As I write this sentence, I’m hearing Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dubinushka, Opus 62” as it fades in and out, interspersed with crystal clarity and near absence with static. The station is broadcasting at the shortwave frequency of approximately 17560 KHz. I have no idea as to what nation the station is located. It could be in the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Oceania.
I’m listening to the music because I stumbled across it while twirling the radio’s tuning knob while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. Classical music via shortwave seemed like a nice way to begin the day.
I had been on a ten-years-long hiatus from radio listening after I left broadcasting work. This is partly due to needing to explore other avenues of life that are not associated with commercial radio. Also, my old hobby of shortwave radio DXing (listening to and keeping track of far away, distant stations) went away with the demise of my old “Realistic DX-440” multi-band radio. The old radio still picks up standard broadcasts on AM and FM, but the shortwave reception was curtailed after a lightning strike in the neighborhood a few years ago.
To tell the truth, I haven’t missed radio listening at all. There have been sources on the Web to obtain the music and information I want each day. Whatever I want to hear and see is just a click or a swipe away on my devices.
Recently, I saw something at the Goodwill Store that triggered happy memories of shortwave DXing, a large boom box. It’s not only a portable stereo; it’s one of the holy grail ghetto blasters sought after by collectors. I didn’t have to think twice about buying it, as the price was $5. Hurray for thrift stores!
Someone had shoplifted the ghetto blaster’s electric cord, so I cannibalized one from an old cassette recorder. Then I plugged it in and voile’, the old stereo worked like a new one. After checking over all the unit’s features, I tried out the shortwave bands. Amazingly, the reception is better than the old Radio Shack radio had in its heyday.
The ghetto blaster’s plastic case is marred with scuffs, scratches, and tobacco smoke film. That’s OK, because it’s enjoyable and rewarding to restore artifacts to as near-new condition as possible. This will be an on-going project for awhile.
Anyway, all of the radio bands, Shortwave, AM, and FM pull in stations from far distances–daytime and nighttime. My five-dollar bill has ushered in a renaissance of radio listening enjoyment. Listening to radio that’s not on the Internet, is great fun, once again.
The return of radio listening in my life enabled some reflections on communications technology. The various means that humans have invented have greatly affected history and the way we interact with each other. Once speech and writing were perfected eons ago, life has never been the same for homo sapiens. The barriers of time and distance have been eroding ever since then.
The process went into high gear after the invention of the printing press. With the arrival of the telegraph, the paradigm shift has been amazing. The technology we take for granted, telephone, cable, radio, television, satellite communication, and the Internet, have appeared relatively recently. The impacts these have had on civilization are just now being realized.
The impact of radio listening on my life has been elemental. I was a five-year-old boy when I first became very curious about the medium. That’s when I first wanted to become a voice that came out of radios. It was a seemingly simple, childish wish that eventually came true.
It feels strange that radio listening has now come full-circle in my life.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes former WOW Omaha radio DJ and NBC television personality Johnny Carson. “If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”