Tag Archives: Zenith Transoceanic

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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Radio World features a tribute to the Zenith Transoceanic

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.[…]

Continue reading the full article at Radio World Magazine online.

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Video: Moshe captures an echo in Radio Kuwait signal

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:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks for sharing, Moshe!

Did anyone else note this echo? I wonder what happened at the Radio Kuwait transmitting station to make this happen?  Or, perhaps, it was a fault with the audio feed they received? Please comment!

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Did your first shortwave radio change your world?

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!

Also, if you’d like to share even more detail and photos, consider submitting an article for our Listener Posts series

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Mark spots a Transoceanic in “Kiss Me Deadly”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who writes:

Following your recent post about Hemingway, I spotted what looks like a Zenith Transoceanic in the the classic film noir, “Kiss Me Deadly” – a favourite of mine with such memorable moments such as the “What’s in the box” scene.

That does, indeed, look like a Transoceanic–possibly the Model T600? Great catch.  Thanks, Mark, for sharing your film and TV radio sightings!

Click here to see Mark’s previous contributions.

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