The magic of shortwave radio

My uncle, Jack, introduced me to shortwave radio listening.  Whenever he visited my grandparents (his parents), who lived in the same city as my parents and me, he invariably brought one of his shortwave radios with him.  These radios were not portable affairs.  They were vacuum tube-filled, steel-encased “boat anchors” that, when connected to any convenient, uncoiled hank of wire, came to life with exotic sounds from all over the world.  When I first witnessed this, at about the age of eight, I thought it was the greatest feat of magic I had ever seen.  Even after my uncle explained antenna resonance to me, and that shortwave radio waves were in just the right frequency range (3–30 MHz) to allow them to “bounce” back and forth between the ionosphere and the earth’s surface, and thus travel with the curvature of the earth, the effect remained magical to me (as it still does).  And the most mysterious part, to me, was the receiving antenna.  As soon as my uncle left me alone with the radio, I thought to myself: This simple wire is – right this instant – resonating with a transmitting antenna thousands of miles away.  And it is not only resonating with one transmitter, but with all such transmitters, at the same time.  I put my fingertips, ever so gently, on the bare wire.  Surely, if I concentrated all of my attention on my fingertips, and what they could feel through the wire, I’d be able to sense these vibrations.  But no, I could feel nothing at all.  The effect was extrasensory.

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One Response to The magic of shortwave radio

  1. Pingback: My Uncle Jack’s letter to me when I was very young | Extravagant Creation

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