Tuesday 2 November 2010

Radio Websites November 2010, first published in Radio User, PW Publishing

First published in Radio User, PW Publishing www.radiouser.co.uk/

Chrissy Brand looks at websites with a radio connection. This month she picks a selection of sites bringing radio personalities and hardware from the past to a 21st century audience, along with some innovative uses of Morse code and an homage to Bakelite.

Reliving yesterday today

We start off this time with thoughts on a project for you on these long autumn evenings. Why not go back to days of yore and construct a valve wireless? The following website might inspire you: http://www.classaxe.com/wireless/data/demo/  There are some beautiful animations of a valve radio’s workings and a radio dial, compete with World War II news bulletin from Alvar Liddell. This is a fine example of taking web technology and using it to recreate some history and maybe spark some interest amongst younger generations too.

If the mention of Alvar Liddell has got you reminiscing, then there are many references to him online. A gallery of famous voices can be matched to faces at the Whirligig website, specifically at: www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/radio/announcers.htm  Look closely for the link to an interesting potted biography by Alvar’s son.

There are all sorts of unusual recordings at the You Tube channel of one Atlantic 1952. Amongst the less esoteric are Alvar Liddell reading the news of King Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936, with a period Phillips radio providing the images. There is also coverage of a 1938 McMichael 386 radiogram being put through its paces. It cost £21 when new and the woods used include walnut, sycamore and macassa ebony. Lovingly restored a few years ago and now on show to the world: http://www.youtube.com/user/atlantic1952  

Back to the construction of a valve wireless, and the Old at heart website tells a nice story of a grandfather and grandchild talking of this: http://www.oldatheart.co.uk/one-valve.html The entre website is written in a similar tone, with grandfather showing junior all manner of domestic gadgets from eras past, with the occasional photos to click on to illustrate the point. Vintage telephones, pianola, tape decks, and early computers are included: http://www.oldatheart.co.uk/  

A blog I recently found is packed full of interesting radio observations and notes. The Radio Time traveller blog is by an inhabitant of Avon, in New York state, at: http://radio-timetraveller.blogspot.com/  It’s a blog “about radio and radio DXing, antennas, opinions, reviews - basically all things concerning radio. My particular emphasis is mediumwave and mediumwave DXing. I hope to bring some interesting articles, ideas, and facts to these pages, not just dry reception reports.” There are plenty of reviews of radio magazines from days gone by as well.

Somerset sounds

One of the places I visited during the summer whilst passing through Somerset was the Bakelite Museum at Orchard Mill in Williton. Situated off the beaten track in a large old barn, it has a handy tea shop next door and also a 17th century water mill. Pop your entrance fee in the honesty box and wander amongst the hundreds, if not thousands, of Bakelite items, from cups to coffins, - I kid you not (they didn’t catch on due to Bakelites’ high heat resistant properties!), and of course a fine selection of Bakelite televisions and radios (more on these later). Sadly the museum website appears to be redundant but there are plenty of excellent reviews of it elsewhere. My favourite is at the “Nothing to see here” website: http://www.nothingtoseehere.net/ specifically at the entry for April 2008: http://www.nothingtoseehere.net/2008/04/the_bakelite_museum_williton_1.html  

This website suggests all kinds of intriguing places to visit that are overlooked by the masses and the tourist boards. Run by Anne, the site links up with her Flickr (the photo posting and sharing website) page. A lovely set of photos of the contents of the museum: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilike/sets/72157604637390716/  

An easier way is to click to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilike/  This is the home page of photographer Anne’s “I like” Flickr page, with dozens of exciting folders to peruse. These contain photos of jukeboxes, and visits to caf├ęs and classic museums amongst many others (e.g. The Laurel and Hardy museum in Cumbria and the Radar museum at RAF Neatishead).

Of the Bakelite museum Anne writes “…Stepping in the door is like walking into a 1950s home. There are cookers, toasters, washing machines, and irons interspersed with smaller items like banks, clocks and egg cups. It is bright and resilient, in the spirit of the times. If the museum had ended here I would have gone home happy, but there's more. Next, a room of televisions, gramophones, radios and telephones is like a mini Design Museum. Plus a colourful display of elegant bowls and vases made from Bandalasta (also known as LingaLonga), a coloured, marbled variation of Bakelite which first saw light in 1925…”

Still in Somerset and just a couple of miles from the Willliton Bakelite museum is the Washford Radio Museum, It has an exhibition of vintage radios at Tropiquaria zoo, in the old transmitter hall of the BBC's Washford transmitting station: http://www.wirelessmuseum.org.uk/  

Going Dutch

Jonathan Marks maintains the Radio Netherlands Media Network archive vault: http://www.jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/  I have mentioned it before and it is such a great resource I am sure I shall be pointing you to its many riches again in the future. 

My current favourite is a vintage Media Network show from 1998 about Bakelite. Jonathan comments that “Bakelite was an early form of plastic which brought radio to the people. When radios were first manufactured in the first twenty years of last century, they looked more like an experiment in a physics laboratory than something which was designed to entertain. Then some firms started using a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin for their cases, formed from an elimination reaction of phenol with formaldehyde, usually with a wood flour filler. It was developed in 1907–1909 by Belgian chemist Dr. Leo Baekeland.” To find this show amongst the many gems at the site, go to the entry for 15 September. Other uploads include Cuban clandestine stations and a 1986 slide show about European and Asian radio.

If you fancy an autumnal weekend away then Amsterdam is always a lively culturally charged city. And if you time it well you could take in the annual Radio Day. On Saturday 13 November the 33rd Radio Day is being held from 1100 to 1700 (central European time) at the New Hotel Casa 400, Eerste Ringdijkstraat 4, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Considered a must for offshore radio experts and enthusiasts, it usually has about 350 people attending. Topics for 2010 include a Radio 390 reunion, 40 years of Radio North Sea International, Radio Mi Amigo and many well known personalities from these famous offshore stations. See: http://www.radioday.nl/  


The rather odd sounding Promo machine website is one of many price comparison websites, although t is quite different from most of its rivals: http://blog.promomachine.co.uk/

Take the following section on half a dozen unique new uses of Morse code for instance, at: http://blog.promomachine.co.uk/morse-code/

It may provide you with some early ideas for your Christmas present list. Starting with a wrist watch, which at the press of a button, will relay the current time by way of Morse code through an in-built speaker. More on it at: http://www.tokyoflash.com/en/  

Also a Morse code blanket, complete with coded messages; a Morse keyboard which fits into the USB on your computer; a Morse RSS reader “A beautiful telegraph sounder that, when connected to a computer, can cleverly, but pointlessly, clack out any chosen RSS feed in Morse code.”; a Morse leather arm guard, and, last but less practical than you might think, a Morse code clock.

Finally this month I guide you, tongue in cheek, to the last page of the internet at: http://www.wwwdotcom.com/  

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