- In order to adfertote plus catuli, you had better facite plus catuli first. A number of very sharp people I know are working on this. Their feckless critics will doubtless help.
- September 12 was the annual peak in hurricane activity. Alas, there were no tropical depressions, tropical storms, or hurricanes anywhere on Earth. And as best I can tell from the National Hurricane Center sit, there still aren’t.
- I said this back in 2010. Now, according to a book reviewed by National Geographic, I was right. I love being right. (Thanks to Bill Roper for the link.)
- Carol and I tried several flavors of this stuff when we were in Phoenix recently, and it’s mighty good in coffee. (I also poured some of the black cherry flavor into a bottle of not-quite-meh Reisling and found it much more drinkable.) The manufacturer told me that Wal-Mart sells it, but we looked in two stores and didn’t find any. However, you can order it from Amazon.
- Here’s a nice article on the world’s first science fiction convention, held in Leeds, England, in 1937. Arthur C. Clarke and Eric Frank Russell were there.
- Reader Scott Schad put me on to a phenomenon he’s discovered on Amazon, in which somebody is concocting fake tech books and publishing them under the titles of popular books, including my own Assembly Language Step By Step. I’m looking into this, but (as if it needs saying) be careful what you buy online.
- Esther Schindler sent a link to the earliest use of the F-word, which appears in 1310. I’m guessing it goes back a little farther than that.
- What are asteroids made of? No snipes or snails, one would hope. However, 810 times the amount of ruthenium in the Earth’s crust sounds really good. (Thanks to Charlie Martin for the link.)
- While we’re talking exotic metals, here’s a YouTube video of gallium melting in someone’s hand. (It’s a slow process; FF to about 4:30, where it starts getting interesting.)
- And another showing what happens when you pour liquid gallium on your iPhone 6. I love the way the guy picks up liquid metal with his fingers and drops it on the phone. Mercury doesn’t work that way. Then again, mercury doesn’t eat aluminum phones, either.
- Gallium became a short-term character in Metal Men, the only comic book I ever paid my own money for and read regularly.
- From the ya-gotta-see-this department: My old friend Doug Rice was a designer and storyboard artist on a cartoon filk parody of the Macarena, starring the Animaniacs.
- Take a look at Pastime Projects for vacuum tube ham radio kits, mostly centering around the 6V6 power pentode. There’s an associated blog for the site, and it’s worth reading if tubes are your thing.
- If you’re considering self-publishing, here’s a site you should read, and follow.
- We’ve discovered a couple of what I guess we could call owie-hot superconductors (room temp is for wimps!) with critical transition temperatures as high as 141C. (Alas, none of the alloys contain ytterbium.) The larger site is a good resource for superconductivity freaks.
- Frank Glover pointed me to something I wouldn’t have expected: an Airbus recoverable orbital cargo module that flies back to ground with…propellers.
- Esther Schindler sends a link to an article graphing 144 years of stats on American marriage and divorce. Marriage rates are now the lowest they’ve been in recorded history.
- Matt Ridley absolutely shreds the 60-year-old war on fat and cholesterol.
- It’s possible (not easy, but possible) to turn your Windows 10 upgrade to a bootable ISO.
- Roy Tellason has a marvelous index to nearly all useful vacuum tubes, with basing, filment voltage and current, description, and uses. (Thanks to Pat for the link.)
- Don’t stop there: Roy also has indexes for 2N, 2SA, 2SB, 2SC, 2SD, 2SH-2SJ, and odd-numbered transistors. Also diodes, optoisolators, and bridge rectifiers. ICs too, in too many separate indexes to list here. Go to the index of indexes and see it all.
- The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a summer conference teaching students how to fight campus speech codes. Applications are due by July 3, so if you’re a student or know one, the time to act is now.
- A big sorry-you-insufferable-idiots goes out to our snooty urban elite: Both malls and suburbs are doing fine, and in some places are roaring back.
- One man designed Tobor the Great, Robbie the Robot, and the Lost in Space robot, and he lived to be 100.
