SHORTWAVE RADIOS IN POST-Y2K?greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Many threads on y2k sites tend to raise my frustration level, because there are so many ambiguities about so many issues. What's frustrating is that most of the claims require an outside, independent validating examination to give the conclusions drawn a semblence of credibility. So it's a distinct relief when I run on a subject that has provided its own inner, self-contained, critique -- by analyzing the posts themselves one can arrive at a reasonably sure conclusion.
The perennial recommendations to buy a battery-powered shortwave radio to provide the necessary post-y2k communications links -- if analyzed appropriately -- is one such case where the light at the end of the tunnel is apparent -- without further validating posts. It goes as follows:
First let's arbitrarily categorize roughly the possible post-y2k scenarios in order of severity:
1) Category I -- A Big Joke --severity and duration: Zero (on a scale of 1 to 10.)
2) Category II -- Just A Bump In The Road -- minor inconveniences (lasting 3 days to a week?): a 0.5.
3) Category III -- Bad things, but will last no more than a month -- a 3.
4) Category IV -- Really bad things, lasting up to 3 months -- a 5.
5) Category V -- Terrible things, lasting up to a year -- a 7.
6) Category VI -- TEOTWAWKI -- an 8 to 10 (BTW, depending on which side of the bed I get up, I am a 10 1/2 or 11.)
Now let's buy a shortwave radio: an el cheapo, pocket version, non-digital for maybe $35. Or maybe a Radio Shack digital for $50-60. Or a BayGen (forgot the price.) Or go bigtime and buy a Sangean for $150 to $200. Now let's play out the various scenarios.
1) Cat I: you've just wasted your money, unequivocally.
2) Cat II: you've just wasted your money, unequivocally.
3) Cat III: You bought the radio so "Somebody" could broadcast what you need to hear: where to get emergency water, food, medical care, on a local basis. "They" will also give you a blow-by-blow description of how Y2K's unfolding in the trenches, in the various industries, but especially in your community. Who are 'they'? Who are the 'Somebodies'? Why your friendly government shortwave radio stations, already set up to simulbroadcast on various SW frequencies throughout our 50 states. What frequency are they on? Hmmm.... that's a tricky one. Tricky because there are essentially NO SUCH STATIONS (The 'Voice of America' stations could conceivably do some good here --- but where are THEY going to get THEIR info radio-relayed from? Maybe by carrier pigeon, from the White House?)
Sure there are local City, County and State Patrol police stations, but they're not on the shortwave bands. To hear them you need what's called a Scanner (available at Radio Shack.) But here's two crucial questions you need answered:
a) What will be the local authorities' source of the info they are going to relay to you? Answer: they don't have any -- there is no radio comm structure in place to pass info down from Big Brother -- the Federal level -- to the local lawmen.
b) Where are the local lawmen's transmitters going to get enough diesel or gas fuel to operate their emergency generators for as long as a month? (If they have any generators, they typically have hours to maybe a day or two worth of fuel.)
How about using your shortwave set to tune into ham radios to fill in the gap -- they're famous for rising to the challenge during all kinds of natural disasters? Well they are. But three problems:
a) Their local comm work depends upon the 'repeater network' for its operation. These repeaters usually rely on the electric grid being up (No grid -- no repeaters.) Some of them have solar panel backup, but they're rare. Even then, in the wintertime, repeaters go down for all kinds of strange reasons.
b) But suppose in your area they stay up and running -- where are they going to get the info to relay to you? Refer to the comments on local lawmen's radios above: different verse, same chorus.
c) However, apart from all the above you still have a problem: the repeater network is essentially based on the 144 MHz band -- your SW radio doesn't cover that band.
But you've heard about the HF (high frequency) bands in amateur radio -- they don't depend on any repeater network to make their contacts -- what about tuning in to their bands on your SW rig?
Here's a possible but totally implausable scenario: a ham operator in Washington, DC is drafted into service by the White House staff. They transport him and his radio gear to a vacant room (what used to be the infamous "Library.") They provide him with a generator and a month's supply of fuel (If the fuel isn't siphoned off by a Clinton staff member feeling the icy grip of winter sneaking through the unheated walls.) He's given communiques to broadcast to the nation, i.e., to all the hamlets (pun intended) where every citizen is listening hard by on his SW receiver. Yeah, sure.
"Meanwhile, back at the ranch," specifically the myriad commercial FM stations strung out all over America, including the National Public Radio stations -- what could be happening? There's certainly a good chance that these entities, almost all of which have some kind of backup power genny setup, could be farsighted enough to lay in a store of gas or diesel fuel to keep going, on an hourly bulletin basis if nothing else, for weeks and weeks. The various levels of government should be thinking about subsidizing this kind of thing. I wouldn' t be surprised if FEMA and/or the FCC is already looking into these kinds of contingency plans. That strategy should make a lot more sense to government people looking into this post-y2k comm challenge. If it is implemented, you don't need your expensive Sangean --- just a 5-dollar pocket transistor AM/FM receiver. [I used to have a Commercial RadioTelephone license, and I built the college radio station back in 1947-48 --- but the above scenario is just fantasy on my part. Maybe Stephen Poole can fill us in on real world possibilities, with his present professional work in Birmingham, AL, the best state in the Confederacy. Stephen, please report in.]
Then, a month later, 'when it's all over,' you can throw the thing in the garbage and tell your grandchildren, 20 years later, about 'all the excitement in January of 2000.'
