As an alternative to the mainstream media outlets I’ve rediscovered my interest in shortwave radio. I’m not talking about some application that uses the Internet to play music or host talk shows. I’m referring to an actual receiver that can pick up over the air broadcast- radio wave transmissions. Many of the local FM and AM stations are a little too commercial and no longer have the same vibe as the “home town” stations of the past. There was a time when a local radio station would be a good source of local news. Some stations still do a little of this, but many just pipe canned national shows and “Major network news feeds” much of which I really could do without. A lot of what I hear on these channels sounds a little scripted. This form of media is free to the end user, you still must remember that somebody has to pay the bill, so you most likely won’t hear too much unrestricted or filtered free thought. You get what you pay for, and it doesn’t take much effort to leave the dial on a channel that comes in clear and strong so you may not hear a lot of variety.
For a while it almost seemed like you would get more “real” “unfiltered” perspective via social media on the Internet, but that appears to be experiencing some confliction over what you will or will not have available. Opinions are usually provided as are overly used talking points. Sometimes it’s best to shut off all the commercially controlled noise and dial in and around the short wave bands. Here you might get some different perspectives from areas outside your immediate scope of available broadcasts. You need a radio that can pickup these transmissions, and you’ll soon find out some pros and cons of different radios and antennas. This is somewhat interesting, as is the ability to have a greater assortment of news and sometimes entertainment.
For me, I find that having one type of radio is just not enough.
What really took me back to what one might refer to as a much simpler time before the Internet became such a major influence on our daily life is 26.96500 to 27.40500 MHz, basically the 11 meter band (CB Radio). I’m not talking about ham radio – which is much more structured and less of the “wild west” than what we may hear on the CB. You might hear some really weird conversations, but you might hear some interesting things too, like information pertaining to travel, road hazards, or weather conditions. These are things you might not hear on your regular radio in a timely fashion.
I’m actually more intrigued by the versatility the CB radios still present today as an alternative communication medium in areas where cell phones and internet access are limited.
I have radios that I can get weather updates on, but I can also get weather information from other CB users on channel 19 who might be reporting road conditions first hand, and some CB radios have a weather channel built in that scan the National Weather Service. Channel 9 is usually reserved for emergency use, and could come in handy if you find yourself in need of help. There are a few things you will learn rather quickly just setting up a mobile or base station, and there are more than a few choices of equipment you will discover if you decide to add a CB radio to your list of possible hobbies. I find it to be a nice change of pace from anything related to relying on mainstream media – including web sites overloaded with advertisements attached to “Breaking News” nonsense.
CB radio isn’t dead, and isn’t that expensive of a hobby to get into. I have a feeling that more people young and young at heart might start using CB radio again similar to what we saw in the 80’s. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, and some ham operators might frown on my opinion, but I don’t really care. I enjoy my shortwave radio, and I certainly appreciate the CB and all those that use them. It’s not for everyone, but you might enjoy discovering or rediscovering that something old can still be useful in a time where everything seems to rely on the Internet. If you’ve ever experienced an ice storm or other major events where power and communication are impacted you know how difficult any communication can be. Cell towers can become overwhelmed with users trying to call in or out of an area. Having an alternative to a cell phone or the Internet could be critical for some situations. For now, it’s a hobby, and it’s a lot of fun – or at least it should be.