- More robots: Among the least-appreciated funny robots in film history are the one-eyed robotic lawnmowers that chase Jerry Lewis around in the mayhem-filled action climax of his 1962 film It’s Only Money. Here’s the original trailer. Watch it to the end, where the lawnmowers steal the scene even from Lewis.
- Presidential portraits from another universe by artist Jason Heuser. My favorite is Richard Nixon with brass knuckles punching a smilodon’s lights out, though Ben Franklin fighting Zeus while riding an American Beauty-style kite is right up there.
- Hurricane activity is at a 45-year low, and no major hurricane has achieved landfall on US soil in almost ten years. Tornadoes have been pretty scarce recently as well. Then again, it’s mid-April and snowing like hell outside right now. Two outa three ain’t bad.
- The Food Babe gets her you-know-what handed to her. This, after all, is the woman who said, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” Wow. I probably shouldn’t exist, then. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- More evidence that salt isn’t the demon that government guidelines insist that it is. Remember, you can do the experiment on this one, as it applies to yourself: Give up salt for a month and record your blood pressure every day. Then go back on salt and record your blood pressure every day. If your BP doesn’t change significantly, you can pretty much assume that salt isn’t an issue.
- Red meat is not the enemy. And yes, the science is complicated. What science isn’t?
- Crickets are not superfood. Who knew?
- Carol and I have tried this Moscato and found it good.
- Someone pointed out that my Low-Voltage Tubes page on junkbox.com had gotten corrupted. Indeed it had–and I had unknowingly copied that corruption (which was present in my HTML source files)–onto all the backups I have here. So I pulled a trick I had thought about for a long time: I looked up the site on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, and checked their images of junkbox.com until I found one with an intact copy of the article. I then just lifted the portion of the file that had gotten corrupt and dropped it into the newest copy of the corrupted file. Fixed.
- Amazon has a new contract with Harper-Collins that gives the publisher full agency; that is, the freedom to set its own prices. Amazon is posting a notice on the sales pages of full-agency titles telling the customer that the publisher has set the price, not Amazon.
- Here’s some actual data crunching of the Sad Puppies phenomenon, along with a good deal of sane and rational analysis. Stop hurling hate, and understand what’s going on. Hating isn’t helping your cause one bit.
- ESR thinks that the real problem dividing SFF right now is literary status envy. The piece goes back to last summer, which was before the whole industry went nuts over Sad Puppies. Worth reading, maybe twice.
- If you’re an SP3 supporter, you can get all kinds of Sad Puppies 3 merchandise at the logo artist’s Cafe Press studio shop.
I bought my first ham radio handheld (“handied-talkie” or HT) back in 1977. The Standard Radio SR-C146 had five crystal-controlled channels and weighed two pounds. (No wonder they called it a “brick.”) No TT pad, no CTCSS. I don’t recall what I paid for it new, but I’m thinking $350–and that didn’t even include a charger. (I built a charger for it from scratch!) That would be about $1400 today. It was a really big deal, and I used it for almost ten years, until I bought an Icom HT at Dayton in 1986.
In truth, I never used HTs all that much except at hamfests. I’ve had 2M mobiles in various cars, and for the past 18 years or so have used an Alinco mobile rig as a base. I still have the Icom in a box somewhere, but the case is cracked and it’s been in the corner of my mind to get a new HT for almost ten years.
Then Bob Fegert mentioned the Baofeng dual-band UV-82 HT, which now sells on Amazon for $37 brand new. (I actually paid $35.) In 1977 dollars, that would have been…ten bucks. So I ordered one. While cruising the Web looking at reviews and commentary on the unit, I happened upon the Baofeng BF-888S. Amazon had those for $15. $3.85 in 1977 funds. So I bought one of those as well, just to see what a $15 HT could do.
Both radios put out 1W or 4W selectable. The UV-82 covers the 2M and 70cm bands. The BF-888S covers only the 70cm band. Well, actually not only the ham bands, which is an issue worth a little discussion here. Many commenters on the ham boards loathe these radios, for a simple reason: They claim the ham radio positioning is only a ruse, to get around FCC type acceptance.
