January 1955 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history
of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights
are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from
When electronics was relatively new and accessible to the common
man, it was not unusual to find comical articles, poems, and
even odes to the trade and those who plied it. To be an Electronic
Technician was to wear a title of distinction, even awe. Radios
and TVs were still using tubes and had chassis with point-to-point
wiring, and everyone knew that the mysterious components within
needed TLC to keep working optimally. Much as RF and microwave
electronics is still considered a "black art" by many people,
having any serious technical knowledge in circuit design, construction,
and/or repair could earn a fellow a decent living, even without
a college degree. Technical schools were popping up all over
the country in the 1950s when this article was written. Magazines
were filled with advertisements offering opportunities in industry
and in the military services.
You will get a kick out of this story.
There's something about electronics that's apt to melt the
solder on even the strongest family ties. When a man becomes
an electronic technician, his wife becomes an electronic widow.
Even when her husband is at home, his mind is a hundred miles
Take, for instance, the first day a man is exposed to electronics.
He comes home that night, and instead of hiding behind a newspaper,
he hides behind a book. She knits.
Suddenly, she remembers something. "By the way, Dear, that
lady was here again today - the one that's always trying to
sell me something. I wish she'd stop bothering me. I just don't
know what I'll do about her."
He hunches his shoulders, pulls the book closer to his face,
and mumbles, "Transformer."
"Well, I tried, Dear. Last time she was here, I told her
that selling was hard work. I said she ought to do something
besides selling pots and pans. She was selling vacuum cleaners
today. What do you think I ought to do about her, Dear?"
"Well, I tried that, too. But I'll say one thing for her
- she's sure a good saleslady. Want to see my new vacuum cleaner?"
"Stationary spot," he mumbles. "Due to a loose or pulled
"Oh, no, Dear. They don't make spotted vacuum cleaners. It's
brown, and it's brand new, and I know the plug isn't loose,
and of course the plug is pulled out. If the plug wasn't pulled
out, you'd hear it running."
He puts a finger on the page, glances at his wife, looks
back at the book, shakes his head, and says, "Indicates complete
absence of deflection voltages."
She's knitting faster now. Her eyes narrow. "Well, you don't
have to talk to me that way about it. I've already bought the
vacuum cleaner, and that's that. I don't want to hear any more
He reads. She knits. Her knitting needles click loudly. Click.
Click. Click, Click.
"Altering the bias," he mumbles.
The knitting needles click slower. She looks up, smiles,
and says, "I'm glad you mentioned that, Dear. I finished making
that dress for Judy today. Don't know what in the world's wrong.
It just doesn't seem to fit her right."
"Characteristic curve is by no means linear."
"I wish you wouldn't say things like that. After all, it's
your own daughter, and she may not have the most perfect figure
in the world, but you'll have to remember that she's only twelve."
"The straight portion of the curve."
"Well, of course her figure is straight. My figure was straight
when I was twelve. I wouldn't worry about it. She'll soon grow
up and have a figure just like mine."
He places a finger on the page, glances in her direction,
looks back at the page, shakes his head, and says, "Some tonal
distortion originates at the transmitting end because of non-linearity
of response in the photoelectric device itself."
"The very idea," she says. "The very idea." She glares at
him. "Well, I may not have the most perfect figure in the world,
but I'll have you know that I'm not the fattest person in the
"Curvature of the earth intervenes."
"Well," she says.
"Well." Her knitting needles click faster. Click. Click. Click,
Click. He reads.
"Vertical polarization," he mumbles. She glares.
"Horizontally polarized waves," he says. She knits.
"Horizontal radiating system," he says. She looks up, bites
her lip, and says, "Well, I don't know how you always seem to
know about these things. I promised Junior I wouldn't tell you,
but he was climbing in the apple tree again today, and he fell.
Said he was trying to fly."
"Insufficient horizontal deflection?"
"Well, really, Dear. How would I know what made him fall?
He just fell, I guess. It was the strangest thing. He just couldn't
understand why he couldn't fly."
"Incorrect adjustment of horizontal hold control?"
"Well, I guess you do understand those things better than
I do. I wish you'd explain it to him. He said he saw the birds
and airplanes flying, and he didn't see any reason why he couldn't
fly. He just couldn't understand why he fell."
"Misadjustment of horizontal centering control?"
"Well, I suppose that could be it. He must have been out
of control when he fell. Anyway, maybe you'd better explain
it to him tomorrow." She stops knitting and shakes her head.
"Sometimes I wonder about Junior. He gets the craziest ideas
in his mind."
"Deflection yoke twisted?"
"I don't see how you have the nerve to say things like that
about Junior. His mind may be a little warped, but after all
he's your son. That's probably why he thinks he can fly. And
I wish you'd put that book away when I'm talking to you. Honestly,
if you don't start paying more attention to your children, there's
no telling what they'll turn out to be."
"Well, the very idea. The very idea." She bounces up from
the chair, throws her knitting on the floor, stalks across the
room, points her finger in his face, and says, "If you can't
talk decent about our children, I just won't talk to you. I
work hard day after day, week after week, and year after year,
trying to make something of our children, and all I do is ask
you for a little advice. And what do I get? Sarcastic remarks."
She places her hands on her hips. He continues reading. She
continues, "Well, I've heard all I want to hear about it. I
just don't want to talk any more about it now. I'm going to
bed." Her voice rises to a near scream. "And you can just go
jump in the lake."
He places a finger on the page, glances in her general direction,
and says, "Uh. What's that? What did you say, Dear?"
Of course, with color television, things will be different.
An electronic wife will not only see red - she'll see yellow,
cyan, green, magenta, blue, and polka dot patterns.
Posted October 18, 2011