Happy 68th Birthday to KXXX in Colby, Kansas

RadioGeekHeaven.com would like to wish a Happy 68th Birthday to KXXX-AM 790 in Colby, Kansas. KXXX was the original radio station in northwest Kansas, signing on for the first time July 14, 1947. KXXX-FM 100.3 (later KQLS and then KRDQ) was added in 1970. Both stations are currently owned by Rocking M Media, LLC.

KXXX enjoys a huge daytime coverage area. I have personally received them on my car radio in Colorado Springs, Wichita, Topeka, and Lincoln. Those 5,000 watts on 790 travel a long way because the tower is anchored in some of the most conductive soil in the world! Country music, farm news, and agricultural information has been their format for as long as I can remember. “The Mighty 7-90” is one of few remaining heritage AM stations that’s still playing music and making money in 2015. Happy Birthday, KXXX!

Need a Radio Job? My First Station is Hiring!

If you’re in need of a gig, KNAB AM/FM in Burlington, Colorado is looking for a fulltime production & air talent. This was the first station I worked for after graduating from Brown Institute in 1983. The General Manager/Owner has been there since the station signed on in 1967. She has owned the place since 1991. So yes, it’s a solid, stable operation.

Quickly send your aircheck and resume to knab@centurytel.net in order to be considered. Posting date: June 19, 2015. Good luck!

Brown Institute/College Closing After 69 Years

I learned yesterday that my alma mater is closing. Brown College in Mendota Heights, Minnesota (formerly Brown Institute of Minneapolis) will discontinue operations following a teach-out of existing classes. The roots of this heritage institution go back to 1946 when it was founded as American Institute of the Air. In 1954, the name was changed to Brown Institute. The school became Brown College in 2001, then Sanford-Brown College in 2014.

Back in the day, Brown Institute was the place to go if you wanted to pursue a career in broadcasting. Their instructors were top-notch. Under the direction of Mike Kronforst, Brown was able to achieve a student placement success rate of more than 95%. Over the years, literally tens of thousands of new radio and television broadcasters were able to find jobs after successfully completing their course of study at “The Voice Factory of the Midwest.” I personally enjoyed a successful 16 year career behind-the-mic after graduating on June 17, 1983.

I guess the demise of Brown shouldn’t surprise me. We all knew this day was coming. Due to corporate consolidation and resulting automation of radio stations, the number of available jobs in the industry has shrunk dramatically over the past 15 years. There just isn’t much demand for entry-level broadcast talent anymore. Still, it’s sad to see a school go down after 69 years. Especially when it’s the school you graduated from.

R.I.P., Brown College. You had a great run. On behalf of broadcasters around the world, I’d like to take this opportunity to say ‘thanks’ for the opportunities you made possible for us.

NO, it’s NOT Legal to Use Copyrighted Music in Commericals!

I’ve been a fan of Dan O’Day’s columns for many years. Dan tells it like it is. Recently, he wrote a column regarding the use of copyrighted music aka “popular songs” in commercials. Anyone who has worked in radio has a story to tell about the insistent salesperson who demands that a client’s favorite song be used in said client’s radio commercial. I personally have had this argument many times in many markets with many AEs, GMs, and PDs.

Typically, the sales rep will give you all kinds of excuses about why “this time it’s legal.” Reality: it’s nearly always a violation of copyright law. If you participate, YOU can be named as the defendant in a lawsuit. Dan’s comments should be required reading for anyone who does commercial production.

RadioGeekHeaven.com is now Mobile Friendly!

After much procrastination, I am happy to say that Radio Geek Heaven is now a mobile-friendly website! This should come as great news to those of you who access the site via smartphones. I have to say, I was somewhat hesitant to make this change. Our old Arclite theme had served us well for more than 5 years. It displays very well on a desktop, so I hate to give that up. But technology is progressing quickly. Over half of this site’s traffic now arrives by way of an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or other mobile phone. It was time to make the change, improving the RadioGeekHeaven.com experience for our majority of users.

