When was the last time you listened to the radio?
Actually, I still do, mostly when I’m driving around with Mom and Jeff Ward is on. If I’m alone in my own car, though, radio has become to me something like a buggy whip.
But there are some people who still need buggy whips, such as the Amish. And there are some people who still need radios. Like Federal prisoners.
The pocket analog radio, known by the bland model number SRF-39FP, is a Sony “ultralight” model manufactured for prisons. Its clear housing is meant to prevent inmates from using it to smuggle contraband, and, at under thirty dollars, it is the most affordable Sony radio on the prison market.
But what makes this New Yorker piece more interesting to me is…the SRF-39FP is actually a pretty good radio. It uses one AA battery, will run for 40 hours, and:
Others in the online DXing community argue that the SRF-39FP is superior to virtually every other pocket analog radio, praising it for its large tuning thumbwheel, over-all sensitivity and audio quality, and, above all, its reputed indestructibility. Electronics and radio collectors also marvel at features that are normally associated with professional equipment rather than consumer goods: in particular, an exceptional single-integrated-circuit receiver that insures reception in remote locations—or deep within heavy prison walls. In fact, the SRF-39FP was one of the first radios to use the breakthrough CXA1129N integrated-circuit chip, considered by DeBock to be the primary innovation among Sony pocket radios; it helped make the SRF-39FP the smallest and most sophisticated in a line of pocket radios that had launched two decades earlier, in the late nineteen-seventies.
I almost want to pick one up. (I checked; there aren’t any listed on eBay right now.)
(By way of the newsycombinator Twitter feed.)