Radio Silence

It’s been quiet here lately. Both on the blog and in my shack. Multiple reasons for that.

 

Some of it is the beginning of summer. I now have three kids at home I need to entertain, feed, and transport to activities each day. That sucks up the time for writing and listening.

 

The R-75 hasn’t been on in several weeks. In fact, I may be putting it back on the market soon. Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to it but am constantly frustrated by the brutal local noise that knocks out roughly half the HF bands for me. I know the pickings are much more slim on the Tropical Bands than they were the last time I was a listener, but I’d at least like to have a chance to catch them.

 

Also, there is a feeling of doom hanging over shortwave broadcast listening. Radio Canada International is in its final week of transmissions. Radio Netherlands is disappearing, too. Thus two of my favorite stations from my youth will be joining many others in the archives of once-great broadcasters.

 

DXing is almost impossible and SWLing is running out of targets.

 

The other big thing that’s been taking up time was studying for my Technician Class amateur license. I was confident I had the material down, but in the final days before my exam, I was constantly looking through practice tests.

 

Well, last Monday night I took and passed the exam. I missed two questions, which annoyed me, but that really doesn’t matter. The VECs talked me into taking the General exam just for grins and, without any studying or practice of its material, I came within three questions of passing. That annoyed me, too, because I felt like had I put a couple hours into reviewing the General material, I could have walked away with those operating privileges, which are the ones I really crave.

 

After a long week of waiting, my callsign finally appeared in the FCC ULS Monday morning: KC9WEO. I bought a cheap handheld but my neighbor lent me his Yaesu FT-7800 and a small antenna to play with. I’ve just been listening so far, trying to get the lingo and rules of repeater operation down. And I’ve kept a close eye on eBay, etc. to see if any super deals on the rigs I’m most interested in show up. While I’m sure I’ll mess around on VHF/UHF for awhile, I am more interested in getting my HF voice privileges so I can work the world. Or at least try to, given the restrictions on antennas our neighborhood has.

 

So that’s where I am at right now. The broadcast shortwave adventure is winding down, but I’m moving into a whole new radio adventure that I’ll be sharing here.

 

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Some Early Stats

I tuned the shortwave bands again for the first time in mid-March. After a few weeks of tentative listening, I started my new log book on April 5. So, a month (give-or-take) into my third go ’round as a SWL/DXer, it’s time to share a few observations and numbers.

In that month, I’ve purchased and tested three receivers. Two were returned, the first because it stopped working within the return period, the second because I felt like I needed a more powerful receiver. Today, I’m listening on an Icom R75.

I began listening on the whip antennas on my first two receivers. Later, I strung 40 or so feet of wire in a hidden part of our backyard. When the R75 arrived, I ordered a Par Electronics EF-SWL antenna which is now installed in our attic.

I’ve discovered some hellacious noise that comes from somewhere in our neighborhood that makes listening to anything under 7000 kHz very difficult most of the time. With the exception of the high powered US and Cuban stations, I’ve yet to hear anything in the Tropical Bands.

Putting in a couple hours, at most, each day, I’ve snagged 90 stations in 56 countries. All but one of those countries are ones I logged in my previous listening years. Some very light monitoring on the ham bands has netted 16 states and two Canadian provinces.

There are a lot of frustrations regarding shortwave radio that weren’t there when I was a teenager and spending way too much time listening to broadcasts in languages I couldn’t understand. That local RF noise. Radio Canada International is about to disappear with Radio Netherlands probably close behind. There are far fewer big broadcasters aiming towards the United States than there were 30 years ago, and assorted man-made noises make it more difficult to catch the domestic stations I would love to hear.

But this hobby is still a hell of a lot of fun. I think I’ll stick with it for awhile.