July 1956 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
New word alert: 'din,' as in "It was dinned into me." OK, maybe
you already knew that, but surely I should have been aware of its
alternate meaning other than being a loud noise ("the agitated cat
made quite a din."). Fortunately, I am not subject to a household
of people who refuse to put things back in their respective places
when through with them, but this tale of woe tells what might be
a familiar scenario to you. To be honest, this could have been written
about me as a boy - before the U.S. Air Force taught me a thing
or two about organization and neatness - since I continually frustrated
my father by leaving his tools (and hardware and lumber and paint)
scattered in forgotten places around the house and yard.
See Carl Kohler's "Dig That Reel
Flat Response," "I Married a Superheterodyne,"
"Unpopular Electronics," "Operation Chaos," "Thin Air, My Foot," "High Tide in the Tweeter," "The R/C Cloud," "Hi-Fi Guest List," "Kool-Keeping Kwiz ," "Boner Box," and "McWatts."
Thin Air, My Foot!
By Carl Kohler
a rosy-cheeked lad, standing with awe at my father's knee while
he performed such magic as winding antenna coils or constructing
a crystal set, I was exposed to an important factor in electronic
know-how. It was dinned into me with patient repetition (and a skilled
hand with the razor strop) until I knew it better than I did my
own name. It was, simply: "A place for everything and everything
in its place."
I have since tried to introduce this cardinal rule of good craftsmanship
into my own household ... a task which - at times - seems comparable
to destroying Boulder Dam with a penknife. I just can't seem to
get the Missus (by far, the most outrageous offender of the rule)
to put anything back where she found it, and most of the time I'm
fortunate beyond my wildest hopes if she even remembers where she
misplaced it. When it comes to tracking down mislaid tools, Little
Bo-Peep searching for her flock at a wolf-rally stands a better
chance of finding what she's looking for than I do in the simple
effort to locate "that Phillips screwdriver which was on the workbench
just a minute ago."
... Sometimes finding a missing tool gradually
becomes a trek of similar proportion to that of searching for
the famed dodo bird ...
If this smacks of gross exaggeration, then, you, dear reader,
are either single or, the possessor of a workshop guarded by trained
lions and a time-lock.
The following dismay-tinged notes are but a few of the cryptic
entries in a small book which I carry with me, recording weekly
accounts of lost-tool matters:
Monday - Found partially rusted open-end wrench under lilac bush
in front yard. Wife claimed she borrowed it to loosen soil.
Tuesday - Discovered cutters lying under sofa. Wife's story:
she needed "something" to cut up coat hangers for project she is
working in wire.
Wednesday - Found soldering gun in upper hall. Wife boldly admitted
using same to hammer nail into wall for picture-hanging.
Thursday - Took socket-wrench, gently, away from Junior. Wife
claims I left it lying on washporch (not true, I put things back
where I find them) and allowed child to amuse himself with it.
Friday - Discovered ratchet-wrench in silver-drawer while drying
silverware for Wife. No explanation offered by anyone.
Saturday - Stepped on pliers ... nearly broke my fool neck. When
questioned, Wife allowed as how she was using them to pull tacks
from old chair before attempting re-upholstering. Gave her short,
spirited talk on leaving tools upon basement floor. Mentioned that
our insurance clauses don't include "death by pliers."
Sunday - Came upon strange hand-drill. Not mine. Asked around
neighborhood. Found owner two blocks south. Kids were drilling for
oil with it. Am reassured I am not alone in this fight.
And those are the trivial facets to this multi-sided pain where
it aches the most. At least, I was able to get my pinkies on the
abused tool and carefully put it back, in each instance, in its
allotted niche or on its own peg.
And, frankly, I would a darn sight sooner have to limp through
the danger-infested jungles of, say, darkest Brazil, in my bare
feet and armed only with a water-pistol, than be faced with the
prospect of ferreting out some completely vanished tool ... particularly
when Friend Wife kicks the hunt into action with: "It simply disappeared
into thin air!"
... Sometimes finding a missing tool gradually becomes a trek
of similar proportion to that of searching for the famed dodo bird
Those are fightin' words in my book.
... But how did you know it would be there?"
asked Friend Wife, with eyes the size of dinner plates. "I hear
voices," I admitted, mystically ...
They are, also, the fantastic symbols of feminine reasoning substituted
for cold, male logic ... logic being as foreign to the mind of woman
as Martian sand would be to an Ozark hillbilly. Nevertheless, those
six, absurd words have been hurled into my stunned face each time
Friend Wife is queried concerning the whereabouts of a missing tool.
