Ham Radio and Boatanchors

Boatanchors??? Come on, get real!

Q: OK, so let's accept that perhaps you have interest in a more, to put it kindly, esoteric hobby (i.e., ham radio), but let me get this straight: You're also interested in boatanchors???

A: Well, yes.. perhaps a bit of explanation is in order. First, let's go to a popular reference text:

boatanchor, n., 1. older piece of radio equipment, typically one which contains vacuum tubes. 2. term of endearment among radio collectors and restorers, when referring to such equipment.

And here you thought this would lead to a recreational boating site. Sorry. (I should mention that if you don't have any idea as to what a vacuum tube (a.k.a valve) is, then it's probably not possible for me to bring you up to speed on the subject.)

How did such a name come into play? Well, I personnally suspect that it's the result of the revolution in electronic equipment design which occurred during the 1950's and 1960's. (For those of you who are seriously into computers, think of it as a "paradigm shift".) During this time, vacuum tube equipment was redesigned to make the equipment (typically) smaller and lighter; solid state (i.e., transistor) technology was the enabling factor here. Much of the older equipment was "retired", either to someone's basement or the landfill. It was not uncommon to consider some of the older equipment, although perhaps still functional, as good for nothing other than a "boatanchor", literally.

As hobbyists (and in particular, ham radio operators) transitioned over to the newer, "better" transistor equipment, a lot of people began to get a little bit nostalgic for some of the older equipment. Maybe it was because of a cultural upsurge in antique collecting. Or, maybe it was because of a developing appreciation of some of the more subtle equipment performance characteristics, which were not always matched in the "newer, better" equipment designs. For me, it was also a bit of nostalgia for times long since past, when, as a teenager, I coaxed such equipment into operation (sometimes, not too gently!) In any event, a lot of people (like me) started to develop an interest in collecting, restoring, and using such equipment.

Finally, a few thoughts about collecting boatanchors: Many boatanchor collectors believe that such equipment should be maintained in original condition, with no owner-provided modifications (visible or otherwise). I do not share this view, and much of my equipment has been modified (either by me, or previous owners). I hope that you won't take offense when you see some of the revisions which I have incorporated. But if you do, you can always go elsewhere.

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