Did your first shortwave radio change your world?

At the Winter SWL Fest this year, we had an open forum hosted by Skip Arey and Dan Robinson called “Shortwave Memories” where SWLs were invited to speak about what shortwave radio has meant to them throughout their lives. I was a fantastic session chock full of nostalgia.

I was asked to speak and started by talking about my first proper shortwave set: the Zenith Transoceanic (photo above).

Although I first got a taste for the shortwaves on my father’s console radio (a 1936 RCA Model 6K3)–it was in our living room and I did not have ready access to it.

My Great Aunt (who lived next door to us) must have learned that I was fascinated with radio, and one unforgettable day she surprised me by giving me her late son’s Zenith Transoceanic.

It was as if I had won the lottery.

For the first time, I could actually have access to the shortwaves from the comfort of my bedroom and could listen anytime I wished.

I quickly made a little listening post complete with a map, log book and paper to scratch notes. I was transported to every corner of the planet with that magical solid state set.

That Zenith set turned out to be a catalyst for a strong interest in geography, history, politics, language and travel. I learned that through SWLing, I could hear unfiltered voices from across the globe. Mind you, this was in the late 1970s and early 80s–long before the internet, long before mobile phones.

Of course, I still have my Zenith Transoceanic and will always keep it in working order.

I’m curious: What was your first radio? Did it have any meaningful impact on your life?  Do you still have your first radio? Please comment!

Also, if you’d like to share even more detail and photos, consider submitting an article for our Listener Posts series

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34 thoughts on “Did your first shortwave radio change your world?

  1. Bob VE3SRE

    As a kid I used to “DX” on the AM/MW radio band with a somewhat larger AM/FM portable I had. One of my siblings also had a portable radio, a “Candle” I think that had shortwave from 4-12 MHz. as I recall.

    When my sibling wasn’t around, sometimes I would “borrow” it and tune around this new “shortwave” band to see what I could pick up.

    In my teenage years I came across an article in the local newspaper about “DXing” and I learned that I wasn’t quite so strange after all.

    In my early 20’s a combination of being a “radio nerd” and a “media nerd” lead me to buy my first shortwave radio…a Realistic DX-40 that covered shortwave in two “bands” and had a fine tuning knob so that I could tune the stations in a little better.

    I started buying books and finding magazines about shortwave radio, connected with a local club and my first “serious” shortwave radio was a used Hallicrafters SX-110.

    Over the years I went through a succession of receivers, started playing with antennas and that sort of thing.

    Later I got my ham radio license and was very active on the bands, chasing DX and getting involved in ham radio contesting.

    I wanted to get on amateur “packet” radio at the time and so that lead me to buying my first PC, an XT clone box with 640K RAM and a “huge” 20MB hard drive found at a hamfest. How was I ever going to fill that 20MB hard drive LOL!!!

    As computers came into my workplace (a small non-profit), I was ahead of the game and eventually ended up either being the “official” or “unofficial” tech support person…something I’ve been doing for 20+ years. And in the spirit of just tinkering around and learning stuff, I eventually taught myself the GNU/Linux operating system…and that’s been a huge help to me in gaining an understanding of how computers work.
    I’ve built up at least two web servers on what was basically “derelict” computer hardware.

    I wasn’t very technical in my younger years, but that’s all changed.

    And it all started with me wanting to improve my shortwave radio signals.

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  2. Keith Simon

    Although I started monitoring AM stations by age 7, the big coup was getting a Sears multi-band receiver at age 10. What a strange and wonderful world opened up, replete with the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Nederland, Radio Exterior de Espana, Radio Havana, WWV and more. I spent hours sifting through the static to glean bits of audio gold. I’m 52 now and earn a living in broadcasting. Still have a small array of receivers. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  3. Rob Constantine

    My first Shortwave radio was a Motorola portable that I got for Christmas in 1974..I was ten years old. It covered 2-12 MHz with no SSB.. The radio had an analogue dial with the the shortwave bands in a crowded space. However, the radio had a fine tune knob in the middle the main tuning knob,which made tuning easier..My dad strung wire across the rafters of our garage and I attached one end to the whip antenna on the radio which I kept in the garage.
    I was pretty much hooked and have been ever since.
    After that radio, I went through several tandy models, but wasn’t happy with their performance.
    In 1983, I was finally able to afford a Kenwood R1000. I just had some repairs and a cleaning done on it and it’s back up and running..There are far fewer shortwave broadcasters these days, but it’s still fun..

