Tag: vintage

Is it wise to purchase the latest greatest technology?

Is it wise to purchase the latest greatest technology?

When considering an investment in technology, the first thing to know is that you buy the Sizzle, Not the Steak.

What does that mean?

If you drive past a steak house, you will undoubtedly smell mesquite smoke or some other aroma to stir the juices accompanying that reward center of your brain. A wise entrepreneur will attempt to use all the senses as bait. The sizzle is the bait. Regarding steak, the payoff is delivering it to you exactly as you expect.

Theatres use popcorn. The fragrance will trigger memories. Possibly you are at the mall to look for clothes but, the scent, along with signs and lines of patrons, will trigger a diversion in many who are not on a tight schedule. The sizzle is reliving the memory even if the movie and company are different.  The first time you enjoy a movie with popcorn and friends is precious and becomes part of who you are.

Technology is loaded with promise. Unfortunately, it is also packed with inexpensive microcomputers and software with a finite lifetime.

Case in point and the reason for this article.

I collect and restore vintage radios. As long as the case is in good shape, I will consider the rest of the process of laying out cash for something that has little practical value in this world today. Why does only the case matter?

The components in that radio are still available.

My original entry into this hobby was Amateur Radio. The sizzle for me is to restore a radio and have it functional. The memory of when that radio was new transports me to an earlier time.  Many purchase things on eBay for the same reason.  The sizzle is that connection to a time when you sat on Grandma’s lap as she read to you. Perhaps it was that first easy bake oven or set of Legos.

With me, it was listening to a baseball game with my grandfather. The old floor model Zenith with that prominent speaker transported him and me to the game.  This event was a magical time and a fond memory.

Without beleaguering the point, my first expensive transceiver (A Swan 350D) still works. Yes, I have had to replace parts along the way but, I can still get them. That radio was the first hybrid to incorporate tubes, transistors, and some digital technology.

From HeathKit to Collins, even today, if you buy one at a swap meet, the odds are great; you will be able to find what you need to get it back on the air.

While technology marches on and offers us more whistles and bells, conversely, it takes longevity away.

In my closet is a costly modern radio. Built-in the 1990’s, this radio performed well, until one day it didn’t.  Not only was the radio a solid performer, but it also looked nice. Some would argue that the FT 990 was one of the best radio’s Yaesu ever built.

Once I narrowed it down, I knew what I needed; there was a catch.  The manufacturer no longer has the parts. Purchasing parts on eBay and other online sources is a crapshoot, as I found out.

Some people buy radios like mine, cannibalize them, much like the junkyards of old did with cars, and sell it one piece at a time. The part I ordered was butchered in the process and was worthless when it got to me.

As radio enthusiasts, I say all that to say this: we might need to shift our mindset, including how we spend our money.

In the 80’s I began the process of learning about computers. As an engineer, I saw the transition in progress.  Electronic devices were becoming something one used and trashed when they malfunctioned. Televisions are a perfect example

When asked about a contract on that new TV, ‘just in case,’ my response was ‘hell no.”  Firstly, it is wasted money, and secondly, when the thing dies, it will be time for something newer.

In the early days of home computers, a device with less power than your smartwatch costs a bundle.  Five hundred dollars for sixteen meg of ram was the going price. That ram was soon outdated, as was the entire computer.

Even back in the day, we should have realized we had purchased the sizzle. What could we do with that PC then? Word processors were indeed a novelty, as were spreadsheets.

Today, we have redesigned the radio to resemble a radio of old, but that ends with its appearance.

Menus instead of knobs and displays instead of an S meter which can be daunting to the older ham. There are also multiple ways to integrate your radio with your computer.  All of this ‘sizzle’ depends upon how long there are parts available, and your level of interest.

When you purchase a used radio, that mindset shift needs to include it’s age.

Much like an old car, it can only go so many miles. The radio is only viable as long as the replacement parts are available. The clock starts ticking the day it leaves the factory.

My Yaesu FT 990 is worthless as a radio; what about the other vendors?  My Kenwood TS 520S, along with the 830 S, still works perfectly. They are both much older than the FT 990. What if I purchased a used, but newer Kenwood of the same age as the FT 990? I suspect that parts for it might also be an issue.

My Alinco DX 70 went silent one day.  Alinco no longer carries that little speaker it uses.  My point is not to bash the vendors. If you are like me and enjoy the soft glow of a dial light along with watching an S-meter lazily sway with the QSB, consider only buying a new radio, not used.

Either stick with the vintage equipment you know you can get parts for or spend the dollars on a radio with warranty and longevity.

Research part availability before you invest your money and time in a new old radio.

The Chinese have sent a message to the world via products like the Baofeng.

I realize that many speak poorly of that radio but, I have several expensive handhelds that the replacement battery will cost more than a new radio with a battery.

Perhaps the cost of this radio is about what we should be paying for software-defined products with little longevity.

My name-brand handheld radios perform no better than the thirty-dollar version. Again, the only difference that I can see is the interface to program the radio.

