Tag Archives: Listener Posts

Guest Post: Missing the Static

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Lou Lesko, who shares the following guest post:


Missing the Static

by Lou Lesko

Nineteen-ninety-one, my girlfriend Michelle and I were asked to house-sit her parent’s place in a remote part of Morgan Hill, south of San Jose, California. One had to drive for two miles on a dirt road through a running creek to get to the house deep in the woods. It was magical. The place ran on generators and a massive array of batteries.

We stayed in the master bedroom. Bob, Michelle’s step-father, had a shortwave radio on his bedside table. The radio was connected to a huge twenty foot high antenna stuck in the ground outside the bedroom window. Fumbling through the controls for the first time I found the BBC in London and a myriad of other broadcasts in different languages from cities all over the globe. It was mesmerizing.

Thanks to a book I found, Passport to World Band Radio, I learned that scanning to find broadcasts was called DXing. The book also listed frequencies and some of the known active times of stations around the world. It also explained the phenomena of shortwave: radio signals within a specific frequency range have properties that cause them to bounce between the ionosphere and the earth’s crust allowing efficient propagation around the globe. Conditions like weather, the electronic interferences of modern life, and solar flares all had an effect on the quality of the signal and how far it could travel.

The more I learned, the more I listened. Scrolling through the static to discover random broadcasts from radio Cuba or radio Moscow was blissful escapism that charged my imagination. At the time the BBC had 120 million weekly listeners. The largest audience of any broadcast medium in history.

It was a sad day when Michelle’s parents returned. Not only did Michelle and I have to go back to our tiny apartment—playing house was fun—I had to give up the shortwave radio.

A month later Michelle gave me a portable shortwave radio as a Christmas gift. It wasn’t nearly as powerful as the rig in Morgan Hill, but it worked fabulously well for receiving strong signals. I listened to it every night before falling asleep.

Three years later, during an annual trip to Yosemite, I wondered what the reception would be like if I were to take the portable radio up a few thousand feet way out of the range of street lights, televisions, toasters—all things electronic that impede reception of anything except the strongest signals.

I embarked on a solo hike up 12,000 feet to the top of Mammoth Peak in Tuolumne Meadows. Optimal listening time was just after sunset and into the night California time. Alone, wrapped in a subzero sleeping bag, a bitting breeze blowing, bathed the etherial pale glow of moonlight reflecting off the white granite, I turned on my radio. It was overwhelming. Every tiny turn of the dial yielded something new I had never heard before. I tuned in to almost every part of the globe.

Shortwave has faded. Its gradual decline started at the end of the cold war, Western governments no longer saw the need to shoulder the large costs associated with transmitting on shortwave frequencies. The demise was further hastened in 2001 when then BBC World Service Director Mark Byford stopped the broadcasts to North America citing the emerging Internet and satellite radio as the future for reaching audiences. He was of course correct.

Radio Garden, a web site that delivers a graphical version of what shortwave used to do, offers an animated picture of the globe dotted with internet radio broadcasters. Click on a dot, listen to a radio station in another part of the world in crystal clarity. Radio Garden is exceedingly clever and a wonder of modern technology. As are podcasts, streaming television, Facetime calls. All of it extraordinary and life altering. And yet, every once in awhile, I miss that unique thrill I used to get when I discovered a voice broadcasting from a far away place I’ve never been. Every once in awhile, I miss the static.


Lou Lesko is a writer, and a former editor-at-large for National Geographic.

Click here to visit Lou’s website.

Lou, thank you for sharing the static!

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Guest Post: Rawad shares his radio story

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rawad Hamwi, who shares the following guest post:


My Story With Radios

by Rawad Hamwi

My passion for the world of radios started 15 years ago when I “accidentally” got my hand on a vintage Sanyo U4SS radio/cassette player.

At that time, FM didn’t mean that much to me, and to make the long story short, it was anything but interesting! So let’s move on and discover that SW band.

I was totally shocked with the findings! Music of different genres, languages I heard for the first time ever, bizarre sounds, Morse broadcasts, etc.. However, the most chilling and exotic thing which caught my attention was that weird “presumably” number station, broadcasting an endless and never-ending loop of “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie”! I could never ever forget that! That SW “thing” was quite interesting, isn’t it?

Back in 2004, the shortwave band was HEAVILY crowded with so many stations from all over the globe, and the idea of being able to listen to all of that stuff without moving away from your couch was something interesting!

Over that period, I owned some portable shortwave receivers/antennas, starting with the Grundig G3, Tecsun PL-660, and last but not least, the trust-worthy Sony ICF-SW7600GR with Sony AN-LP1 active antenna and the Terk Advantage AM antenna, that’s just to name but a few.

And now, drum roll, please!! May I proudly present the legendary Zenith Solid State Trans-Oceanic Radio Receiver. That armored tank is far from anything portable in today’s terms! But still, its reputation can’t be questioned.

Zenith Transoceanic

 

Last Christmas (Dec – 2018), my uncle gave me his Sony ICF-7600D which was in a perfect cosmetic/working condition. It was sitting in his drawer for almost 20 years without being used! Operating that “piece of history” is satisfying!

Sony ICF-7600D

A year before, my grandparents gave me their “Made in Japan” Sony ICF-SW11. You may notice that screen protector over its display, it did a good job in disguising some fine scratches. This radio had been used occasionally, though it’s a solid performer.

Sony ICF-SW11

Whoa, lots of radios to choose from! A decision was made by giving the Grundig G3, Tecsun PL-660, and the Sony ICF-7600GR/AN-LP1+Terk Advantage a short break and keeping them in my hometown (Lebanon). Both the 7600D and SW11 will join me in Saudi Arabia for at least 6 months until I return back.

Here comes the turning point! Last month, there was a great deal on eBay. A decent Sony ICF-2010 with an above-average condition. I didn’t think twice before buying it, I wanted that radio a long time back and at last, at last, it’s here..sitting on my desk!

Sony ICF-SW2010 ICF-2010

To add some nostalgia to the scene, a brand-new vintage “Made in Japan” Seiko World Time Rate Exchanger was listed on eBay, and you can predict what happened next! It was a beautiful add-on.

It joined my vintage Casio DQ-580 alarm clock that was set to display UTC time

Unfortunately, Sony ICF-2010s had some issues with their front-end FET if they were hit by a strong static charge. The solution was by building a DIY protection circuit, based on a schematic available online.

The random wire antenna I use is connected to a 9:1 impedance transformer for the purpose of impedance matching, and to add more protection, a lightning arrester joined the setup. Furthermore, some folks said that winding the 50-ohm coaxial feed cable to a toroid could improve the reception, so..why don’t I give it a try?!

Finally, the BNC male plug coming out of my protection black box is coupled with a female BNC to male 3.5 mm mono adapter which goes towards radio’s external AM antenna socket.

Now, why don’t I utilize the FM band too? I have two in-car FM transmitters. The first one is connected to a satellite receiver to transmits its audio feed via a RCA to 3.5 mm stereo cable, and the second one is attached to a Chromecast Audio device.

-1-Turn on the transmitter
-2- Go to TuneIn
-3- Look after “Conyers Old Time Radio”
-4- Pipe that audio stream throughout Chromecast
-5- Set your radio’s sleep timer to 30 minutes and…I wish you a very good night!!


iCluster ($2.99 for iPhone and iPad) is a useful tool I regularly use when listening to amateur bands over shortwave DXWatch.com and DXMaps.com can be helpful too.

Google’s Play Store contains much more radio-related apps than Apple’s App Store. Below are my main drivers for decoding digital transmissions.

When it comes to rechargeables, my choice for AA size is Eneloop and Energizer for D size

Batteries and Recharger

The Internet contains enormous easy-accessible resources but having a hard copy isn’t a bad idea I guess!

That’s all folks, thanks for reading and if you think there are some rooms for improvements, sharing your ideas will be much appreciated.


