Listener's Guide

You Have Your Say About The Listener's Guide

Over the years, we have collected a few nice comments. Oddly, the nasty ones don't appear here.

How Great To See The Listener's Guide Live On Into The Internet Age

Lately, having rekindled a long standing interest in radio, I remembered my old copy of The Guide and on a whim, decided to Google it. What a pleasant surprise to find it thriving, rather than just fondly recalled in wistful memories or worse still, sunk without trace.

It takes me back to being an avid SWL in the late 80s' as a teenager soon headed for University. Having toyed with various receiver projects and one of the Sangean digital portables, I was given a copy of The Guide by a friend, and immediately read it from cover to cover. Lowe Electronics were in the ascendancy at the time, having launched the HF225 on the strength of the HF125, and I'd read and re-read the magazine reviews, pining for a true communications receiver.

Meanwhile I tinkered happily with my portable. Later, fortunate enough to have a father impressed by, and willing to indulge my interests in science and electronics, we headed over to Matlock one warm August afternoon. On seeing the showroom my eyes became as wide as saucers and a pleasant member of staff helped us try out some receivers for comparison. We left somewhat later, me with an enormous smile on my face, and a nicely equipped HF225 - this choice was never in doubt - in the boot of Dad's Montego.

That apparently unassuming Lowe receiver was quite a revelation, and a joy to use from day one. I still have it and in fact it has just followed me across the Atlanic to our home in California, and seems to be enjoying its new home of scene on the newly set-up radio desk in our basement. Here It has joined my JRC NRD535, purchased used, again from a very helpful Lowe Electronics, who wisely steered me away from the new NRD 345 sale bargain I'd phoned to enquire about.

Little did I know at the time what a good catch that was, looking at today's resale values...

The final critical component, a real antenna (something barely ever possible before) has just been built in a quiet spot in the garden, offering these wonderful receivers something with which to show their mettle. They do not dissapoint, and I hope to share their merits with the next generation!

And my grey covered real paper copy ot the Listener's Guide? Still going strong, still a fun and informative read and a good compliment to the electronic version.

Thank you again - Ed Holland

The Great And The Good

You have awakened my inner nerd. Good site. Best Wishes, Alex - Alex Lester, BBC Radio 2

A unique publication. Many folk are still reading and absorbing the very real advice in the Guide - John Wilson, G3PCY

This is a MOST EXCELLENT website. Explore it, enjoy it - HFRADIO.ORG

Looks good! Wish I had your ability to put together a well-thought-out accessible web site - John Wilson, G3PCY

I Came Across The Guide While Surfing The Web

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 AR7030 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

I Had An R107

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.

Just Wanted To Say I Think The Site's Great

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

Quite Interesting

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

What A Great Site

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 of 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

How Times Have Changed

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

End Of An Era

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!?

Nice To Know?

Hi there, I've surely got to say, I really like your site. The colours, the structure, the general concept, they all move properly together. Anyway, that is all I really had to declare.

Scott's Letter From America

Your latest Guide posting in re HF doldrums and the long dark night of the whatsit has caused a few thoughts to come unbidden to my somewhat hung-over head on this early Saturday morning.

But first, some upbeat news. Here on the West coast of Norf America there is still much of interest below 30 MHz, especially after dark. I was gobsmacked to hear the old Radio Moscow interval signal t'other night, clear as a bell. Turns out Ivan has started broadcasting from French Guyana on 41 meters, just down the road an F2-layer hop - they call themselves Voice of Russia now, of course. The programming is actually pretty good, bonafide art, music, and history features done to as high a standard as I've heard in the world of radio outside of Radio 4.

Casual (indeed, downright desultory) night-time listening has yielded the BBC out of Limassol, as well as Portugal, Belarus, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Sri Lanka, Vatican City, and the usual S9+50dB Asian and Pacific Rim stuff we get here in California.

Granted, this improved reception is probably all an illusion. I recently became a Fully Licensed Amateur Radio Operator (but don't tell my mom - she still thinks I'm a piano player in a whore-house) and the listening post now has a fancy dual-conversion DSP IF Yaesu whatsit front and center, charmless as a plastic coat-hanger, but it makes my lovingly restored Hallicrafters S-38C sound like a white-noise generator with a bad shielding job.

So, admittedly, this is a wish list of stuff I wish Bob Ellis would write about (or, if you like, a bunch of work I wish Bob would do gratis, possibly of interest only to me) and given your laudable and ingenious tack of pitching the guide towards the educated - even literary - non-anorak who is otherwise hugely susceptible to the romance of armchair bandcruising with a lighted dial, a big, brass-counterweighted tuning knob in one hand and a vodka martini in t'other, and whose study doesn't look like the control room for the death ray.

So, I've tried to constrain my wish-list to those things that aren't squarely aimed at the dorks with call-sign-emblazoned baseball caps who fantasize about phased arrays on a windy hilltop. They is:

You could always dish on the 7030's successor. When I was in the aviation biz, it was a time-honored tradition to reveal every last secret detail of Top Secret stuff to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, prompting the industry to refer to it Aviation Leak.

Non-voice modes for general interest monitoring. Okay, anoraky, yes. Still, I expect there'd be not a few SWL's who'd enjoy plugging their audio output into the mic jack of their laptop, launching some bit of free-ish and fairly simple software, and seeing what's really going on with all those dits and dahs and buzzes and whistles. Indeed, the subject of software adjuncts generally might make for some helpful pieces - I admit that even in my SWL-only days I was a regular user of Shortwave Log, VOACAP, and sound-card-based audio DSP things to wring max performance out of my crufty Realistic DX-160, lovingly pieced together from a brace of derelict sets. (And even if I could bring myself to spend more on an Inrad roofing filter than the whole set cost me off e-Bay, I'd never be able to shake off the chill any reasonable man feels at the prospect of hot-rodding a classic set. In the immortal words of Mark E. Smith, ghoulish tinkering is not science.)

Headphones. I've noticed that most people have never even tried a decent set of 'phones; and I'll never forget the first time I put on a pair of upmarket Sennheisers, lo these many years ago, and felt like I'd been cheated out of half the music I ever listened to via lesser cans. Using them for shortwave listening was a similar revelation. (Indeed, if my whole life could be distilled into a brief bit of sensible advice it would be this: buy the absolute best headphones, shoes, and mattress you can afford. For everything else, you can feel smug about slumming it.)

As always thanks for running one of the best things I've ever found on the Internet.

Cheers from KI6VQH, the artist formerly known as Scott

Growing Up In Arkansas

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

What More Could We Ask For?

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

Delaware River Blues

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

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...

Fred Ward Was A Very Special Guy

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

From British Expat.Com

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!

Congratulations

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

Thank You For The Listener's Guide

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

Just Thought I'd Drop You A Line

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

My Far Flung Listening Post In The Colonies Is Proving To Be A Fun Diversion

Much to my relief there is still some life in the wild waves, although it's not the overloaded cacophony that I took for granted in the heyday of the HF225. Still the Random Wire Dipole appears to be a capable installation, with mercifully little local interference. Once I turn off the invisible dog fence...

That said, a new location provides an interesting geographical perspective. The other evening I heard a wonderfully clear QSL on 21Mhz between a gentleman in Tokyo and another in New York! Radio New Zealand International has been very strong here on 11725kHz in the mid to late evenings, and it is fun to hear what the ionosphere does to get us the BBC on 12095, which, I understand, hails from South Africa. The latter was pretty good last night, but is often unreadable, barely a carrier. It seemed appropriate to switch on the plucky Lowe for that one, which still fires on all mixers. Good audio on AM or AMS.

I struck gold for the NRD 535 last month, and found for sale the correct Bandwidth Control Module for which I have hunted many times. At last all the knobs on the front panel do something - I think NRD is shorthand for nerd - and it is helpful in clarifying weaker signals on SSB. The only slight trepidation was in following the directions to cut a track on the main PCB to render the newly installed circuit board operational.

I've rambled enough, best wishes from California - Ed Holland.