Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Haluk Mesci, who shares the following guest post:
AGA is the agha of radios…
by Haluk Mesci
Full disclosure: Contains nostalgia of ‘my parent’s radio’ and some 36 ‘and’s…
I was born and raised in Turkey. Throughout some part of my primary and secondary school years–between 1960 to 1968–we enjoyed listening to an AGA tube radio in the family room.
Although AGA is mainly Swedish as far as I know, I re-discovered a stock photo of it on agamuseum.nl which is Dutch:
Ours had a ‘magic eye’ just above the tuning knob on the right
I remember, at age 9, trying to listen to a live broadcast of a soccer match between Fenerbahce–my favorite team–and the French team of Nice: There was a ‘Nis’ -Turkish spelling- on the MW screen, so there had to be a broadcast, right? Wrong.
I learned much later that it wasn’t that easy on radio. (Alas, my team was devastated 5-1 anyhow.) Similar ‘search’ for ‘Russian Sputnik sending messages to the world’ yielded nothing but strange sounds like ‘a diesel engine working loudly’… I wasn’t a silly kid, but nobody taught us basic radio then.
Years passed and my family relocated to Samsun, another city by the Black Sea, because of my father’s work. I was about to graduate from ODTU and there was the famous leftist (anti-US etc) ‘boycott’s of 1968 and later, I had to go live with my parents while my university courses remained suspended.
Ironically, the city had a US radar base; the base had a low power MW radio station broadcasting news and music -rock and country etc- 24 hours in English to the base staff: AFRTS 1590 kHz.
Shortly thereafter, the base was closed and the radio station went off the air, maybe because of the boycotts and the political winds in Turkey, so I had to look up another such station. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jim Meirose, who recently shared the following listener post:
Listener Post by Jim Meirose
My interest in radio started around 1960-61. My uncle was going to take a giant worn-out console Record Player/AM/FM/SW 1940s monstrosity to the dump. My father, who was an electrician and a general nut for all things electrical, stopped him, took the radio out before the console got trashed, put it in a makeshift cabinet, and showed me how to use it. That was how I got started.
A neat thing about the radio was it had one of those old “magic eye” tubes to aid in tuning. What could be cooler for a kid to play with? Plus, being able to hear all of what was to me just “weird stuff” on shortwave, was what got me hooked.
After a year or two I got the Heathkit GR-91 as a gift and my father helped me assemble it. We also put up a better antenna.
My Heathkit GR-91 and Q-mult I used starting in 1963, with a variety of antennas, up to 1971. (Stored in the cellar now, as you can see)
I spent several years and many many hours listening and logging and having fun with it. We were at or near the peak of the sunspot cycle then, so as you can imagine, it was amazing. That made it a pretty “hot” radio (although in that decade the high sunspots made most every radio “hot”) but it had one flaw that was really bad. The tuning dial was not even close to accurate. I even had it professionally aligned, in vain. You only had a ballpark idea of what frequency you were on.
The next problem with the GR-91 was that as you tuned up past around 14 MHz, a hum began and grew to where there was no point trying to listen at all for anything all the way up to 30 MHz. I gradually became most interested in 20 meter amateur radio listening.
I learned to tune SSB, helped by the fact that the set had a good BFO and great bandspread tuning. From about 1964 to 1968, I heard hams from over 250 ARRL countries. These were mostly on 20 meters, using a dipole. Then, I got drafted to the Army until 1970, came back, and listened again until about 1972. Then, life took over, and the radio was put away.
Around 2004, I started getting interested again. I got an old Hammarlund HQ-180, thinking to pick up where I left off in ’72, but gave up when I found the sunspot cycle was bottomed out. Plus, the old set was too complicated and difficult to use, and not in the best shape. So, again, radio was put aside.
Finally, early this year, having the time at last to do things right, after shopping around, I got the Kenwood R-600, put up a good antenna, and started in. Once I got in the groove again, I found the R-600 to be incredible. The reception is crystal-clear across all bands. Plus, lo and behold, with the digital dial I know EXACTLY what frequency I am on! And as far as DX, even with today’s low sunspots, I am hearing the whole world, better than in the 60s. Might not be “booming in” as they say, but still very cool. The key is to know when, where, and how to listen.
