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January 26, 2013


Doug T.

Clearly incorrect -- the majority of shortwave broadcasts are NOT available via Internet streaming. For example, most amateur radio communications are not available over the Internet.

Also, the Internet is not ubiquitous -- if you are in Africa (slow connection), or China ("Great Firewall"), or many other places in the world, you may find access to the Internet difficult.


Most amateur radio operators (Hams) are boring old men bragging about whose antenna is bigger. Yawn. For that I'm going to spend 500 bucks?i

Neil Goldstein

Amateur radio licensing is at an all time high. More and more people have been attracted to the hobby for several reasons.

-There is a huge resurgence in kit building and do-it-yourself electronics. Even Radio Shack has a large kit section in their stores again and is considering getting back into Ham Radio.

-Ham Radio has reached the computer age, with software-defined-radio, rig control, and digital modes.

-During the hurricane here on the East Coast, many people learned that when their land lines, and cell phones failed, if they had a neighbor with Ham Radio equipment, they were able to communicate in an emergency.

Shortwave listening is far from dead, but not what it used to be. It's the challenge that people enjoy. Anyone can turn on an internet radio or google a station somewhere in the world, but it's fun to try to "catch" the rare stations. Comparing the two activities though is like telling a bicyclist that his form of transportation is antiquated and he should just drive.

My articles on Ham Radio kit building, and my Shortwave primer have had more hits than anything else I've ever written. We are here to stay.

Oh, and we don't brag about the size of out antennas, but the distance of our contacts. I think New York to Alaska with 5 Watts was pretty impressive.


I've listened to hams quite a bit. It's true they don't just talk about antennas. There's also quite a bit of discussion of the weather.

I'm a bit soured on hams because I've been a shortwave listener since God was a teenager, give or take a bit. I listen to shortwave because I want to hear foreign points of view directly from the source, to have a better idea of world events than you'd get listening to domestic services only. I thought this was a Good Thing. Yet when I'd mention it to hams they'd get this blank, sheeplike expression on their faces and intone "Shortwave Broadcast Listening is Good because it Might Lead You into THE HOBBY." Every single time. I swear, the hams must have that tattooed on their frontal lobes when they get their licenses.

A bit off-putting, that is, since it is saying that there is only One True Hobby in the world (theirs, of course). And that what I like is only important in so far as it might lead to what YOU like. Which is talking endlessly about antennas and the weather.

In spite of new technology shortwave broadcast listening is still a great way to get a foreign perspective on things. So is streaming those stations over the Internet. Streaming, however, will only allow you to do this until your betters decide that foreign "propaganda" is bad for you and decide to protect you from it. It's not that hard to filter an internet connection. It's not that hard to intimidate people into avoiding foreign information, either. I can remember when (we believed at least) that if we got any mail from a godless commie nation we'd have to go down to the Post Office and sign for it, or they'd just destroy it. If you did go down and sign for it, you got a nice FBI file with your name on it. That's what we believed, anyway, and it did serve to discourage seeking free information, whether or not anything illegal was being done.

As for that whole propaganda thing, that's shaky ground. I have noticed as I get older that "propaganda" too often translates as "truth you don't want to hear."

I remember one interesting example of that, many years ago. I happened to tune into the Voice of Nicaragua one night, and they were going hysterical over some US Navy ship movements. I listened a while and thought "Grenada? Why in the name of hell would we invade Grenada? Stupid Commie propaganda. I'm going to bed." And so I did.


Neil certainly proves one of your points, Bill.
As far as what gets filtered, did you ever for a minute in all your years of SWLing (yes, I was one too) believe what you were hearing broadcast from Radio Moscow, Radio Havana, or even The Good old VOA? Come on, those who own the transmitters have always had a stranglehold over what gets broadcast, so the sinister suggestion that a tyrannical US Gubmint might take away our internet streams sounds frankly paranoid. The net would be much more difficult to censor than a broadcast operation. But how,s the weather at your 2O? Say hi to the XYL and 83's!

Neil Goldstein

Just for the record, I only got my license a year and a half ago, and have been an SWL for about 40 years. Having said that, yes, Bill is correct. There are a lot of Hams that look at SWLing as an elementary stepping stone to their world. And, I agree that is not the way to attract people. My own uncle Win (W1PVC - SK) was always trying to get me to take the steps to get licensed. Hams DO talk a lot about antennas and the weather. But, then hunters talk a lot about guns, and Fishermen talk a lot about their poles. This is not strange. There is more to hear, though not always riveting. I heard a guy on 10 meters 2 weeks ago talk about his cats for an hour, and then repeat the whole story with the next contact. There is a lot more to what we do than "antenna talk".

During Irene we had an operator at each Red Cross station here, so that they could communicate with each other, and their HQ. We had a local net in my town where people who still had phone service could relay calls to loved ones, the authorities, employers, and whatever was needed. We had a constant stream of useful information running on our local repeater for anyone who needed shelter, supplies, or assistance.

When I chat on the air, I find myself talking about food, hiking, cars, and almost anything not directly radio-related. We even have a weekly SWL net in this area, run by Hams.

I'm not sure who you listen to, but I'm sorry if you have gotten the wrong idea.

As far as propaganda, I always found the old Radio Moscow hilariously entertaining, only second to Radio Tirana, which was so over-the-top strange that it defied explanation.

I miss the BBC WS broadcasts that were beamed to North America, and the old Radio Canada, and so many more that are gone. There's still plenty to hear though.

GIve us crazy hams another listen, at least those of us born in the last 50 years. You might be surprised.

--Neil W2NDG

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