Saturday, February 8, 2014

Early Radio Memories (2)

I used the phrase “slippery slope” in an earlier post, but before I invite you to join me in that particular broadcast helter-skelter I’d like to keep the whole story in balance and mention the other, conventional side of my radio hobby.  Listening.  Yet listening with a difference.  Tuning in to radio stations the other side of the world.

The popular name for this in the radio world is DXing.  Whereas not a proper acronym it has come to be understood as “distance listening” on all parts of the radio spectrum.  My favorite parts, and a new discovery for me in those days, were the short wave bands.  I had been given a new and shiny blue and Bakelite “chrome” radio and in addition to the usual medium and long wave bands it had short wave.  A mystery to me, but one I continue to enjoy even forty five years later.

Not content with the slender telescopic antenna that the radio provided, I had read that extending this by a long wire would vastly increase reception of very far away stations.  Given that my receiver (it had now been promoted from the rank of transistor radio) was on my desk in my bedroom this required an imaginary approach and an enormous spool of thin, plastic-coated wire.  And a bit of dare-devil roof work!  Climbing out of a third storey window in the red brick Victorian vicarage, gingerly clambering up some ten feet of tiles to reach the wide and level lead roof drains, throwing some fifty feet of wire over a gable in the hope that it was reach my bedroom window (it did!) and tossing the spool of the remaining one hundred and fifty feet towards the back of the house.  This I retrieved from a flower bed and anchored it to a tall tree on the other side of the garden.  Two hundred feet of antenna in place sixty feet above the ground, and I had not broken anything or annoyed my parents.  Easy, and in business!

It has to be said that my parents fully supported my new hobby and passion.  They agreed to pay for a monthly subscription to the magazine Practical Wireless, now proving essential to all aspects of my radio interests, and even surprised me with the gift of a “retro” receiver kit – the Hear All Continents valve (U.S. tube) radio which required over ninety volts of power but was an amazing receiver in all its simplicity.  I was truly hooked, and began saving up money for postage stamps and International Reply Coupons…

(To be continued)

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