Lastly, besides the better technology of the radio, imagine the difference between now and the ‘60s, when there was no internet, no computers, and practically no reliable hard copy directories to be found. At least with ham radio listening, it was easy to ID what country was on, because of the standardized call sign prefixes. But, for broadcast stations, the only real way to identify the more “exotic” non-english language stations, was by listening, sometimes for hours, hoping to catch some recognizable station ID. More often than not, this would never come before the station went off-air, or faded out. Today, with online directories, that is not such a problem. But, imagine how, with my GR-91, being unable to provide exact frequency readings, that even the modern online directories would have been practically useless.
That’s it, there are the highlights of my shortwave experience from 1960 to today. Hope it was of interest.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Stutzer, who recently shared the following listener post:
I started SWLing as a teenager. My favorite uncle gave me a Hallicrafters S-120.
My dad hung a longwire under an eave and through a casement window frame into my bedroom. I marveled at all the AM international stations broadcasting in English, listening to everything from BBC cricket coverage on Saturday morning to hysterically unbelievable Albanian political news coverage.
After college I could afford something better, so I upgraded to a “boat anchor” Hallicrafters SX 110. It had a useful crystal filter to improve selectivity, but it was still nigh on impossible to decipher a Ham on SSB.
Photo: Universal Radio
Many decades later I bought a house on a steep foothill. Realizing that it was a perfect QTH for a Ham station, I got licensed and now am President of the local ARC. Here is a loving look at the original SWL receiver that got me hooked.
In the meantime, many thanks to Fabien who writes:
I’ve been a radio listener since the age of 14. I was an SWL and a listener of local VHF free stations too.
In the beginning, my receiver was a poor radio-cassette, with a little segment of the shortwave bands. I used it for two years.
Then, for 16th birthday I received a Philips AL 990 shortwave receiver.
It was a great receiver because the sound was clear and it was easy to identify the stations when listening with my usual headphones–even those broadcasts with very weak signals and an unidentified language. The negative of this receiver was the frequency was not easy to see/read and I was at the same display for hours.
After my school period, I worked for two years and with my savings I was able to buy a JRC NRD 525 in Swizterland, where this receiver was less expensive and easier to find than in my country of France at the time.
The Japan Radio Company NRD 525 receiver. Photo: Universal Radio
The good with the NRD 525 is that it was easy to tune to a frequency, easy to read the display and easy to connect the receiver to another unit for decoding RTTY signals with an old computer monitor and a small EPSON dot printer.
I was in paradise!
But the NRD 525 has a problem with its sound. Even with my best headphones, I was not able to understand the station voices when the signal was poor and the language was not mine, so it was difficult to have sufficient details to make a good reception report for sending it proudly to the logged radio station.
My solution was strange but the only one possible : I searched for rare signals with the NRD 525 and after I found them, listened to those signals with the AL 990 and my headphones.
With this solution, I was able to send a lot a reception reports and receive some beautiful QSLs from official, pirate and clandestine stations (clandestines were my favorites).
This SWL period was until 1988. In 1988 I was obliged to move from my city to a new location where it was more difficult to be a SWL. The following years, I was more a BCL (Broadcast Listener) than an SWL.
I did BCL DX until 1999, and after 1999 most of my radio listening time was only BCL easy listening, without looking for weak signals.
Because of the Internet, online SDRs, and the closing down of a lot of broadcasters, I’m less interested in contact stations directly, save from time to time. For me, the chase of weak signals was the most important part; now we can listen to a station via the Internet (online on a website or with a SDR online)…even the pirates stations.
My actual interest today is to have all of the receivers I was dreamed about when I was a teenager. In 2020, at 53 years old, I am now more a collector of receivers than a real BCL. I like all electronics, including many hifi systems/components and radio items.
I also love black and white film photography/laboratory too and I collect stickers from French radio stations.
