Shortwave: It’s In My Sights

I used to like listening to shortwave. Specifically because it’s utterly unlike what you’ll hear on FM.  “Sources report that American NASCAR motorsports still use caboretors, we haven’t ascertained why but our reporters are working on it and think it has something to do with Wal-Mart. In the meantime we’re going to play Polka non-ironically for six hours. Stay tuned at midnight for a Shakespearean soliloquy and then we will be reading a tractor repair manual in Esperanto.” I especially like radio news which isn’t NPR (America’s Pravda). The press of my nation is so uniformly steeped in Kool aid that it gets under your skin; “I’m Terry Gross and today on “Fresh Air” we’re going to have yet another ‘conversation’ about why American’s who don’t vote Democrat are probably brain damaged and should be surgically altered for their own good. This will be replayed sixteen times in the next two days until you flyover assholes get the point.”

“International News” isn’t perfect but at least it’s different. “Someone in a place you can’t pronounce was attacked by a polar bear. They shot it and ate it for lunch.” Hmmm must be Finland? There’s a tuba instead of a bass guitar, I’m thinking Latin America? A paint huffing Marxist twit on a government payroll who’s emoting about about one legged lesbian poets while Kosovo burns (I date myself?)… I’m guessing BBC? Music on Superbowl Sunday without hearing one damn word about halftime TV commercials? Priceless.

It’s good to hear fish swimming in different waters.

Alas, that’s all in my past. I haven’t done SW in years. Last week I dug out my sole remaining SW reciever and realized… it’s shit. (Also everything sold my Radio Shack in the last two decades is shit but we already knew that.) I asked for advice and got plenty. Thanks!

Shortwave radios are a consumer product with so many details that you can go down the rabbit hole. So I added some more sideboards and got more advice. Thanks again!

I really want a sexy transceiver that can wring some fun out of my HAM license but I decided to stay cheap and simple. I think I’m going to order a $160 TecSun PL-880.

Buttons and dials!

Buttons and dials!

So here’s the thing. I don’t know shit about the details. Reading reviews (click here) leads to things like this:

“In regular AM or SW modes the bandwidths are 9.0, 5.0, 3.5, and 2.3 KHz. In SSB or Sync modes the available bandwidths are 4.0, 3.0, 2.3, 1.2 and 0.5 KHz. It is unfortunate that the sync mode uses the SSB filters…that limits you to a maximum bandwidth of 4KHz in sync mode which sounds decidedly less crisp than the 5KHz and 9 KHz options available in normal mode.”

What the hell does that mean? Are they talking about a radio or a nuclear reactor? Here’s what a review at my level of sophistication would say:

“The dials are round. It’s got buttons. It pulls in many stations which speak languages I can’t identify. Even if you’ve got a HAM license you can’t broadcast from it… which is probably good because you’ve got nothing to say. It costs about as much as a single truck tire and should outlast the tire. Women will not be impressed by it.”

So if it’s shit and I should get a SDR Dongle for $20 that can do the same thing, someone speak up now before I waste money.

I’m looking forward to listening to shortwave again. (I refuse to call it “world band” for the same reason I refuse to call a 20 ounce coffee at Starbucks a “venti”.)

I’ve been overworked and need a hobby that doesn’t involve chainsaws or exhaustion. Sitting by the fire on a winter’s night listening to whatever the hell pops up from somewhere that calls soccer “football” sounds relaxing. Just what the doctor ordered for a worn out Curmudgeon. It’s in the budget. I’ll probably order on my next paycheck. I can’t wait.


P.S. Two hours after I wrote this I got a call:

ATV Repairman: “You know that thing you broke on the ATV?”

Me: “Yeah.”

ATV Repairman: “It’ll cost a bit more than expected.”

Me: “Let me guess. It’ll cost $160?”

ATV Repairman: “How’d you guess?”

Me: “Lets just say I can’t escape NPR radio.”

ATV Repairman: “Huh? So should I fix it?”

Me: “Sigh… yeah.”

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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7 Responses to Shortwave: It’s In My Sights

  1. Bruce says:

    I get so much enjoyment from this blog. Is there any way for me to donate to the short wave cause?

  2. AuricTech says:

    “Someone in a place you can’t pronounce was attacked by a polar bear. They shot it and ate it for lunch.”

    I just hope they didn’t eat the liver….

  3. wyowanderer says:

    Another great thing about the S-38E is that it’s fairly immune to EMP. Like that matters-in an EMP, no one will have radios for a while.

    • You win on that note. The TecSun PL-880 is so high tech that I’m pretty sure an EMP would fry it faster than you can say “useless gadget”. Also the battery is excellent but overly complex. Not perfect for zombie scenarios.

      That said it’s perfect for what I wanted. I wanted user friendly to the point of being “stupid simple”. I also wanted the digital readout/input. Also the automatic search technology is real nice you don’t really have to know anything at all to pull in interesting stuff… and for the moment I’m all about knowing nothing. 🙂 Plus it came with a sexy carrying case… very cool.

      Maybe I’ll get something more “interesting” after I’ve had a couple years tinkering with the easy stuff. (I did look around for used stuff and “trade for bacon” options but nothing materialized. Perhaps after I’ve mastered the dark arts of slinky antennae.)

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