Crystal Radios and the Zombie ApocalypseBy Bobby Winters
For those who’ve been following this space for a while, this is another adventure in the tradition of the Potato Cannon and the One-Piece-at-a-Time Computer. A notion came into my mind that I wanted to make a crystal radio. Their is one important difference. I remember the moment I decided to make the potato cannon: I saw rednecks on TV creating explosions and generally having fun, and I wanted to reclaim my heritage. I remember the moment I decided to build a computer: I had extrapolated from how to make a potato cannon to how to make an IED and decided I didn’t want to wind up on some FBI watch list.
But I have no memory of the moment I decided to make a crystal radio.
I suppose, like all things, pieces of the desire to do this have been floating around in me waiting for a key ingredient, but that key ingredient came in so slowly that I didn’t recognize it as happening. One day I simply knew I wanted to do it.
Why make a radio?
Radios are cool. They are Einstein’s spooky action at a distance embodied. Some guy--maybe far around the world--talks into a microphone it goes out into the air and you can hear it thousands of miles away.
You say, yes, that is cool. Why do you want to build one? You can buy them cheaply. Heck, you own several already.
Okay, there is something about being able to do it yourself. It’s the difference between winning the affections of a real, live woman in all her complexity and buying them. One requires some virtue on your part, and the other only requires that you have cash.
Then there is the Zombie Apocalypse thing.
There are certain skills we should cultivate in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse.
Please be aware that I am only speaking of the Zombie Apocalypse metaphorically. In less colorful terms, we creatures of modernity are so far removed from nature and are so reliant on the tools of high civilization for our very survival that we begin to feel rather exposed.
If there were a Zombie Apocalypse how would we be informed of the coming Zombie Hoards. There would be no news from cable-tv; those folks are almost zombies already. There would be no power from the electric grid. There would only be lone, isolated Ham radio operators transmitting reports using batteries charged by wind power. Those who know how to make crystal radios will be able to hear their transmissions and be ready when the zombies arrive, waiting for them with their potato cannons. (After the potatoes run out, zombie body parts will be used.)
I’ve been doing research on the Internet and have found a wealth of information. At this point I am one 1N34A diode away from having the parts I need to make the radio set. I went to Radio Shack and all I could find was a 1N40A diode. Although, I have to say that on YouTube I found the plans for a so-called Foxhole radio that uses a razor blade and the stub of a number two pencil in place of the diode. I’ve got to think that if you can get a razor blade and a number two pencil to work then going from 1N34A to 1N40A isn’t going to make a whole hell of a lot of difference.
In the mean time, I have enlisted the help of Lydia.
Back when daughters one and two were younger, I’d bought an AM radio kit, but couldn’t get them interested. The kit had lain untouched for years. Saturday afternoon, Lydia and I put it together. We can get exactly one station: KKOW. We listened to a little of a basketball game. She was hooked.
As she took her long, thin fingers and maneuvered the resistors, capacitors, and transistors into place, I saw something else begin to happen, something exciting.
Next Saturday the crystal radio. Then I replace the diode with a razor blade and a number two pencil. Then we figure out something about tuners and amplification.
We will be ready for the zombies when they come.