Here are two pictures of part of my actual listening post. On one, you could see a model boat of the famous offshore radio station ” Radio Caroline “.
My favorite shortwave receivers are the Drake R8-E (European version of the R8), the BEARCAT DX-1000 and the Yaesu FRG-7.
My favorite receiver for synchronous detection reception is the SONY ICF-2001D (the European version of the ICF 2010).
To receive mediumwave stations, I prefer my JRC NRD 515 connected with an Australian active loop antenna.
For travel, I use a small Lowe HF 150.
For VHF FM-commercial band, I use my Grundig Satellit 500 and a Sony ICF 6800W.
Some of my best souvenirs/memories of SW reception are Radio La Voz de Alpha 66 (USA), Radio Venceremos (El Salvador), Radio Botswana, Radio Bardaï (Tchad or Libia), Radio RFO Tahiti, and Radio Bandeirantes (Brasil).
My regrets from the years 1981-1988 are not being able to receive the signal of Radio BHUTAN and the signal from The Faklands Islands.
I don’t like to travel outside my beloved country, but for the pleasure of visiting some radio stations, I made an effort and I traveled to Phnom Penh (Cambodia), La Habana (Cuba), San Salvador (El Salvador) and Ciudad Guatemala (Guatemala).
Fabien SERVE, in France
Thank you, Fabien, for sharing your story! You’ve added some truly classic receivers to your collection over the years! I love the Radio Caroline model too!
I encourage other SWLing Post readers and contributors to submit their own listener post! Tell us how you became interested in radio!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Lou Lesko, who shares the following guest post:
Missing the Static
by Lou Lesko
Nineteen-ninety-one, my girlfriend Michelle and I were asked to house-sit her parent’s place in a remote part of Morgan Hill, south of San Jose, California. One had to drive for two miles on a dirt road through a running creek to get to the house deep in the woods. It was magical. The place ran on generators and a massive array of batteries.
We stayed in the master bedroom. Bob, Michelle’s step-father, had a shortwave radio on his bedside table. The radio was connected to a huge twenty foot high antenna stuck in the ground outside the bedroom window. Fumbling through the controls for the first time I found the BBC in London and a myriad of other broadcasts in different languages from cities all over the globe. It was mesmerizing.
Thanks to a book I found, Passport to World Band Radio, I learned that scanning to find broadcasts was called DXing. The book also listed frequencies and some of the known active times of stations around the world. It also explained the phenomena of shortwave: radio signals within a specific frequency range have properties that cause them to bounce between the ionosphere and the earth’s crust allowing efficient propagation around the globe. Conditions like weather, the electronic interferences of modern life, and solar flares all had an effect on the quality of the signal and how far it could travel.
The more I learned, the more I listened. Scrolling through the static to discover random broadcasts from radio Cuba or radio Moscow was blissful escapism that charged my imagination. At the time the BBC had 120 million weekly listeners. The largest audience of any broadcast medium in history.
It was a sad day when Michelle’s parents returned. Not only did Michelle and I have to go back to our tiny apartment—playing house was fun—I had to give up the shortwave radio.
A month later Michelle gave me a portable shortwave radio as a Christmas gift. It wasn’t nearly as powerful as the rig in Morgan Hill, but it worked fabulously well for receiving strong signals. I listened to it every night before falling asleep.
Three years later, during an annual trip to Yosemite, I wondered what the reception would be like if I were to take the portable radio up a few thousand feet way out of the range of street lights, televisions, toasters—all things electronic that impede reception of anything except the strongest signals.
I embarked on a solo hike up 12,000 feet to the top of Mammoth Peak in Tuolumne Meadows. Optimal listening time was just after sunset and into the night California time. Alone, wrapped in a subzero sleeping bag, a bitting breeze blowing, bathed the etherial pale glow of moonlight reflecting off the white granite, I turned on my radio. It was overwhelming. Every tiny turn of the dial yielded something new I had never heard before. I tuned in to almost every part of the globe.
