My Most Recent QSO's

Thursday, October 22, 2009

First SWL Radio

I think all SWL'ers remember their first radio. Several weeks ago N2UGB made a post about his early Hallicrafter receiver and I looked everywhere for picture of mine. I've owned several but this was my first SWL radio. After much searching..... I found one. It was a Knight Kit Span Master. (a simple 2 tube regenerative reciever with headphones)

One of the neighbors GAVE it to me and I'm sorry to say, he's passed away now. It was a "kit" (I think about $30 at the time) and for some reason, he decided to spark the interest in a "young person". It probably had to do with the "Boy Scouts" since I was developing an interest in the outdoors at the time. Ralph Moore was an advocate for the BSA organization and even had his picture published on the cover of "Boy's Life". I saw it at his funeral and would have never guessed it was his smiling face gazing out the flaps of a pup tent.
These were my late "high school" days around 1963 and the "Voice of Moscow" was spouting the "10 year plan" and the danger of "Imperialist America". Cuba was a mirror image and a LOT of Shortwave broadcasts were political soundboards and nothing more.
Those were the days....
Today, I've thought it rather bizarre that the "Voice of America" doesn't broadcast to America. And if I'm not mistaken, the armed forces radio only uses the SSB mode. I've thought short wave radio to be perfect medium to share and exchange hopes and aspirations with other parts of the world. I like hearing about others lives and the countries where they live.
The radio that Ralph gave me "peaked" an interest in Morse code for me. Although I wasn't active in the Boy Scouts until the early 80's (I was a heavy equipment mechanic at the time), I learned Morse Code from the handbook.
In the Navy, during the late 60's, I was able to "read" the searchlights on other ships in the fleet. It was a 'natural' for me and I transferred to the signal bridge.
I've recently joined a SWL group on the web with the hopes of finding some of those rare stations on the air again. I use my ICOM 703 for the "serious stuff" but my most used SWL receivers now are a few "Grundig" shirt pocket rigs I use when traveling. They're pretty simple but with the satellite feeds, they get the job done.
My favorites are Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.


pidloop said...

My first radio was the Knight Kit Star Roamer, a 4 tube superhet design. AM only but I made a BFO for listening to the hams and replaced the tuning knob with a vernier dial. This was in the late 60s when I was in high school.

My first real ham rig after getting my license in 1974 was the Heath SB104, their first rig with a solid state final. I blew the finals out twice from my improvised wire antennas and finally took it back in person to their HQ in Benton Harbor MI. They gave me a red carpet tour of the factory while they added a mod for protecting those finals. It worked fine every since. I no longer have either radio, wish I did. RIP Heathkit, I miss you.

Jspiker said...

Heathkit made some great stuff and I even owned one along with a Drake reciever at one time. Great stuff....honestly, it worked better that the majority of the new "solid state" gear now.

Not much for camping or traveling tho....

You were VERY fortunate to tour the factory!

pidloop said...

Since your reply mentioned my Heathkit tour, I thought I would share a bit more. I lived in Cedar Rapids, IA at the time. Being a young kid it was no big deal to drive 500 miles to the east side of Lake Superior over night and stay up the next day. When I arrived, they apologized for my rig problems and took me straight to the tech repair area. They put the rig on a bench and said they already had a plan to make it more robust with bad SWR. I told them I was an EE student at Purdue so the first stop was to meet a few of their senior EEs who offered many words of encouragement. Then to the assembly line where they were filling orders. I discovered they used high precision scales to weigh component bags as a final check that the contents were likely correct. After a while they took me back to my rig. A tech invited me to tune the rig at full power into a dummy load. Then he disconnected the load, while still fully powered and handed me a screw driver and instructed me to short the output. The rig shut down gracefully under both these open and shorted conditions. They carried it to my car (a 1968 VW beetle) and I drove back home, never sleeping the entire time. No money exchanged hands.