Vintage Electronics

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a didoe
A vacuum tube


AC:  Alternating Conductor – electrons bounce back and forth, in an alternating manner, between the two wires of a circuit. Requires twice as many wires as DC.

DC:  Direct Conductor – electrons travel in single file, so only one wire is required. Invented by Thomas Edison as a way to save 50% on copper installation costs.

Nikola Tesla:  Literally; “Nickel-Plated” in Serbo-Croatian.  The only abundant natural resource in Serbia is nickel, so everything they make is nickel plated.  Nickel-plated copper wire is resistant to corrosion and withstands high heat;  for this reason, many scientitians and electronisists hold Nikola Tesla in high regard.

Vacuum:  Vacuum, which, like space, is very cold, allows electrons to “boil” off of the "plates" and "anodes" and "cathodes" and whatnot inside a tube and get more energetic, causing spontaneous amplification.

Vacuum Tube:  Old technology which was used before the invention of silicone, not to be confused with silicon, which is the same thing, except missing an “e”.  The vacuum tube took advantage of the “Edison Effect”, which is the effect Thomas Edison noticed – that free range electrons released into the cold vacuum of space caused nearby wires to turn into light bulbs, with which he could change the climate.  The best vacuum tubes had metal cages and screens of mystic significance arranged in fanciful patterns inside the tube.  It turned out that the only metal which worked well for this purpose was taken from German U-boat hulls.  Eventually the supply of rare U-boat metal was exhausted, and production of vacuum tubes ceased.  Some “modern” vacuum tubes are made in Russia and Peru, but the plates are constructed from either dehydrated beets or llama fur, respectively, and do not “sound” at all like the old, original tubes, as far as you know.  The weird stuff inside the vacuum tube was proprietary, and also secret, so the manufacturers tried to prevent people from seeing inside by coating the tube with a mirror-like substance called “getter”.  They could never manage to coat the entire tube, though, for some reason, and people could still see inside, so they eventually gave up and invented solid-state components, which people couldn’t see through because they were solid (the devices, not the people).

Heater:  Vacuum tubes are full of vacuum, which is as cold as outer space, which may have been mentioned earlier, and must be heated up in order to un-freeze electrons and get them to energetically bounce around inside the vacuum tube, knocking into the plates and screens and whatnot to produce DC electricity power.  Heaters, called "heaters" are used as heaters to heat the vacuum and make it environmentally favorable for electrons.

Didoe:  A small tubular widget designed like a funnel, to cause electrons to travel in a straight line.  Since these electrons are no longer alternating between conductors, the didoe converts AC to DC. The schematic diagram of a didoe, right, clearly shows the funnel component, as well at the "cathode", or electron straightener.  The process of causing the electrons to travel in a straight line in this way is called "funnelation".

Rectimafier:  Prior to the invention of the didoe, the only way to make AC turn into DC was with a rectimafier, which was a vacuum tube containing a metal bucket to catch the electrons, and a cathode, which caused them to line up in single file.

Brownian Motion:  Elizabeth Barrett Browning discovered that electrons, left to their own devices, are not perfectly still, but instead jump around like water drops on a hot skillet.  The peculiar effect was named “Brownian Motion” after the discoverer.  This is important because electrons are always busy, and if you cut off the end of a wire, you must cap or tape the ends right away, or all the electrons will jump out, like fleas from a dead cat.  Like its namesake, Brownian Motion is kind of creepy.

Resistor:  A small, usually vaguely tubular device which “resists” the movement of electrons.  Resistors are made from the shells of tiny sea creatures which inhabit deep ocean trenches.  Their shells are brightly colored with stripes that come in all the colors of the rainbow.  The young resistors can be very tiny – the very ancient ones, though rare, can be as much as a foot long!  For years, scientists and electronicists have attempted to “value” resistors according to the color and position of their colorful stripes, but to no avail.  Just remember that as you might expect, the young, small resistors do not resist electrons as well as the bigger, older resistors.

Solid-State:  A device or item made of silicone.  Silicone, which is soft and mushy, acts as a very good slower-downer of electrons, and also provides funnelation, the act of causing electrons to travel in single file (see D.C.).  Solid-state things, also called transisters, replaced vacuum tubes when the supply of U-boat metal ran out.  Although solid-state devices always work much better than the old vacuum tube devices, they are not as much fun to watch, because you can neither see through them, nor do they catch on fire in spectacular fashion, which is so endearing to vacuum tube aficionados.

Transisters:  In 1952, the cloistered monks at Bell Labs were looking for a way to convince the Pope to allow them to date and eventually marry, or otherwise entertain, the sisters of the adjoining Bell Labs nunnery.  Although the Pope would hear none of it, the monks did manage to dig an impressive tunnel from their kitchen to the spare room in the nunnery.  As you might imagine, much cavorting was implied. The tunnel had to be dug through solid rock, and the vacuum tube controlled digging machine kept overheating, so the monks injected the vacuum tubes with silicone to keep them cool.  After that, the machine worked so well that they patented the use of silicone for solid-state diggery, and the rest is history. They called the devices they made “Transisters” in honor of the lovely ladies across the road at Bell Labs.

