Rediscovering Radio

As the Coronavirus situation unfolded, it became clear to me that I needed to buy a new radio. It seemed strangely absurd to me that I had all this fancy ham radio equipment, but nothing to receive commercial AM/FM radio. Recently Handiham featured the Sangean PR-D17 talking radio especially designed for the blind. I know the brand so decided to buy one.

When it arrived I received the notification on my door, then shortly afterward the super-attendant knocked on my door.

“A package for you! You ordered a radio?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“Oh, it’s just the box.”

And he meant it. He handed me the box which held the radio - no outer box or other packaging of any kind. I opened it and took out the radio, then nervously washed my hands and cleaned it.

The radio itself has some positive points and a possible negative. It lives up to Sangean’s standards. It had no problem receiving all of the local AM and FM stations from my condo. I easily hooked it up to my stereo, and had no problem configuring it or setting the time manually or using RDS. The built-in speakers sound big and wonderful. It pleasantly surprised me that the radio has an Aux-In, so I could connect anything I want, such as a cell phone or even a ham radio. It takes 6 C-cell batteries, and I predict that this radio will spend some considerable time on the roof deck this summer.

I wanted to address one possible negative. The frequency reads every time you turn the tuning knob. Of course I would prefer smooth analog tuning, but I will put up with digital tuning on the commercial bands. Hearing the frequency at each step renders this far less useful. It takes away the experience of scanning through the dial. If a way exists to turn it off then I haven’t see nit. The manual made no mention.

In summary, average non-radio blind people will love this radio. You can easily scan through the dial and program in five presets for AM and FM. It sounds great and you can take it with you. More radio-oriented blind people will not like the constant readouts as you try to scan through the dial manually. Sighted people should probably choose one without the voice announcements altogether. Check out the PR-D17 for yourself!

Radio died sometime around 1992, and I have not really listened to terrestrial radio in about twenty-five years. I got it more to receive local information during an emergency. I quickly found WOGL 98.1 FM, and had a surreal experience listening to it again. While growing up I listened to WCAU 98.1. One day I woke up, and heard oldies. I thought my radio had broken, but the station identified itself as WOGL 98.1. My Mom explained that radio stations change formats, and read me an article in the newspaper about the change. That experience stayed with me.

Now time has passed and things have come full circle. WOGL plays the 80s music I grew up with. I made my own 80s playlist and prefer it, but listening to a local station gives a sense of community. They periodically give local news and weather. I just wish I’d hear more human voices during this time of social distancing. Automation has taken its toll. On the other hand, I enjoy knowing that others listen to the same song at this moment.