How to Pick Up Radio Chatter on My Laptop

Written by ed wagner
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How to Pick Up Radio Chatter on My Laptop
Software defined radio receivers can replace this old, but charming, short wave. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Most computers are equipped with a Wi-Fi device, which is a radio frequency transceiver, although it's not capable of receiving lower frequencies in the AM, FM or short wave bands. Software defined radio (SDR) uses a computer to control a radio receiver and provide an audio output. Many of the radio front ends are USB devices. They are configured as three general coverage receivers for AM/FM, short wave or VHF/UHF.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • USB dongle

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  1. 1

    Install an AM/FM dongle in the USB port to receive local broadcast signals. Most large commercial stations have an Internet radio service, but there are micro broadcasters who do not. Independent radio stations may cover only a neighbourhood or a single building. Also, AM/FM dongles can provide radio reception when a computer is not connected to the Internet.

  2. 2

    Listen to UHF and VHF frequencies used for public service, aircraft, amateur radio, satellites and more with a UHF/VHF dongle or dedicated receiver. These range from simple dongle plug-ins to complex, professional quality receiver front ends using a vast array of software features. Most of these receivers will handle AM, narrow and wide FM, SSB, and telemetry.

  3. 3

    Listen to short wave communications with a high frequency USB receiver. High frequency radio includes international short wave broadcasts in a multitude of languages. But many stations include an English-language program in their schedule. Other services include aircraft, amateur radio and military radio traffic. These radios receive AM, FM, SSB, CW, and telemetry. Single sideband (SSB) is the most prevalent amateur radio mode. Telemetry is a data transmission.

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