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  4. Ronnie

    My first SW radio was a very simple National Panasonic R-205JB covering MW and SW 6-18 MHz. I soon learned that getting a random wire antenna out the window and as high as possible was advantageous. Connected to the telescopic, or just coupled by winding around it, brought in all sorts of stations especially at night. Oh how I looked forward to sunset! Then, how to find more stations – the DX programs – the RDX clubs! Soon I was hooked on programs such as Happy Station and actually on the interval signals and introduction anthems or music such as Radion Budapest or Radio Japan or Radio Norway (once a week in English), etc. I collected QSP cards of as many frequencies and targets as I could legitimately hear from all over the world. It was several years later but I felt so elevated when I managed to buy a Yaesu FRG7 for nearly direct frequency readout. Again some years later I have been a Sony fan since buying first an ICF-7600D then some time later the iconic 2010/2001D. I have always valued having at least a random wire high in the air and preferably more than 2. It is rewarding to play one off against the other, combined or one as the earth into an ATU. I also like building electronic circuits to complement the SWL like an ATU or RF amp or timer-recorder etc. So many stations have ceased broadcasting I’m not sure how much longer this hobby will last but at least we still have half of them and the co-channel interference is less. I don’t know if they realise, there are still many of us listening and enjoying. Still using Sony ICF-2010 but also have a Drake R8B and NRD-535D as well as a few portables like the Tecsun PL-660 and others.

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  5. Mario

    It’s great reading all the comments oh how radio affected folk’s lives. Some made a career out of it, that is great. A very thought-provoking post.

    SW radio certainly had a lasting effect in my case, it led to a lifelong, thoroughly enjoyable hobby. My beloved father, RIP, bought me a Zenith Transoceanic back in ’66 from the local Radio/TV store. 52 years later am still spinning the dial and listening every day.

    Before that radio entered my life I was listening to distant stations with pocket transistor radios and even had a “Rocket” crystal radio which was my first exposure to the airwaves.

    Thanks Pop for my first SW radio and thanks Mom, for buying me that rocket crystal radio, rest in peace and God bless you!

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    1. DanH

      Thanks for mentioning the rocket radio. I had forgotten that a red and white plastic rocket was my first radio. It was tuned by moving a metal knob and rod in and out from the nose cone. One crystal-type earphone was included for listening and an alligator clip lead was provided for connecting to metal objects as an antenna. I saw one on a toy rack at the grocery store and my Mom bought it for me. Must have been 1959 or 60. I saw one of these NOS radios on eBay a few years ago and the seller wanted a fortune for it. The germanium crystals were usually non-functional after several years.

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  6. Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU

    I cut lawns to save $50 to purchase a brand new Hallicrafters S-200 “Legionnaire” AM/SW radio. I enjoyed chasing DX stations and collecting QSL cards, but one day, while fiddling with the band switch, I discovered I could hear ham radio transmissions on 75 meters! I was fascinated and began spending more time listening to hams rather than international broadcasters. Eventually, I got my ham radio license and eventually, I got a job at ARRL Headquarters writing and editing ham radio articles. After two years, I left the League for more money working for Modems’R’Us (also known as General DataComm), which began my 36-year career as a tech writer. Meanwhile, the League asked me to continue writing for them on a freelance basis, which began my 36-year career as a freelancer, writing more than 1,200 articles for QST and the ARRL website, not to mention a half dozen books on packet radio. So I would say, “Yes,” my first shortwave radio changed my world, not to mention my life!

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  7. Neil Goldstein

    My brothers had radios. I remember Lee had a Wards Airline radio at some point and he used to see how many stations he could get. Chicago, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, these were places that were far away. Listening to a voice from these places was like magic to me. I started to listen myself. He talked about Shortwave, and that he could get stations from London, Germany, Moscow, but this was hard to comprehend at the time.

    We had a close family friend: A Woodstock artist who called herself The Baroness Charlotte Serneaux Gregori. Charlotte had traveled the world, and collected many worldly things. Upon hearing that I was interested in radio, she gave me a small National Panasonic 2-band portable radio, an R-803H. The AM portion of the radio got used right away. The shortwave band confused me though. I caught stations, but they moved around, and changed languages. I had a copy of Communications World laying around for the White’s Radio Log AM guide, and there was a small section on shortwave in the back. I think it was finally a book I found at Radio Shack that explained things. Then the radio really got a workout.

