Astoundingly Analog

Let us say you are on the way to Mars in 1958. Let’s actually place you in the pilot’s cabin of a spacecraft in a distant future — 1980. Back home at mission control, pipe-smoking scientists and cigar-smoking generals are using the magic of radio — bigger, better, more vacuum tubes.




Meanwhile, other American scientists and generals are helping Japan battle monsters all kind. Godzilla, Gamera. Scientists, generals and the kids and singing miniature friends of Gamera.


A confident team on Earth barks orders. Walls crammed with magnetic-tape driven mechanical brains. What gives with all those dials?


Isn’t it time for you to mention Phillip K. Dick again?

Of course it is. PKD.

And speaking of analog, your LP, 45 is performing its proverbial broken record role. Time you enter the future of home recording — the reel-to-reel tape deck.


BoingBoing Science Fiction Sunday

There’s a reel or two from my good old 3M Wollensak in the basement, or somewhere. Here is some advice you don’t need — cheap magnetic tape flakes its coating; it had a ferrous smell.

You probably have a large box of vacuum tubes, condensers, capacitors, resistors too.


And when I wasn’t trying to make sulphuric acid and release free chlorine gas? See Chemistry 001 for more. What to do?  Well, wrap copper wire around an oatmeal box to make a crystal radio, one with an antenna stretching from attic to nearest tree. That there radio pulled in one (1) station. Those were less modern electronic times, the days before a portable radio could contain up to 12 transistors.

We don’t seem to be getting anywhere here. Are you fumbling for a coherent, direct and unambiguous theme, Bill?


You need help, Bill. We hope you’ll get the help you need. Let’s help get you back on task. Didn’t you program a computer in that world of the future? 1980’s.

’twas a circuit-board materials plant in Blanchester, Ohio. I still have several 8K boards that were suspended on a rod and inserted into a motherboard. Those 8 boards provided all the memory needed to power a 64K core memory. No old-fashioned 80-column cards for the CIP 2200B. No indeed. 96-column cards were a fraction the size, yet delivered more columns for nifty RPGII program code.


What did the Electronic Circuitboard Materials Division do before becoming ‘computerized’ in that 1980’s distant future?

The order-entry system wrote data on thin bamboo sheets with a paper covering. Perforated strips had columns inscribed with a straight edge and ballpoint pen. The bamboo was flexible; it allowed you to move order data up and down a steel “book” flanged on each side. Those strips traced an order from entry to shipping. When the order shipped you snapped that bamboo and tossed it into a waste can.

Once again, you are allowing your mind to wander. We’re interested in results (and getting you the help you need).

I programmed a database to convert the bamboo modus operandi into electronic databases. We went parallel with the bamboo strips for a month, all went smoothly and moved right along — until competition from Japan arrived in that future 1980’s world. Cutting to the proverbial chase: the plant closed and reopened as a Honda parts facility. I became a single parent of two incredibly wonderful children when my wife died in 1983.

The Japanese no longer had to defeat Godzilla, Gamera and all the other monsters. Nippon had time to become an economic juggernaut.

Where did you go then?

To work on my M.A. in Germanic Languages and Literatures, of course.



Well that’s a finely fiddled career path, innit? 

Naturally it was. I had until 1993 to meet Lisa online in the advanced bulletin-board system of that more distant future world of the 90’s.

Didn’t you get back into databases when you discovered that classroom management was not your forte, but your greatest weakness?

Yes. Had to  do something until Y2K came along without two columns on an 80-column-card. An assumed “19” fostered justifiable fear. Had the 96 column card been available in those 1950’s spaceships — my mind begins to boggle.

We can wait. 


Thanks for reading.



Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

5 thoughts on “Astoundingly Analog”

  1. “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere here. Are you fumbling for a coherent, direct and unambiguous theme, Bill?”
    “No.” – Hahahahahaha

    “I became a single parent of two incredibly wonderful children when my wife died in 1983.” – Oh sweetheart, I’m so glad you met Lisa.

    – esme enjoying massively her ever-widening circle of amazing people upon the Cloud

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You transported me back to the days of Revox and Studer reel-to-reels, hooked up to Neumann U47s and MCI or Harrison consoles, and when musicians learned their trade before assuming any such designation. That’s my connection to our lost analog world, Bill — the days before automation and programmability, the nasty quantising and reduced dynamic ranges of digital audio.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Muchly appreciated Hariod. Very pleased to hear really real reel memories on the days when audio clarity pulsed with a genuine dynamic range. The monotony of digital audio is awe-depressing — it’s good at reproducing sound without subtlety.
      My son tells me that ever more miniature data storage techniques are running up against a limit imposed by the distances between silicon atoms — that the vacuum tube represents a massive volume to increase memory size.
      Technology capable of examining the grooves on high-fidelity LPs detect subtle tones beneath the record-player needle. You can view it, but you’re limited by procrustean digital audio there as well. Thanks also for the detailed references on Revox, Studer, Neumann und so weiter. My mill can always use more grist. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I went to a talk given by Rupert Neve once, Bill; he of the wonderful mixing consoles of old. He was asked why he made his channels capable of being clean and accurate up to 24khz when that’s supra-audible. Anyway, being an old boffin, he produced a little wooded box he’d made and which contained two oscillators — one transmitting a square waves up to c.20khz. and the other transmitting a sine wave at a fixed 24khz. — and the necessary I/O circuits and amp. He then asked the audience to put their hands in the air if they could still hear the square wave as he incrementally raised the pitch of that square wave’s output. By the time he’d got to 20khz. only about a fifth of the audience could raise their hands. He’d now selected those with the best hearing. Next, he played to those people square waves within the 4-7khz range (speech & singing range), with each fixed frequency being replayed half a dozen or so times. He said in advance this was what he was doing, but that he wanted those with the proven best hearing to raise their hands if they detected any shift in the quality of the fixed tones, and which theoretically of course, should not have occurred. Nonetheless, most of the group raised their hands at certain of these fixed tones, indicating they had detected a qualitative (not pitch) shift. Neve revealed that they were all correct, and that what he’d been doing on those occasions was adding into the output channel a supra-audible 24khz sine wave. This demonstrated to the audience why he built his analog consoles to that seemingly unnecessary spec. All the DACs on the (then) recently introduced digital recorders could only reproduce up to 20khz.

        Liked by 2 people

Comments drive content, so please comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: