Some thoughts as 2015 comes to a close

A heavy work load has kept me away from this blog since late November. The same work load has also kept me away from getting in much listening so I am hoping over the Christmas break to remedy both these things.

With only a couple of weeks until year end, a bit of reflection on the year from a radio-related point of view (and any others as I ramble through this post!). I am writing this listening to Radio Rebelde on 5025 in the late evening, with their curious mix of Latin-American music. And this is the first area of reflection for the year, and for any other year for that matter. And that is the enduring power of radio, and especially shortwave radio, to entertain, enlighten, educate and excite. And all that sometimes in a language that I cannot understand but if it is music, as this evening, it still has the power to entertain. I cannot hear music like this on any other medium, and although some of it I don’t care for, much of it is good. This is the same with the ‘Music Time Africa’ program that is transmitted by VOA. Where else could you hear the diversity of music that is available from Africa. Yes occasionally it is featured on either Radio 2 or Radio 3 (BBC) here in the UK, but it will be the odd snippet. Not a whole hour or two’s program devoted to it. Wonderful stuff!

Another area of interest is the cultural, heritage and historic information one can get from various places around the globe. Earlier this year I learnt about the migration of Japanese people to South America during the last century, due to persecution and starvation caused by China and the economic problems of the time. And how even now, there is a large community of Japanese still in South America, notably Argentina. Again where else would you learn these things other than on shortwave? Another station which, during an hours program, manages to educate, entertain and generally stimulate the senses is Radio Romania International. Their daily segment covers the culture, history, and politics of Romania past and present, along with places to visit if you happen to travel to Romania. They are also excellent at responding to signal reports, with a great range of QSL cards. A listeners post bag is featured twice a week, where a selection of signal reports and other listener correspondence is read out. They are a station that really value their listeners, and are usually an excellent signal here to the UK.

An area in which I have taken a lot more interest this year are propagation reports, using either QRZ.COM for there quick display of A and K indices, or SolarHam.com for a more detailed view. It is an area in which I am trying to learn a lot more, but have learnt this year that these indices can predict what bands will be busy, and which will be too noisy to hear any stations other than the ‘big guns’. Several CME’s (Coronal Mass Ejections) have occured this year, which at times, has caused an almost complete blackout of the HF bands. But there can still be surprises, and stations can be heard where the noise levels should be too high. But they will suddenly pop up out of the noise and that never fails to excite even after all these years. I have requested a book about propagation for Xmas, to be able to further extend my knowledge, and I hope to share that knowledge on here.

Other changes this year have been my main radio. For nearly 3 years, after getting back into shortwave listening, I have used either a FRG-7 or Tecsun PL-600. The FRG-7 went to a new home earlier this year, and the 600 became my main receiver. For a portable, I can’t fault it and it has enabled me to log numerous stations. It still doesn’t fail to astound me that such a diminutive receiver can pack such a punch. But as with all we SWL’s, I was looking for something better. So I finally purchased a Yaesu 450-D. I decided on a transceiver for a couple of reasons. Ham transceivers these days usually have excellent filtering, and the 450 is no exception, having excellent IF-based DSP filtering. Secondly, I wanted a receiver with better handing of SSB/CW. The 600 was OK, but left a lot to be desired in terms of resolving SSB signals. But again, for what it is, it still a good job even in this area, it’s just the 450 does it a whole lot better. And third, at some time in the future, I would like to get back on the ham bands and transmit. That will be a while in the future, as my current listening post is in the living room, where my XYL is usually watching the TV whilst I listen. Voice transmissions in that environment would not really work. And my current laptop is not up to handling PSK31 operation, so some changes before going down that route.

I also switched from a 45 foot (15m) long wire, to a homebrew Off Centre Fed Dipole (OFCD). This works a lot better than the long wire, but unfortunately suffered some damage in this years  Autumn gales. I am hoping to get some repair work in over Christmas if the weather is fine.

A downside to the year in question, is that yet more stations have gone off air and resorted to an internet-only presence. The DW Kigali transmitter was shut down, which was a great shame to me and no doubt the people of Africa who enjoyed their programmes. I do believe that in an increasingly turbulent world, where the poor and disenfranchised are likely to become greater in number because of conflicts, that shortwave radio is just as important as ever before. A radio can be run on batteries or solar power and is a small outlay in comparison to the cost of getting on the internet. For a lot of peoples, the internet is just not an option, it being either not available, or blocked by government decree. Even relatively prosperous countries such as China, who don’t have a working democracy, block web pages to which they do not agree. And so information is limited. Yes radio can be jammed, as indeed it is by China, but the jammers are not on all the time on every frequency. And the power of radio knows no boundaries. I am pleased that both the BBC and VOA have decided to increase their budgets in over seas broadcasting. Let us hope others follow suite.

Well that was a bit of a ramble, but I hope you enjoy it. I’m sure many people out their have had similar experiences over this year and it would be great for you to get in touch and tell me about them. New antenna’s, new radios, new stations heard, any of that. It is all of interest. Even if you think I’m talking rubbish, let me know!

I will end this post with a few stations logged this evening. With a K-index of 4, I was quite surprised to receive even these, but the bands always have the power to do that!

9870 Khz Saudi Arabia BKSA 19:13 UTC Arabic. Music and chat. SINPO: 54444 2015-12-11

9895 Khz UAE R. Taiwan 19:18 UTC French. Female announcer SINPO: 43333 2015-12-11

9940 Khz Swaziland TWR 19:22 UTC Lingala. Male announcer SINPO: 43333 2015-12-11

11750 Khz South Africa AWR 19:30 UTC ID in English followed by male announcer with news in Igbo SINPO: 43344 2015-12-11

11765 Khz Brazil Super Radio Deus e Amor 21:20 UTC Portugese. Male and female announcers SINPO: 22222 2015-12-11

12095 Khz Ascension Island BBCWS 21:24 UTC English. Discussion about Islam. A very odd buzzing interference SINPO: 32222 2015-12-11

5025 Khz Cuba R. Rebelde 22:40 UTC Spanish. Playing Private Dancer. Lot of rtty type interference. SINPO: 32233 2015-12-11

 

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