Sunday, September 4, 2011

40 Years of Radio

September 3rd brought forth some fond memories for me. It stands out in my mind because of the evening of September 3rd, 1971. I received my first radio, a Heathkit GR-81, Christmas 1970. My first logbook entries are from January 9th, 1971, since it took us a while to build, especially considering that the band "A" coil we got with the kit was defective.

For many months, I used the GR-81 with nothing more than a bit of magnet wire wound around my attic bedroom. This worked, but it wasn't very effective. I listened to some local AM stations, and a few shortwave stations. The GR-81 wasn't very sensitive on band "D", where most of the shortwave broadcast bands are, so I concentrated on broadcast band DXing.

With the summer ending and school about to start, I managed to take a trip to the electronics store and buy some wire. I believe at that time, I bought a 25 foot spool of very small speaker cord and completely unzipped it. In my youthful frugalness, I had computed that this resulted in a cheaper acquisition of 50 feet of wire than buying a 50 foot spool outright.

That 50 feet of wire went out the window of my attic bedroom, across the roof of the garage, and was anchored to a climbable tree on the other side of the yard. In retrospect, it couldn't have been horribly effective -- it was too low to the ground, being only 10-15 feet high for most of it's length.

However, it was outdoors -- this being my first outdoor antenna. The results were pretty dramatic, compared with the indoor magnet wire. That evening, I started at the top end of the AM broadcast band (band "B" on the old GR-81), and worked my way toward the bottom. I must have logged about 40 different stations, many of them new.

This experience made an impression on me. For the next several years, I always attempted to do this AM "countdown" around labor day weekend. In addition to signaling the start of the school year, it was also the start of the radio season.

It's hard to believe it's been 40 years. I still have that radio, and it's still in good working condition. And somewhere in my files I have that first logbook.

1 comment:

  1. You're going to force me to drag out my first logbook, too. I believe I was using the second floor bedroom when Uncle Frank gave me the Radio Shack Globe Patrol regenerative receiver(Christmas 1969). I believe my initial antenna ran out the window (beside the air conditioner) and to a tree in the back yard. Like Bill's, it was probably not that great. Better was when Hank (a friend two doors down the street) and I strung a pair of wires between our houses (I'm not sure if the neighbor in between ever noticed) to use as an intercom. When it wasn't in use as an intercom (or being used by Hank to eavesdrop on our dinner table conversations (which, with parents with a PhD and a Masters, and 3 fairly scientifically-oriented kids, could get at times fairly esoteric)), I used it for an antenna. Not much higher than Bill's, but definitely a long wire.