Episode 10 – How I Got Into Radio

This 10th episode of CFOR kicks off a brand-new season. In the starting entry into Season 2, Chris explains in depth on how he got interested in radio as a hobby. This extracurricular activity eventually compels him into pursuing it as a career.

Listeners also get a taste of “Sounds of Shortwave,” a cassette tape that cam packaged with a book titled, Listening to Shortwave. This book/tape from Radio Shack is one resource that helped Chris become more involved with shortwave radio.

For a written account, you can click here to learn more about how Chris got into radio.

Download & Listen

Subtle Changes Coming To CFOR Podcast

20140223_131624For folks following the Chris Freitas On Radio podcast, thanks for listening and your support. Throughout today, I have thought of a few things that will make this show a bit better.

For starters, I am going to change the category of CFOR. It will no longer be a tech show, at least not as broad in subject matter.

Instead, it will be strictly be about radio. The podcast will be something like my Shortwave Tonight & Shortwave Weekly projects before this one. However, it will not be entirely about shortwave.

Shortwave radio will be a part of the subject matter, but I will also talk about FM, AM, satellite, podcasting, and internet radio. Anything that deals with the medium, I will discuss it.

One of the big reasons for this change is because I realize I get a sizable audience when talking or writing about radio (especially shortwave). I haven’t lost interest in gaming or technology but I feel that keeping consistent in format is the best way to progress this show. It’s something that I’ve failed at so far, but I want to improve in that area.

It was never meant to have a large following, but it seems the audience that’s paying attention to it is a group of people interested in radio broadcasting. It also shows in my posts as they have been linked to sites such as Reddit, Facebook, and Google.

So, I am structuring this podcast around the medium of radio. This also makes since from the namesake, Chris Freitas “On Radio.”

Also, I plan to have more guests on the program and co-host with me. This will mean that I will contact folks involved in radio. Whether it will be hobbyists, announcers, producers, etc., I want to have them on CFOR now and then. It also makes the show more fun and enjoyable.

As part of this refocused mission, Episode 10 will change. Originally, I set out to produce an episode on e-bikes. I am shifting gears to talk about how I got started in the radio. You can read up on the article, but I will go more in detail on this upcoming show.

Worldstar RadioAfterwards, I plan to do some reviews including some “retro radio reviews” of ones that I’ve used long ago. I’ll include written reviews alongside the podcast version as well.

All the social media links, hosting sites, feeds will stay the same. The podcast will still continue. I am just “fine tuning” the format and adjusting content towards my audience. Perhaps I’ll gain some new listeners in the process.

First Time for Everything: Listening to The Mighty KBC Radio

There’s a first time for everything. For me, it was always inconvenient to listen to The Mighty KBC Radio from the Netherlands (I just didn’t have any time because of work, spending time with friends, or other projects). Like PCJ Media, it is a fairly new and independent broadcast to the shortwave band.

Tonight, I decided to break out my Tecsun PL-660. After lamenting over the cutbacks of some broadcasters on CFOR, I figured to tune to some stations that are left.

Apparently I noticed the Mighty KBC was on-the-air. Surprisingly, the station came in loud-and-clear and played some really great classic rock tunes. Note: This station CANNOT be heard online, but ONLY on shortwave.

I also tuned into WRMI before listening to The Mighty KBC.

Three Years Old: The Tecsun PL-660 Still Rocks

If anyone paid attention to the last blog post, then I mentioned my change in listening habits. To clear the air, I have not & will not abandon the shortwave hobby. 20140223_131624

The article merely points out how shortwave listeners like myself are adjusting their habits. I wanted to gauge how other SWLs felt about the rise of internet radio and if it has (or will) replace the hobby.

While last month’s post seemed negative, there is a lot of fun to have as a shortwave listener. As I am typing this entry, I have my Tecsun PL-660 with me…with intentions to tuning to stations after work. I listen to internet radio more than ever, but I still go back to my shortwave radio every now and then.

