Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Then And Now--Army Edition

I read a ton of books--so many that I gave up on retail bookstores in favor of used shops, the public library, and flea markets.
My interests are diverse, but growing up on an Air Force base had an affect and I lean towards military subjects rather often.
Oddly, I don't favor one branch of the service over another and have even read great books about the Coast Guard. I DO tend to prefer stories and biographies set from WWII to the present, mostly because there's so much more technology involved.

When I find some of this technology (or when it finds me) and the price is right ( = almost free) I'll grab it.

Case in point--an Army Signal Corps volt/ohm meter from 1943:
This photo is where I got "Then And Now" for the title, because my modern digital multitester is in the shot for a dramatic size comparison. Surprisingly, the olive drab unit will measure pretty much anything that the new model can.

Looking inside, I hope you can see why I like it so much. A big VU meter dominates, but again it's very similar to the digital.

The guts, on the other hand, belong to another era. Hand assembled, and very primitive looking.
The other night I got around to testing it, and found that it still works and is as accurate as you could ever need!
I plan on bringing it to a show soon just to see if anyone notices me using it to fix something.

I don't know what our parents and grandparents paid for the vintage meter, but today they sell on auction sites for around $25. My new digital one was less than $5, but if I wanted to spend exponentially more for essentially the same device I could.

Here we have my J-45 telegraph key, which is really just a J-37 with a steel leg clamp for use in tanks and aircraft:
These were used from WWII through Vietnam, and in fact there is evidence of new units still in the inventory up to the 1990s.
For those who don't know, a telegraph key is used for sending Morse code, which is like sending a text message with 3 to 5 key presses per letter.

A lot of ham radio guys still use the J-37 key today because it's such a good design and since it's military will probably never break.
They like my J-45 version when travelling, which makes sense.
I've seen prices from $10 to $130 for ones made by GE and a host of other suppliers.
Wonder how much mine is worth, seeing as how it was made by Hughes Aircraft Co?
(As in Howard Hughes).

Lastly, we have a radio microphone that's interesting to me because it's made by Shure:
Shure still dominates the market today, and has since before I was born. I would guesstimate that 90% of the concerts and TV shows you've seen had anywhere from a few to a LOT of Shure mics.
Only in the last decade have others made mics that I liked better in certain situations.

The other items in my small collection make very loud noises.
I'll probably get around to talking about them someday.


Albatross said...

Cool stuff! It's really cool that the meter still works. What about the microphone? Is it still functional?

As for WWII tech, don't forget about the simple things, too. Like computers.

Keith Alan K said...

The plug on the mic is a standard 1/4" 3 conductor, but appears to be wired differently--all I get is a loud hum (short) until I press the push-to-talk button. Still working on it.