Making a wave

Take a trip down a bygone era at this new museum in the city, which houses over 100 radio sets, some from as far back as 1907

Published: 24th February 2021 07:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th February 2021 07:09 AM   |  A+A-

Uday Kalburgi with the PYE London Radiogram, which was manufactured in 1949-50 | AshishKrishna HP

Express News Service

BENGALURU : A radio set shaped like a globe, a 1955-made model that retailed for `9,000 back then, or a Crown Talking Machine, which was made in 1907... Here’s your chance to see these and 100 other unique radio sets, of which 80 per cent are in working condition, at the newly-opened Short Wave Radio Museum and Knowledge Centre. The museum, located in Basaveshwar Nagar, is the brainchild of 56-year-old Uday Kalburgi, whose love for radio began way back when he was 9 or 10 years old.

“I’ve listened to them since childhood and now, I want to showcase this bygone technology to today’s younger generation,” says the telecom engineer, who has dedicated an entire floor of a four-story building (a space of 600-800 sq ft) to his museum.

Each radio set carries a short note with its name, country of origin and description. Started on Feb. 13 (World Radio Day), the museum has already seen 16-17 genuine visitors, who share a keen ear for these vintage pieces.   

For Kalburgi, what started with merely listening to radio eventually led to collecting different sets, repairing them and now, restoring them too. The lockdown played a role too, with the radio-lover getting many calls and requests for radio restoration, some even from Gujarat and Mizoram. “One person wanted an old set repaired for his father’s birthday,” says Kalburgi, who started collecting sets after TVs became a mainstay in the ’80s.

While neatly lined on shelves in the museum today but back then, these sets took up different nooks and crannies of Kalburgi’s home. “My family used to tell me I might pick up some bad luck also associated with these old sets but for me, the passion and joy I felt was greater,” he says.

Kalburgi’s love for radios seems to have been noticed by the universe too. “I have a connection with radios, either I go in search of them or they find me,” he says. Case in point: A Philips BX 998A radio weighing 27 kg, which he acquired through someone in Mumbai. “The radio belonged to the man’s father-in-law and he was ready to sell it for `12,000. When I consulted my mentor and fellow radio restorer, Pandu Rajan, he told me to not think twice. On eBay, the same model retails for 2,000 euro!” exclaims Kalburgi. Many sets come with stories like this, including the Pilot G 744, which was gifted by Padmanabha Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, after Kalburgi restored it for him. 

While this may be a passion project, it is one that he takes seriously, especially when it comes to restoring radios to almost the same state they were in when they were produced. Kalburgi is an active member of, or as he jokes says, “A forum with other mad men like me”, where one can find a repository of information about radios and spare parts. “I usually get 2-3 replies within 30 minutes of putting up a post. The beauty of the internet is such that it helps maintain this technology of a bygone era.”


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