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Shortwave listening has been one of the few constants in my life. I grew up in one of the poorest states in the southern US - Arkansas - in a small town. So, at first, listening was a way to travel outside my boundaries. It sounds corny but it really was a big deal to hear Big Ben chime the hour or to listen to HCJB or Radio Moscow.
None of it was anything like rare DX - instead I traveled for the programming. I had a Hallicrafters SX-99 that drifted so fast that I had to keep one hand on the bandspread knob until it had really warmed up. The drifting continued then, but slowed down.
Even though I am a ham, I'm still mostly a listener. And nothing much has changed - I am not overly interested in rarity - I'm more amused by the content. So I can listen to a rebroadcast of Radio China without feeling as if I'm cheating or tune in to Radio Canada and be happy with an half hour program about canning vegetables.
This website provides authoritative information for those like me who continue to enjoy listening - 73 Bill KQ4YA
Another recent discovery was the Listener's Guide. For a radio enthusiast, it's certainly one of the best sites on the web and even has links to some of the other good sites as well! What more could we ask for? I very much enjoyed the Shortwave Notes, especially the How To Ruin A Good Receiver articles. Brought back SO many memories. Please keep up the wonderful work! 73, Mike M0MLM
As a teen ham operator living on the Delaware River, I listened to the marine operators, USCG and the trawler channels, 2638 and 2738. All AM and from New Jersey, the Gulf shrimpers and fishers on those channels were a constant hum and buzz of hundreds of slightly off frequency signals.
Occasionally, one or two would pop up from the background. The marine telephone system was duplex, both base and the ship were using two frequencies so each could both listen and talk without switching back and forth. When the ship was transmitting all you heard was a busy signal.
Each marine telephone channel had an operator and different busy signals. Hearing an unfamiliar busy tone was neat usually meaning that conditions were excellent. Under good winter conditions, marine ops as far away as New Orleans and along the Mississippi could be heard. - K2QWQ
Radio is still exciting, foreign broadcast, spy, amateur radio and very useful in emergencies when telephone and cell phones fail. The thrill of catching foreign broadcast during a down sun spot cycle...
I am sad he is no longer with us. As a lad growing up in Derby in the 60s and discovering Amateur radio, Fred had a tremendous effect on shaping my career. I often used to go and visit him and Pat, I also made new friends with George (G3PTR) Frank (G3SYU) Neville (G3LCV) and many others. I still have my DADARs badge from 1965 when I joined the club. Unfortunately I do not live in the Derby area any more, but have for many years kept my interest and always listen to the news at 10:30AM on a Sunday morning. These days I spend a lot of time out of the country, in fact I am writing at present from Baku. I think we should do more to preserve the memory of people like Fred. Those great days of experiment and building it all for yourself have gone. What a shame for today's generation of handheld communications and iPods - JRW
A bit of an anoraky one here - The Listener's Guide, by Bob Ellis. OK, so it's primarily about ham radio (and let's face it, even these days there are expats around who need to listen to short-wave broadcasts because they can't get broadband streamed audio). But it's also a very funny read in places!
Packed along with each Lowe receiver is a little gem of a book called The Listener's Guide which serves as an introduction to DXing without attempting to provide one of those frequency lists that's invariably outdated. This little book covers an awful lot in its 60 odd pages and does it with a dry, refreshing wit. I've been DX'ing for more than 40 years, yet I found things in this little book that I'd never tried. It begins with some pointers on antennas, then moves on to a guide tour of the spectrum from ELF through 30 MHz. Here's a sample of what you'll find off the beaten track:
If you really want to frighten yourself, a couple of transistors and a few large coils can be cobbled into an ELF receiver. Around 10 kHz or so the action of static discharges anywhere in the atmosphere, coupled with changes in the earth's magnetic field, create Whistlers, not unlike the cry of a rough whale. Very eerie all this. All worthy of John Carpenter.
While it's written from a European perspective with a distinctly British accent, the information contained in this wonderful little Listener's Guide is perfectly valid anywhere on earth. The Listener's Guide is for short-wave connoisseurs. Well priced, it would make an ideal stocking stuffer for any short wave aficionado.
It may seem a bit late in the day but my congratulations for an excellent Guide which I originally read many years ago when I bought my first Lowe set. To placate my own conscience and my wife's comments, I recently had a blitz on old paper work and records. Being a hoarder at heart, there was a lot to dispose of and I regret to say my original copy of the Guide must have been thrown out with the bathwater!