    This original radio started a lifelong love of shortwave radios. Not just for me though. When Charlotte upgraded me to another National Panasonic, an RF-355, I gave the R-803H to my friend David. He recently got back in touch with me after quite a few years, and thanked me for getting him interested in Radio, which he said started him along a path that defined his career. I still have the RF-355. It has long since passed it’s mechanical half-life, and barely holds together, but is a reminder of where I came from, and the amazing woman that pointed me in the right direction.

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  8. Pete

    I used to visit my grandfather in Rhode Island once a year during the 70’s and 80’s. His Zenith Trans Oceanic was one of the cool things to play with at his house. Eventually, in the mid-late 80’s he gave me the radio. The thing I remember liking the most about it was listening to the New England hams operating AM.

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  9. Rick Pavelko N8TGQ

    Radio has been a great influence in my life. It started when my dad and I refurbished the cathedral radio that had played the news in my grandfather’s dairy barn for 30 years. The whitewash and dust were thick but it looked and worked great when we were done. It was AM only and the “Donald Duck” sounds around 1800 kc were intriguing. The dial was marked “Police” around those frequencies.
    Next was a Heatkit GR-64 for Christmas when I was in the 4th grade. That radio made Social Studies and History easy. I slways had plenty of ideas and subjects for reports. I used to gobe my 8th grade History teacher reports on the London stock market every morning from the BBC. I heard the Beatles on DW a few weeks before they took off here in America.
    I studied my behind off, but never could master Morse Code. Finally went for my ticket once the code requirement was dropped. I passed the code test after not doing anything with it for 10 years!
    Now I’ve made it to Extra and spend almost all my radio time on portable CW QRP.
    I still have a portable shortwave radio at my desk snd bedside. Not near as much to hear these days, but you never know what may pop up.
    Listening to BBC in full stereo FM on the NPR stations is strange. Sure do miss Big Ben!

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  10. Guy Atkins

    For me it was my Dad’s Montgomery Wards “Airline” portable that he always brought along on camping trips in the Western USA. Out of curiosity I started tuning around on the shortwave bands and was startled to hear to roar of airplane engines on some frequencies! How could that be? Oh well, I was new to shortwave and it was utterly fascinating and sparked my 12-year-old imagination. Years later I discovered that what I had heard was FDM utility transmissions.

    The radio bug had bitten though and I progressed through all the usual first catches on SWBC. Helen and Clayton Howard of HCJB had a big impact on my life, along with HCJB’s Rich McVicar whom I had opportunity to meet many years later at a DXer’s get-together in Ohio.

    My first receiver was an old Hallicrafters SX-71; in 1969 my father took me to Kansas City’s “radio row” to buy it from one of the ham stores there. I *knew* it had to be a good radio–look at all those knobs to adjust for pulling in the weak ones!

    When I later received a Realistic DX-150 as a Christmas present, I proudly took it to school for “show and tell”, along with some of the propaganda I had received from various Cold War era stations. I was simply curious about the world and many different points of view, but this kind of mail coming to the house resulted in my father being questioned about it. At the time he was working on a secretive project for Boeing Aerospace, as a contractor for the US Air Force’s Minuteman Missile program. That was NOT a good time for our family to receive mail from “questionable” nations! Fortunately my teenage curiosity about the the world didn’t get Dad in trouble.

    Except for a brief detour in my early adult years, radio has been a big part of my life. I really miss the wall-to-wall signals we used to enjoy on the bands, and especially the low power PNGs and Indonesians on 60 and 90 meters. I now enjoy chasing foreign signals on medium wave from coastal locations in Washington and Oregon (where I’m typing this from now, while camping and DXing at Grayland, WA).

    Thanks for bringing up this topic, Thomas; it’s great fun to read the radio memories of others!

