In the meantime, many thanks to Tim for sharing his personal radio history:
The Sony Earth Orbiter CRF-5100 (Source: Universal Radio)
One night, when I was about six or seven, my brother put me in front of his Sony Earth Orbiter and changed my life forever. He handed me the earplug and told me that, if I was really quiet and didn’t bother him, I could hear stations from all over the world. His ploy to keep me occupied and out of his hair worked like a charm, as I was completely fascinated by what I heard.
Fast forward about ten years later to 1987, when I received the best Christmas present ever: a Realistic DX-360. I remember staying up until the wee hours of the morning listening to the BBC, Radio Havana, and many other stations. Imagine my surprise when I found Radio Australia the next morning. Radio from Australia? How was that even possible!? For the next few years, that radio went with me just about everywhere, and serenaded me to sleep just about every night for years. Back then, my favorite stations included not only the BBC and Radio Australia, but also Monitor Radio and Super Power KUSW, the station that sent my my first ever QSL card. I still have it too.
One afternoon while I was in college, my roommate and I decided to stop into a local liquor store and do some comparative shopping. We were just about to leave when I turned around and found myself eye to eye with this beautiful old European style shortwave radio. It turned out that one of the proprietors, a guy by the name of Howard, was a ham, and sold old used radios out of the back of the store. I got to know Howard a little, and bought several radios from him. One day while visiting his store, he shows me the most beautiful thing made of metal I’d ever seen: a Hallicrafters SX-73. Believe it or not, he sold it to me for $75! I think Howard new it was worth ten times that, but he also knew I was a young radio nerd that would give it a good home. That radio was my main receiver for many years after that, and I still have it today. My estate executors can sell it when I’m gone. Until then, it’s a keeper.
Hallicrafters SX-73 (Source: radioreprints.com)
These days, my shack is an odd mix of both the old and new. I have an old r390a that was recently overhauled by Rick Mish, and a Watkins Johnson WJ-8718a that was brought back up to spec by PCS associates. If I do my part, both of these cold war relics should give me decades of service. My latest addition to the shack is an Elad FDM-S2, which is an amazing receiver! I’ve never been much of an SDR guy, but this radio might change all of that. Stay tuned!
Anyways, thanks for letting me go down memory lane.
Many thanks, Tim, for sharing your memories with us! Snagging a Hallicrafters SX-73 for $75 was, indeed, an excellent deal. Sounds to me like Howard enjoyed feeding your interest in radio. Keep that old girl in good nick and you’ll have a radio that will outlast us all. Tell your executors to put it in the casket!
In the meantime, many thanks to Jeff for sharing his personal radio history:
I have enjoyed your blog…indeed it has been a major factor in my getting the bug again after being away from shortwave for about 20 years.
I had played around with DXing AM stations at night when I was around 10 or 11; I lived just outside of Washington DC and remember hearing WLS and WCFL at nighttime once WLMD went off the air (a daytime station only). Also WBZ in Boston and WBT in Charlotte were pretty easy to hear, as well as KMOX in St Louis.
The original Happy Station Show host, Edward “Eddie” Startz. Photo courtesy of RNW.
I first remember hearing shortwave on a trip to see my uncle circa 1973. He had a shortwave radio. I clicked it on and was fascinated to hear all the different languages and odd music coming from Middle Eastern stations. I also quite clearly remember stumbling on some bagpipe music; I first thought this must be from Scotland but it turned out to be the “Happy Station” show on Radio Netherlands. Straight away I was hooked.
My parents got me a cheap shortwave radio (can’t remember the make, it wasn’t very good). It did however pull in the BBC and Radio Australia well enough and I became a devoted fan of both stations. I quickly moved up to the Realistic DX 160 once I’d saved a bit of money. This was a great radio to do serious Dxing with; especially later in the ’70’s when the sunspot numbers really went through the roof during the solar max at that time. I remember hearing Uganda, All India Radio, Radio Cairo came in fairly well at the time…Plus I was able to hear some Pirates on the weekends and since it had a BFO I could listen to Hams for the first time.
Somewhere around the early 1990’s I fell out of the hobby; had to concentrate on other things for a while. About 3 or 4 months ago I came across your blog and found myself getting the itch again. I now have a Kaito KA1103; amazing such a little radio can pull so much in. I’ve been reading your tips on what to listen to, have managed to catch some pirates and have enjoyed hearing Radio New Zealand in the mornings along with Radio Australia. I am sorry that so many of the stations I heard when I was a kid are now gone, SRI, Radio Netherlands, Radio Sweden, Radio Finland (I used to be a big fan of the latter two). But I have made up for this by doing some more ham DXing and also checking the Utility stations more often than I did years ago.
