Fair warning: if you’re afraid of heights this might make you weak in the knees!
Fair warning: if you’re afraid of heights this might make you weak in the knees!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who notes the following episode of “Father Knows Best” (link below) features shortwave radio. Dave also points out that the website streaming this episode can be somewhat slow to load, but is very watchable.
Thanks for the tip, Dave!
I find this article intriguing on many levels; what’s more, I find that it’s not really an exaggeration. My comments follow…
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)
Cord-cutters accustomed to watching shows online are often shocked that $20 ‘rabbit ears’ pluck signals from the air; is this legal?
Dan Sisco has discovered a technology that allows him to access half a dozen major TV channels, completely free.
“I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists,” says Mr. Sisco, 28 years old. “It’s been awesome. It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”
Let’s hear a round of applause for TV antennas, often called “rabbit ears,” a technology invented roughly seven decades ago, long before there was even a cord to be cut, which had been consigned to the technology trash can along with cassette tapes and VCRs.
The antenna is mounting a quiet comeback, propelled by a generation that never knew life before cable television, and who primarily watch Netflix , Hulu and HBO via the internet. Antenna sales in the U.S. are projected to rise 7% in 2017 to nearly 8 million units, according to the Consumer Technology Association, a trade group.[…]
Carlos Villalobos, 21, who was selling tube-shaped digital antennas at a swap meet in San Diego recently, says customers often ask if his $20 to $25 products are legal. “They don’t trust me when I say that these are actually free local channels,” he says.[…]
Almost a third of Americans (29%) are unaware local TV is available free, according to a June survey by the National Association of Broadcasters, an industry trade group.[…]
Obviously, this WSJ article draws our attention to the fact that those who were raised in the Internet age (and in that of cable and satellite TV) who were never exposed to over-the-air (OTA) television, never even realized it existed. For those of us who grew up with silver rabbit ears sprouting out of the TV set, it seem incredible that this technology should be unknown to many. I love how the WSJ frames OTA TV as a “hack.” I suppose to some millennials, it is just that. And a fully-legal one, at that. Who knew?
The move from analog to digital TV broadcasts seems to have confused a lot of people, too. Indeed, one of my family members approached me a few years ago complaining about the rising costs of satellite TV. Though she was raised in the era of OTA TV, she had no clue that a simple, inexpensive set of rabbit ears would deliver no less than eight TV stations with multiple sub-channels, most of which originate from a large city sixty miles away. And of course, she was delighted to re-discover this was possible.
One of my younger friends was gobsmacked to find that a $20 set of rabbit ears delivered higher-definition TV than the signal from his $200+/month satellite subscription. He has a very large flat-screen TV and loves live sports. Some of his favorite games are available on the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) all of which are easy catches with a set of rabbit ears where he lives. My $20 suggestion changed his world…and saved him (big) bucks.
And of course, Post readers, many of whom are radio geeks, are all about grabbing signals out of the air!
Perhaps shortwave radio is an a more extreme example of of forgotten (yet fun) technology, since it’s well-removed from popular culture now. After all, you can walk into any big-box retailer to pick up an antenna for your TV, but in such environments, shortwave radios are truly an endangered species.
I receive a phenomenal amount of inquiries from people of all ages who have only recently discovered shortwave radio. Many are self-described hackers, as well as preppers, pirate radio enthusiasts, travelers, off-grid buffs, and listeners who’ve recently discovered the strange and inexplicable world of numbers stations.
Shortwave radio has become an “underground” pursuit for many of these people––and somehow remains a well-kept secret, despite my role as a public and highly-vocal evangelist for the medium.
Still, in a world where we must assume any “connected” device monitors our viewing/listening habits, our movements, and not to mention, our personal preferences, I would say, yes––there is definitely “underground” appeal to all things over-the-air. It’s less complicated, inexpensive, accessible, provides anonymity, and often of higher quality…admirable attributes, in my world. Not to mention (unless you are a radio pirate, of course), it’s perfectly legal.
So, young media hounds, allow me to introduce you to a “secret” hack you might like, too–– shortwave. Have a listen…but take care: you, too, may find yourself drawn in to the mysterious and alluring world of the free and nearly forgotten airwaves. Enjoy…!
A while back I shared a short story about FM reception from commercial jetliners. I do that regularly on my flights but I also gave “Airborne TV DX” a try.
My equipment is as follows:
- Windows laptop
- Hauppauge USB dongle receiver WinTV-HVR-955Q
- 3-inch stick antenna
The receiver comes with its own WinTV software for tuning, scanning, watching and recording TV programs. It is one of the few USB dongle size receivers for North America’s ATSC digital TV standard. A have posted a video of my reception recordings from a roundtrip flight Miami to St Louis.
The video is located here:
My notes regarding this activity:
Reception from commercial airplanes is possible as far as 400 miles with the simple unobtrusive “stick” antenna.
Channel scanning is pretty slow and it is possible that by the time you detect a signal, save it, and tune to it you are 50 miles away from the point where you detected it.
Many times signals are detected but no video can be shown due to weak signal. Users in Europe may have a different experience as the availability of DVB-T USB dongles and software is much wider.
TV DX can make a coast to coast flight a much more interesting experience!
No doubt, Ivan! Thanks so much for sharing.
Ivan is quiet adept at logging and recording FM and TV DX while in the air and at sea. Click here to view his previous posts.
[W]hile on a cruise ship 30 miles off the coast of Cuba (January 2017) I pointed a small active antenna towards the island and scanned for old fashioned analog TV.
The results show analog TV is alive and well in Cuba! Multiple programs on multiple channels.
From what I understand Cuba has selected the Chinese digital TV standard but using their own channel spacing so I am not aware of any receivers that can pick up Cuba’s digital TV transmissions.
I posted the YouTube video of my channel scan here:
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who writes:
A day or two late, but I don’t know if you have this about CBC:
(Source: Southgate ARC)
Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, is 80 years old
Modelled somewhat on the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation came into being on November 2, 1936.
Surprisingly many of the issues that led to the creation of the CBC, are still around today.
In 1936, there were 74 radio stations across the country; three were CBC stations and four more were leased. All however were dwarfed by signals sweeping across the border into Canada from more powerful US stations. Concerns of US domination of Canadian airspace, is still a concern 80 years later.
Full article here:
History: Nov 2, 1936 -Canada’s Public Broadcaster birthday: 80 today
Also yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the start of Television broadcasting in the UK
(Source: BBC Blogs)
The BBC’s first British television service launched 80 years ago today, on 2 November 1936. To mark the occasion our colleages at BBC History have launched a new website celebrating the landmark anniversary combining archive material from the early days of television.
The site is packed full of video and audio footage telling the story of television including its invention, the opening night at Alexandra Palace in 1936, TV closure during the war and its resurrection in 1946, as well as TV’s milestone moments such the Olympics and the Coronations of 1937 and 1953. We’ve selected some choice clips below to whet your appetite[…]
Unfortunately due to various geo restrictions the one hour long programme from BBC4 last night is not viewable on iPlayer (catch up TV) outside the UK, sorry about that.
Fantastic! Thank you Kris. I’ve really enjoyed viewing the archived footage on the BBC Blog.