Tag Archives: Nostalgia

The Halcyon Days of CB Radio

This morning, I read a message from a ham radio operator who was just awarded a vanity call sign in honor of his father’s 1970s era CB radio call sign. He was obviously very proud of the role CB played in his “formative” radio years.

Although I often only think of the impact my first transistor radio and first shortwave radio had on my life, CB radio also played a major role.

My father entered the CB radio scene in its early days here in the US. His FCC-issued call sign was KJD1166–it’s laser-etched in my memory from hearing him call it so many times when I was a kid.

Dad had a number of radios, but his favorite was a yellow Robyn T-240D (above). As a kid, I really admired this radio; not only was it stylish, but it also had a digital channel display, amazing audio, and that “Range Expand” toggle switch!

In the 1970s, the CB radio scene in my hometown was dynamic and rather well-organized. Every evening, my dad would turn on the radio and connect with a vast network of radio friends. Not only did they have call signs–and used them–but they also had the best CB handles (like “Tombstone Pete,” “Lady J,” and “Robby Rocket”).

The local CB radio scene also had in-person social meet-ups–a place where you could put a call sign and handle to a face. And let me tell you: you’d see a wide array of folks from all walks of life there. A proper melting pot.

Dad also took me to the CB radio repair shop where he’d buy supplies and occasionally get something fixed. I loved looking at the workbench full of half-disassembled radios. At one point in my childhood, all I really wanted to do was have a workbench like that and dig into radios. Even at a young age, I knew how to use a screwdriver and could void pretty much any warranty.

After the FCC did away with call signs, much of the local CB community fell apart. My dad would still check-in with friends on the air the years following, but much less frequently.

CB: A Ham Radio Gateway Drug

No doubt about it: CB radio eventually lead me down the path to ham radio.

While I never participated in the 70s CB radio scene like my dad, my best friend and I used CBs to communicate with each other across the neighborhood in the 1980s.

My buddy grew up in a multi-generation household and telephone time was restricted to grown-up use (and his teenage sister).

CB radio bridged that communication gap for us. At one point, we both used Realistic 5 Watt 40 channel walkie-talkies–it was incredibly fun and effective.

CB radio, and my dad, taught me about the components of a radio transmitting system–the radio, coaxial feed line, antenna and grounding, etc.–and also concepts like power output, standing-wave ration (SWR), and skip.

I still own my 40 channel CB walkie-talkie (a Realistic TRC-217) and my dad still has his Robyn T-240D, although neither have been on the air for decades. Still, I feel very nostalgic about the 1970s radio scene and should certainly give it credit for paving the path to my ham radio ticket.

Did CB radio play a role in your life? Please comment!


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Video: 1954 Inauguration of REE/RNE Shortwave Radio Transmitters

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ulis Fleming (K3LU), who shares the following video via Twitter and notes:

Spain: Must see newsreel video of the 1954 inauguration of REE/RNE shortwave radio transmitters:

Click here to watch video at the RTVE archives.

Many thanks for sharing this excellent bit of radio history, Ulis. I was just telling a friend that Radio Exterior de España still has one of the biggest signals out of Europe into North America these days on 9690 kHz.

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Radios that may not be benchmark, but are pure fun–!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John R Palmer, who replied to our previous post about radio regrets with a question.

John asks:

Name a piece of radio gear that for some reason, technical, emotional, design etc. that you’ve gotten more fun using than you would ever have expected based on its price, maybe more so than other much more expensive radios you’ve owned. Just a piece of gear that really hit the spot and you’ve had a blast using.

That’s a tough question indeed, John. I hope readers will chime in with their replies–I’m very curious!

So I gave this quite a bit of thought and came up with two radios–one shortwave portable and one general coverage ham radio transceiver:

The Radio Shack DX-351

In 1996, I worked for a Radio Shack corporate store in Athens, Ohio. I believe we were getting ready for the Black Friday/Christmas season and the store manager decided to go through a pile of broken items customers has returned using their extended warranty. He had accumulated quite a number of returns in a box next to his desk in the back of the store. I stayed after hours to help him organize the shelves and prepare for incoming shipments.

Most of the items in his box were physically broken, but still covered by the extended warranty (to their credit, many RS store managers were quite flexible with extended warranty returns). He pulled out a Radio Shack DX-351 from the box.

The customer returned this portable because the AM/FM/SW slider switch was broken. My manager knew I was an SWL, so asked if I wanted it. He said, “If you don’t, it goes into the trash can because we can’t re-sell it.

How could I resist?

This DX-351 was “well-loved.” I can’t remember all of the details, but the AM/FM/SW band switch could not be fixed, but I didn’t mind because the receiver was stuck on the shortwave band and the other shortwave band switch worked perfectly.

The DX-351 was a joy to use and amazingly sensitive! It wasn’t particularly selective, but it served me well for many years living, primarily, in the glove compartment of my car. If I took a road trip, a lunch break at the park, or if I was simply waiting in a parking lot to pick up my wife, I’d pull out the DX-351 and tune in the world.

The thing was pure fun to tune.

The Icom IC-735

In the world of general coverage ham radio transceivers, the Icom IC-735 would be my choice.

The IC-735 was my first ham radio transceiver. I used my hard-earned savings (from working at Radio Shack!) to buy a used unit via the now closed Burghardt Amateur Radio Center in South Dakota. My friends, Eric (WD8RIF) and Mike (K8RAT), believed a used IC-735 would serve me well. They were right!

What I really loved about the IC-735 was that it had all of the features and modes I needed. It was easy to operate and, while I couldn’t call its receiver “benchmark” by any means, it was amazingly sensitive and selective.

I logged hundreds of hours on this radio in both SSB and CW, working DX across the globe.

But I spent even more time SWLing. Turns out, the IC-735’s general coverage receiver did justice to shortwave broadcasts. The AM filter was wide enough to produce wonderful audio (especially via an external speaker or headphones). For years, the IC-735 was my go-to shortwave radio because it performed so much better than any other radios–mostly portables–I had at the time.

The IC-735 was so much fun to use.

I did eventually sell it, if memory serves, to purchase my first Elecraft K2 transceiver.

What are your choices?

So what are the radios you’ve owned that may not sport the best performance, and may not have been terribly expensive, but were pure fun to put on the air–? Perhaps you still own one? Please comment!

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Have you ever regretted saying goodbye to a radio?

A lot of radios come through SWLing Post HQ each year.

Over the years, I’d like to think that I’ve become immune to the effects of giving away, trading, or selling radios that have been in the shack for a while. But let’s face it: I’m just fooling myself!

I sold both my Hammarlund SP-600 and Hallicrafters SX-99 at the Shelby Hamfest.

As I’ve said before, I find it much easier to part with modern portables, transceivers, and SDRs than I do with vintage gear.  With modern gear, I feel like there’s always something new around the corner, thus it’s easy to justify. Plus, I take in so many units on loan for evaluation and review, I see them come in the door and go back out. Occasionally, I like one so much I buy it, but there’s not a lot of attachment. I’m not a “fan boy” of any modern company either, so I don’t intentionally collect rigs.

Ah, but the vints…

I’m a nostalgic guy, so vintage gear comes with more emotional attachment.

Over the years, I’ve had to part with a number of boat anchors because, frankly, I always need a clear space in the shack for evaluating gear and my shack is rather compact. (For example, at one point last year, I had three transceivers here for evaluation all at the same time.)

My Hammarlund SP-600was a very tough one to let go of. I justified it by selling the big girl to my good friend Charlie (W4MEC) who had actually helped me replace some of her capacitors at one point. The SP-600 was simply too deep and too large to fit even on my over-sized radio shelves–especially if mounted in a chassis. Charlie has a much better setup for rack-mounted “heavy metal.” She’s got a good home now.

The Scott Marine Radio Model SLRM

There are two vintage sets I’ll never sell: my Signal Corps BC-348-Q and my Scott Marine SLRM (photo above). How much do I love these radios? My wife has strict instructions to “put’em in the casket with me!”

There are only two portable radios I regret selling: my original RadioShack DX-440 and my Grundig YB400.

I did snag this DX-440 last year at the Huntsville Hamfest

No doubt, I miss these radios because they both served me for so many years. We traveled many countries together both on the ground and through the airwaves.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

A number of readers have confessed that they regretted selling their RF-2200.

Have you ever regretted parting with a radio? Please comment with the model and why it was special to you. I’d also love to hear about the models you currently own and would never consider selling or giving away.

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DUST “Voskhod”: A Sci-Fi short that features ham radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Scott Gamble, who shares the following science fiction short film called “Voskhod” by DUST.

The synopsis:

After repairing his HAM radio using parts found in the forest, a recluse radio operator receives a distress call from a stranded Soviet cosmonaut in orbit.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short film. We radio enthusiasts will certainly notice some inaccuracies on the radio side of things–feel free to comment on those–but I suggest you exercise a willing suspension of disbelief and truly enjoy this piece!

Click here to view on YouTube.

Can you identify the National radio model? Please comment!

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Adam’s Andes DXers International certificate

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Adam Smith, who shares the following certificate and writes:

I was going to share a piece of history I just came across going through some of my shortwave radio boxes. Lots of QSLs but this its a membership in ANDES DX Club!

Good times!

Thank you for sharing this bit of shortwave radio nostalgia, Adam! Any others in the SWLing Post community belong to the Andes DXers International? Do you still have your certificate? Please comment!

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Smithsonian Open Access: Take a deep radio nostalgia dive!

“Radio owned by Herman and Minnie Roundtree” (Source: Smithsonian Open Access)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Balázs Kovács, who shares the following announcement:

[Check out the] Smithsonian Open Access, where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking. With new platforms and tools, you have easier access to nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections—with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

As Balázs points out, there are hundreds of radio photos in the archive.

What a treasure trove! Since many of us are sheltering at home, it’s the perfect time to take a deep dive into the SOA archive!  Thank you for sharing!

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