Why should I listen to Shortwave?

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af5rn

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It's a serious question. Really. I've been scanning since the late 60s, an a ham since around '81. I've tried to do the HF thing, but I just cannot get into it. It just seems like a lot of work and expense for little or no return. I mean hell, I get bored even by listening to constant police action. Spinning a dial for hours just to find either random static, or a bunch of Hams doing nothing but giving signal reports? I have never been able to grasp the appeal, even if I am the one doing the talking. I've just never been into the whole pointless jaw-jacking thing. Actually, I feel that way about the UHF/VHF bands too. I would have no use for them either if it weren't for SKYWARN, but I digress. Yet, strangely, I still always have this uneasy feeling in the back of my mind that I am missing something by not monitoring the shortwaves. I feel like a traitor to the Ham community for not giving a darn about the foundation of the hobby.

If someone can help give me some reasons why I should invest a grand or two into HF equipment, I'd appreciate it. I'm nosey by nature. I'm a news junkie, and I hate to miss anything of importance. But I just can't find anything of importance on HF.

Suggestions? Links? All input is appreciated!
 

Shortwavewave

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Its good you ask, never leave any question unanwsered.

Well for me I didnt spend no where near a grand and even with all my antenna stuff I hadnt toped a grand..... yet

I like to listen to Radio Taiwan, Cuba, and Japan as well as others I learn quit a bit, like what other areas of the wrold are doing for our enviroment, technoagly, etc.

As for the Ham band im not a Ham but I like listening to them, they tell the news just as well as the TV can, and get what weather is like around the world.

I guess its just somthing you have to be into, I agree at times I get board when there is nothing on, but when there is, Ive been face to face with my radio for 20hrs stright once, as well as hadnt touched it for 2weeks.

See the Scanner part for the Police I cant understand why people listen to that I I ever hear is code, and there location. THe good stuff is all on ProVoice.
 

zz0468

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There's always stamp collecting. Seriously (?), i couldn't possibly build a case why anyone should listen to HF, or anything else for that matter. It's purely a matter of personal preference. I do it because everything related to radio fascinates me. From low frequency NDB's to microwaves, I do more than dabble in it all. But to try to convince someone why they should invest in equipment to listen to HF, I wouldn't know where to start.

I've been a ham even longer than you have, and don't spend a huge amount of time rag chewing with people I don't know, although it can be fun. But I've been known to spend, literally, thousands of dollars to build a home RF shop so I can build a UHF or microwave radio that I use twice a year. All of my stuff works damn good... when I actually use it. Don't know what to tell you... you either get the bug and do it, or you don't.
 

ka3jjz

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That's a very good question, and like all good questions, it's very hard to answer. I suspect it's at least partially a personal taste of one sort or another, so let me give you some of my perspectives, and start a discussion from this point...

  • We as Americans have a sad tendency to live with blinders on when it comes to the rest of the world. If it doesn't affect us in some way, chances are we won't pay much mind to it. As I work on a team with a dozen countries represented, I can't afford to have such an attitude

  • Related to that item above, it seems that those foreign nationals I interface with - sometimes daily - are quite surprised that I can converse about things happening in their home countries with at least a passing understanding of what is going on, and a little as to why. It's a great way to build up a relationship between customer and consultant (which I am)

  • Do you have any interests in language and/or music? There's few more interesting way to hear a different language - sometimes (though not always) spoken by a native. It's a wonderful tool - particularly for the folks in school - to hear different dialects, pronunciations and usages for a language which might otherwise be a dead issue in most schools. There are a few folks that have used HF in their language classrooms as examples of good - and yes, poor - usage.

    And music? You want to try to catalog all the different types of music?? HAH! Good luck. You could spend a lifetime trying, and still not get them all. I work with several South Asian folks (mostly India and Pakistan), and their 'music' is so wierd it takes me awhile just to realize what it is...

  • Related to the above - you can't ask for a better cultural exposure than one you will get on HF. You get little pieces here and there, and you, for better or worse, are more informed for it. And all of what I just wrote wraps, one way or another to that very basic concept of 'exposure to culture'. As Americans, we could do with more of it, frankly. I admit, however, to some bias as a part of my childhood was spent in Europe, barely 20 years after WW2, when western Europe and the US were on much better terms than today. But that's a topic for another time......