4. Cat IV: The first month's over. People are at the point where they might easily kill for a 2 months more supply of gas or diesel (to run THEIR generator) -- you think ANYbody's going to waste it firing up a radio transmitter to tell YOU what's going to happen to you in the next two months? Yeah, sure. Yep, your Sangean still works, thanks to those long-lasting alkaline cells -- but the ether waves are dead as a door nail. But if the radio is large enough you can still use it as a door STOP.
5. Cat V and VI: The alkaline cells are kaput. So are the radio stations. So are a few other things in The World As We Knew It. "You want to buy a Sangean? I can get it for you wholesale."
One last observation. How come so many GIs end up buying SW receivers, which confines them to ONEWAY communication for the duration? Well part of it is technical ignorance. But at least part of it, ironically and significantly, is that they have come to expect Big Brother -- centralized government -- to be the font of facts and wisdom in times of emergency. It's a hard habit to break.
Postscript: If my argument is convincing enough, what should you do with your Sangean? Sell it to a nervous GI who doesn't read the Yourdon Y2K site threads.
Hoping to hear your ham transmission on our y2kNet later in the year,
-- William J. Schenker, MD (email@example.com), June 05, 1999
Or is it Billy Jim? Anyway, thanks for this post. It really does clarify some things and makes good sense. Now, my Bay Gen windup does pick up AM/FM and even works off direct solar power. Hopefully the upper atmosphere will not be totally "blacked out" for weeks at a time, or glowing with those funny twisty luminescent thingys. And if we go longer than 30 days without power, well, it's still kind of fun to wind it up and watch all the gears going round and round under the transparent case. So that's something practical I can do while waiting for it to be safe to go outside, right. Did I do good to buy the Bay Gen? :-)
-- Gordon (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 05, 1999.
Sideband CB, scanner and a good AM for me.
-- Carlos (email@example.com), June 05, 1999.
I take it that you haven't considered personal ownership of shortwave transcievers. I know of several in our county alone (county seat is really the only town to speak of....population-about 35,000). No telling how many I don't know about. I would have to think that many others are doing the same thing. I/we are hoping/depending on these to pass information along. They are ac/dc and by no means small/cheap units (basically high powered mobile base stations). Not sure of the range but it's my understanding that they will be more than sufficiant (please correct me if I might be wrong). Unless I'm missing something (I'm not an expert by any means), these will justify having a small portable shortwave radio.
Note: Keep an eye out for the newspaper ads for Walgreens and Eckerds. A sale just ended for AA & AAA Energizer batteries (for your portable radios, flashlights, etc.). If I remember correctly the cost was $2.00 for an 8 pack. Last week they had 10 packs of Walgreens brand alkaline for $2.99 a 10 pack. Wish I had waited for the Energizers. Similar sales are quite frequent but this is the cheapest I've seen them. If only the rechargable would go on sale now.
-- Ready & Waiting (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
One reason I bought my Baygen is so I could listen to the BBC and hear how my family and friends are faring. My Baygen has been modified to take an LED light, so even if there are no radio transmissions I can still use it for reading. (Modified Baygens from realgoods.com, ccrane.com.)
-- Old Git (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
I'd say that you're not looking at the big picture at all.
If Y2K ends up a Category I,II, or III; a shortwave receiver will still come in handy because the airwaves are not NEARLY as censored as our TV & Cable have become.
For example, we're not getting ANY of the story about Russia on CNN or the networks. Russia is *really* pissed about Kosovo, and they say that on their English speaking Radio Moscow.
Also, in addition, listening to the native (usually English) broadcasts from various countries around the world gives you a COMPLETELY different perspective on the news of the world.
Juxtapose that with the crap we get here, and you may not be able to go back!
So, I would suggest getting a decent SW radio even if there was no Y2K, just so you can get the *real* news of the world.
Jolly is listening.
PS(Yes, I know that SW is frequently thinly veiled propaganda, but for the most part, radio brings views totally outside what Washington & NY want you to hear. AND for a real laugh, listen to our OWN various SW broadcasts! Talk about total propaganda!)
-- Jollyprez (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
Why do we have SW? So we can monitor the European hams after the lights go out and estimate when the radiation cloud from their nuke plants will reach mainland US (just kidding, hopefully!)
Seriously, you make some good points, but I think you underestimate the resourcefulness of humans. We are very resourceful. Not resourceful enough to steer clear of the approaching y2k train wreck, but resourceful enough to maintain sporadic radio transmission during a major disaster. Unless it goes Infomagic, that is. Then all bets are off.
I'll email Cory. He'll find this one interesting I'm sure.
-- a (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
William- I think you've made a good point. I bought an AM/FM solar radio with a hand crank for $19.95 and it works great. I think even if things turn ugly the stations will have backup power for awhile. I have more important things to spend money on than fancy shortwaves.
-- Gia (Laureltree7@hotmail.com), June 06, 1999.
Owning a SW receiver of any type can be a lot of fun, just string the longest antenna you can. 60 feet of wire is not too much. A couple WRPs from a year ago discusses antennas.
In addition to "uncensored news" from our commie pals, you'll get the BBC, the voice of Quito Equadore and all sorts of "different" viewpoints. Even in a total meltdown, some national governments somewhere will still be broadcasting.
You'll need an SSB receiver for the hams. This means either a BFO or a product detector or an SSB/USB/LSB setting with good selectivity and stability. 100 cycle tuning (not necessarily readout) is a requirement also.
Even in a total meltdown, some hams, somewhere will still be transmitting. My rig is small enough that I can carry it and enough wire for an antenna to talk around the world. It's a 100 watt ICOM. As long as I can get a couple hundred watts of DC or AC power, I can talk from DeeCee to Italy.
You can receive these kinds of transmissions with a 100-200 dollar SW receiver and a good antenna.
