Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Fred Jacobs on “Rekindling Our Fading Romance With AM Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who shares the following article which appeared in Jacob’s Media Strategies on Dec 31, 2018. I’ve pasted an excerpt below, but you’ll want to read the entire piece by clicking here:

Rekindling Our Fading Romance With AM Radio

I know I may sound like a relic from another era, but chances are if you’re a Baby Boomer (or gasp – even older), you were inspired by AM radio as a kid growing up whether it was in a big city or a small town.  If you’re a member of a younger generation, you may not even know that AM – or amplitude modulation – has a magic power.  At night when the clouds are just right, AM signals have the ability to “skip” across geography, unlike frequency modulation (FM) which is line of sight.  “Clear channel” stations had an even easier time being heard beyond their metro confines – often covering many states during the nighttime hours.

Many of us radio veterans remember those nights, lying in bed, where your trusty bedside AM clock radio pulled in signals from all over the U.S. As a boy in Detroit and not especially well-traveled, I learned how to pronounced Des Plaines (Des-planes) and Touhy (2E) by listening to Chicago radio stations like WBBM and WLS.  Tuning in KYW in Philly (which came in “like it was next door”), I learned how to spell the quirky town of Conshohocken from listening to Phillips Ford commercials.  It was from a jingle that got in your head (CON-SHO-HO-CKEN).  At least, it got in mine.

It didn’t matter if you lived in Dallas or Des Moines, or a small town in Delaware – you were able to pick up big AM radio stations from faraway.  And if you talk to today’s broadcasters on the other side of 50, many will tell you their careers were likely inspired by these booming, exciting blowtorches on AM radio that provided a soundtrack for our teens.

AM radio was where we first heard the Beatles, the Supremes, the Stones, Stevie Wonder, and even the Doors.  Big AM Top 40 stations of the day – KHJ, WABC, CKLW, WLS – played all these cool rock songs, right next to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Elvis, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, and the Singing Nun.  And even though the fidelity of amplitude modulation is obviously technically inferior to that of FM, there was something very different and even romantic about hearing all those songs first on AM radio.[…]

Continue reading the full piece at Jacob’s Media Strategies.

Thanks for the tip, Dennis! I think this piece speaks to so many of us radio listeners–especially this one who prefers the “fidelity of amplitude modulation” over so many other mediums.

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Washington State’s Long-lost ‘Magic Radio’ Santa Gets New Life

This is what the announcer said at 4:30 p.m. one day about a week before Christmas 1950 over the airwaves of radio station KELA in Lewis County: “Yes, stand by for Santa Claus! The Beacon Store, Santa’s headquarters for southwest Washington, presents the most important radio program of the year, Santa’s very own. Santa’s Magic Radio! We’re going to take Santa’s Magic Radio and talk to Santa at his North Pole headquarters! So, stand by for Santa Claus!”

First of all, let me be very clear: I believe in Santa Claus. Second, I’m a sucker for grownups who do things to make the lives of kids more magical. When I was a little kid in the 1970s and was in my “doubting Santa” phase, I’d hear local and national media reports about NORAD tracking Santa’s sleigh, and my doubts were instantly – and permanently – erased.

Fast-forward about 40 years, and I learned this week that there were some grownups in Lewis County who did a pretty special thing every year to help Santa and local kids.

For about three weeks before Christmas, from sometime in the 1940s to sometime in the 1980s, radio station KELA in Centralia/Chehalis would use a “Magic Radio” to connect with Santa Claus at the North Pole for 15 minutes each day. With the swirling sounds of a blizzard in the background, and with help from a fast-talking elf named Tommy Tinker, Santa would read letters from local kids about what they wanted for Christmas.

Click here to read the full story at MyNorthwest.com, including a recording of the December 1950 broadcast

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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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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