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  11. david putnam

    The crystal set first, then dad brought home a USN receiver that kept me busy for a couple years. grew up in Oregon logging and got to talk over their motorolas to all the truck drivers (60 on the road daily. then dad bought the zenith trans. it was black, rounded construction and a beauty. still listening today on my Sony sw55. YES! it ALL was an amazing piece in my life. it all made this little country boy dream. then dad left logging in 61 to get hired by Grainger Associates in PaloAlto to travel the world erecting new antennas for the USN and NATO’S modernization of world wide com. as a result of the Cuban missle crisis. got to go with him on many installs but not the top secret ones. we got coptered out of Iran in 77 I think, by the skin of our teeth. feeling really disappointed these days with all the “empty air”. my electric horse fence works pretty well for my ant. when I turn off the charger of course. love it all.73’s

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  12. TomL

    My Dad and brother built a Heathkit GR-64 which I loved listening to as much as I could. That’s when the magic of shortwave radio was still in its heyday. Great programming was everywhere as countries tried to outdo each other in getting audiences to listen to their version of propaganda. Not just “Happy Station” stuff but also understated but thoughtful programs from Radio Sweden, local Country Music from Radio Australia, slanted news from BBC, VOA, Radio Moscow, and of course, the always entertaining Democratic Republic of Germany (GDR) with outrageous editorial rants about the “decadent Western” governments that were going to implode any day now so that the proletariat would be able to rise up and crush the corrupt oppressors!!! Also, I will second the wonderful DX Party Line program.

    I then saved up allowance money to build my own Heathkit GR-81 regenerative receiver and took it to school as a show-and-tell project and showed off my many QSL cards and tourist brochures from all over the world.

    I then convinced my Dad to get me the popular Radio Shack Realistic DX-160 and spent many hours tape recording off the aux output to an old Norelco tape recorder. My best DX catch was from this radio one winter evening hearing 1 kW Radio Tropical in Peru, captured on cassette tape, complete with The Chipmunks singing in Spanish and having a conversation with Santa Claus with clear ID shortly thereafter. No one believes I heard it but I still have the cassette tape buried somewhere!

    Then I convinced my Dad again to buy a Drake SW-4A which I customized with very steep 6 kHz passband crystal for better selectivity. Unfortunately, I broke that radio trying to add an audio output jack and did not fix it. I was getting too busy with school and social activities (girls!).

    In the 90’s, I bought a new Sony ICF-2010 from the now defunct Amateur Electronic Supply which still is useful today for portable use and at home in convenient locations.

    In Retrospect, I learned lots about the world cultures from shortwave radio of the past, much more than what you see on TV or radio today. It was a real competition, even if slanted. Program content today seems so much more sanitized and homogenous, everyone trying to be accepted by the superstars and political class or bullied into being the same (i.e., MSM fake news, blatant social media banning, being called a Russian Bot because having a differing opinion is not allowed, using children as political pawns instead of adults who are in charge taking responsibility for festering violence leading to tragedy (Google the Promise Program of Broward County), Man-made Global Warming being shoved down everyone’s throats even though the SUN is cooling and magnetosphere is weakening leading to major swings in jet streams, etc, etc, etc…..). Dialog is not possible anymore because Everyone in charge already knows what is best for us with no dissent allowed, unlike shortwave radio programs of the past where VARIOUS opinions were broadcast freely. The West has now become what we had (justly) feared back then.

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  13. Max

    My parents got me a Radio Shack DX-380 (which I still have) for Christmas, 1990. I popped in some batteries and wasn’t prepared for what I was getting myself into.

    They had gotten this for me on a whim, since I was always staying up late trying to see what I could hear far away with a little AM/FM boombox I had and occasionally the little kitchen TV with some rabbit ears I found.

    I blew through batteries in about a day and a half, if I recall correctly. I just couldn’t get enough. I was hearing things from all over. I set up a little corner of my bedroom as a listening post. I put up a National Geographic world map. It was the big kind that would occasionally come with the magazines. I quickly marked off lots of countries, as back then plenty of nations still had state broadcasters.

    Then, one day, I caught HCJB’s program “DX Party Line”. I learned about QSLs and quickly was on a first name basis with everyone at my local post office. HCJB’s other program, Saludos Amigos, was also really influential for me, as it introduced me to two pen pals, one from Cuba and one from Ukraine, both of whom I still keep in contact with.

    I learned so much about the world by just sitting at my radio and enjoying it all. I discovered Passport to World Band Radio and the WRTH. Between school and chores, I spent plenty of my time building simple wire antennas that could hide in my front yard (my window in my room was facing the street). I had plenty of wire up in the trees and nobody was the wiser.

