Well the boys from Mellish Reef are back home safe and sound. I talked to my friend over in Ulster County who led the trip and he said the weather was really miserable, tents flying everywhere and only 3 days were they able to operate their portable stations. He did however tweek me by saying in spite of all the problems they were able to make 40,000 contacts! Bravo.
Speaking of radio Richard Feynman was an early radio repair kid in Far Rockaway. For those who may not know Richard Feynman (I hope none of my readers are saying -who? now), he was a genius, Nobel laureate and while somewhat eccentric, he was certifiably one of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century. It was Feynman who was brought in after the space shuttle Challenger disaster to figure out why it had aborted. He famously demonstrated during a television interview how the O-rings became less resilient and subject to seal failures at ice-cold temperatures by immersing a sample of the material in a glass of ice water.
When Feynman was a kid he was asked to fix radios during the depression. He tells the following story:
“One job was really sensational. I was working at the time for a printer, and a man who knew that printer knew I was trying to get jobs fixing
radios, so he sent a fellow around to the print shop to pick me up. The guy is obviously poor–his car is a complete wreck–and we go to his house
which is in a cheap part of town. On the way, I say, “What’s the trouble with the radio?”
He says, “When I turn it on it makes a noise, and after a while the noise stops and everything’s all right, but I don’t like the noise at the
I think to myself: “What the hell! If he hasn’t got any money, you’d think he could stand a little noise for a while.”
And all the time, on the way to his house, he’s saying things like, “Do you know anything about radios? How do you know about radios–you’re
just a little boy!”
He’s putting me down the whole way, and I’m thinking, “So what’s the matter with him? So it makes a little noise.”
But when we got there I went over to the radio and turned it on. Little noise? My God! No wonder the poor guy couldn’t stand it. The thing began
to roar and wobble–WUH BUH BUH BUH BUH–A tremendous amount of noise. Then it quieted down and played correctly. So I started to think:
“How can that happen?”
I start walking back and forth, thinking, and I realize that one way it can happen is that the tubes are heating up in the wrong order–that is, the
amplifier’s all hot, the tubes are ready to go, and there’s nothing feeding in, or there’s some back circuit feeding in, or something wrong in the
beginning part–the HF part–and therefore it’s making a lot of noise, picking up something. And when the RF circuit’s finally going, and the grid
voltages are adjusted, everything’s all right.
So the guy says, “What are you doing? You come to fix the radio, but you’re only walking back and forth!”
I say, “I’m thinking!” Then I said to myself, “All right, take the tubes out, and reverse the order completely in the set.” (Many radio sets in those
days used the same tubes in different places–212’s, I think they were, or 212-A’s.) So I changed the tubes around, stepped to the front of the radio,
turned the thing on, and it’s as quiet as a lamb: it waits until it heats up, and then plays perfectly–no noise.”
Here is a description of Richard Feynman from a biography of him:
“Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. Here he recounts in his inimitable voice his experience trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek; cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets; accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums; painting a naked female toreador. In short, here is Feynman’s life in all its eccentric—a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, and raging chutzpah.”