When I was a kid my grandfather gave me a Hallicrafters S38-C, starting me down the road to radio madness. I had already been listening to AM Broadcast DX, though all I knew was I could hear the Red Sox games from other cities, like Chicago and Kansas City, late at night with my AM transistor radio under my pillow. Shortwave just blew my mind. I started to learn the bands, and some of the fixtures on those bands.
Shortwave in 2021 isn’t what it used to be. Most people comment on the decline in stations on the bands. That’s true, but I believe what they really mean is “big English-language international broadcasters” are fewer and weaker. Stations like BBC and Deutsche Welle no longer aim powerful signals to North America. We now hear a greater proportion of religious broadcasters, Latin American and Asian broadcasters, if we bother to listen at all.
Over the past year I found out about a program called Shortwave Radiogram. They broadcast a 30-minute MFSK program of text and images every week. Their programming runs on WRMI Radio Miami International and WINB in Pennsylvania. Check out their website for times and frequencies. It’s definitely worth your time.
The hardware required to participate is extremely simple. You can, and I have, decoded it via the microphone on the computer. No wiring or fancy interfaces needed. You can also just run a 3.5mm stereo patch from your radio to the computer soundcard. You aren’t transmitting so isolation shouldn’t be necessary. I use the same laptop rig I use for all my digital ham radio work because I usually have it set up and ready to go. I set FLDigi to RXID and it will switch modes based on the RXID header sent before each text block or image. The copy today was flawless. My rig was a Yaesu FT-991A with a DX Commander Expedition Vertical. I have done this with a Sony IC-7600G and the built in whip. You don’t need a monster SWL setup, just a receiver and a computer.
First, they play a spectrogram header which I never get around to screengrabbing. Then they have a few text articles of interest. Today I copied (most of) the broadcast. I made a mistake on my soundcard setting so I missed the beginning but captured this:
“…32 m (105ft) long, featuring the company’s own proprietary “Inductrack”
mag-lev technology and sensor-embedded “Vibranium” carbon fiber
It’s laid out some 320-odd m (1,050 ft) of fully functional test
track in France, vacuumed down to hundred-pascal pressure levels
lower than what you’d get at altitudes over 38,000 m (125,000
ft). It’s long enough to do some initial tests, but obviously not
to approach the 1,220+ km/h (760 mph) top speed the passenger
system is projected to hit when it’s got some room. The company
has signed some exciting-looking deals in India, China, the USA
and the United Arab Emirates over the last six or so years, but
no full-scale implementation seems to be under construction yet.
Fair enough; the World Bank estimated in 2014 that even a regular
high-speed train track costs somewhere between US$17 million (in
China) and $56 million (in California) per kilometer of track.
And that’s without putting the whole thing in a huge, airtight
tube with vacuum pumps and some of the largest, strongest
mechanical pressure valves ever built dotted along its length.
The up-front capital cost of a cross-continental supersonic
hyperloop system would be epic – but once up and running,
HyperloopTT says it could deliver “airplane speeds at freight
The HyperPort development proposes to plug container shipping
logistics into the mix, with freight capsules designed to open at
the top and accept either two standard 6-meter (20-ft) shipping
containers or one double-length 12 to 13.7-m (40 to 45-ft) unit,
dropped in and picked up by the same sorts of gantry cranes that
already load and unload container ships. Freight speeds would be
limited to around 965 km/h (600 mph), so either the passenger
pods would have to slow down to this speed as well, or separate
tracks would be needed.
It’s all very pretty and futuristic-looking, and HyperloopTT says
it’s designed everything to meet current industry standards. The
HyperPort is now being submitted for certification design review,
and the company says the next step will be a VR demonstration, to
be presented at the ITS World Congress in Hamburg this October.
It’s a long and winding road from concept to reality, obviously.
And while a solution like this would indeed be much faster and
greener than the battalions of trucks that get the job done
today, battery and fuel cell trucks are on the way, ready to haul
containers to anywhere roads can take them, with zero local
The crazy speeds promised by the HyperPort will come at a hefty
cost, but they could cut down a lot of road miles and get things
moving even faster in a world whose patience grows ever shorter.
I wonder if we’ll see this kind of thing get done – vacuum tube
transport seemed just years away back in the 1800s too. Between
Virgin Hyperloop, HyperloopTT, TransPod and other companies, it
seems investors feel this kind of thing is ready for prime time.”
After this they broadcast a selection of images. Here are the images of the day, with the captions broadcast with them:
Check out the SWRadiogram website and give it a try. The ability to set this up for unattended decoding/recording makes it very convenient. Can you think of any other services (ARRL Maybe?) that could benefit, or act to the benefit of listeners with digital capabilities in this way?