An Outstanding Blogger to Follow
by Ron Chester ★ Saturday, September 18, 2021

If you have an interest in portable operating with your ham radio, there is one blogger who is essential to read, Thomas Witherspoon, K4SWL. He has many websites, but the two very active blogs that I read regularly are: The SWLing Post and Like most of us, Thomas got started in radio by listening to the shortwave bands, originally encouraged by his father.   

He once eloquently described shortwave radio as follows:

[Shortwave radio] has little regard for distance, and no regard for political borders, nor for who and how many join you to listen. This apparent information dinosaur travels at the speed of light, streams information wirelessly on affordable handheld devices[...], is virtually immune to censorship, and leaves no tracks. Censorial attempts to jam it are largely unsuccessful and can usually be bypassed. Radio is, moreover, faster than the Internet. Radio is straightforward, effective – and in the developing world, still absolutely vital. It often functions as a form of life-support for rural and impoverished communities – for example, offering life-saving information when disaster strikes, like earthquakes or tsunamis.

That is by far the best description I've ever read about radio technology. The juxtaposition of apparent information dinosaur with travels at the speed of light is absolutely brilliant writing, as well as totally accurate. Radio does not need to take a back seat to computer technology. These are glorious, but not empty words. Thomas has arranged to donate a substantial number of shortwave radios to impoverished communities all over the world over the years! If you look at the faces of many children with their new radios, it may remind you of how you also felt when you first discovered the magic of shortwave radio.  

On the About page for his QRP blog, Thomas wrote:

The goal of my site is to promote all things QRP–especially articles and sites which celebrate QRP in action. More specifically, my site will focus on portable operations.

There you have it; portable operation with QRP radios. The two go together so well. Because of their low power and transmitting by Morse Code, these radios are smaller and weigh less than usual HF equipment at a home station. Thomas is very hands on with his blog. He goes out into the field, often setting up his station in a park and making many contacts with other hams. Often he is demonstrating new equipment recently purchased or on loan from the manufacturers, discussing in great detail the pros and cons of all the equipment he is demonstrating. It is a great help in deciding what gear you'd like to get and how to use it.

In August and September 2021, Thomas featured an outstanding series called Anatomy of a Field Radio Kit, Part 1 and Part 2.  These are classic articles, the best of the kind of writing that Thomas publishes. I encourage you to read both of them and then work out your own plan for getting out into the field with your own kit. 

Back in 2015, Thomas published an outstanding review of available shortwave radios for those just getting started with listening on the shortwave bands. It is another example of the very helpful information you'll find on his blogs. Thomas also posts some articles written by his readers. For example in June 2021 he published a very extensive analysis of the Icom IC-705 in terms of whether this ham transceiver might qualify as a holy grail SWL/BCL receiver. That is, does it have such an excellent receiver that those who are not hams should buy it to use as their top notch receiver, ignoring its capabilities for hams on transmit?  Hams are not the only ones who can get very serious about the technology they use!