For International broadcast, like the overseas service of the BBC and Radio Peking, just about any 50-100 dollar receiver will work. Those stations transmit using 100,000 watts and more. They are loud.
I don't own one of those small SW receivers because ham transceivers include all-band SW receivers now.
-- cory ah6gi/3 (Kiyoinc@ibm.XOUT.net), June 06, 1999.
Man, do I appreciate this TimeBomb2000 site: I awaken at 400 AM, can't sleep (Since y2k awareness dawned on me in Jan '97 my usual senior citizen frequency of insomnia has significantly exacerbated.), finally throw in the towel at 430, get up, practice Morse code for 15 minute, turn to ck on incoming email -- none of course -- way too early, and finally ck out the thread I started on SW radio, feeling sure THAT's a waste of time at this unGodly hour. What do I find? -- Seven serious answers! Attaboy (& attagirls.)
Yes, it's Billy Jim. And yes, you 'did good to buy the Baygen.' Not because it will have any significant intrinsic value, but because reflecting on your purchase enabled you to generate some really fine black humor . Always appreciate that. BTW, I enjoy your posts -- always have something worthwhile to say.
Your choices of SSB CB makes some sense (I was thinking of starting a thread on that type of equipment -- but no time.) -- it's the only rig that takes you out of the ONEway communication disease that most of us in moderns are afflicted with, having grown so used to Big Bro and TV commentators feeding us. SSB is good, bec it has better range, cuts thru some of the interference, and will give your comm more privacy (since most people will be on standard CB.) Also, because of the expanding sunspot activity, your rig on 27MHz will give you greater distance, at least into 2001.
But you're hamstringing yourself: 4 (or is it 5?)watts max output of CB will get you out of your neighborhood, but don't you want better than that? Sure you can hang a big linear (linear amplifier) on the output, but they're hard to find, require some tech knowhow, are illegal at present, cost $$$, and still won't get you the range you need, to talk to the people you need to talk to (Not Koskinen, but people you've been getting good prep info from on this website, for instance.) Better you should learn a little Morse code, get your TechPlus ham ticket, and be ready to be grandfathered into a General ticket, and buy a $350 HF ham rig (See my thread on Ham Radio a week or two ago.)
Anyway, good thinking, Carlos.
READY & WAITING:
Tnx for your thoughtful post. Yes, those 'shortwave transceivers' are HF (high frequency bands) HAM RADIOS -- just what the doctor ordered. And yes, a lot of them are AC/DC. However, the AC part of them will be a total loser -- unless you plan on having your local electric utility personally pipe you plenty of 120v stuff even tho the rest of your region is in blackout status. And, yes they will have PLENTY of range -- all you'll need to talk to (notice the verb, Carlos -- it's not LISTEN) anybody anywhere in the USA (and even the rest of the world, when propagation conditions are good.) If you want to fulfill the definition of 'communication' you have to plan on TWO-way communication ---- unless you complete the loop you might as well be living in Nazi Germany, pre-Glasnot Russia -- you get the idea.
Last comment concerns the alkaline cells you mentioned. Yes, they are heaps better than the standard dry cells -- they'll last maybe a week of constant use, and maybe a month of intermittent use, in the applications your talking about. Of course, if y2k only lasts a month, you'll come out the other end having saved beau coup bucks. But just on the outside [ :)-] chance that it might last longer, I'm storing only rechargeables, plus small solar panels to recharge them with. You can get both of them cheap from various surplus electronic sources (Do a search on y2k.entrewave.com using the words 'Schenker' and 'electronics' to get lots of info on this score.)
Ever since my dad spent the '30s over there, getting his MD from Barts, London University -- our family became Anglophiles. Dad came back with an English accent which he never lost, and the family visited there several times. I've always appreciated the culture, and it's proper respect for the language and for civility (However, DON'T ask me to comment on English politics, or its North American version as practiced in English Canada. Lived in BC for a year -- disturbing experience, politically speaking.)
Git, what does the English power industry know that we don't -- in other words, how does BBC plan to have enough power to transmit on a regular basis IF THEY LOSE THEIR GRID? Are you saying that the English finally learned the lesson that Churchill tried to teach them in the '30s: take care of calamities BEFORE they happen?
On the subject of LED lighting, I've been planning on writing a refresher post on LED 'task' lighting -- published detailed construction articles on them last year on y2k.entrewave.com -- maybe I'll do that if I get the time. Suffice it to say, that most of the LED flashlights that are being promoted are so weak that if there are any ophthalmologists left practicing their specialty post-y2k, they'll have a field day with all the near blindness propagated by those LEDs. There are LEDs that are good 'task' lights, i.e., can be used for reading hours at a time, but you won't find them in the popularly advertized devices you've seen in most of the catalogs.
Finally, Git, if y2k DOES prove to be no more than a BITR (bump in the road) we look forward in our travel plans to a visit to Shakespeare's land.
Hey, you're preachin' to the choir! I first started listening to European SW back in 1938 -- on the superregenerative receiver I built from a kit. My post-graduate studies in Europe after WWII sealed forever the respect I have for non-American sources of culture and intellect. (If it hadn't been for the rumors flying in the Spring of 1951 -- that Russia was getting ready to roll over Europe, because America had become a 'paper tiger' -- I may have well acted on my plan to emigrate to Switzerland, where I was studying, having learned "Schwyzer Dootch" well enough to get by.) Yeah, you're sure right about the difference in what's put out on the airways overseas compared to here in the States.
