Reviewed by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator for International Relations, Adventist World Radio, and broadcast in "Wavescan" on November 30, 2008. Presented here with permission. This review also appears in the Danish Short Wave Club International "DX-Window" and the New Zealand Radio DX League "New Zealand DX Times."
Radio Trilogy - Jerry Berg's Radio Books
At this time of the year, it is traditional to expect the release of annual publications that carry the date for the coming New Year. In the international radio world, we look forward with keen anticipation to the availability at the end of each year of both Passport to World Band Radio and the World Radio TV Handbook, both of which are essential for all serious international radio monitors. The 2009 edition of the World Radio TV Handbook is due out within a couple of weeks, and the 2009 edition of Passport to World Band Radio is already available.
However, this year all international radio monitors, DXers and shortwave listeners alike can celebrate with the availability of two additional radio publications of significant interest. You will remember that the noted radio historian, Jerome S. Berg in suburban Boston, wrote a remarkable book a while back, under the title, On the Short Waves, 1923-1945, and this was published by McFarland & Company of North Carolina in 1999. This same publishing company has just released two additional companion volumes of subsequent radio history, researched and written, again by Jerome Berg.
Volume 1: On the Short Waves 1923-1945
Now, this first volume in this trilogy of radio compendiums contains the collective history of shortwave broadcasting and shortwave listening from the very earliest beginnings in 1923 up until the end of World War II in 1945. In a flowing readable style, Jerry Berg presents the early events together with many interesting anecdotes about the early wireless pioneers and inventors. Prominent during this introductory era in radio broadcasting was station KDKA in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, with its primitive mediumwave transmitter and its associated shortwave unit, W8XK.
Shortwave broadcasting escalated during the 1930s with the proliferation of many stations located in many different countries throughout the world. Noteworthy during this era was station PCJ in Holland with its international broadcast service to the United States and the Dutch colonies in islandic Asia. Another legendary performer during this era was the British experimental station G5SW, as the early forerunner of the BBC World Service. The world's first Gospel shortwave station was HCJB, located near Quito in Ecuador, South America. This station aired its initial program broadcast on Christmas Day in the year 1931.
Among the prominent shortwave stations down under during the prewar era were the three AWA stations with similar callsigns, VK2ME, VK3ME and VK6ME. These transmitters carried somewhat similar programming, each produced locally, and they were located near the state capitals, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Other notable stations in the Southern Hemisphere were VPD2 located in the exotic Fiji Islands, and the two ship broadcasting stations, the Australian "Kanimbla" with the callsign VK9MI and the New Zealander "Awatea" with the callsign ZMBJ.
One entire chapter in Jerry Berg's first book covers the shortwave radio scene in the United States, with the story of each of the nostalgic stations of the era. You can read about the early shortwave stations established by the major electronics companies, such as General Electric, NBC, Crosley and Westinghouse. These stations were on the air under the now almost forgotten callsigns, such as W6XBE, W3XAL, W8XAL, and again, W8XK.
Another complete chapter tells the story of the origin of the now highly popular QSL card. Originally, "QSL Cards" were what we would now call "Reception Report Cards." The early "Applause Cards" also featured prominently in the development of "QSL Cards" as issued these days by radio stations as a confirmation of listener reception.
The final major area in Book 1 of this radio trilogy presents the worldwide story of international radio broadcasting during World War II. Featured in this section are the radio happenings in Germany, England, Japan and the United States. Also given is a report on the monitoring of enemy shortwave stations and their broadcasts of Prisoner of War information.
This initial volume is profusely illustrated with many exotic QSL cards from major and minor shortwave stations on all continents, including the German station at Zeesen, the Cuban station COCQ, the "Australia Calling" VLG, FO8AA in Tahiti, VE9GW in Bowmanville, Ontario Canada, and SEAC in Colombo, Ceylon. Other illustrations feature "Applause Cards," station schedules, logs, and photographs.
Volume 2: Listening on the Short Waves, 1945 to Today
The second volume in this trilogy by Jerome Berg in suburban Boston is published, again by McFarland & Company in North Carolina, and it is issued under the title, Listening on the Shortwaves, 1945 to Today. In this more than 400 page book, Jerry Berg continues on from where he left off in his 271 page first volume. The year was 1945 and World War II was finally ended.
Volume 2 begins with an updated summary of the early years, and then it progresses into an analysis of the shortwave audience during the early postwar era. Who was listening to the broadcast programming from the international shortwave stations anyway? Station popularity polls, professional surveys, and memberships in shortwave radio clubs did at least give some idea of the widespread usage of shortwave broadcasting as a reliable medium of international radio coverage.
One entire chapter presents an outline history of the radio clubs, large and small, that were functioning half a century ago. In addition to the multitude of radio clubs located in the United States, there is also an alphabetic listing giving an outline history of radio clubs that have functioned elsewhere throughout the world, including Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka.
Back in those days, there was not such a proliferation of reliable information about the shortwave stations located around the world as we have today, and the exchange of club magazines containing uptodate monitoring observations at least partly filled that void. Among the official sources were the American Broadcasting Stations of the World produced by FBIS, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, and bulletins issued by the BBC Monitoring Service.
Several of the popular radio magazines, such as Radio & TV News, Popular Electronics and Elementary Electronics also contained DX columns prepared by well known and experienced international radio monitors. And, of course, we should also mention the World Radio TV Handbook from 1947, and Passport to World Band Radio from 1984.
Another chapter tells the story of the world's top DX programs, and the first entry is for "DXers Calling" from Radio Australia, which was written by Ern Suffolk and launched in July 1946. Another authoritative DX program from this era was "Sweden Calling DXers," which was produced and broadcast worldwide by Arne Skoog in the English Service from Radio Sweden International. Then, of course, Radio Netherlands broadcast their "DX Juke Box" which became "Media Network;" HCJB broadcast their "DX Partyline;" and AWR was on the air with "Radio Monitors International."
In this volume you can also find out just which shortwave receivers were available back then, and just how well they performed. The various designs of the various receivers are demonstrated with a multitude of photographs showing the wide market availability back in the times of yesteryear.
The chapter and the illustrations depicting QSLing in the postwar years presents a variety of cards seldom seen anywhere in the world. Take, for example, the QSL card verifying the BBC relay station located at Leopoldville in West Africa, or the card from United Nations Radio in Switzerland, or the old card from EAQ in Spain, or the card from the German Service of the BBC London.
Yes indeed, Volume 2 in the Jerry Berg series, Listening on the Shortwaves, 1945 to Today, is a very interesting book. Whether you are old or young, an experienced shortwave listener or a newcomer to the art of international DXing, you will enjoy the stories and information presented in the printed text, and you will appreciate the copious illustrations that show in a detailed way what it was like to listen to international radio back in the era beginning with the middle of the last century.
Volume 3: Broadcasting on the Short Waves, 1945 to Today
The third volume in this trilogy by Jerome Berg in suburban Boston presents the history of shortwave broadcasting from the end of World War II right up to our day. This nearly 500 page volume, again printed by McFarland & Company in North Carolina, tells the story of the world's shortwave stations in a highly readable way, year by year from 1945 to 2008.
We go back to 1945. The war is ended, and the shortwave stations are melding back to a peace time format. The big networks, such as VOA, the Voice of America, the BBC London, Radio Moscow and Radio Canada International are all moving towards a peacetime format. Then too, the religious stations, such as HCJB, Quito, Ecuador, FEBC, Manila, and Vatican Radio are all making their voices heard through an evergrowing number of shortwave transmitters with an ever increasing power output.
In addition, there was a host of local shortwave stations in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, all of which are on the air for regional coverage to their own peoples. Okay, we now take a look at some of the interesting stations as shown progressively in Jerry Berg's third volume.
In 1945, "Australia Calling" became "Radio Australia," with its own stations VLA, VLB, VLC in Shepparton, Victoria, and the part-time usage of the ABC Home Service stations VLG, VLH, VLR, VLQ, and VLW.
