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Vintage radio festival resurrects old technology

Brandon Paykamian • Jul 22, 2018 at 1:28 PM

Dozens of vintage-radio enthusiasts from across the country converged on Jonesborough's Storybook Farm Saturday morning to learn more about resurrecting the technology that once dominated mass communication decades ago.

Nick Tusa, organizer of the Sixth Annual W9DYV Vintage Radio Festival, said the event, which features a swap meet for vintage-radio enthusiasts and presentations on radio technology, was first started as a way to teach people more about early radio technology.

Many of the visitors come from an era when many amateur radio operators built their own equipment. And some attendees, Tusa said, are younger folks interested in vintage radio technology.

“We draw in a lot of people who are interested in restoring and operating vintage radio equipment from back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” Tusa said. “A lot of these guys build their own equipment.”

Tusa said the presentations at the festival aim to help people use their vintage radios to communicate with people across the world, much like he did when he first got into radio technology in the ’60s.

“They’re technical presentations to help people that are interested in restoring or building radio equipment to better understand the technology and apply some old ideas using some new components,” he said.

“I grew up in the early ’60s, and back then there was no internet, of course,” he continued. “This was a way that you could find out what was going on in the world. But the amateur radio part was folks building radio transmitters and communicating on the other side of the world with people with the same electric power that could operate a 100-watt light bulb, which is kind of amazing when you consider there’s nothing between you and them except space.

“It was fascinating back then, and that’s what hooked a lot of people my age.”

Tusa started the day off by giving a presentation on “The Mysterious Batchelor Broadband Coupler,” which was invented and constructed by Wes Schum and Joe Batchelor in 1953.

To Tusa and many others, Schum is considered a legendary innovator of early radio technology. Tusa said the event was partly founded to honor his work before he passed away two years ago, and the event is held at Storybrook due to it being Schum’s last place of residence.

“There was a very small group of these people, and you know, we’re losing them,” he said. “He was my mentor. I got to know him when I was in college when I rediscovered his technology. We became really close friends.”

Schum’s daughter and Storybrook owner Diane Vogt, said she, too, learned a lot about building radios from Schum. She said the annual festival brings together people who had his same passion for radio technology.

“He would go to sleep with a problem on his mind, and wake up at 2 a.m. and go down to our workshop, which was in our basement,” she said. “He would draw the circuit changes out, go back to bed, get back up in the morning, go back down and make the changes, and they worked.”

The festival will continue Sunday with more presentations starting at 10 a.m.

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