Category Archives: Radio History

Media Network updates and 1999 interview with acting ABC general manager Mike Bird

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who writes:

Found a rather topical edition of media network and posted it[…]with Mike Bird talking about shortwave and Radio Australia. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn16121999

[Additionally] I have started the prequels to Media Network’s return in 2017.

I found a great cassette sent to me by Africa media correspondent Richard Ginbey in 1989. Richard was a music presenter, first in South Africa, later moving to Windhoek. But I guess his passion was listening to his shortwave radio. And with nothing more than a cassette recorder he put together some fascinating portraits of broadcasting history as observed from a listeners’ perspective.

Richard also made features which traced the history of broadcasting in Africa, making some recordings which track the path to independence for many countries. I’m pretty sure many of these bandscans from the 1980’s and before have long since disappeared from official archives. So, here’s a chance to listen again to Richard Ginbey’s media view. I’ve put together several episodes back to back. Enjoy.

There is over 70 minutes of unique material here.

http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn06122017?tdest_id=87154

Thank you so much for sharing this, Jonathan. I might contact you soon about adding those cassette recordings to the shortwave archive. Absolutely priceless stuff!  And the return of Media Networks? Please keep us informed!

The role of radio intelligence before the Pearl Harbor attack

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. (Source: WikiMedia Commons, Public Domain)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Guerin, who writes:

Interesting article from the US Naval Institute on the role of radio intelligence before and during the December 7 attack.

“The key to the success of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor-specifically, what enabled the Pearl Harbor Striking Force to reach its launch point undetected (and totally unsuspected) by the Americans-was Tokyo’s radio denial-and-deception actions. Significantly, these activities simply were not just a “bag of tricks” meant to bemuse U.S. naval radio intelligence. Rather, they constituted a function of the change in Japanese strategy and were meant to convince the Americans that there had been no change from defensive to offensive intentions.”

See “How the Japanese Did It”

http://m.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2009-12/how-japanese-did-it

Fascinating read! Thank you for sharing this bit of WWII history, Michael.

1940 Pearl Harbor QSL card

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Patalon, who shares the following QSL card via Twitter:

Thank you, Bill!

Guest Post: The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

halllicrafters-sx-42-front-panel

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Arthur Smith, who shares the following guest post:


The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

by Arthur Smith

As a junior high student way back in 1978, I had a natural interest in radios. My dad was a ham radio operator, electronics engineer, and designer. We always had cool, exotic radios and electronic gadgetry around the house. He was also in the Korean War, in the US Army Corps of Engineers, with access to a wide variety of equipment. He often told me the story of how he became interested in radio at an early age, and how he saved up for expensive radio gear, with a little help from my grandparents. Back in 1946, Hallicrafters was THE brand to own, and their postwar designs from Raymond Loewy, were catching the eye of many enthusiasts. The SX-42 was being hyped up in Hallicrafters ads as the ultimate radio to own, one that could tune the shortwave and ham bands, and beyond. I don’t know the complete story, but prior to acquiring his SX-42, my dad also purchased an S-38 and S-40. Never satisfied with “good and better”, my father wanted “the best”. All 15 tubes and 50-plus pounds of boatanchor.

Always ambitious and industrious, he mowed lawns, repaired motorcycles, and did odd jobs for neighbors in his suburban Boston neighborhood. He worked smart, and worked hard. And that fall, bought his SX-42.

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The radio, we think, was about $279, which would make it the equivalent of almost $3500 in today’s dollars. He heard the start of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s Sputnik. And the birth of Rock and Roll on FM! He graduated high school, went away to the Korean War, serving two Tours of Duty. He came back home, and became an electronics engineer. And a licensed ham radio operator.

Moving ahead to 1978, and yours truly had the radio bug, in the worst way. Not as ambitious or as savvy as my father, a classmate, who was also a ham radio operator, told me about a National HRO he had, with some coils, and maybe needing some work. My Dad came home from work, and I just had to tell him about this great opportunity, which of course, would require his financial backing. At this point, the SX-42 and his other two Hallicrafters were seeing “backup” duty, having long since gone solid state in his post. “Hey, I’ve got an idea!” When a Dad says that, a son usually wants to run. Not in this case. “How about we give you my SX-42?!” Gee, twist my arm. I had loved watching those mesmerizing green back lit dials, S meter, and geared tuning knobs. Unfortunately for my classmate, he had to keep his National. Fortunate for me, I had my father’s SX-42!