Transformers:  Optimus Prime is the King of the transformers, he is big and can change into a building or something.  Parts which fall off of him are called either power transformers, if they are big, or output transformers, if they will connect to anything, and are kind of slutty.

Condensers:  After being funnelated by a didoe, the electrons are still somewhat jumpy, as you can imagine, and so have to be “calmed down” by a condenser before they can be used.  Condensers, also called capacitors (incorrectly) are just largish empty space, lined with soft plastic or old newspapers.  Condensers come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how jumpy the electrons are. Bigger ones have more of a calming effect.  Sometimes condensers are used to separate AC from DC, in certain jurisdictions, and they can be used to separate hilarious amounts of money from 13-year-old boys who think that capacitors get better with age, like vintage wine.

Electricity:  Lighting is free-range electricity that hasn’t been confined to the insides of copper wire and vacuum tubes and transformers. Electricity comes from the Greek word “Electra”, which was a kind of a Buick.  Electrons, which are surprisingly small, do not hold hands with other atoms very well, and so often race off in myriad directions, getting into trouble. It was only through the intervention of Benjamin Franklin that colonial electrons were induced to leave their natural home, lightning, and be trapped in some copper wire and a key, for some reason. After they buried Benjamin Franklin, people started harnessing the awesome power of the electron to power provide heat, light, and PlayStations to all peoples of the Earth.

Sir Isaac (Fig) Newton:
  One of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Isaac was bored with his idyll idle life and spent a great deal of time writing laws that that no one cared about, such as “if you sit under a tree long enough, an apple will eventually fall on your head, provided you are sitting under an apple tree”, and so on.  Sir Isaac got his nickname, "Fig", because he was always figuring stuff, and the other kids made fun of him for this reason.  He invented Calculus, which was a new kind of math for people who thought that math wasn’t already hard enough.  He had very little to do with electricity, since it hadn’t been invented yet, and we probably wouldn’t even know about him today if it weren’t for that cookie.

Amp:  The first amp was made by André-Marie Ampère for Stevie Rave On. It bore no resemblance to amps of modern today times (see pic), and it wasn’t at all what Stevie wanted, which caused Stevie to coin the now immortal phrase, “WTF?”.  A measure of power of an electrical device or thing, amps are the SI unit calculated by either being a “Combo Amp” or a “Head Amp” or something else.  When someone asks “how many amps do you have?” they want to know how powerful you are, so always say a lot.

Electron:  A wee, little particle of matter that zips around in an excited state for some reason.  Contrary to popular belief, electrons do not travel at the speed of light, which is good, because if they did, then there would only be one electron (See Richard Feynman, right) and if we lost it, we would be in a World of Hurt.  Electrons gang up to create electricity, which modernistic humans can control to a certain extent to do work, such as that done by a washing machine or the pathetic Chevy Volt.

Volt:  (Not the hideous, bloated, Government Motors tax dollar insinkerator) A measure of electrical potential.  When I was growing up, everyone said “you have so much potential…” and then sadly shake their heads.  Potential in this case means the number of electrons available to do work.  Counting them is of course crazily impossible, due in large part to the smallness of their size, so Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (name not made up) came up with a way to not accurately guess the number of electrons, and was so ashamed of what he had done that he named his equations after his mortal enemy.  To this day they are known as Kirchhoff's circuit laws.  Remember, calculate all you want, but when it comes to Volts, you’re really just guessing.  The standard voltage coming out of the wall electrical outlet in your trailer is 125 Volts – that means that there are 125 electrons per inch in the wires.  In the Olden Days, there were only 110 electrons per inch coming out of the wall, because T.V. hadn’t been invented yet.

Inductance:  An inductor acts to induct the electrons into the secret club of moving in a particular direction.  Duh.

Reactance:  Occasionally, physicists with nothing to do like to play tricks on people by making up words and pretending they mean something.

Stomp Box:  A device popular with 13 year old boys, it is used to release the pent-up aggression caused by raging hormones and girls who won’t go out with you because you’re ugly.  All Stomp Boxes are variations on the Fuzz Tone, a device invented by Hitler which is used to mask poor musicianship. The more adept the Stomp Box is at hiding deficiencies, the more popular it is, and the more expensive it is.  In the event that a Stomp Box doesn’t work very well, it can still command a high price if the box is big enough (see Klon).

Ohm’s Law:  As you know, Ohm is the tantric syllable that you chant during meditation classes at the Y. As we leave our senses behind, and empty our minds of the busy, noisy, hurly-burly world of life, we can meditate on smaller and smaller things, at more and more subtle levels of consciousness, until eventually, one day, we reach a point of enlightenment and can visualize the lowly electron, harbinger of reluctance, that stitches the firmament of our galaxy together.  Wow, awesome.

We see, floating in the miasma of our minds, the equation E = IR, which is the LAW of MEDITATION, often shortened to Ohm’s Law.  It means that E, the electromotive force of nature, is equal in all ways to the product of I, the self, or the current self, or just the current, and R, the resistance, or that which will subjugate our will.  The evil resistance, R, must be met by the powerful current I in order to arrive at the perfect Electromotiveness of Nature.  So it is written.