Radio life after death

A guest post by Troy Riedel:


This is a sad story.  Well, it’s sad for me.  But hopefully my sad story will yield “radio life” for somebody else and that life will bring them joy.

I’ve been an SWL’er since the early-90s.  Due to the decline of international broadcasters, “collecting” has become just as – if not more – important to me than listening.  I’ve always been fond of the Sony ICF-SW100 pocket radio.  I often read here on this blog about Thomas’ affection for it.  To make my dream a reality, on 19 November 2017 I found the perfect SW100 (with the leather case) and I purchased it.  It did not disappoint!  That radio has to be the most sensitive radio for its size out there.  No, correction – that little baby has held its own against any other portable shortwave radio (of any size) that I own (I have 17 or 18, incl. this SW100).  That’s quite amazing for a true pocket radio.

But please allow me go back to the beginning of my story.  Once I acquired the ICF-SW100, I assembled a “kit” … piece-by-piece (remember, I’m a collector).

I surmised that the SW100 would fit into the Sony ICF-SW1 case – and I was correct (sans the SW100’s leather case).  The SW1 case was one of my first purchases for my SW100 as I wanted something rugged to protect it.

The Sony AN-1 antenna works great with the SW100, and that was part of my kit.  Of course, I also wanted the OEM Sony Compact Reel Antenna.  “Check” – found one on eBay!  The OEM AC adapter? Yes, “check” that one off the list.  A photocopy of the OEM manual would not do – I found an original on eBay and “check”, that was added to the kit.

I already owned a Sony AN-LP1 (active) antenna.  That would not fit into the case, so I added a TG34 active antenna that I already owned (that’s a Degen 31MS clone).  Why?  I gotta have a ready passive antenna in my kit.

Wait, who wants a 30+ year old OEM set of earbuds?  Exactly, neither do I.  This is the only thing I did not want to be OEM!  I bought a new pair of Sony earbuds (off Amazon) to throw into the kit.  Other than the TG34, everything in the kit had to be Sony.  In the end, this handy little case was my Eutopia – it had everything I needed in its own “shortwave bugout kit”.

Of all of the radios in my shortwave arsenal, this was by far my favorite.  Hobbies should bring us joy.  So even if there weren’t many broadcasters to listen to, this little pocket radio never failed to bring me joy.

The last time I really used this radio was June-August 2020.  My newborn grandson was in the NICU far from my son’s home.  I “deployed” (with my SW100 bugout kit & 5th wheel camper) to my son’s very rural & very remote farm (275-miles from my home).  I was there to tend the farm, solo, for that period of time while my son and his family could be with my grandson at a specialty hospital some 350-miles away.  During this stressful & physically demanding time – tending to more farm animals than I care to mention and rustling bulls that escaped from the pasture – my SW100 was the only friend that I had.  It provided many, many hours of enjoyment.  Literally, other than a neighbor about ¾ of a mile up the road my ICF-SW100 and I were alone (not including the 50+ animals I tended to) from June through August.

Fast-forward to the present: last weekend I reached for my kit and I removed the my SW100.  I turned it on and there was no power.  Not surprising but actually very unusual as my NiMH Eneloop batteries typically last for a year or more inside my radios in “storage”.  I reached for the battery compartment, I felt an anomaly on the backside of the case and imagine my horror seeing this as I turned it over!

Surprisingly, there is zero damage to the Eneloop batteries (they did not leak).  I can no longer power the radio via ANY batteries, but amazingly the radio seems to operate at full capacity via AC Adapter.  Whatever happened inside the radio, it still seems to operate (though admittedly I haven’t taken it through all of its usual paces).

Unfortunately, a pocket radio that only operates via AC power does not suit me.  There is a better option: my loss may be someone else’s gain?  I am sending the radio and the necessary components to Thomas’s friend Vlado for a full autopsy (Vlado emailed that he has worked on these radios for years and has “never” seen this issue before).  After the autopsy, my radio will become an organ donor.  The remaining healthy components of this radio – and there are many – will be used for repairing other SW100s (singular or plural).

Strangely, I cannot detect any other “trauma” to the radio other than that one melted corner.  The battery compartment *seems* undamaged though I refuse to open the case as I do not want to accidentally damage the radio’s healthy components (I’ll let the professional “coroner” do that).  I am looking forward to the coroner’s report because I need to know what the heck happened to my baby?!

In closing, though we’ve only had a 3-year plus relationship I can honestly say this amazing little pocket radio had become a great friend.  I’m sure it’s grief, but I am considering liquidating the remainder of my radio & antenna collection – my heart just isn’t “in” to SWL at the moment.  And the timing of this is just awful for me: I’m having surgery Tuesday for an injury I incurred eight months ago while tending my son’s farm.  I had big plans that my SW100 and I would pass the time while I convalesce.  But alas, my buddy will be headed to radio heaven as an organ donor.  May others benefit from my loss.

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

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19 thoughts on “Radio life after death

  1. Mario

    Stressful times in life are not the best conditions for making important decisions. Delay your decision for the time being. How many of us have let go of beloved radios in the past only to regret it later. I wish you and your family the best and a speedy recovery from your surgery.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Thanks mate!

      Yes, I hear you. I counted last night after making the post … I do have 15 working portable SW radios, though one is essentially a display piece – strictly decor – in my family room. So, I’m sure I’ll pick-up one of those 14 radios … maybe Tuesday evening if I’m conscious-enough post-surgery 🙂

      Reply
  2. Erik

    I am very impressed with your giving spirit Troy. What a good idea to donate it to a reputable and qualified repair person for parting out. We will never these specific technologies again so every board, LCD, and keypad becomes that much more special.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Thank you, Erik. Yes, we all know that new parts are decades in the past and used parts are getting scarce if not impossible to find. I figured it best to offer the donor organs to a professional – I’m sure someone else will benefit.

