Dispatches from Dayton

Sunset over the Dayton Amateur Radio Association in Huber Heights. Isn’t it romantic?

On Saturday, I learned that something in Southwestern Ohio hates me (besides Trump voters, hey-yo!).

Dayton Hamvention is held at the Greene County Fair Grounds in Xenia, Ohio, and a windstorm came up Saturday afternoon. Suddenly my nose started running and I couldn’t stop sneezing. It’s been like that for about 48 hours, although over-the-counter antihistamines are helping. (I did test for COVID-19, just in case, but I’m negative.)

What else happened during the big weekend besides sneezing and wheezing? My big purchase was an Internet radio — meaning a radio set up specifically to easily tune in Internet streams.

I’ve been skeptical of stand-alone Internet radios. For one thing, I doubted they were easy to use. For another, I doubted they really had access to a wide range of stations. And finally, as someone who really loves AM and FM radio, it seemed like cheating.

It seems odd for me to have those prejudices, considering I help run an Internet radio station, but my feeling was, it was easy to tune in Internet radio on a phone or laptop — who needs a special device?

Saturday, before my allergy attack, I was walking through the exhibit halls and came across a display of Internet radios. I decided to try one. Within 60 seconds I had figured out it worked, even without the manual. Within another two minutes, I was tuning in stations in Europe. After another 20 minutes, I was still playing with the radio — but my hand was reaching for my wallet.

The one I bought is a C.Crane WiFi3, and the store I bought it from is Chatt Radio in Tennessee, but I’m sure other places sell them. It uses a database called “Skytune” as its database of Internet stations. Stations are organized geographically (country, state or province), by genre, and by “most popular.” There are 72 different genres available, from “00s and 10s music” through “World Music,” as well as a variety of spoken word genres. You can also search for stations based on search keywords.

Disadvantages: Stations self-report their information to the Skytune basis, so if they give bad information, it may not immediately get corrected. If the Skytune database ever goes down, your radio is not going to work so easily. (You can manually enter an Internet stream for a station that’s not listed in Skytune. I haven’t tried that yet.)

This particular radio is small — which is handy! — but it also means the sound quality is only so-so from the small speaker. That being said, there is a line-out jack for connection to a stereo. You also can listen via headphones.

So far, I’ve spent time listening to French oldies from Montreal, easy-listening from South Africa, “Radio Big L” (a re-creation of British pirate stations), and (closer to home) WMBS 590 AM from Uniontown — but without static. It recaptures a lot of the fun of listening to shortwave radio when I was a kid — before the shortwave bands were taken over by right-wing crazies.

And yes, you can get the streams for both WRCT and Tube City Online Radio. If you live outside of the range of WRCT’s signal, or you just want an easy way to browse world radio from Africa, Europe, Oceania, South America and Asia, it might be something to consider. (It occurs to me that if you have a friend or family member for whom English isn’t a first language, it might be a nice gift.)

In case you missed Saturday’s show and wanted to hear some of the interviews from the convention floor, here they are:

Morgan Lyons, KI5SXY, Collegiate Amateur Radio Club:

Thomas Wrede, DF2OO, Deutscher Amateur-Radio-Club:

Bob Bereit, K3RMB, Radio Scouting:

Allan Boyd, VE3AJB, Radio Amateurs of Canada:

On Facebook, Alert Listener Ian wanted to know about “the Morse Code Song or whatever that one was.”

Why, that’s the official anthem of the 1960 Dayton Hamvention, “CQ Serenade” by Maurice Durieux, VE2QS, an orchestra leader at Radio-Canada, the French language service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The vocalist was Joyce Hahn.

You don’t remember dancing to this one at a record hop?

“CQ” is what radio amateurs send when they’re calling a specific station — or any station. (“Seek you,” get it?) You can learn more about the song here. There’s also a French language version of the song.

Be grateful that I spared you some of the songs by “The Ham Band.”

We took a nice tour of the Dayton Amateur Radio Association clubhouse in Huber Heights, and we also toured the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting, just north of Cincinnati, which is well worth a visit, if you have even a moderate interest in radio.

We also visited the Treasure Aisles Flea Market near Cinci, where I resisted the urge to get a haircut:

Disco pants and haircuts.” “Yeah.” “This place has got everything!”

Although as I think we can all agree, “Flea Market Haircut” would be a good name for a band.

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