The first years
SWARL was started on the internet by Tim Kyle on Listbot () but after awhile Listbot was taken over.
SWARL, like we know at the moment, was started on the internet as a Yahoo group by the Canadian SWL of fame Steve Carter on August 30, 2001. The need to start such a group was probably seen in the light of the situation of SWLs interested in Ham listening and the new internet opportunities. National Amateur Radio Societies either exclude listeners from their activities or – in most cases – accept them mainly to offer them a good chance to become transmitting amateurs, more seldom to give them a genuine place of their own in the society.
Steve Carter introduced SWARL by the words “Devoted to Short Wave Listeners primarily interested in monitoring the Ham Bands and participating as SWL’ers in the various Ham Radio Contests. This group is open to all SWL’ers and Hams alike.” As items on the agenda in the group he mentioned exchange of ideas, notifications of exotic stations, QSL information, contests and special operating achievement awards.
One of the first members was Peter Destoop ONL 5923, who is still with us. He was very active in the group from the beginning! By the end of September 2001 79 messages had been published on the message board and on October 24th Steve Carter reported that 33 SWLs and transmitting hams had joined. Then started a discussion about awards and certificates the group could issue to those interested.
ONL04299 Patrick (Pat) becomes co-moderator, and builds a SWARL member and AWARD database and maintains this with Steve Carter.
In 2003, ONL04299 organized the first UBA-SWARL 365 Days contest. This with collaboration from the UBA (Belgian Amateur Radio Society) and SWARL. (ONL04299 was by the UBA the SWL manager and the SWL contestmanager at that moment.)
Already at the first new year of existence, SWARL took part in a Dutch-organized SWL new year contest, with the manager being Thieu Mandos, NL-199.
Around the same time Steve Carter had designed and started to issue SWARL awards.
Another matter of concern was the issuing of SWL calls, consisting of the country’s main prefix plus a number. Such a service was offered at a small cost by an American ham, but SWARL started such a service without any fee, as mentioned in 2008 by Jerome S. Berg in his “Listening on the Short Waves, 1945 to today” page 361 and 396.
The group activity, as measured by messages published, remained at a good level of 40 to over 100 a month until 2005, when it started declining, and even more so in 2006. Most messages consisted of the SW BC logs from Stewart Mackenzie, of little interest to most members. Old Steve Carter seemed to have abandoned the ship, more or less, although he wrote on March 31, 2006: “Hi all; I assure you all that I am still alive”. Steve was still in charge of SWL calls, but with much delay, But a new leader was appearing, Marshall Cubitt, with a Citizens Band past.
In February 2007 Ullmar Qvick, who was to become one of the most active members, joined the group. In October that year the moderator post was shifted from Steve Carter to Marshall Cubitt, in a situation when a move was necessary to preserve the group. Very active in 2007 were also Greg Harris of USA and Eyran, 4X4-2238, in Israel.
From 2008 until now
The new site swarl.org was organized by Yury Bondarenko, a Russian SWL living and working in Sweden. This site provides fresh information to all those interested in radio. In fact, with this site, plus the issuing of SWL calls and awards, Yury’s contribution to SWARL is of vital importance.
At the end of 2009 the call sign system, which was run by Yury, converted from manual to half-automatic, and the number of issued calls increased till up to 70 per day, then a little decreased and stabilized at 6-10 per day. Currently SWARL has registered over 3000 SWL calls, thus becoming the largest international independent issuer of free SWL calls.
Looking at the developments in general during the period the SWARL has been in existence, there has been a strong decline in broadcasting on short waves and SWL activities related to this type of listening. Amateur radio, however, has been prospering although the fact that those who are active in this hobby are to a high percentage retired people, and the hobby does not attract very many young enthusiasts. SWL activities on the Ham band have decreased considerably for many years now, due to various reasons:
1. Eastern European radio amateurs had previously to be registered for a compulsory period as SWLs, during which they were expected to listen and send reports and obtain QSLs. This regulation is no longer in existence.
2. It has become much easier to become a transmitting radio amateur, since many countries do not require command of CW for issuing the license. A high percentage of SWLs did not know CW and remained SWLs for that reason.
3. The general problem of local interference from electronic devices (plasma TV etc.) is an obstacle for many SWLs to carry on with the listening hobby.
For a number of years now SWARL has served as a medium for mutual help and friendship among SWLs and some licensed radio amateurs who keep an interest in SWLing.
Ruud, NL290, has been running for many years ShortWave Listening Period Contests for members and others interested. IOTA activities are highly cherished by some active members, and regular reporting on this issue takes place.
The Brave Radio Friends with Hans Schmelzer DE3EAR has got award programs running in collaboration with SWARL. So SWARL is capable of taking care of the needs and interests of SWLs everywhere. Although the number of published messages 2012-2013 has been slightly lower than during the years following the reshuffle at the end of 2007, the interest is far from declining.
And after a new reorganization of the management early 2013, introducing four new moderators instead of the only moderator Marshall Cubitt, who resigned at the end of 2012, the revitalization process is very evident. We are a healthy and active organization.
The aim of SWARL is defined in the following lines presently:
Devoted to Short Wave Listeners primarily interested in monitoring the Ham Bands and participating as SWL's in the various Ham Contests. Open to all SWL's and Hams. Secondly shortwave broadcasts and even AM radio logging and other related subjects with in the radio hobby
The present staff of moderators and their e-mail addresses are given here:
Compiled by Ullmar Qvick in collaboration with Yury Bonkarenko in June 2013.