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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tom Swift had The Knack

Thanks to Richard for alerting us this important piece of Knack history.  Not bad for 1910.  You can see Tom's shack and antenna in the cover image (above).  I don't think he was going for a fan dipole.  He built the kind of multi-wire antenna that was in fashion in the early days of radio. 

The full text of the book is avaialble free on-line.  The radio fun begins in  Chapter 20: 

Bless my door knob, this was a lot of fun! 


I am certain I missed the origin of “the knack” as used on your blog. I, wonder, however, if in your youth you read Tom Swift novels? Although now they seem somewhat politically incorrect, I feel that the word may have, for our purposes, evolved there.

In the first novel, “Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle” (sic) Tom repairs a butter churn’s “system of  cogs and handles.” When praised for his abilities he declares, “It’s just a knack.” Stick with me.

In a later novel, written around 1910, “Tom Swift and His Wireless Message” Tom is shipwrecked on an ebbing volcanic island. He saves the day by constructing a transmitter and receiver from the wreckage of his plane,  even though he “did not have the magnets, carbons, coherers and needles” needed. He strings “ wires from the top of the dead treed, to a smaller one, some distance away, using five wires, set parallel, and attached to a wooden spreader, or stay. (Fan dipole?) The wires were then run to the dynamo, and the receiving coil, and the necessary ground wires were installed.” Then,”once the impulses, or electric currents, are sent out into space, all that is necessary to do is to break, or interrupt them at certain intervals to make dots, dated and spaces.” He sent “C.Q.D. (come quick—danger) even though a “new code has been instituted for them, but I am going to rely on the old one, as, in this part of the world, the new one may not be so well understood.” Needless to say, a ship hears, responds and rescues the crew.

That”s “the knack", alright!

Never give up, and 73.
Richard, KD0NPM

1 comment:

  1. Do a search for Tom Swift books on Amazon, and you will see lots of Kindle formatted books for free or almost free. One such almost free book is a 28-volume set (in one volume) for $1.99:


    I thought it interesting that Howard R. Garis, the man behind the various pseudonyms of young reader novels in those days, was also the author of the Uncle Wiggly stories. My dad had a bound volume of lots of those stories, and used to read them to me as bedtime stories when I was a wee lad. Uncle Wiggly was a kind of a McGyver, as he used to use all sorts of tricks to get away from his various enemies' traps. I also still have a couple of the Tom Swift books in hardback, printed in the early 60's.

    Maybe that's how I learned the 'knack' back then.

    Dave, N8SBE


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