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Shortwave Radio with a long History

   Twenty-five years or more ago when I received my Amateur Radio License (HAM Radio) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio_operator from the FCC. It was and still is necessary to take a test to receive your Amateur Radio Ticket. This test is required to prove to the FCC that the operator is capable of operating a two-radio station for private and emergency use. Emergency meaning, and by the FCC definition in their mind, is to qualify and maintain an abundance of proficient radio operators to assist in emergencies both local and national in times of need to provide emergency radio communications for disaster areas. And could include hospitals if they were to lose phone lines during flooding.

    In our studies it was brought to our attention (the class that I was attending for preparation for the test), that one of the main communication methods capable to still operate and maintain contact during nuclear fallout http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fallout is shortwave radio. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortwave_radio

    Now over several years of operating shortwave radio, (or as we called it, HF for high frequency) and for me this also included both the VHF and UHF bands for local communications, I had an exceptional opportunity to learn from some of the best in amateur radio because of my employment with a local government contracted Radio-engineering Corporation. This high tech employer had a Ham Radio club. This local club at the time had members that were directly involved in the radio engineering for NASA's Apollo's Lunar Landing Mission in the sixties and seventies. And from this experience and the knowledge that I gained, I myself received a US Patent for an antenna invention specifically for Search & Rescue some years later. A great example of the influence one can have on another. See Article by Scott Eugene - Part I and II entitled: My Inspiration to Conceive "Wilderness Geek"

    The main point that I had learned from all these seasoned radio engineers is that they themselves knew in times of global or national disasters, or even during nuclear fallout, that shortwave or HF is in their emergency plan to stay in touch with the world. So if you yourself have always been interested in Ham Radio, then this should be a good time to contact a local radio club in your area and sign up for instructional classes provided by volunteers all across this nation.

    Learning on your own is better than not at all, but learning from experienced radio operators will bring you up to speed faster and help you to become more qualified and knowledgeable if disastrous times come. You'll be one step up compared to most if the cellular phones and land lines cease to function for whatever reason.

    Now those that have no interest or time in obtaining a Ham Radio license can still take advantage of the potential world of radio that is available to us all. No license is required for monitoring shortwave radio. A license is only required to transmit on these bands. Shortwave radios have become more available and affordable in price to the average person compared to just a few years ago. No technical knowledge is really needed to operate these receivers since they have designed in them controls that help the users quickly tune in their favorite radio station halfway around the world. See this article for more information about world radio:http://www.odxa.on.ca/beginnersguide/swintro.html

    So the bottom line is, anybody can operate a shortwave or some times called world radios that not only can receive local stations, but all Nations around the world provide broadcasts that would inform us of their local and National news. Most do operate in English since its been a uniformed language for radio and TV broadcasting for decades. In fact most Hams around the world speak English since their local laws require it to receive the right to use these radios and the designated bands set aside for amateur radio use.

    So what can you hear? Well, if you go online and download a listing for broadcast times along with the Nations that are broadcast and the band they're transmitting on, you'll be impressed with all that is accessible to everyone. You'll hear the BBC and even the news as it happens, being broadcasted from areas under siege to tsunami warnings, telling the islanders to take higher ground. You'll even be able to listen in on the Space Shuttle communications on shortwave radio during flight times. Here are some examples of the listings you'll find on the net including the link for the Space Shuttle frequencies under Monitoring Times Magazine web site: http://www.monitoringtimes.com/index.html

    Examples for station listings: http://home.centurytel.net/danielsampson/ - http://www.naswa.net/list/ - http://www.k5kj.net/swl.htm

    So what frequency bands should you make sure are on your shortwave radio?

    Well, you need to know that not all shortwave radios may have all the bands and modes required to hear all the broadcasting that is available to the average listener. When selecting a radio, look for the frequency bands between 510 KHz to 30MHz with standard AM and FM broadcast. Now some may fall short on the upper and lower end. That's expected but your main concern is to generally cover this range. Some manufacturers will leave out whole bands and may only give you some of the bands like SW1 and SW2 and leave out SW3 and SW4. This means you would have SW1, 3.5 to 9 MHz and SW2, 9 to 14 MHz and not the upper end from SW3, 14 MHz and up to SW4, 27 MHz or any combination in between. So avoid these models missing these bands and especially if there is a model available to you for just ten to twenty dollars more that will cover these bands.

    So if you focus on finding a radio with bands between 530 KHz to 27 MHz, then no mater what they call it, you're covered. Digital radios are easier to tune in, but analog dial tuning is fine for most radio listening. Your wallet will determine that. But there are great deals on digitals radios on Wilderness Geek.com

    Extras bands like Aircraft, Weather Alert and TV channels are a plus. At a minimum you should have the NOAA Weather bands with All Hazard Alert. See Articles by Scott Eugene entitled “Weather Emergencies Radio Alert"

    Other options to look for in a shortwave are narrow and wide band receivers with fine-tuning to separate Single Side Band transmissions (SSB). You may find this option described as Beat Frequency Oscillator (BFO). This will enable you to listen in on maritime and amateur radio signals since they mostly use the SSB modes of transmissions for the HF frequencies, and not just AM and FM modes of operation.

    And the last but possibly the most important feature to look for is in the ways you can power the radio. Whether its powered by Wall adapter, alkaline or rechargeable batteries, car cigarette lighter adapter, hand crank chargeable and possibly solar. You should be able to operate it when needed. But if you can find a radio that is capable of being powered by all these methods then you'll be in like flint. But regardless of how its powered. Always have fresh batteries on hand with the radio kept in a cool dry storage area.

    You would be well advised to obtain or make for yourselves a long wire antenna or sometimes called a random wire antenna even though the radios comes with its own antenna. Shortwave was a term given in the earlier years more then a half a century ago. So shortwave is not so short. Lengths suggested by radio designers call for twenty to fifty feet in length for best results. And a good receiving antenna for these bands need to have some length to receive weak distance signals. You will find quick-roll up antennas for easy storage. See this articles for the weekend project enthusiasts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_wire_antenna

    Also some models are weather resistant or come with some kind of pouch or carrying case to store it in. Even if they do not, you should obtain some kind of emergency kit or trunk to store all your emergency items in one place for quick access to avoid running all around your home at the last minute looking for everything.

     Now you're ready to see what's out there in this world and be ready for any disasters possible foreign or domestic that would otherwise keep you in the dark and out of touch with information that could save the life of yourself or your loved ones. If you don't have a shortwave radio or other emergency radio and you see the local residents heading out of town and leaving everything behind, then maybe you should as well. But better to be informed than to guess what you should do if something happens. It's a little hard to get the facts from someone when their running by you as fast as they can! So be prepared.

    If you're interested in getting your Ham license, then contact the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) for local information on training classes to assist you in obtaining your ticket to the world. http://www.arrl.org/

    There is so much more to cover about this subject and other related interests. There are some great articles out there with more detailed information on the Internet.

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By Scott Hensler 0/12/2013

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