Friday, June 12, 2009

What's the Frequency, CJ? Part 2

So, my el-cheapo AM/FM/SW portable radio (a Kchibo KK-9803) arrived from Hong Kong last night. In terms of entertainment value, it's paid for itself at least a couple times over.

My expectations weren't that high, performance-wise. I was expecting decent AM/FM reception and SW reception that was mediocre at best. I figured, at best, I'd pick up the usual assortment of Christian stations, and maybe a few Spanish-language broadcasts from the west coast of the US.

Well, I DID receive both. I tuned into one of the clearer Spanish stations and heard the name "Morales" a lot. "OK," I thought, "This is probably a news program from California or nearby Mexico, and they're probably referring to Evo Morales, president of Bolivia".

I was half right. I listened to the station for about fifteen minutes - the program was indeed referring to President Evo Morales, but the show was being broadcast live from La Paz, Bolivia. Cool! But my Spanish ain't that good, so I spun the dial a bit more.

In the hour that followed, I picked up a few more Spanish-language stations of indeterminate origin, a number of Christian broadcasts, a faint signal in a language that sounded like Russian, a time station, a faint American newscast, and then came the payoff.

At 9:15pm, at 11665MHz came the following:

"pzsszszszzzzttt...(feminine laughter)...arigatou gozaimashita!"

A Japanese broadcast. "Alright!" I screamed, "This is what I was after!"

And it's true. When I decided to dive into the world of shortwave, I was mainly interested in picking up Japanese radio stations, in order to further my knowledge of the language. Finding NHK Radio was probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in days! However, I wasn't expecting to find one quite so quickly.

So I listened for an hour or so, then decided to turn in for the night. Finding NHK Radio was a rather exciting experience... but like I said, I hadn't expected to find my Holy Grail so quickly. I couldn't help feeling a bit empty (as success normally does), as though I'd "shot my load" rather early in the act.

I thought about it a bit more over my morning coffee. I guess the saving grace will be the element of chance inherent in the nature of shortwave communications itself - the fact that, owing to various circumstances, the station might not be there tonight. Case in point: I brought my radio with me this morning, and on the way to the bus stop, NHK wasn't there. Nothin' but static... I picked up a Chinese-language broadcast on an adjacent band though - a broadcast that wasn't there twelve hours previous!

Long distance communications (especially those not intended for your geographical location) are affected by all manner of things, such as weather conditions, time of day, atmospheric (ionospheric) conditions, sunspots, even conditions in space... meaning that circumstances can and will conspire against me and my little radio.

Which is alright in my book. The element of chance is what will keep me interested in SWLing.

Speaking of interesting, my prime targets right now are foreign newscasts. It's cool listening to things almost as they happen - and not have to be glued to a computer screen. I've been trying to pick up the Voice of Iran so I can follow their election, but haven't had much success... so far. Building an antenna would help (as would brushing up on Farsi), but I'm not that ambitious yet. I want to explore this radio's capabilities before going apeshit on add-ons.

I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting weekend, involving several foreign language dictionaries, and even more coffee...