Many years ago, probably early 80s the HF Receivers started to appear. Before this, I remember one of them big old radios, or "wireless" as my grandad called it - the battery was a huge thing - larger than some modern handheld receivers lol. I remember it had more than the usual MW and LW & VHF(FM was probably not the accepted then or at least not found its way to Co. Durham!) - no this beast had short wave and many shortwave bands with exotic stations all speaking "foreign" - Occasionally the odd English speaking stations would get through - with hindsight probably relay stations for the World Service, VOA, and English service of Radio Moskow, Netherlands, France etc. - another bonus, long before scanners was listening to the police on the VHF bit - right at the end of the dial. These are memories recalled from probably near 40 years ago and although it would have been daytime or early evening we listened, I like to think my Grandad listened to more interesting stuff later on.
Nobody else in the family seemed interested in radio as I recall, so that is possibly the only link I have to any interest, though names like Hilversum, Luxembourg etc. are etched in my memory as they were etched into stereograms way back when.
So my first receiver was after the initial CB boom (1980s) and in between my license (91) I sadly cannot recall the name of the think though I think it was some awkward to tune Realistic (possibly DX100 or 200) - it may have been a cheapie, or even a loan from amateur friends. It got me started, this was followed by a Yaesu FRG7 - this one really seemed to catch the imagination. I even started logging stations, though was always envious of those with a digital readout rather than my approximations. All this was new, I discovered Top Band, and 80 & 40m hearing all over the UK without problem. I also at this time started collecting am radio stations. Remember FM broadcasting was in its infancy and many am transmitters still worked. From Co. Durham I would listen to 873khz (BBC Norfolk) through the day, which magically changed into AFRTS - American Armed Forces at night. BBC York, Cumbria etc. all fairly local, but then Hereward 1332 and Northsound 1035 in Aberdeen (all from memory these). At this time, there was a lot of ship-to-shore stuff as well. All good stuff for someone who was keen to hear new stuff but also DX. Shortwave provided this - lots of longwires and eventually a copy of Passport To World Band Radio was bought - listing every radio station in the world! - this was like trainspotting or stamp collecting without leaving the house! - I even got a digital readout Realistic DX 302 - That book, by the way is one that every shack should have a copy of and renew every few years.
Aeronautical comms were also heard - I didn't know exactly what was happening, it all seemed so random back then. Wow planes on HF, Volmet, Oceanic, Shanwick, Gander, etc. all exciting, and now I know what it all means and how it all works - along with VHF airband it seems no longer random, but very logical. This is something which is still used and has a lot of listeners and devotees out there- especially on emergency & rescue site such as Kinloss etc.
Amateur bands fascinated me. Inter G working on the LF bands and the exotic DX on 20m being the obvious ones to hook a newcomer or casual listener. Waiting for openings on 10m & 15m - and the WARC bands 12 & 17 - which were fantastic when open. At this time people were talking about sun-spot cycles, but I was too busy listening and having fun to take much notice. Propagation was a mystery - I thought it would always be good - I suppose we all learn!
Sadly those old receivers all were moved on sold or swapped. The only dedicated HF receiver I have nowadays in an old Kenwood R2000. I have plenty of transceivers with great receive sections in them with DSP etc. but it never seems as much fun as it once was. Rose tinted spec syndrome? perhaps. From time--to-time I still have a good listen from 0-30, but it doesn't seem the same, too much noise on the bands these days, QRM, QRN, computers, timebase, wireless routers, modems,neighbours and so on. Maybe I just got grumpy.
My latest idea is trying a Welbrook Loop for HF - particularly below 10Mhz. There are many beacons to listen for as well as stuff already mentioned - the loop may well be able to null-out some of the modern noise. I figure the loop is cheaper than a time machine to go back to quiet times. Not quite sure if I could stay up all night into the wee small hours any longer though!