Let us know what you think via the ‘comments’ section below. If you’re having problems with the way the new mobile site displays, I need to know this, too. Thanks again for supporting this site throughout the years. It’s a labor of love because I am a true Radio Geek, just like you!

Radio Shack Store Closing Clearance Sales

Yes, I’m on a Radio Shack writing binge this week. Radio Shack’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy and subsequent closing of nearly 1,800 stores is a big deal. We’re talking about a company that has been around for more than 80 years. The silver lining in this cloud for us radio geeks of course are those glorious Radio Shack clearance sales!

Don’t expect the deals to be as good as they were 9 years ago when Radio Shack held their first round of store closings. In 2006, the company closed several underperforming stores in multiple states. I was able to purchase scanners, ham radios, antennas, rotors, masts, tripods, and several other items for as low as 20 cents on the dollar! This time, there is not nearly as much clearance merchandise to choose from. The reason is that Radio Shack does not carry nearly as many items as they used to. Over the years, they have been cutting back their inventory of radio equipment, focusing instead on cell phones/smartphones and accessories. Also, I’ve heard that many of the high dollar items are being shipped to stores that will remain open instead of being sold on clearance. Still, it’s worth your time to check stores in your area which are going out of business. At my local store, everything in the store is being sold at 60-80% off the original retail price. I was in yesterday and found a telescoping scanner antenna (the “good” one with the low VHF coil in the middle) for $6.00! There were also several rechargeable batteries/chargers, some cell phone accessories (no phones), plus a decent selection of clearance antenna mounting kits (tripods, chimney straps, etc.)

There are some deals to be found out there. A friend in Minnesota grabbed a Uniden Bearcat BCD396XLT for $100, brand new in the box! I’ve also heard of Grundig shortwave receivers being found at clearance prices. As always, the “good stuff” goes quickly, so get to Radio Shack and take advantage of their 2015 store closing clearance sales!

Radio Shack Battery of the Month Club

As a kid with very limited funds, one of my favorite Radio Shack promotions was their “Battery of the Month Club.”


Here’s how it worked: You would go into your local Radio Shack, sign up and be issued a card. Bring the card back each month and redeem for one free standard Radio Shack ‘AA’, ‘C’, ‘D’, or 9-volt transistor battery. The salesperson would mark off that month on the back of the card. Return next month and repeat the process.

This was an ingenious promotion. Batteries only cost a few cents each, so this was a cheap way to bring people into the store. The hope, of course, was that you would purchase expensive electronics gear while you were there. You only received ONE free battery. So unless you got a 9-volt cell, you needed to purchase between 1 to 7 more batteries to power anything. As I said, ingenious!

I quickly figured out how to “work” Radio Shack’s Battery of the Month Club. We were lucky enough to have about 5 stores in our area, so I obtained one card for each store. Then, I had my mother and little sister do the same. There was no age limit and each card was exclusive to that store, so this was completely “legal.” About once per month, I’d have Mom make the rounds so we could collect our free batteries. Usually 9-volts, since these were the most expensive and also because I used them the most. Quick math shows I was able to obtain about 15 free batteries per month. Just enough to keep all my equipment running without having to shell out any allowance money!

Radio Shack Archer Base CB Antennas in 1976

I purchased my first CB radio in August, 1976. Since I was only 12 and too young to drive a car, this meant I needed a base station antenna. Of course, the first place I looked was in my handy, dandy Radio Shack catalog. There were 4 options:


Because I was on a tight budget, I chose the Archer 1/4 Wave Ground Plane. Catalog number 21-901. This was the favorite of poor kids like myself who were operating mobile rigs off of old car batteries because we couldn’t afford a power supply! Mounted 10′ off the roof on an eave mount and fed with 35′ of RG58/U coax, it was a decent performer. It was also easy to assemble. I put the 1/4 wave together by myself in about 15 minutes. No SWR adjustments were needed or possible without cutting the antenna. Just fasten the sections together with the enclosed sheet metal screws and you’re good to go. The Radio Shack 1/4 wave CB antenna was a great example of something that was simple, easy, and worked.

