Was This Old Clock Radio…
I was a kid, I got into the habit of taking apart all of the clocks,
radios, and other electronic gadgets around the house to try to
figure out what made them tick. I expect that this was the same
for a lot of other Hams. I wasn’t as bad as the comic strip
caricature, Dilbert, who had the knack, (The
Knack) but it still drove my Mother crazy!
always interested in electronics, my interests really took off during
my freshman year of high school. I was doing all sorts of tinkering
in my room, to the point where Mom feared she might get electrocuted
if she ventured too far into my room. Everything I had learned about
electronics up to this point had been by reading everything I could
get my hands on, or by trial and error experiments. Like most teens,
I thought I knew a lot, but actually, I didn’t know what I
end of the school year, my parents moved the family from California
to a small city in Central Nebraska. This resulted in one very angry
teen aged kid, who enjoyed (among electronics,) rock and roll, and
was just discovering girls. Arriving a few weeks later at what I
perceived was the end of the known universe, I chose to punish my
parents by moving into the shop in the garage with no intentions
of speaking to them or coming back out again.
I am in the garage, with my electronics, with only the most rudimentary
knowledge of actual electronic theory, and the hope of listening
to some good rock and roll music on the radio. Since I’m now
located at what I perceived at the time to be the outer edges of
civilization, far away from any radio station which played what
I considered to be good rock and roll music, I rationalized that
I needed a better antenna on my mother’s avocado green, AM
clock radio setting on the bench.
of you may know, most contemporary AM radios of the time had what
is known as a ferrite bar as the internal antenna system. If one
had a wire antenna as in days long past, it would be quite long.
I’m mean very long. Thus, the smaller ferrite bar was invented.
I didn’t understand all this at the time, simply thinking
that more metal meant a better antenna. So, I have the back of the
radio open, and I’m running the needle nose pliers back and
forth along the ferrite bar, until I hear this guy speaking in what
sounds like Russian! In my mind I’m thinking I’m on
the right track, because I’m now picking up a station on the
other side of the planet! Without going into a lot of technical
detail, I was right and very wrong at the same time. Correct in
that I was listening to something on the other side of the planet,
but not because I made the antenna better. I had simply “de-tuned”
the antenna so that I was listening to the international short-wave
band, near the AM broadcast band. So, as I’m continuing on
this train of incorrect thought, I reasoned that if I connected
more metal than a pair of pliers to the ferrite bar, I should be
able to hear the entire world! I got a spool of wire and connected
one end to the largest piece of metal in the house I could think
of, which was the copper plumbing in the laundry room, strung out
the wire to the radio on the work bench in the garage, grabbed the
other end of the wire with the needle nose pliers, (Yes. They were
insulated,) and touched the wire to the bar… BOOM!
The radio blew up in my face, causing me to roll backwards, chair
and all, simultaneously blowing all the circuit breakers in the
comes running into the garage to find me flat on my back, still
in my chair, with a ring of smoke circling toward the ceiling. I’m
unhurt, but rather perplexed why my electronic genius was not on
track. Mom made it pretty clear that she was sick and tired, (why
is it always “sick and tired,”) of me blowing up
her appliances, and that I needed to get some proper training on
this electronics crap before I killed myself! She also demanded
that I fix the now smoking radio!
trouble shooting the radio, and determined the pickup diode was
fried. The black scorch marks on the circuit board helped bring
me to that quick conclusion… I purchased a new diode from
Radio Shack for about .45 cents, replaced the burned-out diode,
and the radio worked fine again. Mom none the less got a newer radio,
which she zealously protected from me, and I used the green clock
radio through college, when the clock, (not the radio) stopped working.
It was discarded in 1979 never to be seen again…
next day, Mom and I went to the local high school to get me enrolled.
The guidance counselor got me signed up for all the required classes
for a sophomore student, and he then asked us about electives. Naturally,
I was enrolled in Band. Then Mom asked, “Do you have any classes
for electronics?” We were told that they did indeed have a
fine electronics class, but it was reserved for seniors who have
successfully completed an advanced mathematics curriculum and one
year of physics. Anyone without these prerequisites would never
be able to complete the class. Mom firmly instructed the counselor
that I probably had more electronics experience than most kids my
age, and that if I didn’t get some formal education on the
topic, I would likely end up burning the house down by accident.
After some thought, he agreed to allow me to start the class, so
long as it was understood that I might be pulled out if the instructor
felt I wasn’t making the grade. Not only did I successfully
complete the class, I was one of the few who actually finished it
through to the end of the year!
and all, I would have to say that this was this episode which led
me to three diversely different careers, and ultimately led me to
way… While surfing the internet, I came across a website specializing
in antique radios. Up for sale, was a reconditioned, avocado green,
Zenith AM clock radio, like the one my mother had. It was selling
for over $200 dollars! Had I known that radio would become so valuable,
I would have taken more care not to have blown it up when I was
Here to see a similar radio...
is also a link to a YouTube Video here from the radio seller showing
this green Zenith radio.
Hams In Space