So I needed a radio to listen to the broadcasts. And I wanted one with a really good sound. As I don´t hear so well, superior "definition" is of vital importance to me. A new one was much too expensive. So what do one do? Go look for an old one from the 50s of course! They have the UKV band. Without it you can´t listen to the local - meaning Swedish - news nowadays. I don´t like the "modern"/"Nordic" design that came around 1960. Remaining is then the ones from about 1952 to 1959. After looking around I liked the design of Blaupunkt in particular, so I went for that brand.
In those days the radio was not just a radio. It was a furniture item that was to suppose to manifest the status and prosperity of its owner. This was the time when the industry went full speed ahead, everybody had a job and when everything just became better and better year after year. As such it was a central - if not THE central - item in the living room before the television set took over that role. This means that these radios are BIG and are supposed to be BIG and impressive! For those who could afford one, a huge radio gramophone standing on the floor was the item one must have, the tabletop models were kind of “second best”. Besides these big radios there were “kitchen radios”; smaller versions often in plastic or Bakelite like the Blaupunkt Sultan, Roma and Balett.
It´s said that the radio was the start of the information society when it became widespread in the middle of the 30s. To some extent this is true but you have to consider that news was a minor part of what you could listen to. Most of what was offered was educational programs or entertainment in various forms; all the way from heavy cultural stuff to light music. Before the Second World War news was for the most part just the reading of un-commented telegrams. Commented news started in 1937 in Sweden with “Dagens Eko”, which was sent during 20 - 25 minutes once every evening. News was less then 10% of what one could listen to before the War. During the war news increased to about 15% of what was offered. After the war the proportion of news went down to 10 % again. Besides, there were restrictions on what could be transmitted. In Sweden radio was not allowed to compete with the newspapers. “The Good Old Days of Serious Radio” is thus a myth. Really “Serious Radio” came first when we in Sweden got a dedicated channel – Radio P1 – for talk radio in 1966.
On the other hand; if you compare the introduction of the radio with the introduction of the Internet, the former probably was more of a revolution for common people than the later. People in the 50s could still remember the times when they were living in the countryside, there were no radio and they read a newspaper perhaps once a week. Nowadays people can still remember when they were living in a city, they had television and they read several newspapers every day and some magazines every week. What we have is therefore as situation were you first go from having almost no information about events outside your own village to quite a lot of information of what was happening and, secondly, a situation where you already have more information than you can digest to having even more information. In that perspective the introduction of the radio was part of a revolution which had a major impact on people´s minds and perspective of the world!
Up until the end of the Second World War you must, however, view radio in parallel with the printed media; the daily newspapers and the weekly magazines. On radio you got the news telegrams, in the daily newspaper you got the news commented and expanded upon and in the weekly magazine you got the pictures and the personal views. In 1945 we got our first Evening Paper or tabloid in Sweden – the Expressen – that to a large degree took over the special role the weekly magazines had had previously. All of these aspects are, of course, something that television tries to provide nowadays.
The radio, thus, did a lot to make the Average Joe more aware of events happening in the world around him. However, in isolation it was not THAT significant; at least not if he already was subscribing to a daily paper. What radio really did, however, was to supply people with a much wider cultural, and to some extent educational, input than before. It was common to “dial around” and listen to foreign broadcasts. Much like we nowadays zap around to different TV-channels. Most swedes can understand Danish and Norwegian. Thus, the Nordic Countries came closer and became more aware of each other. And if you couldn´t understand what was spoken you could at least listen to the music. This meant that you became aware of attitudes and currents of the time even if you were living way out in the Swedish outback; something that would have been impossible without radio.
The 50s was indeed the glory days of radio. The long- and medium wave bands were filled with stations. Almost every country had some kind of World Service transmitting on the short wave bands. The radio was certainly not the only way to be informed or to get information, but if you liked to know “what was going on” you simply had to listen to the radio. In 1955 we got our second radio channel – P2 – for light entertainment. There was a radio in every home. In 1950 we had 308 radio licences for every 1000 persons. As a family/home could own several radio sets with one licence one can assume that in reality every second person in Sweden had a radio. Popular entertainment programs and major sport events could gather almost the entire population in front of their radios.
Many of my generation of radio amateurs started out as DX-ers using just such radios. Most of these had two shortwave bands covering from about 2 MHz to about 20 MHz. In some of them the UKV tuning doubled as bandspread for the shortwave bands. Good sound was one of the main sales arguments. Three speakers was common, some even had five! Remember that this was before stereo. Instead it was so called surround- or 3D-sound that was the ultimate. What you are faced with is therefore probably the best sounding mono radios ever produced!