Radio Nostalgia: Bob’s first radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, who shares the following guest post:


My Very First Radio

By Bob Colegrove

Sears and Roebuck Co., Silvertone, Catalog No. 8003, Model No. 132.818-1

I don’t remember much from 1949.  I was seven years old and still in the first grade.  I do remember being gifted a radio by my mom and dad on my birthday.  It was a Sears and Roebuck Co., Silvertone, Catalog No. 8003, Model No. 132.818-1.  I don’t really remember asking for it.  I’m sure mom and dad did not have a clue as to how consumed I would become with radio over my lifetime.  In truth, this was not the radio that got me totally absorbed, rather that function would be filled in 1958 by the Howard Radio Co. Model 308 combination MW/SW radio-phonograph console which had been relegated to the basement in favor of the TV set.

In 1949 television was on the cusp of success, and AM radio was still the one-way Internet of its time.  I recall my mother listening to countless soap operas during the afternoon.  The Howard was still in the living room and we listened to all the popular programs at night.  Anyway, the Silvertone was mine.  It took up residence in my room and I could independently explore the wonder of five local stations broadcasting in Indianapolis at that time.  There were no parental guidance settings on the Silvertone, nor was there any need.

The Silvertone was not a world-class radio with all the sensitivity, bells and whistles I would later desire.  Below WXLW, 950 kc it was deaf.  It was, in fact, one tube short of an “All American Five.”  However, one of its four tubes was dual function, if you counted the detector.  It was what was called an “ac-dc” radio.  This meant it could be powered by either 110 Vac or Vdc.  Granted, there were a couple communities in the US which were still serviced by dc power at this late date, but that fact certainly did not warrant advertising.  The whole thing always seemed to me no more than a marketing ploy on the part of manufacturers to cover for the lack of an expensive isolation transformer in the circuit.  Given the fact that electrical standards of the time did not provide for polarized outlets and power cords, these things could be quite hot, and it’s amazing so many tinkers, myself included, are around to talk about it.

One Tube Short of an “All American Five”  

The dial was very crude, and the tiny tuning knob swept all 107 available channels in a 180-degree twist of the variable condenser.  My mom, always handy with a paint brush, took to marking favorite stations  with a dab of nail polish.  1430 kc was WIRE and 1070 kc was WIBC.  Perhaps she got the idea from Bill Halligan who used little red dots on the controls to indicate the setting that would likely produce some noise.

The printed media were sizeable and substantive in the 1940s.  The Indianapolis Star’s morning edition for Friday, April 13, 1945 was particularly mournful as the U.S. woke up to the news that the president had died the day before.  I was later given to understand that many stations broke from the normal schedule for a few days to play somber music.  Notwithstanding, the first section still bore the quintessential hourly radio program schedule from 6 am to midnight for each of the four local stations.  We always kept clippings of station logs for each day of the week.

My interest in baseball grew over the next couple years, and the Silvertone played an important role in my keeping up with the local AAA team.  The static on a summer night was atrocious.  Further, in those days, the broadcasters were not compelled to fill the air with chatter between pitches.  There were no recitations of mindless statistics and no color commentators to describe the nuances of sliders and curve balls.  Consequently, between pitches there were often long pauses of nothing but dead air.  If you happened to tune in during a pause you had little idea where WISH, 1310 kc was on a hopelessly crude dial.

Most minor league broadcasters did not travel with the team.  When the team went on the road, they used an old Model 15 clickety-clack Teletype machine in the studio.  A local guy at the distant ballpark would observe a pitch or play, and quickly type a cryptic message on his Teletype.  On the radio you would first hear the receiving Teletype spring to life in the studio as the message came in.  The announcer would quickly interpret it, and then embellish the play with some excitement as best he could.

Teletype Model 15
Copyright Museums Victoria (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

During those times, it was not too uncommon for the Teletype to suddenly go down during the game.  What to do?  An announcer was suddenly left to his own creativity to fill in airtime.  Possible solutions were to describe the lengthy process of extricating a stray animal from the field, or a sudden cloudburst and consequential rain delay.  An intrepid announcer went on as nothing happened, making up the play-by-play over the interval.  Invariably, when the Teletype came back up, he found himself not quite in sync with the game and possibly a few runs behind.  At that point the challenge was to patch in the necessary play and go on to complete the game to the satisfaction of an otherwise unsuspecting audience.

Well, after 73 years, I’ve seen my share of radios.  In the meantime, the Internet has made it possible to DX the entire world at any time on a fifty-dollar Kindle – excellent fidelity, no interference, no noise, no fading.  But, after all these years, I still cherish those static-filled ballgames and teletype machines heard on the Silvertone a long time ago.