I just wanted to say Thanks for getting me into SWLing again.
Many thanks, Jeff, for sharing your story! I’m honored the SWLing Post had a part in your re-discovery of shortwave radio.
In the meantime, many thanks to Chris for sharing his personal radio history (note that Chris has also posted this story on his new blog):
I have an interesting story on how I got into shortwave radio. Let’s hop into the Tardis and go back to 1997. Being 13 years old, a young Chris Freitas was a member of the Boy Scouts.
Because I was a part of this organization, Boy’s Life magazine shipped to my mailbox each month. In the December 1997 issue, there was an article titled “Tune In To The World.” This printed piece literally changed my life.
While reading the article, I was amazed that there were radios capable of receiving global signals. There had to be more information. Thus, I went to the Millington Public Library (Millington is a suburb north of Memphis, TN and my hometown).
Using slow dial-up internet and reading Passport to World Band Radio, I learned more about shortwave radio, international stations, and frequencies. Before buying one at Radio Shack, there was an epiphany.
I already owned a shortwave radio and just realized it at that moment. Months before reading the article, my next-door neighbor friend sold me his radio for $25.
I thought it was neat. It was my first shortwave radio: the Worldstar Multi Band Receiver MG 6100 sold by Sears.
My first two years as an SWL were amazing. I would sit outside on weekends with my radio and listen to the BBC, RTI, RCI, HCJB, VOA, RNW, and many others.
A QSL collection grew and station stickers littered the top of my radio. I wrote to Boy’s Life about it and they paid me some money for the article.
There were great programs like Musical Mailbag, live sports, DX Partyline, and Play of the Week that I would tune into every week. My parents “loved” it, as I annoyed them with loud static.
Unfortunately with all good things, the band knob on my Worldstar radio broke. However, my father conceded to a birthday wish and bought me a Radio Shack DX-397 (my dad told me that he still has it).
I also bought a book from Radio Shack titled Listening To Shortwave. Even for the late ’90s, it was a bit outdated but there were some interesting tips about shortwave.
It also came packaged with a cassette tape (Yes, I still remember them). It was called “Sounds of Shortwave.” If you want to listen, here’s Side A and Side B.
After three years of shortwave radio listening, it was not long before changing my childhood dream of becoming a TV weatherman (I had a crazy fascination with weather and still do). Instead, I wanted to be a radio announcer (or at least work at a station).
In 2000, the Delta Amateur Radio Club was present at a “Scout Base” on Naval Support Activity Mid-South. It was there that I earned my radio merit badge and perhaps my first on-air appearance.
Since then, I’ve been to college and earned my Bachelor’s of Arts in Communications. I am now working part-time at a local radio station. I have yet worked at an international station, but still pursuing that endeavor.
Chris’ Tecsun PL-660
Several stations like the BBC, Radio Canada, and Radio Netherlands left shortwave in North America. I have also been through various radios including the Grundig Mini World 300 PE, Eton E5, and Sony ICF-7600GR.
As of now, I am using a Tecsun PL-660 and I love it. Although there are fewer stations on shortwave these days, I still enjoy tuning the bands to catch some exciting sounds halfway around the world.
Many thanks, Chris, for sharing your story. I think it’s wonderful that you learned about shortwave radio through Boy’s Life magazine. I attend the Dayton Hamvention every year and one of the highlights is that SWLing Post readers stop by my ETOW table to introduce themselves. A number of younger listeners have told me that they learned about shortwave radio through Boy Scouts–no doubt due to the number of Scout Masters who are hams that “propagate” their love of radio.
In the meantime, many thanks to Allen for sharing his personal radio history:
Allen Willie, VOPC1AA
I first discovered radio DXing during the summer of 1968 at the age of 13 while living on the family farm at Lacombe, Alberta. It was the evening of June 17th to be exact.
What would become a life long passion was about to unfold. While sitting at the kitchen table I began to tune the Crosley model table top AM – FM radio sitting nearby with curiosity ultimately hearing signals that seemed weaker and not local in nature.
The first signal that I came upon had the following message:
“It’s 8:00 PM Mountain Standard Time, This is 5-60 KMON Great Falls, Montana” followed by network news. From that moment forward I was hooked on long distance radio reception . My radio DXing passion would have it’s spark lit that very night.
During the rest of that evening and over the coming months, I would continue to log many AM stations from the western United States and Canada including stations that are now no longer in existence, have changed callsigns, or have transferred to FM.
A few of the stations that I logged the first few nights included 1550 – KKHI San Francisco, 1330 – KUPL Portland , Oregon, 1360 – KMO Tacoma, Washington & 1600 – KLAK Lakewood, Colorado.
Over those initial years while still living and working on the farm I would develop an interest in other modes of radio DXing including Shortwave and TV as well.
I first had the opportunity to tune the Shortwave bands on a Zenith Trans-Oceanic tube model receiver during Sunday visits with my aunt and uncle. In later years that radio would eventually become mine.
After leaving the farm in 1974 and beginning a working career with Canada Post, I was able to eventually advance in their management ranks to Zone Postmaster and have the opportunity to reside and DX in several different communities within the province of Alberta. During that period of time my main receiver in use was a Realistic DX – 300.
Within Alberta, my favorite location for radio reception from amongst the many places I had lived and worked was Beaverlodge, Alberta situated about 300 miles northwest of Edmonton. It was great for long distance reception there with hardly any local stations close by to cause interference.
During the eighties I discovered the wonderful world of QSL cards and sent reception reports to many AM , FM , Shortwave and TV DX stations as well.
Later as the nineties came along, I also became a reception monitoring reporter for several of the Shortwave stations by sending reception reports on an ongoing basis to them. My favorite was Radio Beijing, now known as China Radio International. In appreciation the staff of the station sent many souvenirs , QSL cards and reading materials in return over those years for my efforts.
Additionally I had always had the wish to work in radio someday. That opportunity presented itself in 1992 after retirement from the postal service. I had the good fortune to get on board with an AM and FM station locally in Red Deer, Alberta which gave me a real sense of what working in radio was like.
During the mid nineties I would acquire another receiver for DXing , the Yaesu FRG-100.
Carrying on with the radio interest I also set up a few different internet radio stations online through Live 365. Today , one of those stations still remains in operation serving up 24 hour classic country music.
After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999, I found it much harder as time went on to deal with the harsher climate in Alberta, the minus forty degree and plus thirty degree extremes in temperature were having an adverse effect on my day to day mobility and general well being.
Through consultations with my medical specialist, the thought was that a change to a more temperate climate might be of help for my ongoing symptoms. During that time period I had also been engaged in online conversations with a very nice couple who lived in Newfoundland.
We eventually became good friends and have been for several years now.
They too had also suggested that Newfoundland’s milder climate could be of benefit to my health . Eventually a move to Newfoundland was in the works by September of 2002.
At that point my whole world was about to change for the better, medically speaking as well as radio DXing wise.
A double bonus came my way making that move to Newfoundland . After about a year and a half I could notice a significant difference in how I felt still dealing with the MS and what can I say about the radio DXing? Absolutely fantastic!
In all the years residing in Alberta I had heard many USA and Canada stations on the AM dial, however only a handful of countries. Since moving to Newfoundland I have now logged over 100 countries on the AM Broadcast band.
Over the years I was also involved in Ham Radio Band DXing as I competed in many of the SWL sections of Amateur radio contests as well as trying to log each country on each of the various amateur radio bands.
During the mid 2000’s I would attain another receiver for DXing, namely the Kenwood R-5000.
In 2008 the radio world would discover a new interest presented to DXers as Ultralight Radio DXing had it’s early beginnings thanks to veteran DXers, John Bryant, Gary DeBock , Robert Ross and others.
I had submitted some logs of what I was hearing to various sites after aquiring an Ultralight radio and the the Ultralight Radio Committee had noticed my logs posted online and asked me if I would like to share what I had heard with their group members as well. The rest is history as I have also been an avid Ultralight Radio Medium Wave DXer for the past 6 years.
There was also a stretch of time when I had tried to eventually hear and log a radio signal from each and every independent nation of the world just for fun using a combined mixture of numerous modes of radio i.e ham, AM, Shortwave etc. I accomplished that feat twice in fact, by 2006 and again just prior to 2013 .