One morning, I became aware that my prized and treasured electric
drill was not suspended in its customary place. Before succumbing
to hysteria, I forced myself into a tense, controlled state of mind
and made a trembling inch-by-inch check of the workbench, the larger
drawers, the cabinets and, finally, the workshack floor.
No electric drill.
Fair-minded lout that I am, I sauntered casually through the
house and grounds, keeping two weather eyes straining from their
sockets for even a hint of a misplaced, unreturned electric drill.
I happened upon my extra pliers (half-buried among the ferns) and
a given-up-for-lost long-ago screwdriver (encrusted with dried paint)
but still no electric drill.
So, letting my fury lash itself into a rousing lather, I abandoned
further cool-headedness and charged off to fight "City Hall." Electric
drills don't grow on trees.
The culprit was in the kitchen, affecting an air of spritely cheer
and threadbare innocence as I boiled into the room. Gripping the
edge of the sink for support, I glared at her from head to toe.
Her cheer dampened visibly.
"Well, what's eating you?"
"Where is it? Come on, now. Where is it? Stop stalling and just
tell me what you did with it and I won't-"
"Where is what?" She had the audacity to smile.
"The electric drill," I snapped peevishly.
"My fine, wonderful electric drill that I am lost without. It's
gone and you know where it's gone to, and I demand that you-"
She rested her chin upon a slender finger and stared thoughtfully
at me. "Electric drill. Is that the gun-like gismo that goes rrrrrrrzzzzzzz
and makes holes in things?"
"That's it," I agreed. "That's my electric drill which I bought
with my own little money and have cherished like some men cherish
"Welllll ... let ... me ... think ... " Her eyes glazed over
with vague thought.
drew myself up and stood, with folded arms across my chest, peering
mercilessly into her little act with what I was sure were gimlet-colored
glances. Friend Wife has a nice trick of assuming a cooperatively
confused aspect when cornered in matters of vital concern - like
lost tools and such. I've had reason to suspect, in the past years
of marriage, that this is what my mother used to refer to as "the
wiles of women."
"What did you do with my electric drill?" I hissed.
"Oh, now I remember!" She beamed joyously at me, and I could
sense a real humdinger building up voltage. "I used it to put drainage
holes in those tin planters you made for me! And was that ever a
job! Drilling ... drilling ... drilling ... all those oodles of
holes! Gosh, I never realized how much-"
"Listen, lady," I said patiently, "I don't want to sound like
so much tube noise, but I insist upon knowing exactly where my drill
is - right now."
"How should I know?" she complained, shrugging. '''It just seems
like I lay things down and - and the very next minute, they disappear
"Hold it!" I shrieked. "Hold it, right there!" Unnerved, I collapsed
into the nearest chair, every muscle in my body quivering. "I've
been led over that 'thin air' route before. I'm not buying it this
trip. And now that you're a great, big grown-up girl, I think you're
old enough to face facts. Lady, despite your fondest wishes, nothing-absolutely
nothing - disappears into thin air." I stopped for a breath of thin
air and busied myself with a disgusted frown.
"Well, where is it, then?" she countered. "That's what I want
you to tell me." Sudden cunning tinted her face. "Isn't it possible
you left it inside that baffle you built last week? I heard you
"Oh, no, you don't!" I chuckled nastily.
"Nice try, but I remember returning the drill to ... its ...
proper ... place. No, you've had it since then. Where is it?"
Her mouth began trembling. Then, quite without warning, the process
of related-objects-thinking went off in my head and I knew exactly
what she had done with the drill. Five minutes later, I had excavated
the tool from the bottom of the planter where it had been left and
"B-But how did you know it would be there?" asked Friend Wife,
her eyes the approximate size of dinner plates. "I can't imagine
how I could have possibly left it in there. Nor can I see how you
knew it was in there, either."
"I hear voices," I admitted, mystically. "Y-You do!" The dinner
plates grew into meat platters.
"Yeh, and one of the things they kept repeating and repeating
was: "They ain't nobody but us voices in this thin air!" I couldn't
refrain from slapping my knee and yocking heartily at this bit of
I've had better audiences.
Since, the battle to keep tools on hand goes on with the usual
percentage of items vanishing, never to be seen again, and the usual
number bobbing up in the unlikeliest places.
Like all good, red-blooded All-American types who find themselves
gaping into the horrific maw of a seemingly losing battle, I have
turned, of late, to the methods of my forefathers. And since Friend
Wife appears to be immune to patient, kindly, repetitious suggestion,
education and dire warning - I'm left with only one as-yet-untried
Does anybody know where I might buy an old-fashioned razor strop?
Posted March 3, 2016