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Odd Lots

  • My old friend and fellow early GTer Rod Smith has posted a great many excellent pictures he took at Chicon 7, including a book signing that I attended.
  • My mother’s cat Fuzzbucket died yesterday, at 16 years and change. He outlived my poor mother by twelve years, and while skittish as a kitten eventually warmed to me. I’ve never had a cat (for obvious reasons, of which I have four right now) but of all the cats I’ve never had, Fuzzbucket was my favorite. He kept his own LiveJournal page, and the final entry brought a tear to my eye.
  • For those who couldn’t attend Chicon and were cut off from viewing the Hugo Awards by an idiotic copyright protection bot, you’ve got another chance: The award ceremony will be re-streamed tomorrow night, September 9, at 7 PM central time.
  • This morning’s Gazette had an ad for hearing aids, which bragged of their product having 16 million transistors. This is easier than it used to be, since all those transistors are in one container. Now, does anybody remember the days when ads bragged of radios containing six transistors?
  • And while we grayhairs and nohairs are recalling transistor counts in the high single digits, does anybody remember the early Sixties scandal (reported in Popular Electronics, I think) in which Japanese manufacturers would solder additional transistors into simple superhet boards and short the leads together, just so they could advertise the box as a “ten-transistor” radio?
  • Nice piece from Ars Technica on the deep history of the spaceplane.
  • Bill Cherepy sent a link to a marvelous steampunk tennis ball launcher, used for getting pull-strings for antennas (and as often as not, the antennas themselves) into high or otherwise inaccessible places. Gadgets like this (albeit not in steampunk dress) have been around for a long time, and I posted a link to this one (courtesy Jim Strickland) back in March.
  • Also from Bill (and several others in the past few days) comes word of a promising if slightly Quixotic attempt to preserve orphaned SF and fantasy. Here’s the main site. At least they’re offering money to authors and estates; most other preservation efforts (of pulp mags and old vinyl, particularly) are pirate projects most visible on Usenet.
  • That said, there are projects that limit themselves to out-of-copyright pulps, like this one. One problem, of course, is knowing when a pulp (or anything else from the 1923-1963 era) is out of copyright. Copyright ambiguity only hurts the idea of copyright. We need to codify copyright and require registration, at least for printed works. I’m not as concerned about copyright’s time period, as long as the owners of a copyright are known. As I’ve said here before, I’m apprehensive about competing with hundreds of thousands of now-orphaned books and stories.
  • I don’t eat much sugar anymore, but egad, there are now candy-corn flavored Oreos.


  1. Rich Dailey says:

    I remember “Transistorized” in raised, gold lettering emblazoned on the front of portable radios. Also a brief period in the seventies when stereos and TVs proudly displayed their badges touting “IC”, “Integrated Circuit Technology”, or 1, 2, or 3 IC. And later came the “VLSI” labels.

    And of course there were all the radios that simply said “Solid State”, and me as a kid wondering what the heck that meant, other than the fact that it didn’t get very warm to the touch.

  2. Erbo says:

    O Bubastis, Goddess of the Nile, pray keep watch for the arrival of a brown tabby cat named Fuzzbucket, who never scratched or bit without just cause, who was much loved by his people, including Jeff and his mother, and who returned that love in full measure. Guide him forthwith to the Eternal Catnip Fields, wherein he may enjoy a well-deserved rest.

    (He’ll be joining two of our own, the much-beloved Star, and Sabrina’s dearly departed Deamon.)

    1. Fuzz had a good, long life. He was a rescued feral kitten and wouldn’t have lasted long hiding under someone’s back porch. He kept my mom company during her final decline (in partnership with her dog Sasha) and was relatively healthy until his last few months. Mission accomplished. I won’t ask much more of any cat or dog than that.

  3. Stickmaker says:

    >[A]nybody remember the early Sixties scandal (reported in Popular >Electronics, I think) in which Japanese manufacturers would solder >additional transistors into simple superhet boards and short the leads >together, just so they could advertise the box as a “ten-transistor” radio?

    I may lose some techie cred, here, but I don’t consider anything involving a superheterodyne circuit to be “simple.”

    1. I meant, “simple for a superhet.” There’s the All American Five, and then there’s my Hammarlund HQ-145. Both are superhets. One is, by comparison, simple.

  4. […] article I mentioned in my September 8, 2012 Odd Lots about transistor radio manufacturers tacking unused transistors onto their circuit boards to up the […]

  5. Lee Hart says:

    In my deformative youth when I worked after school as a TV/radio repairman, I *saw* radios with extra nonfunctional transistors. The schematic was often stuck on a little label inside the case (imagine that!), and showed the actual 6-transistor (or whatever) circuit. But plainly visible on the PC board would be a couple extra transistors.

    Sometimes the extra transistors were used as a diode. Other times they were completely non-functional. I sometimes tore apart these radios for parts, and found that the non-functional transistors were usually defective ones.

    Transistors manufacturing in the early days tended to produce a lot of marginal or bad ones. So this is actually a rather clever (if deceptive) way to use up these otherwise useless transistors.

    1. Oh, there was another way, which I think was even worse. When I was 12 and just starting into electronics, Olson (and probably other retailers) offered packages of “10 General-Purpose PNP Transistors” (sometimes NPN) fairly cheap, and I would try to build things with them. I didn’t have any test gear, so I assumed they were good. An awful lot of my projects, even very simple ones from reliable sources (like Lou Garner’s column in PE) just didn’t work. 25-odd years later, I found a few of those old transistors (invariably unmarked) in a baggie somewhere and tested them: 4 out of ten were just dead shorts, and the others sometimes wouldn’t oscillate even at audio.

      One wonders how many kids like me just gave up in disgust and assumed that electronics was black magic. My best friend got new marked transistors from his uncle (who was an EE) and his stuff worked every time. I cadged a couple of his and my projects worked, but I just couldn’t believe that a store like Olson would sell faulty goods.

      I saw the same phenomenon years later with Poly Paks and the like, though the percentages weren’t as bad.

      This may be one reason I prefer to build with tubes to this day: I could test the tubes I used at the drugstore, so my tube projects worked a lot more often than my transistor projects.

  6. Vendikar says:

    Using a transistor as a diode actually made economic sense for the Japanese since they would buy a fixed quantity of parts and make that circuit until they ran out in many cases. And many transistors would have one junction working fine whereas the other didn’t.

    Western Electric often designed its theater sound equipment to use a duplicate set of its power tubes (211s or 300Bs) as rectifiers. There were several advantages to this. It kept the number of different tubes to be stocked down, and tubes which were iffy as amplifiers might rectify fine. The Japanese have always had a bizarre fascination with Western Electric audio equipment and pay insane sums for it today.

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