The problem is that for use on the several business bands, the Family Radio Service (FRS), the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), a transceiver must meet certain FCC requirements and pass tests to ensure that it meets those requirements. This is called type acceptance. A type-accepted radio will transmit only where its type acceptance allows. There are other requirements that aren’t about frequency. FRS radios, for example, may not have removable antennas. Ham radio gear, on the other hand, does not require FCC type acceptance at all.
These are software-defined radios. Within a broad band of frequencies dictated by the output power amp, they can receive or transmit anywhere you want them to. A free program called CHIRP allows you to create a special-purpose database of frequencies and other settings, save it as a file, and then squirt it into the radio through a USB cable. It’s nominally illegal to use a radio like the BF-888S on FRS or GMRS, but a quick Web scan shows that it’s evidently done quite a bit. The type acceptance process takes time and money, so a radio pitched for amateur use can cost less.
The flexibility of using CHIRP to set frequencies and settings allows these radios to also act as scanners and receive public safety and weather channels. It’s possible to disable transmit on any frequency, which I did for the weather channels. (One of the downsides of the display-less BF-888S is that it’s not always obvious what frequency you’re tuned to. Mistakes are possible, and in this case may be rule violations that may cause interference.)
As 2M and 70cm radios, they’re pretty good. I can hit all the repeaters I usually reach from here, just using the “rubber duckie” antennas. Audio is clean and strong. The UV-82 has a better receiver: Weak local signals will break squelch on the UV-82 when they won’t budge the BF-888S.
There are some downsides:
- Neither radio has a squelch knob. Squelch levels are parameters that you set from the keypad (for the UV-82) or in CHIRP. This can be annoying if your noise level rises and falls for some reason, or if a weak signal is right on the edge of squelch. (The BF-888S has a button that turns squelch off while pressed, which is better than nothing.)
- The chargers are flimsy and almost weightless. I’m not sanguine about how long they’ll last, and they certainly aren’t physically stable. Nor are the chargers or charge voltages the same for the two radios.
- The antenna connectors are SMAs. I had to order some SMT-UHF adapters so that I could use my discone antenna up in the attic.
- Both radios “speak” a channel number when you move up or down the channel set. With the BF-888S this is the only reliable way to know where you’re sitting, as the numbers on the channel select knob are almost invisible.
- The UV-82 has a broadcast FM radio feature, which works fairly well but is not easy to use, especially if you switch stations a lot. (It is a little weird hearing classical music coming out of a ham radio HT.)
- Although it would be very useful, I don’t think it’s possible to control (rather than simply program) either radio through the USB cable.
Both radios have white LED flashlights built-in, for what it’s worth.
So. I’m sure a Yaesu or an Icom HT would be better in a great many ways. However, Icom HTs don’t cost $35. Given how little I use HTs, the price was irresistable. How well they will serve over time is an open question. They seem rugged enough to withstand a certain amount of outdoor rough-and-tumble. If they break (or if anything weird happens) I’ll certainly tell you here.
So far, recommended.
- Scott Adams reminds us that science has failed us on diet and health so often that some people assume that science itself is unreliable. His point is good: Being wrong is part of the scientific method, but humans see patterns in things, and that pattern simply means that science is slower than we’d like, and refines knowledge over time by identifying our mistakes. We forget this at our peril.
- Intel’s latest rev of its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) has a Broadwell CPU and a swappable lid that provides a standard form factor for 3rd party extensions. The only big mistake is the total lack of SD card slots. We’re well along toward my 15-year-old prediction that computers will ultimately be swellings on the backs of monitors.
- Why the Feds are terrified of hobby helicopters. (Drones? No, you’ve got it backwards. Those are the Feds.) This is nonsense, and the whole thing is a dodge. I made this point some time back: Governments do not want to be watched. No governments, anywhere. That’s what the whole “drones” thing is about, top to bottom.
- Wired staffers bid farewell to Radio Shack. Me too. I considered a TRS-80 in 1978, and occasionally regretted not getting one once my friend Jim Dunn bought one in 1979.