That radio logged my first 100 countries, including QSL cards from countries and stations no longer in existence. It heard the fall of the Berlin Wall. And, it was at the heart of my school Science Project, which made Science Fair, featuring an experiment on longwire shortwave radio reception.

halllicrafters-sx-42-open

halllicrafters-sx-42-tubes Years later, the focus became family, a child, and a house. The SX-42 and siblings came with me, but this time, in boxes. After having seen a WW2 vintage Hallicrafters S-20R at a consignment shop a couple of summers ago, I thought how cool it might be to have Dad’s radios electronically and cosmetically restored.

The S-38 and S40 were in a box in my damp basement. While intact, they had a considerable amount of rust. Luckily, I was able to find a gentleman with great electronic and mechanical skills. He brought the S38 back to life, working and looking beautiful. And is working still on the S-40. As for the SX-42, that was upstairs in a box in my son’s closet. Dry and somewhat preserved, but with some corrosion on the control panel. And sadly, that iconic lock knob that switches between main tuning and brandspread tuning, had been lost in the move. I had to find someone who could take this project on.

After an extensive search, I found my man. An engineer with his own business, who was moving into retirement, and shutting his business down. He had restored an SX-42 a few years back, with amazing results. I had to lure him out of retirement! Which I did after a few emails back and forth. And, he was within driving distance! First warning was “do not power the radio back up under any circumstance- you’ll fry the wafers on the bandswitch!” I resisted temptation, as I had read online that these were notorious for failure, usually to some original capacitors that leak over the decades.

After 13 months replacing every capacitor, virtually every resistor, and vacuum tube, the iconic radio was coming back to life, in a great way. The transmission and gears in the tuning was re-lubricated. During the restoration process, a date was found stamped on the chassis of October 25th, 1946. Could it be?

img_7367-02-12-16-06-57-1Hallicrafters had advertised in the Oct, 1946 issue of Radio News that “The first hundred are always the hardest to build.” This, coupled with the fact that none of the chassis circuit had been modified, lead my restorer to believe that my radio was one of the first 100 SX-42’s that Hallicrafters had built!

The front panel was stripped and treated, professionally painted and silkscreened. The cabinet and apron bead blasted, repainted, and clear coated. It came back home with me last month. A month after it turned 70.

halllicrafters-sx-42

As you can see here, the radio looks stunning. And, with all the Hallicrafters Service Bulletin mods implemented, sounds and performs better than I remember. Maybe more importantly, we were able to locate a replacement brake lock knob for the tuning shaft, even with the “Lock” decal and arrow showing to rotate it counterclockwise. It just would not have felt complete without that little knob- and, it works!

halllicrafters-sx-42-frontEngaging a set of what essentially are brake pads, you rotate it once to disengage the main tuning and engage the bandspread tuning. Again, and you’re back to main tuning.

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This radio will always remain a truly cherished family heirloom, and will be my son’s someday. Complete with the original owner’s manual, and Darth Vader-like R42 Reproducer (speaker).

halllicrafters-sx-42-front-panel

Hopefully to live on for another 70-plus years, and hear more history along the way.

-Arthur Smith Worcester, MA


Wow–!  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Arthur. No doubt, your SX-42 will certainly outlive all of us and will hopefully continue to be passed down through your family. What a wonderful story.

History of the NBC Chimes

Original NBC Chimes. Photo taken at the NCRTV museum

Original NBC Chimes. Photo taken at the National Capital Radio and Television Museum

If you have thirteen minutes today, do yourself a favor and listen to this excellent radio documentary about the NBC chimes from the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz.  It’s fascinating!

(Source: Twenty Thousand Hertz via 99% Invisible)

NBC’s three little chimes didn’t just define a television network, they defined a generation. Where did they come from and what is the surprising impact they have had on current and future media? Featuring the last person to play the NBC chimes on the NBC radio network, broadcaster Rick Greenhut, and radio historian, John Schneider.

Click here to listen to the podcast via SoundCloud.