Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For sale: One Radio Teletype machine, circa 1930s or 40s. Open to anyone willing to come and get it.

For the last 15 years, my bedroom in my parents' house has had this rather large machine in the corner, collecting dust and confounding anyone who entered the room. It was given to me many years ago, after another radio enthusiast was going to find a way to trash it, but thought it could still have some use. It's a radio teletype machine from the WWII era, a machine used to send and receive radio signals that are converted to text. In a way, it's a very early forerunner to the fax machine. The technology is still used, albeit not nearly as much since satellites came along a few decades back and the Internet become more popular over the last ten years. However, these days all it takes is a program on a floppy disk on a 20 year old computer to replicate what this old machine could do. I last tried it out a few years ago and it still works, even if the paper is quite yellow and frail, and you'd be able to hear the machine running from outside the house.

This past weekend, the family and I managed to move it past numerous narrow doorways and new floors and get it out to the garage where I've got a few weeks to find someone to take it. It's awfully heavy (it took all four of us), and I couldn't really think of anyone off hand who needs one. Still, I'd much rather find a place for it -- I'd hate to see something potentially worthwhile tossed to the curb.

I could talk about radio for a long time, to be honest. That I can sit with a 60 year old machine and still pick up conversations between people across the globe fascinates me. The idea that all of this could be replaced by a laptop is amazing and also a little dispiriting - where is the joy in spending time cutting the right amount of wire and running it out your front window to pick up a newswire from Switzerland when you can just look it up? Much of the fun in an old machine like this is getting it to work. Thankfully, I still have a few old radios around -- the nicest is this one from the early 50s. On this, I was able to get a station from South Africa sounding as clear as something down the road. You don't get that experience with online radio -- as fun as that is anyway.


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