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John Palcewski's Journal

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The Good Old Days

When I was a boy one of my uncles showed me how to build a “crystal set,” a rudimentary radio made with thin enameled copper wire wrapped around a Quaker’s Oats canister, which brought into my earphones the stunning sound of music from KDKA in Pittsburgh, as well as a few stations in New York.

Now today I’m able to see, live, in real time, a monumental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not for nothing they call the era of radio “The good old days.”

Well, all right, that’s just blind nostalgia. After all, back then Harry Truman instantly destroyed two Japanese Cities with atomic bombs.

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I made a crystal radio when I was a kid. Later Edmund Scientific and other companies came out with kits rather than the whole DIY thing.

There are always the good old days. And also the bad old days, too.

What is good and bad remains the same -- the method of delivery just changes.

Speaking of kits, I built a monaural high fidelity amplifier (with vacuum tubes!), an FM tuner, and a multi-band short-wave radio from Heathkit. Edmund Scientific's catalog was almost as entertaining as the one from Johnson & Smith. I sent away to J&S for a powder to put on soap, which would startle whoever used it. Like my uncle. "Chet! Chet!" he shouted from the bathroom. "I'm BLEEDING!!!!" I rolled on the floor in my room, trying to stifle my laughter.

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