A charming ham radio story

Thread Starter


Joined Nov 4, 2008
Item 16

“Hey, El Joe….whatcha got up your sleeve besides stale Right Guard?” I ventured. I should have known better than to ask. Joel Ballek, WL7AI, always had these things he called “ideas” rattling around in his cranium, usually to my abject horror.

“Funny you should mention that, E! As a matter of fact, I’ve been working on my next invention for the past three weeks. It’s going to make me rich!”

“Do tell,” I said. “No, on second thought, don’t tell.”

“O ye of little faith. Have any of my inventions ever failed to perform precisely to specifications?”

“How about Scrapscatter, for starters.”

“That was an exception, E! You have to admit it was based on good sound science. It was the bureaucrats that killed that one.”

“O-o-o-kay…; I guess I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one. So, what is this Earth-shattering invention you’ve got percolating?”

“It’s a ham radio idea.”

“Of course. What other kinds of ideas are there?” I sighed with resignation.

“Run over to that Army green cabinet that says “Item 16” on it and grab the oscilloscope off the top of it, will ya?”

I wended my way through the minefield of mysterious science projects in El Joe’s garage toward the cabinet in question. I retrieved a rather large, decrepit-looking oscilloscope of unknown pedigree from the roof of the cabinet and lugged it back to the shell-shocked workbench.

“Thanks, E.”

“You know, you can get a twenty-first century oscilloscope that does a lot more than this thing…and they’re really cheap too! If your invention is so spectacular, you should at least have an oscilloscope that will do it justice. So, where’s your invention?”

“That is the invention, E!”

“What? You invented a decrepit 17th century oscilloscope? What ever will they think of next?”

“You’re a man of limited vision, E. What makes you think this is an oscilloscope?”

“Uh….because you told me to ‘grab that oscilloscope off the top of it, will ya?’ Which I did.”

“I only said that because I knew you were a man of limited vision and that I had to convey my desires using a vocabulary consistent with a person bound by such a restrictive paradigm.”

“Uh….right. That statement is really….um…er…what is the word I’m groping for…ah, yes….stupid!”

“Now now, E. No need to get testy. Open your mind and learn a thing or three from the master.”

“Mea culpa. Consider it opened.”

“Excellent. Now, before proceeding, answer this question. What is the most annoying feature of modern amateur radio equipment?”

It didn’t take me long to answer. “That’s a pretty easy one. Menu driven, multi-purpose controls. I’d give anything for a real radio with real knobs and switches.”

“As would we all!” El Joe exclaimed. “Tis a no-brainer indeed. And…drum roll, please…. what you see before you is the exclusive WL7AI universal de-menuizer. Behold.”


“Yes, you heard me right. A universal de-menuizer Take your most annoying ricebox, jam-packed with annoying, menu driven keypads. Place the de-menuizer next to said annoying ricebox. Allow a moment for some simple handshaking to take place, and lo. You have a “de-virtualized” front panel to work with. Each jumbo sized knob and switch now has one and only one function.”

“Aha,” I said. “But what about the CRT display?”

“That’s just a decoy,” El Joe said. He removed the graticule from the front of the screen to reveal a rotary telephone dial.

“What the……” I began.

“This is just a bonus. We know how annoying those minuscule cell phone keypads can be, as well. We can de-virtualize those too. Just place your cell phone next to the de-menuizer, give it a few seconds to handshake, and you have a real official genuine telephone dial to work with. No groping in the dark or fat-fingering those gnat-sized keypads. People will love it.”

I stroked my chin for a moment. “Well, I don’t know if people will love it….but I have to admit a lot of hams will. I think you may be on to something here, El Joe. So, when are you going to subject the public at large to this?”

El Joe shrugged. “Well, there’s still a few bugs to work out. I hope to have it ready by Dayton. Would you like to be my beta tester?”

“El Joe, you’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse.”

“Now, aren’t you sorry you doubted me?”

“Well, I’ll let you know in a few weeks.”

I lugged the creation out to my car and plopped it in the back seat, amongst a growing collection of El Joe’s creative triumphs. I’m either a sucker or a genius. I haven’t figure out which yet.