Friday, June 16, 2006

The Zenith Trans-Oceanic

zenith trans-oceanic
It was 1968. I was 12 years old, starting out in 7th grade. I was over at my friend Kelly's house, and he just had to show me his dad's cool radio.

The radio was a portable. Well, if you were a weightlifter, that is. It did have a carrying handle, even if it was the size of a small suitcase. It was a Zenith Trans-Oceanic H500, of early 1950s vintage.

And it had I don't know how many shortwave bands on its dial. I was just absolutely entranced.

You could pick up radio stations from around the world on this radio. The Voice of America. Radio Moscow. Radio Nederland. Deutsche Welle. Radio RSA from South Africa. WNYW, Radio New York Worldwide. The time signal from WWV, Fort Collins, Colorado. And of course the BBC...

Listening to radio felt to me then— it still feels to me today— like entering some strange new dimension, like connecting with some alternate level of reality.

I got a shortwave radio of my own that Christmas. It was out of some Sears or Monkey Ward catalog, and it served me for many years. Then in the early Nineties my brother gave me a Realistic DX-440. And a few years later I got a Grundig Satellit 700, which is still my "main" shortwave radio today.

My shortwave listening post today is in an upstairs room in my house, high atop Wheatland Ridge. There's nothing quite like listening to Radio Tezulutlán, on 4835 kilocycles in the 60 meter band, from Cobán, Guatemala. Or one of the hundreds of other shortwave stations you can receive when the time and propagation conditions are right.

Along with shortwave, I also have an interest in mediumwave (AM) radio. I remember sitting there in a darkened room on winter nights as a boy, listening to an old bakelite Stewart-Warner tube radio, and pulling in KOA 850 Denver, WBZ 1030 Boston, WWL 870 New Orleans, CFCN 1060 Calgary, and dozens of stations in between.

And I've always regretted that, in this part of the world, we don't have broadcast stations on longwave...



Blogger Richmond said...

Sooooo cool! What a great post! When we used to stay out at my Nonny's ranch, I would listen to the radio in the darkening bedroom she always had us sleep in - there was a station that would play the old radio shows on Saturday nights (like The Shadow)... It was like time travel to me. :)

Monday, June 19, 2006 5:31:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Yeah, there really is something about radio that's just magic. I don't find it in television, but I do find it in radio.

When I was a kid, we used to have a console radio, a big tall Philco, wooden cabinet, and a dial plate that lit up in the dark. Probably about 1940 vintage. Unfortunately something in the radio burned out when I was five or six, and we were never able to find a replacement part. I still have that old Philco dial plate today, framed and hanging in my living room.

In fact, my newer shortwave radio— the Grundig Satellit 700— still has a dial that lights up in the dark. Digital dial, with all sorts of cryptic information displayed in digital format— but it still lights up in the dark.

Thursday, June 22, 2006 7:21:00 AM  

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