One of my favorite gifts this Christmas was a new shortwave radio. I’ve wanted one for years and just hadn’t taken the plunge. One night in the summer, Dave and I were online looking at radio models and he bought two of them, one for each of us. The new one replaces the monster I got when I was a kid (Montgomery Wards brand! We’re talking ancient!), which only kinda works now (though if I sprayed some tuner cleaner in the switches, they might be fine). The technology has gotten a bit smaller in the intervening decades:
I love the digital readout. Love, love, love it. It’s the one thing I’ve wanted all along. It doesn’t have the bands beyond the FM band that I had on the big radio, but I never got into listening to much of anything at those frequencies. It does have the longwave band, the one below AM, but it’s not used much in North America—certainly not for broadcast, but I think some airports still use it to broadcast tracking beacons.
So it’s a beautiful little radio and I’ve logged a lot of listening hours already. The only problem is … shortwave radio has changed a lot in the last few years. A lot of the big European broadcasters, as well as the Voice of America and Radio Canada International, no longer broadcast to North America! I’m not the only one who’s noticed (this also appeared in Wired in 2008). Apparently there’s this thing called the World Wide Web, and there’s webcasting, and … they switched from shortwave to the Internet to reach North America. No fade, no bleed from competing stations, always there. Where’s the fun in that? But it costs money to run big radio stations, and they’re in the business of disseminating info, not just running radio stations.
That’s a big disappointment. No BBC. No Radio Nederland. No Deutsche Welle. Not in English, as far as I can tell. They’re still broadcasting, but their antennas are mostly pointed to Africa and Asia. I can get a lot of Radio Havana Cuba, a lot of China Radio International, and a whole lot of American Christian talk radio. Well, talk-and-preach radio.
… I’ve been talking with Dave about setting up a humanist/science radio station on shortwave. Think it’ll fly? …
Anyway… I still enjoy the new radio. There are still some cool things to hear. Cuba and China have some good programming, actually, way better than 30 years ago when all they offered was obvious propaganda. And when all else fails, there are the soothing ticks and tones of WWV, the time station run by the U.S. National Instutite of Standards. (All time, all the time.)