If the Chinese radio stops working, I am not going to worry about finding parts. If my radio’s that cost a small fortune falter, I will invest the time and energy to repair them. Either the name brand manufacturers need to acquire the mindset that Hams value the radio as more than just a commodity, or the off-brand manufacturers can continue to design and sell radio’s that we can all agree are disposable once they die. 

The message is clear. If you want to sell a handheld or other product for hundreds of dollars more than the Chinese counterpart, the vendor’s mindset also needs to change.

We keep our radios and value them not as a commodity but as something we could pass on to our kids. Stocking replacement parts for expensive radios would benefit the community, and it would be a selling point.

While radios are not the only technology to suffer the fate of progress, we also see how the automobile industry is suffering because of the lack of computer chips.

If I were Ford, I would offer a ‘back to basics’ automobile. You would genuinely need to sell it and have people interested, but in truth, I would love to have a (new old car) with three on the tree, roll-up windows, and an AM radio with half a dozen presets. We don’t need chips to run the damned thing; we need a spark, gas, compression and air mixed and timed with points that need adjusting every so often.

Can you tell me what the sizzle might be? 



Yesterday, A simpler time.. #radio #vintage

Nostalgia is not lost on me.  To that end I truly enjoy bringing things back to life of the electronic type, that should have otherwise gone in the dumper.

Currently there are countless transistor radio’s that were dead and now work once again at least as good as they did new, and some of them probably better as materials are now better.  While the challenge of transistor radio’s is finding the parts; tube radio’s magnify that issue as no one is making new tubes for radio’s that I know of.

My latest project is this Tube Radio that I have had well over 30 years.  I bought this for next to nothing and of course it did not work.  If the case is in good shape and the parts are all there, that is about all I require.

The Radio is an Emerson 744B that was made in 1954.  It sold for $34.95 which, back then was a heap of money.


Sadly there are many that will read this blog and not know what a tube is.  With that in mind I have taken pictures of my latest project and will “splain” a few things as we go.  The glass objects are tubes. These either are dead in the case of the rectifier tube or weak or leaky as with the rest.


The tubes house a filament, some metal structures that emit and collect electrons as well as things that control the flow of the electrons.  Some house a thing called a “getter.” The Getters sole job is to collect and burn off any o2 that should get in by way of the pins.  The getter is coated with a chemical that accomplishes this.

The British refer to these “tubes” as “valves” and in actuality that is a much more accurate description as that is in essence how they work.

This is the audio output tube in action.  Notice the filament is glowing.



Here is a top view of the radio in operation.


Here is a bottom view of the radio showing the point to point electronic components.  If you know anything about electronics you will notice the modern parts that I have installed, replacing the parts that failed.

Back in the day, capacitors were expensive to manufacture so they would use just what they needed and nothing more in terms of capacitance.  Today that is not the case and with technology I was able to offer much more capacitance and higher working voltages to the circuit for around $6.


One old .05 MFD capacitor is still in the radio and functioning so I left it.  The white square capacitors replaced two of the three .05 which are now .047.

The two modern electrolytics replaced the huge combination capacitor that some “purists” will actually disassemble and install the newer capacitors inside of it.  I know very few who are going to take the metal bottom off of the radio and look underneath to see the parts.  This radio sounds like a new one.

Here in North Texas we have a station that plays music from the era that this radio came from.  http://www.kaamradio.com/

Big  Band music I just never get tired of….   Anyway, this radio sounds great playing that station.


-Best to you and those that you care about..


The case of the misfit hand tool.


The following is my guess to what this company is searching for. Hope you enjoy the tale..


After searching servers throughout the world, I came across a wiki leaks article dated from 1947.

It seems as though a man was found wondering aimlessly through the New Mexico desert. He had no memory of how he had gotten there but, was visibly agitated when a small lizard scurried by his feet, while talking to authorities.

He was brought to the local hospital for observation and treatment for dehydration and exposure. Days later, while he was getting his clothes back on, he noticed something in his pocket. Plucking it out revealed a strange looking device. Not knowing what it was or how it got there, he put it back into his pocket and made his way down to the cafeteria in the hospital.

Later he was greeted by a Doctor who used hypnosis to bring back memories, so they could find out who this guy was and where he belonged.

Once under hypnosis (so the story goes) he told of wild things, crazy things, he told about being taken from his car in the middle of the night and brought aboard some sort of craft. He was so visibly shaken by the retelling of the events that the therapist had to stop the session and awaken the man for fear of a seizure or other such malady.

The two met again and again, day after day; each time getting a little more information. The good Doctor was either putting the pieces of an extraordinary puzzle together or, the twisted mind of a seriously ill man. Either way he wanted to continue as this was by far the most interesting case that this doctor had ever dealt with.