    I learned Spanish pretty quickly and eventually went on to college to study Linguistics, Spanish, and Russian. I may have lapsed in the later years with my dedicated listening, but I never totally stopped. I spent time living in China, where I saw that radio was still a really viable resource for information.

    After I returned to the US, some 5 years later, I got my ham license and went from there. Now, I’m older, with kids, and my son loves to lie in the floor with his Sangean ATS-803A and scroll through the bands. He even dug out Radio Guinea Conakry on 31m before I got a chance to catch it!

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  14. Dave AA7EE

    My first short-wave receiver was a one-tube regen, built from a kit when I was in my early teens in the UK. It was an “H.A.C.” which stood for “Hear All Continents”. It used a battery valve, with a 1.5V filament. I had a 90V battery for the B+ (which we called high tension, or HT for short), a big 1.5V battery for the heater, and a pair of rather spartan high impedance headphones, which made my ears sore if I wore them for too long, which I always did!

    I don’t think it was very sensitive, but it really didn’t matter, as in the 70’s, there were so many big signals from all the big broadcasters, it didn’t matter. There was a lot of magic in that simple set-up. I couldn’t wait to get home from school every day, to rush into my bedroom, clamp on those ‘phones until it was time to go to bed, and hear the world from my sleepy little English village. The stuff of fantasy!

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    1. Dave AA7EE

      Oh, I forgot to answer your questions fully. Yes, it had a huge impact on my life, but to accurately describe how, would be a gargantuan undertaking. Sadly, I no longer have this receiver. It got lost along the way, most likely during my move to the US. I moved to California in my 20’s with only a couple of suitcases, so much was left behind. I think that, at some point before I moved, the variable capacitors found their way into my junkbox, for use in other projects, and the chassis languished, waiting for a new assignment. That’s the problem with being a homebrewer – you naturally want to take things apart and re-purpose them, especially as a kid with limited funds!

      Reply
  15. Ken

    i got my first shortwave radio back in the early 1970’s one of the first transistor portables with the analog dial it had AM SW1 & SW2 & (SW3? & SW4? too long ago to remember) and VHF Low & VHF High, i would listen to it on occasion, i also was lucky enough to remember the border blaster in mexico and wolfman jack was the big DJ and he was really fun to listen to, but at the time i was just a young teenager 13, 14ish (somewhere in there) and i also had other things to do growing up in southern california so there was bicycles to ride, skateboards, climbing up the mountains and camping, i dont remember what happened to that radio, but its long gone now and i dont remember the brand name, my dad was in the USNavy and would buy lots of cool electronic stuff, mostly big TVs and he would use them a year and go buy a new one, and one day he brought home 3 or 4 of those radios for us kids to play with

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  16. 13dka

    Did my first shortwave radio change my world? I guess not, but the following 20 or so probably did in some way or another. 🙂 To begin with, I wouldn’t be posting lame jokes here without them and without the urge to improve my language skills in order to understand English programs and hams on the radio, I wouldn’t do the job I do today. SWLing led to led to a world of hobbies in the hobby and other, related hobbies so I barely experienced boredom in my life. Also, I would’ve spend much more money on booze and …err.. .ladies without the healthy drain of monetary resources into the radio hobby. 🙂 So yes, radio in its entirety had some impact on my life.

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  17. DL4NO

    Radio influenced my life very early and with much simplier equipment: For my 12th birthday I got an experimenting kit “Kosmos Radiomann”. You could build a diode receiver (formerly “detector receiver”).

    Locally I could hear Bayerischer Rundfunk on 1602 kHz and AFN somewhere at 600 kHz with it. At night I could hear quite some more stations, for example Westdeutsche Rundfunk, some 400 km from me, at 1586 kHz at that time. The challenge was to separate the local transmitter at 1602 kHz and the “DX” transmitter at 1586 kHz which I managed with some fine tuning of the antenna coupling. My first foreign station was BBC World service that could be heard very well at night on 648 kHz. This opened me a second view of the world and especially my own country. Up to the day I calibrate my expectations in the BBC World service by those news and features about German topics.

    You might remember those “6-transistor AM radios” from the 1960s. I updated one of these with a bigger ferrite antenna (meet the right inductivity!) and larger, cheaper batteries. You can imagine what happed from there: I became a radio amateur and an electronics engineer.

