Sony ICF 2001 – Early Days of Global Digitalization

Among the large variety of receivers currently available, the Sony ICF 2001 is unique. […] suggests the Sony is probably the first portable shortwave receiver designed to overcome the general public reluctance to tune to shortwave and international broadcasts. With the Sony ICF 2001, nearly anyone can call up a distant station, if the frequency is known.

This is how then South African foreign broadcaster Radio RSA reviewed the Sony ICF 2001 at the time.

Sony would certainly agree, as can be seen from the early 1980s artwork on the box: that wasn’t a receiver, it was a technological sunrise, with a glorious new millennium booming into your face.

Sony ICF 2001 packing

Proclamation of a new Era: Sony ICF 2001 packing

While reviewers at Radio RSA apparently admired the receiver’s sophistication, they did see a potential problem:

The convenience of the ICF 2001 is obviously unique, but for the established shortwave hobbyist, the lack of a conventional tuning knob can be a drawback.”

And battery consumption was deemed “a little high” – average battery lifetime was estimated at around ten hours.

Great points in its favor, as seen by the reviewers, was excellent sensitivity, selectivity, automatic gain control, and just the right bandwith (as long as users wouldn’t want to bother about choosing the right bandwith).

A shortwave listener in South Bend, Indiana, listened to the Radio RSA review on March 14, 1982, and recorded it. About 35.5 years later, he posted it online.

It’s a fascinating document to listen to. The review contains a short original soundtrack of the ICF 2001’s performance, and a bit of (feigned, I suppose) political innocence:

But let’s try medium wave and let’s try Channel 702, broadcasting from Bophuthatswana.

Summing up, the reviewers pointed out that the ICF 2001

has several features not found on other portables, namely the six-channel memory.

OK – that was in 1982.

A shortwave radio blogger who bought a Sony ICF 2001 in 2015 highlights the built-in antenna trimmer – a great feature indeed, and one the Sony ICF 2001 D (the Sony ICF 2010’s edition for the German market) was lacking.

Obviously, when the year of 2001 really arrived, the internet had been there for years, and even the world’s most incredible shortwave receiver wouldn’t lure a dog from behind the stove, as a German saying goes.

That said, it might still work on dogs older than forty.

2 Comments to “Sony ICF 2001 – Early Days of Global Digitalization”

  1. Kind of cool. I’m intrigued by this radio now. Maybe I’ll see if I can find a used one. There’s certainly a romance about listening to shortwave radio, despite the presence of the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it’s a great receiver. The ICF 2001D does have two advantages, however. You can choose lower side band and upper side band modes by yourself (it’s automatic with the ICF 2001), and the 2001D’s sync detector as demonstrated on this video can be very useful too, to filter interference, and to identify a signal on a frequency which is no integer.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Liked by 1 person

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