Quietly Waiting for the Next Pitch

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: Future of AM in UK, BBC and Nuclear War, SAQ Unable to Air on Alexanderson Day 2022, ITU Ham Station Celebrates 60 years, and RRI International Quiz

Radio dial

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Opinion: The Future of AM Radio
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (FrequencyFinder.co.uk)

Summary

AM radio in the British Isles is now in terminal decline with audiences dropping and many transmitters closed already. The majority of the remaining transmitters will likely close by the end of 2027. Over the next few years, the BBC and major commercial broadcasters will be looking to minimise their AM transmission costs by reducing transmission powers at the high-power sites and closing some of the low-power transmitters serving small audiences.

A coordinated AM shutdown may then follow at some point, most likely in 2027, though some independent broadcasters may continue using AM beyond this. This article explores these issues in more detail.

Click here to download the full PDF of this article.

The Last Word – The BBC and Nuclear War (Atomic Hobo Podcast)

This episode of the Atomic Hobo podcast focuses on the role of the BBC before and after nuclear attack:

Click here to listen via Soundcloud.

SAQ unable to air on Alexanderson Day (The Alexander Association)

Note: the The Alexander Association has announced that they will be unable to put SAQ on the air this year on Alexanderson Day. There are no more details other than the title of their post (the content still reads as if the transmission will happen as planned).

Check the Alexander Association website for more details.

ITU’s ham radio station celebrates 60 years on air (ITU)

By Nick Sinanis, callsign SV3SJ, President of the International Amateur Radio Club (IARC), and Attila Matas, callsign OM1AM, Vice-president and Station Manager, IARC

Did you know that the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies owns and operates its very own radio station?

Residing at the headquarters of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the 60-year-old amateur station operates under the callsign 4U1ITU.

It started broadcasting on 10 June 1962 and was officially inaugurated the following month by then UN Secretary-General U Thant and ITU Secretary-General Gerald Gross – himself a ‘’ham” radio enthusiast known by the personal callsign W3GG.

Recognized as a unique “country” in the ham radio community, 4U1ITU operates in accordance with privileges extended by ITU and the Government of Switzerland. It has also earned the DXCC (or ham radio “century club”) award from the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), confirming air contacts with 100 or more countries.

From its long-time home on the 5th floor of the Varembé Building in Geneva’s international district, this unique broadcasting outlet still today serves as a model for the highest standards of amateur radio station operation everywhere.

From one to a million

4U1ITU’s first contact, or “QSO” in ham radio parlance, was made with a German station called DL4VK. Further QSOs followed, amounting to over 1,300 contacts worldwide in the first 24 hours.

In the six decades since, ITU’s radio station has made over a million contacts using Morse code carrier wave (CW), voice (SSB), and digital operational modes, based on more than 20,000 two-way QSOs with radio amateurs around the world.

4U1ITU can operate on most of the frequency bands allocated to amateur and amateur-satellite services as identified in Article 5 of the Radio Regulations.

Aside from letting licensed radio amateurs in ITU, its Member State representatives, and its conference and meeting delegates contact fellow radio hams, the station promotes international goodwill and cooperation across the community. It also allows hands-on demonstrations of amateur radio communications for delegates and meeting participants. [Continue reading…]

RRI Voice of Indonesia: International Quiz 2022


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Giuseppe pairs his Kenwood R-1000 & Indoor Cross Loop Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who writes:

Dear Thomas and all friends,

This is Giuseppe Morlè, IZ0GZW, from Formia, central Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

I went back to listening with my Kenwood R1000 and indoor homemade cross loops …this time a station in Kuwait, 9k2yd Younes on general call.

I used the 2 loops together and in the last part only the one in the East / West direction and I did not notice any changes. Very strong signals and good evening propagation at 18.00 utc today, 04 June 2022.

Note the absence of electrical noise; the S Meter remains at zero in the absence of modulation and signal.

I am always amazed at my indoor cross loops for the reception quality and they have become the main antenna of my Kenwood R1000.

Giuseppe I hope you enjoy the video
Greeting to all of you from central Italy.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Your cross loop antenna is an amazing QRM-fighter! Thank you for sharing this, Giuseppe. Most impressive and so good to see the R-1000 on the air.

Spread the radio love

Armed Forces Day QSL Card

On May 14, 2022, this blog published an announcement of the Annual Armed Forces Day Crossband Test.

The blog included a link to a PDF file that listed all the details, such as times, frequencies, and military stations that were participating (including some that were aboard ships), and there was even a link where you could submit your information online to receive a QSL card. I thought it would be fun to see if I could hear some of the military stations.

At 3:29 pm on May 14, I posted a comment on the blog:

1850Z & 1925Z — 14.487 MHz — Station sending CW CQ CQ CQ (I can copy but not read the rest), believed to be NSS — US Naval Academy transmitting for Annual Armed Forces Crossband test.

