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"On the Short Waves, 1923-1945"

Reviewed by Alan Pennington in the August 2000 ed. of "Communication," the monthly Journal of the British DX Club.  Reprinted with permission.

In "On the Short Waves," well-known American DXer and BDXC member Jerry Berg gives a fascinating account of the history of short-wave radio and the listener community that was attracted to it.

Organised in three parts, the first 60 pages charts the "Early Days":  the first pioneering Broadcast Stations, the "excitement and mystique of early radio and electronics which turned the science of the day into an adventure for millions" and the "arrival of the first American (private) short-wave stations (there was no government VOA until 1942).

The second, and largest part (circa 130 pages) tells the story of short-wave's "Coming of Age" in the 1930s--the stations of that decade, including the many U.S. private stations, the SW receivers and radio magazines of the 30s and the early listener clubs and QSLs of the era.

The third and final part (45 pages) details short-wave radio during the Second World War to 1945, the stations and voices on the air during the war years, and shortwave listening during WWII.

The text is well-researched and cross referenced and there are extensive notes and a list of further reading at the end of the book to induce you to delve deeper!  Naturally, as Jerry Berg is American, the book is written from an American perspective, in particular some of the chapters (e.g. on the Radio Popular Press and Radio Clubs).  However, as a non-American, I still found the book full of fascinating facts and anecdotes throughout--indeed, the American perspective has its plusses, e.g. the wealth of information on U.S. SW stations I've never read about over this side of the pond, and ABSIE (the American Broadcasting Station in Europe) which transmitted from England from April 1944 to July 1945.  Radio history about many world broadcast stations (e.g. Radio Brazzaville, the Voice of Free France) made "On the Short Waves" difficult to put down at times!  And it's written in a very clear and readable style--in no way a dry academic history textbook.

As Jerry Berg is chair of "The Committee to Preserve Radio Verifications," he obviously had access to a lot of early QSLs and other early radio ephemera, and as a result the book is well-illustrated throughout with radio station postcards, verifications, receiver adverts, historical radio magazine covers and even reproduced whole pages.  It's this rich profusion of pictorial material that really makes the book for me!

"On the Short Waves, 1923-1945" is highly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in the history of short-wave radio and our hobby of shortwave listening and DXing.

The book is available through Amazon.co.uk for 38.25 pounds (Tel. 0800 279 6620) or from Amazon.com in the U.S.A. for $42.50--both quote delivery time of 4-6 weeks.  Postage is extra.

(Thanks to Allan McKellar for the kind loan of this review copy which he won in one of Dr. Kim Elliott's VOA "Communications World" competitions!  I must get a copy myself now!!)