Thank you for sharing this, Rawad!  You’ve amassed a fantastic collection of portable radio gear and all of it seems to be in excellent shape! I think it’s brilliant that you took the time to build antenna protection for your Sony portables–so many people don’t think of this and end up using an antenna that’s too long and static zaps their FET. 

Again, many thanks for sharing your story with us.

Post Readers: Rawad also made an attractive PDF of this story–you can download it here. Please contact me if you’d like to share your radio story!

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Paul’s (very cold) DXing post in Alaska

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Walker, who writes:

In case anyone is mildly curious, this is the spot where I sit to DX.

paul-walker-alaska

These are my radios and antennas.

Equipment in photo above: Grundig Satellit 750, Lowe HF225, 2 225 foot long wires, a Wellbrook ALA1530LNP magnetic loop and DX Engineering HF Preamp.

paul-walker-alaska-2

And this is what’s to my back when DXing at 0945 AM local time

It was warm today, 4F above zero (-15.5C) instead of yesterday’s -18F below (-27.7C)!

Paul Walker
Galena, Alaska

That’s it, Paul! Next time I hear a DXer complaining about the weather, I’m just going to send them a link to this post! 🙂 Those are some seriously cold temps, yet I know it gets much, much colder there in the winter!

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Paul’s shortwave logs, commentary and audio from Alaska

KIRA in Galena, Alaska

KIYU in Galena, Alaska

SWLing Post contributor, Paul Walker, is a radio host for KIYU in remote village of Galena, Alaska–we recently posted a few photos of Paul on site.

Many thanks to Paul for sharing the following notes about SWLing at his location. Paul writes:

Right now, all I have to DX with is a Tecsun PL-880 and PK’s loop 6-18 MHz tuneable SW Loop antenna. I am investigating a location to put up a long wire or massive box loop antenna somewhere away from home.

It has to be away from home as I have 2 FM and 1 TV transmitter above my head plus an ungodly amount of electrical noise and RF overload. The banks of the Yukon River are 500 feet from my office and apartment, so that’s a good location.. just need a way to secure a long wire or box loop. I am also in the process of finding an FM Low pass filter to filter out the FM stations real nearby that overload certain parts of the SW dial.

I am in Galena, Alaska. It is a village of about 500 people in the central part of Alaska, we are 300 miles west of Fairbanks and 300 miles east of Nome. Off the road system, everything is flown in 8 months or so out of the year and when the river is flowing, it’s barged in.

Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand are weak here, some days barely listenable, other days passable, but not very strong here. I’ve not heard anything from Radio Taiwan International here, yet I could get them weakly in California and in Arkansas.

I can hear CRI daily, the stuff that comes from their Beijing area SW transmitters is quite listenable.

What I can hear with regularity and strangely, a very good signal depending on the frequency, is The Voice Of North Korea. I’ve logged The Voice Of Korea on about A DOZEN different frequencies! What I can’t figure out is why? Some of the Voice of Korea broadcasts are near local AM radio station like strength many nights. I could hear them fairly well in northern California, but not always so strong.

Why I can’t figure out is the Voice Of Korea broadcasts that I’m hearing, what is their target area? It would sure seem I am not in the direct beam for any of their target areas, being so far north.

The strongest Voice Of Korea broadcasts for me are generally, not always, 15180 kHz and 11735 kHz. I’ve heard them on several 6 and 7 MHz frequencies which are listenable, but never very strong. I’ve also heard them in a few places in the 9mhz band and those are generally pretty listenable.

I did hear Voice Of Korea on 3250 kHz about a week ago. The signal was weak but steady and it was very clearly them.

I’ve heard them in the 13 MHz band one night and that signal was pretty strong. I did get them a few days ago smack in the middle of the day at 11910 kHz which was a bit surprising.

I expect when I construct a massive(and very directional box loop) or put up a longwire, My DX will greatly improve beyond the average stuff I’m getting now.

I’ve also logged Radyo Pilipinas on 17700 and 17820 kHz, several instances of the Firedrake Jammer on different frequencies, CRI and NHK (CRI & NHK are to be expected here).

I did have a surprising reception of All India Radio on 7550 kHz.

Also logged recently was RFI on 15300 kHz, BBC WS on 15400 kHz, Voice of America on 15580 kHz, Radio Exterior De Espana 15390/15500 kHz, RN de Brasilia 11780 kHz among others.

You can hear audio of my reception on my YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/OnAirDJPaulWalker

Some of my clips range from merely 30 seconds long to 20 minutes. The longer clips are usually when I had much better. Some clips are video, held up to the radio showing the dial, others are audio onlly.

As always, comments and discussion always welcome.

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Listener Post: Greg Blair

SP600Dial3Greg Blair’s radio story is the latest in our series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories.

If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Greg Blair who originally posted the following on the Shortwave Listeners Worldwide Facebook group.  Greg writes:


How I Discovered Shortwave Radio

BoysBookOfRadioI discovered shortwave radio almost by accident.

I had built a simple crystal radio from plans in a library book…(I think it was “The Boy’s Book of Radio” or similar. ) I added a one transistor amplifier later. I had a really great long wire antenna from the garage to the house, up about 30 feet, about 75 feet long, and a good earth ground.

I was playing around with it, and I had an old phonograph amplifier I connected to the output of it. I de-tuned the coil and apparently managed to get it tuned into the 49 meter band. All of a sudden I was hearing broadcasters from Europe. Some were in English, others in foreign languages.CrystalRadio

Up to that point I had thought that all radio was like AM broadcast, only good for a few hundred miles even at night. I was flabbergasted. That marked the beginning of my addiction to radio. I have never gotten over the miracle of HF radio ever since.


Many thanks, Greg, for sharing your memories with us!

I can only imagine the thrill is must have been to tune in stations from across the planet on your simple, home-brew radio set.

I encourage other SWLing Post readers and contributors to submit their own listener post!  Tell us how you became interested in radio! 

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Listener Post: Landon (KF4CAU)

SP600Dial3Landon’s radio story is the latest in our series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories. If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Landon for sharing his personal radio history:


Landon (KF4CAU)

PopularElectronicsMy interests in SWL’ing began back when I was a teen, in the 1970’s. I was inspired by two of my maternal uncles, who as teens, had started out pretty much as I was at the time, when they were teens in the 1960’s. One of them had also given me his collection of 1960’s era ‘Popular Electronics’ and ‘Electronics Illustrated’ magazines, which were filled with information about the hobby of radio monitoring.

The neighbors next door to my grandmother, an elderly couple, had a shortwave radio, which I can remember listening to out on their patio in the summer. Another neighbor of mine, had an old AN/GRR-5 military receiver, which I was infatuated with.

I spent much of my childhood monitoring the AM Broadcast Band, seeking out far away stations, until I finally got my own shortwave radio.

I had acquired a used transistor radio that had some of the shortwave bands on it, and began picking up what I could. Transistor radios were a new thing back in those days.

ANGRR-5Finally, when I turned 16, I got my first job as an orderly at the local hospital. I saved my money, and purchased my own AN/GRR-5 from Fair Radio Sales. I was hooked! I still have that radio today.

I remember I used to salivate over the Allied Radio, Lafayette Radio, and Radio Shack catalogs, dreaming of someday owning a ‘good’ receiver, like the Realistic DX-160. And today … I have one that I purchased on e-Bay! Yes, it’s outdated, but I purchased it more for nostalgia, as well as listening to now and then.

Through the years, I’ve purchased and owned a lot of shortwave radios, and now, as a licensed amateur radio operator, I own some of the latest equipment. Yet, I like going back and listening to the ‘old school’ equipment for the nostalgia of it all.

Realistic DX-160 (Source: Universal Radio)

Realistic DX-160 (Source: Universal Radio)

Last night (Jan 31, 2015), I sat with my 15 year old son, who has recently gotten an interest in shortwave and ham radio. As we sat there and he scanned across the SWL bands, I saw myself, and I saw the excitement in him that I had begun with. His first experience last night was tuning across the bands with the 70’s era Realistic DX-160!