The Archer 1/2 Wave Ground Plane (catalog number 21-902) is the only one of these that I never owned. At a price of $24.95, it provided a theoretical gain of 3.75dB over the 1/4 wave. In the catalog listing, it claims to have a 5 section aluminum radiator. This is incorrect. The 1/2 wave had a four section radiator. It’s big brother 5/8 wave had the 5 section radiator. In later years, the static discharge arrestor “loops” on the top of this antenna were replaced with a “top hat”, similar to the 5/8 wave.

The Archer 5/8 Wave Ground Plane (catalog number 21-1133) was Radio Shack’s top of the line base station antenna for 1976. Retail price was $34.95. Frequent sales brought the price down to $24.95. I owned 2 of these at various times, both purchased used. With 4.00dB gain, it was a solid performer. However, the construction quality did not hold up well in Minnesota winters. These antennas were notorious for being damaged during wind and ice storms. The aluminum used was not very strong, so the sections were prone to bending and breaking. Another cost-cutting move was the use of sheet metal screws to attach the sections instead of the superior clamps used by Hy-Gain and other manufacturers. Over time, repeated flexing of the vertical radiator during storms would cause the screws to strip and fall out. Then, the affected section would slide down, rendering the antenna unusable until repairs could be made. But since the Archer 5/8 wave was priced about 25% below the similar Hy-Gain CLR2, Radio Shack sold quite a few of these antennas.

The Archer Crossbow III 3-Element Beam (catalog number 21-933) was a later arrival to my rooftop. Priced at $37.95, it was your basic 3 element beam. It was small and light enough to be turned by an inexpensive TV antenna rotator. 12 foot boom, 18 foot half wave elements, and 9dB forward gain. This antenna could be mounted either vertically or horizontally. The price was later raised to $39.95 before being discontinued a few years later. I was fortunate to grab one of these little beams on clearance in October, 1980. At the $24.95 clearance price, it was a steal! My parents happened to be on vacation for a week. A 3 element beam, rotor, 20′ of masting, 3′ tripod, and 4 guy wire anchors magically appeared on the garage roof while they were gone. The amazing thing is that my did didn’t even notice until several months later. I just told him it was a “radio project” that I worked on while they were out of town. Something to keep me out of trouble, of course. I knew with an explanation like that, he wouldn’t make me take it down. He didn’t :-)

I also owned the Micronta Regulated 12-Volt Power Supply (catalog number 22-124) at various times. Priced at $25.95, this item NEVER went on sale! No need for Radio Shack to put this item on sale. Since it was priced below most comparable power supplies, they sold a ton of these. The Shack also sold an unregulated supply with lower output for $19.95. This was designed for use with car stereos. I remember some kids tried to save money by purchasing the cheaper supply for CB use. Not a good choice. The 1.75 amp output was too low to power a transmitter. Also, because it was not regulated, you’d get a nasty 60 cycle AC hum in the background as you talked. Live and learn, kids!

And no, I never purchased the 40′ telescoping mast. I wanted to! I actually know one guy who mounted a .64 wave on his roof using one of these! I knew better than to push my parents too far with the CB antenna stuff. Well, most of the time, anyway!

Radio Shack: 1921-2015. R.I.P.

We all knew it was coming. We just didn’t know when it would become official. Radio Shack has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after suffering through 11 straight quarterly losses.

Much has been made about the causes of Radio Shack’s demise. This has been covered extensively in other forums. Here, I’d like to focus on their glory days. As a child of the 1970s, there was no finer place on Earth than a Radio Shack store! My mom would drop me off at the front door. I would then spend hours looking at all the items and talking electronics with the salespeople. Of course, this was a time when Radio Shack salespeople actually knew something about electronics and mothers did not get reported to Child Protective Services for leaving their kid in a store unattended. I learned a lot about consumer electronics and radio this way.

I could spend all day writing about Radio Shack products that I have owned and loved over the years. These 4 were my favorites:



This wasn’t my first record player. My grandparents gave me a General Electric portable for Christmas when I was 4. Four years later, this was my first stereo. Also one of the first electronic devices that I purchased with my own money. I still remember proudly walking up to the counter with 32 mostly one dollar bills (sales tax was 4%), pointing at the stereo, and telling the guy behind the counter “I want one of THOSE!” It’s a rather unique design: one of only two phonographs I’ve ever seen with the tonearm located behind the platter instead of mounted on the right side.



