The Amateur Amateur: The Junkman Cometh, Part II
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
My brother, Chris, is my Elmer. As we learned last time, he's also an
inveterate accumulator of stuff--also known as "junk."
June 14, 2003
Everything there was old, looked obsolete, and had been manufactured
by some long-defunct company.
My brother Chris, K1KC, had come up to St Louis to visit us. He wanted to
know where all the ham radio stores were. I had to confess that there weren't
many. There was one tiny ham radio store across the Missouri River in
St Charles, and there was a local "electronic surplus"
store that sold some ham radio gear. We decided to go to the latter.
interested in electronics, but I will never be into it like Chris is.
If, for example, I were stranded on a desert island, I would be hard
pressed to build a radio to call for help, even if I had all of the
necessary parts, tools, and how-to manuals. Chris, on the other hand,
would build a High Definition Television transmitter with a satellite
uplink, stereophonic sound, and closed captioning for the hearing
impaired. If you doubt me, listen to what happened at the electronics
into the parking lot, and Chris immediately became transfixed by the
window display. Well, it wasn't really a display
so much as a
of used electronics gear shoved up against the window. Of
the hundreds of items there, I don't think I could identify a single
one. Everything there was old, looked obsolete, and had been
manufactured by some long-defunct company.
Chris walked along slowly, pausing before each item.
splonic dental nostrilator
," he'd say. (Well, that's what
it sounded like to me.) Seeing the blank look on my face, he'd
continue, "It's used to reflinct interphasic nostrilites in
the splon band
. All of the old neftricating dental
used to have one of those."
I did not
understand a word, but that happens a lot when he tries to explain
things to me. He tends to lapse into some alien language he learned
on the planet Electro. I just kept nodding and saying, "No
was able to identify every single object in the window. I'm not
exaggerating. He'd actually operated many of them.
"That's a splonic dental nostrilator."
we went inside
the store. There were some new items, but most
of the things in there were surplus or salvage. Chris looked around
and nodded. The Junkman was on familiar turf. He went to the first
aisle and began his inspection. Before we left he had looked at every
item on every shelf, perused every parts bin, contemplated every
spool of wire, and pondered every ancient relic that had knobs and
dials. Not a nook nor a cranny was overlooked.
many of the items in silence, but when he was moved to say something,
it was usually a gem. He picked up one object and told me, "If
you want to take out your whole shack with one lightning strike, use
continued, with Chris occasionally describing the function of
something. More often, though, he'd mutter something like, "I've
got hundreds of those... got hundreds of those, too. Oh man, I just
threw away a bunch of those."
wanted to buy an object, but could never find the female component.
(During earlier visits I had noticed the same thing. There was never
a female whatchamacallit
after Chris was far from boring. He'd poke into a bin and say,
"Sheesh, I know where I can get these for half-this price."
But at the next bin he might say "Fifteen cents! I can't pass
that up!" or "Oh man, I've been looking all over for these
things!" Then he'd pick up the bin and literally dump everything
in it into his basket. That happened several times.
"Isn't this actually a converter?"
of all, though, was his harassment of the clerks. He wasn't trying
to harass them, but he'd say, "The sign says this is an
inverter. Isn't it actually a con
verter?" or "What's
the rating on this habufritzer
?" They never knew the
answer. It was the one and only time I'd seen any of the store's
examination of the store finally came to an end. We hauled his basket
(quite weighty by now) up to the cash register and dumped its
contents onto the counter. There were hundreds of items, perhaps
thousands. The clerk, panicking, sputtered, "I'm going to
lunch!" and vanished.
Chris and I began
to sort and count the various widgets he'd collected. It took us half
an hour. When we finally snared another clerk, he simply accepted our
word on the count.
"That was a
good place!" Chris said as we drove off, the trunk of my car
sagging from the weight of his purchases. The Junkman was satisfied.
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Web page. Readers are invited to contact the
author via e-mail, [email protected].
© 2003 American Radio Relay League