I wrote a letter to my grandmother a little while ago. I was partly reminded of the need for such writing by Luke, but also I had wanted to connect some of my current work with my past. Yesterday my grandmother was here visiting, and she took me aside just before she left. “I have something for you.”
I’ve written before (go read that, I’ll wait) about my grandmother, about my grandfather, and about my connection to a man I never met. He’s been an unseen presence in my life since I was little, a living spirit that infuses my sense of where I came from, what drives me, why I do what I do. My recent work to bring audio data onto the web is partly a nod to a man who also tinkered with sound.
“I had your mother photocopy this, and I want you to have it,” she told me, and pulled a yellowed newspaper article from her purse. In it was told the story of my grandfather making a TV out of radio parts:
What is believed to be the first television receiving set in this district has been constructed by Alex (Scotty) Cassells, 5 Townline, and has been in operation about three weeks. The set will pick up two Cleveland, Ohio stations and one station from Buffalo, N.Y., and the builder states that the receoption is exceptoinoally clear on the Cleveland stations The set was built at a cost of $160, with many parts taken from old radios and some of the parts homemade. The reception is entirely dependent on the weather and it will not operate in damp or rainy weather. It took three months of Mr. Cassell’s spare time to build the set. At present time the aerial is a simple dipole, about 20 feet in length, but the builder hopes to get great reception when he installes a stacked array of aerials, and extends the height to approximately 40 feet. There are 27 tubes in the set. — Tillsonburg News March 31, 1949
So that’s about $1,500 in today’s money, or roughly the amount it costs to get a decent laptop, three months of spare time in his basement, and a bunch of recycled and homemade parts? Sounds really familiar. Lots of things change in 60 years. But not everything.