Or Yangon, rather.
The Panasonic RF-2200 arrived safely on Thursday afternoon. We were getting ready to have company, so I only spent a little time with it, but my initial impressions were favorable. I've since spent much of the morning yesterday, and part of the afternoon playing with it and I'm quite happy. I have yet to open the cabinet and look at the work, but I'll get to that.
"So what's up with the radios thing?" you may wonder.
Apart from being an old retired guy with too much time on his hands and more disposable income than sense?
Good question, perhaps.
It seems to me that I've been satisfying various itches from my youth or early adulthood, when I had less time and money.
I've been down this route now with cameras, the Apple II, calculators and now radios. And, leaving out cameras, that order is roughly the reverse chronological order of my youthful fascinations, though I bought my HP-41CV after I had my Apple ][+, I may even have been on to my //c (which came before my //e) at that point. But I did have a TI programmable at USNA, and used it to good effect. The camera interest, was first, when my parents got me a new Konica compact 35mm rangefinder for graduation, or my birthday or something.
I loved that little camera, and better cameras were more expensive, which largely squelched (Heh. A radio pun.) any interest in acquiring better cameras; and the cost of film and processing limited the amount of production I got out of that one. (Thankfully!) Mostly shot slides.
With regard to the calculators, I had one of the more "limited" TI programmables, 56, maybe? And I was comfortable with TI's algebraic order of operations. I had seen some HPs, and Reverse Polish Notation seemed like some sort of voodoo. It kind of scared me.
But the HP-41C (I bought a later model, the CV with built-in expanded memory) was getting a lot of hype about being the best programmable handheld on the market. As I recall, the TI-58 was its competitor, and I really had little use for a programmable of that power; but I was a young, single lieutenant on shore duty with disposable income, so I bought one to see what all the fuss was about. Still have it. (Along with an HP-41CX, and a host of other HPs, to include my most recent senseless acquisition, an HP-71b.)
What seems to be taking place is that I'm kind of resolving old questions or desires from faint echoes of fomo (fear of missing out). I acquire things I couldn't have when they were new, or didn't have for one reason or another, but wanted. I use them, learn about them, experience what it was like to own them, and then much of that desire is satisfied, and I can let them go.
I gave away thousands of dollars of Apple II hardware and software. Spending my children's inheritance, perhaps literally. I think the camera and lens thing has been largely satisfied. I may get the mZuiko 8-25mm zoom at some point; and if I won the lottery or something I'd probably get the 300mm/f4 and the 150-400mm, but for the most part, I'm satisfied with the lenses I have and could probably even stand to part with a few more. Photography has stuck with me as an interest. There's little new anymore in the technical developments to excite me. But I still enjoy taking pictures.
There's a box of HP calculators that are redundant to my "collection." I have plans to give that away soon. Mitzi's still on Facebook, so I'll ask her to join an HP interest group and find someone to take it off my hands.
What makes all this relevant to this rapidly growing missive is that I seem to be beginning to understand what's going on inside with all this. So I can foresee myself acquiring a bunch of radios and then having to dispose of them in some way. This growing realization has saved me some money already, though I still struggle a bit.
The heyday of shortwave radio listening is long past. There's little on there to listen to for entertainment or edification. What one appreciates today is the sensitivity of the radios and the changing dynamics of propagation conditions; and perhaps some satisfaction with trying different antenna designs or configurations. Similarly with medium wave, or more colloquially, AM radio.
In that regard, I seem to have made a fortunate choice in getting an RF-2200. It's an analog radio, there may be an IC in there somewhere, I confess that I'm not as intimately familiar with the design of the radio as I will be when this particular itch is scratched. But as an analog, consumer (today we'd probably say "pro-sumer") product, it is, like the GE Superadio, perhaps the highest expression of the art. Sony fanboys (and other manufacturers as well) will object about now, and that's fine. They're probably right; but in terms of the experience of using a radio of this era, this is about as good as it gets. Yes, it drifts a bit, but that's actually kind of fun.
I sat outside yesterday evening and listened to hams on the 20-meter band, using the radio's built-in whip antenna. It's definitely a finicky experience, but I could hear a guy in England, clear as day. Wasn't pegging the needle by any means, but intelligible.
And that was it. I could recall the feeling I had as a teen in my parents' basement, calling CQ on 80 meters in CW (Continuous wave, or "Morse code" for the totally uninitiated.), and the thrill of getting a reply from someplace far away. Most of my contacts ran north and south because of my antenna.
I don't know if that's nostalgia or something else, but it was fun experiencing that feeling again. I've listened to hams on my little DSP radios, but it wasn't the same experience. Superior in most ways, but didn't recall the experience of youth. And I have a zoom meet-up every weekend with Tinderbox users, many of them in Europe. There we all are. Seeing and hearing each other in remarkable fidelity! But it doesn't offer the kind of thrill that plucking a signal out of the ether from thousands of miles away in a little box attached to a little aerial does. Don't ask me why.
Back in the day, it wasn't exciting enough to keep me doing it on the regular. It was often cold in the basement, always damp. I did enjoy the hum of the radios, a separate Hammerlund receiver and I forget the brand of the crystal-controlled transmitter. The faint smell of ozone, I guess. But it was kind of like work. I probably spent as much time listening to hams on sideband, wishing I could just talk. You had to have your General Class license (or Technician if you just wanted to work VHF/UHF) to use single side band (SSB).
I eventually let the hobby go, much to the disappointment of my parents perhaps, who spent not inconsiderable sums of their limited income on my gear. Uncle Robert helped me get it at a hamfest, because there was no way we were were buying that stuff new. The only thing I still have is the code key.
Anyway, I've been looking at other radios of similar vintage, including the GE 7-2290a. My finger has hovered over the "Buy Now" button a few times. It's not unreasonable money, but then I'd have to ship it off to get re-capped. And in the end, I'd know what the experience would be like. Not superior to the RF-2200. Definitely looks cool, but I don't have a house where I can set up a display.
I've got a GE Superadio I and II inbound, a Sangean WR-11, which is just a tabletop radio but I like the design. I let the other Monarch RE-760 (the Godzilla radio) go, price was getting a little dear; but I may still keep an eye out for another one. (Writing that last sentence seemed to wither the desire even more, so, probably not.)
It's easier to get your license today, no code requirement. I live in an HOA so antennas are a challenge, and we have a small rf-unfriendly house, so no possibility of my own "shack." But mobile seems to be where most of the action is today. Small, low power radios, portable antennas. Thinking about it.
But I think I'm fortunate that I've learned a little bit about myself, such that I think I'm pretty much done buying radios. Going broke, thrifting. The RF-2200 is just about perfect for me. Small enough to not take up much space in the command cave. Good enough to want to actually use it. And it looks great.
I think the GEs will likewise be welcome here, though I may have trouble finding someplace to put them.
Here's a little video of most of the objects of my obsession. I have no interest in the C.Crane, likely a fine radio. But I have the RF-2200, and will have a Superadio I and II; and almost bought the 7-2290a.
Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:45 Saturday, 18 March 2023