8 days after I bought that little red stereo, I received this Archer Space Patrol Base Station for Christmas, 1972. Very soon thereafter, it became my favorite piece of electronic equipment. I already owned a pair of walkie-talkies, but they were nothing like this machine. For starters, it received all 23 CB channels. Unlike the cheap regenerative walkies, this baby had a sensitive superheterodyne receiver. Combined with a long antenna (about 5 feet), the Base Station allowed me to listen to all CBers in my area. Another advantage: the transmit crystal was in a socket instead of soldered to the board. This allowed me to easily switch out the supplied Channel 14 crystal and replace it with Channel 21 which was used by most of the CB stations closest to me. The external mic provided a quality sound. Using 6 “D” cell batteries gave this Archer an honest 100mW power output. I sounded like I was using a “real” CB radio, not a typical off-frequency kiddie walkie-talkie with crummy audio. Later, I constructed a crude 1/4 wave ground plane antenna by duct-taping wire to a bamboo fishing pole. Mounted it on the upstairs deck and ran wires along the railings for radials! I also increased the power output by using a 13.8VDC CB power supply as an “AC Adapter.” I used this for 3.5 years until finally saving enough to buy my first “real” CB in the summer of 1976. Best $30 that Santa Claus ever spent!



The Science Fair AM Broadcaster was introduced in 1974. Instantly, I wanted one! I’ll never forget the eager anticipation of putting the kit together, winding the coil, connecting the 9-volt battery, and then…the moment of truth…talking into the microphone as I slowly tuned my radio across the dial. Would it work? IT DID! IT WORKS, IT WORKS! I was the happiest kid on the planet as I “played DJ” for my family and the next-door neighbors. Shortly thereafter, I read some library books and learned how to modify this little transmitter for extended range. Eventually, I got it to transmit about a mile 😉



I got hooked on public service band monitoring when I was given a Wards Airline 6 band portable radio for my 9th birthday in 1973. Later, I messed around with crystal scanners. Also owned one of the earliest programmable scanners: the Tenelec MCP-1. (Anyone else remember those?) But the PRO-34 represented a quantum leap forward for me. Being used to 16 or 20 channel capacities, I thought TWO HUNDRED channels was simply amazing! The frequency coverage of this scanner was also amazing. It could hear EVERYTHING! I carried it everywhere for about 2 years until I foolishly set it on the roof of my car while I fumbled for my keys. You can guess what happened next. About 1 mile down the road, I realized what I had done. Of course I went back and looked everywhere, but my beloved PRO-34 was gone. Since I did not find it smashed along the road, I assume someone grabbed it before I had chance to come back and search. Replaced shortly thereafter by a Uniden Bearcat 200XLT.

As the song goes, “these are a few of my favorite things” from the heyday of Radio Shack. It has been a sad, slow demise for what was once a cutting edge technology company. The Shack will soon be a thing of the past. But we’ll always have the memories. If you’re lucky, you also have a few Realistic, Archer, Micronta, Science Fair, Space Patrol, Clarinette, Modulette, Supertape, Concertape, NOVA, Optimus, Mach Two, SELECTaCOM, SERVO-ROTOR, Chronomatic, Flavoradio, Patrolman, Jetstream, or Deskube products still in service around your house.

R.I.P, Radio Shack. Farewell, old friend.

New and Improved Comments Section

Hey gang,

I’ve received a few e-mails from readers who tried to leave comments but could not do so. In response, I’ve made some adjustments to my spam filters which seem to have solved this problem. The downside is that I will also be getting more spam.

In the past, this site has been flooded with comment spam which necessitated the use of blockers and filters. We’re talking hundreds of junk comments each day! If this happens again, I’ll have to reinstate the blocking software. But for now, it’s off and so you should be able to easily comment on the postings. Please do so! Let me know if you have any problems.