After trying to copy Shortwave Australia on 4835 this AM, the curiosity bug has bitten me. What, I wonder, is it about SWLing that keeps my fellow readers of SWLing.com coming back?
For me, it’s three things. First, I think Treasure Island ruined me as a kid. Ever since I read it, shiver me timbers matey, the search for The Hidden Thing – whether treasure in the ground or a signal on the airwaves – has been a lifelong fascination for me.
Second, I enjoy trying to tease a faint signal out of the ether. That’s why I got a kick out of trying to hear the Armed Forces Crossband Test.
Finally, I enjoy the physical act of operating a radio, turning the dial, adjusting the controls, tuning the preselector, and so forth.
So now, it’s your turn – what keeps you coming back and tuning the airwaves?
The blog included a link to a PDF file that listed all the details, such as times, frequencies, and military stations that were participating (including some that were aboard ships), and there was even a link where you could submit your information online to receive a QSL card. I thought it would be fun to see if I could hear some of the military stations.
At 3:29 pm on May 14, I posted a comment on the blog:
1850Z & 1925Z — 14.487 MHz — Station sending CW CQ CQ CQ (I can copy but not read the rest), believed to be NSS — US Naval Academy transmitting for Annual Armed Forces Crossband test.
At 3:37 pm, I posted:
1934Z — 14.487 station NSS announces in voice they are listening 14.234.0 USB. Additional contacts in SSB. “It’s raining buckets here.”
Not hearing anything further, I filled out the QSL request for — which asked for two-way contact information. I explained that I had only heard the Anapolis station, but I gave the details. Frankly, I did not hold out much hope for receiving a card, but yesterday it arrived.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Haluk Mesci, who shares the following guest post:
AGA is the agha of radios…
by Haluk Mesci
Full disclosure: Contains nostalgia of ‘my parent’s radio’ and some 36 ‘and’s…
I was born and raised in Turkey. Throughout some part of my primary and secondary school years–between 1960 to 1968–we enjoyed listening to an AGA tube radio in the family room.
Although AGA is mainly Swedish as far as I know, I re-discovered a stock photo of it on agamuseum.nl which is Dutch:
Ours had a ‘magic eye’ just above the tuning knob on the right
I remember, at age 9, trying to listen to a live broadcast of a soccer match between Fenerbahce–my favorite team–and the French team of Nice: There was a ‘Nis’ -Turkish spelling- on the MW screen, so there had to be a broadcast, right? Wrong.
I learned much later that it wasn’t that easy on radio. (Alas, my team was devastated 5-1 anyhow.) Similar ‘search’ for ‘Russian Sputnik sending messages to the world’ yielded nothing but strange sounds like ‘a diesel engine working loudly’… I wasn’t a silly kid, but nobody taught us basic radio then.
Years passed and my family relocated to Samsun, another city by the Black Sea, because of my father’s work. I was about to graduate from ODTU and there was the famous leftist (anti-US etc) ‘boycott’s of 1968 and later, I had to go live with my parents while my university courses remained suspended.
Ironically, the city had a US radar base; the base had a low power MW radio station broadcasting news and music -rock and country etc- 24 hours in English to the base staff: AFRTS 1590 kHz.
Shortly thereafter, the base was closed and the radio station went off the air, maybe because of the boycotts and the political winds in Turkey, so I had to look up another such station. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:
The Essential Listening Post
By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM
Listening to shortwave radio (or any radio, for that matter) is just plain fun.
So what do you need to get in on the fun?
A radio. With today’s crop of portable SW radios, many of which have search and store capabilities, a newbie SWL can get started quickly without a lot fuss and bother and no extra stuff. Just hit the search and store function (it has different names on different radios), let the search function do its thing, and step through the memories to see what’s out there. If your radio doesn’t have search and store, you can just tune around to see what’s currently broadcasting or, if you have a computer or smart phone, use it to explore one of the online directories like https://shortwaveschedule.com/
What follow next are some things that I’ve found increase my enjoyment of SWLing. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jerome van der Linden, for the following guest post:
Experiences as an SWL in Saudi Arabia 1990 /91
by Jerome van der Linden
From about 1986 I worked for the Broadcasting Division of Telecom Australia (now “Telstra”), in Adelaide, South Australia. This Division of Telecom Australia had responsibility for installation, maintenance and operation of Australian Government funded broadcasting services (radio & TV) such as ABC (including Radio Australia) and SBS. In later years responsibility for this was taken away from Telecom Australia and handed to BAI.
