A short time ago, an animated clip was circulating around campus which depicted a precocious boy in a doctor’s office who was being behaviorally evaluated. Dilbert’s “The Knack” is a comical gaze into the past of many technical individuals; stirring memories of their curiosity and their delight in taking apart toasters, cameras, and vcr’s as children.
I was one of these children who simply had to know how things worked, regardless of if the item was destroyed upon my investigation. I can remember taking apart radios, tv’s remote control cars, and lionel trains; delighting in the vastness of my ignorance. Sometimes, of course, the devices could not be put back together again, drawing some undesired attention from my father. Regardless of the outcome, and with my father’s help, I learned stuff about things [to put it eloquently].
Last Friday, I had to run some errands in town. It was warmer than it had been in Potsdam recently, the mercury soaring into the twenties. One of my stops was Radio Shack to pick up some speaker cable. Upon entering the store, I noticed a pair of dust-covered speakers bearing a yellow tag that read:
$249.99 Clearance – $29.99. A price differential that could make even the most frugal shopper pause for a moment. I began looking over the speakers, which consisted of entry-level drivers in a two-way configuration housed in decent looking cabinets. The employee came over, apparently to sell me the speakers.
“Can I help you, sir?” The nice man asked.
“I was wondering about these speakers here.”
“You can’t use those speakers.” Did I say nice?
“Why not?” I promptly inquired.
“Well, you see, those speakers are wireless, and you don’t have the transmitter.” Hmmm, I don’t have the transmitter…
“Oh. Well, I know what I can do with them.” I said.
“Sir, maybe you don’t understand, but these speakers simply won’t work without the transmitter, and no one knows where it is.” Salesman of the year material here, folks.
“…Well, I would still like to buy them. May I?”
Yes, I asked the nice, smart salesman if I could buy the speakers that were for sale, for the price that was plainly posted, that won’t work without the transmitter. His confusion melted away into acceptance as he rang me up for the ‘defective’ speakers and the wire which I came in for originally. He made sure that I knew about returning them, just in case, for some curious reason, they did not work.
Obviously, I had a plan from the beginning. I noticed that one of the speakers was unmodified; it had no amplifiers, recievers, or anything else in it. Score. The second speaker had an amplified output for the first speaker to be hooked into. My plan was simple. Take this output, and rewire it directly to the drivers inside to make it function like a normal speaker.
First, I had to get the speakers in the room. Not a difficult task, but explaining how one goes to get speaker wire and returns with speaker wire and speakers becomes tiring. After amusing my roommates with the story, Ben went to the tv station [which he manages], and got the necessary tools for the operation. By removing six small screws, the amplifier came out, and revealed that my plan was possible. The amplification and wireless section could be completely bypassed by unsoldering two terminals, and connecting those terminals to the drivers directly. Power for the speakers comes from a 1970’s vintage Fisher amplifier which I purchased for $15 when I was twelve.
Thirty minutes, two inches of heat shrink, one inch of solder, and several smiles later, it was done. Not only do I have a pair of decent sounding speakers for $30, but I have a 2×25 watt amplifier, and a wireless receiver. I can someday make RCA style inputs for the system, making it so the speakers use their own internal power, and any choice of source.
As Kevin Spacey so appropriately put it in American Beauty: