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Old 1st Apr 2024, 12:44 pm   #1
Chrispy57
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Default Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

I came across this "reader's letter" in the March 1935 issue of Practical Wireless and wonder whether other Members may also assume that it was an April Fools' Day joke by Mr. Camm?

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Chris
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 1:16 pm   #2
Paul_RK
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

I'm pretty rusty in such matters and may regret saying this, but it looks okay to me... am I missing something in the story?

Paul
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 1:25 pm   #3
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

Well, there is a minus sign missing, but most people neglect that and treat reactance as a scalar.

David
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 1:30 pm   #4
stevehertz
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

What actually is it that makes you think it's an April fool's joke/letter?
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 1:31 pm   #5
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

I prefer to treat reactance as an imaginary number, so would write it as

Xc = 1/(2*pi*i*f*C)

where i = sqrt(-1). But I can understand not doing that in Practical Wireless

Is the issue that if the sender's workshop, books, and radio sets have all been destroyed, why on earth does he need to calculate the reactance of a capacitor?
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 1:35 pm   #6
Chrispy57
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

Well Paul, that story is so over the top, and I really don't think that even in pre-internet days the unfortunate experimenter would write a letter, buy a stamp, send off the query, wait a few weeks in the hope that it may be published, buy the issue of PW to get the answer to a basic question that would be available in the library, bookshop or from a wireless friend. If, following the tragic fire, he has managed to acquire enough parts and test equipment to be conducting experiments again that just seem a bit unlikely don't you think?

Cheers
Chris
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 2:02 pm   #7
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

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I prefer to treat reactance as an imaginary number, so would write it as

Xc = 1/(2*pi*i*f*C)

where i = sqrt(-1). But I can understand not doing that in Practical Wireless

Is the issue that if the sender's workshop, books, and radio sets have all been destroyed, why on earth does he need to calculate the reactance of a capacitor?
That's far better Tony but it still leaves a loophole for pedants to throw rocks. That's the impedance of a capacitor. while the reactance has the 90 drgree phase shift implicit in the word reactance. There's enough misunderstandings and arguments about nomenclature to make this awkward.

Putting plus i in the denominator rather than -i in the numerator keeps the i with the frequency and reminds us that reactances are things happening in terms of imaginary frequencies and it keeps the book-keeping honest. It also fixes the issue of having to explain why inductors are +i Ohms and capacitors are -i Ohms, making things fit together naturally. It avoids an issue of convention.

David
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 5:15 pm   #8
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

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Originally Posted by Chrispy57 View Post
... I really don't think that even in pre-internet days the unfortunate experimenter would write a letter, buy a stamp, send off the query, wait a few weeks in the hope that it may be published, buy the issue of PW to get the answer to a basic question that would be available in the library, bookshop or from a wireless friend.
While I agree that the fire story seems a bit improbable, I don't think that writing to a magazine with a technical query like that is particularly unlikely. I can remember doing just that as a teenager in the 60's, when we lived in rural Gloucestershire about 20 miles from the nearest bookshop and with no nearby library or other radio enthusiasts but with a postbox just round the corner.

Don't forget that in in 1935 PW was a weekly magazine, so the wait for a response to be published wouldn't have been very long. Moreover, as the attached image shows, the publishers actually said they'd reply by post if the writer included an SAE with their letter. In an era when people wrote letters all the time and most places had 2 deliveries a day the writer could reasonably have expected a reply in a matter of days.

As to being an "April Fool", that seem particularly unlikely as the letter was published in the March 2nd edition of PW and there were 3 more before the beginning of April. If it was meant to be a joke surely it would have been published in the March 30th edition?

Hugh
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 5:46 pm   #9
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

Hi Hugh - thanks for your perspective on the weekly nature of PW at that time, I must admit that I hadn't been aware of that fact. BTW was your own teenaged question answered via SAE or did you become famous in a magazine too?

I may be becoming paranoid over the April Fool thing, but I've just noticed the disclaimer at the foot of this page today and couldn't help wondering ..... "All information and advice on this forum is subject to the WARNING AND DISCLAIMER located at https://www.vintage-radio.net/rules.html. Failure to heed this warning may result in death or serious injury to yourself and/or others."

