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The Howard Roberts Quartet broadcast in 1970 at 1pm on a weekday & Happy 90th Birthday Shelly Gunewardena (sent by Patrick Ranasinghe)


This is a tribute Radio Ceylon and to all electrical radio engineers and technicians who work at Radio Ceylon/SLBC the unsung heroes that made everything  possible our listening pleaser working and maintain all the transmitting equipment to broadcast in Sri Lanka India and south East Asia with News and Music. Shelly Gunawardena was one of them and his Father MMP Gunawardena was the Radio Chief Engineer. I was lucky to visit their home at Fairline road Dehiwala in the 1948 a little boy and was amazed see radio equipment and their personal transmission equipment and communicating with the BBC, voice of America, German collogues and housed 5 or more deference clocks with their country names and time. Shelly at the same time was a brilliant motor mechanic and the first in the country to convert some of the petrol American Automobiles  6-12 cylinders to run on Kerosene at that time kerosene was cheap. Please enjoy The Howard Roberts Quartet broadcast  in 1970 at 1pm on a weekday

Immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, and subsequently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1980s. Mr. Shelly Gunewardena’s life story is truly emblematic of the concept of achievement.  As a staunch believer in the idea of assuming full responsibility for developing one’s innate intelligence, talents, and skills, Shelly has achieved all that he has accomplished through his own initiative, creativity, perseverance, and determination. Certainly, we can not discount the fact that the personal attributes he is endowed with contributed to his realization of his dreams, aspirations and goals. Shelly grew up as the favourite son of M.M.P. Gunewardena, famous in Colombo circles for his horse, his talents in photography, and his golfing and tennis buddy, governor general, Sir John Kotelawela.  M.M. P. as he was fondly known, would take Shelly along to state dinners at the invitation of Sir John, where Shelly got his penchant for hob-nobbing with international diplomats and their entourages. At the age of 16, he built his own radio with tubes and other contraptions.  Soon, his reputation as the “radio man” spread across his home town, Dehiwela, and various neighbours and friends brought him their radios for repair.  He became known as the “Radio-guru of Dehiwela”, which led to his bolder experiment in repairing the best radio at the time, a Phillips 9 tube raid, owned by a older doctor.  Stumped by the complexity of the unit, and never one to give up, Shelly decided to dismantle the whole thing and reduce it to a 2 tube unit, much to the dismay of his more experienced uncles and the hesitant doctor who paid him Rs. 20 nonetheless, since the radio was working after Shelly’s efforts. Following his interest in radio broadcasting, and his hobby with ham radio, at the age of 18, Shelly landed his first job at Radio SEAC (South-east Asia Command), the station established by the British forces in Ceylon, as the country was known at the time.  This was quite a prestigious job for a young man of 18 since Radio SEAC broadcasted across the entire Southeast Asia region, and was meant to keep British soldiers stationed across the region in good morale through broadcasts of their favourite songs and other shows that kept the memory of home alive.  The encyclopedia entry for Radio SEAC explains that it was the war time radio station operated by the Allied Forces who took over the operations of Colombo Radio, the national radio station in old Ceylon launched in 1925.   Radio SEAC programs were broadcast across Asia, tuned in by the allied forces and people across South Asia.   After World War II, Radio SEAC was handed over to the Government of Ceylon, and underwent a name change to Radio Ceylon, which is the oldest radio station in Asia, and the second oldest in the entire world, listened to by millions of people.  Shelly was given a military motorcycle to travel to work, bearing the logo of a phoenix, a proud possession that gave him his first professional entre in to establishing himself as a global leader in his area of expertise. 

One recollection of Radio Ceylon mentions that “For Indian radio enthusiasts of decades gone by, it was Radio Ceylon that set the standards. Those were days before commercial broadcasts commenced in India and taking a break from the monotonous, though informative, broadcasts of All India Radio (AIR) meant twirling those vintage radios to trap Radio Ceylon’s programmes. Once tuned in, the listener was treated not just to music of the highest quality. The magnetic voices of broadcasters, Jimmy Barucha (English), Ameen Sayani (Hindi) and Mayilvaganam (Tamil), to mention just three, ensnared the listeners, taking Radio Ceylon to the top slot in the region’s radio network”

  “The history of broadcasting, published in Wikipedia, notes that gramophone music was broadcast from a tiny room in Colombo’s Central Telegraph Office with the aid of a transmitted built by Telegraph Department engineers from the radio equipment from a captured German submarine.”

Vernon Corea

Vernon Corea on the front cover of the Radio Times of 1963

Vernon Corea on the front cover of the Radio Times of 1963

Shelly is remembered fondly by old members of the Radio Society of Sri Lanka (RSSL), who had this to say: “A great surprise recently to have Shelly Gunewardena get in touch with me after 50 years. He was taken on the Radio SEAC staff in my days and spent much of his time at the receiving station at Hora Hena. We have swapped a number of emails recently catching up on old times! He is now in California and doing well in his own electronics business. He says I got him started on electronics!  – Paul Gotto G3BGL Around that time, end of WW II, the United States decided to locate their own radio broadcast station, Voice of America also in Ceylon, and Shelly was placed in charge of the VoA station in Seeduwa.  

April 15, 2020  From Jayam  Good News

Happy 90th Birthday Shelly Gunewardena of Walnut, Ca.

Shelly Gunewardena

“March 19, 2020 was my father, Shelton Joseph Gunewardena’s 90th Birthday. I pray for God’s continued blessings upon him, as he runs his course taking a totally unconventional path in life.  Of all the out-of-the-box designs and inventions he conceived, the most notable is the invention of the Chip Indictor in 1977. Prior to the chip inductor the smallest magnetic component at the time was the ¼ inch cube developed by engineers from MIT. Shelly worked relentlessly to develop his invention despite being told by his employer that if it could have been done, it would have already been done by individuals with far greater credentials than him. Thankfully, that didn’t dissuade him. He had to develop and build his own winding machines since there were no machines that could wind sub miniature coils at the time. He worked with a Ferrite Core company to produce a “Dog Bone” core the size of a pencil tip led. He designed and introduced unique test fixtures to H/P (Hewlett Packard) since the test instruments at the time could not accurately test parts that small. He designed new molding methodology since the experts at the time said it couldn’t be done. When the patent was granted and his parts catalog was released, the US Military adopted the catalog and established it as the MIL-30000 Series for Chip Inductors. These parts ranged in size from 0.085 in. tall, 0.100 in. square, about the size of a grain of rice. Shelly received Special Recognition Award from Raytheon as the Chip Inductor played a key role in the realization of the Patriot Missile program. The Chip Inductor was a game-changer in the electronics industry in the advent of microelectronics. Before this invention, a typical cellular telephone was the size of a suitcase which had to be housed in the trunk of a car. We can all pay a salute of gratitude to Shelly as we read this tribute on our cell phones.

 Hi wife Lorna and children Sunetra, Ramani, Nandini, Rohan, Ravi, Devika and Sriyanthie, join in wishing Shelly a Blessed and Joyful 90th Birthday.” – Rohan Gunewardena





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