Catalog Spurs the Imagination

Back in the day—and by that I mean before we had the World Wide Web—electronics and ham radio companies published catalogs. They were wondrous things. Paging through them, one’s imagination could run wild. As a kid, I would pore over the Allied, Lafayette, and Olson catalogs and just imagine all the cool things I could do with electronics and radio.

Real, printed catalogs have one distinct advantage over their Web counterparts—they can be browsed in a way that you can’t browse a Web catalog. The Web just can’t seem to duplicate the experience of paging through a catalog.  Maybe it takes more mental agility to point and click rather than simply flip pages. I’m not sure. All I know is that paging through a real catalog is a distinct pleasure.

I had such a pleasurable experience just recently when I paged through the <a href=””>Universal Radio</a> catalog. It came packaged with the LDG 4:1 Balun that I’d just purchased. (The reason for that purchase is another story, which I’ll tell soon.)

Just looking at the cover was a pleasure. The cover, as you can see above, is a collage of QSL cards from many different shortwave broadcasters. Like many hams, I got started in the hobby as an SWL, and the cover brought back some nice memories.

Another pleasure was being able to look at a number of products all at once, instead of one-by-one on the Web. In the shortwave receiver section, for example, the catalog has pictures and descriptions of five or six radios per page, so on a spread you can look at and compare up to a dozen different units.

I also enjoyed seeing some products that I didn’t even know existed.The specialty radios section, for example, included several models of “Internet radios,” which are capable of connecting to your home’s wireless network and connect to the digital streams of thousands of radio stations. Sure, you can do this with a computer, but these radios can also function as alarm clocks, and, presumably, have better audio than a laptop computer.

So, even though I’m a big computer and Net geek, I may just have to go request the catalogs of the other ham and electronics retailers and see how they compare to the Universal Radio catalog. With any luck, they’ll also bring back some fond memories and spur my imagination and help me look into the future.


  1. I like hard catalogs, too. You can take them places you wouldn’t take a computer, too…like the beach! The Universal catalog always had QSLs on the cover. It really sparks your imagination.

  2. Steve KJ4KKI says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I feel badly about killing so many trees, but looking through a catalog while lying on the bed, or indisposed in other ways…is enjoyable. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like watching TV, but lounging on the couch looking at things I know I can’t afford is a relaxing alternative. If I’m going somewhere for an extended period of time, I’ll take a couple of catalogs and magazines. My only real complaint: I know prices fluctuate, but I get so tired of seeing equipment in catalogs without any price. I then have to go to HRO and look up the price. If that’s the case, why not look it up online anyway? I manufacturers would simply put “prices subject to change without notice” by the products, it’d be nice. You know they don’t change by more than $10-20 usually on big ticket items. Anyway, that’s my nickel’s worth.

    73, Steve

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