Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rediscovering C Crane at CES 2012

I love connecting the past with the present, especially as everything is often new again. In the days when I hosted a wireless show for Radio Netherlands, we often featured medium-wave listening from the powerhouses like Radio Luxembourg to the rare stations which were only logged under very quiet solar conditions or during DXpeditions to the Arctic. If you click on either of those two links you can listen to or download those programmes right now. But I digress.

While travelling in the States I picked up the great General Electric SuperRadio II (photo above) which had a superb set of speakers on it and a great receiver inside. And all for under US$50. I paid 39 bucks for it at a discount store in Virginia. 

If you have one, hang on to it. If you want to know more, check out this excellent link to David Moison's site. It was produced from the late 1980's until 1994 when it was replaced by the (less good) Superradio III. They were all made in China to a US spec, but I never saw them in Europe. Perhaps because the sets never did longwave or that the mains power was integrated into the set and was only 120 volts. But that didn't matter to me because the other thing about it was that the batteries lasted for ever. My set lasted for 15 years until the dial cord snapped out of sheer wear and tear and I didn't have access to David's site to know how to fix it properly. I hope Joe's Radio Page will forgive me for lifting their photo. 

When the Superradio disappeared, the only serious contender that came anywhere close was produced by a northern Californian firm called C.Crane. They modified radios made by Sangean and came up with a series of very sensitive AM sets, which also perform well on the 2 metre ham band. I have one of the early versions. The price has come down to 150 US Dollars and they say they have tweaked the CCRadio-2 for better AM performance.

I lost touch with the company but remembered the name when they were popped up at CES 2012. Seems they are still around, operating out of an unassuming warehouse in Fortuna, in the wilds of Humboldt County, California. Leo Laporte interviewed them on his tour of one of halls and it was then I discovered their fascination with long-distance wifi

I travel a lot and often find the WiFi in the hotel to be less than satisfactory. C Crane make a USB WiFi antenna which plugs into a Mac or PC laptop and vastly improves the reception (and therefore the throughput) of the WiFi. It hang over a curtain rail with a lanyard or you can use suction cups to fix it to a window. The antenna costs just under 110 dollars and comes with a split USB cable, so if you have two USB ports on the computer you can get even better reception by using both. 

There are also circumstances where it would be useful to connect two buildings with wifi. C Crane also sell a kit which can connect buildings up to 5 km away - the range really depends on the local terrain. If the antenna's can't see each other, then forget it. Their preconfigured set up costs around 300 US dollars including the directional antennas shown above.