’Net Junkie

Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

The powerful boom box
was big in its day

There's a scene in Spike Lee's 1989 film "Do the Right Thing" in which the boom box-toting Radio Raheem (played by Bill Nunn) earns passage through a neighborhood block by drowning out the radio of some homeboys from around the way with his enormous, window-rattling system. You got the sounds, you got the juice. And so it was growing up in my neighborhood in Kalihi. The dudes with the biggest, most tricked-out boom boxes were admired and respected by all.

As a young, unemployed teen, I could never afford a powerful, high-end unit, though I'd always longed for one. Ironically, now that I've grown into a decent, job-holding citizen, I still can't get my hands on one. They've become an endangered species.

Sure, I could go out and purchase a slick, CD-and mp3-playing portable radio, no problem. But those huge block-rockin' contraptions that required 100 "D" batteries and its own zip code? Forget it. At least I can reminisce. Through the insightful and enormously entertaining (, to be exact), I've learned to trace the origins of the boom box back to the Marantz Superscope, a diminutive, AM/FM cassette recorder which set consumers back $200 in 1976. "Few style points, but great quality from a leader in magnetic tape technology," says the Web site, which features photos and descriptions of dozens of classic boom box units from avid collectors around the world.

Hector Amezquita of Mexico City offers a pic of his much sought-after JVC RC-838JW "Biphonic" system; a heavy piece of machinery complete with beat match, binaural equalizer, LEDs and six-band radio. Sean from Canada sends in a photo of his monolithic 20 lb., 2 1/2-foot long Clairtone ghetto blaster, immortalized in the 1984 movie "Breakin'."

There's the absolutely gorgeous, high-performance Panasonic RX-7700, featuring AM/FM/SW reception and side handles which sold for $700 in 1981, and the unforgettable Sharp VZ-2000, which boasted a side-loading turntable that actually played records. Remember those? Others came with TV screens, TV audio functions and Casio keyboards.

Of course, even if I'd managed to track one of these beauties down, the question remains: where do I find the cassettes to play on these things?

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

’Net Junkie drops every Monday.
Contact Shawn "Speedy" Lopes at

Note: Web sites mentioned in this column were active at time of publication. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin neither endorses nor is responsible for their contents.


E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --