Before Television

What did you do before television dad? How many of you have been asked this question by the younger generations? Here’s what I’ve done all my life, and still do. I listen to the world via short wave radio.

I started when I was a highly inquisitive seven year old using the family radio. Philips Radio The tuning was so hit and miss on these old sets that if you sneezed or coughed while you were carefully moving the tuning knob a millimetre at a time while daring not to breath, you could lose the station you had been trying to tune in altogether.

If your father loved short wave like you, and was any good with his hands, he would have made a long wire aerial Longwire out of bare copper wire and a couple of insulators, the longer, the better, and suspended it between the house and a tree in your garden with a wire back to the house which he had then connected to the old radio’s aerial socket. Or if he was feeling a bit more adventurous, he may even have constructed a dipole. Dipole

All aerials have their shortcomings. I’ve tried out dozens of designs over the years.


Probably one of the more successful is the Loop. This is an aerial that could have been designed by Heath Robinson. It’s so darned easy to make. Simply construct a cross out of plywood, with each arm the same length – two foot is about right. Mount it on a sturdy base so that it can swivel, or use a hook as in the illustration. Then begin winding wire around it so you end up with what looks like anywhere between nine to twelve loops. Secure the ends of the looped wire to two terminals. Then all you have to do is connect it to the aerial socket on your radio. The beauty of this super simple design is that you can tune it simply by turning the whole construction to get the maximum signal gain, unlike the long wire or the dipole.

My latest shortwave radio is the Sangean ATS 909. Sangean ats909I bought it over a decade ago.

Minolta DSC


Probably the best set I ever owned was the Yaesu Musen FRG7. Unlike the Sangean with its telescopic aerial, it isn’t portable. I see that Sangean have now brought out the ATS909X to supersede my old one. Will I be buying it? Only time will tell…

To someone of my generation, there is still something exotic about listening to radio broadcasts from other countries. Without a television screen before you, the mind takes over. You find yourself imagining what the people broadcasting may look like. You pick up clues about them from their unconscious speech inflections. If I was to suddenly go blind tomorrow I wouldn’t really miss the television. After all, I was born at a time when radio was still king. Listening to plays, comedy half-hours like the Goons and panel shows like Animal Vegetable and Mineral, or What’s My Line was what we did back in the fifties. Then when dad had gone to bed it was my time to listen to the world via shortwave until I fell asleep.


12 thoughts on “Before Television

  1. Radio Moscow is still well and alive as Voice of Russia World Service.

    China Radio International is another one determined to stay on shortwave etc. (due to China’s increasing interest in furthering its foreign policy goals).


  2. Hey Jack… We actually do not have a tele now.. We just sit around playing music!
    Talk about tuning into hippies… Oh BTW Im still an active HAM operator… I do however still have an Eddiestone… I must get it out for the kids to have a listen to.
    Catch u soon

    – Bruceeeee


    • It arrived this morning. Comparing it to my ten year old original ATS909 is like chalk and cheese. Sangean have made a lot of changes (for the better I might add). For a start unlike the original, it is not battery hungry. Plus, it has an inbuilt charger for Nicad rechargeables. The tuning system is also an improvement on the original, I’m pleased to say. 🙂


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