Friday, 14 December 2012

WHY CRYSTAL SETS ENTHRALLED ME.

I feel sad for today's children. With all the electronic gadgets they have, they miss the simplicity of the radio that needs no power source. A friend introduced me to these amazing receivers back in the autumn of 1969.

On certain weekends, the parents of a school friend would invite me over to their home for the weekend. I treasured the temporary escape from that uncaring institution called Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind and into a regular family dwelling.

One evening, David showed me something called a crystal radio. It needed no battery, something that amazed me. I thought every radio needed some sort of power. Crystal radios use only the signal they receive as their power.

We tried listening to both of his radios on one antenna that night. It didn't work out as we hoped as both radios took too much energy. Consequently, the sound in the earphones was very weak. We decided to take turns connecting each radio to the antenna for a while.

When I attended a house church, Sister Roberta gave me her son's electronic projects kit. One circuit included in it was for a crystal set. My joy was boundless when I assembled it and heard my favourite station loud and clear in the earphone. I often lay in bed at night and listened until sleep overtook me.

Having enrolled in electronics class, I decided to build a crystal set from scratch. Instead of a galena crystal, I bought a signal detector diode from Radio Shack. I scrounged the wire from an old transformer to make the tuning coil and a strip of aluminum from a TV dinner tray as the tuner. Borrowing the earphone from the electronic projects kit, I discovered that my simple home-made radio worked. It could tune in only the upper half of the AM band but it worked.

Through the years, I purchased several Science Fair kits from Radio Shack. Each one contained a crystal radio project. After constructing every project in each kit, I decided to build another receiver from scratch. I bought an old pair of earphones at a garage sale and made the rest of the radio from scraps and a signal detector diode. It too worked but, like the first radio, only tuned in the upper half of the AM band.

Though I live a fair distance from the nearest large city, I still feel the urge to connect my crystal set to an antenna. There's something magical, for lack of a better word, in hearing signals picked up by a home-made radio. The sound is surprisingly crisp when compared to ordinary radios too.

I've written extensively about my fascination for radio in my memoirs. Check both of them out at the left side of this page. My newest paperback, How I Was Razed, can also be purchased through Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon. Virtual Bookworm stocks the paperback version.