Sunday, April 24, 2011


Three-dimensional moving pictures -- a big deal in the 1950s, a big deal again recently and a big deal in 1861.

Meet the kinematoscope: a series of stereopticon slides displaying chronologically successive images, viewed by peering into an eyepiece. In many way, it presages Mr. Edison's (2-D!) kinetoscope by thirty years, though with much shorter playing times and less-smooth motion.

And for the fellow proud of his high-definition 3DTV, I'll point out the 19th-centry sterograph camera is a good match to 1080p for resolution, perhaps better. But take heart, you've got color!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Ever since the FCC dropped the higher-speed code requirements, some of the nicer touches of operating procedures for CW have become a bit more difficult to pick up.

Of course, they were never that simple to come by. Bad habits tend to sprawl. Back when John Huntoon edited QST, he printed an article by W6DTY* that summarizes good operating without being stuffy or too preachy. It went over well enough that ARRL reprinted it as a handout and sent it to new hams; and now, YOUR NOVICE ACCENT And What To Do About It is available as a PDF, thanks to N4MW.

If you're still working on learning the code, Mr. Huntoon addressed that himself, in 1941: This Business Of Code is still excellent advice.

(Interestingly, I find 4 hams of that name current at, one of them in East Hartford, CT. The former QST editor was a teenager in the late 1930s.)

A side note, there's a website devoted to radio work on the Great Lakes and major rivers -- fascinating! Yes, even paddlewheel steamers had their "Sparks" once radio came along.
* Keith Williams, then. The callsign is presently held by, as FCC puts it, "a close relative of the former holder." This mode of remembrance is one of the Commission's more graceful accommodations.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Promised a week ago, here at last, a fine example of breadboard construction:The tube in the center is the T21, a 6L6 offspring. A plain 6L6G should work fine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Just about nothing could be more of a harkening-back, especially the classic, three-rail "O" gauge. And yet something seems just a little...different about this fellow's layouts:

And not just the everything's-moving endless loop in the foreground -- have a gander at the classic Christmas tree in the background! (Just the thing for a South Pole Christmas). There are a few more views at Trainfacts, too. --And even more.

I stumbled onto this delightful invention (and the pleasant, highly-talented fellow responsible for it) researching a high-end component for work.* For years, I've claimed the only thing that kept me from having a model train layout was the lack of space; I've looked with interest at some of the very small-scale setups, especially the "mountainside" ones that are more vertical than horizontal (much too tricky for a beginner, I'm told, as it's a delicate balancing act between grade and traction) . Well, those excuses have been shot right down if I could be running my own rail line on the living room ceiling.

(It just occurred to me that some fan of The Fifth Element is probably planning a vertical building-side passenger express already. Can't find an example online but it would be very fine).

I'm going to add this to the "Live Steam" category; sure, the models are (mostly) electric but many of the originals were not.

P.S.: Speaking of train layouts in interesting places...! Wow.
* A Penny + Giles conductive plastic rotary fader, a "volume control" to us mere mortals, but a well-nigh indestructible one. There's one operating position on the ol' Starship Lupine local Skunk-Workings where the guys keep wearing out a speaker-volume control and it would be nice to only have to replace it once. Now, to convince the boss. And the boss's accountants.

Friday, April 1, 2011


This transmitter was designed around the Taylor T21...which is a 6L6 with a six-pin base. Another, similar bit of 6L6 cloning was the Raytheon RK49. (There's a top-view photo of the little transmitter in the "Radio" handbook for 1940 -- I'll see about scanning it this evening.)

There is a reason for this: the 6-pin base has wider spacing between pins and will run higher voltages with less chance of an arc-over. Especially important at radio frequencies. The Raytheon appears to have a ceramic base. I'm not sure what Taylor used.

In most HF applications that aren't pushing the tube too hard, you can substitute a 6L6G/GA/GB for these tubes without much trouble.

BTW, these things can become quite valuable -- there's a Utah "Junior" single-6L6 transmitter, albeit a very fancy one, about to change hands for over $500 on an auction site.

Update: Bruce, W1UJR, points out in comments that it's more fun to restore a Utah Junior than buy one bandbox-new. He's right -- and has done a first-class renewal on his.