In about 1975, my first husband and I had returned to Seattle from Minneapolis, and were living on a shoestring. He had found a job as a transformer winder at a company that made industrial transformers, and I, with my MA in psychology, was working as a pricing clerk in a hospital pharmacy. Now, Larry was ultra-handy. He could and did work on anything and everything around the house and the cars. He fixed anything that needed fixing. But when our stereo tuner bit the dust, that was something he couldn’t fix (“no user-serviceable parts inside”). So we were faced with needing a new tuner, and having little spare money lying around.
So we decided to get a Heathkit and build the tuner ourselves. We looked in the catalog (no internet in those dark ages), and picked out a model that did what we wanted at a reasonable price. We mailed away the order form, and waited for our tuner kit to arrive. In the meantime, we made a trip downtown to Radar Electric, a local firm that sold new and used electronic parts and tools. We both loved going there, just to see all the bins filled with interesting-looking stuff. We bought a soldering-iron, solder, and other assembly tools that we would need.
When the kit arrived, we unpacked everything, and set up an assembly area on Larry’s workbench. Then, he taught me how to solder, and together we worked through the initial instructions. It turned out that I just had so much fun doing this electronic assembly that I said I’d do it all. I literally kicked him out of his own workshop and proceeded to build the entire assembly all by myself. I followed all the instructions to the letter, and did all the operations in the correct order, with the correct parts and pieces. I thoroughly enjoyed watching that tuner take shape under my hands, and I had visible progress to show off every day. I worked on that tuner in every spare moment when I was not working, eating and sleeping. I remember at least one night when Larry had to drag me away to go to bed so I could get enough sleep to go to work in the morning.
Finally, after about a week, all the circuit boards were finished, and it was time to do the final assembly. We placed all the boards in the enclosure, hooked up the correct wires, closed it up and applied all the necessary knobs and labels for the various switches. We hooked up the power cable, took a deep breath, and plugged it in. And it worked! All the lights came on, we tuned in our favorite station, and sound came out! That simple Heathkit tuner did yeoman duty, and it lasted a good 15 years. I was so proud of myself for having completed that project with little help. I gained some very valuable skills, and learned a little about electronics in the process. I never would have thought that such a task would totally capture my imagination, but it did. And I think I gained from being able to finish what I had started and have it work from the minute it was finished. I was zealous in attention to every detail, reading each instruction twice to make sure I had it right. And thereafter, I could look at and listen to our tuner, and say to myself, “I built that!”.
[This essay was first posted over at Ricochet.com, where it has 21 “likes” and is under consideration to be promoted to the Main, public-facing, Feed]