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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The sound of silence

5 June 2018

I dipped into the archive of very old New Zealand publications again over the weekend and noticed something very interesting.

Those (like myself) who are old enough to remember the pre-Netflix, pre-internet, pre-TV era, will recall that evenings were spent sitting around reading a book and/or listening to the radio (often referred to as "the wireless") back then.

It was an interesting hour or two when families shared a room and actually engaged in something called "conversation".

Hell, we were so social that we even sat at a table to eat our evening meal -- although younger members of the family were not encouraged to speak unless spoken to.

These were much more formal times where etiquette and discipline were taken very seriously.

After a period of reading and/or playing games such as Monopoly, or listening to one's favourite serial on the wireless, everyone would retire to bed.

Now being a geek from way-back, I was one of the very few kids my age to have a radio in my bedroom.

Well, when I say "radio", I mean crystal set.

Yes, back in those days, all a young lad needed to listen to bedtime entertainment was an OA91 germanium diode, a crystal earpiece and a fist-full of wire wound around a toilet roll. If you were very lucky, you'd also have an old tuning capacitor out of a junked radio -- but mostly we just made do using the self-capacitance of the huge coil we wound from that wire and adjusted the tuning by adding or removing turns.

Of course it wasn't like I needed to change the station at any time -- there were only two stations within receiving distance and only one of those was any good.

Another piece of wire snaked its way out of my bedroom window to the 100 feet or so of copper wire I'd rigged up from a pole on the garage down to the eves of the house. This was my aerial and it worked very well. All that was then required was an earth and that was easily obtained by thrusting another wire into the bottom slot of the 3-pin-plug beside my bed (fortunately, I knew about the phase and the risks of putting wires into that hole).

So, off to bed at 8:30 and listening to the radio... that was my routine as an 8-year-old lad.

Sadly, there wasn't a snot load of stuff on the radio that interested a young boy of that age -- although I recall there were some good radio serials at about 9:30 every night so I'd usually stay away until they played then nod off to sleep.

The really interesting thing, and the reason I was reminded of this part of my early life, was that some of these ancient magazines I've been reading were copies of the New Zealand listener from the 1940s.

Radio broadcasts (back in those days) didn't start until 6am in the morning and then shut down at 10:30pm at night.

Television? No, that was still 20 years away.

Imagine it... the chance to get a good 8-hours sleep with no distractions, no eerie blue LEDs peeking from inside all manner of fancy electronic devices, no disruptive EMF from bedside clock-radios or cellphones on the bedside table.

In essence, the one thing that we're pretty much missing today -- auditory and electromagnetic silence.

I wonder if the fact that we're now bathed in noise, distraction, light and RF of all frequencies, virtually every minute of the day, is having an effect on our bodies (especially our brains).

Have we lost the ability to truly "switch off" and give ourselves the 8 hours of respite necessary to ensure that essential systems are repaired and restored?

The reason I wonder is because the highly controversial issue in respect to whether cellphone radiation causes cancer has arisen once again in the form of a report from The French National Frequency Agency, as documented in this report.

Who knows for sure?

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