Aircraft, AM Radio, Antique Equipment, History and Significance, News, Shortwave, Utility Radio

A Good Friend Who’s Always There


cas-pro-relaxThis summer has been a tough one for me in many ways, not the least of which is the minimal amount of time I have been able to spend playing radio. I have several commitments involving radio each week/month, but I do not consider that “playing” radio. To me, playing radio is where we get to sit down in front of a radio of any kind and do something with it just for the pure joy of it. The good thing about this hobby is it is always there whenever you are ready. It is like a good friend who is always there. Radio is, in fact, a bit like my dog.

For those who enjoy dogs like I do, one of the most rewarding things is to come home and find your dog waiting for you, tail wagging, and excited to see you. It does not matter how long you have been gone — a short trip elicits the same excitement upon your return as you would get being gone all day. Good dogs require very little maintenance to be happy, and they are ready for love and attention whenever you are available to give these to them.

My radios do not wag their antennas when I walk into the room, but they are there ready to go when I am, and they provide a world of enjoyment when called upon. As I sit here looking at the radios in front of me (only a small portion of the radios I have around the house overall), each one means something special and calls to mind enjoyable times. My 220 rig gets very little use overall, but it always reminds me of an amateur radio friend who was an Elmer to me in the hobby.

As I am typing this my 2-meter APRS channel has come alive with signals from the digipeater in the International Space Station (ARISS) and I am hoping for a contact or two. This past week I made a contact with AF4B in Texas, which was his first ISS contact! What an honor that is for me — whenever I have the privilege of being someone’s first contact in any manner of radio I am thrilled!! It always brings to mind my “firsts” and how exciting were those moments!

As I look at my Uniden Bearcat BC898T I remember going to my first Dayton Hamvention and buying this beautiful analog scanner. One of the fellows there tried to talk me out of it because it was only analog, and some of the local departments had moved to digital. Fortunately there are still many analog signals to catch in my area, and I am interested in more than just Public Service transmissions. I like Marine, Aviation, Railroads, Coast Guard, and a dozen other things which can be picked up by analog scanners. The 898T was my entrance back into the scanning hobby after many, many years away from it. There was a great deal to learn, but this was my re-introduction to scanning.

I have previously talked about my Yaesu-Musen FRG-7, in some ways the ultimate in shortwave radios for nostalgia, quality workmanship, and manual control of a radio. 40+ years old and still a gem!! Oh yes, and then there is my Swan 350, another marvel of a radio from the past. Never known as a top-of-the-line rig by any means, I treasure its heft, its vacuum tube warmth, and its mechanical tuning which turns like tire compared to the optical tuning wheels on modern rigs. In fact, its a lot like me — slow to get going and needs some time to warm up, but gets the job done eventually. (Why does it seem getting up out of bed and getting started each day gets harder and harder . . . I can’t be that old, can I??)

Fall and winter are coming, definitely great times of the year to play radio, and I hope to do just that. A little work on my antennas should get me back up to  speed in terms of capabilities, and my hope is life will slow down enough to let me have some fun. I know whenever I have the time my old friends will be there ready and waiting! I hope the coming months are filled with radio fun for each of you! 73, Robert



  • Reply Ron Schaffner 09/09/2016 at 3:01 pm

    Another great post, Robert.

    What wonderful times I had with radio when I was a kid, especially during autumn and winter. It was such a trill to catch AM broadcast DX. What a rush it was to pick up a Dallas / Fort Worth station playing Beatle songs. (Showing my age again 🙂 )

    DX is still a trill for me on the amateur bands. It’s a great education in geography, as your mind can dream of what it is like to visit such exotic places. Short wave can do the same thing, even though there are not as many stations as in my younger days.

    I do not own a digital scanner, but as you say, there are still a lot stations available for monitoring.

    Radio is a wonder land, especially for me, since I have a face for radio. 😉


    Ron – KD8AFH

    • Reply Robert 09/09/2016 at 8:59 pm

      Ron, we must have a lot in common because I too have face tailor made for radio!! Lots of good memories from childhood with radios, and many more happening at this stage of life. I think in many ways radio is a good dose of mental health for me, something which can be as challenging as I desire, or as relaxing as I desire.
      It is also something, God willing, I can do until the say I die. Not many things can last that long in life, but radio is, after all, something quite special!
      Thanks, as always, for the kind words and sharing your thoughts. Cheers!

  • Reply Raajesh 09/15/2016 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Robert,

    Came to your site from the OH-KY-IN website, and reading through this post revived a lot of my own feelings towards radio. I only recently started officially in this hobby, although I’ve been dreaming of it since I was a kid, when I saw an article in a magazine about how amateur radio folks helped with a car rally near the Himalayas. Then later on when I was in high school, I happened to read an article about carrier waves and modulation, and with no background in electronics whatsoever, I took apart an old commercial radio at home and made a transmitter out of it for home use in about a month. Even later, in college I stumbled upon a book on amateur radio and did a presentation about it in class! But after that, life caught up with me and I did not get a chance to do anything related to radio for so many years. I finally decided to get a license last year and got started but to be honest I am still struggling. You were actually sort of my first contact when I got my first handheld, looked up repeaters and (due to my mic shyness) checked in to the Newcomers and Elmers Net (where you were/are the Net Control) and announced myself :-). It was great to hear your reassuring voice back – (yay, my radio is working!). Living in an apartment, I still only have the handheld and Echolink for exploration, but I hope to slowly start building on my skills & equipment…. started learning CW this past week. And need to work on making contacts.

    Sorry for the long comment. As you can see, your post was very encouraging to me, stirred up my latent love for radio and I just could not help writing this up. Looks like you have a lot for me to read as I keep looking for anything related to amateur radio… lots to learn!

    Raajesh – KE8BEJ

    • Reply Robert 09/15/2016 at 10:19 pm

      Raajesh – what a wonderful post!! I know only too well what it feels like to come into the hobby after many years – my cousin got me interested when I was about 11 or 12 yrs. old, but life happened and I did not get my license until I was 46! But what a thrilling time I have had since then!
      I can assure you your passion for radio will lead you into many fascinating adventures, and if you were able to turn a receiver into a transmitter as a kid, you are already way ahead of most of us, even if it has been a while!
      I am so honored you checked into the net (and continue to do so!) – I know how hard it is to get over Mic shyness. You should have seen me sweating like I was in a sauna when I made my first contact (it was on HF). It really does get much easier over time.
      You might try putting up a simple ground-plane antenna in the apartment (or out a window if allowed) to increase your HT’s coverage. A couple of metal coat hangers and a bare SO-239 coax connector can be a great antenna for 2 meters (and 440).
      I hope you will share your radio adventures with the Net and with me – I get quite a thrill when other people get excited about radio!! 73, Robert

      • Reply Raajesh 09/17/2016 at 11:53 am

        Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Robert. I did get the N9TAX Slim Jim antenna last week and built a simple wooden holder to hang it up inside the apartment. Seems like I am hitting many more repeaters now! Looking forward to testing the audio quality now…

        Raajesh – KE8BEJ

    Leave a Reply to Ron Schaffner Cancel Reply