- Radio Shack, yes. We also forget how the Model 100 (noisily) transformed tech journalism. In 1984 Xerox tried to field a competitor to the Model 100, which I evaluated for our department. It was hideous, and (worse) cost $2500, which would be $5700 today!
- Here’s the mother lode of scanned and browsable Radio Shack catalogs. I still have a few of these. (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.) As an example, here’s the page describing the stereo I bought the first Christmas Carol and I were married, 38 years ago. It still works, and we still use it.
- Very cool physics demo on YouTube: An AA battery and four disk magnets pull themselves around inside a tube made of coiled copper wire. (Thanks to Bob Fegert for the link.)
- A supercapacitor made from nanoelectrodes and a kitchen sponge. (Again, thanks to Bob Fegert for the link.)
- Tides do not seem to affect earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The discussion is plainly written and I think anybody can follow it.
- I hadn’t heard of the Sad Puppies before a few days ago. (Whatever you may think of the concept, they have a great logo.) I guess I’ve been away from Fandom for awhile.
- Lileks has a feed on Tumblr. Worth following, as is Weird Vintage.
- I’d like all-year-round DST for this simple reason: By November 1, it’s generally too dark to grill on my back deck, even as early as 5PM. And as early as we are said to eat, I don’t want to have to pull the steaks off the grill by 5.
- I’m not entirely sure what this is. It’s about Neanderthals. It’s worth reading. (Thanks to the many who sent me the link, starting with Bruce Baker.)
- The story’s a year old now, but still excellent long-form journalism: How Merck developed suvorexant, the designed-from-scratch next-gen sleeping pill approved this past August for sale starting January 1, as Belsomna.
- Solar cycles have been growing weaker since Cycle 19, which was the strongest cycle in recorded history. (As the late George Ewing used to say, you could work Madagascar on half a watt into a bent paperclip.) Here’s a nice graphic showing the marked decrease in strength from Cycle 21 through the current Cycle 24. If solar cycle strength correlates to climate (suspected but not proven) my retirement will be cold and 6 meters dead.
- There’s now a Raspberry Pi A+ board, which surprised a lot of people, including me. Eben Upton explains the product. I’m getting a B+, actually.
- Here’s a piece on the most popular pocket radio…in American prisons. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- I write a lot about AI, but I’m not entirely sure I believe in it, because we know so little about how the brain works that we can’t model it. This may be an unsolvable problem.
- From the Words-I-Had-Forgotten-Until-Somebody-Reminded-Me Department: Muggletonianism, a very peculiar Christian sect dating back to 1551, which taught (or didn’t teach–evangelism was not on their menu) that God is between five and six feet tall. They were among the English Dissenters, in there with the Grindletonians and the Diggers. If ever I were to call something Dadaist Christianity, this would be it. And I love their name. (Thanks to reminder Pete Albrecht.)
- I missed it when this item was first-run: The titanic Saturn V F-1 engine has been reverse-engineered, and it or something based on it could fly again…assuming we remember how to make it. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link.)
- I wouldn’t have predicted this: After being an online tech magazine for 20 years, CNET is going to launch…a print magazine. God love ’em and good luck–they’ll need it. I miss magazines, but I can’t imagine a new gadget book could get much traction today.
- It’s called the Hipster Effect: If everybody tries to look different, everybody ends up looking the same. At the heart of it is the fact that nobody wants to be the only one who doesn’t adopt a fad. (Throughout most of my life, that nobody would in fact be me.)
- Orthorexia nervosa (obsessive concern with clean or healthy diets, to the point of insanity) is about to get a formal definition, which might allow it to join the gazillion other mental health disorders in the DSM. I eat sugar now and then. I eat a lot of fat, because research tells me that humans evolved on fat. I have some fruit, and all the vegetables I can choke past my gag reflex, which, granted, isn’t a lot. More to the point, I know that this is a statistical exercise, not a holiness code, and I can thank my essential sanity for that.
A recent story on the 113-year old light bulb reminded me that I needed to say something about light bulbs here, as they’ve been a long-running low-level project of mine that’s been so low-level that I keep forgetting to post a report. Money quote: LED bulbs are (finally) ready for prime time. It took awhile, but we’re there. Furthermore, there’s upside in LED technology that should make all things LED-ish even better in five or ten years.
