Friday, 14 September 2012


Ask any teenager about shortwave radio and they'll likely have no clue about it. Even among thirty-somethings, the topic of shortwave radio is barely understood by many of them. From my discussions with people, only seniors recall this wondrous part of the radio spectrum.

My first exposure to short wave radio occurred when my parents sent me to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. Each classroom had a Pye AM and shortwave radio that the teachers sometimes let us listen to. By age ten, I became curious enough to fiddle with the receiver during recess. The strange noises of utility stations and the exotic sounds of broadcasters thrilled me. Stations from Japan, the Soviet Union, and other distant countries kept me spellbound with the wonder of hearing their distant signals.

When my mom bought me a shortwave radio in 1971, I discovered that Ecuador had a Christian radio station called HCJB. Radio Netherlands was another powerful broadcaster that I heard regularly. Each evening, stations from Europe filled the shortwave bands with music and features about their respective countries. Listening to them actually helped me in my Social Studies classes.

During the eighties, I bought several general coverage receivers. These helped me tune in weak stations from exotic Asian and African countries. One morning, while on a camping trip with my cousin, we ate breakfast while listening to a station from Papua New Guinea.

Adding to the excitement was the thrill of receiving clandestine signals from rebel stations such as Radio Venceremos. Pirate stations, illegal broadcasters not involved in insurrection, also excited me. Their programming was often harmless, though some espoused leftist beliefs. With such exciting signals, I couldn't help but spend hour upon hour tuning the dial.

The Internet has largely shut down the major international broadcasters. Governments of wealthy countries assumed that everybody has access to broadband servers so transmitting millions of watts seemed wasteful. Though streaming audio is crystal clear, it lacks the wonder and atmosphere of hearing a signal from half way around the world without satellite or broadband assistance.

Though countries such as New Zealand and Australia still broadcast on shortwave, the bands are often filled with Christian radio stations from America. These often play programs of dubious moral quality. They even air conspiracy programs and infomercials. I avoid those broadcasters and search instead for news or current affairs shows.

I mentioned my love of shortwave radio in my two published memoirs as well as my upcoming How I Was Razed book. God willing, I hope to have it in print before the year ends. Meanwhile, please click on the Bruce Atchison's books link for more information about my books.