CQ cartoon, Jan. 2022

Cartoon as it ran

Like a lot of the “Spurious Signals” cartoons, this is based in fact. I did go back to Season 1, Episode 1 of “M*A*S*H” and start watching the show all the way through, and I did try to figure out if Radar’s radio was a real piece of military equipment or just a mock-up built by a studio prop expert.

The debate still isn’t settled. Some folks in online discussions have argued that Radar’s using a 1960s vintage U.S. Navy radio called a “T.E.D.,” but in my opinion, it doesn’t match the photos of those radios, as far as I can tell. I suspect it was just a prop made up to look like 1950s vintage Army equipment.

This is one of the rare occasions when my editor, Rich W2VU, suggested some changes; he felt the wording in the second panel was a bit clunky.

Rejected version

CQ cartoon, Dec. 2021

Another cartoon somewhat based in reality. Ever since I was a kid, I did want a Zenith Trans-Oceanic portable radio, but they went out of production when I was very small. By the time I got interested in radio, the remaining Trans-Oceanics were becoming rare and very collectible. Even scruffy examples were selling for hundreds of dollars.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started looking for one on eBay that I could afford — maybe a fixer-upper. I took a chance on a radio advertised “for parts, not working” for less than $50. To my astonishment, after a thorough disassembly and cleaning, it turned right on and performed beautifully.

So I didn’t get one from Santa Claus, and it wasn’t free, but it was the next-best thing.

You can see it in this photo from Facebook.

CQ cartoon, Aug. 2021

The National Hamfest is one of the United Kingdom’s largest radio hobbyist events. It’s held in the fall in Nottinghamshire.

My wife is blessedly tolerant, but I’ve never really planned one of our vacations around a ham radio event. (I have been known to take a shortwave radio with me to see what I can hear, especially when we’re traveling in a rural part of the country where there’s less electrical interference.)

CQ cartoon, July 2021

Lots of people ask me, “I just bought a vintage radio” or guitar amp or record player or hi-fi or whatever, and they want to know if they can just plug it in and turn it on. It depends on your tolerance for fire.

Old-time radios are full of capacitors (sometimes called “condensers”) — components that store a small electrical charge for brief periods of time. Nowadays, they’re made of mylar and synthetic material, but through the ’50s and early ’60s, many of them were made of wax paper. When one of them fails, you’re likely to notice it first with your nose.

If you don’t feel comfortable working on electronics, best to find someone to check out that classic Fender amp or Harmon-Kardon tuner before you plug it and damage it.

Denise is sporting her Kappa Delta letters here.

CQ cartoon, May 2021

Anyone involved in a hobby knows that part of the fun is sharing it with your friends and family. For amateur radio buffs, “hamfests” are combination swap-meets, bull-sessions and conventions with guest speakers and sometimes educational opportunities.

Although some clubs held “virtual” hamfests on Facebook or Zoom, it sure was great to get back to holding events in person.

In reality, the first few hamfests that I attended were somewhat sparse. I think folks were still nervous about being exposed to large crowds of people for fear of contracting COVID-19 — and who can blame them?