  • From a technical perspective, there are so many different avenues to learn, that it's rather hard to quantify them all. Antennas, propagation, electronics (how receivers work); there are still some things about how a signal gets from here to there we don't understand yet...and all of this is a great groundwork for getting a license. In fact, I'd hazard that if you were really good at all 3, a Technician's license is a cakewalk without much study

I'm sure there are more - let the discussion commence! 73 Mike
 

chrismol1

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You can always buy CW transmitter, i've seen them cheaper than radios with phone no doubt with all the stuff required with phone.
Build a 30' antenna hookup a 5 watt or something. and key away. its always fasincating doing is this stuff with something that is SIMPLE. thats the problem, all this expensive equipment to chat with people. its overwhelming
I've seen CW transmitters and recievers that come in a kit for $30 or so and run off a car battery.
On why you should listen to it is becasue its all AROUND THE WHOLE WORLD!!!!! the latest world news broadcasting all over the world to spread it. The trying to get the tuning right to hear this station. i know it gets boring listening to people chit chat about nothing but its the mystery of whats out there
 
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NWI_Scanner_Guy

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Speaking only for myself (but as others have also said), I like to get a view of the world from a perspective other than the American "mainstream" media. I've learned a lot of things about a lot of foreign countries by listening to shortwave that I would never hear on American TV or radio.

Also, I enjoy listening to the hams chat with each other, especially when at least one of the hams is from a country other than the U.S.

:)
 

Jose_Pointero

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Well I guess it depends on if you're thinking about shortwave radio in general, or amateur operation on HF. I think KA3JJZ covered it pretty well but I'll add my two cents...

Shortwave...well you have some points there about just spinning the dial and hoping to get something else other than static. But part of the fun of it to me is that you're using a relatively inexpensive piece of consumer equipment to monitor a portion of the radio spectrum used for global broadcasting. You just can't do that with new communications technology. And unlike the newer technologies, there are so many factors to its propagation that it's a science in itself. To think that the only way you can listen to (insert country here) is because of a specific magnetic emission from the freakin' sun effecting our ionosphere at that time is incredible to me. When the bands heat up you can spin the dial and hear the whole planet. You're listening to human civilization. But like most hobbies, you either dig it or you don't.

HF amateur...that's a whole other bag. I think of it like fishing. There are some hot spots that everyone knows about and are usually busy; and there are others that are great for a fleeting moment and then vanish. And also like fishing, there are the guys that spend a fortune and there are the ones who do it on the cheap. Does more investment equal more fun? Not necessarily. Part of what I like about it is doing what you can with what you have. Buy a rig that you can afford, put up antennas that are feasible to you, throw your call out and see what you get. You just might be surprised. It's not all just signal reports, either.

But like I was saying it's not for everyone. Just because you're a ham doesn't mean you HAVE to be into HF.
 

ff-medic

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Shortwave is a great radio ( band ). When I was in "Desert Storm" we had one in the squad / platoon ; and it kept us up on world events and intel in the sandbox. The BBC was great, and full of info. The BBC was better than AFRS ( Armed Forces Radio Service ).

Portable receivers are great for travel. Just make sure you can get one with the bands that you can use.

AM and shortwave freqs are full of info. Especially if there is a significant incident on the world front. CNN , MSNBC, FOX , ABC , NBC and CBS cannot hold a torch to info you can get off of a shortwave receiver.

FF-Medic !!!!!
 

topnik

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You're REALLY in IRAQ...

af5rn said:
It's a serious question. Really. I've been scanning since the late 60s, an a ham since around '81. I've tried to do the HF thing, but I just cannot get into it. It just seems like a lot of work and expense for little or no return. I mean hell, I get bored even by listening to constant police action. Spinning a dial for hours just to find either random static, or a bunch of Hams doing nothing but giving signal reports? I have never been able to grasp the appeal, even if I am the one doing the talking. I've just never been into the whole pointless jaw-jacking thing. Actually, I feel that way about the UHF/VHF bands too. I would have no use for them either if it weren't for SKYWARN, but I digress. Yet, strangely, I still always have this uneasy feeling in the back of my mind that I am missing something by not monitoring the shortwaves. I feel like a traitor to the Ham community for not giving a darn about the foundation of the hobby.

If someone can help give me some reasons why I should invest a grand or two into HF equipment, I'd appreciate it. I'm nosey by nature. I'm a news junkie, and I hate to miss anything of importance. But I just can't find anything of importance on HF.

Suggestions? Links? All input is appreciated!
...and you're an American (presumably a servicemember or the like) and you're asking that question?

It doesn't take a "grand or two" to appreciate what Hotel Fox gives you. Been there done that from more than just Iraq. (Iraq, Qatar, Afghanistan, Greece, Bosnia, and so on and so on and so on...) Oh, and with a small Sony multiband that ran on two AA batteries...

Or perhaps you buy into AFN and the stars and bars mantra of...yesterday's news tomorrow...

I suggest you look at what you typed..."...I'm nosey by nature. I'm a news junkie, and I hate to miss anything of importance..."

Did you look at that when you typed it?

That only addresses the "broadcast" side of HF...then there's the WX stations...wouldn't it be nice to learn if there's a nice big sandstorm heading your way? Not to mention your own guys...bet you have better insight into that than I do right now...hmm...

Wonder if this is a troll-esque kind of post...

Dude, do what you have to...don't spend your hard earned tax-free cash and get yourself back safely and then maybe hang out on 11M.

You know what else? Maybe you SHOULDN'T listen to HF...this whole game is a choice...if you do or don't listen to anything, at least in relation to this HOBBY, it doesn't matter...to anyone but you.
 
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CharlesDom

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Well I can't tell you what to do but here's why I'm into HF monitoring. You can draw your own conclusions afterwards.

I enjoy the challenge of picking long distance communications. I like listing to ships out at sea, aircraft on international flights coming into and departing the US, Coast Guard communications hundreds of miles off the coast.

I'm on the West Coast near Los Angeles and I"ve monitored communications from many different distant locations including other countries. Once I picked up Narita Air Port in Japan, regularly monitor flights departing/arriving in Hawaii and believe it or not, I've picked up New York International Flight Control. I also regularly monitor San Francisco International Flight Control. One more thing I almost forgot to mention is that I also monitor military bases and aircraft.

We are all into it for different reasons, you'll just have to make up your own mind on what you want to do.

Believe me when I say that I'm nosey too. My nose and ears extend for thousands of miles.

I hope this helps you in your quest.
 

ka3jjz

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And as for links, see our SW Broadcast and Utility Monitoring articles in our wiki. Hit 'wiki' in the top blue toolbar, go to the very bottom of the page, and look right, in the blue area labeled 'special topics'.

I would always suggest doing some inexpensive research first, to see if this is really something for you. We also have an article reserved for 'receiver reviews'. I would start off with a good portable (or perhaps an older tabletop model) and a small random wire antenna - no need to go whole hog just to get started. Portables have limitations, of course, but they're a reasonably inexpensive way to get introduced into the hobby without a major outlay of green. This is the hamfest season, and with a little background, you should be able to pick something up relatively inexpensive.

73 Mike
 

af5rn

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Speaking of trolls...

topnik said:
Wonder if this is a troll-esque kind of post...

Dude, do what you have to...don't spend your hard earned tax-free cash and get yourself back safely and then maybe hang out on 11M.
Are you off your meds? Did you misplace your tin-foil hat again? You either didn't even read my entire post, or else your English comprehension is so poor that you didn't intelligently process it. If I'm not even into idle chit-chat on the amateur bands, wtf makes you think I am the CB type? You don't know me, so stuff your personal attacks up your assumptions. You're embarrassing the Air Force.

To everyone else who took the time to offer their point of view, I sincerely appreciate it. As I said (though someone obviously missed it), I've been around this game for a fair amount of time, and have just never been terribly successful at finding anything on the HF that was a big enough score to keep listening. I fully accept that it may be out there. That's why I'm asking. I just failed to find it. I'm not bashing SWL. I'm looking for a reason to embrace it. I'm looking for something that makes it worth sitting down behind the dial for a little while everyday. Unfortunately, I think the proliferation of the Internet has rendered much of the benefit of SWL irrelevant, as it enables us to communicate in real time with the entire world, whereas it once required ham radio. Perhaps that is a factor that detracts from the allure it once had.

