The Magic of Radio is Alive and Well

Transistor radio on desk by photo and plant.
Remember your first transistor radio? (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, my dad gave me my first little transistor radio. Of course, back then it only picked up AM stations and those that it was able to receive still had plenty of static. But I loved listening to it as Dad worked on the car outside or I played in the yard or hid out in my treehouse. Those were much simpler times, and although technology has come a long way, in some aspects, I find that I yearn for those easy days, particularly now that we’re in the pandemic and suffer from media overload.

Recently I was given a new radio that was just like the one I had back then, except that this model is black and the old one was silver. But upon opening the package, I was instantly transported back in time. This model doesn’t work with a charger. There is no lightning jack in it to hook it into a USB port. Just like with the old model, I have to put two AA batteries in the back, raise the antenna, and roll the tuner to find my favorite station. There is still something so simple and enjoyable about scrolling across the dial, picking up snippets of news talk, jazz, and rock and roll classics. In fact, even I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

This model, although the same size as the one I had in the good old days, has some new conveniences though. First, the speaker is larger and the sound is awesome! I had it on in the house and my wife said she could hear it out at the street as if she was standing right beside me. Also, the broadcast comes in clear as a bell, something that rarely happened growing up. This new version also has a headphone jack, and best of all, picks up FM stations too, something I only dreamed about as a kid and used to think was so high tech!

As I listened to Lionel Richie sing “Say You, Say Me” and Tina Turner ask “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” I thought that although the first transistor radio appeared on the market way back in 1954, it has never truly lost its relevance. After all, what else would you reach for when the power goes out, cell service is down and the internet crashes? This little radio is still perfect for an emergency go-bag for when you have to listen to the radio to get weather announcements.

But radio is also great for when you want to intentionally unplug. Just take it to the park one afternoon. Leave your phone in the car, lay on the grass, stare at the sky, and chill out with your favorite music. Or pretend that you’re at the game, using your imagination to watch the action in your mind’s eye.

Young people are missing out. If only they would give radio a chance, turn off the video games, and check out the wide world through the eyes of their local on-air personality. There’s still so much fun they can have with what is now considered such a basic service. They can learn about the news. Start an impromptu dance party. Find out if rain is on its way. Or discover a new best friend in a beloved radio DJ.

In fact, I challenge all of you to pick a day during the pandemic and do just that. It may surprise you how joyful it is, how soul soothing it can be, to connect to the world over the airwaves. Doing so takes me back decades, to fond memories of life pre-COVID, of lazy afternoons spent with my friend Monica in the early 80s, laying on the lawn listening to music and talking for hours.

Later, when I went to college, I became one of the DJs I used to listen to so raptly, spending hours in the tiny studio in Mary Emery Hall at the University of Cincinnati. And ultimately, radio even launched my career, where I worked with so many others who had a passion for the platform and used their show’s time slot as their own personal soapbox, connecting to audiences on such an intimate level.

So I’m grateful I was given that little radio the other day. It may seem like a virtual antique, but it is still vibrant and relevant, as full of wonder and possibilities and laughter and fun as it ever was. In so many ways, the magic of radio is still very much alive and well. All we have to do is tune in and listen.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: