Tuesday, 16 February 2016

How I got in to radio - Zach Rutledge KM4SFZ

I've been a DXer and radio enthusiast of some sort for as long as I can remember.  I believe it was my father who got me interested in the hobby when he purchased a nice Panasonic portable radio from Long's Electronics in Birmingham, Alabama, back in the early 80's.  

Just with the built-in whip we were able to hear broadcasts from all over the world; back then there was still a lot of stations targeting the US, so there was always something interesting to hear… World news from the BBC and Radio Canada International, music from HCJB and tons more.

My love of shortwave has come and gone over the years.  For a while, I was much more interested in local AM and FM broadcasting, and while the "art of broadcasting" is still a love of mine (I'm not in the industry, though) I am once again enjoying shortwave DXing and exploring all that radio has to offer, especially utility and amateur radio broadcasts.

Another person who greatly influenced me was my great uncle Carroll, who was a ham and had a wonderful setup in the basement of his home, full of all kinds of electronics that, as a kid, I did not even begin to understand.  After his passing I decided to try for my own ham license and became one of the early "No Code Tech" ticket holders back in the mid 90's.  Although I was never all that active on the air, I've retained my license all these years "just in case" the bug bites again.  I never had an interest in HF ham ops until I got interested in digital modes, so I may be revisiting the idea of upgrading some time in the future.

With the decreasing sunspot cycle hurting HF and the trend of two way public safety communications migrating to trunked and encrypted broadcasts, and broadcast radio's ever forward march to consolidation and blandness, it seems like the radio hobby is doomed.  Indeed, I couldn't tell you the last time I was able to monitor any of my local town's police, or the last time I listened to local radio.  But I am still active on shortwave and expect to wring as much out of it as I possibly can as conditions go downhill this sunspot cycle.  I look at the reduction in targeted broadcasts to the US and the reduction of powerful broadcasters in general as more of a challenge to find the lower powered, harder to hear stuff.  I think the future of the hobby is safe, but it will migrate more towards SDR (software defined radios) for HF and public safety band hobbyists.  Although the world's media is available to anyone with a broadband internet connection, the magic of receiving audio from the ether is not something I see disappearing anytime soon.

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