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Samples from the Box of No Return

Box of No Return - 500 Wide.jpg

I’m packing my office closet, and realized that The Box of No Return was overflowing. So in order to exercise my tesselation superpower on it, I had to upend it on my office floor and repack it from scratch.

I hadn’t done that in a very long time.

You may have a Box of No Return. It’s downstairs from the Midwestern Junk Drawer, hidden behind the Jar of Loose Change. It’s for stuff you know damned well you’ll never use again, but simply can’t bring yourself to throw away. A lot of it may be mementos. Some of it is just cool. Most of it could be dumped if you were a braver (and less sentimental) man than I.

I took some representative samples and laid them out rectilinearly on the carpet for a quick photo. Behold my 1970s Xerox photo ID, 3,000 yen of Japanese folding money, a Wizard of Speed and Time button, a tooth from a cow–and a couple of dead crowns of my very own. Name badges from obsolete callsigns, Comdex buttons, a 2708 EPROM without the quartz plate over the chip, a packet of real gold leaf, a sealing wax candle from my early correspondence with Carol, ROTC insignia, and two of the weird little HP thingamabobs that I still haven’t identified. (Scroll down to the February 9 entry.) There’s a shell case from the 21-gun salute the VFW fired at my father’s funeral in 1978, Carol’s GT membership badge (mine has been lost) and lots of keys for locks long forgotten. (I did find the keys for my Kennedy toolchest in the garage, so I guess it’s The Box That Asymptotically Converges on No Return.) There’s a Space Shuttle rubber stamp and my Iguanacon badge, to stand in for the 20-odd con badges in the box. The red cylinder is a medium-format film can, into which the Fox Patrol crammed a reasonable first aid kit in 1965, and won the prize for best first aid kit.

I tossed a couple of things, like my SFWA membership badge. SFWA wanted to get rid of me for years for not publishing often enough; I saved them the trouble. Rot in irrelevancy, you dorks; I’m an indie now, and making significant money. Some promo buttons were for products I couldn’t even recall, and they went in the cause of making room. But most of it will go back in the (small) box, and it will all fit, with room to spare for artifacts not yet imagined, much less acquired.

If you have a Box of No Return, dump it out on the floor every few years. (I haven’t been through mine since the mid-90s.) You may be surprised what’s in there. I was.


  1. Erbo says:

    “Rather like the old joke about the Holy Roman Empire being neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, SFWA now mostly consists of people who don’t write for a living and are not particularly interested in science or science fiction.” – Vox Day, SJWs Always Lie

  2. Tom Roderick says:

    Just be glad you only have a box of no return. I have been trying to clean out my basement of no return for the past three years and I don’t even think I am even asymptotically approaching a point where I could say it was done.

    I also noticed that the General Technics logo is, except for typeface, a ringer for one of the many Logos that my Alma Mater claim and use.

    1. I have a certain amount of workshop stuff that may never see much use, but might someday, depending on what I end up studying or tinkering in the future. (Think variable capacitors, tube sockets, vintage transistors, tube-era IF cans, etc.) So that basement of yours may simply be a cache of supplies for future exploration.

      I guess that’s one way to look at it, anyway.

      1. I have notes on a combination steampunk Geiger counter and AM radio that I still intend to build, though it may be a year or two.

      2. Tom Roderick says:

        When I was young and parts were big my eyes were sharp for close up work. Now that parts are sand grain size and my eyes are dim I sometimes wonder if I should have been a plumber.

    2. Also the Grand Trunk railroad:;_ylt=AwrT6V463VxWeWwA9gInnIlQ?p=grand+trunk+logo&fr=yhs-mozilla-004&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-004

      In fact, doing an image search for “GT Logo” brings up all kinds of things, most of them car oriented.

      BTW, we have early ’50s photos of my mom in a T-shirt with the Georgia Tech bee on it, but the school name is Southern Technical Institute (which my father attended from 1949-1952) that later became part of Georgia Tech and is now Southern Polytechnic State University. Did GT get it from STI?

      1. Tom Roderick says:

        Southern Tech was a two year college leading to an Associates degree, but was a division of Georgia Tech, which is the older institution. I attended Southern Tech for one Quarter, and took some courses there that latter proved most useful. One of which was technical writing. However, the Board Of Regents here has been on a consolidation kick for several years and Southern Tech is no more but is now just a division in an entirely different and non technical Kennesaw State University.

        I do not remember the GT logo from when I was at either place which was basically the last half of the 1960’s.

    3. Rich Rostrom says:

      It also matches Gordon Tech (a Catholic high school in Chicago, now De Paul College Prep), and Grant Thornton, an accounting and “consulting” company, also Chicago based.

