Posner was the articulate English-speaking voice of Radio Moscow, and manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic made inexpensive, user friendly, yet very sensitive portable shortwave radios, some of which are highly sought after today.

I still have a few radios that can receive shortwave broadcasts, but the post-Cold War pickings are slim. Radio Pyongyang is still blasting out its bombast, and a few legacy broadcasters still air news and cultural programs. However, 90% of what comes through the speakers are conspiracy theory and prepper rants, loud bullhorn-on-the-plaza calls for revolucion in Spanish, and Jesus. Lots and lots of fire, brimstone, and snake oil. With local market radio from around the world on my phone, I have no reason to flip the band switch from AM to SW1. Active SWLers may deny that shortwave radio is dead, but for those in English-speaking countries, it seems to be in hospice.

So, have you listened to shortwave radio lately?
 

DVD

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Had a guy come in to apply for a HAM radio tower permit. I'm not a radio guy though.

A couple funny stories about one of my Captain's in the Navy. This guy was an avid radio guy and generally no one liked him. He was an ass that made us all play buy the rules, but would never follow them for himself. So one day he goes in the radio room. Which he's allowed, it's all top secret, but not a problem. He starts messing with the dials and knobs and stuff and apparently screwed up our IFF (identification friend/foe) signal. He was banned from his own radio room and they assigned a messenger to deliver things right away to make sure he never showed up.

Part two of the story. He had this giant antenna coming off the bumper of his car that he used sash cord from the ship to tie down. You're obviously not allowed to use ship's equipment for your own personal use. So every time one us walked by the car we would whip out the knife and cut the cord. He would drive off with this giant antenna flopping around behind him. It was bolted to the bumper, but it couldn't have been good for it.
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
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I gather the internet and email has played a big role in decline of ham radio. I understand one can send and receive QSL 'cards' electronically/instantaneously now. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the card if you ask me. Receiving a card in the mailbox postmarked with interesting stamps from, say, Mongolia, has a certain exotic allure. Getting an email confirmation of the same...not so much. Heck, a request for aid from a Nigerian prince has a more 'exotic' flavor than that.
 

Dan

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I used to have an amateur radio license, but let it lapse several years ago. I don't want to shell out the big bucks for HF voice. I don't think I have the patience or real estate for QRP. Also, the VHF and UHF repeaters around here are silent, even with the region's educated and geeky population. Not interested in nets, or idle chit-chat about radio equipment or antenna design. Even though I may be AARP eligible now, I still feel like a youngster compared to the OMs that dominate the ham bands.

Not to get all #metoo about it, but I've never heard a woman on the amateur bands -- HF, VHF, or UHF, when I had a license or when I listen on a SDR. I know the ARRL has been trying to get women interested in amateur radio for a few decades, but I don't think they're having much success.

There's still a part of me that wants to take an exam, get a new no-code license, and buy a $25 Chinese dual band HT just to have around.

Receiving a card in the mailbox postmarked with interesting stamps from, say, Mongolia, has a certain exotic allure. Getting an email confirmation of the same...not so much. Heck, a request for aid from a Nigerian prince has a more 'exotic' flavor than that.
When I was a kid, getting little pins and pennants from radio stations in the Eastern Bloc was a thrill. They may have been communists, but they knew marketing. I've been waiting for my QSL card from Radio Pyonggang for 35 years now, though.
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
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There are certain forms of geekdom that shall forever be the sole province of guys. Ham radio is one of these. As are model railroading and steam engine enthusiasts. I'm not saying the cause for this is necessarily genetic, but the reality is that 99% of these enthusiasts are of the Y chromosome variety.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to post something on pinterest about my latest crochet and hook latch rug creations.
 

Bubba

Cyburbian
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One of our junior folks here at work does the ham radio thing, but for him it's more because he's an equipment guy. My site visits occasionally involve AM radio transmitter sites, some of which have been in place since the 1920s...I like to taunt him with the pictures of the older hardware.

 

Dan

Dear Leader
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Is that a glowing tube? With the decline of AM radio -- and its nonexistence in some countries -- I wonder how hard it would be to get parts for those old transmitters. I would imagine the cost of replacing an old transmitter may be one reason many AM stations are going dark.
 

el Guapo

Professor Emeritus of Cyburbian Studies
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There ain't no party like a DX party in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In case you were wondering, the receiver is a Tecsun PL 880. Despite multiple attempts using a long wire dropped from the roof of the Hale Koa Hotel, and one attempt from atop Diamond Head, the shortwave signals were few and far between. 2018-09-02 12.39.04.jpg2018-09-02 11.58.27.jpg

One last thought for Dan regarding female hams. I read a quote somewhere recently that went something like this, "If you don't believe humans have been successfully cloned for at least 8 decades, you have obviously never been to a Ham Fest. Even the ear hair is identical."
 
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Dan

Dear Leader
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There ain't no party like a DX party in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In case you were wondering, the receiver is a Tecsun PL 880. Despite multiple attempts using a long wire dropped from the roof of the Hale Koa Hotel, and one attempt from atop Diamond Head, the shortwave signals were few and far between.
I did the same thing for my honeymoon in Kihei on Maui. A little bit after sunset one night, I walked out to the beach with my little Tecsun, and tuned around the 49m, 41m, 31m, and 25m bands. Found a broadcast of a rugby game from New Zealand, a few Mandaran language broadcasts, and WWVH. Not much else. I didn't bother to SWL or AM DX in Alaska.

I took a Grundig Yacht Boy to Iceland with me, because I was curious about that I could receive in a small, remote country with no AM/MW broadcasting. Late at night, with aurora borealis activity and 10 khz spacing, I heard no American or Canadian clear channel AM blowtorches, not even WKBW at 1520. With 9 khz spacing, I barely got one station from Ireland. Northing on longwave, except a station from Morocco I can sometimes get in the northeastern US if the conditions are just right. The FM band sounded no different than what I'd hear in the US, except for the Icelandic language DJs and commercials.

One last thought for Dan regarding female hams. I read a quote somewhere recently that went something like this, "If you don't believe humans have been successfully cloned for at least 8 decades, you have obviously never been to a Ham Fest. Even the ear hair is identical."
Damn.

 

Bubba

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Why yes - yes it is. The resident engineer is proud of their old equipment and was more than happy to have an excuse to fire it up..
...and this is the transmitter building housing that glowing tube:

 
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