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Shortwave is like the local AM Broadcast Band you can hear on a regular "AM Radio" except that shortwave signals travel globally, depending on the time of day, time of year, and weather and space conditions.
Shortwave Broadcasts are generally in the 2.3 MHz to 30.0 MHz range. All you need to hear these signals from around the globe is a radio which can receive frequencies in the shortwave bands and these can be very cheap, keeping in mind that you get what you pay for. As in ham radio, a special antenna isn't really necessary, but the better the antenna, the more weaker stations you can pull in. The telescoping antenna found on many portable shortwave radios will work also but, for reception of more exotic international broadcasts, you will probably need something a little more capable.
Over the years there have been organizations that issued "SWL Call Signs", but these have always been unofficial. One such organization that still does so is the Canadian SWARL: SWARL@shaw.ca
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