However, you're WAY too optimistic about the scenario that may well unfold, if y2k is only a Cat I, II, or III. In such a case, how do you think we will be able to stop the Liberal/Socialist juggernaut steamrolling out of D.C., supported by the lackeys of the public media? Hey, maybe a right-in (pun intended) campaign, like we talked about in the 1960's: "Pogo for President"?
Appreciate your posts a lot (except when you stoop to respond to your flamers. Mistake. Bad mistake.)
Like your black humor, too -- about the radiation cloud. But you flinched -- come now -- courage, courage!
" Not resourceful enough to steer clear of the approaching y2k train wreck, but resourceful enough to maintain sporadic [italics mine] radio transmission during a major disaster."
----- Hey, sporadic won't cut it, "a." That's why we need a SCHEDULED ham net on HF.
And speaking about 'resourceful' -- I haven't seen anyone come up with a super lowpower ham band MONITORING receiver -- that runs on NO or close to it, power. You need one of those for 24-hour monitoring the ham bands -- I call it a QRZ monitor. Why does it have to be no power, or flea power? 'Cause we're not going to have a lot of spare milliamperes to waste on continuous monitoring, especially in those long periods of sunless (when solar panels are close to useless) winter days post-y2k. Have a design in mind, have the components, but no time to get it breadboarded. I haven't heard ANYbody else talking about that essential for ham comm. Hey, 'a,' with all your 'resourcefulness' talk you're getting to sound dangerously Polly. Back in WWII, we called it 'field expediency' -- but back then we had REAL U-MURicuns!
"Unless it goes Infomagic, that is. Then all bets are off."
Hey, I am InfoMagic's clone -- except I'm not a misanthropist. It's a shame about his attitude -- gives all us Doomers a REAL BAD NAME!
"I'll email Cory. He'll find this one interesting I'm sure."
Hey, do you have an 'in' with Cory? I've emailed him, faxed him -- get no response on anything. Want to talk to him about LED lites, & other things -- no response. (I know he's busy -- he's out doing what makes him one of our heroes -- but it's frustrating.)
If you're going to be a listener only, you've spent your money the right way -- long live CHEAP!
Regards to all,
-- William J. Schenker, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
Here we go again. I feel like I'm in a Surrealist novel: the only time I get to converse with one of my y2k heroes is via a third party (in this case, "a," alerting you to this thread.) Well, I can always hope. Anyway, tnx for your comments.
"Owning a SW receiver of any type can be a lot of fun..."
There you go again, Cory, with that deeply-rooted vein of Polly-ism in your organism. Y2k is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE 'FUN.' When will you learn that it's got to be GRIM, GRIM, GRIM?
"Even in a total meltdown, some national governments somewhere will still be broadcasting."
Which 'some' and where will the 'somewhere' be? Maybe Peru, operating off 120vAC of psychic energy? But even if they are on the air it won't do me any good -- I can speak Puerto Rican and Mexican Spanish but I have a devil of a time with the Peruvian accent. Besides I will turn on the power switch, not to hear Andean folk music, but to get more vital info on my rainwater collection system, or why my potato patch is going bad, or what to do with my sick goat. Is there somebody at 12,000 feet in the Andes who's sending a special broadcast to satisfy Bill Schenker's special needs?
"Even in a total meltdown, some hams, somewhere will still be transmitting."
Who, Cory, who? I hope to be. But I've got solar panels coming out the gazoo. Also out the gazoo are my cache of nicads, both hunker wet ones and the small dry ones. Also a steam powered generator (runs on wood scraps, paper, u-name-it) for when the batteries go south and the sun doesn't shine (for DAYS.)
"You can receive these kinds of transmissions with a 100-200 dollar SW receiver and a good antenna."
OK, Cory, so you've just fallen off a ladder and your ankle is swelling up fast & real painful. Wouldn't you like to have some advice as to how to tell whether you've got a fracture or not, and how to treat it if is a fracture, or if it isn't? How'm I supposed to give you that advice if you can't call me and ask me?
Oh, you've got a ham rig and you'll just ring me up on 80, 40, or 20m? Good. So what you're saying is that there are to be two tiers of post-y2k communication: 1) the Elite, who have 2-way ham rigs, and 2) the rest of the peons who'll have to settle on SW. Come on, Cory, you're a y2k hero that we GIs look up to --- give them the leadership they need & tell 'em to buy an HF ham rig --- for the same reason you did.
Looking forward to your WRPs (Hey, where is your followup on that Maryland bank's $30,000 booboo?)
-- William J. Schenker, MD (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
--from jocelyne slough, WZ9M-- well, bill, there are 2 outfits that i know of at the national level that have radio shacks. the senate has a shack for use of senators who are hams, and for their invited guests. also, the united nations has one. the last time i was directly involved in passing emergency traffic on HF was to st croix after hurricane hugo in 1989. my husband jon and i were in a relay loop on voice, 15 m, and 4U1UN was involved also. (there was a lot of action on the radio before the president sent the feds into st croix to quell the civil disturbances.) of course, emergency services organizations like the red cross, etc have shacks also, but i'm not counting those here.
what i have learned from Hugo and many other disasters and drills, is that voice is the best for tactical. when the crapola is hitting the fan and you have to act instantly and bark orders at people, you need voice communications. BUT, if you need to pass sensitive stuff, or boring stuff like lists of names at a shelter, or a very long name of a chemical, and/or you need 100% accuracy and hard copy, then digital is the way to go. so you should have the capability to do both. in the case of Hugo, we used Packet on VHF and AMTOR on HF to pass some of the health and welfare traffic, once the emergency part was over. the virgin islands 10 m repeater had blown down so could not be used. APlink is also fantastic to use with very sensitive material where you need 100% copy.