  3. […] OUT WITH THE OLD. Jeff Duntemann’s photo of “Samples from the Box of No Return” is like a fannish time […]

  4. Larry Nelson says:

    The key immediately below the shell case is a safe deposit box key. That sent me to my drawer of no return to see if we had match.

    In my basement is a box from my youth. The first thing that jumps to mind among the contents is a chipped, frameless 3″ convex magnifying glass. That glass examined many bugs and set innumerable scraps of paper on fire on hot summer days. When our church packs Operation Christmas Child boxes I have a great fondness for stuffing good glass magnifiers in some corner to be discovered by a child in a far away place. I should really put my glass in some child’s box next year. But it is still a bit too precious.

    1. The safe-deposit key is the spare key to Aunt Kathleen’s safe deposit box, at a bank in downtown Park Ridge. We found it among her effects months after she died in the summer of 1999, and had opened the box with the other key. So like much else in the box, it was a tangible link to a person who loomed large in my upbringing. (She was my godmother, and a constant presence in our family. I dedicated my most famous and successful book to her.)

      Lenses were an early part of my science education. My dad bought a new slide projector when I was six, and gave me the old one to take apart. I pulled the lenses out of it, and with another lens I got from Uncle Louie, I managed to make a shirt-cardboard spyglass. It was horrible in some respects (projection lenses are not for imaging) but it worked, even if the view was upside down. I credit that little project with spawning my hunger for a telescope, which I finally got in 1965, when I was 12.

  5. Carrington Dixon says:

    The only ROTC insignia I see are the three circles just below the keys: Cadet Captain. They appear tarnished. Did you polish them? We polished the brass insignia but not the ‘silver’.

    1. Directly above the captain’s pips is one of the torch pins for the lapels of our uniform jackets. I also have my first lieutenant pips from the first half of senior year. The torch pins changed senior year, to something that didn’t need as much polishing. Before that they were yellow brass, and I had to polish them every Wednesday night for inspection the next day. For reasons I don’t recall, I didn’t keep the gold braid I wore once I was promoted to officer. I have a good picture of myself in uniform somewhere, and I’ll post it if I can find it.

  6. Jonathan O'Neal says:

    Your HP thingamabobs seem to be hybrid RF amplifiers, long since discontinued (and, it seems, largely forgotten). The only traces of them I could (quickly) find are a vague “discontinued/no longer supported/no replacement” at Keysight (page 64 of , which only lists it as an “amplifier”), a similar entry in Keysight’s catalog ( ), and an intriguing mention in a 1971 report on “Present and Probable CATV/Broadband-Communication Technology” for the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (page 30 of – “Within the past six months, cable amplifiers giving good performance
    up to 300 MHz and higher have become available. One series of
    cable-mounted trunk and distribution amplifiers, offered by Anaconda
    Electronics, incorporates a postage-stamp-sized hybrid amplifier chip made by the Hewlett-Packard Company. This amplifier chip sells for only $50 and provides excellent performance from 40 to 330 MHz (+/-1 dB from linear slope over this range,+/-0.3 dB from 40-270 MHz), with very low cross modulation anti second-order intermodulation products (-89 and -80 dB, respectively).* Thus 300-MHz bandwidth is now a reality” – footnote reads “* HP Specifications “Exhibit C” dated March 15, 1971 for H01-35602A and H02-35602A amplifiers.” No sign of the actual “Exhibit C,” though.).

    I’ve asked an expert on vintage HP components about this; I’ll let you know what (if anything) more I learn.

  7. Lee Hart says:

    A neat collection, Jeff. Your own private time capsule. “Box of no return” is also a great name for it!

    The IC can’t be a 2708; it has 24 pins, and this chip has 40 (near as I can tell). A microscope might be able to find some ID on the chip itself. If you kept it, it must be something “interesting”.

    1. I think it may be an 8086. I was in a hurry and didn’t look closely at it. It may have been a tradeshow giveaway, or something Intel sent to us at PC Tech Journal in 1985. Will look at it when I get it all down to PNX.

  8. TRX says:

    Microsoft bought DOS from Seattle Computer. Part of the deal was that SC could resell the Microsoft product “with a CPU.” (obviously, someone read too many Radio Shack catalogs…) SC tossed an 8086 CPU into the retail box to meet licensing requirements.

  9. […] cover photo, some might remember, came out of a 2015 Contra entry called “Samples from the Box of No Return.” I think it qualifies as a collection of odd lots, just not written ones. It’s a shame […]

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