I realise that SWL is not a high-dollar pursuit, but serious HF amateur work is. That's where my $2k figure came from. Sorry if that confused anybody. But I think, as Mike kindly and wisely suggested, I will invest in a modest listening set-up and just start exploring to see if I can catch the bug. Hell, twenty years ago I swore I would have nothing to do with computers. Even quit a great job because I didn't want to mess with them. Now look at me, and all of us, for that matter. It's all about expanding horizons, so I'll give anything a shot!

Again, I appreciate the constructive input, guys, as well as any more that you may have!
 
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corbintechboy

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af5rn said:
Unfortunately, I think the proliferation of the Internet has rendered much of the benefit of SWL irrelevant, as it enables us to communicate in real time with the entire world, whereas it once required ham radio. Perhaps that is a factor that detracts from the allure it once had.
To me that's the wonderful thing and keeps me turning the dial! You can google a world site and even punch in a URL to me nothing is as exciting is shutting down the computer and listening to places without cheating.

Plus there is really a lot of stuff the mainstream media does not tell us that shortwave will.

I will admit that listening to shortwave is either a love or hate thing. I love it but it bores my family to death.

To each there own I suppose :D
 

ka3jjz

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af5rn, your sig says you're in Iraq. You're in a heckuva position to hear things that we in the States can't, due to prop conditions. In addition to a simple setup, be very aware that sandstorms can carry huge amounts of static electricity, which as you might guess, is very incompatible with the front ends of commercial radios. I've heard of numerous small portables and other things our troops carry over there being blasted by such static charges.

The other side of this is rather simple, and it's not just for our Iraq friend above - most modern ham transceivers these days has a general coverage rx built in. Don't ignore your own gear's possibility - usually these rxs are pretty darn good in the general coverage area, too 73 Mike
 

mtindor

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As CharleDom eluded to but I think nobody else discussed, there is much more hanging out on the HF bands.

Utility monitoring, which is different from listening to shortwave broadcasts, is very interesting. Some guys are very avid about tracking spy stations and keeping volumes of information on them. Some like to decode NAVTEX / Marine WX FAX, charts and RTTY. Some like to try and decode the latest and greatest encrypted transmissions (from US or foreign governments / diplomats). There is HF-GCS / COTHEN freqs - you can often pick up interesting things (with patience) such as search and rescue attempts by the Coast Guard, mliitary / DHS comms (ALE, a little voice, some data).

The other night I was on IRC with a few guys (some which likely frequent here), and we were flipflopping back and forth between frequencies monitoring ALE soundings and voice / data for a search and rescue mission near Cuba, and one near the Bahamas.

Then, if you are an amateur radio operator or become one, you can have a lot of fun BSing with people all over the world. Or, if that isn't your cup of tea you can compete in voice, cw or digital contests (along with other hams) to see who can contact the most stations from the most diverse number of locations around the world. Or you can experiment with building antennas and radios.... unlike VHF and above, if you are a tinkerer with some RF knowledge you can build your own radio, run 1 watt QRP on it, and set your own goals for how far you can communicate on that 1 watt. There are the County Hunters (for those who want to try and make contacts with all US counties). There are the CW purists like F.I.S.T.S. There are the mobile nets for those who want to strive for an award for working mobile.

On HF, a 30 Mhz spread is huge - there is more bang for the buck that you will hear between 0-30 Mhz than you would hear from any other 30 Mhz swath of spectrum.

Propogation plays a huge role in what you will hear and when you will hear it, as well as who you can contact, etc. And it's easy to toss up a very stealthy wire that performs well for transmitting and receiving on HF, if you live in an area where you can't put up towers and antennas that your neighbors deem eyesores. You can roll your own antennas, tune em up and use em.

Really, there is so much to enjoy between 0-30 Mhz. Some people buy $500 dollar scanners so that they can get one or two digital trunked systems that, in a case like mine, provide very few minutes per day of actual interesting comms.... Take that same $500 dollars and buy a nice used receiver (like an Icom R-75 just as an example) or a amateur transceiver (with general coverage up to 30 Mhz and above) and dollar for dollar you'll find more stations to listen to... whether they be shortwave broadcast, amateur radio conversations, or the utility monitoring.

