There was a time when electronic hackers (or hobbyist, enthusiasts, geeks, or whatever you want to be called) were better than average at geography. Probably because most of us listened to shortwave radio or even transmitted with ham radio gear. These days, if you try listening to shortwave, you have to be pretty patient. Unless you want to hear religious broadcasters or programming aimed at the third world, there’s not much broadcast traffic to listen to anymore
The reason, of course, is the Internet. But we’ve often thought that it isn’t quite the same. When you tuned in London on your homebrew regenerative receiver, you wanted to know where that voice was coming from, and you couldn’t help but learn more about the area and the people who live there. Tune into a BBC live stream on the Internet, and it might as well be any other stream or podcast from anywhere in the world.
The New Shortwave
Maybe we need to turn kids on to Radio Garden. Superficially, it isn’t a big deal. Another catalog of streaming radio stations. You can find plenty of those around. But Radio Garden has an amazing interface (and a few other unique features). That interface is a globe. You can see dots everywhere there’s a broadcast station and with a click, you are listening to that station. The static and tuning noises are a nice touch.
As for the other features, the site itself explains it best:
In the section on History you can tune into clips from throughout radio history that show how radio has tried to cross borders. How have people tried to translate their nations into the airwaves? What did they say to the world? How do they engage in conversation across linguistic and geographical barriers?
Click over to Jingles for a world-wide crash course in station identification. How do stations signal within a fraction of a second what kind of programmes you are likely to hear? How do they project being joyful, trustworthy, or up to the minute?
Then stop and listen to radio Stories where listeners past and present tell how they listen beyond their walls. How do they imagine the voices and sounds from around they globe? How do they make themselves at home in the world?
If you are an old shortwave fan, you might find this interesting. If you know a kid who might be turned to the dark arts of radio, show them the site. If you do get a kid hooked on radio, the next step is a cheap software defined radio. Of course, there’s not much to listen to on shortwave, so maybe you can try listening to public service radio, too.