I already had a life long interest in Broadcasting and short wave radio in particular, and I was recruited into a new non technical managerial position in the then new Broadcasting Division of Telecom Australia: it was the perfect job to my mind. In this period of the late 1980s, the organisation was heavily involved in the capital works to get Radio Australia Cox Peninsula (Darwin) back into operation, after it was largely destroyed by cyclone Tracy in 1975, as well as building the three Northern Territory vertical incidence (“shower”) services at Katherine, Tennant Creek, and Alice Springs (VL8K, VL8T, and VL8A respectively). (The NT is probably about the size of a major US state like Texas). Apart from doing my non technical work, I took every opportunity to learn more and get involved in the technical side of things. On one occasion, when I knew that the technical staff would be testing the new transmission facilities on a range of frequencies, I was able to confirm with the onsite technician a booming signal into Adelaide from the Alice Springs transmitter he was briefly testing on 11715kHz in the daytime.
Alice Springs (VL8A) transmitter site in the last year is was operating (Photo by Jerome van der Linden).
As the opportunity arose, and as I was also part of the Southern Cross DX Club, I regularly participated in the Radio Australia DX program (I cannot even remember its name, 30 years later) that was produced by Mike Bird. I also contacted many rural cattle stations (equivalent to “ranches” in the US) that were spread throughout the Northern Territory to get them to report on how they were receiving the new NT HF service broadcasting stations when they came on the air. I saw it as a way of promoting the shortwave radio services throughout the Northern Territory.
My work gave me the opportunity to visit not just each of the new NT HF transmitter stations, but also included several visits to the Radio Australia (RA) facility at Cox Peninsula. While I also saw the old RA Receiving station on Cox Peninsula (dating from the period when signals were received from RA Shepparton and then re-transmitted from Darwin, in the period pre cyclone Tracy), this was at a time when that facility had already been largely dismantled.
In early 1990, I sought and was awarded a contract position with Telecom Australia’s Saudi project, and I was seconded to that from my job in the Broadcasting Division. From my own research, I knew that radio and TV in Saudi Arabia was quite unlike what I was used to, and I made it a point to take with me, on loan, a Sony ICF 2001D receiver. So it was in March 1990 that I arrived in Riyadh on a single person’s contract. I was allocated a 2 storey 3 bedroom villa for my own use among a large number of other identical villas occupied by other Telecom Australia staff, that were all located within a walled compound close to the Saudi Telecom offices.
Almost immediately, it was obvious that I would have to rely on the BBC World Service for my English news, as the KSABS radio services were nearly all in Arabic, and its TV service was even less appealing to me. I managed to string up some long wire antennas on the roof, and it was not long before I was also able to pick up services from Radio Australia. I got in touch with Nigel Holmes, then RA’s Frequency Manager in Melbourne, and was able to let him know how signals were being received in the Middle East, even though South Asia was about the limit of RA’s intended reach at that time. As my office was in the city of Riyadh some distance away, I was allocated a car for my own use, and – having found these were quite common – soon fitted it with a Short Wave capable car radio. In fact it was the one I reviewed in the 1991 WRTH.
The compound housing the many Australians and their families had its own CCTV system, and the Aussies were entertained by a regular supply of Australian VHS TV tapes. The same CCTV network was also used by Australians from the project making out as wannabee disk jockeys with their own programs before 7am and into the evenings.
As many people will recall, in mid 1990, Sadam Hussein, the then leader of Iraq, invaded Kuwait, and there was some concern he might continue and invade Saudi Arabia. As a direct consequence, radio with World news became even more important for the Australians, and the many other expats working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
An unexpected benefit to the expats living in Riyadh was the arrival of thousands of US ground forces, who brought with them their very own AFN broadcasting services which operated on FM with their own high pitched professional female DJs who played the latest pop music. This was at a time when this type of music was not heard at all on local Saudi radio, and the only source we had of modern music was the many bootlegged copies of cassette music which were for sale everywhere (in addition to pirated copies of software).