Cheers
Chris
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 5:53 pm   #10
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

I agree that it would be a reasonable question to ask by post in a pre-internet era. Finding a library with technical books outside of a medium/big city that could answer that question, wouldn't be that easy some decades ago.

But when we add the fire story to that question - sounded to me like a good old British humor prank. I hope it was a joke and it wasn't indeed a real event, because I laughed really hard reading it.

Alex
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 7:41 pm   #11
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

If it's a joke then it's an *extremely* obscure one. I'm also unsure how common this April Fool pranking was in the 1930s anyway.
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 8:16 pm   #12
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

When I read it a second and third time it actually started to sound a bit more real. I think what led me to think it was a joke initially, was this mental picture being developed in my head of someone who's asking for a technical detail for some experiment after his life being completely turned upside down - and I linked these events in a very short period of time as I was picturing it.

It sounded like: "I just lost all my stuff in a fire - a really unfortunate event. By the way, I'm experimenting something here with what's left, do you happen to know how to calculate the reactance of a capacitor?!"

Again, after re-reading it, it really doesn't sound like this anymore. The fire could have happen years before anyway.

Alex
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 8:53 pm   #13
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

By the good offices of worldradiohistory.com I think we can be certain the letter had no connection with April Fools' Day, as it appears in the March 2nd issue of PW, which was still a weekly at the time. It's in the Queries and Enquiries section: a coupon appeared in each weekly issue allowing the reader to have a question answered, and if he wished (well, it was almost always a 'he'...) a stamped addressed envelope would deliver a direct reply, so no waiting around for the next issue and hoping his letter would appear there.

Thanks for stimulating me to a browsing session, it was good to come across an article on the launch of the Marconi Jubilee range: must download a month of PW more often

Paul
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Old 1st Apr 2024, 10:48 pm   #14
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

The problem, Paul, is that tempting as the things in the adverts are (and their prices are great) you can't order them any longer. Reading a period magazine always leaves my with a certain longing...

David
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Old 2nd Apr 2024, 1:15 pm   #15
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

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Originally Posted by Radio Wrangler View Post
The problem, Paul, is that tempting as the things in the adverts are (and their prices are great) you can't order them any longer. Reading a period magazine always leaves my with a certain longing...

David
On the one hand I know what you mean, but on the other, as we know only too well as collectors, pretty much everything that was available under the umbrella term of 'wireless' someone will have one somewhere. I've waited years on occasions to find a part or a set, but yep, they're 'available' albeit rare and hard to find. Not quite the same as sending your
postal order off to Tottenham Court road and receiving a brown paper parcel tied with twine.
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Old 2nd Apr 2024, 6:49 pm   #16
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Wrangler View Post
The problem, Paul, is that tempting as the things in the adverts are (and their prices are great) you can't order them any longer. Reading a period magazine always leaves my with a certain longing...

David
What always impresses me from old mags. 1950-60 is the wide range of really interesting jobs available not just in the UK, but also overseas. (And they were not crying out for degrees!)
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Old 3rd Apr 2024, 12:21 am   #17
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

The Reader's Letter in question has a strong similarity to the quirky humour found in the 'Letterbocks' pages in Viz magazine...but said brand of humour was non-existent in those days and i believe the letter to be a straight one which simply goes into far more detail than it needs to.

Do I win a fiver?

Dave
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Old 3rd Apr 2024, 12:42 pm   #18
Chrispy57
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

A white fiver is in the post Dave!

Cheers
Chris
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Old 7th Apr 2024, 8:22 am   #19
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

My impression is that it is the sort of thing concocted by the editorial staff to fill a blank space on the page, when there weren't enough genuine readers' letters that week. Someone I knew worked on a women's magazine, and they invented the "agony aunt" letters when they needed to fill a column. It still happens, though less so with modern technology as the page layouts are much more flexible.
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Old 7th Apr 2024, 12:28 pm   #20
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Default Re: Practical Wireless 1935 April Fool?

Hi Borderer - thanks for that suggestion, it sounds very plausible. The "letter" has the same contrived feel that had always irritated me, and caused me to skip over the Smithy and Dick articles in one of the other radio magazines - possibly Radio Constructor.

Cheers
Chris
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