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Old 7th Jan 2019, 12:51 pm   #1
Terry_VK5TM
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Default Old books/magazines and the gems within

One of the things I like about browsing through old books and magazines (talking 1920' - 30's here) are the amazing gems of information that can be found.

The attached pic is but one example from the Amateur Wireless Handbook "Simple Valve Receiving Sets" from 1923 about making the 'grid condenser and leak'.

There is even a description of making the valve holder from scratch in the same book (on American Radio History site).

Anything anyone else has come across that they find interesting/fascinating/useful in light of how things are done these days?

And yes, I do realise doing such things was the norm in those days, but I find it a fascinating glimpse of 'how life used to be'.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 1:04 pm   #2
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

Going back to the 1890s, there was a series in Boys Own Paper about making (literally here) and using your own internal telephone system. The only ready made part they suggested was the microphone, though the description of how they worked suggested a homebrew version (admittedly using parts possibly not available then) using a carbon rod from a U2 and a couple of dynamo brushes. It worked quite well! It was also, oddly enough, the only part that I actually made
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 1:55 pm   #3
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

Some more books that might interest you, one old, the other 2 modern.

The old one is 'Harper's Electricity Book for Boys'. It describes making cells (primary and lead-acid rechargeable), switches, bells, telephones, induction coils, etc from scratch.

The modern ones are 'Voice of the Crystal' and 'Instruments of Amplfication'. The first one describes making all the components for a crystal set from scratch. Coil, variable capactor, detector, headphones. The only 'electrical' thing you have to get is wire. The second book is similar, but covers making (albeit poor quality and short life) diode and triode valves and transistors.

There were also some articles in the American magazines 'Radiocraft' and 'Radio & Television News' (the second being the successor to the first) on making transistors using the crystal from a germanium diode and 2 cats whiskers.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 3:05 pm   #4
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

My first good radio read was a chapter called "The Wonderful World of Wireless, in a book called "The Golden Treasury".
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 3:13 pm   #5
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

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There were also some articles in the American magazines 'Radiocraft' and 'Radio & Television News' (the second being the successor to the first) on making transistors using the crystal from a germanium diode and 2 cats whiskers.
It took Bell Labs a good while to achieve that, I don't fancy my chances particularly as a small boy.��
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 3:21 pm   #6
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

I was inspired by ( I think ) "Practical Mechanics Ed F.C,. Camm " to make a Wimshurst Machine and then used it to prime a Van der Graaf generator.

On a dry day the Wimshurst Macine would produce 6" long sparks but I had to stop using it much. It would blot out our 405 line TV picture in a shower of white dots.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 3:53 pm   #7
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

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Originally Posted by Terry_VK5TM View Post
And yes, I do realise doing such things was the norm in those days, but I find it a fascinating glimpse of 'how life used to be'.
The book I used in the mid 1960s to build a Wimshurst machine must have been old, because I constructed a condenser out of interleaved foil and paper squares, and it didn't occur to me that I might have been able to buy one instead.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 4:39 pm   #8
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

For anyone who's not read it: In you workshop. The Radio Constructor.

The everyday lives of Smithy and Dick.

This series has featured on this forum before.

I was given about 10 years worth of the Radio constructor around 1969 and it taught me an awful lot about TV servicing.

I was still at school at the time (13) and took Practical Wireless this magazine was quite a revelation.

Cheers

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Old 7th Jan 2019, 6:47 pm   #9
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

I have a copy of Newnes Wireless Constructors Encyclopaedia published 1932 which I dip into occasionally.
I just opened at random and found an article on making / repairing your own accumulator.
For the paste for the positive plate you need 4 parts redlead (Pb3O4) 1 part Litharge (PBO) and 1 part sulphuric acid (1.12 sg). Mix to a paste.
Not be done in the kitchen with your wifes best mixing bowl....

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Old 7th Jan 2019, 9:53 pm   #10
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

Hi Folks, "The Boy Electrician" by Simms. first published in the 20's and many new editions, all sorts of things that can be made from scratch.
A couple of books by Ballhatchet "Wireless Apparatus Making", again making from scratch.
There was also a range of early model engineer books on Electricity and Radio.

There are plenty of other similar titles; one of our own forum members, from the northwest has made some exhibition quality radios fro scratch built parts.

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Old 7th Jan 2019, 10:07 pm   #11
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

I'm happy to look back over the odd copies of "Electronic Design" and "RF Design" I retained from the 1980s/early-1990s.

Amusing to see 'spectacular' performance-announcements in computing from companies like Silicon Graphics, |D|I|G|I|T|A|L|, Cray Research, Gould/SEL, the first consumer-availability of cellphones, or Radar-stuff from Raytheon [Anyone remember PAVE PAWS ??].

One such magazine details Rockwell Corporation's first integrated GPS receiver - for the US Military, at around $35,000 per unit. Now we have this technology in a 30 mobile-phone.

