Zenith Trans-Oceanic H-500
Zenith Trans-Oceanics

Realistic DX-440
(alias Sangean ATS-803A)

Grundig Satellit 700

Hallicrafters S-120
Hallicrafters "boat anchors"
When I was about 12, a friend showed me his dad's shortwave radio. It was a Zenith Trans-Oceanic, a big portable radio of about 1950 vintage. "Portable" if you were a weightlifter, that is! I was enthralled by the stations from around the world that we could pick up on this radio. The Voice of America. Radio Moscow. Radio Nederland. Deutsche Welle. Radio RSA from South Africa. WNYW, Radio New York Worldwide. The time signal from WWV, Fort Collins, Colorado. And of course the BBC...

Listening to shortwave felt to me then-- it still feels to me today-- like entering some strange new dimension, like connecting with some alternate level of reality.

My Grundig Satellit 700 I got a shortwave radio of my own that Christmas. It was out of some Sears or Monkey Ward catalog, and it served me for many years. Then in the early Nineties my brother gave me a Realistic DX-440. And a few years later I got a Grundig Satellit 700, which is still my "main" shortwave radio today. More recently I walked into a second-hand store, and stumbled upon a working Hallicrafters S-120 for only $15.

My shortwave listening post today is in an upstairs room in my house, high atop Wheatland Ridge. There's nothing quite like listening to Radio Tezulutlán, on 4835 kilocycles in the 60 meter band, from Cobán, Guatemala. Or one of the hundreds of other shortwave stations you can receive when the time and propagation conditions are right.

Along with shortwave, I also have an interest in mediumwave (AM) radio. I remember sitting there in a darkened room on winter nights as a boy, listening to an old bakelite Stewart-Warner tube radio, and pulling in KOA 850 Denver, WBZ 1030 Boston, WWL 870 New Orleans, CFCN 1060 Calgary, and dozens of stations in between.

And I've always regretted that, in this part of the world, we don't have broadcast stations on longwave...