Like a lot of people, I stocked up on incandescents when the Feds outlawed them. I did so because my experience with alternative lightning technologies has been hideous. I was curious about CFLs, and I tried them once they became commonplace. If there are light bulbs in Hell, man, they will be CFLs. Their light quality can only be described as sepulchral. They are never as bright as the package says they are. They don’t reach peak brightness immediately, and sometimes take several minutes to get there. (Good luck trying to pee in the middle of a cold night in a one-CFL powder room.) They have mercury in them (granted, not much) which is released into the environment when they break. Oh, and they remind me of spirochetes or intestinal worms.
Fortunately, they die quickly. I recently replaced a couple that were less than a year old. Some have died in a matter of months. I have incandescents in this house that were installed during construction in 2003 and are still in service. Why some bulbs last so much longer than others has always puzzled me. The Phoebus Cartel was real, and it’s not beyond imagination that keeping the tungsten thin for ostensible cost reasons could cover for deliberately limiting the bulb’s life. Still, this doesn’t explain why I have 11-year-old bulbs in some places, and bulbs that repeatedly die in a couple of months in others.
I have theories. One is that some sockets have center contacts that aren’t quite close enough to the bulb to make a firm connection when the bulb is screwed in. Nothing kills a bulb faster than rattly intermittents in the fixture, especially if thermal expansion and contraction of parts in the fixture cause the intermittents. (This is why bulbs shouldn’t be installed with the power on. The moment when the bulb touches the center contact during screw-in is not one moment, but several.) I have also observed that the bulbs that die quickly tend to be mounted either horizontally or at some odd angle, as in my great room ceiling fixtures that are fifteen feet off the floor. The long-lifers are nearly all mounted vertically, bulb-down. I can see how that might work: The filaments of vertical bulbs experience the same gravity load no matter how far they screw into the fixture. Horizontal or angled bulbs will place their filaments in different gravity load situations depending on the angular position of the bulb in the socket, which in turn depends on the manufacturing details of both the socket and the bulb.
Those atrocious CFLs made me cautious. I bought my first LED bulb only about six months ago, having watched them converge on incandescents in terms of spectral signature for some time. That first one was kind of blue, and it’s now in the pantry ceiling fixture where color doesn’t much matter. We’ve been buying Cree TW (True White) bulbs for a couple of months, and they are so close to 60W incandescents that I’ll be ready to install them in critical places (like the master bathroom over-the-sink fixtures) once the incandescents are gone. The Cree bulbs evidently use neodymium-doped glass to add a notch filter to get the spectral signature closer to incandescents. The sweet spot for color seems to be 2700K, and if you want a swap-in for those evil outlawed cheap light bulbs, 2700K is the number to look for. The lerss expensive Feit LED bulbs are bluer, even at the same Kelvin rating, and serve well in places like the laundry room ceiling.
I’ve just started replacing those angled 65W ceiling floods in our great room vault with 650-lumen Duracell Procell BR30s. They’re just a hair brighter, and at 3000K a hair whiter, than the generic incandescent floods we’ve used for ten years now. Replacing angled bulbs fifteen feet off the floor with a sucker pole is a royal nuisance, so even though the Duracells are $20 each, they use a fraction of the power and supposedly live forever.
The clock’s ticking. I’m skeptical. Yes, Phoebus was real. But in the meantime, you really can get 65 watts’ worth of instant-on light with 10 watts’ worth of electricity, in a color that doesn’t resemble a zombie’s complexion. If any of them die on me, you’ll definitely hear about it.
- My old friend Lee Hart scratchbuilt a marvelous model of the Galileo spacecraft, including an operating COSMAC processor that blinks out the Arecibo message on an LED.
- The COSMAC 1802 was a good choice for spacecraft, because it drew almost no power and could be radiation-hardened. It was all static CMOS, so the system clock could be slowed arbitrarily, down to audio rates, or just stopped. Alas, the contention (which I’ve shared) that there was an 1802 on the Viking spacecraft isn’t true. Bummer.
