June 1951 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
In the days before people
were so easily offended by light-hearted poking, it was not uncommon to find magazine
articles written by the wives of hobbyist husbands lamenting the habits and proclivities
of their matrimonial mates. Over the years I have read many such treatises in model
and full-scale airplane, electronics, and Ham radio publications. As with "A Radioman's
Wife Puts in a Good Word" from a 1951 issue of Radio-Electronics, they
typically start by expressing frustration of having lost their once-doting husbands
to alternative loves in the form of hobbies (I once saw a boat named "The Other
Woman"). Determined to win back the devotion of their sweethearts, they make a sincere
attempt to learn about and be part of whatever hobby or hobbies is/are the cause
of abandonment of wife and children. It usually doesn't take long for Friend Wife,
as Popular Electronics'
Carl Kohler addresses his better half, to decide that try as she may, engendering
sufficient enough enthusiasm toward the subject to adopt it as a hobby isn't in the
cards. A little loneliness pales in comparison to feigning interest in an
utterly monotonous pursuit. There are instances of
the wife actually taking a liking to the hobby and becoming more enthusiastic than
her husband. Lest you think the fun-at-my-spouse's-expense taunting is all one-sided,
there are many comics in the same vintage magazines that illustrate hubby's frustration
at his wife's lack of a grasp of his interests.
Married a Superhetrodyne," February 1970 Popular Electronics; "What Wives
Think About Ham Radio," December 1966 QST; "How
to Woo a Gal with Models," July 1957 American Modeler; and "If
You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em," June 1971 American Aircraft Modeler.
A Radioman's Wife Puts in a Good Word
"One girl spends her evenings sitting on the basement stairs
... and knitting."
"All those boxes you have to climb over before you can open up
the studio couch."
"I've learned to swing a pretty neat hacksaw, but even there
I get stymied."
By Mrs. Robert E. Altomare
Every time I try to dun*
my husband for money for a new hat, or a coat, or any similar necessary appurtenances
to feminine happiness, I'm always met with, "If you need extra money why don't you
write an article?"
"Why not?" quoth I, and add with some
ascerbity (sic), "On
To which said husband, being a radioman, replies in great surprise at my stupidity,
"On radio, of course."
Whether this will net me a new bonnet or not, it looks like a good way to air
my many and uncomplimentary views on the subject.
Let's get one little matter straight for the record right now. I do not now,
nor from the looks of things, will I ever, "see" radio.
Little facts such as expecting a new rug from carefully nurtured savings and
having hubby gleefully exhibit a "bridge" purchased from same are just the sort
of things that could have curdled my enthusiasm, but I doubt it. It had to be much
more than that.
For instance: At a gay gathering where husbands and beaus are do-si-do'ing and
swinging their ladies with great good will, if I happen to spy some wistful creature
sitting alone with her hands clasped quietly in her lap, I can usually start out
on the right conversational foot by asking, "And what branch of radio is your husband's
When I see some frail female up on a housetop battling a stiff wind while she
nails down the flapping shingles, I just look beyond her for the short-wave antenna
that's sure to be in the back yard.
One girl I know spends her evenings sitting on the basement stairs talking to
her husband and knitting, and, incidentally, accumulating callouses since there
is never room for a chair among the radio paraphernalia. Hers is an extreme case,
of course. The only reason her husband can still talk is that he is only a student
radioman. Not full-fledged, you see!
Whenever I hear a woman speak of her "two lovely children" and then, laughing
resignedly add, "But of course, I really expected a larger family." I can get a
reputation for being psychic simply by asking whether her husband does experimental
radio work or transmitting.
Now this observation may seem a backhanded slight of radio's manhood but you'll
have to admit that the real "ham" generally gets up at 5:30 am to talk to Timbuctoo,
recognizes his status as pater familias by putting in eight grudging hours at some
job, then rushes from the supper table to spend the rest of the evening talking
to Ootcubmit, which is Timbuctoo spelled backward and pretty much the way that shortwave
sounds to me.
If, however, the husband is only interested in experimental radio work, then
he sleeps to the last possible moment - any morning - so that he will have long,
reasonably fresh evening hours to "try" things in his shop.
Except for the weaker mind and backsliding of the radio novice and a certain
amount of patriotic excursioning toward increasing the population that dwindled
due to the war, the enticing things we girls heard around the lockers during the
second year of high was not the type of activity that would engage the interest
of the real radioman and we radio wives would simply have dismissed such ideas along
with those about the Easter bunny and the birds and bees.
