Straight Key Night

As I’ve written, I’m not a big fan of using straight keys. Even so, Straight Key Night—every New Year’s Eve—is fun. Everyone drags out their straight keys and vintage gear. Here’s a great video by Steve, N0TU, showcasing a wide variety of keys and gear:

WA6UBE has also made a Straight Key night video that’s interesting.

Tubescence and the “All-American Five”

Donald Christensen has written an homage to the vacuum tube. He notes that many young engineers aren’t aware of the rich history of the vacuum tube. He writes, “Some [young engineers] may even believe that aside from a few special-purpose tubes (magnetrons, klystrons, photomultipliers, and CRTs for example), tubes are no longer manufactured and are found only in museums.”

He should have also included some links to information on the “All-American Five” radio he refers to, but they are easy to come by on the Net. Here are a few links:

Tubs of Tubes

Yesterday, I got a call from a guy whose website I’m working on. He says he’s calling from the Ann Arbor Reuse Center and that they have two tubs full of vacuum tubes there. He asked, “Do you know anyone who might want them”?

“How much are they asking for them”? I reply.

“Ten cents a piece.”

“How many are thereâ”?

“I’d guess about two hundred.”

“Well, tell them I’ll give him 20 bucks for all of them.”

He tells them that I’ll give them $20 for the lot. I hear some mumbling. He comes back on the line and says they’re negotiating. After a minute or two, he says, “OK. You got them. How do I get to your house”?

I gave him directions, and in about 15 minutes, he pulls up to my house, gets out, opens the hatch, and pulls out two plastic tubs and a cardboard box with vacuum tubes in them. I can tell he was way off in his estimate. There must be at least 400 tubes in all.

Tub of Tubes

There’s nothing really exotic–most of them seem to have been taken out of old TV sets–but I did find a couple of 6J6s. These are the tubes used for the single-tube transmitter I have been thinking about building. In one of the tubs, there was even a socket for the 6J6.

There are also a bunch of 6KS7s. According to the RCA tube manual, these tubes were often used as RF or IF amplifiers. That sounds like the beginning of a receiver project, doesn’t it? In fact, 6SK7s were used in the receiver section of the ParaSet, a “spy radio” used during WWII.

And, of course, there are a bunch of rectifiers to make a power supply. Now, all I have to find some cheap transformers. Anyone know a good source for them?

The First Radio Kit?

Kendrick, KB1NCR, writes to the qrp-l mailing list:

I have been reading, and highly recommend, Signor Marconi’s Magic Box by Gavin Weightman (2003) – a history of Marconi’s inventions and competition with others in the turn of the century world of “wireless.”

In the brief chapter about the pre-WWI “free-for-all” pre-license amateur radio, he mentions this advertisement in Scientific American 1905. It is the first radio kit. Truly QRP, it guarantees a range of “at least one mile.”

Weightman acknowledges Early Radio History as a major resource during his research – it is a fantastic website for information about early radio.

By the way – thank god for continuous wave: spark gap transmitters sound terrifying.