When Sadam Hussein decided to stop international residents from leaving Iraq to travel home, their roles as ‘hostages’ caused international broadcasters to improve their services into the Middle East.
That included Radio Australia, and at least one of its Cox Peninsula transmitters was used to improve the signal to the Middle East in the hours up to its daily shutdown at midnight Darwin time (1430UTC). The strongest signal in those days was a 21MHz frequency, and it mostly boomed in. I recall one evening when the transmitter’s audio sounded very suspect to me. I made a quick international phone call direct to Cox Peninsula; spoke to the duty shift supervisor who I knew personally; described the signal to him; he picked the problem; switched the transmitter off and placed another transmitter online on the same frequency which gave clean audio, that I was able to confirm to him.
A Patriot missiles being fired to intercept a scud missile on 24 Feb, 1991 (Photo by Jerome van der Linden)
It was about this time that I realised my Sony ICF2001D had a feature I could use to the benefit of all my fellow Australians in the compound. In the first instance, I was able to arrange for an audio feed from the 2001D in my villa into the compound’s CCTV system, so that – provided someone plugged the audio in correctly – the signal from my Sony radio’s line out was relayed to every other villa that cared to listen. As I was absent during most of the working day, I used the Sony’s programming feature that allowed for up to 4 separate listening sessions to be set up. Each program required a SW frequency and start/stop times to be programmed. I think each session had a time limit of perhaps 4 hours. This enabled me to set the radio up to relay BBC World Service for most of the day switching automatically to certain frequencies as appropriate, and also provided the people with some brief Radio Australia segments with news from home.
In the period prior to January 1991’s, when George Bush had promised to retake Kuwait if Sadam Hussein did not withdraw, it was also interesting to pick up Iraqi broadcasts intended for (and to try to demoralise) American servicemen. Very strong signals from Baghdad were regularly audible, I seem to recall 11825kHz being one such frequency.
In the event, about January 16, 1991 the allies invaded Kuwait from Saudi Arabia, and made devastating air based attacks on Iraqi facilities. Radio Baghdad’s shortwave service did not seem to last very long after that.
We Australians were told in no uncertain fashion that Iraqi “Scud” missiles were ballistic (hence not accurately targeted), and would definitely not have the range to reach Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The experts were wrong however, and a couple of scuds did reach Riyadh. As our compound was in the “flight path” from Iraq to the Riyadh airbase the Americans were using, it turned out we were not in the best location! The American forces had “Patriot Missiles” set up to intercept any Scuds that got through, but nobody told us that the Patriots break the sound barrier seconds after being fired, and that they’re only capable of intercepting Scud missiles just before they hit the ground. You can imagine the sonic booms that went off the first night Scud missiles arrived: I have photo in my home that some daredevil took outside, that proves all this.
We had been told to tape up the glass on our villas in case it should shatter, and that we should leave our TV sets tuned to our CCTV channel turned on at all times, with the volume up so that if there was an air raid the staff and their families could be alerted by means of a piercing alarm sound that someone had fiendishly created. And so it was that one Thursday, when Jonathan Marks had scheduled a telephone interview with me for Radio Netherland’s Media Network, we were discussing media events in Saudi Arabia when the air raid alarm went off, and we had to postpone the rest of the interview. I seem to recall that he did call me again later the same night and we finished things off. I never did get to hear the program, or I would have recorded it! As far as I know, it’s not one of the programs that Jonathan has been able to find to include in his on line media vault. If anyone else has a copy of this early 1991 edition, I’d love to hear it again.
As the experts had been wrong in their assessment, it was decided that most of the Australians would be removed from Riyadh, and I was sent to do my work from Jeddah, for about 6 weeks. Again it was a slightly different media environment, and while interesting, I missed the ICF2001D, and bought a cheap multi band analogue portable to be able to keep up to date with BBC World Service News broadcasts.
By early March 1991, most of the fighting was over, and it was safe for me to return to Riyadh, where I worked for another two or three months, before returning to my normal job and family in Australia.
