Friday, May 16, 2008

Veni, Vide, Morse Code

I returned safely from the Hamvention about 7:30 p.m., having stopped to get my front wheels balanced before I left Dayton (Pep Boys, 25 minutes, and it made a big difference; staff was nice, too.)

Met a few old friends -- Key Collector/Enigma Machine expert, Prof. Tom Perera and another key collector, "Neal," (who I suspect is this guy), along with my former boss (ret.) and the former V.P.-Engineering (very ret.), "Tom" from one of the vacuum-tube ham homebrew reflectors I was on some years back and the guy who calls me "Heather," 'cos my phone number on my "Retrotechnologist" and "Airship Privateer" business cards list the exchange as "HEather 2." Plus many folks who found my "Alpha Geekette" T-shirt fetching. --Gotta know your audience!

What'd I buy? Not much. A supposedly-working Ten-Tec Century 21 transceiver at a fire-sale price, a miniature telegraph key (made in France for South Africa's military), a old Readrite meter (the low-cost meter of the 1930s amateur homebrewer and still cheap when found: $1.00), a handful of antenna insulators and a biography of RSGB's wonderful Technical Topics columnist, Pat Hawker, G3VA. (Sadly, he's retired from regular writing but when you consider his first publication was prior to WW II, it's not as if he was a slacker).

Saw a nice Unimat lathe, with the part missing from mine (drill press adaptor. It's not a huge loss, as that's the little device's least-useful function), priced to sell at... $350.00?!?! They don't make 'em any more but it's a low-precision desktop lathe. Also saw -- laid hands on! -- a Mecograph right-angle "bug" key (it's a semiautomatic telegraph key that was designed to get around the Vibroplex patents) and a simply stunning GPO key, a massive piece of British engineering with the works in a cylindrical brass casting with a glass cover. Overbuilt? You bet, but it's a delight to the hand and eye. Alas, I didn't get a chance to learn what rare treasures Tom Perara might've unearthed; he was busy lecturing a rapt audience about WW II cipher machines when I reached his space.

A good day's geekery. I could easily have spent more time, but the clock waits for no one and I wasn't about to drive home squinting into the sunset.

The Hot Needle of Inquiry got better than 33 mpg, driving the speed limit both ways. That's some high gear!


George said...

Cool, Roberta. It's always great to read comments from an enthusiast. Frankly, I know little about ham radios ... but I still read out the license plates of operators in International (Victor Echo Three ... here in Ontario).

Glad you made it safely.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

God, what I'd give to go to a Dayton hamfest... but I have a shed full of old computers I should be rid of first.

Need an HP Apollo?

Alan said...

I knew you were a Geek, but damn!

(From the takes one to know one department.)


Roberta X said...

I'm a fairly major geek, Alan; it's fun, though it makes walking the flea market go awfully fast: "Got one...don't want one...junk...oh, gee, a 75A4...too big to, OM, that's a McElroy...I'm pretty sure you mean 'polydactyl.' Hey, wow, a Lionel straight key..." and so on.

Doc S., what you have there are two issues that cancel out -- with a shed full of old computers, what you need is a space in the flea market at Dayton! This should turn 'em into cash and gets you in the gate early.

George: you know, last time I plated the scooter, I asked for ham radio plates. Can't get 'em in the small size. Fine, I asked for my callsign on a "vanity" plate -- and their computer system rejected it, 'cos "vanity numbers cannot resemble amateur callsigns." Hello?

Turk Turon said...

The Ten-Tec looks great, but doesn't it use s*m*conductors? The spec sheet sez it even receives SSB! You're weakening! Were you subconsciously shopping for a PTT mike? How about a nice all-tube balanced modulator? There's a Yaesu in your future! Hi-hi.

Roberta X said...

I've had a Yeasu. Sold it. The Century 21 is a CW-only xcvr. Transistors, true -- but well-aged ones.

Anonymous said...

Roberta, how about a post or two on your telegraph key collection?? I have always thought telegraphs were kind of cool.

Anonymous said...

That GPO reminds me of a quote-- "an elephant is a mouse built to military standards"

Anonymous said...

Roberta: here you go.

Regular registration + $8.00
Order at branch, take your FCC license along. Used to have to be done in January, but don't see that limit any more. (Order early enough so they can have the plate made before you need it.)

State code says "Federal Communication License," but I once knew I guy who got plated with the Netherlands Antilles call he acquired for a DXpedition. YMMV.

Drang said...

"a massive piece of British engineering with the works in a cylindrical brass casting with a glass cover. Overbuilt? You bet, but it's a delight to the hand and eye."
Isn't "overbuilt British Engineering" redundant?

I've had my ticket for a whole two months now. I'm not sure Mrs. Drang believes me when I tell her I am not planning on putting a tower in the backyard...

Dr. StrangeGun said...

"Isn't "overbuilt British Engineering" redundant?"

Ever see what ties the steering spindles to the control arms on old British sports cars?


I might have to get a table at a hamfest one of these days. I quite literally have a pile of Suns doing nothing but rotting away, and I'm of the ilk that I can't stand to just toss them and their brethren... IBM PS/2s, tandys, there was a pile of Macs but I gave those to Tam... there's even a pristine TRS-80 III and a Zenith Z89 in there.

I'd sell on ebay, but it's almost all too much of a pain to ship! Last thing I ebayed was an SS1000 and I *barely* got that in a box small enough to ship fedex at all...

Drang said...

"Ever see what ties the steering spindles to the control arms on old British sports cars?"

Except when it's dangerously underbuilt, of course.

Roberta X said...

Aw, geez. That part of my MGB never, ever broke and I doubt it would; there's more meat there than you'd think, though the perishable bits do want looked after. Classic British sportsters are misunderstood. The MGB (and brothers-in-iron) was designed in the belief that the owner wanted a hobby and would keep up with all the maintenance; if you do so and you've a knack for the electrics, they're a treat. Sort of a four-wheeled motorcycle or an airplane without wings: you've got to do the checklist before you take off.

I like UK engineering. They often don't do things the way I'd expect but there's usually a reason and the stuff works. There's much to be learned from people who think at least as well as one does but differently.

As I get my hamshack set up. I will probably start a "CQ 1930-1950" blog analogous to Tam's two specialized blogs. It'll be photo-heavy.