Shortwave has faded. Its gradual decline started at the end of the cold war, Western governments no longer saw the need to shoulder the large costs associated with transmitting on shortwave frequencies. The demise was further hastened in 2001 when then BBC World Service Director Mark Byford stopped the broadcasts to North America citing the emerging Internet and satellite radio as the future for reaching audiences. He was of course correct.
Radio Garden, a web site that delivers a graphical version of what shortwave used to do, offers an animated picture of the globe dotted with internet radio broadcasters. Click on a dot, listen to a radio station in another part of the world in crystal clarity. Radio Garden is exceedingly clever and a wonder of modern technology. As are podcasts, streaming television, Facetime calls. All of it extraordinary and life altering. And yet, every once in awhile, I miss that unique thrill I used to get when I discovered a voice broadcasting from a far away place I’ve never been. Every once in awhile, I miss the static.
Lou Lesko is a writer, and a former editor-at-large for National Geographic.
And this is what’s to my back when DXing at 0945 AM local time
It was warm today, 4F above zero (-15.5C) instead of yesterday’s -18F below (-27.7C)!
That’s it, Paul! Next time I hear a DXer complaining about the weather, I’m just going to send them a link to this post! 🙂 Those are some seriously cold temps, yet I know it gets much, much colder there in the winter!
It has to be away from home as I have 2 FM and 1 TV transmitter above my head plus an ungodly amount of electrical noise and RF overload. The banks of the Yukon River are 500 feet from my office and apartment, so that’s a good location.. just need a way to secure a long wire or box loop. I am also in the process of finding an FM Low pass filter to filter out the FM stations real nearby that overload certain parts of the SW dial.
I am in Galena, Alaska. It is a village of about 500 people in the central part of Alaska, we are 300 miles west of Fairbanks and 300 miles east of Nome. Off the road system, everything is flown in 8 months or so out of the year and when the river is flowing, it’s barged in.
Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand are weak here, some days barely listenable, other days passable, but not very strong here. I’ve not heard anything from Radio Taiwan International here, yet I could get them weakly in California and in Arkansas.
I can hear CRI daily, the stuff that comes from their Beijing area SW transmitters is quite listenable.
What I can hear with regularity and strangely, a very good signal depending on the frequency, is The Voice Of North Korea. I’ve logged The Voice Of Korea on about A DOZEN different frequencies! What I can’t figure out is why? Some of the Voice of Korea broadcasts are near local AM radio station like strength many nights. I could hear them fairly well in northern California, but not always so strong.
Why I can’t figure out is the Voice Of Korea broadcasts that I’m hearing, what is their target area? It would sure seem I am not in the direct beam for any of their target areas, being so far north.
The strongest Voice Of Korea broadcasts for me are generally, not always, 15180 kHz and 11735 kHz. I’ve heard them on several 6 and 7 MHz frequencies which are listenable, but never very strong. I’ve also heard them in a few places in the 9mhz band and those are generally pretty listenable.
I did hear Voice Of Korea on 3250 kHz about a week ago. The signal was weak but steady and it was very clearly them.
I’ve heard them in the 13 MHz band one night and that signal was pretty strong. I did get them a few days ago smack in the middle of the day at 11910 kHz which was a bit surprising.
I expect when I construct a massive(and very directional box loop) or put up a longwire, My DX will greatly improve beyond the average stuff I’m getting now.
I’ve also logged Radyo Pilipinas on 17700 and 17820 kHz, several instances of the Firedrake Jammer on different frequencies, CRI and NHK (CRI & NHK are to be expected here).
I did have a surprising reception of All India Radio on 7550 kHz.
Also logged recently was RFI on 15300 kHz, BBC WS on 15400 kHz, Voice of America on 15580 kHz, Radio Exterior De Espana 15390/15500 kHz, RN de Brasilia 11780 kHz among others.
Some of my clips range from merely 30 seconds long to 20 minutes. The longer clips are usually when I had much better. Some clips are video, held up to the radio showing the dial, others are audio onlly.
As always, comments and discussion always welcome.
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