This universally acclaimed radio is what this month’s post is all about. When first starting this blog, one of my early articles was about the PL-660.

If readers go to it now, then they will see a dead video. You can thank YouTube trolls for thinking they are Steven Spielberg while posting negative nitpicks on video production (With that, I am not longer doing video reviews, but I’ll upload my catches). However, I had a positive experience using the PL-660 when I first ordered it on Amazon in 2011.

20140223_131653It has been about three years and I am proud to admit that it works the same as it did on Day One. The only problem I had was a broken antenna hinge after it fell on the floor. The antenna has been replaced and there’s no permanent damage to the unit luckily.

Performance is still great across the bands. I can still pick up local stations well and distant ones boom. Even though more international broadcasters have left the air, the remaining ones like Radio Australia, WRMI, and Voice of America are received loud and clear.

Synchronous detection still locks and holds fading signals and audio sounds great for a portable radio. Anyone who is looking for a shortwave radio can find this gem for less than $85. Surprisingly enough, it is about $120 on Amazon, which is roughly $20 more expensive than when I bought mine.

For a radio capable of getting all that you want out of shortwave, the Tescun PL-660 is still a great performer and holds up after three years.

20140223_131715I am content with keeping the Tecsun PL-660 for its lifespan. Even if shortwave “goes away” and the radio inevitably “kicks the bucket,” I will probably replace it with another PL-660 if it’s still in production.

Some of the SWLs reading this post might ask, “What about the Tecsun PL-880?” Surely, it appears to be a fine radio and seems better than the PL-660 in most areas.

I can’t really stack both radios up to comparison because…well, I don’t have the PL-880. I swore to myself that PL-660 will be my last shortwave that I will buy. It’s not because I am giving up on shortwave; but it is probably the best radio I’ve used and most others don’t compare well against it.

Except maybe the Tecsun PL-880, but that’s not on my shopping list until the PL-660 finally breaks down.

Time To Retire From Shortwave Or Not

It has been a while since this issue has come across my mind. As international broadcasters transmitting to North America continue to dwindle, I wonder whether or not if I should still listen to shortwave radio.

Most of the stations I listened to left this medium and have found the internet. To be honest, I’ve found myself listening to internet radio and podcasts more frequently than my shortwave radio. Broadcasters such as the BBC, Radio Australia, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle can be found on the web.

Instead of grabbing my Tecsun PL-660, I am using my HTC One as my radio. Using apps like TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, and PocketCasts, I am listening to content that I would have normally heard on the HF bands as a kid or perhaps would never hear (shows like “Stuff You Should Know “and “Umm Yeah Dude”). Even one of my favorite Radio Netherlands programs, “The State We’re In,” survives not on shortwave but as a podcast.

I rather connect an audio line-in cable to my phone and HD Radio/Phone dock instead of listening to static. Sound quality and content is what matters to me,  not the device I am hearing it on.

With content leaving shortwave, is it even worth listening to anymore? As of this writing, I am tuned to some jazzy tunes on CBC Radio One via TuneIn Radio. Aside from Radio Habana Cuba, extreme right-wing religious broadcasters, ham radio operators, and stations transmissions targeted to regions far from North America…it seems like I should close this fun, exciting chapter of my life.

However, I am not simply giving up on a fascinating hobby just quite yet. Yes, internet radio is awesome but shortwave radio is here to stay for just a little while longer.

There are some smaller stations like PCJ Media that are expanding their HF presence, thanks to the free space in the bands. In addition, I have two big annoyance with internet radio: buffering and connection caps (thanks Comcast). Hence, this is a reason my Tecsun radio is turned on and not my TuneIn Radio app.

Regardless, I find it hard to recommend a shortwave radio to anyone who has not bothered to have an interest in the hobby. For people interested getting into international broadcasting, internet radio works just fine.

I am also set on the Tecsun PL-660 being the last shortwave radio that I’ll ever buy. Aside from listening to local and national stations, I won’t have a use for it as SW broadcasters continue to leave the airwaves. tunein-300x246

I haven’t abandoned the hobby but it’s getting time to “throw in the towel.” It’s been fun and there are some great experiences that will stay with me.

I even have a nice collection of QSL cards, but this 16 year-old hobby has ran its course. It’s time to fully move onto the wonderful world of Internet radio.

Despite the change in my listening habits, I did manage to catch Radio Romania broadcasting on 6145 kHz on 1/20/2014 around 0100 UTC. This transmission is being received in Memphis, TN USA. Sorry for the blue tint as this is recorded from my HTC One, which has a camera glitch that causes a blue tint to most photos and video (not a white balance issue).

Review of The Worldwide Listening Guide

It has been a long while since my blog/online portfolio has been updated with posts. Nonetheless I am committed to writing articles, especially those related to radio, video games, and photography. With that said, there is something I want to share with you, the reader.

As a shortwave radio listener (SWL), I am aware that some major broadcasters have stopped their transmissions. In fact, the last post explained how Radio Canada International signed off permanently. Additionally, Radio Netherlands Worldwide stopped broadcasting as a whole. It’s nothing more, but a website claiming to promote free speech.

Newcomers to the radio hobby might wonder if there is anything worth tuning into anymore. There is a book that would tell you that so much programming is still available on shortwave. Heck, you don’t even have to listen to it to enjoy this piece of literature.

The book I am referring to is The Worldwide Listening Guide by John Figliozzi. It is among many radio hobbyist literature including World TV/Radio Handbook, Monitoring Times, and Popular Communications.

I actually had an older version of this book back in 1999/2000 when they were sold in Radio Shack. The edition I have now is the 5th Edition, and has served me well since it was purchased January 2012. While it’s not advertised in Radio Shack, it can be purchased on Amazon, eBay, Universal Radio, and C. Crane for about $25 US.

A word of caution: this book is mainly intended for radio hobbyists living in North America. While it can be used by any region, The Worldwide Listening Guide tailors it to this audience. Many sections reference North American time zones, cities, local broadcasters, and even broadcast mediums available in this continent.

However, I can say this book is like TV Guide, but…for radio. First of all, it covers every single way radio is received in North America. Coverage includes shortwave, AM/FM, Satellite, Podcasting, Internet, and even HD Radio.

In the front, there are several sections for each broadcast medium, which gives an overview, types of equipment, content available, advantages & disadvantages, etc. The meat of the The Worldwide Listening Guide is the program guide. This large section covers nearly every radio show broadcasted. Starting at midnight UTC (or 2000 Eastern time), the pages are filled with program name, station name, time and day it airs, frequency or platform, and program type.

To look for a specific genre of radio program, the “Classified Program Lists” will guide you. Say someone wants to listen to rock music shows or sports talk, the book lists that category and follows with a list of programs, the time/day they air, and which station to find it on.

There are other reference pages like the Program Name & Description List, Glossary, and even Listener Log pages where you can fill in details about your listening experience. You don’t have to be a shortwave listener to enjoy this book.

Having owned this for about 9 months, The Worldwide Listening Guide is a great companion to have while listening to your favorite shows and what to figure out what to listen to. While some information does get a little outdated, the author provides a web link for an updated addition to the existing book until the next edition rolls out.

I would not say The Worldwide Listening Guide is any more or less better than the other competing radio hobbyist books out there. It’s more of supplement to the experience. All these books deserve some attention.

With that said, I recommend The Worldwide Listening Guide for the new shortwave or even just radio hobbyist. It’s easy to read: simple but very detailed & informative.