As was said in 1982's "Blade Runner",

~~~All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain~~~.
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Old 10th Jan 2019, 10:21 am   #12
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

Quote:
Originally Posted by rambo1152 View Post
The book I used in the mid 1960s to build a Wimshurst machine must have been old, because I constructed a condenser out of interleaved foil and paper squares, and it didn't occur to me that I might have been able to buy one instead.
The voltage stress on the condensers for a Wimshurst machine would be hundreds of thousand of volts. The classic condensers were a pair of leyden jars. I made my own from two jam jars, lined with engineers brass shim as one electrode a tight fitting outer sheath of the same as the other.

Operating the machine without the Leyden jars produced a steady stream of gossamer like 6" sparks between the discharge spheres. With the jars in circuit, the force needed to wind the handle was markedly increased and it took about 10 sec or so turning the handle before a sudden "crack" occurred as a big, fat, 6" spark discharged. The dielectric properties of jam jar glass were not too good as sparks also could be seen jumping through the glass itself, between the shim electrodes!
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Old 10th Jan 2019, 10:39 am   #13
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

I never had the pleasure of making a Wimshurst machine, or any other spark inducing contraption for that matter.

Beginning to think I may have missed out on something here.
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Old 10th Jan 2019, 10:54 am   #14
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

I effectively learned electronics from "Newnes Wireless Constructors Encyclopaedia" as a small child. At the time I didn't appreciate just how old the book was - the broken radios I was given to cut up seemed rather different and more complex!

As a teenager I undertook a study of how the "electrochemical rectifier" or "Noden valve" (as described in Newnes) actually worked. I discovered that it was effectively an alternative use of an electrolytic capacitor!

I have always been interested in strange phenomena that were discovered a long time ago and then forgotten as not being useful or relevant. I found loads of weird and potentially useful things mentioned in ancient books. But now with everything online I wonder if old books from this era will even exist in future.
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Old 10th Jan 2019, 12:24 pm   #15
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

Quote:
Originally Posted by Terry_VK5TM View Post
I never had the pleasure of making a Wimshurst machine, or any other spark inducing contraption for that matter.

Beginning to think I may have missed out on something here.
I made a number of induction coils as well, working from a book on Electricity & Magnetism published no later than 1888 ( At the end of the book there was a description of the latest thing; some sort of electric rail vehicle being demonstrated in London; maybe Hyde Park ? )

Browsing around second hand bookshops can be a good source of such books.

In my early to mid teens I became interested in trying to generate as high a voltage as possible. Maybe "don't try this at home " advice would apply nowadays.
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Old 11th Jan 2019, 3:34 pm   #16
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

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I never had the pleasure of making a Wimshurst machine, or any other spark inducing contraption for that matter.

Beginning to think I may have missed out on something here.
Not to worry - get a spark coil from your local car wreckers or dealers, use a relay wired so it turns off and on as the voltage interrurpter all hooked up to your 12v battery charger and you too can join in the fun!!
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Old 11th Jan 2019, 3:39 pm   #17
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The 12v ex PO relays with changeover contacts were ideal for this
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Old 11th Jan 2019, 3:44 pm   #18
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A book in the early 60's inspired me to try a transistor as a switch - so I bought a white spot transistor, wired a 100 ohm resistor and switch to the base, put a ten ohm resistor in the collector and a 6v light bulb in the emitter and used either a 6 or 12 volt battery across it and, to my delight, when I threw the switch the light came on - then very quickly went out. Sadly the transistor was very VERY warm and never worked again but still recall the thrill of it!! great fun.
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Old 11th Jan 2019, 4:32 pm   #19
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Not to worry - get a spark coil from your local car wreckers or dealers, use a relay wired so it turns off and on as the voltage interrurpter all hooked up to your 12v battery charger and you too can join in the fun!!
I am sure that would work. A lot of the fun and sense of achievement I got in my teens was actually winding the coils, making a core out of lengths of iron wire, making a brass spring / steel interrrupter arm etc. The finished winding was put in a vat of molten candle wax to increase the interlayer insulation. I doubt if soft iron wire, 36 s.w.g. enamelled copper wire is readily available nowadays. Oh and also made a polished oak base .
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Old 11th Jan 2019, 5:27 pm   #20
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Default Re: Old books/magazines and the gems within

I have a facsimile edition of a volume of "The Model Engineer" from 1904 that I bought cheaply from Proops. Articles on DIY X-ray machine construction, several on Wimshurst machines (empty beer bottles filled with lead shot and with foil wrapped around the outside was used by an Australian contributor). How to make cheap batteries using a tin can, vinegar, and a lump of coke. There is a review of a book "Radium and other radioactive elements" written by an 18-year-old schoolboy H Levy, who had done various experiments in his house in South London, such as producing mutations in tadpoles. Google found me a PDF available for free download from the University of California web site at the time. Google no longer finds it, but if you visit their web site, it is still there.

There are a couple of items on the use of wireless for short range communication, and towards the end, announcements from the Postmaster General of the imminent introduction of a licencing scheme for wireless telegraphy apparatus. An experimental wireless telegraphy apparatus by Basset-Lowke , better known for the manufacture of model trains and ships, was favourably reviewed. I guess the need for a licence may have killed it stone dead, as there is no mention of it in a book on the history of that company.
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