Monday, July 20, 2009

Philco 90A Radio c1929

I liked fixing radios when I was a kid. In 1952 our neighbour offered me an old radio and after school I took my wagon across the street and up the hill to her house to collect my gem. It came in a wooden box with a speaker mounted on the top. The radio was a c1929 Philco model 90A - the early version with a number 80 rectifier tube and a pair of number 45 tubes for class B push-pull audio power amplifiers. The old set worked great pulling in a raft of AM stations from Canada and the States.

A few years later I cannibalized it for part. The only piece remaining today is the little plate from the rear of the chassis showing it was a Model 90a made by Philco Products Ltd., Toronto Canada with a 90 watt power supply designed for 25-40 cycles, 115 volts AC. In those days Toronto was on 25 cycle power meaning special transformers and motors not required in other parts of the province which were powered by 60 cycle AC. Fortunately the 25 cycle transformers were fine on 60 cycle - just a bit over built.

Tonight I did a quick search and found a site with some radio schematics - including the Philco 90/90A. If you tinker with the old radios, drop by the site: The Old Radio fixer-upper Guy

Monday, July 13, 2009

Man of many talents

Last week Ed Warner dropped by to collect some old tools and iron artifacts my dad had collected over the years. Like my dad, Ed is a member of the Tool Group (and currently the editor of its newsletter). As we finished loading his van, I showed him an old Atwater Kent model L horn speaker. The instrument was in two parts due to the failure of a white metal casting some years ago through carelessness on my part. In a matter of minutes Ed had analyzed the break and figured out how to make a repair using a small piece of pipe flanged and threaded to size on his lathe.

Two days later, Ed phoned and asked me to listen to a sound - it was my repaired c1924 horn speaker connected to a modern 20 watt amplifier. Ed returned the horn to me yesterday, no sign at all that it had been repaired. It came with a warning that the horn would be damaged more if it suffered another mishap as the metal cover holding the flange of the new connecting pipe to the base of the horn would be torn open.

Others have mentioned Ed’s skill at repairing small mechanical devices creating any missing metal parts as needed. And we have all seen his skills put to use to restore old wooden view cameras, bellows and all. A true craftsman in this age of automation and throwaway. Thanks, Ed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Distant Suns

In the 1980s a program came out for my beloved Amiga that was a serious package for amateur astronomers. Mike Smithwick’s Distant Suns offered an interactive galaxy and close-ups of interesting objects. Before the Amiga stumbled into oblivion, the program was ported to Windows where incantation 6.0 lives today.

More recently, last fall Distant Suns was ported to Apple’s fabulously successful iPhone/iPod Touch duo. If you own one of these little pocket marvels, a copy will cost you just under $4 US at the Apps Store. If you use Windows 95 through XP (or run the various emulations that bring the charms of Windows to the Mac) you can buy a desktop version on-line from the author. Check out (or the App Store) for more information.

NB. Pardon my tone on Windows, my daughter was over yesterday with her Vista laptop which has been struggling since the Microsoft patch fiasco on June 6th. She was trying to write a paper. Since the “security auto update” mentioned, many keystrokes in Word, including a space, have a slight delay that throws off even a mediocre typist like me. I had to keep her away from (glass) windows for the well-being of her laptop and the safety of beings outdoors.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Solving Video Babble

Video comes in many variations and versions on a multitude of media. The other day, I received a DVD video of 1920s home movies to review. The disk opened with Front Row on my Mac. Its menu gave a choice of an introduction and four short movies. I copied it to my Mac so others could see the DVD while I had a copy to review. Unfortunately, the copy was stuck on the introduction. The menu keys for Front Row now changed the system audio volume instead of the menu choices.

I tried iTunes. No luck. QuickTime. No luck. A google search suggested creating a dmg file (disk image). No luck. Another search suggested using DropDMG to make a DVD image. No luck. Yet another google search suggested a free cross platform media player. Success.

VLC Media Player (, approaching its version 1.0 is part of the VideoLAN software project which produces free and open software for use in multimedia under the GNU (General Public License). It handles a wealth of formats and is offered in compiled versions (binaries) for numerous operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and a dozen versions of Linux. If you need a player for video, check it out.