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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Check it out. Maybe you’ll end up with a ham radio station.
CREDIT TO: PALMBEACHPOST.COM
I add: or with a SWL shack.