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Ed Rust, proprietor of, has worked in publishing in a variety of capacities for decades. He started as U.S. circulation director of the Financial Times "way back when they flew the papers into Kennedy Airport from London a day late." He most recently was managing editor of publications at the General Society, Sons of the Revolution.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

MONITORING TIMES: For Those Who Like To Listen In

This morning I've been reading the 25th anniversary issue of Monitoring Times, a neat monthly devoted to scanners, shortwave radio, ham radio, computers and antique radios. It's published by Grove Enterprises in Brasstown, North Carolina.

Publisher and founder Bob Grove starts off the anniversary issue with a couple of columns recounting his early interest in radio as well as the history of the magazine. I was impressed to learn that his was the first publication to confirm existence of the "Stealth" aircraft. Readers of Monitoring Times had been listening in on transmissions from its test flights!

My own roots in shortwave radio are old but shallow. Back in the late 1950s, as a Long Island teenager, I loved to check out the high end of the AM radio dial at night to pull in stations from exotic places like Cleveland and Montreal. Then I ordered a simple Heathkit vacuum-tube shortwave receiver, soldered it together, and listened excitedly to "The Internationale," the theme song of Radio Moscow, the ponderous chimes of Big Ben announcing the hour on the BBC, and even the chatter of pilots coming into nearby Idlewild Airport.

I took up an on-air offer from Radio Sofia and wrote to the station requesting a Bulgarian pen pal, a heady activity for a Catholic school student during the Eisenhower era. I corresponded for several years with a girl of my age in Sofia. In 1968 I got the chance to knock on her door. Unshaven and grungy, I was on my leisurely way back to New York from a two-year stint teaching English in South Vietnam and dodging the draft. It turned out that her daddy was a barrel-chested major in the Bulgarian Army, his uniform heavy with medals and ribbons. An awkward Cold War encounter.

Monitoring Times devotes 13 pages to a guide to shortwave broadcasts in English, giving time, frequency and radio station. There are also pages of reports from readers on what they've been hearing on the shortwave bands. Did you know that the Voice of Croatia plays jazz, funk and pop tune oldies in the afternoon?

My own somewhat belated shortwave report from my days in Vietnam: I remember listening to Radio Australia on the day that country's prime minister disappeared while swimming. Apparently the sharks got him. In between reports of the fruitless search they played music, including―I kid you not—"A Good Man Is Hard to Find."

This issue of Monitoring Times includes a fascinating history of the early use of shortwave radio in Arctic exploration in the 1920s. A sidebar explains how authors Harold Cones and John Bryant were researching early Zenith Radio Corporation products and were appalled at the lack of relevant material in the company's archives. But in 1993 they were exploring a soon-to-be-closed television assembly plant and discovered, up in the rafters, 138 file drawers covered with pigeon droppings. They were the personal files of Zenith's founder. The files became the basis for the article, which includes schematics of the radios used in the Arctic expeditions.

You'll find an extensive scanning column, full of inquiries from readers about how they can eavesdrop on their local police and fire departments. Other columns deal with monitoring military communications, developments in domestic commercial radio, and listening in on boat, airplane and train frequencies.

There are also several articles devoted to ham radio, a hobby that's probably taking it on the chin from the growth of the Internet. But it's not an area that the publisher of Monitoring Times is going to neglect. His byline includes his ham radio call letters: "by Bob Grove W8JHD."

An annual subscription (12 issues) to Monitoring Times is $28.95 from the publisher. We'll send you a sample copy for $2.59.

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