Shortwave Bonanza

Unlike their microradio cousins operating on the FM dial, shortwave pirate broadcasters aren’t in the game to serve a specific community – unless you include those who’ve turned the hobby of scanning the shortwave bands into a science.

Shortwave radio broadcasting and listening is a very different sport from low power FM. Both types of broadcasters use only dozens of watts to get a signal out but FM signals are very localized. They only travel in a line-of-sight fashion, at best covering dozens of miles.

Shortwave radio, on the other hand, takes advantage of the upper levels of the atmosphere to extend their range. Using the electrically charged particles in the ionosphere, it is possible for a shortwave signal to “skip” through this layer and be heard hundreds or thousands of miles away.

This provides a fascinating challenge to the shortwave listener, who must optimize their receiving antennas and other equipment to best pick up these whispers of pirate radio. Read More

Summer and Shortwave

Being a radio pirate isn’t easy. Going on the air without a license means having to evade the FCC and there’s often the need to broadcast “on the run” – moving from location to location, trying to stay clear of the law.

Shortwave pirates face additional challenges that unlicensed FM stations do not – the range of an FM station’s signal is much, much shorter. FM signals travel in a “line-of-sight” manner – the only receivers that can pick up an FM signal are those that can “see” the transmitting antenna. It takes thousands of watts to cover a few dozen miles on the FM band.

Due to the tendency of shortwave signals to propagate through the atmosphere, it is possible for a 10-watt signal on the shortwave band to travel hundreds – even thousands – of miles. Read More

Tricks and Treats

With Halloween just around the corner, preparations are being made among many in the free radio community to make 1999’s celebration of this dark (and often demented) holiday one to remember.

Holiday broadcasts tend to be the purview of shortwave pirates, who put on some memorable broadcasts around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and April Fool’s Day. But for some reason, for Halloween many tend to pull out all the stops.

At least one broadcaster has already announced his intentions to take to the airwaves on Halloween. Others will surely follow – shortwave pirates tend to pack more creativity into every minute of their shows than any other kind of unlicensed broadcaster, and the fact that Halloween falls on a Sunday may result in some broadcasters spacing out their shows to make the whole weekend a lot of fun. At least one has begun celebrating a week early. Read More