In 1947, the 200-watt station ZNB in Mafeking, Bechuanaland was heard at times with a program relay from SABC in South Africa. I might add that their QSL card always fetches a high price when available for purchase on eBay.
In 1950, on July 4, actually, Radio Free Europe was launched from a 7-1/2 kW transmitter located at Lampertheim, south of Frankfurt in Germany.
In 1952, the Voice of America mobile relay station on board the US Coast Guard Cutter Courier began test broadcasts from Panama.
In 1953, the Voice of America commissioned a new shortwave station, co-located with the SLBC station at Ekala, near Colombo in Sri Lanka.
In 1957, Russia launched its Sputnik satellite. On board was a radio transmitter tuned to 20005 kHz which radiated a tone pulse. Interestingly, QSL cards, now highly prized, were issued verifying these space transmissions.
In 1959, a new commercial shortwave station was launched in Andorra, with 1 kW on 6305 kHz.
In 1961, Radio Tirana opened a new transmitter station at Shijak with two transmitters at 50 kW.
In 1962, the Voice of America closed three stations subsequent to the opening of their massive facility at Greenville, North Carolina. These three now-silent stations were WGEO, Schenectady, New York, WDSI, Wayne, New Jersey, and WDSI, Brentwood, Long Island.
In 1964, the Australian chronohertz station at Lyndhurst in Victoria began operation with 10 kW on 5.5, 7.5 and 12 MHz.
In 1967, station WNYW at Hatherly Beach in Massachusetts was destroyed by fire, and they took out a temporary relay via RCA at Rocky Point, Long Island and Brentwood, New Jersey. I would guess that QSL cards issued by WNYW for these two relay sites are quite rare.
In 1969, VOA, Hawaii, the old KRHO, was finally closed down, though the antennas remained standing for another thirty years.
In 1974, Radio Canada International began a relay from the Deutsche Welle station located at Cyclops on the island of Malta.
In 1977, the clandestine Radio Euzkadi closed down at the end of some thirty years of on-air programming.
In 1979, Adventist World Radio took out a series of test broadcasts from Radio Andorra on 6215 kHz.
In 1983, VOA, Dixon in California, which had been closed for four years, was re-activated for coverage into Latin America.
In 1988, the new BBC shortwave station in the Seychelles Islands was opened, under the identification "BBC Indian Ocean Relay Station."
In 1991, Adventist World Radio in Costa Rica bought the then-silent Radio Impacto, including the transmitter site at Cahuita on the Atlantic Coast.
In 1994, the VOA station at Bethany in Ohio was closed, and the main transmitter building has since been turned into a radio museum.
In 1997, HCJB in Quito, Ecuador announced that it would be necessary to close their shortwave facility at Pifo and to rebuild at another location, due to the nearby construction of a new airport.
In 2003, the FEBA, Seychelles transmitter facility located at Mahe was closed, and as a replacement they took out relays over leased shortwave facilities.
In 2004, Radio Miami International, WRMI, in Miami Florida began a satellite program relay from the World Radio Network.
In 2008, World Christian Broadcasting commenced work on a new shortwave station located on the island of Madagascar. WCB already operates the shortwave station KNLS in Alaska.
And 2008 is where we leave Jerome Berg and his trilogy of remarkable volumes that trace the history of shortwave broadcasting and listening over the past eighty five years. All three books make fascinating reading, and the illustrations in each form a unique pictorial panorama of the history of shortwave radio broadcasting from the very beginning right up to our modern era of 2008.
These three books, published by McFarland & Company at Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640, are a must for all who are in anyway interested in the lengthy and remarkable history of international radio broadcasting. I would recommend also that all three volumes ought to be placed in the student libraries of all colleges and universities throughout the world, where students are receiving an education in mass media, particularly in the area of radio broadcasting. You can see more about these three milestone volumes at www.mcfarlandpub.com, and their phone number is 800-253-2187.