Off-Air Audio Recordings
Radio Baghdad to US Troops (1990):
BBC World Service News of the start of Desert Storm (January 16, 1991):
Radio Australia announcement by the acting Foreign Affairs Minister (January 16, 1991):
AFN Riyadh (Brief clip of Army Sergeant Patty Cunningham signing off her shift):
Since the demise of my Sony ICF-SW100, I’ve decided to do some AM Dx’ing. A few years ago I purchased a Sangean PR-D15 as my dedicated “AM Dx Radio”. Despite owning it for a few years, I hadn’t yet really put it through its paces.
Note: My 1994 Gründig Yacht Boy 400, with its 150mm (5.9″) ferrite rod antenna, performs splendidly on AM and until this purchase, the YB400 was the radio I grabbed for AM Dx.
At the time of my purchase – if my memory is correct – the other models I had considered were the CC Radio 2 (now discontinued), the CC Radio 2E (it was a relatively new release at the time), and the Original CC Radio EP (now discontinued & replaced by the CC Radio EP Pro).
Admittedly, part of my decision was based on cost. At the time, the CC Radio 2 & 2E were priced over 2x the cost of the PR-D15 and the CC Radio EP was $15-$20 more when shipping was added. Besides the cost, I chose the PR-D15 based on a few things I had read online. But the aspect that really appealed to me is the 200mm (7.9”) Ferrite Rod Antenna and that compared favorably with the C. Crane offerings (yes – ferrite size isn’t everything, but it is an important consideration). So after having read online comments (reviews, discussion boards, etc.) about the PR-D15, I felt very comfortable with my decision and it wasn’t based on cost alone.
Frankly, I don’t really care how well my AM radio performs during the day (I hope this isn’t sacrilege). Why? During the day whether I’m in the car, working in the garage – whatever – I’ll typically stream my favorite station (NYC) via radio.com on my iPhone so I can pause, rewind, or pick-up where I left off. Until my Sangean PR-D15 can do that, I prefer to daytime stream. My “hobby” of AM Dxing is in the evening – to relax and have fun (and isn’t that what a hobby is supposed to be?). Keep that in mind as I reveal my results.
I intended to do my AM Dx Nighttime Test in one night, but I was getting so may stations that I had to extend it over two nights. I started each session around 8PM and they lasted until 11:30PM – 12AM (over 7.5-hours of testing on consecutive nights late this week). I had my PR-D15 on a lazy susan turntable and I had two nearby laptops – one to aid as an AM Station locator and the other I used to stream. Stream? Yes – to count as a recorded station I had to get a positive station ID. However, many radio programs are syndicated. Syndicated radio (and ESPN radio) can go on seemingly forever between station IDs. If I didn’t get a station ID within 15-minutes, I used the second laptop to go to the web site of the station I believed it to be to “listen live” to see if the radio and the stream matched-up (luckily live web streams are slightly behind live terrestrial radio so the IDs were easy). Often by the time I had given-up and gone to my 2nd laptop, I’d finally get an on-air station ID. I just didn’t want to waste too much time on one station and miss other stations.
Since my test extended for 2 nights, on night two I quickly dialed-through nearly all of the stations I confirmed on night one to make a quick re-confirmation they were still audible on the 2nd night.
Since I captured so many stations, I was overwhelmed trying to finish and thus I feel this test is still incomplete. My wife typically ends all of my radio playtime (my man cave is a “sitting room” off the side of the master bedroom & there is no wall – no door – so it’s completely open). But my wife and my step-daughter have a weekend out of town in mid to late March. And that means I can stay up all night and do one non-stop test session. Is it bad to say that I cannot wait to be alone?
My QTH is ~ 35-miles east of RIC (Richmond, VA) Airport. The tables below (broken into three files) are my results. Some frequencies have multiple station IDs – since when turning the radio and nulling signals, sometimes one station disappeared and another jumped onto the dial. If/when I post an update of my all-nighter, I’ll add another column to the spreadsheet to include the transmitter strength for better context. It should also be noted that I recorded straight-line distances & not driving distances (via an online straight-line/GPS calculator).