It's worth it all around to get one. Do yo uhave to spend 1K to 2K? No. I have a Yaesu FT-100 (that transmits from 1.8 Mhz to 30 Mhz as well as on 6M, 2M and 440M. This radio has a decent receiver, good noise blanker, some other DSP stuff that works fairly well, and allows me to listen on HF. I have an R-75 receiver that I got used for $450. No reason to spend 1-2K unless you want to, and if you do you'll have can have an excellent radio with wide receive coverage and transmit abilities on many amateur bands if you wish.

Mike
 

mtindor

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You can have a lot of fun on HF amateur bands, and be more 'serious' without spending 2K. Although if you an swing it, more is often better. A $400-$500 transceiver with general coverage receive, a good wire antenna, a decent tuner, and a few other miscellaneous items and you can enjoy some casual listening across the HF band as well as conversing with others on SSB/CW/some digital modes and getting your feet wet in various contests.

There are a lot of really "serious" people who put 10s of thousands of dollars into their setups - see http://www.k3lr.net and http://www.nq4i.com for just a few examples of hugh multiop contest stations. But even somebody with $500 or less can get on and have fun, even in a contest environment. Remember, you don't need to one-up everybody else with your equipment to have a ton of fun. I set my own goals. I try to outdo myself in every contest I get into.... I just compete against myself, but I have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. You can too.

So personally I'd recommend that you get a transceiver (not just a receiver) - You can some beautiful amateur transceivers for 2K that have all the bells and whistles and will do great for monitoring shortwave/utility as well - Toss up a really cheap wire, or five of them - for HF, you can really make effective antennas on the cheap.

Mike
 

kb2vxa

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You have given plenty of reasons NOT to listen to shortwave so you have answered your own question, don't listen to it. It's not everybody's cup of tea and someone may trade you for a fishing pole.
 

af5rn

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kb2vxa said:
You have given plenty of reasons NOT to listen to shortwave so you have answered your own question, don't listen to it. It's not everybody's cup of tea and someone may trade you for a fishing pole.
I only said I had been -- to this point -- unable to find anything interesting to listen to there. I don't claim to understand the new math, but I still wouldn't call that "plenty of reasons".

WTF is the deal here? Why do some of you have this paranoid conspiracy theory that I came here with an agenda? Why is it so hard to accept that this really simple question is just that, a simple question? If this is what overexposure to HF does to the brain, then perhaps you are right. I should stay away from it. :roll:
 

ka3jjz

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Let's keep to the topic at hand, folks. All opinions are welcome, just let's stay focused here...73 Mike
 

Zaratsu

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my .02 cents

If you are bored by scanner traffic, then you will probably be super bored by SWL. All of the interest in SWL is in "the chase." I like it because it is a return for me to a more analog media. I have the world at my fingertips in high-definition digital, but hunting out the info on SWL is much more satisfying. Maybe an analogy would be why hunt with a bow and arrow when you can just use a kitted-out rifle?(laws/seasons nonwhithstanding) or why hunt when you can just get your ground turkey at the grocery store?

There are good and enlightening news reports on SWL that you wont get anywheres else. Often, they are as one sided as our domestic news is, but you get the point. Our domestic news is terrible. Nothing but talking heads yapping about hanna montana's tits or congress's latest investigations into the biggest national issue, steroid use in sports. The terse cuban news jabs at the USA a few notches down from the verbal slamming tokyo rose would to try to demoralize our troops. Then, like now, it is more amusing than offending, but still more interesting than Brad Pitt's new hair-do.

Stumbling on a numbers station, pirate, or utility station is fun because of the "your not supposed to hear this" factor. There is no way to benefit from this information, but an HF broadcast that is in the clear makes you feel connected to what is going on. You can easily imagine yourself enjoying the same type of behavior sitting in a big comfy chair in a NORAD-like command center, intently monitoring traffic for signs of covert subversion or buildup for zombie attack.

It just feels like a secret world out there on SW, in reality it is more the red-headed stepchild of broadcast where in NA 90% of anything listenable is already in Spanish or is Dr. Gene Scott bible thumpers. This fact, coupled with the tendency of inexpensive SWL radios that people "try" SWL with are practically deaf to anything but Spanish or Jeasus stuff is going to get easily turned off. If your into scanning and your first experience with SWL is with a good reciever you will like it. IF it is a crappy radio, then you will probably hate it. Attention span and perceverence required.
 
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