The lure of snagging distant short wave signals from the other side of the globe has been a part of radio listening from the earliest days. As receiver and battery technologies improved, radios became portable, meaning DXers were no longer confined to listening in their basement or attic radio shacks.
The Zenith Trans-Oceanic line of portable short wave receivers was the Cadillac of the industry from their introduction in 1942 until production ceased in the early 1980s. They were the brainchild of Zenith's founder, Commander Eugene F. McDonald. He was an avid outdoorsman and yachtsman, who wanted to listen to weather, marine and international broadcasts where ever he went. He challenged his engineers to build such a radio, and by 1940, they had a working prototype. The first model, the 7G605 'Trans Ocean Clipper' was released in January of 1942.
The Trans Oceanic remained the company's flagship radio product for the next four decades, always incorporating the latest advances in receiver technology. Zenith used its best design engineers and assembly workers on the Trans Oceanic, and all but one production run of the last model were assembled in one of Zenith's Chicago plants.
This installment of Found in the Attic examines the 'Royal 1000', the first solid state TransOceanic, introduced in 1957.
Transistors were a novelty in consumer equipment at this time, and public acceptance of the solid state gear was still a bit iffy. For that reason, Zenith continued to sell tube-type TransOceanics, in particular, the B600, up till 1962. The price difference between solid state and tube models was also a restraining force to public acceptance. The 'Royal 1000' sold for around $275, while a B600 cost around $140.
The frequency coverage is typical of short wave receivers of that era – from 550 Khz to 22 Mhz. A later model, the 1000D also had a longwave band. FM and VHF weather band coverage came with the Royal 7000 models.
In addition to the smaller footprint of transistors, other design changes were implemented to shrink the size of solid state TransOceanics. Most notable was the dial. Instead of the standard slide rule dial with push button selectors, there was a rotary dial which displayed one band at a time. Rotating the dial also rotated the bandswitch, a much smaller and simpler arrangement. A spring-loaded slide switch turns on the dial lights, two 1.5-volt flashlight bulbs inside the dial.
The Wavemagnet in this model was no longer a loop antenna, but rather a ferrite loopstick, trading off a bit of sensitivity for smaller size. It could still be removed from the receiver and attached to flat surfaces with suction cups. The rubber suction cups on Wavemagnets do not age well however. After 40 years or more, they becomes brittle and break easily.
The Radiorgan tone switches from older units have been replaced with a conventional tone control as well. But the cleverest space-reduction measure on the 'Royal 1000' was the Waverod telescoping antenna. It's built into the carrying handle. A button releases one side of the handle, which folds up so the antenna can be extended.
Smaller and lighter are relative terms, and while the 'Royal 1000' is more diminutive than its predecessors, there is still a bit of weight. Much of that comes from the nine D cells (eight to power the radio, one for the dial light) mounted on the back cover.
The complete redesign of the electronics for the TransOceanic also mandated an exterior makeover. The smaller size meant the 'suitcase radio' look was out. In its place was a sleek, futuristic chrome and black leather enclosure. The front cover hinges down, and has a world map and 24-hour time zone calculator printed on it, as well as a slot for the instruction manual. This front cover as it turns out, is often in the way. On later models, it was designed to hinge down and then slide under the radio, making for a smaller footprint in close quarters.
No discussion of short wave radios is complete without mentioning the state of international broadcasting or the DXing hobby. The economic crisis that has plagued Europe in recent years, combined with the advent of streaming media, has caused many government broadcasters to shut down their short wave operations. There is less diversity of programming than there once was, although still many stations to listen to. Voice of Vietnam, Radio Cairo, China Radio International, Radio Romania International and Radio Havana all have regular broadcasts to North America.
Dxing remains a popular hobby, although more so in developing nations where DX clubs are still popular. While the popular Passport to World Band Radio has ceased publication, there are still online guides to what is being broadcast, such as Prime Time Shortwave, EiBe, and ADDX. (Click on the Horfahrplane link and select English).
This TransOceanic was never actually 'found in the attic'. It was a gift from a neighbor who was cleaning out his basement. After decades in a damp environment, it was covered with dirt and mildew. It didn't help that the batteries had been left in it, either. The only thing missing from the set was the instruction book, which once slid inside the front cover.
An extensive cleanup was in order. Surprisingly, it worked the first time it was powered up with an external 9-volt supply. After replacing electrolytics, cleaning all switch contacts and volume pots and a quick alignment, it worked even better. Special attention was given to the battery compartment, where a few contacts had to be fabricated from scratch. Yet to be completed is replacement of the dial lights. They are cool for nighttime listening, but very tedious to access.
This 'Royal 1000' has a permanent home in the breakfast nook, where it used for morning Dxing, especially Radio Australia's 'Asia Pacific' program, which airs on 31 meters.