Tag Archives: Nostalgia

DXpeditions: Bruce remembers “hunting for rare game”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce Atchison (VE6XTC), who shares the following notes from a DXpedition over 30 years years ago. Bruce writes, “While going through some old blog posts, I found this one about a DXpedition I took in 1984.”

HUNTING FOR RARE GAME.

In past posts, I’ve mentioned my passion for radio. It began with my discovery of distant stations on my dad’s car radio when I was ten years old and continues to this day. Because my memoirs deal with subjects other than distant signal reception, referred to by radio aficionados as DX, I haven’t been able to write much about this infatuation.

One aspect of hunting for DX is travelling to remote locations that are free of man-made interference. When I learned that my cousin Wayne, was going hunting near Lodgepole in October of 1984, I begged a ride with him.

In a clearing along a cut line, I erected a seventy-foot-long wire antenna and connected it to my general coverage receiver which I powered with a car battery. While Wayne hunted moose, I tracked down exotic stations. Just as the fresh autumn air invigorated me, so did the crystal-clear reception of stations which I could barely hear back home.

At our makeshift camp site, I often let my cousin listen to the radio. This occasionally led to some strange situations. As we ate breakfast early one morning, I tuned in a station from Papua New Guinea. To my astonishment, the announcer began playing country music. There we were, two Canadians in the Alberta wilderness, listening to American country tunes from a station on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

Another memorable radio moment happened one night when I picked up a coast guard station in contact with a ship somewhere in the Pacific. Somebody on board it was hurt and needed a doctor. The radio man could barely speak English and the American on shore could barely understand the sailor’s accent. If it wasn’t a serious situation, it would have been comical.

My uncle Bob, who hunted in a different part of the forest, met us one evening as we relaxed by the fire. When he asked what I was doing with that fancy radio, I showed him by tuning in Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

Uncle Bob gawked at the set and listened in awestruck silence for a minute. “I can understand that,” he exclaimed as a news announcer droned on in German. “I can understand everything he’s saying. How can you pick up a signal all the way from Germany?” he marvelled.

I couldn’t even begin to explain the intricacies of F2 radio wave propagation to him so I said, “Signals like that always come in like that on the short wave bands.”

I felt sad at the end of the week when we packed up and drove toward Edmonton. Though Wayne came back empty-handed, I had the fulfilling experience of listening to far away stations free of annoying buzzes from TV sets and power lines.

Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories, Bruce!

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I’m keeping the CoCo 2

Thanks to all of you for indulging me yesterday as I tried to decide whether or not I should keep my beloved TRS-80 Tandy Color Computer 2 (CoCo 2).

I conducted a survey asking this very question.  As of this morning, 158 readers responded to the survey, 81.4% replied (rather, shouted) “Keep it!”:

And so I shall.

It’s not just the survey that swayed me. Many of you pointed to the active community of CoCo 2 enthusiasts on the web that keep these simple machines alive and well and even continue innovating with add-on boards/features.   I know now that when the time is right, I should fire the old girl up and run a few simple programs–perhaps even code one of those Family Computing programs. (Incidentally, if anyone has a suggestion of how to connect the CoCo2 to a modern TV with HDMI or composite/component inputs, please comment!)

Many of you also told me that I would likely have regrets in the future if I sold the CoCo 2.

I suspect you’re all right about that.

And then Robert Gulley commented:

“As someone who is downsizing radios myself, I still have my limits. Keep the computer, mainly because it is a connection, no, a very important connection, to your past. As I have grown older I have come to realize the significance of being connected to the things which touch your soul, and therefore I keep watch over those things.”

Robert knows me pretty well, so I took these words to heart.

I only have wonderful memories with the CoCo 2 and hanging with my best friend, Junior, as we tried to hack and tinker with programs.

I’ve decided that I’m going to hang the CoCo 2 on the wall in my shack and, eventually, turn it into some sort of functional art. I want to be able to pluck it from the wall and connect it to a monitor from time to time. I might even take some of your suggestions and employ it in a simple ham radio application…just because.

Thanks again for helping me with this decision!

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Should I let go of the CoCo 2?

[Click here to read the follow-up to this post.]

We radio enthusiasts are a nostalgic bunch. Let’s just admit that and get it out of the way.

I’ve always found it difficult to let go of vintage radios, but over the past three years I have. I used to have well over a dozen boat anchors (heavy metal tube/valve radios) here at SWLing Post HQ. Today, I have three: my Scott Marine Model SLR-M, Signal Corps BC-348Q and Minerva Tropic Master (the Minerva being the lightweight of the bunch).

I found solace in donating some of my radios to museums and selling or giving them to friends who appreciate and will maintain them.

This radio played no small part in my life.

Outside of vintage radios, I have much less trouble selling or giving away my stuff; especially consumer electronics. I have very little attachment to those. I’ve never fallen in love with a phone, laptop, desktop or desktop PC.

Save my first personal computer, the TRS-80 Tandy Color Computer 2 (a.k.a. Coco 2).

I always tell people the two things from my childhood that had the most impact on my life were my Zenith Transoceanic shortwave radio and my Tandy Color Computer 2.

The shortwave radio kindled my interest in world news, languages, culture, music and traveling. And…well, it eventually lead to a lifelong passion in radio and, consequently, the SWLing Post.

Incidentally, The CoCo 2 taught me a skill that would also change my life.

Without knowing it at the time, the CoCo 2 taught me programming.

I couldn’t afford game cartridges as a kid, so I programmed my own simple CoCo 2 games with Family Computing magazine (remember them–?).

Each month, Family Computing featured a number of programs and games  you could input yourself. It was brilliant! My best friend, Junior, had a subscription to the magazine and would bring each issue over to the house and we’d type in lines and lines of code with the ultimate goal of playing a game or making our computers do something new.

Of course, 11 year old kids aren’t the best typists, so we’d always had to debug the code, following the error trail before the program would work. We’d also modify the code afterwards to see how it would change the program–it was amazing fun!

 

Keep in mind my CoCo 2 only had a whopping 16K of memory and all of it was volatile. Each time I’d turn the unit off, I’d lose everything I’d typed in. That is, until I could afford a tape recorder to save and load my programs (I still have it around here somewhere…).

Fast forward a dozen or so years…

In my first “real” job out of college, my manager noticed quickly that I could program and modify local copies of company databases so that my applications were more efficient and tailored to my job. The database system used a formula language that followed the same logic as the CoCo2’s Basic, so was pretty simple to pick up once I sorted out the commands and syntax. To be clear, I wasn’t hired for programming or IT skills, in fact it never came up in the interview as I was being hired for my French language skills.

 

Other than the Coco 2, I had no IT or computer studies in any formal setting–not in high school and not in college. Within three years at the company, I was promoted and sent to Europe to tie together and develop a number of database systems for the company’s various international sites. It was an dynamic, fun and rewarding career.

None of that would have ever happened had it not been for the CoCo 2.

So why am I considering selling the Coco 2?

Frankly, I never use it and don’t even have the adapter to plug it into any of my modern monitors. I’ve only been keeping it for sentimental reasons. I’ve been trying to let go of things I don’t use and this would certainly fall into this category.  I doubt it’s worth a lot…perhaps $20-$40? I’m not really sure.

Then again, I almost gave my Zenith Transoceanic away once and am very thankful now that I didn’t.

As I was about to put the CoCo 2 on eBay, I pressed pause and wrote this post instead.

What do you think?  Should I sell it or keep it? What would you do? 

Also, are there any other early PC enthusiasts out there? Please share your thoughts! While this isn’t a PC blog, I image this might be a common thread among us radio enthusiasts. Please comment!

And for fun, here’s a little poll to help sway me:


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This “sharp-eyed boy” is one of us

Al Capone’s Cell (Photo By Thesab via Wikimedia Commons)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who shared the following story from CBS News:

Recreated Al Capone cell inaccurate — and teen notices

PHILADELPHIA — A sharp-eyed boy who noticed that the vintage radio inside gangster Al Capone’s recreated Philadelphia prison cell wasn’t historically accurate has delivered a replacement.

Thirteen-year-old Joey Warchal — who collects antique radios — took a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary and noticed that the radio in Capone’s cell was wrong.

The Prohibition-era mobster spent time at Eastern State in 1929 and 1930. The radio was made in 1942.

The seventh-grader found a Philco Lowboy 64 from 1929 online for $300.

CBS Philadelphia reports the radios were swapped. The teen was given the 1940s radio as a token of appreciation by Eastern State. The replacement is pictured below, in the video.[…]

Click here to watch the video and read the full story at CBS News online.

Aaron noted, “One of us. One of us.”

Indeed, he is one of us!  Thanks for the tip, Aaron!

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Andy remembers his first issue of the WRTH

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andy Howlett, who writes:

Always nice to see another WRTH arrive, even though I haven’t actually bought one for many years. Attached is a pic of the very first one I bought, back in 1980.

I only got it as it contained a review of the then spanking-new Trio R-1000 HF receiver, which I was thinking of splurging my meagre wages on.

On the basis of that review, I went ahead with the purchase and discovered it was a cracking RX and I only sold it on in the early 90’s to enable the purchase of an ICOM R-7000, another cracker!

Merry Christmas to you and all listeners everywhere.

Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Andy, and Merry Christmas to you!

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