i'm very interested in this kind of technology that is outdated, yet still viable. an example is in general aviation they have these radio transmitters called VORs, that are all over the county that you can tune into while flying around. you can find your way all across the country with these things and most folks have no idea they even exist. next time you go by a small airfield look for one, they look like a giant bowling pin. it's like forties and fifties era radio technology. it's kind of a funky way of doing it, but it works and has worked for years.
the shortwave is like that. most folks have never messed with one, but they are really far out, you can tune in cuba and china and russia and europe and get all this cool stuff. there is some really wacky stuff on there. different conspiracy theorists ranting, the mystery numbers (look it up), the news from the other countries in question and stuff like that.
if you've never played around with one, and you feel somewhat disposed to such behavior, i'd recommend getting one. here's an easy way of getting started.
find one for under a hundred dollars. you can probably get one for way under a hundred. radio shack usually has a basic model in that range. there's one on ebay right now for 15 bucks buy it now price. don't worry about the features, this article is just to help you get going. get a basic model.
the next thing to do is set it up by a window and turn it on (sometimes things come in slightly better on battery power rather than ac, you can experiment with this later) and you'll see that there are a zillion frequencies and you won't hear anything being broadcasted. tune into the frequencies of 2500, 5000, 10,000 15,000 and so on until you hear some beeping. and eventually a voice will say, "at the tone the time will be so and so greenwich mean time." it happens every minute so if you find the beeps, sit tight for a bit until you hear that guy say that. that means you have found the range that you will be able to hear stuff.
plus you can go ahead and set your clocks because that is the badass sho' 'nuff time. be sure and account for your time zone and any daylight savings time nonsense. that's greenwich england.
anyways, if you scroll around in the frequency range that you can hear that time being broadcasted ....that means that at that time of day, in the location you are in, you can hear stuff.
later on if you get into it, you can look at propagation charts and stuff like that. there's this whole thing about sun spots and atmosphere and whatnot, but you don't need to sweat that to get going.
basically the deal is, that in a given location at a certain time of day, you only receive things for a certain time, then the station has to change frequencies in order to still be heard. but you can get stuff from all over the world. and these tiny little non-commercial stations. it is totally far out. early morning and dusk are good times to scan.
yes i know, you can probably find all these stations streamed on the net. but it's not nearly as cool as doing it this way. and it doesn't sound as funky. trust me, when the grid goes down, the shortwave broadcasts will still be going on, if you have batteries, or a hand crank model.
my music, for the last few years, has been populated by samples lifted from shortwave. it's a great sound.
i find it interesting to study what the rest of the world is saying about us. hint: it's a really different take than what you get on the mainstream media. interested in keeping up with what's going on in a foreign place? why not listen to the local radio there and see what the folks themselves are saying instead of relying on what cnn is going to ........i guess "tell you" isn't the right phrase. but you get the idea. if you like folk music from around the world, they have musicians come in and play live in the studio. sometimes it sounds like they just brought in cats from outside on the street.
there are also all these plans for antennas you can build. then you can really pull stuff in. it's very cheap to build them and the length can be adjusted to maximize certain bands. you can also just use big long pieces of wire tied onto the little arial and strung about your house. if you live in the middle part of the country, or towards the east coast you can really get a lot of stations. i'm kinda boxed in by two mountain ranges here in the northwest but there's still plenty of stations. more than i can keep up with.
i think that's all you need to get going. have fun and let me know if you hear anything cool.