So Long, Farewell RCI

For those people who listen to shortwave radio, it is getting time for Radio Canada International to sign off permanently. Thanks to budget cuts, the international broadcaster is eliminating its shortwave and satellite radio programming on June 25th. The last broadcast will feature its listener feedback show, Maple Leaf Mailbag which is normally hosted by Ian Jones. As many listeners are doing, I am writing one last e-mail to one of the first broadcasters I have tuned to initally on shortwave back in November 1997. Below is my final letter…

Hello MLMB,

   Greetings from Memphis,TN, this is Chris Freitas who has now finished his journalism degree at the University of Memphis. I am saddened to hear that Radio Canada International is shutting down its shortwave and satellite services. Does this also mean that the station will end its streaming audio and podcast services as well? Several broadcasters have left or in the process of leaving the traditional radio business for good. Recently, Radio Netherlands Worldwide has decided to terminate all English broadcasts, including its online services. Do the powers that be realize that they are silencing the only voice to the rest of the world? I love internet radio as much as shortwave but there are still many people worldwide that lack of web access or even a computer. It seems very silly that those in charge of these stations, including RCI, would rather save a buck and lose their audience than staying on the air.

   Regardless, I have enjoyed listening to RCI since I first began listening to shortwave in 1997 on a Sears multiband radio. After reading an article in Boy’s Life magazine, Canada was one of the many voices I heard on the HF. If I recall, the frequency was 9740 kHz. Anywho, I really enjoying tuning to Maple Leaf Mailbag, especially when both of you guys were running the show. I realized that Ian has been the host since I have been a SWL. These past 15 years have been eventful to say the least.

   Should RCI end its web services, I can still listen to CBC for all things Canada but RCI will be missed dearly. After all, it was one of my first stations I ever listened to on shortwave. I am sad to see many great broadcasters are leaving the medium. Thankfully most of them are online and I still can listen to those voices, but it’s not quite the same as tuning in on a portable radio that doesn’t require a web connection. Internet radio doesn’t hold the joy of trying to find distant signals thousands of miles away from the point of origin. As the curtain closes at RCI, I will remember the fond times tuning in and listening to great stories from Canada to the world…to my home. It has been a friend that is always welcome. I wish everyone at RCI success in finding new employment and future endeavors.

   I also wish fellow listeners to not be discouraged about these developments in the HF bands and give internet radio a chance…should you have a internet connection. I am saddened that stations like RCI are leaving shortwave, but many are still alive and well on the worldwide web. After all, it is the content that really matters…not how it is being broadcast per se.

One of the Perks to Shortwave Radio

If you are on-the-fence about shortwave radio listening, then hopefully this will convince you to tune in. Earlier today, I got a parcel from Radio Taiwan International. The envelope contained a 2012 desk calendar, an updated program schedule, and a card. Inside the card, there were signatures from every single on-air personality from the station.

For that, I am truly thankful and even wrote an e-mail expressing my thanks! This was a great way for a radio station to reach out to its audience, especially on a medium that’s losing its audience to newer technologies. Hopefully, RTI’s listeners will thank them for this kind act and show their gratitude. Because of this, I am glad to be a shortwave radio listener and it has reminded me how this hobby is awesome. It also made me want to turn on my Tecsun PL-660 radio to catch some other international broadcasters while waiting for RTI to be on-the-air.

The Battle Over Internet and Shortwave Radio and Why SWLs Should Use Both

In the shortwave radio community, there are many listeners that detest the idea of internet radio. Some will say that it’s not real radio; others say it’s just not the same as shortwave. There’s certainly some truth to these claims, but it is a matter of one’s opinion. Of course, everyone’s experience with radio is going to be different in terms of what technology is being used. However, what surprises me is so many SWLs (shortwave listeners) are so adamant about internet radio.

The reality of radio these days is constantly changing. Part of this comes from newer technologies while some of it is economic pressures. Some broadcasters are wondering if their medium is a viable source of information and entertainment given listeners are listening elsewhere or if they are making enough money to stay on-the-air. While this applies to all radio, shortwave has received the “short-end of the stick,” so to speak.

