First Anniversary of Ultralight Radio Boom-- November 20

Gary DeBock

Hello Guys,
     With the Ultralight radio niche hobby now being enjoyed throughout North America, Europe and many other areas of the world, some enthusiasts may be curious how this whole craziness started.  It actually started on November 20, 2007 with some startling TP receptions on a humble SRF-59, but was fueled by some amazing coincidences that gave the movement a massive surge within just a month.
     On November 19, 2007, I was shopping for a Christmas present to give my son, Danny, an introduction to the joys of AM-DXing (which I experienced as a kid, with a transistor radio).  At the local Fred Meyer store, I picked out an analog Sony Walkman, the SRF-59, which looked a lot like the portables I used in the early 60's.  Upon returning home to ensure the radio worked properly, I gave it a quick test on AM and FM.  Everything worked OK--  but there was something very unusual about the AM performance.  A tiny, cheap transistor portable like this wasn't supposed to be receiving California stations around noontime here in western Washington, 500 miles to the north.  This SRF-59 was a real shocker!  Feeling somewhat guilty, I asked Danny if Daddy could get him another present instead of this one.  To my relief, he quickly agreed.
     The daytime DX on this SRF-59 was astonishing, but even more stunning was the complete freedom from image reception, and almost complete freedom from spurious signals.  On an $18 portable?  What was going on here?  Why hadn't anyone else in the AM-DXing hobby reported the outstanding performance of this tiny wonder?
     But the big shocker was yet to come.  Just after local midnight on November 20, a couple of Japanese TP stations (JOIB-747 and JOAK-594) made a decent appearance on this tiny SRF-59, completely transforming my casual AM-DXing attitude.  This was revolutionary!  Other AM-DXers had to experience this excitement.
     Upon getting up after reduced sleep (a common malady affecting TP chasers), I excitedly attempted to send a report of the new SRF-59's performance to the IRCA list reflector.  But probably due to lack of concentration, the email was sent to Colin Newell (of DXer.Ca) instead.  This "mistake" was actually one of the major reasons the Ultralight Radio boom got started, because Colin's support for the ULR concept (and his encouragement of a formal SRF-59 review) helped spread the Boom throughout North America.
     A formal SRF-59 review posted on DXer.Ca caused such a run on SRF-59's (in December) that even had trouble filling orders at times.  To show appreciation for Colin's support, various free SRF-59 samples were sent to Canadians, including one to Rob Ross, who used it to log over 300 stations in 30 days in January.  In early December, the SRF-59 Boom was in full swing, and pocket radio DXing was catching on like wildfire (with SRF-M37V's and DT-200VX units also popular).  Also in early December, Kevin Schanilec suggested that we designate a name for this new form of AM-DXing, and by consensus, Kevin's suggestion of "Ultralight Radio" was chosen.  By late December, the Boom was the talk of AM-DXing circles, and established DXer John Bryant was showing interest (along with many others).  A new AM-DXing phenomena had begun, which with John's organizational talents, became the established, exciting niche hobby that we enjoy today. Thanks to all who contributed, and "Happy Birthday" to all Ultralight Radio enthusiasts!
     73 and Best Wishes,
     Gary DeBock         

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