Category Archives: Retro

Elenco EP-130

So I impulse-shopped again on eBay, which is always a dangerous thing. This time not so much. For just $6 plus shipping, I picked up an Elenco EP-130 “Electronic Playground & Learning Center.” Of course I would have rather had the 500-in-one kit, but that one goes for over $200, so I just can’t justify it.


I’ve always been somewhat ashamed of my lack of intimate electronics knowledge. I know a little about a lot of things, and a lot about a few things. I’ve just never given actual electronic components the proper level of devotion and practical learning time.

So I started today. Experiment #1: Woodpecker. Two resistors, three capacitors, a transistor and a transformer make the speaker emit chirping sounds.  Whoopee.  Changing the capacitors, resistors or voltage changes aspects of the chirping sounds.

Some Weller Road memories

In first grade I was kind of pulled aside, because I was already reading at a sixth grade level or better. I was given advanced assignments, pulled into a higher class, and separated from my peers. That was probably the very beginning of my alienation. Mr. Sutton was a good man and about as close to a hippie as you could ask for in a Montgomery County teacher. He wrote “What is real?” on my report card notes. I should post those here sometime. It shows what a weird kid I was. Was I the only one? Or were we all weird? I might never know.

I remember the new gym with the rubber floor. It felt awesome to run on, but not so awesome to fall on. I remember climbing the ropes, I doubt I could do that now. I would like that skill at this age.

I remember after-school open gym. I remember specifically fourth grade was great, because I could stay until like 6:00pm, just doing random stuff with what was in the gym.

I remember walking with another kid during recess along the back fence of the property, and seeing a woman sunbathing, and one of us remarked that it was too bad we didn’t have a movie camera. From then on when I saw him I would mime the old-fashioned crank “movie camera”  at him.

I remember being captivated in, what was it, fourth grade? by the books we were reading. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was a good one.  From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was another.

I remember having my first experience with nearly-catatonic awkwardness, when one of my classes would recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I wasn’t anti-patriotic or anything, I just thought it was completely strange to recite something in unison like that, and I wanted no part of it. So I would be late to class on purpose, lingering in the restroom until I thought it was over.

I remember Mr. Kitto and his slicked-back hair, his picking of his huge nostrils, the way he would bang his fist on the table occasionally, and, this one really stands out, one time he said, “I would pay two dollars for a toothpick right now.” From then on, I thought about things I should always be carrying for preparedness, and a toothpick was one of them. Two dollars is two dollars.

I remember being called down to the office occasionally to face Mr. Wall, the principal. I remember the crisp way he would call me “Robert.”

I remember the path in the back of the school that led to the neighborhood of the family that would care for me after school. They lived on Bluhill Road. I had lots of adventures with that family. Riding minibikes and small motorcycles in the back fields of Arbor Landscaping, and under the Connecticut Avenue bridge.

Once we were riding a go-cart with no engine down the Bluhill Road hill towards May Street, one person steering and two of us standing on the back frame. Something happened and my ankle slipped down off the frame and in between the wheel hub and the frame, and ripped the skin off both sides of my ankle. Since we clearly weren’t supposed to be doing that, I had to remove and hide my bloody socks so that we wouldn’t get punished.

Funny, I looked up Weller Road staff just to see if I recognized any names. No illusion that any of the staff would still be there after all these years, but maybe a related person? No such luck, but they do have a building service worker named Ms. Griselda (Gigi) Corvoisier, which is such a wonderful name that I might have to use it in a story.

Hooked: Forward is backward

I mentioned during the show review earlier this week that I had stumbled upon a record store while exploring the neighborhood around Black Cat. I thought I’d take an opportunity to talk about Hooked, a cool little store in downtown Fredericksburg, across from Hyperion.

Every time I go into Hooked, which used to be Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, I marvel at the selection and end up buying nothing. That says more about me and my choices than about the store itself. There are some interesting contradictions at work here.

I think I like where the store is positioning itself culturally. Some things you can buy at the store include records (vinyl of course), including the latest Pere Ubu album; Crosley Cruiser briefcase-style portable turntables (they will even play 78 rpm records!), vintage clothing, and sunglasses. They have a whole section of Impossible Project instant cameras and film, and another whole section of vintage video game cartridges and systems (mainly NES and SNES, it looked like).

I love the idea of a store that plants itself in firm rejection of technological futurism, and basically stops the clock 20+ years in the past. It’s kind of reminiscent of the Steampunk movement, but less artsy and more hands-on practical.

Practical for their demographic, I should say. I can’t currently justify buying anything in the store, but golly, it’s fun to shop there.