Monday, November 8, 2010

Listening to the Outside World

Backwoods Product--AM Antennas and Radio's

Today's usbackroads posting is brought to you by the letter Q. 

Well, actually it is all about that primitive medium known as AM radio.

Yes, before cable TV, satellite TV, internet, and satellite radio there was nighttime AM radio.  It was the only way to listen to broadcasts from far, far away.  Now Forest Service employees were always into nighttime AM and shortwave radio.  Miles and miles from broadcasting stations AM radio was the only connection with the "outside" world.  It also had the advantage of being able to track thunderstorms moving onto the National Forest through the static the lighting strikes generated.

Radio became my contact with the outside world.  SW radio was great while AFRTS (American Forces Radio and Television Service) was on the shortwave bands.  It was great to listen to ball games, the Sunday morning shows, and NPR and CNN without commercials.  Well, they did have commercials but they were about security and other issues dear to the heart of the Armed Forces.

Unfortunately, in response to pressure from other governments the broadcasts were moved off AM shortwave into satellite broadcasts.  Shortwave radio is just not the same.

To listen to AM radio at nighttime or daytime you need to look to the letter Q above.  That is a tuned loop AM antenna.  If you like listen to AM radio you need one of these.  These will improve the reception of any AM radio.  Even the poorest AM radio will start functioning much, much better.

Here is the current version of a tuned loop antenna.  All of mine were originally made by Radio Shack and when they were discontinued I drove to every Radio Shack dealer and bought the last three in the Wenatchee Valley.  Thankfully, Terk still makes the antenna.

The difference in reception is amazing.  While at University of California Forestry summer program the cook used a tune loop to listen to KNBR from San Francisco 200 miles away DURING the day.  At nighttime the reception extends throughout the entire west coast.  The difference is amazing.  Try one if you listen to AM radio.

A good radio that is easily tuned will make your reception better, but these tuned loops will work with any AM radio and they will make the ANY radio work like one of those expensive ones.

If you want to build one yourself here is a link for plans and an explanation of how the antenna works:  Loop Antennas.  I did build one of wire and wood and it worked fine.  Not as good as the Terk, but an interesting project.

Every time I use a tuned loop antenna it takes me back to the summer of 1972 and working out of wall tent in the Gravey Creek area of the Clearwater National Forest.  Bears and elk all summer long and we never saw another human being that summer.  Our only contact was a Forest Service radio for work and an AM/shortwave radio for the outside world. 

When I boondock these days I do have a satellite radio setup, but more often than not I bring out my AM Radio and the tuned loop antenna.  There is just something about the static of lightning strikes.


Levonne said...

You're on quite the adventure! Good technical information in your post today.

Dugg said...

Very interesting post!

BajaDan said...

Placed an Amazon order for a Terk loop antennae. Thank you for the tip. Better radio reception while boondocking was high on my priority list, but low on my knowledge level..

BTW, about the book you recommend, WASHINGTON FISHING by Terry Rudnick, was delivered a couple of days ago. After reading only a few pages, I have learned enough about fishing in central WA, to make it well worth the price.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Thanks Levonne and Dugg.

Nice pictures on your blog Levonne. Keep on clicking.

The Ventana Wilderness was my hiking area when I was going to school at Berkeley. Great area. I am hopeful in making it back to that area sometime in the future.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Thanks BajaDan.

You will enjoy the Terk antenna. It is amazing how much the radio reception improves with the antenna.

It is tuned or coupled with the antenna in your radio. So try several positions with the radio to see which maximizes your reception.

Also the antenna is direction. Some listeners actually place the antenna on a Lazy Susan and rotate for best reception. This way you can null or eliminate to some extent the stations on the same frequency that you do not want to hear.

It is a great antenna. You will enjoy it. I will cover some radio's in the near future that are good for long distance reception.

Thanks for shopping Amazon through my web site. I am trying to set up the blog as a business, so having some income really helps. Thanks again.