Another ~1960 computer kit

From: John Lawson <>
Date: Sat Dec 19 19:14:03 1998

On Sat, 19 Dec 1998, Tony Duell wrote:

>But worse still is the fact that back in the early years of this century,
>it appears that boys - say about 12-15 years old - were expected to try
>woodwork, metalwork, using a lathe, wiring electric lights, bells,
>telephones, etc, making induction coils, etc, etc, etc. Things that I bet
>few boys ever try today. And yet, today, it could be made a little easier
>for them.

   Beacuse, (I think..) at that time America and the UK and much of
Europe were still quite agrarian-based economies, and there was not
the universal availablility of technology... also consider that,
unless you were bound for college (the minority then) by 15 or 16 you
were most likely already working full-time. One of my elderly
friends, deceased now regretfully, had in his workshop a nice little
drillpress which he had made, *castings (iron!) and all* in 9th
grade, age 14, as a normal quarter's shop assignment. This was in the
mid twenties.

  I teach Ham Radio and Science/Technology courses to various
groups, Scouts or 'disadvantaged' kids. It is sometimes very
disheartening to cope with (compete with) Nintendo and MTV froth
culture. But there are still some scientists and engineers and
mechanical whizzes out there. Usually my Wysock Model 5 Tesla coil
gets their attention... 48" wonderful hissing blue arcs on a dry
day.. and then I teach them how to *make* one... from the basics up.

> I've never tried it, but I believe that getting a _good_ casting from
> aluminium is not that easy.

  I see your problem, Tony. A good flux of caustic potash in gum
spirits of Arabia will eliminate that extra "i", giving a very
tractable and inclusion-free melt.

> Yep, those old books on radio are fun. A lot of them (certainly some of
> the RCA ones) are now available as reprints. I buy just about every one
> that I see.
> > There's little need to make coils these days, and wiring electric lights
> > isn't very fun when one can play around with things millions of times more
> > complex.

   The average intelligent 8/9-year-old is usually awestruck the
first time he/she lays out a battery, knife-switch, and light on a
scrap board and makes a circuit that works... the older ones get 555
timers, 9-volt batteries, and LEDs... same thing.

> >

> Hey! I've wound several experimental coils this year. Did you
wonder _how_ a
> > transformer works? I know the equations to design one, but am asking

  No one knows *exactly* what magnetism is, tho we know how it
*works*. Until then, transformers are fundamentally enigmatic.

> It may just be me, but I never like using equations to _explain_
> anything. Sure they're useful tools when you come to design a transformer
> (or whatever), but you should be able to understand the operation of the
> transformer using qualitative arguements.

  One can, using well known mathematical functions, equations, and
models, express a 5-valve superhet radio... if done skilfully, when
realized physically, the radio will work. (Been there; done that;
college midterm) But I'm the type who, if a radio is wanted, will
rummage in the junkbox, see what's buried in the shelves in the
workshop, and tinker together something that most likely will decode
WEFAX weather data from satellites... because I experiment, tweak,
adjust, make magic smoke leak out, etc. Thus my attraction to
Vintage Computers, and other Fancy Stuff.

> You mean people don't get little packets of replacement bulbs and play
> 'hunt the dud' any more. That used to be a ritual each winter here for
> many years.
> Those little electrostic field detectors (aka 'Voltstick') took all the
> fun out of it ;-).

  My household doesn't celebrate Xnas, but years ago I *did* make
up a series-lamp socket attachment for my Volt-Ohmmeter... it was
popular in the neighborhood around the Holidays.

> As did the ARD Newtonsday lights. I use LEDs - 16 of them, linked up to
> a parallel port on a PDP11 (DR11-K) or PERQ (I have PERQlink...).
> Computer-controlled lights - classic-computer-controlled lights are
> probably on-topic here...
> -tony

  OT: Jingle bells realized on the LQ02 Dot matrix printer on the
11/73... I wanted to get it done and on my website before
Newtonsday, but, you know how it goes..... it's the Thought that counts.

  Cheers and Best of the Season

Received on Sat Dec 19 1998 - 19:14:03 GMT

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