      I once purchased a YB-400 off eBay for parts … I very much wanted to retain “my” YB-400 instead of replacing it with a used one b/c I bought an early YB-400 just after release and it replaced a sub-par unit. That YB-400 was my first “real” SW radio. So I know the benefit of having access to used parts. The SW100s, they’re so expensive, old, and some have a “warble” issue. It just doesn’t make sense to replace it so organ donation is the best option.

      Reply
  3. Thomas

    Troy, I feel your pain, because I also feel very much like this about the SW100 in particular. In a way, it’s a dream radio–a gorgeous bit of 1990s Sony engineering.

    I know how you feel now, but hang in there.

    And all the best for that surgery!

    Cheers,
    Thomas

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Thank you, Thomas.

      Yes, I always admired and coveted the SW100. All the way back to its release and reviews in Passport to World Band Radio. Your posts … stories … pictures & videos using yours inspired me to buy mine. We had a nice 3-year run and we cannot expect electronics to last forever, can we? I’m sure the cause will be that I’m at fault for storing it with batteries, but I’d sure feel better if the diagnosis is that it died a natural albeit unusual death.

      Cheers mate,

      Troy

      Reply
  4. John

    Hi Troy,

    Did you ever figure out what happened?

    There’s a couple rules I adhere to with my radios:
    1. I never store a radio with batteries installed if it’s not going to be used for a while.
    2. I never charge batteries directly in a radio (this rule came about due to an experience charging AAs in a Uniden scanner. Something happened and I smelled burning plastic. Part of the battery compartment had melted before I shut the power off, don’t know if it was the AAs’ fault or the scanner, but lesson learned).

    Share your devotion/admiration of the ICF-SW100, I bought one when they first appeared then sold it to help fund the purchase of an ICF-SW07. Later regreted selling it and bought another ICF-SW100 just as they were disappearing from the marketplace. I still have both and keep them in mint condition.

    Sony packed incredible performance specs into those little two wideband short wave radios. One thing I’ve noted is that after a while both radio’s clocks have to be reset after a battery change. The little battery/capacitor used to keep the clock at the correct time eventually fail. It’s not that big a deal though.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      John,

      No, I have no idea what happened. I’ll let the coroner dissect it. I’ll get it shipped-out next week for analysis & organ donation (I need to retrieve something from my son that I wish to send with the radio & I’m currently in COVID-19 quarantine until surgery). When I find out what happened, I’ll create a short , new post to close this mystery (I’ve been promised graphic pictures from the autopsy).

      Re: battery storage
      I never put standard batteries in any of my radios – ever. I always use rechargeable NiMH.. And I agree with you, I never, ever use my radios to recharge batteries – I think one is just asking for trouble doing that. I try to use Eneloops and I’ve posted here before that Tenergy Centura Low Self Discharge LSD are the closest NiMH I’ve ever found in performance & longevity to the Eneloops. As posted, Eneloops were in my SW100.

      With that said, I do store my radios with NiMH batteries inside. I’ve done this for a decade? I’ve never had a problem. And I will usually rotate my radios so none go unattended & unused for too long. This Fall & early-Winter has been an exception. Of course, I would have to surmise this had something to do with the batteries because the radio had no other power source.

      Reply
  5. Stan Sheram

    Great well written story. I share your grief of diminished shortwave opportunities. I still hold on to many radios with fading hope that someday things will change.

    Reply
  6. Daniel Robinson

    The SW100 has written its own story — followed by the SW-07 of course. Prices for SW100s are often sky high and this is usually from unscrupulous sellers in Asia who still think they can get someone to pay $600 or more and that is sometimes just for the radio, and often not the upgraded version with the notch in the cover.

    Of course, the problem with SW-100s are well known, including a battery lid that needs to be opened with the utmost care, and the very common problem of “warbling” when using the radio in SSB.

    There are only two individuals in the United States who will touch a SW100 for alignment.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Yes, exactly Dan. I won’t be in the market to replace it.

      Mine is (was?) the modified version with the notches so maybe this will be recycled for someone else’s benefit?

      Reply
      1. Guy Atkins

        A simple mod that eliminates the battery holder problem is to “snip” or cut off about two turns of the negative battery terminal spring. In stock form the spring is FAR too stiff and puts pressure on the fragile battery door.

        I’ve done this mod to all SW100s I’ve owned…it is a recommended preventative step to take.

        Reply
    2. Ron F

      > There are only two individuals in the United States who will touch a SW100 for alignment.

      Really? Never found that part particularly difficult myself, apart from the whole general fiddlyness due to construction/operation. (Tip: use a 10:1 probe and its ground spring with the suggested ‘servicing tool’ or a better buffer amp.)

      Reply
  7. Mark Goldhawke

    Sorry to hear of your radios demise…I have two of these in various states of aged decline…on top of that I also have the sw55, sw1 (2 of em) and a recent addition of a sw77 (I think it’s going to need a visit to Craig at kiwa)
    They truly are Sony’s best radios…a pity sony never did anything more after them…

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Mark,

      For the longest time, I had a saved eBay search set-up to notify me of new listings of SW55s … I gave up & deleted that search not too long ago (a few weeks ago). After the SW100, that was the next radio that I always wanted to play with.

      Reply

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