Technically, I suppose, I haven't been "thrifting." That is, I've just been buying junk online at eBay and Goodwill, not visiting thrift stores.

Visiting thrift stores would probably be the wiser thing to do, online auction sites make it far too easy to surface other products than the particular one you're looking for. The good news is that items under auction often give you some time to think it over. That has saved me some money.

This most recent adventure was prompted by another semi-unicorn, the GE 2880B am/fm radio, later dubbed the "Superadio" (Yes, one "r.").

There are three variants, but only the first two are considered genuinely "super." There's a gent in North Carolina who will restore these radios, and make some upgrades. I've been in correspondence with him about the service. It's not inexpensive, but these radios are kind of unique in terms of the history of consumer portable radios, perhaps representing their finest expression in terms of receiver sensitivity and audio quality, albeit they are not stereo radios.

As luck would have it, two specimens were up at at roughly the same time, auctions ending a day apart on Monday and Tuesday. Monday's was a Superadio I, which wasn't badged as a Superradio, as the subsequent models were. There was a sticker applied by GE at some point, labeling it a "Superadio," so most people consider it officially a "Superadio." The biggest differences between the I and the II are the addition of a tweeter in the II, chromed plastic controls and "Superadio" on the cabinet badge.

There are even two versions of the I, the earliest lacking external antenna connections and having no chrome on the any of the controls. The 2880B has chromed band and afc switches, while the originals were just gray plastic.

I'd recently been sniped on something I'd bid on, and this radio appeared in better shape than anything reasonable currently on eBay, so I waited until just before the auction closed and went in with the highest amount I was willing to pay. Turned out to be enough, because I won the auction for $25.00, significantly less than I anticipated! Shipping on this listing was reasonable, so the whole thing came in under $40.

Since I got it for less than half I was willing to pay, I figured I'd take a shot at the SR II as well. Looked to be in similar cosmetic condition. Neither listing showed the internals of the battery compartment, so there could be an unwelcome surprise on delivery, but both were supposedly "working."

Got the SR II for $22.00! But it was listed with a little Jensen handheld so shipping was more and "handling," but the whole package came in under $50.

Once I have both radios in hand, I'll have to decide which one to have refurbished first. I plan to do both, but I'll give my wallet a chance to catch its breath after I do one of them. The service is more than both radios cost altogether. But it's a technically skilled effort, and by all accounts it's a first-class job, so I think it's worth it.

Once refurbished, these radios should continue to perform well past my lifetime. Assuming anyone is still broadcasting analog signals by then, which is a serious question these days.

Goodwill stores vary in the promptness of their shipping, so it's uncertain when I'll see these. Hopefully I'll have them in hand by the end of the month.

In other old tech news, Adel, the gent re-capping my Panasonic RF-2200, received the radio and sent me photos and videos of the results of the work. It's been shipped back and should be delivered tomorrow. Looking forward to tuning around with it, and later comparing it with one or both of the GEs.

There is some discussion about the future of AM radio, as I suppose there has been for quite some time. What's driving the current theme is the desire of car makers to omit AM radios from new car models, claiming it's too hard to filter electronic interference from the EV powertrain. It's a bogus claim, and likely just a cost-cutting measure.

But what is the utility of AM radio today? Well, in New Zealand, apparently it was one of the only ways the government could get any information out following a recent typhoon, with internet service being down in many remote areas. In an era of increasing extreme weather events, AM radio may be one of the most reliable forms of long-range, broadcast media.

But will analog "amplitude modulation" survive? There are technologies to make medium wave frequency radio (the AM band) all digital. If that were to come to fruition, analog AM radio would go the way of broadcast analog television, and there'd be nothing on the "air" these old radios could decode in the medium wave band. And I suppose it's likely FM would eventually follow suit, if there were some government incentive or mandate to convert AM to digital.

For now though, as an old fart, it's kind of rewarding to obtain and enjoy these examples of old high-end technology, and give them a few, perhaps fewer than we think, more years of useful life.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:55 Wednesday, 15 March 2023