Friday, December 28, 2007

Remembering old friends


Build Date: circa 1984
Died: December 1991
Restarted: December 26, 2007

Seems a little dramatic, I know. Theo was our first child. Denise and I built him in the mid 80's. I remember when we brought him home in late January. It was a cold and snowy day. It is great to have Theo chattering away again. He is an old friend - who taught me a lot about electronics and programming.

We spent many long hours building and programming him. Even sent a few lines of code to Heath Zenith. They loved the code and paid me for it. But very soon after this, Heath Zenith dropped their kits production. A dead hobby I suppose. How did I get started in electronics? That is the topic of this blog entry - old friends.

John Ely was a dear friend. He was an old old man who taught me to love old and new technology. He had an electronics shop in his basement and a recording studio in his attic.

He would make reel to reel tapes of his private "radio show." John would record himself talking for hours on any subject with background music of his favorite collections. He loved to listen to organ music. His recordings had the feel of a late night monologue. His deep voice, mostly in depressed tones, would reflect on his late wife, and his progress on the many heatkits he bought. He talked about the full-sized electronic organ kit from Heathkit. Why did he buy and build this kit? He was not musical - although he loved music. I never heard him play it. Ever. MOstly he just wanted to pass the time.

John loved technology. So making these recordings - hundreds of hours of them- was his way to blog his life. Dozens of years before anyone knew what a computer or a blog was.

They say that when we look at our children they sometimes remind us of our past friends and family. Funny. When I look at Theodore, I remember John.

John has been gone for many years - 25 or more now, I guess. I sometimes wonder where all his stuff is today - all those hundreds of vacuum tubes, all those miles of recording tape. That Heathkit organ?

Actually, now that I think of it, I have some of John's Heathkit projects in my attic. An amplifier or two. An FM tuner. A couple of pieces of Heath test equipment.

Here's to you John. I am looking forward to seeing you again in Glory. We will pick up where we left off...

P.S. My mom just wrote to tell me a little more about this story. In his earlier years, John was an accomplished pianist. He was featured in a recital in a big hall in Chicago. So there you have it. The organ was an attempt to get reacquainted with his musical performance days.

No comments: