Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Guest commentary: Nothing is so constant as change

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jerome van der Linden, who shares the following guest post:


Nothing is so constant as change

by Jerome van der Linden

Those of us who have had an interest in broadcasting over many years realize pretty soon that technology is constantly changing. The following relates to the situation where I live in Australia, but I suspect similar things are occurring in other parts of the world, and serve as a constant reminder that we live in a world of change.

When we were in our teens, we had radios that would tune AM and one or more shortwave bands. Hence many of us first heard interstate medium wave stations, and realised that signals there travelled further during darkness hours. Then we switched to SW1 or SW2 and often heard nothing. But persistence paid off and soon we were listening to stations that were in other countries! And when we connected a long wire to the antenna terminal signals improved dramatically. Wasn’t that amazing?

Somewhere in the 70s (I think) our TV stations brought in colour and that too was an amazing change to experience.

Then – somewhat belatedly for us in Australia – FM radio came along and gee the quality of the audio was outstanding! Even my late father was surprised by the clarity with which he could now listen to classical music on our nationwide dedicated ABC Classic FM station. FM also brought with it the introduction of “Community Radio” stations and in more recent years many other types of broadcasters.

Satellite TV came to us in the form of Foxtel: carrying so many different channels it was bewildering. When I realized that the events of 9-11 were telecast live on BBC World (and others), I too decided we should have Foxtel, as I have always been a “news nerd”.

By the late 1990s – having seen a hey day in probably the 60s and 70s – shortwave listening was rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and only hobbyists listened to SW: I remember being asked by another passenger when I was on a South Pacific cruise, what was that I was listening with out on deck? Was it some kind of computer? No, it was just a Sony SW55, and I was listening to Radio Australia.

Then, probably 5 years ago in Australia DAB+ radio was introduced, and whereas we previously had a choice of perhaps 10 to 15 AM & FM radio stations to tune to, suddenly we had a choice of these same stations on DAB radio (in major cities only), PLUS another 10 or 15! We have a phenomenal choice of what to listen to. From a technical view it was amazing to think that all the signals were coming from only one or two transmitters. For those of us with some technical interest it was for a while inconceivable that each station would not have its own transmitter.

Meanwhile, our TV systems have also become digitized in the last couple of years. Not just do we have perhaps three different channels for each commercial network, so 3 commercial networks are now providing probably 9 different programs. On top of that the Government broadcasters (ABC & SBS) have provided not just at least 3 TV channels each, but each of their numerous ­radio services is now also available on every TV set (eg BBC World Service is available 24/7).

About the same time, with higher internet speeds (ie better data transfers) being available, TV services and radio services are increasingly being streamed into our homes and to our mobile devices, with radio Apps promising they’re “free”, when in fact they do incur a data transfer impact/cost in whatever Internet plan one may have available. Many of the older generation probably don’t even realize what streaming video or sound means, but I think the younger generation is catching on.

Now, to my horror, my favourite DAB music station (“Buddha”) has been making announcements on air saying that the DAB service will be terminated from September 1st, and if I want to continue listening, I must tune in using that Company’s own “LiSTNR” app! Does this mean that listening to what comes over the ether will be a thing of the past? Will we be obliged to pay $x per annum to use a company’s streaming app just to be able to listen to their programs? Whatever is the world coming to?

Our country is, I suspect, very well catered for in terms of media services, and I wonder if we’ve done that too well. I also fear though, that those of us trying to push for reintroduction of shortwave services for remote Northern Territory areas (where streaming apps are a non sense), and for Australia to again broadcast into Pacific territories, may be fighting an uphill battle.

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Video: The Erres KY-418 radio set WWII era assembly line

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Adid, who writes:

The Erres KY-418 Radio set assembly line. You must watch this:

Click here to view on YouTube.

My heart goes to the poor guys who work under all that machinery noise with no ear plugs or with no mask when spray paint.

Everything is hand made in-house even the loudspeakers, coils or the rotary switches….

Just remember that WWII is on while it was made and I don’t think the KY-418 was a cheap radio…

Regards, Adi

Thank you for sharing this, Adid. You’re right: there were a few generations of folks who lost much of their hearing early on due to the constant noise on factory floors. 

That said, I’ve been enjoying these videos of early radio production lines. Thank you!

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Video: “The Glory Days of Shortwave Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Adi, who writes:

Hi Thomas, this video just popped for me on YouTube. I searched the SWLing Post and didn’t find it, it’s not new so maybe you missed it.

Thank you, Adi. I’m almost positive I’ve posted this one before–but if I have it’s been so long it should be re-posted! A wonderful nostalgia trip! Thanks for sharing.

Click here to view on YouTube.

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Experimental Station WI2XLQ will recreate 1906 Fessenden transmissions again this Holiday season

Canadian Reginald Aubrey Fessenden in his lab believed circa 1906 (Source: Radio Canada International)

(Source: ARRL News)

Experimental Station will Recreate 1906 Fessenden Transmissions

Experimental station WI2XLQ will be on the air on 486 kHz AM for the Reginald Fessenden commemorative transmission. Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, is the licensee. He will transmit for 24 hours starting at 2000 UTC on December 24, with a repeat transmission starting at 2000 UTC on December 31. Justin will use a homebrew 1921-era MOPA exciter with Heising modulation, followed by a modern 500-W linear. The transmission will be the same as in past years — two violin pieces that Fessenden claims to have played as one of the very first voice transmissions from his Brant Rock, Massachusetts, radio lab site. “While doubt remains that such a transmission ever took place, Fessenden did perform some crude voice transmissions over a few miles distance in early December near Washington, DC, as a demonstration for the US Navy,” Justin said. “So, perhaps some credit is due Fessenden for his efforts to transmit the human voice in an era of spark transmissions.”

If you would like more information about Brian Justin and WI2XLQ, check out our interview with him in 2013. Indeed, I successfully heard the 2013 WG2XFG broadcast and posted this audio clip on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

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Bill Rogers and the “Lost Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Rogers, for the following guest post:


“Lost Radio”

by Bill Rogers

When I was ten years old I lost my first wristwatch and my first radio. I think I have been trying to get them back ever since.

It was all part of a rather catastrophic family vacation trip around the Canadian side of Lake Huron, Port Huron across to Sarnia and then up around the shores of Georgian Bay all the way to Sault Sainte Marie and points north.

We had planned to go on around the north shore of Lake Superior too. We drove north to Wawa and saw the Goose statue. Then we headed north from there.

This was a long, long time ago, so I may misremember. But as I recall it, the Goose memorialized the completion of the Trans Canada Highway, and once past it you were really getting into the back end of beyond.

Not far past the Goose we came to what looked like a tollbooth, which surprised us. We hadn’t been aware there were any tolls along the Trans Canada. Dad pulled up and stopped.

“Hello,” the uniformed officer inside said. “Where ya going?”

“On around Superior.”

“Good. When do you expect to get to Thunder Bay?”

Dad was curious. “Why do you need to know?”

“Oh, for your own safety. So we know to send out a search if you don’t make it.”

Dad looked around and back at all of us. “I think we should head back instead.”

It was a wise choice. It had been a fun trip but it had a few challenges, so to speak.

We were five people in a white 1965 Dodge Coronet 440 pulling an old travel trailer we’d borrowed from one of my cousins. The Dodge was a comfortable car- it had an add-on air conditioning unit that occupied a good chunk of the space under the dashboard, and a radio (AM only of course) that worked well, and these were great luxuries at the time.

Dad had bought it used from his School District after it had served for a good while as a driver’s education car. First call on surplus vehicles was one of the benefits of working for the school district, but I don’t think being hammered by all those would-be new drivers had done the Dodge any good.

We’d borrowed the trailer. It was a heavy thing. The Dodge strained to pull it even though the car had a big V-8 engine. The trailer wasn’t big either. I remember wood paneling and too-small windows that kind of opened to let the inside heat and outside heat mingle when you stopped for the night and tried to sleep. Dad grumbled that the trailer weighed twice as much as a newer one would have.

Having borrowed a trailer to use one time only, Dad hadn’t gone big bucks on the trailer hitch. It simply clamped to the back bumper. Somewhere near Sudbury the bumper started to rip off.

That was another reason we wimped out and didn’t go on around Superior. We were behind schedule. The loose bumper had made us lose several travel days.

We’d limped into the nearest campground on Friday and stayed there while Dad wandered around to locate someone to weld the bumper back on. On Monday he did. “Guy said ‘This isn’t strong enough to pull anything heavy, I’d better weld on a couple bars fastening it direct to the frame.’ I told him that was a good idea.”

Along the way we’d seen much beautiful countryside and lots of rock cuts for the highway. Rock cuts impressed me since I was from southern Michigan where actual surface geology is unknown.

We bought a pretty basket of fruit at a farmer’s market and were 30 miles down the road before we found that everything below the top layer was green or rotten.

I had my transistor radio and was listening to it in the back seat. This was my first radio. It was a prized Christmas gift and made my sister jealous. “I was two years older than him before I got a radio,” she sniffed. She kept track of things like that.

My radio was branded “Sportsman.” That meant it came from the local hardware store where they also sold Sportsman brand outdoor gear and Sportsman brand rifles and shotguns.

I have no idea who actually made it. I can’t remember what it looked like. I do remember it had a Genuine Leather case and an earphone for private listening.

It didn’t work well in the back seat of the car, but I could get something if I held the radio up near the window. I listened to the different Canadian radio stations and noticed for the first time that Ontario English sounds just slightly different from my own, in a way that I can’t really describe. The difference is tiny but it is there. In Ontario they do not say “out and about in a boat” as “oot and aboot in a boot” as we on this side of the Lake say they do, but there is the tiniest twist to the end of the vowels in that direction. I can’t do it and I’ve made myself crazy trying.

At one point I picked up a Morse Code transmission at the lower end of the band, obviously a non directional beacon at the upper end of the longwave navigation frequencies. I played it for everyone in the car. They were not impressed. This is the first time that I learned most people aren’t as intrigued by odd radio signals as I am.

But I kept amusing myself with the radio. I borrowed our Province of Ontario official road map. As many road maps did, at the time, it had a listing of some of the more powerful radio stations, by city. That gave me signals to try for. I tried for the nearer ones and even received some of them.

The campground where we were laid up to have the car welded together was in an Ontario Provincial Park. The place was crowded because of some Boy Scouts gathering, but they found a place for us.

We went to the beach and did not feed the seagulls, since we were trying to be polite and proper and a sign said not to. But the gulls impressed me. Somebody must have been feeding them; there was a regular cloud of them.

We came back to find our trailer door pried open and a number of small valuables gone. Among them were my dad’s transistor radio and mine; Dad’s was his constant companion and must have been one of the first. Dad’s cheap wrist watch and my child size, hand-wound Timex watch were gone too.

The most expensive item missing was Dad’s “Palomar” binoculars. (In case you don’t know, the Mount Palomar Observatory contains what was the largest telescope in the world for many years. It is still there, although with creeping streetlights making sky glare all across Southern California I doubt it is able to do as much research as it once did.) Transistor radios were still fairly costly back then, but binoculars cost a fortune.

We reported the theft to the park rangers who didn’t care. Eventually one of them brought the binoculars back. “You left them on a picnic table on the far side of the park, near the Boy Scouts groups,” he said. Which was quite a trick, in that we hadn’t gone to that side of the park. Also he never explained why we would have smeared soap over all the lenses.

But the soap cleaned off easily and caused no permanent harm. My sister still has that set of binoculars. The watches and radios and whatever other small items we lost which (coincidentally, no doubt) could have fit unnoticed in a Boy Scout’s pockets or pack were never seen again, at least by us.

Anyway, after the car was welded back together we continued on our way. We got as far as Wawa. From there we headed back south, crossed the International Bridge and the Mackinaw Bridge, and went home.

The transmission on the Dodge never was quite right after hauling that heavy trailer so far. That contributed to that car’s early demise. (Of course it was the cheaper of the optional automatic transmissions, the two speed model instead of the three speed. The two speed automatic transmissions were always pretty crappy anyway.)

Today my home is crowded with more radios and watches than I know what to do with. Here at my writing desk I have three of each within sight, and there are plenty more here and there around the place.

I think I may have them all because I am trying in vain to get back that Sportsman AM transistor radio and that child-size Timex watch, the first radio and watch I ever had, the ones never saw again and never will. The sorrow of their loss might explain why I have collected so may others. It doesn’t explain the fountain pens, though.

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Don recommends Radio Boulevard for a deep dive into radio history!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don (W7SSB), who writes:

Hi Thomas,

One of my friends has probably the best museum in the history of radio !

https://www.radioblvd.com/

Your readers can spend days looking at all the information from the early days to present ! Plenty of pictures!

Don W7SSB

Thank you for the tip, Don! What a deep treasure trove of radio nostalgia!

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Circa 1959 Spectra-Radio Spectacles

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who writes:

While perusing through a 1959 Lafayette Radio sales flyer, this hybrid radio/sunglasses radio was spotted (see image above). Put a huge smile on my face–a three-transistor, germanium diode model hihi. Runs on a Mercury battery which were common years back.

That is fantastic, Mario! Love it.

I can tell you that I think Spectra-Radio seem a lot cooler than Google Glasses! Thank you for sharing!

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