i can happily recommend an all-purpose HF antenna. you should have a longwire NVIS antenna that will work on all the major HF bands. the virtue of an NVIS antenna is that you do NOT need to worry about skip, so it is good for local, regional, and national coverage. my husband jon made one some years ago, it happens to be a fullwave 80 m horizontal loop, with a matching stub, held up by 5 8-ft lengths of pvc pipe. you want it just high enough so your head will clear the wires when walking around the thing. it is absolutely CRUCIAL that the height be no more than 10 feet for it to work at its best. it does require some room, so you may want to try a 40m loop. or take the 80 m loop and have it spirally wound to make it a little smaller.
if you are interested in making this antenna, there are instructions for similar models, in QST and 73 mags. the one that comes closest is "the big loopy" which was in 73 mag about 2 years ago i think.
the NVIS antenna, also known as a cloudwarmer antenna, works by throwing some of the signal straight up and some of it into side lobes. the straight up stuff comes back down locally and regionally, depending on what bands you use. the side lobes are great for DX.
using this antenna, we have kicked butt over the years in a lot of contests, both national and international. using my husband's callsign KB9ATR, we won the world in the ARRL RTTY Roundup in 1992, for low paower multi-op category. i believe the results and article were in the november 1992 issue of QST magazine. the NVIS antenna was our secret weapon in this contest, since our station was made up mostly of enthusiastic novices. an acquaintance reports this antenna also works great every week for getting into the Indiana traffic net, strong signal all over the state. it is also being used by state RACES and ARES. here is a point you will probably appreciate: it has been sent into the caribbean with our medical jump teams after hurricanes, as the NVIS feature means it is a great antenna to use in mountainous terrain. since it is a wire antenna, it is also very compact and portable.
as a bonus, the antenna is fairly impervious to noise, both atmospheric and manmade. so it is very good to use in a noisy urban environment, even on 80 and 160 meters.---73, jocelyne slough, WZ9M.
-- jocelyne slough (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
Hello again, Doc. Hope the homestead is going well.
There are a couple of points I'd like to work on in your analysis. Let's see if my point of view makes sense to you, for what it's worth.
I don't necessarily WANT to hear what somebody might be telling me, depending on who that someone is and what they're saying. I have a low tolerance for propaganda, thank you. Misinformation and disinformation I can do without. I'd rather listen to the stuff I'm not INTENDED to hear. I've always felt I could gather more useful information from that than from the neatly coiffed otherwise empty talking heads on the teevee or their radio equivalent. In fact, I'd rather monitor news crews as they 'gather' the news than listen to the THs after the final spin is applied. I get more from them than from the cops and fire/rescue crews because they have less radio discipline.
A decent shortwave is essential as far as I'm concerned. Ditto a good programmable scanner, with either a freq counter or a good working knowledge of local frequencies (or both). I want to cover DC to daylight as thoroughly as possible in my area. Most scanner stuff- VHF/UHF- (except aircraft traffic) is relatively short range. A lot of shortwave stuff (HF) is long range. You have to have the equipment to cover the spectrum you want to hear.
It's a good idea to be listening now, especially to SW world service broadcasts from other countries as others have mentioned here. You can't do that with just AM/FM. The practice will be well worthwhile, and weaning away from American mainstream media propaganda is even more worth doing. Ditto the scanner- the equipment takes some time and practice to master, but can be a priceless asset in an emergency. It's a good time to be working on antenna setups too, especially low profile antennas. A little study on antenna theory goes a long way to produce superior receiving ability.
Power is no big deal at all. A 12v battery and a small solar panel to keep it charged, with the appropriate power converters, will keep a small radio shack going indefinitely. The draw for solid state stuff is very small. As a power saving alternative use headphones while listening. Driving a speaker takes much more power than using 'phones.
Talking is a much over-rated activity. Most people chatter to verbally have their hands held in emergency situations. Just get over it. When you're broadcasting on radio you're telling everyone in range who you are and where you are- do you think this is an unmixed blessing? I don't. There are definitely some advantages to two-way commo in certain circumstances, but there are significant disadvantages too. Keep those in mind.
As to cost, basic equipment doesn't have to break you. One of my 'spare' setups (stored in a steel ammo can) cost a total of $55 not counting power- that's for a 30- channel programmable handheld scanner and a digital shortwave receiver (tho w/o BFO- a Radio Shack DX375), both found in a local pawn shop. You don't necessarily have to have horribly expensive equipment, though your needs will be dictated to a degree by what equipment is in public service in your area. A local city just converted to a trunked system, so some scanner buffs are trading in their old gear. Thus used equipment is available, and it does fine in my area.
I can't think of any circumstance where being able to hear what's going on around you WON'T be an advantage. I also can't imagine depending on the 'canned' broadcasts from the traditional broadcast media to stay informed. If anything AT ALL is up and running as far as infrastructure goes, someone will be talking on the radio. I want to hear them.
-- Lee (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
The actual saying is.... * The light at the end of the tunnel means *
* there is another bloody tunnel coming up *
-- Rickjohn (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
good Lord, i forgot to mention a couple of rather important things about the NVIS antenna. the first one is that you can make a version of this antenna specifically for CB. 11 meters fullwave, divide by 4 as this thing is usually square, means you only need a space that is 2.75 meters square, or about 9x9 feet. you can also slightly lower one side of the antenna to change your DX angle. now, on VHF--normally, VHF frequencies will not work for the NVIS antenna as they will not bounce down, but with the sunspot cycle this high, it might be worthwhile to experiment with a 6-meter version, if you have the time and/or the inclination to mess with an unreliable band. the beauty of the 6-m band though, is that not that many people use it, so when it's working, it's relatively unpopulated. i'm speaking of SSB here, not 6m FM. most hams don't have 6m on their HF rigs.
second point is that the NVIS HF loop is all-band, works great on all the major WARC bands. to be specific, 10, 15, 20, 40, 80, 160 meters. (try a separate one for 12 and 17 meters, if you have to have them.) again, by lowering one side of your antenna, you can change your DX angle.