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  18. Pedro Moreno

    My first shortwave radio was a “Blaupunkt Ideal – Lido 7.651.400” back in 1972 when I was 12 years old while I was living in the little island of Formentera with my fathers. At that time we were living in a house in the middle of the island woods with no electricity, no TV, no phone and of course no smart phones or internet ;).
    I remenber myself at night sitting in the veranda of my house and listening to different stations, for instance, “La voz de Canarias Libre” from Argel, and “Radio España Independiente” somewhere in the Pirinees. At that time these were very exciting station to listen for a children as I was. Also listening to different world languages was a open window to make me interested in learning other languages.
    Still have the radio, and works!!

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  19. DanH

    My first shortwave radio was a WWII Navy surplus hand-me-down Hamarlund RBG 2 communications receiver. This radio was incredible. Black wrinkle-finish paint, raised aluminum lettering, white back-lit dials and a glowing orange SS meter. Dad was a Navy radioman during the war. He said that he saved that one from a scrap heap in Oakland, California in 1947. I was nine years old when I started using this radio. This was the early 1960’s and pre-Beatles. During the day my parents had this radio tuned to the local AM station. It was the best-sounding radio in the house. I used it during the evenings to listen to AM stations from all over the country. Listening from northern Idaho my favorite station was KOB, Albuquerque, New Mexico. KOB programmed classical music during the evenings at that time. The parish priest wanted me to listen to weekly catechism lessons broadcast on shortwave from Vatican Radio. I did this by tuning the RBG to some frequency (I forget which) on the 41m band and took the test that concluded each program. I handed the answer sheets to the priest on Sunday.

    Mom and Dad bought a big walnut Packard Bell TV-radio-stereo console in 1964, so I inherited the Hammarlund.

    Other than tuning in scary-sounding telemetry signals and an occasional foreign broadcaster I didn’t do much more shortwave listening until I was in junior high. I was interested in world news and geography and the Cold War was actually pretty hot back then. I listened to English language broadcasts from Radio Moscow, Radio Tirana, Radio Peking, BBC, Radio Havana Cuba, VOA, Radio Hanoi, HCJB and Radio Netherlands all the way through my high school years.

    I took the RBG 2 to the University of California, Davis during the early 70’s. This was no easy task given that I drove an Austin-Healey Sprite. It rode on the passenger side bucket seat. I lived in apartments but managed to listen to listen to shortwave with clandestine antennas. I had some favorite music stations for listening during study sessions. Radio Tahiti was on all afternoon on 19m (beautiful signal!) and Radio Rumbos out of Caracas was incredible at night. I especially loved listening to domestic shortwave out the Soviet Union. This exposed me to classical music, artists and recordings I never heard anywhere else.

    Strangely enough I didn’t buy a shortwave radio until the early 1980’s. The RBG was that good. I found a lightly-used Hammarlund SP-600 JX-21 in a surplus electronics store. This radio is still in daily use for shortwave and yes, I still have the RBG 2.

    Did shortwave radio change my life? Who knows? I have a life-long love of classical music from all periods and genres. I retired after a long career in radio broadcasting. I had an Amateur Radio ticket for a while. I still listen to shortwave broadcasting.

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  20. Robert

    My first shortwave radio was a DX-160 for which I begged my reluctant mother, but who, thankfully, finally gave in and purchased one Christmas. My life had already been changed by AM Broadcast DXing, which I did with an old GE clock radio (circa 1969) and a pocket transistor radio I used to hide under my pillow to listen to ball games and then DX radio until the wee hours of the morning.
    When I found out about shortwave radio, boy that was what you called DXing!! My cousin introduced me to the world of SWLing and amateur radio. I wish I could say I started as an amateur radio operator back then, but I did keep shortwave listening alive off and on for the last 45 years, and have been an amateur radio guy for 10 years now. I consider radio in all its forms one of the greatest blessings in life!

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  21. David Orzechowski

    As a kid, my aunts and uncles had radios they would bring to family picnics. They were unlike the simple transistor radios my own family had; they had this strange band on them labeled “SW”…which never seemed to have anything on it! (These sets only went up to 12 MHz, and since picnics were always during the day, of course I wasn’t going to hear much of anything.) Anyway…my cousin said that he tried it once at night and received all kinds of strange sounds, etc. That’s as far as the conversation ever went. However, in the back of my mind, I always thought, “Well, that band must be there for SOMETHING useful and interesting! Why would it be on the radio, otherwise?”

