Regular visitors to this corner of the WWW will know already that schloss Cheeseford is home to all manner of strange, wonderful technology. My family of open-reel tape recorders rule the roost, but there's room for more recent obsolescence such as the object on the left. That's what affordable digital radios looked like in 2000. Well, I say affordable. When launched, the Psion Wavefinder was £299, and you needed a PC with USB ports for it to be any use at all. I sprung for mine when they came down to £99 a year later. At the time, I was reviewing radio for the New Statesman and I felt I needed to keep up with all of this digital lark. That and the fact that, despite putting my life in peril by hanging out of my 2nd floor flat window with an electrically-unsafe drill to install a suitable antenna on the side wall, my VHF reception was still far from perfect. Unfortunately, I chose to opt in at the moment that the BBC dropped the bitrates of all their stations (save for Radio 3), so I was merely swapping one set of sonic compromises for another, but with timer recording and other rather neat features, it was a worthwhile bit of kit. When it worked.
I've lost count of the number of times I reinstalled the drivers and the front-end software. I unplugged it, plugged it back in again, found a piece of third-party software that disabled the resource-hogging lights (I should take some video of the lights in action. They're oddly calming. When they work.), and I tried it with slimline salad dressing. Unfortunately, every which way I turned, it was a buggy piece of crap. I kept it for dire emergencies, but came to rely on satellite and Freeview for my radio reception, as well as an improved VHF aerial installation when I moved to my present house. Finally, when Windows XP Service Pack 2 came out, it was bye bye Wavefinder, as Microsoft had done something under XP's bonnet to make the Wavefinder even more of a dud than it had been before. I hung it on the far wall of my office as a lesson to myself never again to be an early adopter.
Then, last week, I read on Mike Brown's excellent TX list that the ruddy things work again in XP SP3. I went through the rigmarole of reinstalling it, and yes, it works. Sometimes. I had hoped that having a computer several times more powerful than the one I had in 2000 might have helped the Wavefinder realise its full potential, but no. It's still a buggy piece of crap. And yet I can't bring myself to get rid of it.