-- jocelyne slough, WZ9M (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
Tnx for your DETAILED response.
"the senate has a shack for use of senators who are hams, and for their invited guests. also, the united nations has one."
If the senate and that ugly building on Manhattan's East Side are still functioning, you are talking about a Category I, II, or III, y2k 'disturbance.' That includes ALL the catastrophes we in America have ever experienced (including the New Madrid fault 'affair,' back in the early 1800s.) In that kind of scenario, hoo needs to listen to hams from the Senate floor or from the UN basement hideaway? Thanks, but I'll wait till the smoke clears and thereafter settle back to my comfortable pre-y2k lifestyle, like all the rest of us fat Americans.
"voice is the best for tactical. when the crapola is hitting the fan and you have to act instantly and bark orders at people, you need voice communications."
I pushed hard, in my previous y2k-comm posts during 1998, for people to realize that basic comm fact. Many were talking about using QRP Morse code --- won't cut it when you need to talk to a doctor about your daughter's 9-month pregnancy and your wondering if it's 'really labor pains.'
"BUT, if you need to pass sensitive stuff, or boring stuff like lists of names at a shelter, or a very long name of a chemical, and/or you need 100% accuracy and hard copy, then digital is the way to go. so you should have the capability to do both. in the case of Hugo, we used Packet on VHF and AMTOR on HF to pass some of the health and welfare traffic, once the emergency part was over. the virgin islands 10 m repeater had blown down so could not be used. APlink is also fantastic to use with very sensitive material where you need 100% copy."
I took a long, hard look at digital (data) ham transmissions back last year. So appealing. It's the 'poor man's Internet.' However, I'm going to have to resort to all the 'resourcefulness' at my command --- just to find enough power to keep my 100watt HF rig going, let alone a computer plus data interface. To say nothing of recommending that kind of gear to the electronic novices out there -- which I'm sure makes up most of our lurker audience. Where are they going to get the time, expertise, and $$$ to set up that kind of gear -- when most of them are balking on even buying an HF transceiver and learning 5wpm code?
"i can happily recommend an all-purpose HF antenna. you should have a longwire NVIS antenna that will work on all the major HF bands ................. as a bonus, the antenna is fairly impervious to noise, both atmospheric and manmade so it is very good to use in a noisy urban environment, even on 80 and 160 meters."
Gosh, I never thought someone on TimeBomb2000 would be reading my mind so well! My y2k comm plans, from the beginning, have included an 80-meter fullwave horizontal loop, for ALL the reasons you mention: LESS --- $$$, complexity, electrical 'noise,' inflexibility, restrictions limiting it to certain bands, restrictions limiting it to certain geographic directions and ranges, and dependence upon ionosphere propagation patterns. It is the IDEAL post-y2k antenna, for all these reasons. Yet the few y2k ham recommendations I've read, never seem to focus on this strategy --- not glamorous enough?
'Nother point. If our readers get far enough out in the country, they should have plenty of real estate to put up the full-wave horizontal loop (ATTENTION READERS!! You're STILL living in the city? Ah yes, you've got your 'bugout plan' well laid out. You've got your 'JIT inventory strategies' well in hand. Also like you're one of those people who'll know JUST when to pull your $$$ out of the bank BEFORE the runs begin. And empty your 401 Acc't and the rest of your stock investments BEFORE Wall Street goes south. Man, I wish I had your timing ability!)
Jocelyne, thank you very much for your good posts I've been reading since returning to Ed's forum a month ago.
Glad to hear from you again.
"I don't necessarily WANT to hear what somebody might be telling me, depending on who that someone is and what they're saying. I have a low tolerance for propaganda, thank you. Misinformation and disinformation I can do without. I'd rather listen to the stuff I'm not INTENDED to hear. I've always felt I could gather more useful information from that than from the neatly coiffed otherwise empty talking heads on the teevee or their radio equivalent. In fact, I'd rather monitor news crews as they 'gather' the news than listen to the THs after the final spin is applied. I get more from them than from the cops and fire/rescue crews because they have less radio discipline."
Them's my sentiments too.
"..........essential as far as I'm concerned. Ditto a good programmable scanner, with either a freq counter or a good working knowledge of local frequencies (or both). I want to cover DC to daylight as thoroughly as possible in my area. Most scanner stuff- VHF/UHF- (except aircraft traffic) is relatively short range."
Yep, if you're going to be a serious local lurker you need to be serious about your scanner setup.
"Ditto the scanner- the equipment takes some time and practice to master, but can be a priceless asset in an emergency. It's a good time to be working on antenna setups too, especially low profile antennas. A little study on antenna theory goes a long way to produce superior receiving ability."
Again, if you're into scanners, the right antenna is important. The allusion to 'low profile' I'll address below.
"Talking is a much over-rated activity. Most people chatter to verbally have their hands held in emergency situations. Just get over it."
Considering the state of our present indulgent American culture, 'ain't that the truth, now!' On the other hand, I expect that a Category III to Category VI would change some of our speech patterns ever so slightly. (And this is apart from when the 'hand-holding' can actually save a life, if it's good medical advice, or an animal if it's good vetinarian advice, or a crop if it's good gardening advice.) Spending long hours on lonely all night guard duty in WWII makes you appreciate ANY voice, even an SOB sergeant's. Those short intervals were nothing compared to the silence one will have to endure, especially if he is walled up, under cover, and appropriately careful of maintaining the secrecy of his position. More below.
"When you're broadcasting on radio you're telling everyone in range who you are and where you are- do you think this is an unmixed blessing? I don't. There are definitely some advantages to two-way commo in certain circumstances, but there are significant disadvantages too. Keep those in mind."
Now here we come to a crucial issue, and I'm glad you brought it up. We talked a lot around this issue a year ago on our comm threads on y2k.entrewave.com. A consensus seemed to bubble up: for the first month or two after TSHTF --- keep your head down and your helmet ON. The DGI people out there are going to be ENRAGED, and incidentally slightly HUNGRY. That is not a good time to go exploring on the ether waves, beaming up your ham transmitter, looking for conversation. It's a GOOD time to listen. But once again, I believe most of what you want to eavesdrop on will be local, so the scanner strategy makes much more sense.
(Unless it might be to hear a guy broadcasting in a heavy Chinese accent: "Amelicans! Do not lesist us! We come as fliends! Give up your alms! We wir feed you and take cale of arr your needs.! Thank you velly much!" For that kind of transmission, better you should have your SW radio tuned in. Even better might be to make your peace with your Maker. Hey, I can joke about this now -- especially since I've read that the Chinese have progressed far enough in their industrial revolution to computerize much of their infrastructure. That means maybe they won't have the wherewithal to make an invasion of our homeland a reasonable goal.)
But, Lee, suppose y2k turns out to be a Cat. IV, or V (forget about VI!) At some point, after the mass die off, you are going to want to come out of your bunker. By then the American landscape will be somewhat sparsely populated. How will you talk to your neighbor? Hitch up your horsedrawn buggy and ride ---- 50, 100, 200, or more - miles?!
THAT'S what HF ham radio is for.
The only reasonable argument to the above I can think of anybody giving me is simply: "A Cat IV or V? --- It can't happen here!"
P.S. Don't take my ravings too seriously -- my new wife doesn't. God bless her.
-- William J. Schenker, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
gee, bill, if you liked the 80 meter horizontal loop, you may also like this nice little portable antenna--the slinky antenna, very nice to use inside in apartments or put up in the attic of a house. it can be used outside in a pinch but if left outside in the elements, may rust after awhile.
basic 40m fullwave slinky antenna requires 2 slinkys. you shorten to 20, 15, or 10m by using an alligator clip, and of course a tuner. we also have a fullwave 80m, made with 4 slinkys, 2 on each side of the dipole. you hang the thing up near the ceiling in the center of the wall, and put the ends in the corners of the room, with string thru the center of the slinkys to keep them from sagging down too much. they work great. if you buy the slinkys these days, you have to be careful to get the metal ones, not the plastic ones. details on making these are available in the ham mags.
i also favor for portable emergency communications, the wonderful FLAGPOLE J for HF, it is great for a lot of reasons, including stealth and convenience. small Js for VHF/UHF are very nice to roll up and put in your shirt pocket for travelling. we have used those plenty of times for transmitting from a hotel room on a handheld.
here's a vital point about the NVIS antenna. try to keep it low to the ground. there are a lot of articles about horizontal loops, but not all the authors use their loop as NVIS. for it to work as an NVIS antenna, it MUST be low to the ground, any higher than 10 feet and you will seriously degrade its use for NVIS. 10 feet or more up, and all you have is a nice loop, in my opinion. you can experiment with this (as we have) and you will find out. if you have a way of quickly and easily lowering one side, that is also a nice feature so that you can change your DX angle on the side lobes. we have 5 poles holding up our loop because one side is center-fed, hence the extra post, but you could feed from one corner instead and just use 4 poles.
you are right about newbies and learning digital, but if you have someone knowledgable set up the eqipment, and you use macros, any idiot can do digital. we use macros in the RTTY contests and then let novices do the exchanges. anybody can learn to push 1 button to send a prewritten message.
also, we have a series of BASIC programs for sending between red cross shelters. the programs will collect 100 health and welfare messages in one bundle and then send it out. they are easy to use, and were written for use by non-hams who can type quickly. you just fill in the little boxes with the info. then the ham sends it out, using ANY digital mode they want, we have used VHF packet and HF AMTOR. in our drills, we have had students from secretarial school fill in the boxes, and then the ham sends out the bundle. my husband wrote the programs, and the hams in north carolina have made the most use of them so far under acrual emergency conditions, as they seem to have had a lot of hurricanes in the last few years.
we like morse code for fun and for a last resort, but it's slow so is not near first choice for sure.
-- jocelyne slough (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
Tnx for the poop on the 'slinky' antennas -- I have always passed right by those articles, assuming they won't be appropriate for y2k -- when I expect I'll be trying to squeeze out all the antenna gain I can, so as to drain my power source as little as possible. However, if a windstorm, tornado, hailstorm, or human predator knocks out my 'loopy' loop I'll still be able to get the signal out with the indoor antenna. Will ck into that & set up an 80 & a 40/20m as my backup.
Your caveat about the 'cloudwarmer' NVIS is right on the money: all the textbooks and mag articles have always (appropriately) talked about full-wave horiz. loops for DX purposes, so of course they want the radiation angle to be as low as possible by placing the antenna as high as possible. The difference we're looking at is HAM RADIO AS A HOBBY vs HAM RADIO AS A LIFESAVER. Haven't been able to get that one across to ANY ham I've talked to in the past 2 years (other than the GIs on the forums.)