At 3:37 pm, I posted:

1934Z — 14.487 station NSS announces in voice they are listening 14.234.0 USB. Additional contacts in SSB. “It’s raining buckets here.”

Not hearing anything further, I filled  out the QSL request for — which asked for two-way contact information. I explained that I had only heard the Anapolis station, but I gave the details. Frankly, I did not hold out much hope for receiving a card, but yesterday it arrived.

As I reported elsewhere the MFJ 1020C active antenna/preselector made it possible to hear the Armed Forces Day station.

It was a very nice surprise to received the QSL card in the mail.

Spread the radio love

The RADDY RF760: Light, Portable, Powerful

(Guest Post)

 By Robert Gulley K4PKM

(Note: This review was requested by Radioddity, who provided the in-production radio to the reviewer, with no strings attached or pre-approval.)

I confess to have been a little bit skeptical when Thomas asked me to review this radio, not because of past experience with RADDY, but because tiny radios in general don’t usually impress me, and I have had plenty of them over the years and considered most of them a novelty. There are a few exceptions, of course, such as the C.Crane Skywave or the Tecsun PL-368, but for the most part there are simply too many limitations to tiny radios for my listening style (this one can literally fit in a shirt pocket!). Upon opening the box I was still skeptical, despite the rather impressive packaging and extras. But hey, a little skepticism is a good thing, right?!

The radio comes with some nice accessories!

Accessories

The radio comes with a thin carry case to protect it from scratches, a rechargeable lithium battery, strap, earbuds and a wire antenna to improve shortwave reception. There is also a Type “C” USB cable for charging the battery. Oh, and a spare set of earbud covers – a nice touch!

Ergonomics

Picking up the radio I noticed right away it has a solid, comfortable feel to the unit. I start with that because most tiny radios feel very flimsy, and usually have something of a rough or hard plastic feel to them. This radio has a glossy feel to it, meaning it is comfortable and actually nice looking. Looks aside, I must admit the ergonomics of the radio impress me. I like the feel of it in my hand, and the controls are laid out well for one-handed operation. Being left-handed, that is not always the case, but the controls seem well thought out for either right- or left-handed folks.

As you can see in the images there are two primary rows of buttons, as well as a tuning knob on the right side of the radio. There is also a belt clip on the back which is unobtrusive – I can’t speak to its longevity as I really never clip a radio to my belt, but for those who do, I suspect it will hold up well with a little care.

The telescopic antenna (fixed) is rather impressive as well, measuring ~18 inches in height when fully extended. As one might imagine, at this length the antenna is fairly fragile – I would not walk around with it fully extended while attached to my belt. For hand-holding it should be just fine, and standing upright on a table it does not tip over, but if out in an open-air environment with a strong breeze it will tip over, so a stand would be advisable.

The display is very readable, and the orange background light which pops on when making adjustments is quite nice. The light stays on for ~9 seconds after pushing any of the buttons. Another nice feature of the radio is a press of any button while the radio is off will turn on the display, indicating time, temperature, and battery strength. Yes, it has a built-in thermometer, and it seems quite accurate, at least on the unit I received.

On top there is an external antenna jack, headphone jack, and slot for the strap.

Operation

For such a small radio it is literally packed with features. I will not go over all of them in this review, but I will cover some of the highlights as well as make mention of most features at least in passing. I was not expecting so many features in this little radio, so I was pleasantly surprised by some of the more advanced options.

Naturally the radio has AM/FM capabilities, as well as weather, air, VHF above the air band, SW and CB (yes, CB!). There is also a customizable frequency range setting for monitoring a desired set of user-selected frequencies. There are presets available for various modes listed in the manual, including predefined amateur radio bands and shortwave stations (always subject to change, of course!).

There is an attenuate function available if needed, as well as numerous step modes for tuning various modes. One interesting feature of the radio is two separate tuning methods, one by up and down buttons, and the other by a tuning knob on the side. These can be set independently of each other in terms of the step-change on a given band. This is particularly useful when scanning a band with the buttons after a station is found, because sometimes being slightly off frequency can produce a better signal – the scroll wheel can be used to make as little as 1 Hz changes.

Finally, there is a very useful bandwidth feature which can change between 3, 2.5, 2, 1.8, 1, and 6 kHz. Tuning is quite functional both with the scroll wheel and the tuning buttons. Holding down the tuning buttons will start a scan of the current band, and a longer press will speed up the scan if no stations are found initially. Unlike some scanning radios, when a signal is found, scanning stops and does not resume. I like that feature better than the alternative method of some radios restarting a scan after 5 seconds or similar. I want time to figure out what I am hearing, and a short stop does not really allow for that most of the time.