Some of my favorite memories are tuning in HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, and receiving QSL cards from far away stations. Today, decades later, I still have those QSL cards, program guides, and yes … the collection of 1960’s era radio magazines my uncles gave me.

Some things change, and some things never will.


Many thanks, Landon, for sharing your memories with us!

If I ever find a AN/GRR-5 in good shape, I will snatch it up! You must have had some great memories listening to that military receiver. Amazingly, Fair Radio Sales, in Lima, Ohio, is still very much in business. I hope to visit their store next time I’m in the area (possibly for the Dayton Hamvention).

Ironically, you mention the Realistic DX-160 and only a couple days ago, Dan Robinson shared a video of a DX-160 he recently purchased that was still “NIB” (new in box). The DX-160 is a great rig, as Dan demonstrates in this video:

Thanks again, Landon, and I encourage other SWLing Post readers and contributors to submit their own listener post!  Tell us how you became interested in radio!  

Update: for more background on Landon’s DX-160, read this additional post.

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Listener Post: Tim Rahto

SP600Dial3Tim Rahto’s radio story is the latest in our series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories. If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Tim for sharing his personal radio history:


Tim Rahto

The Sony Earth Orbiter CRF-5100 (Source: Universal Radio)

The Sony Earth Orbiter CRF-5100 (Source: Universal Radio)

One night, when I was about six or seven, my brother put me in front of his Sony Earth Orbiter and changed my life forever. He handed me the earplug and told me that, if I was really quiet and didn’t bother him, I could hear stations from all over the world. His ploy to keep me occupied and out of his hair worked like a charm, as I was completely fascinated by what I heard.

Fast forward about ten years later to 1987, when I received the best Christmas present ever: a Realistic DX-360. I remember staying up until the wee hours of the morning listening to the BBC, Radio Havana, and many other stations. Imagine my surprise when I found Radio Australia the next morning. Radio from Australia? How was that even possible!? For the next few years, that radio went with me just about everywhere, and serenaded me to sleep just about every night for years. Back then, my favorite stations included not only the BBC and Radio Australia, but also Monitor Radio and Super Power KUSW, the station that sent my my first ever QSL card. I still have it too.

RadioShack-DX360

One afternoon while I was in college, my roommate and I decided to stop into a local liquor store and do some comparative shopping. We were just about to leave when I turned around and found myself eye to eye with this beautiful old European style shortwave radio. It turned out that one of the proprietors, a guy by the name of Howard, was a ham, and sold old used radios out of the back of the store. I got to know Howard a little, and bought several radios from him. One day while visiting his store, he shows me the most beautiful thing made of metal I’d ever seen: a Hallicrafters SX-73. Believe it or not, he sold it to me for $75! I think Howard new it was worth ten times that, but he also knew I was a young radio nerd that would give it a good home. That radio was my main receiver for many years after that, and I still have it today. My estate executors can sell it when I’m gone. Until then, it’s a keeper.

Hallicrafters SX-73 (Source: radioreprints.com)

Hallicrafters SX-73 (Source: radioreprints.com)

These days, my shack is an odd mix of both the old and new. I have an old r390a that was recently overhauled by Rick Mish, and a Watkins Johnson WJ-8718a that was brought back up to spec by PCS associates. If I do my part, both of these cold war relics should give me decades of service. My latest addition to the shack is an Elad FDM-S2, which is an amazing receiver! I’ve never been much of an SDR guy, but this radio might change all of that. Stay tuned!

Anyways, thanks for letting me go down memory lane.


Many thanks, Tim, for sharing your memories with us! Snagging a Hallicrafters SX-73 for $75 was, indeed, an excellent deal. Sounds to me like Howard enjoyed feeding your interest in radio. Keep that old girl in good nick and you’ll have a radio that will outlast us all. Tell your executors to put it in the casket!

Click here to read our growing collection of Listener Posts, and consider submitting your own!

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