Tuesday, 4 June 2013

SHORTWAVE ISN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE.

Eighty-one dollars was a lot of money back in 1971. Even so, I managed to convince my mom to buy me a Sony shortwave radio. It was a dream-come-true for me. Having discovered the joys of international broadcasts in 1966 through the classroom radio at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, I finally had my own receiver. I felt overjoyed as Mom paid for it and we rode the Greyhound bus home to Fort Saskatchewan.

If my mother figured I wouldn't listen to it for long, she was sorely mistaken. I carried that portable everywhere and listened to it for hours that summer. I remember waking up at 5:00 A.M. one morning and tuning in Radio Australia. They played some of the local rock bands on the show that I tuned into. I didn't think much of the music but I felt proud that I heard songs which none of my peers had heard on 630 Ched, the local rock station in Edmonton.

With a long wire in the basement, I was able to improve shortwave reception. Stations from various European countries boomed in during the evenings while Asian stations came in well each morning. Though I did hear stations from South America, only HCJB in Quito, Ecuador had English programming.

There were plenty of jamming stations during those days too. Transmitters in the Soviet Union transmitted noise on the same frequencies as stations from America with programs in Russian so their people couldn't hear them. Even so,no western governments jammed English broadcasts from Radio Moscow and those of satellite countries behind the Iron Curtain.

As with any technology, new improvements often leave users of older technologies out. I discovered, to my annoyance, that amateur radio operators and utility stations transmitting voice signals from point to point used a mode called single sideband. It was energy-efficient and took up less room on the dial. Unfortunately for me, it sounded garbled on my AM receiver. Mom put her foot down regarding buying another radio so I contented myself with the one she bought me.

I don't have that receiver today but I have a similar model. When I listen to shortwave now, I find little in the way of interesting programming. Private Christian stations in America broadcast programs ranging from ranting preachers to conspiracy theory survivalist hucksters. Most of the European broadcasters can only be heard on the Internet and many Asian stations have moved their too. Some have gone off the air entirely. For most enthusiasts, the glory days of shortwave are over.

I wrote about HCJB in Quito, Ecuador in my new book called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Check out the e-book version, now on sale for $3.99, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers. For those who like paperbacks, visit How I Was Razed.