The Sickness That is Short Wave Radio

I just took a little inventory of my short wave radios.  It shakes out like this:

  • Tecsun PL-660
  • Tecsun PL-880
  • Sangean ATS-909X
  • Kaito KA1103
  • Majestic El Cheapo Italian Radio
  • Tivdio V-115
  • C Crane SSB
  • Tecsun PL-365
  • Tecsun PL-380
  • Tecsun S2000
  • Tecsun PL-310ET
  • XHDATA D-808
  • Grundig Eton Satellit
Okay, you’re probably not reading this unless you are a Ham or an ShortWave Listener (SWL).  I probably seem like a rank amateur compared to many guys you’ve seen who have possibly dozens of more radios than I have.


What I failed to mention is that I also have a pretty significant Software Defined Radio (SDR) sickness as well.  Every one of the SDR’s I own can also tune into all the short wave bands and in fact most of them have a frequency range of about 0 KHz to 1.7 GHz.  Most of your short wave radios have a range of 2 MHz to about 20 or 25 MHz.

 

“”Every one of the SDR’s I own can also tune into all the short wave bands and in fact most of them have a frequency range of about 0 KHz to 1.7 GHz.  Most of your short wave radios have a range of 2 MHz to about 20 or 25 MHz.””

 

My rough list of SDR’s:

  • The blue ones (generic)
  • The black ones (generic)
  • The version 3 ones
  • Airspy R2 with Spyverter
  • Airspy Mini
  • SDRPlay RSP1
  • SDRPlay RSP2
  • NooElec SMART
  • LimeSDR-Mini
  • HackRF
  • Ham It Up Upconverter

Probably missed some as well.  Anyway, every single one of these will not only do shortwave they literally do everything else.  Every other frequency known to God and man.  Why own a ShortWave radio at all?

That’s a good question and through extensive testing and scientific research I have determined the answer is “I Don’t Know”.  An SDR is the size of a USB thumb drive (yeah, some are bigger) and once you plug it into an antenna you can listen to AM (some need an up converter), MW. FM, LW, ShortWave, Air Band, Police, Fire, EMS, the dog catcher, Satellites, your neighbors baby monitor (not kidding), you can download Weather Faxes, Satellite images, Marine communications, the Feds……..you can literally hear any radio signal.  With an SDR you can record your car key fob and play it back to unlock your car (on some cars) and read unencrypted pager traffic from the hospital where they literally talk about how fat and uncooperative you are with your full name in the sentence.  I’ve seen it.  I wish I were kidding.

So again, back to the question…….Why have a Short Wave Radio?  Even though I listed all the cool stuff you can do with SDR you need a computer, an antenna, and most importantly probably MULTIPLE COMPUTER OPERATING SYSTEMS AND THE SMARTS TO USE THEM AND INSTALL ALL THE JUNK TO DO ALL THOSE THINGS.

With a Short Wave Radio all you need is some batteries, a whip antenna and if you really want to get fancy you can use a long piece of wire as a very effective antenna.   Another overlooked point is that your wife, your kids and maybe even the dog can operate a table top radio.  (That last statement could inspire some good debate.  Some of these radios you CLEARLY need to read the manual twice to figure out how to tune different bands or increase and decrease the volume.  Wish I was kidding about that.). 

But for the most part, in a pinch, you push the on button and you spin the tuning knob and start waiting for the magic to happen.  When I was 12 years old in front of a big old shortwave radio spinning that big knob and pulling in a signal from South America or anywhere else overseas…….. THAT WAS MAGICAL.  Maybe it is just nostalgia that makes me want a radio that I sit and tune in some far away station.  Maybe I just want to be that 12 year old boy again for a minute sitting in front of a radio and trying to capture the magic.

So while an SDR is technologically superior to a table top radio it is missing something.  What that something is I don’t know but it fails to make me feel like a little boy again.

 

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