January 1968 Popular Electronics
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Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
"...Or, Never Throw Anything Away, If You Can Help It." That is the full title of this story by Freb Ebel which appeared in a 1968 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. In order to "get it," you would need to have been the owner and operator (and preferably builder) of one of the vintage (now, not then) manually adjusted (often) regenerative receivers in order to optimize performance. Anyone who would have considered a regenerative "squealer" to be the electronics of yore in 1968 would be half a century older today. It might seem there would be few of those gents left, but judging by notes I get from RF Cafe visitors, their numbers must be fairly large, and I'm glad to know it.
"That Old Regenerative Set of Mine"
Or, Never Throw Anything Away, If You Can Help It
By Fred E. Ebel
It was pure coincidence. I was hunting for a power transformer in the storeroom when I came across my old regenerative receiver. What fond memories of the 500-kHz band it evoked.
I just had to hook it up to see if the old squealer still worked.
I rummaged around, found the old "B" battery eliminator. In another corner of the room was an old storage battery I'd used for the filaments.
Ten minutes later, I turned on the switch, and - Happy Day ! - it worked. The heterodyne squeals were sweeter than hi-fi to my nostalgic ears. Even the spill-over feedback howls were a delight - and that's when fate conspired to change my way of life.
The windows were open - since it was a warm Saturday afternoon - and the set had just finished an unearthly howl. At this moment I heard the squealing of brakes outside, a thump-thump like a lumbering elephant, then door chimes.
When I opened the door, I beheld a blimp of a man. Atop the blimp was a bright red beret. Behind the blimp, in the street, was a fire-engine red sports car.
The blimp spoke excitedly, "I must have it! I must have it!"
I looked around for some suitable weapon. "Just what is it you must have ?" I asked.
"That beautiful bloodcurdling sound. I must have it for my picture."
"Yes, my picture. Don't you know me ? I'm Franz Von Schloggen, the movie director."
Von Schloggen, the movie director! Of course I'd heard of him. Who hasn't? It was the great Von Schloggen who directed the spine-chilling "The Slime That Oozed in the Night," and it was the fabulous Von Schloggen who made the country shudder with "Doctor Weirdo's Garden of Ghouls." Now this genius, this wizard of horror and science -fiction movies, was talking to me - an ordinary guy whose hobby was electronics.
I unlatched the door and he barged in.
"Where is it he demanded. "It will be just the sound for 'Son of Transistor Man'."
But when I showed him the regenerative receiver, his face fell. Pointing a stubby finger at the relic, he queried in disbelief, "This old thing made that bloodcurdling sound?"
I nodded. "It's a regenerative receiver I made about 30 years ago. You see, a part of the voltage in the plate circuit is fed back to the grid. I can get more feedback by varying this tickler coil. If I get enough feedback, the set oscillates. Then I zero-beat the incoming signal and - " I stopped as I noted his disappointed look. "I suppose your sound specialists have more sophisticated equipment."
"I want to hear that sound," he said. "That yowl-!-!-!-!"
I threw the set into the feedback howl that had captured his interest.
The effect was magical. "That's it! That's it!" he shouted. "I know just where to put it. When the son of Transistor Man is born, the doctor slaps his rear chassis and the baby makes this sound."
He jumped up and down. "It'll make the picture. I must have it. How much?" He extracted a wallet that looked like a portable Fort Knox.
I looked at the roll of bills, coughed. "Would - would ten dollars be too much?"
"Here," he said, peeling off a hundred dollar bill. "Bring it to Monster Studios Monday morning. Be there at six, ready to work."
"Ready to work?"
"Of course. You know this equipment best. You must operate it."
"But I have a -"
He held up a pudgy hand. "Whatever you're making now, we'll double it."
And that's how I became Special Sound Effects Man at Monster Studios. Maybe you've heard some of my work.
There was "A Man Called H2O" in which I had a watery monster talk like water if water could talk. What I did was make a recording of bubbling water, and I modulated the water sound track with a human voice.
And then there was "The Transistorized Werewolf." I made a recording of a wolf howl and mixed it with the howl of my regenerative set. The result scared even me. Movie critics acclaimed it as "the sound that gave America insomnia."
I was most proud of "The Five Headed Monster from Planet Beta." This was a real challenge. But I solved it, thanks to CB radio. What sounds like five heads talking at once? QRM; of course? I simply mixed five voices, threw in a handful of CB heterodynes, and I had it.
And Von Schloggen is greater than ever. Good man that he is, he attributes much of his fame to my sound effects. But I think he goes overboard so far as my old regenerative receiver is concerned. He insists that an armed guard place it in the vault every night.
Posted October 11, 2019