Friday 4 December 2009

A good read?

Today I discovered that the Bookshop/newsagent chain “Borders” is in liquidation and likely to close.
Whilst there isn’t a “Borders” store locally there is one in Cardiff and whenever I was in the area I would take the opportunity to pop in and browse. Now I enjoy reading and so I like bookshops generally but the good thing about the Borders stores is they also stocked a good range of magazines and periodicals including specialist radio magazines.
Thus from time to time I would be able to purchase a copy of the U.S Amateur radio Magazine “CQ” or the  U.S Magazines aimed at shortwave listeners- “Monitoring Times” and “Popular Communications”.It was interesting to get a different countries perspective on the radio hobby and I will miss my occasional purchases of those magazines
Here in the UK, to my knowledge at least we now have only two magazines available at the newsagents that relate to our hobby- Practical Wireless and Radio User- the latter magazine aimed at the shortwave listener/scanner enthusiast. Of course if you are a member of the RSGB you also get the Radcom magazine but that’s not available at the newsagents.
I pretty much grew up with Practical Wireless, it formed part of my introduction to the hobby, it had information relating to both Amateur Radio and Shortwave and the advertisements were always a constant source of interest for an aspiring young radio amateur!
I have bought Practical Wireless magazine pretty consistently over the years but a few weeks back, after buying the December edition I began to wonder if I will continue to buy it.
The first problem I have with the magazine is the equipment reviews. It has long been the case that you are unlikely to read much negative comment in these reviews- presumably because the manufacturers/suppliers are also the magazines advertisers and its best not to offend them! For Example December’s magazine has a review of a soundcard/data interface. You don’t have to read too closely between the lines to see that the reviewer was not all that impressed with it, but clearly he isn’t really allowed to say that. I suppose the best place to look for reviews is now online on sites such as Eham where the reviewers are not dependent on the suppliers for their income..
But what really takes the biscuit is the 3 page article which tells you how to install the batteries in your FT817, screw the antenna on and switch the rig on! The article then goes on to tell the reader that they need to plug the microphone in and guides them as to how to make a contact on the local VHF repeater.
Now I am not the most technical of people but surely this information could have been obtained from either:
Classroom learning in the foundation/intermediate/advanced radio courses OR reading the manual!
It is a shame because there are still some good articles in Practical Wireless but is does seem as if the magazine is being “dumbed down”.

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