Vintage Electronics Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, January 25 at noon Pacific for the Vintage Electronics Hack Chat with Keri Szafir!

The world of the hardware hacker is filled with smells. The forbidden but enticing waft of solder smoke, the acrid bite of the Magic Blue Smoke, the heady aroma of freshly greased gears, the unmistakable smell of hot metal — they all tell a story, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

But the smell inside a piece of vintage electronics? Now that’s a complicated story indeed. It might be the wax of the old capacitors, the resinous scent of well-baked resistors, the enameled wire in transformers, or just the smell of the hot glass of the vacuum tubes. Whatever it is, once you smell it, you’ll never forget it

join-hack-chatFor some of us, that first whiff starts a lifelong passion for vintage gear. Keri Szafir knows quite well what it’s like to be bitten by the vintage bug, so much so that she goes by “The Vacuum Tube Witch” over on her YouTube channel. Her projects include repairs and restorations of vintage amps and radios, and even new builds with old tubes. She’ll stop by the Hack Chat to talk about vintage electronics, tube hoarding collecting, and even her new interest in retro display technologies. Where there’s a tube, there’s a way!

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, January 25 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

24 thoughts on “Vintage Electronics Hack Chat

        1. For almost everyone, the number one source for PCBs is campfires and other incomplete combustion. Don’t live in Yurt of TP with an exposed central fire. Unless you’re planning on dying at a stone age lifespan.

          That doesn’t sell newspapers.

    1. Making selenium rectifiers go whoom was also a thing in the past or so I heard.

      My father and his friends did some awesome pranks when they were young.
      One of the stories involved a capacitor on a cable, if I understand correctly.
      His “friends” were in one of the upper rooms and left the cap hanging down outside the house wall.
      Then they plugged it into an AC outlet and it exploded. The person in the room got such a shock..
      I believe it was a small apartment building and the person wasn’t exactly nice, anyway.
      Also, it must have been in the 60s or 70s, not sure. Long long ago. It were other times.

  1. The smell of those old brown PCBs from the 60s and 70s, that scent you’d get when changing the battery in your Radio Shack walkie-talkies, I believe was phenolic. Probably carcinogenic (especially where the sun sets over the ocean) but you never forget it.

  2. I am very fond of a pair of nixie tube multimeters that I have.
    The glow and movement of the display just plainly has character where modern lcd ones just exist to do a boring job and get abused.
    Old equipment has a feel of being an important tool that you take care of.

    1. The power lab in the EE building at my University had some gorgeous old D’Arsonval movement type meters, big antique things with finished hardwood dovetailed cases. Some of them had a strip of mirror along the scale – this was so you could line up the needle with its reflection, to iron out parallax effects. Works of art.

    1. It’s particularly acrid, isn’t it? The darn things have a hefty resistance even when they conduct, so any kind of current makes them hotter than heck. The massive cooling fins are kind of a clue.

    2. When I was 7 or 8… I began my nerd journey by taking apart an old 1″ square by 4″ “portable radio. Could be plugged in , but also had a connectors for a 90Volt B-Cell and a 6 volt thing. Took it to pieces… Tried to learn every piece. I over-volted that damn stink-bug and learned more about the periodic table than ever before. Sulfer vs Selenium. Look it up!

  3. Old electronics have such a distinctive collection of aromas. I can still remember the smell of the 1960s electronic kit that my cousin gave me, and that of the 1970s mainframe that somehow ended up in pieces in my high school. They didn’t smell the same, but they both had “that” smell that mostly disappeared during in the production of 1980s electronics. If anything smells today, it’s usually the plastics or rubbers of cases… until you let the magic smoke out anyway – that hasn’t changed much!

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