Tag Archives: Radio Nostalgia

The Sony ICF-8000: Bob’s nostalgic journey

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Butterfield, who shares the following guest post:


The SONY ICF-8000

By Bob Butterfield

As many radio enthusiasts have experienced there are some pieces of equipment that come and go for a variety of reasons.  Many times, there are regrets about radios or accessories that are here one day and then gone another.  Years ago, I was gifted a Sony ICF-8000 “Super Sensitive” FM/MW/SW portable radio.  My ICF-8000 was one of those that “went.”  To tell you the truth, I am not actually sure where it went off to!  In those days I used my “Super Sensitive” radio on vacation trips, on the back deck, and for local MW/FM and casual SW listening.  When a new position with the Government necessitated relocation, I left this radio behind at my parents’ house where it was regularly used by my mother in the kitchen.  That is when things get fuzzy.  Suffice it to say that I am not sure what happened to it.

As far as I can determine, the Sony ICF-8000 is a close relative of the earlier Sony TFM-8000W, another “Super Sensitive” model.  What sets them apart is that the Sony TFM-8000W has the Public Service Band (PSB) and the Sony ICF-8000 does not.  The ICF-8000 has its SW bands spread out into 4 bands: 1.6 to 3.5, 3.5-7, 7-14, and 14-26.1 MHz.  In contrast the TFM-8000W has a slightly shorter SW frequency range split into three bands: 1.6-4, 4-10, and 10-22 MHz.  Both radios have continuous coverage with no gaps from MW to SW as well as FM.  These radios are almost identical in appearance.  Other than the PSB and three SW bands on the TFM-8000W, the only other visual differences from the ICF-8000 are how the bands are arranged, identification of the Public Service Band on the face plate, and the addition of an on/off squelch toggle switch for the PSB.  Internally the TFM-8000W has a couple more semi-conductors.  In line with these two radios is the older Sony TFM-1600W “Super Sensitive” which came out circa 1971, has its own distinctive but similar appearance, and is set up like the ICF-8000 with FM/MW/SW.

A while ago the “I used to have that radio nostalgia bug” hit me, and I have been searching since for a decent ICF-8000 to purchase.  Sony TFM-8000Ws in decent shape are up for sale on eBay on occasion, but I was looking for the ICF-8000.   Finally, I spotted one recently (which was listed as a TFM-8000W!) at a price and condition I was comfortable with.  After negotiation with the seller, I purchased it.   There is some useful information on the Web about the Sony TFM-8000W.  Jay Allen has a good piece on this unit worth checking out.  The Sony ICF-8000 appears to be much harder to find, information on the Web is skimpier, and I am not sure how long they were produced.  It is quite possible that its production run was limited.  Manufacturing likely started in 1976 when it probably replaced the Sony TFM-8000W.  One reference I located on the Web listed the ICF-8000 being made as early as 1974 but provided no source.   I also found evidence of at least two versions of ICF-8000s being produced; one with a switch located in the battery compartment allowing multiple different voltages including that for Japan, and one operating on 120 volts only.  The corresponding model number identification panels on the rear are annotated accordingly with voltages available.  Both versions have “FM/AM Multiband Receiver” lettering on the face plate.   Sony, like Panasonic, often tweaked models for domestic and foreign markets, adding or modifying features to fit those markets accordingly.  If anyone has more information on these models, year(s) manufactured, availability of free manual copies, etc., drop them in the comments section.

The Sony ICF-8000 I purchased was in very good shape having just some minor imperfections showing on the faceplate paint. No cleaning was necessary, nevertheless I gave it one.  All switches were quiet and functioned as they should.  A nice feature of the ICF-8000 is its exceptionally smooth tuning mechanism which utilizes a flywheel.  In addition, on my radio, the tuning scale is practically spot-on on all the bands.  Not usually the case in an analog set of this type forty-five plus years old.  When added to the fact that the SW frequencies are spread out in four bands instead of three, tuning is easy.  The presence of a fine-tuning knob is a nice touch and can be useful.  Also available is a tone control knob, signal/battery strength meter, a lighted dial, AC/DC capability, external antenna connection, world time calculator wheel (at the rear on the battery compartment cover), and a dual FM AFC and AM Broad/Sharp bandwith control.

Nostalgia aside, the Sony ICF-8000 has provided reliable performance on all bands so far.  MW sensitivity is adequate while SW reception is above average using the built-in telescoping antenna which measures 44 inches (111.75 cm) in length.  I did a limited shortwave reception comparison in the 49-meter band between the ICF-8000 and the Panasonic RF-2600 with its 37 inch (94 cm) built-in telescoping antenna and found the Sony performing equally with the Panasonic; at times even better perhaps due to its longer antenna.  When connected to an external 75-foot (22.86 meters) longwire I found the ICF-8000 shortwave reception to be particularly good.  I did not experience any overloading, nor did I encounter multiple images.  The sound was, as others have attributed to the TFM-8000W, “mellow”.  If this is not to your liking on the shortwave bands the tone adjustment is useful.   Noise levels were well tolerated.  I suspect that the Sony TFM-8000W would perform similarly.

Is the Sony ICF-8000 a fantastic DX machine?  No, it is not.  Is it “super sensitive”?  Maybe not “super,” but definitely above average, and surely sensitive enough for general listening.  Is it an attractive, affordable classic, easy to use, and sturdy radio with decent performance that can hold up through the years?   I think so.  Does it bring back fond memories?  Absolutely!

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Radio Waves: FCC Comments on Shortwave Trading, QTC eBook, Golden Years, and SDRconnect Demo

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron Chester, Benn Kobb, Chuck Rippel, Pietschman, Dennis Dura, and Dave Zantow for the following tips:


“Market Makers” Want to Expand Their Use of Shortwave (Radio World)

The FCC seeks comments on a proposal to use HF spectrum for financial data

The FCC is taking public comment on a proposal to revise the rules governing the frequencies above 2 MHz and below 25 MHz.

The Shortwave Modernization Coalition thinks the 2-25 MHz band is underused and wants to use it for the long-distance transmission of time-sensitive data from fixed stations. The users would be companies working with certain kinds of financial transactions; the proposal would prohibit voice transmission and mobile operations.

The firms in the coalition are “market makers and liquidity providers” for exchange-traded financial instruments.

This high-frequency trading industry has in fact been using shortwave links for several years to send trading data between U.S. and foreign exchanges, but it has done so under experimental authorizations. [Continue reading…]

QTC: I Have a Message for You (Archive.org)

Many thanks to Bill Pietschman who notes that the book “QTC: I Have a Message for You” has now been published on Archive.org for all to read and download free of charge. Bill writes:

I knew Ray Redwood, and besides being a Professional radio operator, he was indeed a Ham’s Ham. You will find here not just the story of radio, but a detailed analysis of the Titanic, from a radioman’s point of view. Part documentary, part autobiography, and part technical, it’s a great read. I’m so glad that his work has been preserved here. Future radio historians will, I am certain, find it to be a valuable record of the Ship Radio Officers Era, and Ray’s insights at the dawning of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System as we have today which utilizes satellite technology.

Click here to check out QTC: I Have a Message for You on Archive.org.

The Golden Years of Shortwave Listening (YouTube)

There was a time, some 50 years ago when cell phones didn’t exist and computers were only owned by large corporations, that people learned of the world around them by listening to shortwave radio. This is a journey back to that time to hear the sounds and see the correspondence from shortwave stations from all over the world. Sit back, listen and enjoy!

SDRplay and SDRconnect – The Update! – Dayton Hamvention (YouTube)

Steve Brightman (KI5ENW) from SDRplay demonstrates the new updates to SDRconnect to Ham Radio Outlet’s Julian Frost (N3JF).


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Balazs spots vintage radios in film and in a Budapest pub!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Balázs Kovács, who writes:

Hi Thomas,

Happy New Year! Some pictures in two topics:

1.) First, a nice Zenith H511 Consoltone (MW) got a few seconds of screen time recently in the fourth episode of the third (final) season of “His Dark Materials” series:

 

2.) At the end of December in an old pub in Budapest (Helvecia) I ran into some more or less old radios as a part of the eclectic decoration. Since these are partly Eastern European, they may be less well known elsewhere (deep in the basement, so even if they were still functioning, not many radio signals would reach them anymore):

With best regards,
Balazs

Wow! I love those pub radios!  I especially love the dial markings on the R 926 A!

Thank you for sharing these images, Balazs!

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Classic GE shortwave portable featured in this 1986 battery commercial

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Robert Yowell, who writes:

Tom – someone posted this week a rarely seen 1986 commercial for Eveready Batteries featuring the GE World Monitor radio (and Gold medal Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton!)

Enjoy!

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you so much for sharing this, Robert. I have a special affinity for my GE 7-2990A as it used to belong to my dear friend, Michael Pool (The Professor). It’s quite a workhorse of a radio with excellent mediumwave chops and it packs some amazing audio fidelity. Of course, with the right batteries, it’ll keep you on the air for weeks or months at a time! 🙂

Any other GE 7-2990A owners out there?

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Radio Nostalgia: Bob’s first radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, who shares the following guest post:


My Very First Radio

By Bob Colegrove

Sears and Roebuck Co., Silvertone, Catalog No. 8003, Model No. 132.818-1

I don’t remember much from 1949.  I was seven years old and still in the first grade.  I do remember being gifted a radio by my mom and dad on my birthday.  It was a Sears and Roebuck Co., Silvertone, Catalog No. 8003, Model No. 132.818-1.  I don’t really remember asking for it.  I’m sure mom and dad did not have a clue as to how consumed I would become with radio over my lifetime.  In truth, this was not the radio that got me totally absorbed, rather that function would be filled in 1958 by the Howard Radio Co. Model 308 combination MW/SW radio-phonograph console which had been relegated to the basement in favor of the TV set.

In 1949 television was on the cusp of success, and AM radio was still the one-way Internet of its time.  I recall my mother listening to countless soap operas during the afternoon.  The Howard was still in the living room and we listened to all the popular programs at night.  Anyway, the Silvertone was mine.  It took up residence in my room and I could independently explore the wonder of five local stations broadcasting in Indianapolis at that time.  There were no parental guidance settings on the Silvertone, nor was there any need.

The Silvertone was not a world-class radio with all the sensitivity, bells and whistles I would later desire.  Below WXLW, 950 kc it was deaf.  It was, in fact, one tube short of an “All American Five.”  However, one of its four tubes was dual function, if you counted the detector.  It was what was called an “ac-dc” radio.  This meant it could be powered by either 110 Vac or Vdc.  Granted, there were a couple communities in the US which were still serviced by dc power at this late date, but that fact certainly did not warrant advertising.  The whole thing always seemed to me no more than a marketing ploy on the part of manufacturers to cover for the lack of an expensive isolation transformer in the circuit.  Given the fact that electrical standards of the time did not provide for polarized outlets and power cords, these things could be quite hot, and it’s amazing so many tinkers, myself included, are around to talk about it.

One Tube Short of an “All American Five”  

The dial was very crude, and the tiny tuning knob swept all 107 available channels in a 180-degree twist of the variable condenser.  My mom, always handy with a paint brush, took to marking favorite stations  with a dab of nail polish.  1430 kc was WIRE and 1070 kc was WIBC.  Perhaps she got the idea from Bill Halligan who used little red dots on the controls to indicate the setting that would likely produce some noise.

The printed media were sizeable and substantive in the 1940s.  The Indianapolis Star’s morning edition for Friday, April 13, 1945 was particularly mournful as the U.S. woke up to the news that the president had died the day before.  I was later given to understand that many stations broke from the normal schedule for a few days to play somber music.  Notwithstanding, the first section still bore the quintessential hourly radio program schedule from 6 am to midnight for each of the four local stations.  We always kept clippings of station logs for each day of the week.

My interest in baseball grew over the next couple years, and the Silvertone played an important role in my keeping up with the local AAA team.  The static on a summer night was atrocious.  Further, in those days, the broadcasters were not compelled to fill the air with chatter between pitches.  There were no recitations of mindless statistics and no color commentators to describe the nuances of sliders and curve balls.  Consequently, between pitches there were often long pauses of nothing but dead air.  If you happened to tune in during a pause you had little idea where WISH, 1310 kc was on a hopelessly crude dial.

Most minor league broadcasters did not travel with the team.  When the team went on the road, they used an old Model 15 clickety-clack Teletype machine in the studio.  A local guy at the distant ballpark would observe a pitch or play, and quickly type a cryptic message on his Teletype.  On the radio you would first hear the receiving Teletype spring to life in the studio as the message came in.  The announcer would quickly interpret it, and then embellish the play with some excitement as best he could.

Teletype Model 15
Copyright Museums Victoria (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

During those times, it was not too uncommon for the Teletype to suddenly go down during the game.  What to do?  An announcer was suddenly left to his own creativity to fill in airtime.  Possible solutions were to describe the lengthy process of extricating a stray animal from the field, or a sudden cloudburst and consequential rain delay.  An intrepid announcer went on as nothing happened, making up the play-by-play over the interval.  Invariably, when the Teletype came back up, he found himself not quite in sync with the game and possibly a few runs behind.  At that point the challenge was to patch in the necessary play and go on to complete the game to the satisfaction of an otherwise unsuspecting audience.

Well, after 73 years, I’ve seen my share of radios.  In the meantime, the Internet has made it possible to DX the entire world at any time on a fifty-dollar Kindle – excellent fidelity, no interference, no noise, no fading.  But, after all these years, I still cherish those static-filled ballgames and teletype machines heard on the Silvertone a long time ago.

Quietly Waiting for the Next Pitch

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Radio Waves: A Second Golden Age, RFE Popular in Russia, Station Helps Ukrainian Refugees, Symbol of Normalcy, Saving Wax Cylinders, and Antarctic Post Office Opportunity

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Is radio in a second golden age? Here’s what the first looked like. (MSN / Washington Post)

On. Oct. 30, 1938, America was rocked by shocking news: Aliens had been spotted crash-landing outside Grover’s Mill, N.J. Additional sightings were soon made across the Northeast, including reports of Martians unleashing poisonous gas on Manhattan and burning onlookers alive with ray guns. Periodically, the breathless news reports would be reduced to static.

Listeners reacted in real time; many of them flooded the streets wearing gas masks and wet towels over their faces. Stores were raided, bridges and expressways were inundated with traffic, and pregnant women reportedly went into early labor.

Of course, the alien invasion never actually happened. The news bulletins were part of a live Halloween program a young producer and a cast of talented actors were presenting over the radio. The producer was 23-year-old Orson Welles, and the name of the episode was “War of the Worlds.” The H.G. Wells-adapted story had been produced for radio as part of Welles’s regular Sunday night broadcast, “The Mercury Theater on the Air” — a program that had hitherto been largely ignored, as it was up against a wildly popular variety show starring comedians Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Only this Sunday was different, as millions of Americans who had tuned in to listen to Bergen and McCarthy changed their dials when the duo introduced a guest opera singer. “No one was in the mood for opera that night, and much of the country stumbled onto Welles’s broadcast by mistake, not knowing the news bulletins they heard were part of a radio drama,” explained Carl Amari, a syndicated radio host and the founder of Radio Spirits, a large distributor of classic radio programs. [Continue reading…]

The Kremlin tries to stifle Radio Free Europe — and its audience surges (Washington Post)

As the U.S.-funded broadcaster is forced to shut most of its Russian operations, its Web traffic indicates that Russian people are eagerly consuming its stories

Radio Free Europe, the U.S.-funded operation that got its start by piping American-flavored news through the Iron Curtain in 1950, could see big trouble brewing for its Russian operation in recent years.

The Kremlin kept putting the screws to its Russian-language broadcasts, throwing up ever more regulatory hurdles. But it was in late 2020 that the hammer really came down. The “media regulator” demanded that every broadcast, digital story and video carry an intrusive disclaimer at the top stating that what followed was the product of a foreign agent.

“Basically, it was like telling our audience to go away,” said Jamie Fly, the CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as the organization has been known since a 1976 merger.

That labeling would interfere with the private nonprofit’s mission at a core level. So, Fly told me, “we refused to comply.” [Continue reading…note that this content might be behind a paywall for some readers.]

New radio station helps Ukrainian refugees adapt in Prague (AP)

PRAGUE (AP) — This is Radio Ukraine calling.

A new Prague-based internet radio station has started to broadcast news, information and music tailored to the day-to-day concerns of some 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the Czech Republic since Russia launched its military assault against Ukraine.

In a studio at the heart of the Czech capital, radio veterans work together with absolute beginners to provide the refugees with what they need to know to settle as smoothly as possible in a new country. Continue reading

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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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