Monday, January 5, 2015

an interesting story of an old man...

Last week I was in my backyard using a fishing rod to cast a heavy weight up as high as I could into a tree.
As you might expect, that attracted the attention of my next door neighbors. Which was a relief in a way; it’s usually the strange bugling cries of my beagle — Lucy — that garners attention, mostly negative, in the neighborhood. So it was a useful distraction.
What was an elderly bald-headed man doing, seemingly fishing in a tree? I was trying to get a line over a high branch so I could first pull up nylon cord and then use it to pull still another wire antenna into that tree. My hobby of shortwave listening and ham radio talking doesn’t attract a bunch of attention for itself but my efforts to string up more wire antennas never fails to make me the subject of whispering speculation from neighbors — much of it hostile, much of it true.
But if you follow my advice today and investigate my favorite hobby you are in store for more than the occasional need to prove to the courts that your mental balance is fair to good. Radio opens up a whole new way of traveling the world. It’s is often seen as an old-fashioned pursuit — twiddling a radio dial to tune in a broadcast from some distant country. After all, it’s much easier to travel there by clicking your mouse to travel to some website.
So let me admit from the start that the appeal of shortwave radio involves magic as well as logic. And as often is true of magic, not everyone feels that tug. But for some my invitation to try shortwave listening will set you on the road to a world that’s pure and direct — untouched by the Internet. And maybe that’s part of the charm — it’s a one-to-one transaction with no middleman such as the Internet needed.
Just last night I listened as a commercial aircraft reported in as it flew over the North Atlantic; then at the touch of a dial I listened to Middle Eastern music that seemed enhanced by the occasional burst of static. Another change of frequency and I was listening to a couple of ham radio operators discussing the virtues of cornbread and bird dogs.
And since I am also a ham radio operator, I could grab my microphone and weigh in on the debate — coming down strongly for cornbread baked in an iron skillet and for German shorthaired pointers as a superior type of bird dog. That’s ham radio, but let’s start with shortwave listening.
It doesn’t take a big investment to get started. And if you follow my purchasing advice you won’t get burned, even if you eventually decide shortwave listening isn’t for you. I don’t think you should pay a bundle for your first radio. You should get a battery-powered model that covers the commercial AM/FM broadcast bands as well as shortwave. That way, if you end up being bored by shortwave listening, you’ll still have a battery-powered radio that will let you listen to local stations during a power outage or to weather emergency for information that could save your life, and the radio will offer a handy way to sit in the backyard and listen to music or sports.
If we combine all those attributes, including low price, a radio such as the C Crane CC SW Pocket AM/FM Shortwave Pocket & Travel Radio wouldn’t be a crazy choice. You can find it on Amazon — among other places — for $55 at this address: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0012R8O1M?psc=1. While on Amazon you can browse through other candidates for a shortwave receiver. My recommendation? Do a search for the brand name Sangean. Many low-cost radios by that company offer good performance for the price.
If your interest in shortwave listening sticks around, then you’ll probably eventually decide to replace a radio like that with a more versatile and expensive model. But spend enough time with your starter radio to get an accurate gauge on your interest.
I mentioned that I am a ham radio operator. That, in some ways, is an entirely different hobby. I routinely talk to other ham radio operators all over the world. If you decided to follow that path it’s good to know that you don’t need an elaborate radio. Used ham radio transceivers in the $500 price range will do fine. Nor is it hard to get a license from the FCC to transmit. You’ll take a multiple choice test — no need to know Morse code anymore.
The way to start with ham radio, since there’s so much to know before you even think of buying a radio is at the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) website. The ARRL is the organization that best represents American ham radio and you’ll find a huge amount of information at the website, www.arrl.org.
Check it out. Maybe you’ll end up with a ham radio station.


I add:  or with a SWL shack.