As the sessions progressed, the man told of being on a table where these creatures which stood on two feet and looked somewhat like lizards, were bringing instruments over his body to “examine” him. At this instance with incredible lucidity the man looks at the “probes” and other devices and tells the creatures “Aw Hell No!” and with much surprise breaks the constraints on the table and escapes the examining room to find himself in a maze of corridors and hallways.

As the lizard people had much shorter legs than him and long since lost their ability to run on all fours; he was able to outrun them and for several hours lurked around the bowels of the ship. While in one room, he saw all sorts of gadgets and other meters and lights and what have you as well as strange looking shafts of light, emanating from the floor to the ceiling the light pulsed with a low droning noise coming from somewhere in the ship.

He told of watching their “people” adjusting a device that they called the Quantum entanglement regulator or QER. (The precursor to the flux capacitor I am sure.) When they adjusted the QER correctly the pulsed light coalesced into a nice steady rhythm. After the two “aliens” working on the QER left; our hero went up to the QER, grabbed the “tool” off of the table and “tweaked” the QER just a little bit, as to cause the pulses of light to flash more erratically; after which, he put the tool into his pocket and left the room.

As the tool that adjusts it is made from the same metal that the QER is made from, and at the same time, the tool and the device are a match both metallurgically as well as atomically. Any other device used to adjust the QER would result in immediate destruction of the device, or so they thought.

It was not long before our hero was discovered wandering the hallways and brought back to the examining room. Once there, they wiped his memory of the events and deposited him in the middle of the desert, many miles from where they took him from.

As the aliens were really not familiar with the concept of clothing, they also did not know about pockets. Had they known, they might have searched him before they sent him back to the planets surface.

After the doctor awakens his patient he asked him about the tool. With little more than a blank look, the abductee reaches into his pocket and retrieves the tool, and hands it to the doctor.

While there is nothing visibly exceptional about the tool the good doctor laughs and tells the guy that it looks like a really poorly designed nutcracker, and hands it back to our hero. Our good doctor was now convinced that the mans’ time in the desert had left him lost in episodes of delirium and there was little more that he could do other than to get the paper to see if they could help discover who this guy really is.

News of the person found in the desert reached the media of the day, and it was not long after that before he was reunited with his loved ones. The tool ended up in the back of a junk drawer where it sat, collecting dust, until the man’s death several years later. His children then had an estate sale and the tool was sold with the “lot” of the contents of the junk drawer.

Meanwhile, when the aliens tried to leave orbit, they discovered that their Quantum Entanglement hyper drive was not “regulated” correctly and immediately dispatched a crew to regulate it. When the tool to do so could not be found they were forced to stay on our planet much longer than they had planned for. A brash decision was made to attempt to regulate the QER with something other than the correct tool, and in July of 1947, as a result of that decision, there was a crash of one alien craft inhabited by “lizard people” in Roswell…

Somewhere in a dungeon at Write Patterson Air Force base lies the remains of the craft which our people have tried for years to reverse engineer. So far the only technology that they could replicate is fiber optics and Velcro, and some claim the laser, but I tend to think we did that one.

The QER is still out of sync and because of the signals that it is emanating, had to be put several stories under ground to keep the Russians from picking it up on their spy satellites.

If they only knew that in some small antique shop lives the key to unlimited power, space travel; not only at incredible speeds, but also time, they would be ecstatic! Yes the QEHD (Quantum Entanglement Hyper Drive) also allows for easy travel both forwards and backwards in time.

Can you imagine what would happen if General Wainright at the pentagon, were to read this story on the internet and find the key to power beyond his wildest dreams, and it lives in a small antique shop? He will never see it however; as security is so tight that no computer can ever be connected to the public internet, ergo he will never read about this on Facebook. All the unlimited power that this tool controls will be lost to all of mankind forever!

Another fun fact is about the aliens themselves. Unlike the media hype, several survived and have been working in the skunk-works programs at Write Patterson and Area 51. Our government did not force them into this; they found that after getting to know us, that we are not really all that bad. As the matter of fact, one of those aliens is a celebrity of sorts; you see him on TV, selling insurance. You just think that he is CGI…..

I would also be totally remiss if I did not entertain the other theory, that this is simply a poorly designed nut cracker, so poorly designed in fact, that few were made as the nuts and or shells escaped, putting people’s eyes out. The company abandoned the idea of making this model and this is the one, the prototype that survived going back into the crucible, to be made into something more useful, like pull tabs on beer cans.

The story, people and depictions in this “article” are a complete creation of an over active imagination, and should be looked at as “entertainment.” Or are they….? The Truth is out there, and, I Want to Believe…

Update: 10-14-14

Mystery solved!

Some time ago this picture was placed on Face Book by a company that sells antiques and other one off things.  Nobody had a clue what this was or what it was used for.  We guessed that it was a tool but for what. I frequent antique stores as this type of thing interest me.

While digging around I found something that looked very similar and on the handle was a tag describing it.  This device was used to turn the flu in a stovepipe off or on, or adjust it as it would be hot.  I still like my story better but alas, the truth is out there…

-Best to you and those that you care about.