I came from north of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield. In was in that part of the country where as a young lad I heard my first radio signal on a crystal set. This probably came from Daventry and with luck I may also have heard station 2LO from Oxford Street (the top of Selfridge's Store) in London. The World of Communications has sure moved forward since those days. Best Wishes, Nicholas V-B
I have laughed out loud a lot reading your various thoughts and ruminations. I am relatively new to HF broadcast listening but recently bought the AOR7030. I am learning as much as can grasp at the moment about shortwave but given the limited knowlege I have, I still found myself laughing. Best regards, David Wilkinson
I discovered the fun of short-wave radio in the early sixties with my father's Philips radio - can't remember the model now, but it was a big brown bakelite case with an EF39 RF amp, ECH35 Mixer, EF39 IF amp, EBL31 AF amp and AZ31 rectifier. How's that for memory!
And of course, the obligatory long-wire that ran down the garden. Then crystal sets. Then the serious stuff - WS19, AR88, HRO, 52set etc., etc.
Your photo of the innards of a WS19 brought back memories that I had long forgotten! Oh happy days.
Then came the amateur radio license, in the dying days of real amateur radio. Xtal controlled TX, AM via a pair of 6V6Gs, tuning low to high, super-regens, etc. All home-brew. Halcyon days.
And then it went all professional: SSB, FM repeaters, transceivers, etc. And I lost interest faster than you can burn out the series-filaments on an AC/DC set with a mains dropper mains lead that you've just chopped six feet off! These days I just take a passing interest, although having recently moved to a quiet location in the sticks, wanted a brief refresher on LW aerials - and I found your site.
Jolly good too. So perhaps I'll put up 66ft of wire and a toroid balun, dust off the Racal RA17 and the Eddystone 888A, just for nostalgia's sake. And who knows. And am I ever going to get round to finding a good use for those 4 brand new TT21's stashed away in the attic? - Alan Hall, G8DLH - Worcestershire, UK
Somewhere in the house I have a copy of the yellow paper version which I remember was presented to me when picking up an AOR AR1000 from Lowes. Nice to reprise it electronically some years later.
It still contains a great deal of sense and good advice. I started off with an interest in radio in the late sixties as a schoolboy and joined the long-defunct Flint And District Radio Society. GW3XJF I remember was the club callsign.
My first receiver was an HAC (Hear All Continents) one valve TRF set, many happy hours on the phones listening to Radio North Sea International. People told me if I got into radio or electronics as a career I would never get a licence and they were right.
I got a job as a telecoms apprentice with my local electricity board and after spending so much time on first line radio maintenance (Boot Rangers, PYE Cambridges, Ultra MR4A6's) the novelty of transmitting my voice went away somewhat. I was there for 30 years through various positions until taking redundancy last year on a move-to-Scotland-or-go-away scenario.
Radios? Well I have had a few over the years and remember stuff like the HROs fondly and their double-hernia inducing qualities. My present big set is a Drake R8E, a really good performer though whoever designed the ergonomics had a sense of humour for sure. Indeed its rattling away with Shanwick as I type.
I was once visiting a friend in the US and spotted my Drake in the Franklin institute science museum in Philadlephia. I commented to the guy in the shack that I had one and what a good reciever it was and he said 'Oh that thing we use it to listen to the local radio station'. What a waste.
It's interesting the decline in pure short wave receivers a cursory glance through this months SWM only seems to reveal the 7030 and a Realistic set as dedicated SWL receivers. May be I am old fashioned but I don't feel these wide-band-hear-everything scanners are going to perform anything like the AR7030 or R8. Too many compromises in the circuit design to get the wide band coverage.
Keep up the good work on the Guide, much appreciated. All the very best, Alan Edwards
In a fit of nostalgia I hauled another R107 back here as a second piece of check in baggage in 2000, still haven't reassembled it. But at least I've got it and it worked fine until I partially took it apart on my sisters dining room table in Farnborough using her bathroom scales to get its weight down below limit!
Many thanks for your reminiscences, you brought back memories. And that sort of irreverent approach to making things work is somewhat the way we approach things. This is the most easterly point of North America, Ireland is roughly 1600 nautical miles east. Toronto is about 1400 miles t'other way and Vancouver about 4800 west. I live near the provincial capital St. John's and the next nearest provincial capital is Halifax Nova Scotia about 800 miles or an hour and half by jet!