This is a very compact and lightweight radio!

Reception

I have to say I am impressed with this little radio. I have listened to amateur frequencies, shortwave frequencies, AM/FM, weather and tried airband (nothing close to me except a minor airfield). I live in a very quiet location in terms of local man-made interference, and this provides a great opportunity to really test out a radio’s sensitivity. My conclusion may surprise you as it did me. This is one sensitive radio, given its small form factor and limited antenna movement. (I did not test the external antenna option. While it has one, I felt it only fair to make tests using the built-in antenna on all the radios I compared it with, thus eliminating extraneous or otherwise hard to compare situations.)

Side by side with one of my favorite portables, the Sangean ATS-909X2, this little guy was right in there with difficult to receive stations. While the Sangean has a much larger speaker and therefore fuller sound, in terms of actual reception, most stations came in about equally. I even used an old, but very reliable Select-A-Tenna to boost AM reception on both radios, assuming the Sangean has a much larger ferrite rod given its size, and yet both performed equally well next to the passive antenna. Impressive!

On various shortwave and amateur stations the RADDY RF760 held its own again, picking up almost station for station what the Sangean and the Sony 7600 GR (another favorite of mine) did, in a package less than 1/3 the size of the Sony, and about ¼ the size of the Sangean. Am I going to dump my Sony and/or my Sangean? Of course not – there are many reasons I prefer those radios for my daily use. But if I were wanting to go extremely lightweight/portable, the RADDY is a keeper with impressive performance and most features one could want in a portable radio, all while still fitting in your shirt pocket. I truly do not know how one could get much better performance or features in another radio this size. It makes one wonder where can they go from here?

FM reception is also quite good, pulling in weaker stations while still being quite listenable. I have heard a few stations on this radio which I have not caught before, and this with some atmospheric noise due to storms in the region. Likewise, listening to AM while there were storms in the general area, still allowed for reasonable reception. As we all know AM broadcasts are highly susceptible to atmospheric noise, especially lightning, but this radio recovered nicely after each static crash. Some radios seem to linger longer in recovery after such events, but this radio was quick to bring back in the signals.

Negatives

In short, there really are not any glaring negatives to this radio, so allow me to point out some little things which are, after all more about personal preference than any deficiency in the radio. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

  • An articulating antenna would be a nice touch, but that might require an increase in size, and likely would make the antenna more susceptible to damage. Many times, being able to bend an antenna this way or that can improve a signal.
  • Changing the frequency steps can be a little fiddly at times, but that’s probably me
  • When powering on, the short press acts like pressing any other button, meaning the light comes on, the time, temp, and battery power indicator displays. A longer press brings up the sleep timer. Two short presses turns on the radio, but not too short of presses. This takes a little getting used to, and I would prefer one longer press to turn on the radio, with the two short presses activating the sleep timer, but that, I know, is getting really nit-picky!

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a small, lightweight, but solid radio – this RF760 is definitely one you should consider. It is so light as to be almost weightless, compact but with easily reachable and useful controls, and has more modes and features than almost any similar radio I have run across. As an old-timer I have to shake my head in amazement at what can be packed into such a small radio these days! This certainly isn’t your grandpa’s transistor radio (and it’s even smaller!). Cheers!

Check out the Raddy RF760 at Radioddity.

Spread the radio love

Beach Boys, Good Vibrations, and HB-7 Headphones

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark C, who writes:

Thomas,

You have posted numerous photos of radios appearing in film. I found something similar but with an interesting twist.

The link is to the YouTube clip Good Vibrations the Lost Studio Footage. Watching the Beach Boys singing that iconic musical selection is thrilling enough but I would have never guessed I would be seeing them wearing the military HB-7 and using them as studio headphones while they were performing!

Good Vibrations the Lost Studio Footage

Click here to view on YouTube.

Sincerely,

Mark

That’s just brilliant, Mark. Thank you for sharing this. I would have never guessed HB-7s would be used in a studio setting, but it certainly looks like them in the video.

I have to thank you for sharing this lost footage of the Beach Boys, too. This was new to me. I love the song, too; certainly iconic!

Spread the radio love

BBC Midwinter Broadcast: Second set of test transmissions on Friday, June 17, 2022

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares the following message from Dave (M0MYA):

Hello All,
There is to be a second set of test transmissions for the BBC Antarctic
special.

The will take place tomorrow (Friday 17.06.2022) at 2130 – 2145 UTC.
The frequencies are the same as they were on Tuesday June 14:

ASC: 7305kHz
DHA: 6035 kHz
WOF: 9505kHz and 12065kHz
73,
Dave M0MYA

Many thanks for the tip, Richard!

Spread the radio love