Friday, October 25, 2019

Shortwave Listening With No Sound

I'm an eavesdropper. I was the little turd on the party line who listened to his teen-aged neighbor and her boyfriend breathing at each other after they ran out of things to say. I modded my Bakelite phone so they couldn't hear it go off-hook.

So it's only natural that shortwave listening has been a hobby of mine since the days of crystal radio, or darned near. I like to listen. And I like to decode the HF digital modes where 'listening' is defined loosely. Lately a new HF digital mode called FT8 is all the rage. It's a 'weak-signal radio communication' mode. The exchanges are along the lines of call sign, location, transmitting power followed by the receiver's call sign, location and strength of the caller's signal. They don't 'say' much but the signals travel long distances.

I'm in a basement apartment with a magnetic loop antenna near a window with an SDR on the other end. Far from an ideal setup, but get a load of this:

I've been able to receive signals from all 50 US states and 80 countries. On the down side, I've never heard a human voice nor have I read anything like a conversation. Now I leave it running more to watch how propagation conditions change over the course of a day and night.

Maybe it's a good thing I have other hobbies.


  1. That's pretty amazing. Do you believe this has any "bullet proof" options in case of major breakdowns in "normal" communications?

  2. Curry used to play a clip of someone saying ham radio was going to save the world when the grid went down. It does have that potential but the hobby is dying faster than apparent vulnerabilities in the grid.