- Here’s an essentially bottomless collection of old radio literature, including magazines, technical books and articles, and ephemera. The PDFs are of excellent quality, though I wonder how legal some of the items are. Worth a look, for the Deco artwork in the 20s and 30s magazines, if nothing else.
- And if you’re interested in toilet paper on a total lifestyle basis, Toilet Paper World is just the thing. I’m not sure I even noticed that tinted toilet paper existed before they told me. And now it’s gone. I guess it’s true that 80% of the world is always below our radar.
- We’ve had air rifles since…1779. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- I’d heard about how the Soviets repaired their ailing Salyut 7 space station, but not in anywhere close to this kind of detail.
- Paris used to use (and may still; the article is unclear) a sort of Indiana Jones mechanism for clearing blockages in its extra large economy-sized sewer pipes: Rolling a 9-foot iron ball through them.
- If you’re watching sea ice levels in the Antarctic (as I am) this site puts up very nice graphs on an almost daily basis.
- Is there anything that hipsters can’t ruin? (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Murder comes naturally to Chimpanzees. The sad part is, it comes naturally to us, too. I suspect it came so naturally to the Neanderthals that they didn’t need Sap to extinctify them.
- Somehow I managed to see the first Hobbit flick four times and never noticed that Bifur had an axe stuck in his head. I thought it was some sort of ornamment.
- Oh, and predictably, Buzzfeed has a stack rank of Peter Jackson’s dwarves by, um, hotness. They should have asked some Dwarf women; the hottest dwarves are also the ones that look the least like dwarves. Several times I was asking myself if Fili and Kili had been left in a basket on some dwarf’s front porch.
- One more and I’ll let the dwarf thing go. Separated at birth: Bofur the Dwarf and…Sister Bertrille.
- I survived the 60s. I had all the Beatles albums. I am not and have never been a Communist. I guess this means that hypnotism is impossible.
- Yet another take on the Amazon vs. Hachette dust-up: The publishers contributed to Amazon’s monopsony power by demanding platform lock-in via Kindle DRM. And now they’re surprised that Amazon controls the ebook market. (Thanks to Eric Bowersox for the link.)
- Pete Albrecht sent word that some guys at the University of Rochester have figured out how to trap light in very small spaces for very long times, on the order of several nanoseconds. (This is a long, long time to be stuck in one place if you’re a photon.) It’s done with evolvable nanocavities–and that gives me an idea for a tech gimmick in my long-planned novel The Molten Flesh. So many novels, so little time…
- Related to the above: The reason I stopped working on The Molten Flesh three or four years back is that I ordered a used copy of the canonical biography of Oscar Wilde (who is a character in the story) and the book stank so badly of mold and mildew that I threw it out after sitting in a chair with it for about five minutes. Time to get another copy.
- Yet another reason not to bother with The Weather Chanel: WGN’s weather website is hugely better, doesn’t require Flash, and works nationally, not only in Chicago.
- Lazarus 1.2.4 has been released. Go get it.
- OMG! STORMY, have you been messing around in Nebraska again?
- Over at Fourmilab we have a superb scan of the 1930 Allied Radio catalog, which carried not only radios and parts but waffle irons, home movie projectors, coffee percolators, toasters, copper bowl heaters, electric hair curlers, and much else for the newly minted upper middle class. (Thanks to Baron Waste for the link.)
- One interesting thing about the radios in the Allied catalog above is that they’re shouting about screen grid tubes. Tetrodes were invented in 1919 and weren’t in mass production until the late 1920s. I’m guessing that tetrodes were what separated the extremely fussy triode-based radios of the 1920s from the turnkey appliance radios of the 1930s and beyond. What the tetrode began the pentode completed, of course, but the watershed year in appliance radio seems to have been 1930.
- Our current Pope has abandoned the bullet-proof Popemobile. It’s one step closer to the end of the Imperial Papacy.
