Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's the frequency, Kenneth

The mindless drivel of standard FM stations can drive good men bad and bad men, well... they can become even worse men. To stay up to date with the assorted horrors and wonders of our time I rely, to some extent, on the BBC World Service, which is broadcast locally on FM between ten at night and six in the morning. I am, however, sometimes in the mood for some different fare at more Christian times of the day. Enter the Barlow Wadley Short Wave radio (above).

Barlow Wadley is the kind of radio that does strange things to people. It has it's own fansite.

For ease of information and entertainment access this beats podcasting paws down. Turn it on, and you're good to go. You have to twist those dials a lot, of course, but firing up my computer and waiting for bits and bytes seep through the air takes forever. The radio is much more immediate and actually much less capricious. The radio always works.

And you don't know what "retro" is until you've listened diligently to the German-language programmes on Radio Romania International, complete with atmospheric static and some vaguely oriental marching band in the background.

My unit has been lovingly restored by neigbour Olav, note his handwritten khz dial in the circuit porn pic below.

My friend Arild gave me my survivalists radio (below). It comes not only with integrated solar panels, but also a crank. And indeed, instruction in both Pashto and Dari, perhaps slight overkill for my use, but you never know.

This radio has surprisingly good reception, but the dials are hopelessly imprecise and it lacks all those doo-dads on the Barlow Wadley that let you do the fine tuning.

Like almost everything else I seem to own, these things demand some user commitment. And once the devices are turned on, I have little idea of what is going to come out of them, though statistically speaking the chances of news from Eastern Europe or the Middle East is pretty high.

A very odd side effect of listening quite faithfully to high quality radio broadcasting, is that I often find myself better informed, and more up to date, than friends who rely more on national newspapers or profit driven broadcasting outlets. If I could curb my internet addiction I would perhaps know even more.

The BBC has, maddeningly, cancelled it's short wave broadcasts in Europe, as only the old and very, very strange here now no longer have access to satellite TV or broadband. Depending on sun spots and somesuch, there is, however, the possibility of eavesdropping on BBC programmes that are broadcast to the Middle East.

3 comments:

Driven Mad said...

I'm as old fashioned as the best of 'em. Heck, I still like writing letters. But, I certaintly haven't found anything that beats the net for world info. It always seems to be there the moment it breaks.

Nina, Bika said...

Loved this post, especially the porn pix. We have a tiny ssb receiver aboard out boat, for bbc world service and weather forecasts, with a copper wire up the mast for reception. And can totally relate to your radio affectionado.

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