I was impressed that I successfully captured three Iowa stations. And though I find it almost unfathomable, I truly believe I was on the verge of successfully logging a station in Sandy, UT which is over 2000-miles away (there are only six stations assigned to the 1640 frequency, and given the content I [barely] heard, all indications are that it was KBJA)!
I also believe I captured at least one Super-Clear Channel station from Mexico, but unfortunately I just couldn’t successfully verify the station ID. I hope to have a future opportunity to add it to my list.
My ultimate goal is to: (1) compile & maintain a spreadsheet of every AM station that I am able to successfully ID; and (2) maintain a record of the most AM stations I was able to ID in a single one-night, non-stop session.
Despite being somewhat incomplete, I’m impressed by my results. I’m interested to see what you think so please post your comments below!
I should note that my results are strictly off the internal ferrite antenna – no external antenna, no passive loop antenna was used to enhance any signal.
To save column space, please click on each table below. A larger & easier to read image will open in a separate window or tab (depending upon your browser setting).
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jim Meirose, who recently shared the following listener post:
Listener Post by Jim Meirose
My interest in radio started around 1960-61. My uncle was going to take a giant worn-out console Record Player/AM/FM/SW 1940s monstrosity to the dump. My father, who was an electrician and a general nut for all things electrical, stopped him, took the radio out before the console got trashed, put it in a makeshift cabinet, and showed me how to use it. That was how I got started.
A neat thing about the radio was it had one of those old “magic eye” tubes to aid in tuning. What could be cooler for a kid to play with? Plus, being able to hear all of what was to me just “weird stuff” on shortwave, was what got me hooked.
After a year or two I got the Heathkit GR-91 as a gift and my father helped me assemble it. We also put up a better antenna.
My Heathkit GR-91 and Q-mult I used starting in 1963, with a variety of antennas, up to 1971. (Stored in the cellar now, as you can see)
I spent several years and many many hours listening and logging and having fun with it. We were at or near the peak of the sunspot cycle then, so as you can imagine, it was amazing. That made it a pretty “hot” radio (although in that decade the high sunspots made most every radio “hot”) but it had one flaw that was really bad. The tuning dial was not even close to accurate. I even had it professionally aligned, in vain. You only had a ballpark idea of what frequency you were on.
The next problem with the GR-91 was that as you tuned up past around 14 MHz, a hum began and grew to where there was no point trying to listen at all for anything all the way up to 30 MHz. I gradually became most interested in 20 meter amateur radio listening.
I learned to tune SSB, helped by the fact that the set had a good BFO and great bandspread tuning. From about 1964 to 1968, I heard hams from over 250 ARRL countries. These were mostly on 20 meters, using a dipole. Then, I got drafted to the Army until 1970, came back, and listened again until about 1972. Then, life took over, and the radio was put away.
Around 2004, I started getting interested again. I got an old Hammarlund HQ-180, thinking to pick up where I left off in ’72, but gave up when I found the sunspot cycle was bottomed out. Plus, the old set was too complicated and difficult to use, and not in the best shape. So, again, radio was put aside.
Finally, early this year, having the time at last to do things right, after shopping around, I got the Kenwood R-600, put up a good antenna, and started in. Once I got in the groove again, I found the R-600 to be incredible. The reception is crystal-clear across all bands. Plus, lo and behold, with the digital dial I know EXACTLY what frequency I am on! And as far as DX, even with today’s low sunspots, I am hearing the whole world, better than in the 60s. Might not be “booming in” as they say, but still very cool. The key is to know when, where, and how to listen.
Lastly, besides the better technology of the radio, imagine the difference between now and the ‘60s, when there was no internet, no computers, and practically no reliable hard copy directories to be found. At least with ham radio listening, it was easy to ID what country was on, because of the standardized call sign prefixes. But, for broadcast stations, the only real way to identify the more “exotic” non-english language stations, was by listening, sometimes for hours, hoping to catch some recognizable station ID. More often than not, this would never come before the station went off-air, or faded out. Today, with online directories, that is not such a problem. But, imagine how, with my GR-91, being unable to provide exact frequency readings, that even the modern online directories would have been practically useless.
That’s it, there are the highlights of my shortwave experience from 1960 to today. Hope it was of interest.