The holiday gift-buying season is a great excuse to share some radio love with friends, family and colleagues who may or may not be as passionate about radio as you are. With that, here’s a short gift guide featuring some of my go-to gifts for all kinds of recipients.
If your loved ones don’t own a portable emergency radio, the holidays are the perfect excuse to help them amp up their disaster-preparedness kits.
Recent killer storms in the Midwest and the Philippines are just another reminder of why it’s crucial to have access to a radio for news and information during a crisis. I’ve got a small Eton Microlink FR 150 radio (www.etoncorp.com), which can be charged with a hand crank, with a solar cell and with a USB connection. The AM/FM radio also has weather radio bands as well as a flashlight. A newer Eton model, the FRX1, is even more stylish with a modern design available in a range of hues. The Eton Solarlink FR370 has similar features and can also charge a smart phone so that you can make a quick emergency call.
My life changed drastically when I received a standalone Internet radio as a birthday gift. Now I find myself listening to out-of-range radio stations far more frequently since I can just turn on a radio to tune in to streams from afar. It’s a bonus that I can also use the same Internet radio as an alarm clock so that I can wake up to the sounds of my favorite radio station.
I’ve got the Grace Mondo Wi-Fi Internet Radio (www.gracedigitalaudio.com/) on my nightstand, but there are plenty of choices out there. My one beef with my Wi-Fi radio is that I can’t pick up terrestrial radio on the tuner, so I’m also tempted by the pricier Tivoli NetWorks with FM (www.tivoliaudio.com).
As a bonus, Tivoli’s radio is crafted from hardwood in cherry, walnut and wenge.
CRYSTAL RADIO KIT
I love buying science-oriented, hands-on projects for not only the kids in my life, but also for my engineer dad. Creating one’s own crystal radio used to be a rite of passage for many budding scientists decades ago, so I’m happy to see that modern-day DIY radio kits are still on the market.
Pictured is the reasonably priced Slinky brand Crystal Radio Kit (poof-slinky.com). The even more visually appealing (there are wooden parts!) Flights of Fancy Radio Receiver Kit (www.crafts4kids.co.uk/flights-of-fancy-kits/b123) has a lovely vintage look to it and includes a booklet about the history of radio.
If the folks on your gift list are more interested in FM radio or shortwave, there are also some specialized kits from Elenco (www.elenco.com).
Although I have lots of radio books in my library, few of them delve into the history of college radio. For that reason, I was thrilled to pick up Tim Brooks’ new book “College Radio Days: 70 Years of Student Broadcasting at Dartmouth College,” which chronicles the lengthy history of radio at the school. Along the way, it also provides insight into the history of college radio in general.
Another radio history worth picking up is Carter Alan’s new book, “Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN.” Boston locals will appreciate this in-depth look at the station (and at the development of progressive rock radio) from 1968 to 2009. [Editor Paul McLane listed several other gift book ideas in the Nov. 20 issue.]
WHIMSICAL RADIO ITEMS
There is a wide range of radio-themed accessories that can be a fun way to broadcast one’s enthusiasm for radio. I’ve been dying to get the perfect cell phone case that can reliably fool people into thinking that I’m carting around a retro transistor radio. Fred & Friends’ (FredandFriends.com) Re/Cover line of iPhone cases fit the bill with designs that pay homage to early electronics. Not only is there a case sporting the image of a mint green portable radio, but there’s also a pocket calculator version and a cover resembling an old remote control.
Some other great whimsical gift ideas for radio colleagues include radio-themed jewelry and household items. Zaunick has a pair of sterling silver cufflinks in the shape of vintage microphones (www.zaunick.com/) and Uncommon Goods (www.uncommongoods.com) carries gorgeous stainless steel cufflinks in the shape of mini headphones. Finally, for radio and toaster aficionados, Kenwood’s now-rare TT756SL toaster sports an embedded functional radio (search Amazon or eBay to find one).
Jennifer Waits is a writer, college radio DJ and independent radio scholar. She contributes to the blogs SpinningIndie and Radio Survivor.