"We didn't have television until I was about eight years old, so it was either the movies or radio.
A lot of radio drama. That was our television, you know. We had to use our imagination.
So it was really those two things, and the comics, that I immersed myself in as a child."

Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn

A crystal radio is a rather primitive radio that can be purchased as a kit. It has no need for batteries or other power source but uses a portion of the AM radio waves themselves to produce enough audio energy to be able to listen on a small earpiece. A link is provided at the end of this writeup if anyone is inspired to build such a radio.

If you are looking for technical details on how to build a crystal radio or exactly how one works, this isn't that. I don't know how to write that one, but I have a quick story.

When I was eight years old, my stepfather, Jerry, got a kit from Heathkit and told me it was mine. I couldn't wait to find out what this box contained. When we opened it, I was curious but mystified. There just didn't seem to be much in there! Jerry said it was a crystal radio. I had a million questions and the only answer I could get to any of them was, "You'll see".

I had to wait a day or two before Jerry could put it together (with me "helping"), but it seemed like years. Finally we sat at the dining room table to put this thing together. A lot of the time spent building the thing consisted of carefully wrapping the tuning coil. Jerry tried to explain some of the theory behind it but, as I recall, it was way over my head. I remember at one point asking, "Where do the batteries go?". "It doesn't need any", was the answer. Ok, now I was really getting skeptical. Jerry was a big practical jokester guy and I was starting to feel like the victim of a practical joke.

He finally got the thing put together in spite of my "help" and, after fiddling with the dial a bit while listening, he smiled and handed me the earpiece. No joke, the thing actually worked!

I'm certain that I had a lot of fun with the crystal radio but, aside from the anticipation and the reveal, the part I remember most is having my crystal radio by my bed at night. It wasn't music, but radio drama, that captured my young imagination. I don't remember what the shows were, just how they made me feel. One local AM station played these every weeknight and I looked forward to it all day long. I'm sure, today, I would likely find them amateurish but quaint. At the time though, the stories thrilled me and, occasionally, scared the pants off of me! The sound effects! The organ music! Thrills, chills, suspense! (Batteries Not Included)

Crystal Radio Kit

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