The leaps and bounds that modern technology has made in recent decades are truly outstanding. Now, we have phones which are truly no longer just phones－they are also minicomputers which include a camera, a television, a record player, a photo album, etc.
About 30 years ago, just imagine how inconvenient, how ludicrous and how physically impossible it would have been to carry all of these items around at the same time. Now all of these fit into your pocket. When you think about the type of technology which we now actually take for granted, it is truly amazing.
It’s also great that we can communicate with virtually anyone, anywhere in the world, thanks to the internet.
But lots of people have quite short memories when it comes to some of the rather impressive technologies which we had in the pre-internet days, technologies which relied on relatively very simple infrastructure, but nonetheless delivered some pretty impressive results.
Such a technology has existed for around a century, and it allows for communication across thousands of kilometers, and it allows people to listen to programs from thousands of kilometers away by using some quite simple and compact equipment.
That technology is shortwave radio, and all you need is a radio receiver which doesn’t need to cost more than 200 or 300 yuan ($31 or 46).
I was first attracted to shortwave radio back in the 1980s, and enjoyed listening to English-language broadcasts from many countries around the world, including the then Soviet Union, Sweden, South Africa, the Netherlands, Albania, Romania, Cuba, the German Democratic Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India and China.
Shortwave radio was actually the first “direct” contact I had with China, when I started listening (and writing) to the English service of Radio Beijing, which is known today as China Radio International, in 1988.
In those pre-internet days, when information about foreign countries was less easy to obtain, it was a truly incredible experience for me to switch on my radio in Scotland and hear the one-hour program in English coming directly from Radio Beijing with news, commentaries, a press review, music and all sorts of interesting feature programs (there was even a cooking show recorded in the kitchens of the Beijing Hotel).
Listening to those broadcasts was like a journey to another world: fascinating, informative and very educational.
Soon, I was writing to Radio Beijing, which encouraged foreign listeners to do so in order to better understand the reception conditions of its broadcasts around the world.
Thanks to Radio Beijing I saw my first ever copy of China Daily, which they sent to me in 1989, and I was also one of the lucky winners of a Radio Beijing contest marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of New China in 1989. My prize was a beautiful Chinese lace table cover, which was a lovely memento of those early days when I started to get to know China.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org