If you are curious about ham radio but don’t want to buy a lot of expensive equipment that you might not be able to use for anything else if you find out you are NOT interested in ham radio after giving it a try – this should be a good read!
There are several ways to listen to ham radio on equipment that you may already have. One of them is the internet as long as you have a fast enough internet connection. One such internet feed is http://www.smeter.net/pahrump/audio.php – this particular site features Art Bell’s ham radio audio feed. Some of you may know Art Bell from late night AM broadcast radio. He hosted the nationally syndicated late night talk show “Coast To Coast”. If you haven’t listened to it – give THAT a listen some night. Some of it is a bit over the top but it is always interesting to hear the various types of people out there in this crazy world of ours.
Other internet feeds can be found just by doing a Google search like this one: http://www.google.com/search?q=ham+radio+audio+feed
Many people have what is popularly termed a police scanner. Most people use these radio receivers to listen to police, fire, ambulance and air traffic (airplane) radio traffic which is pretty interesting all in itself. A good ham radio, by the way, will give the ability to also listen to these frequencies. This can be especially fun while mobile! Many scanner listeners listen to only a small fraction of the radio traffic that is available to them. For example, the cheapest police scanner will do a nice job or receiving ham radio traffic on the 2 meter (around 144 megahertz) band. Band stands for frequency range or segment by the way.
Other people may have a shortwave radio. These devices can be small portable radios or they may be the older table top or large cabinet style radios. Perhaps your parents or grandparents had one back in the day. Perhaps, as I found, you may find one in the basement or attic and not really know what it is or can receive until you give it a try. Shortwave radios generally are designed to receive AM broadcast stations from around the world – and many also receive the ham radio frequencies. You may also be able to receive radio traffic from ships at sea, military and civilian aircraft, etc..
Use this Google search to find some sites related to shortwave radio audio feeds: http://www.google.com/search?q=shortwave+radio+audio+feed
To learn a bit about shortwave radio stations and listen to them without a shortwave radio give this link a try: http://www.wrn.org/
Another great way to find out if you might be interested in the hobby is simply to ask a local ham radio operator about it. I am sure that most hams would love to explain the hobby to you and let you know what it’s all about. Ham radio is one of those hobbies where you can do some really neat things on a very minimal budget. Of course, if you have the budget you can build your dream station! Give ham radio a listen… Getting a license is a LOT easier than most people think. And now you don’t have to know Morse code to get your license!
Jon Kreski, AB9NN