Long wave is not used in North America for broadcasting but I do occasionally pick up faint 150 to 250 kilohertz European signals using loose coupling to a metal core clothes line about 5 feet off the ground outside the bedroom window!
Apart from that haven't yet made any serious attempts to build a loop antenna although I do have a very nice ex US navy TRF RX that covers 15 to 600 kc/s. The 198 kc/s (used to be Droitwich on 1500 metres) BBC is especially very weak and the signal not readable.
Also currently coveting an AR88LF but it's a lot of money and heavy to move from central Canada if I won it on eBay! - Terry Sanford. Torbay, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
My introduction to SWL was in 1982 with a 30 year old Murphy TA160, a huge valve table radio made for export only and still one of the best, followed by some real fun with a 1938 Murphy 15-valve console with dual conversion. It was this set where I first heard Australia on eight feet of wire!
Now I have a Grundig Satellit 500 to go cruising the ether with. The site is a real gem - keep up the good work. I must have a go at making a VLF receiver myself now, I'm fascinated by what you wrote about VLF whistlers. I suspect an op-amp would do to replace the OC71s these days! Regards, Mike Izycky
I liked your comments about explaining why a signal at 945MHz did not go around corners and about those who sell phones and those who know how they work. Perhaps you should have told them to move to 1.5GHz as those signals from the GPS birds do go round corners, according to many who use their GPS indoors!
I was also G6AGH/T and bought a secondhand Phillips 1520 and got it working again. Those were the days! My first true ham receiver was an old portable 405 line TV. I'd modified the tuner down to 70cm and made a 70cm beam on an old broom handle. I'd nailed flat copper transformer wire to the wood. Many around me when I setup to receive my first TV transmission, told me that I was wrong to use wood as it should be metal to conduct the signals.
My first rig from Bill was the ICOM IC-20 with an external VFO designed to use with the ICOM IC-21A. I was going on holiday and Bill was out of stock with the 21A. The 21A was bought later. 73, G4ENS
It evoked many memories. Your reference to Neville G3LCV brought back to me the occasion in the late 50s when Jim Kastner-Walmesley G3HUI came down from Lancashire on a camping holiday and settled upon Aston-on-Trent at which to pitch his tent.
These were the halcyon days of Top Band and as Jim set up numerous QSOs with locals - including Neville Gregory - we all descended on his camp site and assisted in erecting a gigantic aerial for Jim's command transmitter and receiver (no Kenwoods or Yaesus available in those days!) Next, everyone headed for the chippy, which was close to Neville's home.
Well-known personalities of the time were Norman Birkett (Birkett's Better Beams) who had a shop on The Spot in Derby and later a manufacturing facility SSB Products, also in Derby. Brian Sandall G3LGK (Ilkeston) Tom Darn G3FGY (later to become a member of the RSGB Committee) Fred Ward G2CVV, Jack Hibberd G3MXI, Joe Gingell G3AAM, Wilf Steele G3GWJ, Alan Cooper G3JRN, G3MHR, Alan G3LXL, Eric West G3KTP (who obtained my first short-wave receiver for me - a CR100) Ken Starnes G3JWK etc all of whom could be heard most night chewing the rag on 160m.
I seem to recall that Neville Gregory also made quite a name for himself playing Livin' Doll on his electric guitar on Top Band. Keep up the good work - your site makes excellent reading! Peter Preston
First of all I want to thank you for the entertaining, gorgeously well-written shortwave listener's guide. What a treat to find that my increasingly obscure hobby has it's own Stephen Potter!
One day I hope to secure the Lowe print edition. I have owned a copy of the Listener's Guide since the early 1980s and having read and re-read it to the point where it literally fell apart and I had to re-bind it.
It's great to see the modern version on the net. A quote from my copy of the Guide no home is complete without the ability to download onto twin Winchesters. How times HAVE changed! - KI6VQH
I feel the same pain as many others. The joy of playing with radios and listening to shortwave is slowly being strangled by lack of interest and the internet.
Yes it's just a hobby for me, but it was a great adventure. During the 50s I could listen to Moscow Mailbag and Radio Swan. I did my listening in the middle of the winter at 9000 feet in a Colorado mining camp, it was the only other source of entertainment I had.
I hung an aerial between my house and my neighbors and used a little Phillips shortwave receiver to roam the bands. I am retired now but the simple pleasure I got from my hobby was something I am glad I was able to experience. Maybe we are at the end of an era or maybe beginning a new one!?