Will also look into the 'flagpole J' but it will be low on my priority list --- if things have gotten so bad that I have leave my homestead (where I'll have my slinky comfortably set up indoors) then the last thing on my mind is reporting into the y2k Net. I'll be more concerned about avoiding a case of what I call 'acute lead poisoning' (has to do with bullets, you know.)
A thought on Morse code. Slow, awkward for sure. But it might address a concern I've had for a good while: how to maintain privacy when there's sensitive info in the traffic I'm handling. Or another scenario: the wolves are at my door & I need to talk to someone about defense strategies -- would be nice to have someone walk me thru some obvious maneuvers, without tipping my hand. Isn't all of this concern a bit extreme, even paranoid? Of course.
Tnx again for the gen -- we'll probably be meeting on the air, hopefully by this summer.
-- William J. Schenker, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 06, 1999.
bill, i can't believe i actually mentioned feeding the NVIS antenna at the corner. NO NO NO --this will not work for NVIS. if you feed at the corner, you will have a nice directional rhombic, i believe, which is ok if that's what you are after, but that's not what we want here. so we must have the thing center-fed.
you are right about the gain and the slinky, but it's cheap and fairly easy to make.
i failed to make my real point about the flagpoles. they are great for emergency work, if you want to work with others. think about it, if you are doing public communications, every fire station, police station, sheriff's office has a flagpole. if you are working at a shelter for the red cross, the shelters are usually in schools, again you have a handy flagpole. the antenna doesn't have to be a J, the flagpole is very good for putting up an inverted V quickly. the J has often been used as a permanent antenna by homeowners because the antenna can be completely hidden from the neighbors. of course a long wire is nice if the neighbors don't see it and squawk, in which case you may want to tell them it's a home security device that will help protect the entire neighborhood. and that's the truth too.
if you are fortunate enough to have 2 flagpoles fairly close together, you can easily put up a delta loop, and then take it down when you're done. as you can see,
-- jocelyne slough (email@example.com), June 06, 1999.
"bill, i can't believe i actually mentioned feeding the NVIS antenna at the corner. NO NO NO --this will not work for NVIS. if you feed at the corner, you will have a nice directional rhombic, i believe, which is ok if that's what you are after, but that's not what we want here. so we must have the thing center-fed."
Yes, I noted that, and had planned to center feed it.
"i failed to make my real point about the flagpoles. they are great for emergency work, if you want to work with others. think about it, if you are doing public communications, every fire station, police station, sheriff's office has a flagpole. if you are working at a shelter for the red cross, the shelters are usually in schools, again you have a handy flagpole. the antenna doesn't have to be a J, the flagpole is very good for putting up an inverted V quickly. the J has often been used as a permanent antenna by homeowners because the antenna can be completely hidden from the neighbors. of course a long wire is nice if the neighbors don't see it and squawk, in which case you may want to tell them it's a home security device that will help protect the entire neighborhood. and that's the truth too.
if you are fortunate enough to have 2 flagpoles fairly close together, you can easily put up a delta loop, and then take it down when you're done. as you can see,"
Let me see if I can truncate my response to the above in a form of summary of where I'm at re ham radio in the post-y2k world. I don't WANT to develop a strategy for EMERGENCIES. Doing such is great for the "normal" times we now/still live in. But to weave it into my y2k preps, as part of my BASIC strategy smacks way too much of the Bugout Strategy (B.S.) that so many people are using as the cornerstone of their preps.
I think B.S. is fraught with an internal contradiction: bugging out will work great for a short-term emergency, which many of us have experienced thru the years (such as tornado, hurricane, earthquake, snowstorm, flood, icestorm catastrophe.) And thus it would work if Y2K turns out to be just a BITR. But why do overkill for such a short-term event? Why not just hunker down at home with enough water, food, and temporary cooking and heating fuel to make it thru the few days necessary?
OTOH, if Y2K turns out like I'm planning on (I taught InfoMagic 'everything he knows' -- except how to avoid being a misanthrope.) --- in such a case energy, focus, time, $$$ I spend on emergency, fill-in-the-gap, short-term strategies will take away from my main goal: develop protocols, procedures, and systems that will stand the test of time -- and which will allow me to move on to other challenges at hand, like on-going water storage, food production, fuel production, health care, you get the idea.
Yes, flagpole Js, and other expedients are great to plug a gap -- but I'm encouraging myself and others to build a radio comm system that conserves power while getting out RELIABLY in any time of day, nite, season, year, or sunspot cycle, in any state of the Union (and hopefully some countries overseas.) That means a HF rig, using 100 watts of power MAXIMUM --- hopefully a LOT less. And that last parameter requires a SUPER efficient antenna. And that spells NVIS.
And B.S. stands for something else in addition to Bugout Strategy and Bill Schenker (smirk.)
'73, Bill--Never trust a man whose initials are B.S.-- Schenker
-- William J. Schenker, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 07, 1999.
i don't know what the future will bring, so i have plan A,B,C and D. certainly the portable antennas are needed for some of the plans. i agree with you about power. we always run barefoot. if a band is too busy, it's easier to just move somewhere else. if you have enough Ground, Gain, and in some cases Height, on your antennas, you don't need much power. it helps if you have the common sense not to let your antennas turn green and stuff like that.
i live in a small town in Amish/Mennonite country. this is the kind of place where we know each other and will stick together, but if that doesn't work out, i have other plans.
-- jocelyne slough (email@example.com), June 07, 1999.
Sounds like you've got things well covered. We'll talk on the air when I get there.
-- William J. Schenker, MD (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 07, 1999.