    Fast-forward several years. 1976. I was now in 8th grade. I was staying overnight at my grandmother’s house. My grandfather had passed away not too long before this. I was in my grandfather’s room, which hadn’t changed much since he passed. There, right where he always had it, was his radio with all those extra “strips of numbers” on it…bands. Oh, man! That thing had always looked SO interesting! I yelled, “Hey Grandma! Do you mind if I carefully try out Grandpa’s radio? It has always intrigued me, with all it’s strange, extra sets of numbers!” (All Grandpa ever really used it for was to listen to the local AM station…of course!…isn’t that how it always goes?) Grandma said, “Fine, go ahead!”. So I did. Finally, I had a chance to try out shortwave for myself…in peace…and at NIGHT! I couldn’t believe my ears! First of all, what immediately shocked me was the sound of tuning quickly through the international broadcast bands. It was so different from how my little am transistor reacted/sounded when tuning around! There were all these tons of stations packed SO CLOSELY together. You barely needed to touch the knob in order to hear a different one…”don’t breathe on it, it might change stations!”…and the sound when you twirled through them quickly…the “zippy-sounding blips” of passing all those stations with one twirl of the knob, well…it was just so cool! Of course, my fascination only grew as I actually listened to the stations and heard where these signals were coming from…to say nothing of the many languages, and the exotic music. Then, too, there were all those strange-sounding utility stations…more than today.

    After that evening, I just HAD to have my own radio with shortwave on it! I didn’t care how or what…I wanted one for myself, ASAP! So, I begged my mom and dad to take me to Montgomery Ward and purchased a super-cheap Westminster multi-band radio. Of course, this was hardly a fine set, but it didn’t matter to me. I felt like I had a real prize! I thoroughly enjoyed that radio and received many a station…did some QSLing…the whole bit. These days, I have quite a few radios, a few of which are top shelf. However, for this very reason, I have never been snobbish about any radio. Especially if you know what to do, there is so much enjoyment that can be had with even the simplest of receivers. Radios are simply wonderful. I never tire of spending time with them.

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  22. Rob

    My first shortwave radio was a Tecsun PL-660 in 2011. Yes, that makes me a newcomer in these parts, and I missed out on the golden age of shortwave (though I don’t miss the Cold War one bit). But I have had some amazing finds: BBC West Africa when the ionosphere smiles, Radio Havana, the occasional numbers station, WWCR’s blues show, Jazz from the Left on WRMI, and so on. And then there came playing around with SSB on the 660 and pulling in some ham stations… that’s lead to another hobby though.

    I still have that 660. Even though the tuning knob has gone out, it’s still a good kitchen radio for stations I can enter on the keypad. It’s gone everywhere with me, on camping trips, through several hurricanes, road trips, etc.

    Reply
    1. Rob

      Oh yeah, to answer the question… Yes, in a lot of small ways. After having been bullseye run over by Katrina and knocked off the grid for a while, it’s good to know that no matter what I can haul in some news from somewhere. Strangely, SWLing has also gotten me into nighttime MW DXing. Doesn’t that usually go the other way around? After that, SWLing has turned me into a ham, which has led to a lot of new friends and misadventures.

      I’m still waiting to see how deep this rabbit hole will go in the next upturn in the solar cycle.

      Reply
  23. Pentrus

    First shortwave receiver: Sony ICF-7600, or some variant thereof. Bought used at Universal Radio, then located in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. A few year later bought a Sony ICF-2010 which is a wonderful, albeit larger, portable radio.

    Reply
  24. rtc

    My first was a Knight Kit Span Master two tube regenerative receiver
    in December 1961.Quickly learned to listen to everything from BC
    to aircraft calling Andrews AFB on am.
    Just a year later the OM and I were newly-minted General class hams
    after a madcap plunge into the hobby from being Novices in
    August.
    Like everyone else, interest has waxed and waned but the flame
    never has gone out.
    Finally lived the Dream of hearing LWBC a few years ago.
    Don’t ever think you’ve been there,done that.
    There’s Always something else.
    ron (rtc) WA4JNX

    Reply
  25. Tom Servo

    The first shortwave radio that I actually owned and was strictly mine was a Radio Shack DX-398. I’m not sure when I picked it up, if it was the late 90’s or early 2000’s, but I used it mostly for FM RDS reception early on, with shortwave being secondary. So, to be completely honest, it did not spark anything in my mind for the hobby like my dad’s Panasonic RF-2400 did back in the mid-80’s. But it was important in keeping shortwave around, and I drifted in and out of the hobby for years as conditions ebbed and flowed back then.

