Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:
Maybe this is old news but in the 1959 film “On the Beach” which was from the book by Nevil Shute, there is a Zenith transoceanic shortwave radio in this clip from the film. It is inside the lighthouse and appears just about five minutes into the film.
Big stars in this one, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.
Thanks for the tip, Mario! I love classic films, but I don’t think I’ve seen On the Beach. I’ll put this on my watch list!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Ewing, who writes:
I know you’re always on the lookout for trips and visits so I thought of you when we were up in Wisconsin last week. There’s a maritime museum up in Sturgeon Bay, on the peninsula, that includes a 100 year-old tug. You can go aboard and climb all up and down…and they’ve got some great radios in the crew cabins as part of the displays of what life was like back when the ship was working.
There were a number of standard but interesting normal transistors but what really caught my eye were the Hallicrafters World Wave in the pilothouse and a fantastic pair of Trans-Oceanics in the cabins of the chief engineer and the captain.
The purpose of the visit really isn’t the radios — it’s about the working life of the Great Lakes and an old ship — so discovering them was a fantastic lagniappe.
[T]he appeal of shortwave in these circumstances is clear: Imagine you’re in the middle of Lake Superior towing a barge full of logs to be pulped, or some other unglamorous but essential Great Lakes cargo — maybe a barge full of big rocks to build a breakwater in, say, Sheboygan — and you come off watch in the middle of the night. Life on a ship can be deadly monotonous and deeply lonely but then picture yourself tuning in to the international band on your luxurious Zenith set … not bad since the iPad won’t be invented for another 40 or so years.
These pix also depict the engine order telegraph, which the captain in the pilothouse used to signal commands to the engine room. There was one for each of the two main engines, and duplicates in the pilothouse.
The captain moves the handle so that it indicates the speed he wants (e.g., Ahead Full) and the bottom needle on the telegraph in the engine room moves, ringing a bell. This is why an engineer might report he was ready to sail by saying he was standing by to “answer bells.” The engineers would select the speed on the engines and then move their own handle on their own telegraph to correspond with the captain’s order, signaling to the pilothouse they’d completed the instruction.
The engines are the white things pictured behind the telegraph and on which was stamped the brass plate also photographed here. The diesel engines were made by the Electro Motive Division of GM and replaced this ship’s original steam propulsion system. EMD is most famous for its pioneering and legendary freight locomotives, which led the way in “dieselization” after WWII in converting many railroads from their romantic but much less efficient and much dirtier steam power. But the company also made marine diesel engines as evidenced here and these served this ship for another three decades or so — just think about that. There also are still EMD GP30 locomotives from the 1960s still in service in some places in the U.S., according to what I read in this month’s Trains magazine.
Fascinating, Phil––what terrific vintage kit! Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos and descriptions with us.
Yes, I can imagine SWLing would have been a vital entertainment outlet for those on working ships in the Great Lakes. No doubt they had access to a number of strong mediumwave stations on the coast, as well. What a way to while away the off-hours.
Neither of us had ever attended this particular club, although we both knew a number of the members.
What was the first thing I spotted when I entered the meeting room? A pristine Zenith Model R-7000-2 Trans-Oceanic! Talk about a good omen!
Turns out there are no less than two Trans-Oceanic collectors in this group of about two dozen ham radio operators. The owner of this Model R-7000-2 told me that he has every Trans-Oceanic including the coveted Clipper and Bomber models.
I’m not sure I had ever seen the Model R-7000-2 in person. It’s a striking radio and the last in the line of the Trans-Oceanic sets–this model was produced in 1981.
Of course, I had to snap a few photos of this beauty.
Speaking of beauties, this Zenith enthusiast also brought his copy of the John H. Bryant and Harold N. Cones seminal volume: The Zenith Trans-Oceanic, the Royalty of Radios. (A book I highly recommend.) On one of the pages I rediscovered an image of my favorite 1930s/40s actress, Myrna Loy:
I first fell in love with Myrna Loy watching the classic film series: The Thin Man. I’m a massive fan of Loy/Powell films. Here’s the trailer from the first of the Thin Man series:
Any Post readers own the Trans-Oceanic Model R-7000-2? Any one else in love with Myrna Loy? Please comment!
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-80Tandy 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!
Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors who’ve shared a link to this excellent article by Denny Sanders in Radio World Magazine about the history of the Zenith Transoceanic:
Zenith Trans-Oceanic Radio in War and Peace
This iconic portable receiver was known for durability and quality
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Nothing proves this more than the story of how the iconic Zenith Trans-Oceanic portable radio receiver came into existence.
Commander Eugene McDonald (1886–1958), the founder of Zenith Radio, was a stickler for quality and insisted that any Zenith product represented cutting edge technology and design integrity.
He was also an accomplished yachtsman. During his many ocean voyages, he constantly was frustrated with the inability of any portable commercial radio set to perform reliably at sea. In about 1939, he ordered the Zenith R&D department to come up with a rock-solid, portable AM receiver sensitive enough to pull in signals from great distances. He insisted that the radio be a multi-band unit including shortwave, marine and aircraft bands.
The Zenith crew came up with a gem: the Trans-Oceanic, a gorgeous piece of engineering housed in a robust and dramatic cabinet designed by the brilliant Zenith industrial designer Robert Davol Budlong.[…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Moshe Ze’ev Zaharia, who submits the following videos of his reception of Radio Kuwait at 10:30 UTC on April 6, 2018 from his home in Israel.
Moshe notes that the signal was of blowtorch strength and, for at least 45 minutes, there was an ever-present delay/echo. Moshe’s receiver is a (beautiful!) Zenith Trans-Oceanic T600 and his antenna a 15 meter wire:
At the Winter SWL Fest this year, we had an open forum hosted by Skip Arey and Dan Robinson called “Shortwave Memories” where SWLs were invited to speak about what shortwave radio has meant to them throughout their lives. I was a fantastic session chock full of nostalgia.
I was asked to speak and started by talking about my first proper shortwave set: the Zenith Transoceanic (photo above).
Although I first got a taste for the shortwaves on my father’s console radio (a 1936 RCA Model 6K3)–it was in our living room and I did not have ready access to it.
My Great Aunt (who lived next door to us) must have learned that I was fascinated with radio, and one unforgettable day she surprised me by giving me her late son’s Zenith Transoceanic.
It was as if I had won the lottery.
For the first time, I could actually have access to the shortwaves from the comfort of my bedroom and could listen anytime I wished.
I quickly made a little listening post complete with a map, log book and paper to scratch notes. I was transported to every corner of the planet with that magical solid state set.
That Zenith set turned out to be a catalyst for a strong interest in geography, history, politics, language and travel. I learned that through SWLing, I could hear unfiltered voices from across the globe. Mind you, this was in the late 1970s and early 80s–long before the internet, long before mobile phones.
Of course, I still have my Zenith Transoceanic and will always keep it in working order.
I’m curious: What was your first radio? Did it have any meaningful impact on your life?Do you still have your first radio? Please comment!