Short Wave Broadcasting

What is Short Wave

History of Short Wave

Short Wave Uses

Short Wave Broadcasting


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Short Wave Broadcasting

Shortwave transmitters use less than one watt (for experimental and amateur radio transmissions) to 500 kilowatts and higher (for intercontinental broadcasters and over-the-horizon radar). Specialized antenna designs are often used by shortwave transmitting centers to concentrate radio energy at the intended target.

Advantages of Use

Despite newer technological advances, shortwave does have several advantages.

  • In all but the most repressed countries, low-cost shortwave radios are widely available. As it was seen during the Cold War era, ownership of shortwave receivers is widespread throughout many countries. Many of these newer receivers operate on batteries and are very portable, which lends to utility in difficult circumstances.
  • Programming cannot be easily censored and most government authorities have confronted serious difficulty in monitoring which stations are being listened to. This was enormously helpful during the coup on Russian President, Mikhail Gorbachev. He was able to stay informed when his access to communications was limited, by listening to the BBC on shortwave radio.
  • Shortwave can be used where Internet or satellite communication is unaffordable or unavailable. Also, the radio signals travel much further than FM stations and can easily be transmitted over several thousands of kilometers (or from one continent to another).
  • Shortwave is less influenced by interference from thunderstorms, compared to medium wave radio, and is able to cover a large geographic area on relatively low power. Domestic broadcasting is predominantly transmitted on shortwave in many of the tropical regions for these reasons.
  • Shortwave does not come with intense infrastructure demands. A pair of transcievers, antenna, and energy sources like a battery or a power grid, is all that is required, making shortwave one of the most robust means of communication.

Disadvantages of Use

  • Although shortwave comes with significant advantages, the disadvantages outweigh.
  • Interference from waveband overcrowding, atmospheric disturbances and electrical interference from televisions, computers, and appliances is a serious plague to shortwave broadcasting.
  • The quality of a shortwave broadcast, compared to domestic stations and in particular FM stations, is inferior, even under ideal reception conditions.
  • Shortwave must compete for listener attention with the Internet and television -- a hard competition to win.
  • Many new, standard radios do not have the shortwave band functionality, therefore ownership of shortwave radios in most western countries is usually limited to interested enthusaists and a decreased western audience.
  • Atmospheric conditions influence shortwave quality, and is further impacted by the precise time of day and season.

Utility Stations

Broadcasts made by utility stations are not broadcasted to the general public. They are shortwave transmissions used for merchant shipping, marine weather, and ship-to-shore situations. Additionally they are used for aviation weather and air-to-ground communications. The military and the government also uses shortwave utility stations.

Shortwave Broadcasts and Music

Shortwave transmissions frequently have distortion bursts and a loss of clarity at certain aural frequencies. These effects alter the harmonics of natural sound and resulting echoes and phase distortion sometimes create 'spacey' qualities. Distortions like this have enticed musicians to use these to their advantage. Snippets of broadcasts have been mixed into electronic sound callages by means of sampling and tape loops. Sometimes instrumental sounds are altered through remixing, more distortions are added, and the garbeled effects are diminished.

Other artists have sought to deliberately incorporate these unique aspects. In 1975, German electronic music band Kraftwerk recorded a full length concept album around simulated radiowave and shortwave sounds, entitled Radio-Activity.

Among others, The B-52s, Peter Gabriel, Pukka Orchestra, Rush, and Radiohead, have also used or been inspired by shortwave broadcasts.

Shortwave's Future

With satellite technology and direct broadcasting readily available, the demand for shortwave receivers has diminished. Still there are a great number of shortwave broadcasters. New technology (Digital Radio Mondiale) is anticiapted to improve the quality of shortwave audio to standards comparable to FM Broadcasts.

The future is also threatened by the use of Broadband over Power lines, where data is transmitted over power lines. These frequencies overlapped with shortwave bands, and severe distortions occured. Listening to shortwave near power lines was made difficult in some areas, and impossible in others. Still, because of its low cost and high effectiveness, countries with poor infrastructure will still rely on shortwave for many years.

Hobbyist and amateur users are diminishing due to competing interests in other communication devices.

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