While living in the tiny community of Bristol’s Hope, Newfoundland from 2011 onward, I was able to have my longest radio antenna in service ever, a 1200 foot longwire in place. The location was great for Trans- Atlantic reception as it was in a bit of a remote area with little or no man made interference and noise. Living directly above and practically over the water at a higher point helped for better reception as well.
Another move was in the works recently this year as we had to vacate our rental premises in Bristol’s Hope due to an eventual house sale
With potential residences taken up quickly due to recent economic prosperity in Newfoundland during the past year or so, it was much harder to find another place to live.
Luck shining upon us, we finally found a residence in Carbonear, but had to wait a month to move in. Meanwhile some folks in Northen Bay, Newfoundland offered their house to us temporarily for that month during the wait.
With the temporary move to Northen Bay , that circumstance opened up the possibility for a Medium Wave Dxpedition there for the month. It was my first attempt at a DXpedition and I enjoyed the experience very much.
Another new chapter of my radio DXing has now begun living in Carbonear.
That is my forty seven years in a nutshell involved in the wonderful hobby of radio and DXing.
Allen Willie VOPC1AA
Carbonear, Newfoundland, Canada
Many thanks, Allen, for sharing your story. I’m so happy to hear that Newfoundland and DXing have both been good “medicine” for you!
Harold Woering ’s radio story is the latest in our series called Listener Posts, where I will place all of your personal radio histories. If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!
In the meantime, many thanks to Harold for sharing his personal radio history:
Harold Woering (N1FTP), WDX1IGG, HFU-Dutch Master, and WPC1HJW
My shortwave experience started in 1967 at the age of 13. My father brought home these old AM/FM/SW tube radios probably dating back to the 30’s and 40’s and asked if I wanted them. That’s all it took and my first QSL is dated May 20, 1967 from Radio Cairo, Egypt. I found out from my cousin that if you wrote the station a letter telling them what you heard, that they would send back a verification in the form of a card, pennant, or letter. Today my count for unique verifications is well over 500 with numerous “goodies” that I have received over the years.
My first purchased shortwave receiver was a Knight Kit Star Roamer in 1969. From there it was the Heathkit GR-64 in 1972 and the Realistic DX-160 in 1985. From 1985 to 1990 I was the awards chairman for SPEEDX (The Society to Preserve the Engrossing Enjoyment of DX’ing).
Kenwood R-1000 (Source: Universal Radio)
I was beside myself when I bought my first digital readout radio, the Kenwood R-1000 in 1987. No more guessing as to what frequency I was listening to. That was also the year I ended up as station of the month in Popular Communications magazine. Currently I use an Icom R71a and a Sangean ATS 818ACS and a 450 foot horizontal loop antenna. I have a lot of great memories and still enjoy the hobby immensely. Many of the Big stations are gone but that has had room for many of the smaller ones. I continue to listen almost daily and still enjoy the hobby.
In the meantime, many thanks to John for sharing his personal radio history:
My story started when I was about 7-8 years old. My Father was in the USAF and was stationed in Germany. I remember my parents had this big Telefunkun Console that had a radio and record player. The radio had shortwave bands on it. I used to listen to the Armed Forces Network on the radio. I remember one day checking through the shortwave stations, I came upon an English language program that gave the station ID as “This is Radio Moscow speaking.” I was also able to tune in to BBC World Service which I really liked. After this initial contact with Shortwave Radio, I really never got involved again until after a car accident I had two years ago.
My mobility became limited after the accident. I started looking at low impact hobbies that I could become involved in that did not require a lot of physical activity. I already collected stamps and coins but I wanted something more engaging. In November, 2012, I saw an ad for a radio the Tecsun PL-660 and I ordered one. I really liked it because I had Air Band along with Shortwave and SSB/LSB. I remember the first overseas station I picked up in English which was Radio Romania International. I was very excited even though I was 60 years old at that time. I had studied about submitting reception reports and I immediately completed one and sent it out. After this I was hooked really bad. I read about other radios and decided to purchase a Grundig Satellit 750. What a difference that made along with a better antenna I started receiving stations the PL-660 could not get in. About two -three weeks after I sent out my first reception report I received a letter and QSL card from Radio Romania International. What a treat that was for me. My first confirmation.
Winradio G33DDC Excalibur Pro
As I continued to study about antennas and radios I got interested in SDR’s. What a neat concept I thought so naturally I had to try it out. I purchased a RF-Space -IQ and what a difference that made. I received more stations and had more control over noise filters and memory plus now I could record band spectrum for later review. Well, being hooked good now, lead to another purchase, a Winradio G33DDC Excalibur Pro. I had two choices with the budget I had, get a transceiver and get my Ham license or get a better SDR or Shortwave receiver and new antenna. I decided on the SDR/antenna and I am not disappointed. It is a great unit and really compliments my other SDR. I am still on the fence about becoming a Ham Operator as I would rather listen than talk.
I do realize that stations all over are stopping their broadcasts because of funding issues and newer easier forms of mass communication but I will not give up. Every two to three weeks I end up catching a new station I had not identified before. Many countries around the globe still depend on radio for communication and news so I really doubt if I will ever turn on the radio and be greeted just by a wall of noise.
This is a great hobby. I have come in contact with many knowledgeable and interesting people who have and continue to help me on my journey through the shortwave hobby. There is more to this hobby than just putting on headphones and trying to listen in to a far away station. I have had to do research, I have to read a lot to keep on top of the hobby, plus it has opened my eyes and mind to other cultures and their interesting histories. and it really keeps me busy. I also joined the NASWA and highly recommend that club to all newcomers.
Daily I look forward to the mail coming in hoping I have received a confirmation. This does not happen as much as I would like but when it does it is always a treat for me as I build my collection. This November is my one year anniversary in the hobby. I have no regrets and I will continue to enjoy my shortwave radio hobby.
John, many thanks for sharing your radio story!
I’m impressed that the radio bug hit so hard that you moved, in short order, from a Tecsun PL-660 to a WinRadio Excalibur Pro! What a leap!
I would encourage you to get your ham radio license, of course. By now, you understand enough about radio, that it would be a very easy step to take. Strike while the iron is hot! 🙂
I’ve had success with the Gordon West testing guides–they’re very informative while teaching you strategic techniques to pass the test.
In the meantime, many thanks to Dave for sharing his personal radio history:
My interest in shortwave radio started in the early 1960s, I bought a National Transistor Radio that had the shortwave radio bands on it, I got the radio so I could listen to the local AM stations Top 40 Hits but that changed when I switched to shortwave.
I could not believe what I was hearing, stations from all over the world in dozens of different languages, I was totally amazed as to how I could hear all these stations in my flat situated in Melbourne Australia.
I used to look forward to the evenings so I could sit in my chair with a set of headphones and listen to the world, I had no idea what DXing was I simply enjoyed listening to music and news from the world over.
In the mid 1970s I did what many others did and got into CB Radio, I was just as amazed to find I could talk to fellow CBers in the USA, Japan and many other countries, it was then that I found out what a QSL Card was, I also learned about sunspots, the 11 year cycle, ionosphere and skip.
About the same time I rekindled my interest in Shortwave Radio, I got a circuit diagram for a Receiver and went off the an electronics shop and bought the components, building the radio took me about three months of spare time but I got it finished, with great expectation I connected a length of wire to the antenna terminal, by this time I had the wife and four kids standing around waiting to see what would happen, all of a sudden the radio sprung into life and the kids were dancing around the kitchen to fantastic music from the UAR Radio Dubai.
I Like so many other shortwave listeners I used a Realistic DX160 for quite a few years, my circumstances changed and I went for years without shortwave, I got hooked on HiFi equipment and worked as Manager of a large Melbourne HiFi Shop, as time went on my hearing started to deteriorate and I got Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) so music did not sound the same anymore.
Fifteen years ago I got back into shortwave, bought several desktop radios the Lowe HF-150 being my favourite, for the first time I started chasing QSL cards and finished up with a reasonable collection, once again my circumstances changed and I started playing guitar in a Counrty Band, this went on until six months ago.
The Lowe HF-150 (Source: Universal Radio)
Now in retirement I decided it was time to get back into shortwave, not knowing what to expect when I found out that so many of the major broadcasters were shutting down I bought a couple of Portable Radios put up a couple of random wires plugged the headphones in and now enjoy the hobby again.
I do not go along with the rumours that shortwave radio is finished, I believe shortwave has never been better, with some of the major broadcasters leaving the airwaves it has made it so much easier to hear those lower powered stations that were so hard to hear because of splatter caused by the big guys, there seems to be plenty of smaller broadcasters that have filled the void left by major broadcasters which to me has made the hobby of SWLing so much more interesting.
I couldn’t agree more! Many thanks, Dave, for sharing your story!