I was bitten by the radio “bug” at an early age when I was given a tiny 6 Transistor radio…a Constant 6T-220. I carried that little radio with me 24/7, and soon learned that I could hear not only the local stations but signals from half the country at night time from my Massachusetts home. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I recall hearing Canadian, New York and Chicago stations at night and being thrilled to hear things from even further away. Somehow the latest news of the Beatles from 77 WABC seemed even more exciting than when heard from our local stations. It seemed strange that no one else was aware of these special night time treats, and I looked forward to night time to be able to listen to it all.
Although I loved that radio dearly I soon became aware that some of my friends’ transistor radios could pull in weak stations far better. There was one station all the kids loved (WMEX, 1510 from Boston) but it was very weak in our area. The first thing I would do when I happened upon any radio was to check that station as a test for how “good” that radio was. Car radios were miraculous…far better than any of our “shirt-pocket” transistor portables. From that point began a lifelong quest to improve reception. I was inside that tiny radio frequently, wiring in a rod antenna I cobbled to the side of the case, playing with the alignment adjustments which I didn’t understand at all, throwing wires out the window and wrapping them around the radio. It’s amazing the things I discovered by accident. For instance, I discovered that if I rested the radio up against the ground wire running down the side of a phone pole, my favorite station boomed in like a local, so I spent lots of time playing in that particular spot.
I was also lucky that my uncle was an electronics designer working for a Boston area company and one year he presented me with a hand made, breadboard AM transmitter…my own radio station! This thing had 3 tubes and all exposed wiring including the AC input which I was told to keep my hands away from. (Imagine this today). It’s absolutely amazing that I never ever got a shock from that thing. Now I was up on the roof erecting antennas fashioned from curtain rods, the TV antenna…anything which would get my signal out further. I don’t know how much power that thing made but with about 50 feet of wire connected to it I could hear my station about 4 blocks away.
Unfortunately, I grew up (ok, I got older) but my career path took related yet twin courses…one of them as an electronic technician managing a service department for a local audio store for 18 years and radio broadcasting where I worked for years as a DJ, newscaster and am currently the Production Director for a group of CBS-owned radio stations. In my current job I produce radio commercials all day long so shortwave listening brings welcome relief from the commercial world. My hobbies are still electronics and long distance radio listening, and I enjoy AM. SW and RCA Victor 45 RPM phonos. My interests also include collecting and restoring older transistor radios…all the ones I lusted after as a kid and more. I have a decent collection of portable radios from the 50’s and 60’s, novelty radios, some Zenith Trans-Oceanics and several world band radios of various vintages and size. I also admit to enjoying XM Satellite radio but for me, listening to distant AM and SW stations still brings the same excitement of listening to that first transistor radio at night, pulling in stations from far away. This excitement will never be replaced by listening on the Internet or via Satellite, because the whole appeal is the very fact that the signal has traveled such a long distance right to my radio. Of course I enjoy news and discussion content from the SW broadcasters of the world, but I will never deny that the excitement of the reception itself is key in my enjoyment of the hobby.
Writing reviews is one of the most joyful experiences I have. It not only gives me an excuse to acquire more radio equipment, but it also lets me put in my two cent’s worth. In these days of free and easy exchange of ideas via the Internet there is lots of great information freely available…but there is also tons of misinformation available, and it is a real pleasure to contribute to the former.