The Amateur Amateur: Radical Ray's Radio Bizarre

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
April 1, 2016

There is one immutable fact in Amateur Radio. As soon as you receive a license, you'll start receiving catalogs. It's as certain as the sun rising in the east or that when the next power outage hits you'll find that your flashlight batteries are dead. I get tons of them. We all do. As I can't afford most of the products advertised (or, if I'm totally honestl, I don't really need them), I tend to quickly skim the contents and then toss the catalogs into the recycle bin.

A recent arrival, however, caught my eye. The cover proclaimed Radical Ray's Radio Bizarre in bold letters. Ha! This a a real winner, it's obviously a one-man shop, and the guy can't even spell "bazaar", I thought to myself.

Nevertheless, and without even being conscious of what I was doing, I started thumbing through the pages of the catalog. And I had to admit that Radical Ray had some unique items that I'd never seen anywhere else.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

New! Worldspan HF Antenna!

This one-of-a-kind dipole is guaranteed to reach every part of the globe! No more dead spots or missed grid squares! Blast through that pileup with no trouble at all! Good for all bands and then some!

* Not deliverable. You must pick up the 25,000 miles of wire at our warehouse. 30 mile long feed line sold separately. Support options include balloons, dirigibles, and drones. Do not exceed recommended altitude as the Worldspan will become less efficient once it enters the ionosphere. Do not deploy over the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Well, that was intriguing. I folded the corner of the catalog page to remind myself to go back and look over the fine print later. In the meantime I found another item that looked promising.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

Completely Undetectable Tree Stealth Antenna!

No more disguising wires or secretly shooting arrows into trees when your neighbors aren't watching! Miracle Antenna-Gro will turn your entire tree into a perfect antenna!

Just fertilize your tallest tree with the patented Miracle Antenna-Gro solution and let its metal-heavy formula work its way throughout the tree via its own vascular system. By spring your tree will be a perfect multi-band antenna! The root system will make an ideal ground, and the branches will act as excellent radiating elements! All you have to do is a little innocuous "gardening" to attach your feed line and you're all set to go!

Hmmm, now that product could come in really handy, as I have two massive cottonwood trees in my backyard.

I decided to keep reading. And as I seem to spend a lot of time on the roof of my house, the following product caught my attention.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

Antenna Repairman's Indispensable Combination Kit!

Spend a lot of time up towers or just on the roof? Think you've done it so many times that you know exactly what you'll need to take with you? Well, there is one crucial item that you always forget!

You've been up that tower so many times that you think you're prepared for anything. So, what is the item you never remember to take with you? Why, a first aid kit, of course! Ah, but you're thinking, "I can't haul any more stuff up there!" Fear not! The Antenna Repairman's Indispensable Combination Kit contains a complete first aid kit combined with what you already planned to take! The Kit includes:

  • Combination duct tape / surgical tape
  • Dual-use tie-wraps / tourniquets
  • Multi-function voltmeter / ohmmeter / ammeter / blood pressure monitor
  • Tower-to-ground hand held radio with 911 on speed dial
  • 4-in-1 oil that loosens stubborn bolts and disinfects wounds
  • Foam spray weather sealant and spray-on bandage

Don't be without it during your next climb!

I also think most of us would be interested in this next item.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

Swedish Operator Tuning System!

Why spend ages tuning your antenna system but neglect yourself? Hours of trying to pull intelligible signals out of the noise will quickly de-tune even the most experienced operator! Make sure that you stay in peak condition with this new European import! The system includes:

  • A comfort Swedish backrest for your shack's chair
  • A No-Sweat patented Swedish headset that gradually eases the pressure on your ears as they cramp up
  • A case of Sweden's best relaxing beverage (not sold to minors)
  • A Swedish Masseuse

Sounds good to me!

And then there was the inevitable selection of tools.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

Universal Package Opener!

Tired of struggling to open over-zealously sealed products? Does that plastic wrap defeat even your table saw? Help is here! This one easy-to-use tool is guaranteed to open anything, including:

  • Blister packs
  • Shrink wrapped items
  • Medicine bottles
  • Bank vaults

The special Alien Technology Disrupter Tool (patent pending) will make quick work of opening the most stubborn containers!

* Federal regulations prohibit the use of this product in populated areas.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

Back-To-Basics All-Purpose General-Use Tool!

Life is complicated enough, so why carry a massive array of tools with you when one tool will do the job? Hey, it worked for our ancestors, and look what they achieved! The Back-To-Basics All-Purpose General-Use Tool allowed them to:

  • Bring down mammoths
  • Skin buffaloes
  • Bust open clam shells
  • Win political debates

The Back-To-Basics All-Purpose General-Use Tool comes in the following styles:

  • Flint
  • Chert
  • Obsidian
  • Basalt
  • Quartz

The final item to beguile me was a long-life battery.

Radical Ray head Radical Ray head

Super Long-Life AA and AAA Batteries!

These remarkable batteries will still have a kick long after everything else has failed! Even after 28.79 years they are only half-done working! Never change batteries again!*

* Really. Don't try to change them.
** Chernobyl Brand Strontium-90 batteries should only be used in heavily shielded appliances.

Well, maybe Radical Ray's Radio Bizarre wasn't so inappropriately named after all. I guess I'll move on to the newer catalog that I just received, Fine Do-It-Youself Projects from Sherman's Scrapyard.

E-mail Gary Ross Hoffman

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