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SWL, my new favourite hobby

Mon Feb 28 09:18:17 AM CET 2022

After getting lost in the internet for a while, I found out this rather funny video of the UVB-76 radio station being jammed by pirates to broadcast memes. I looked more into UVB-76 then learned about shortwave radio, it is when I went into something that I am proud I have stepped into: Shortware Listening and DXing. This was overwhelming at first but I went over it rather quickly because of how easy and exciting it actually is. It's a whole new hobby, opening doors to me, some random highschool nerd. At the time of writing, I have purchased my first receiver, an RTL-SDR, and I am waiting for it to be delivered home. Thanks to online SDRs to get me into this hobby.

At first, I just decided to wonder randomly across the frequencies, checking if there are interesting stuff to listen to. I could sometimes find cool stuff -especially ham radio signals-. For some reason, what caught my attention the most at first were ham radio communications. This is when I actually started appreciating this hobby. I remember having tried it months ago but felt overwhelmed and gave up.

So as I said, what caught my attention at first was mostly ham radio and utility signals for some reason. So I looked up how to decode them and began setting up decoding software such as fldigi, QSSTV and WSJT-X. QSSTV and WSJT are quite easy to use and worked out of the box. However, fldigi took me some more time to get used to it and configure it, it was also quite confusing at first. One useful resource I have used to look for signals types at first was the Signal Identification Wiki, which I recommend. Some of my first receptions are logged in there, they are quite vague and unclear. Some identification is completely wrong and I didn't bother recorrecting everything. My favourite types of signals are FT8 for its simplicity and its efficiency to use and SSTV because hehe funny images going through the waves. This is after some more frequencies hunting that I spotted cool stuff such as pirate radios.

Pirate Radios are the most interesting stations in my opinion, you do not know when they'll pop, and unless you identify the radio, you pretty don't know what content they're gonna give you. They're usually sitting arround 6900kHz-7000kHz but there are also MW Pirates sitting around 1600-1710kHz. There are more pirate freqs but these are the ones that tends to be the most used by pirates as they are mostly unused by other stations. The best stations I've listened to so far are WTF Radio Worldwide, Mystery 21 and Radio Free Whatever. This log got plenty of recordings. I even got an eQSL from WTF Radio Worldwide!

Pirate Radios are exciting and interesting when you catch them but there are also licensed radios they are really nice! You can usually find them on relays like Channel 292 or WRMI (when it's not broadcasting cultist garbage) such as Radio Northern Europe International, Pop Shop Radio or Shortwave Radiogram! SW Radiogram is so far my favourite one as it does not broadcast music or voice, but MFSK32 and MFSK64 signals that transmit news and images through text. Really cool radio, there are some recordings and decodes of the broadcasts here!

This new hobby also kind of motivates me to get my Ham Radio license for many reasons. First of all, communicating with the whole world with it. I know there is internet but radio is cool too :). But I also wanna experiment and try other stuff such as packet radio, there are BBSes and other stuff like that over radio which seems really cool to try out! And studying for the license is also a great opportunity to learn how radio works and how to set up antennas, transmitters, receivers, etc.

I already learned quite a lot from this experience so far (and I still have a lot to learn!), I've learnd how shortwave radio propagate, how it's emitted and received, I've also learned new kinds of communication protocols outside, a new community that is really nice, accepting and there to make you discover the world of SWL and Ham Radio! Really an awesome experience. I still have other stuff to discover in the air (even above shortwave radio!), like airport radio, utility stations or spy number stations (these ones looks really interesting). I hope I will have the opportunity to talk more about radio in other blogposts!