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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Home-Spun Technology


It filled a corner of their living room,
but never quite produced the sounds
that we, who lived with them, were keen to hear.
The radiogram, my gran and granddad's
pride and joy. It hummed and strummed. And Churchill
must have loved it, for his voice boomed through it
often when the two of them sat close, ears
almost to the yellow grill. But others
stayed away: Dick Barton, for example,
the Special Agent never did come through.
To hear the likes of him we had our own
technology: a crystal set. Sulphide
of lead, the crystal was. We tickled it
with a long wire - the whisker from the cat.
No batteries were needed. No power
of any sort beyond the waves caught by
the crystal's long antenna. Here and there
were hot spots on the crystal which if you
tickled them just right with the long wire, not
too hard and not too soft and just in the
right spot, you'd get a crackle in the 'phones
or a long hiss before a voice or sound
effects or honky tonk. And all from no-
where and by magic, all from the ether
and all free. But if the adults used it
it would merely crackle and the only
voice you'd hear was theirs. They'd fret and fume and
curse each time the tune was lost to crackle.

Written for Poetry Jam where this week's prompt is Crystal

18 comments:

Tabor said...

My how technology has changed us all. This seems like another world.

Laurie Kolp said...

Kids always know how to run things better than adults, huh?

Brian Miller said...

ha. you give us pause to reminisce...remember sitting in my grandfathers trying to get tuned in to catch the shows....funny too how kids do know how to use things better than adults...

Carl said...

A fantastic poem and a reminder of how fast we the technology ride has been. It is very like an avalanche.

Ygraine said...

Technology has indeed moved so fast...how nice it would be to revert back to some of those old prototypes we experimented with as children.
I'm feeling quite nostalgic now!

alan1704 said...

I once built a crystal set and it crackled all the time. Loved you words and I could feel the emotion.

Dana Dampier said...

I use to hear stories from my grandparents about their life growing up and the lack of technology... we have definitely come a long way!!

Robyn Greenhouse said...

I'm always calling my kids to come help me with my computer! The more things change, the more things stay the same!

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

A great poem about technology in another age when the very word “technology” wasn’t probably much used yet. Your poem reminds me of “Electric Light” by Seamus Heaney.

Helen said...

I love it that you and I are of the generation having these incredibly precious memories ~~~ that we can talk about them, write about them.

A Cuban In London said...

This poem was a reminder of a bygone era. I loved it. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Mary said...

Dave, this is truly fascinating. When I was a kid, the boy next door built a crystal radio. I was so envious of his science ability. I think there was a crystal radio kit one could buy. So interesting to read that you used a crystal set as well. Actually how it works escapes me still!! So glad to see you in Poetry Jam.

Peggy said...

I enjoyed reading this so much. I had not idea that a crystal set did not involve electricity or batteries and that you could actually see and touch the crystals. Obviously I need to google this! What a fun poem.

Elephant's Child said...

And it is still true. My great-nephews are much, much, much more skilled with technology than their dinosaur great aunt.

Dave King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave King said...

Thank you so much, one and all for your thoughts and reminiscences. I agree: it was another world; and we have come such a long way in a very short time, it somehow makes it seem much longer back than it really was. I must say I enjoyed writing the poem and felt very grateful to Mary and Poetry Jam for the prompt.

Susan Lindquist said...

Though coming late to the discussion, I have to say that this poem made me think of my Dad who would cozy up to the radio in the 30's to listen to 'The Shadow' and to some show that featured a swing orchestra that he loved to listen to ...I think it might have been Benny Goodman (?) ... and yes, he manned the radio controls because his mother, my grandmother, was afraid of 'the whirring and buzzing' ... ha! it's the same today with technology! The remote control for the television/DVD/DVR system is a mystery to me!

SaraV said...

Dave what a wonderful capture of time, and yet timeless-change crystal to internet or tablet and you'd have the same result.. kids always can make the technology work best :-) Really love how you made the crystal feel almost like a living thing.