Where to find the shack
"Shack" is a word of many strange and varied meanings. If you live in a one-room
affair with your radio husband, then it is all those boxes of stuff you have to
climb over before you can open up the studio couch.
If you live in two rooms, "shack" is the three-fourths of the dining table that
you can no longer eat off.
If you live in a house, the shack is the space designated on the plans or by
the real estate agent as "laundry" or "lovely recreation room."
In my own case "shack" brings back bitter memories.
My husband always used to refer to me with a certain kindly affection, "My wife?
Yeah, she's a pretty nice girl." But one day a girl friend and I were having a heart-to-heart
talk about how many times you should rinse the clothes when I mentioned that it
was pretty darned hard for me to get any laundry done at all because of all the
junk in the basement. Wouldn't you just know that he would hear me? JUNK! His most
Well, they say it is the little things in life that really count. Upon such loose
name-calling on my part my husband was ready for the divorce courts then and there,
when I reminded him of the baby. Nevertheless, he watches his words and thinks twice
before he cautiously refers to me as "My wife? Yeah."
But I'm not the type to let these things get me down. Having been the girl voted
"most likely to-," I put my thinking cap on and decided that the way to dethrone
that radio usurper of my rightful place in the American Home would be to study radio.
Yes, I would study radio, and hubby and I would go hand in hand down Life's Lane
in Happy Companionship.
If I could persuade my husband to take cooking lessons written in Sanskrit, he'd
get an approximate idea of what I went through.
Who in tunket would know that Xmfr was a transformer?
"Measure the c.m. area of the conductors," the experiment read.
"Conductors?" I cried wildly, "There's nothing here but a bunch of wires!"
"Plug in the jack," the instructions said.
"Oh, my gosh, what is a jack?" My experience led me to think of a boy or one
of those things you use when you get a flat. Nothing like that here.
"Why is damping necessary?" read the question sheet. Having raised a baby or
two, I had a ready answer for that one but it wasn't the answer they wanted.
"And these calipers," said the instructor matter-of-factly, "are hermaphrodites."
"Oh," I gasped, shocked, "not really!"
My lessons are all well surrounded by marginal notes mostly concerned with translating
the jargon into standard usage. Actually, I have become so word conscious that I'm
a better proofreader than the school ever had.
A lady is limited
It hasn't all been in vain, though. I've learned to swing a pretty neat hacksaw
but even there I get stymied. The comfortable "go to H-" with which my husband addresses
the material when it slips out of the vise - as it is bound to do in a crucial moment
- is denied to me, a woman.
When a woman makes a dress or a cake, she gets all the essentials together in
front of her and proceeds from one step to the next to its completion. But not radio!
Take a transformer replacement for instance. You take the old one out and get
the new one spaghettied and soldered ready to put in. Since it is the same thing
going into the same place with the same parts you'd think you'd be all set for a
nice neat job. Are you? Hah! In the first place the lugs are too darned high for
the holes so you replace them. Then they don't clear the transformer properly so
you have to get the hacksaw and file and do a job on that. Now you find that the
screws from the old one are too big for the new transformer. You've got 8-32 and
you need 6-40. All the ones in the jar are just a little too short. So off you trot
for the electric drill to make the holes in the transformer bigger. Finally you
get to mounting the blithering Xmfr and, bless my soul, if the screws aren't too
short because of the extra washers you had to use to line it up right! So - to the
jar of 6-32's. Now they're all too short or too long and have to be filed, dammit!
And right here I'd like to say that dammit is not profanity on my part. It is an
absolutely necessary part of every full-fledged radioman's equipment. Or his helper's.
Well, it has been an interesting experience, I must say. But I'm afraid that
if my husband goes down Radio Lane hand in hand with someone it shall have to be
a hand other than mine. I'm quitting while I'm still ignorant instead of insane
so - Farewell, dear old radio; Farewell, disheartening struggle with obscure word
meanings; Farewell, dull pity in the eyes of lab instructors; Farewell, math formula
taken with two aspirins and a glass of water.
Yes, I say, farewell, dear radio, farewell to you!
And after this I guess I'd better. Just wait until His Nibs** sees it!
* I didn't know what "dun"
meant in this application as a verb.
** See "His Nibs."
Posted May 27, 2020