- What dogs think of dog impersonators. Hey, man, the lack of a tail gives it all away…
While everybody else yesterday was running around looking for foot bras and the world’s smallest volcano (more on which in the next Odd Lots) I was tidying up my shop/shack, and pulled down my AN/GRC-109 Special Forces radio system. I’ve had it since the mid-1990s, but hadn’t fired it up literally since we left Arizona in 2003. I don’t have the full list of accessories so I had to do a little lashing-up to get the R-1004 receiver connected. It didn’t disappoint me.
I have the CW-only T-784 transmitter as well. I don’t use it because I’ve largely lost my CW chops and the only guys still pounding brass are whistling along at 20+ WPM. Not having an antenna that won’t set off my security system is the other issue. (Shielding the heat sensor it triggers it is not an option due to insurance regs.) My outdoor dipole will go up as soon as we have a few leaves on the tress, whenever that actually happens.
So. What we have here is a vintage all-tube spy radio, where the spies either have stealth jeeps or very strong backs. The design came out of the CIA in the late 1940s, and was adapted for more general use in the 1950s. It was used until the end of the Vietnam War. The receiver weighs 8.75 pounds all by itself. The PP-2684 power supply will weigh you down another 25 pounds or so. (There’s a lighter, smaller power supply, the PP-2685, that I don’t have.) The receiver uses conventional 7-pin miniature battery-filament tubes in a fairly simple superhet circuit. The only glitch there is the 1L6 converter tube, which is hard to find and costs a small fortune when you find it. The 1L6 is scarce enough so that people have designed solid-state replacements for it.
The R-1004 tunes from 3 MHz to 24 MHz in three bands. Selectivity is good, hardly single-signal but a reasonable compromise for a set designed to receive both AM and CW. I had to grin at how spoiled I’ve gotten by modern digital rigs like my IC-736, which can tell you to a single cycle where you are. The dial is pretty accurate, reading bang-on for WWV at 5 and 10 MHz, but it’s a wide dial, and lacks a vernier. Sensitivity seems lower on the 12-24 MHz band. No matter; in the evenings all the action is at 12 MHz and down.
SSB was still pretty exotic when the R1004 was designed, and yet its BFO is solid enough that I didn’t have to “chase” sideband signals on 40 and 75 meters with either the tuner or the BFO knob. AM quality was good, considering that it has caps to roll off audio response past 3 KHz. I tuned the entire range from 12 MHz down to 3, stopping at the ham bands or anything else unusual. I used to do that a lot before I was licensed as WN9MQY in 1973. I was hoping to find a numbers station (are there still numbers stations?) or one of those long-extinct semi-musical beacons that I used to hear in 1965. SWBC hasn’t really changed much since 1970: Christian stations, national stations, some German and French, and a lot of things too far down in the noise to quite make out. Canadian time station CHU is no longer on 7335 KHz, but a quick Google check pointed me to its new location at 7850 KHz. I listened to an AM net on 7290, and was startled when K5MIL’s big signal came up and forced me to turn down the gain–he’s only 5 miles north of me, and running a fair bit of power.
Talk about old times, whew.
My R-1004 hasn’t seen much hard use; I’d almost call it pristine. Serial number 25. By contrast, the power supply has been around the block–or maybe the world–a few times, and when I bought it I had to do some fussy needle-file work to get the corrosion off the power connectors. It sounds goofy, but I love how this gear smells: bakelite and black rubber, with undercurrents of oil and perhaps solder flux. (Radio terroir!) If ever there were a canonical Dieselpunk radio, well, here it is. My only gripe is that my high-Z “cans” headset gave me a headache after squeezing my ears for an hour, and I really need to lash up an audio transformer to take the R-1004’s 4000 ohm output impedence down to whatever my cushy padded headset likes. I’ve done this before, but alas, the adapter unit (built into a 70s contacts case I got from Carol) is hiding somewhere.
No matter. You’ve seen my shop and my collection; it will be done. When we can manage a nerd party here sometime this summer, I’ll put it out on the deck and drop a wire over the edge if I haven’t done so already. Put the black thing up against your ear, young’un: That’s what the Internet was when I was mowing the lawn and not chasing you off of it!