    The radio sat dormant through much of the late 2000’s, sadly, and it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I really got back into the hobby. But it still works just like it did when it was new, minus the kickstand and plastic display cover, which I still cringe when thinking about how careless I was when I broke it.

    The radio did fine duty when I finally hooked it up to a basic random wire, and really seemed to come alive. It continued to serve me until a good friend send me a Kaito KA1103, which then became my preferred HF receiver. Now it’s back into a backup position, ready to go should I need it.

    Reply
  26. Dick

    My first short wave radio was a used Hallicrafters S-38C purchased with funds saved from my newspaper-boy route. I was obsessed with foreign broadcasts. Collected QSL cards which I scotch-taped to my bedroom wall. Inspired my desire for out-of-USA travel which I fulfilled with work assignments and now retirement in western europe. Shame so few SWBC broadcasts now, was so exciting back then. Streaming radio on the internet can’t compare. Midnight with my Trimm headset on listening to a broadcast from a continent away with my kid brother snoring in the other twin-bed. Happy memories.

    Reply
  27. Frank E. Griffin

    I can truly say that SWL’ing led to my lifelong interest in radio. As a child I spent hours tuning my fathers multi-band radio listening to stations from all over the world. I ultimately got my “HAM” ticket & I have now been a licensed HAM for 42 years. Many a late night was spent tuning that old radio. Alligator clips with wires attached to “help” my reception. Fond Memories!! Great Hobby, & SWL’ing is a great art of it!!
    73 everyone & Good DX.
    Frank E. Griffin
    WN4NUO/WB4NUO/N4FAC/K3FG & Now K4FEG

    Reply
  28. Pingback: Did your first shortwave radio change your world? – dxradio.de

  29. Jim Trame

    I first heard shortwave across the street at a friends house on a big German table radio. Radio Havana Cuba was my first station and my first QSL card. That raised a few eyebrows at home!
    I asked for and received a Lafayette HA-63A that Christmas. I still have it, recently recapped and I found a new dial glass to replace a peeling one from a donator radio.
    I still have all my QSL cards from the day. Now they are joined by many from my ham radio contacts.

    Jim, W4FJT/ WDX4JT

    Reply
  30. Mark Hirst

    My first radio capable of shortwave reception was a Sharp radio / cassette ghetto blaster which I took to university with me.

    It had a single shortwave band along with FM and AM. I’d tune into Radio Netherlands on the dial, place it into record mode, then use a mains timer to switch it on and off to catch the broadcast. It was quickly supplanted by a Sony ICR-4800 and that radio saw me through the rest of my student years. I picked up Radio Sweden, Radio Switzerland, Radio Moscow and the Voice of America with that one. Sadly, I sold it a while ago (what was I thinking).

    I still have some of the programme schedules and correspondence from that time though, including a Media Network postcard from Jonathan Marks advising me on how best to use the ICR-4800 to receive Radio Netherlands.

    Mark

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hobson

      My interest in radio communications in general allowed me to enjoy a stint as a USCG radioman (1979-1984) followed by a lifelong career as a dispatcher for a large metropolitan police agency. I’ve retired as of 2016. I got my start in 1975 with a Lafayette HA-600A as a teen living in northern Michigan (don’t bump the table or you’ll knock the radio off-frequency). Upgraded to a Yaesu FRG7 in 1977. I listened to SW broadcasters, HF utility transmissions and occasionally distant MW stations. Learned morse code early, got my amateur license in 1977. Worked high-speed CW in the guard at NMC. Got to use Collins 651-S1A’s 24/7. Radio heaven. All through my later life I still enjoyed listening to international broadcasters – sad days when I recall major stations leaving HF for satellite, later for the internet or other mediums. Or just “leaving” due to funds lacking. Morse code faded except for use by amateurs and very limited maritime use in some areas of the world. I now have a Drake R8B, some Sony portables, and a WI-FI receiver. Not a whole lot to hear where I live. The HF noise-level is severe. I hope to revamp my antenna this spring and explore some counter-noise options.

      Reply

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