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Friday, May 22, 2009

Tech Details on ET's "Phone Home" Beacon Rig

Mark "MOJ" Johnson, W8MOJ, sent me a really amazing 73 Magazine article. It is from the APRIL 1983 issue. (The month of publication set off my April-fool alert alarm, but this is for real.) When Steven Spielberg was making ET, the producers contacted Bell Labs and asked for help in designing the rig that ET would use to phone home. A ham, Henry Feinberg, K2SSQ, got the job. In the article, Henry wrote: "What Spielberg wanted was a beacon transmitter, something to say, 'Here I am, Come and get me!' I reasoned that three main parts wee needed for a basic beacon: a means of producing a message, a programmer to repeat the message, and a way of transmitting the signal into outer space."

Later, in describing the keying device, Henry wrote: " The surface of the saw blade was coated with several layers of spray paint, which served as insulation, preventing the bobby pins from contacting the metal blade. The message was programmed on the blade by carefully etching through the paint. "

OK, that does it. Time for me to go back to the Trastevere flea market to pick up some more cheap clock drives... and maybe some circular saw blades. I need to get going on my mechanical QRSS one-transistor becaon project.

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