Over the past 10-15 years, many international broadcasters on shortwave have either scaled back programming or have been forced off-the-air…especially in places like North America and Europe. Stations such as the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle have reduced shortwave services in many areas and are in the process of completely abandoning the medium. Some of these broadcasters have sought survival through local AM/FM radio stations, satellite radio thru XM/Sirius and others, and the internet through podcasts and streaming audio. Few have completely ending their radio stations (regardless of medium) completely.

Here’s where the true battle between shortwave and internet radio begins! In regions like North America and Europe,  many broadcasters have stopped their shortwave services. For some of them, they can only be heard on internet radio. Of course, it is possible to hear these stations on shortwave via broadcasts aimed to other regions but it doesn’t guarantee optimum reception. Unless one has the most state-of-the-art receiver and antenna and favorable conditions, it is going to be hard to catch these distant stations.

For some SWLs, that’s enough for them. They would rather listen to a barely audible frequency mixed with loud static and hear the same station on internet radio. To each their own, but there are some listeners that would rather hear a weak station on shortwave versus a clear, audible station on internet radio because web streaming is “not radio.” Now, let’s say this same station came in with strong signal strength on a radio set. I would I listen to it on an actual radio since it will sound better (and not electronic) and I won’t have to deal with buffering issues or lack of internet connection. Traditional radio can work anywhere, however wi-fi and 3G/4G web services have made internet radio a portable experience as well. I will tend to listen to stations I can clearly receive on a radio set. Otherwise, I will tune in using my iPod Touch or smartphone.

Basically, it all stems down to how you view radio. Your personal preference will shape your listening habits, of course, but why limit yourself. There is a wealth of stations on both shortwave and internet radio.  Each have amazing content found nowhere else. Personally, I view “radio” not as a physical medium but as content as well. The radio experience can be heard on some many devices: radio sets, iPods, computers, car radios, podcasts, smartphones. Honestly, what’s the difference aside from what device you are listening it on.

While I am not keen on many shortwave radio stations abandoning shortwave and just solely relying on internet radio. Some broadcasters have noted that shortwave is no longer viable and will have a larger audience on the web. I beg to differ. Even though shortwave listenership is the lowest it has ever been, internet radio is much lower. Since it is a new medium, web radio does not have a large audience because many people are not aware of it, web services are limited, it can be blocked in some regions, some cannot afford it, and some servers can only support a certain limit of listeners for the bandwidth. Web radio is still in its infancy. Until it matures enough to support a large audience, internet radio is not a worthy replacement to traditional radio.

Likewise, I think internet and shortwave radio can compliment each other. If a signal cannot be heard on a receiver, then you can still tune in online. If you are still not convinced, then you’ll miss out on a lot of content.

What does Shortwave Radio Mean to Me?

Shortwave Radio: Tune Into The World

What does Shortwave mean to Chris Freitas? Simply, the answer to that question is that it is a means of bringing the world to your hands. Shortwave radio is still home to thousands of voices on the airwaves. There are international broadcasters from various countries, music from different cultures, pirate stations, spy signals (if one can interpret them), hams talking to each other hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and other sounds. No other medium has such variety of content.

People nowadays use social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Unaware to most people, shortwave radio is one of the first types of social media. Hams from many different regions and countries constantly talk to each other, share experiences, talk about life in their towns, and just talk nonsense. Unlike Facebook, these conversations are much more engaging and are not subject to censorship.

Shortwave also means to me as a future career. In November 1997, I was first exposed to shortwave by reading an article in Boy’s Life magazine titled “Tune into the world.” After reading the article and further research at the local library, I realized that the multiband radio I once had included shortwave radio. And so began my shortwave adventure and I listened to many stations like the BBC, Deustche Welle, Radio Taipei International, HCJB, Radio Canada International, and more. Over the years, I yearned to be a broadcaster to bring the same high-quality content I once heard on the radio to listeners around the world.

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