W6TRW Amateur Radio Club Swap Meet

This week I revisited 23b shop on a day when they weren’t hosting Sparklecon, during one of their regular Thursday evening meets. I brought my Neato robot vacuum work in progress as my project and it was a good discussion icebreaker with a few of the people present. One of the interesting things I learned was the W6TRW Amateur Radio Club Swap Meet – officially a place for people to meet and trade amateur radio equipment, it has evolved into a place to find generally interesting electronics stuff to hack on. Some people were going to go shopping, and extended an invitation to join them.

W6TRW amateur radio club swap meet

I was not a huge fan of waking up early weekend morning to brave the cold outdoors, but the guys sold me on how cool the place enough to get me out of bed at 6 in the morning. I only had twenty-four dollars of cash in my wallet, and I thought that would make sure I don’t get myself into too much trouble.

Portable Karaoke duet machineFirst of all, the promise of seeing strange things I never even knew existed was fulfilled in spades, products aimed at novel niches that I had been completely clueless about. One example: this is a portable Karaoke machine that can run off batteries and use cassette tape for music, but this is a duet machine with two microphones for you and your singing partner to maintain eye contact while you sing everlasting love to each other. I don’t Karaoke and I was fascinated there was enough demand for this product to exist.

Bowling video game with ball controllerI also stumbled across this product: a bowling video game with a custom controller shaped like a bowling ball. If I understand XaviX’s Wikipedia entry correctly, this was much like Nintendo’s Wii Bowling but came out before the Nintendo Wii did. Sadly first-mover advantage in the motion controller home gaming market did not translate into market success for this company. Or even name recognition – I consider myself decently informed in video gaming trends and I had no idea these guys existed.

Old test equipment in cardboard boxes.jpg

Closer to the original spirit of the event, old electronics equipment abound, showing signs of a full service life that started as expensive specialized equipment and now sitting in cardboard boxes looking for a new home. Since I had just $24, I was not remotely tempted to take any of these big heavy metal boxes home.

I spent my money on more modest items that had immediate use for current projects. To help me see fine details for soldering and (dis)assembly, I bought a magnifier. To help me make finer details in my circuit sculpting, I bought a smaller pair of round-nosed pliers. And finally, in an effort to build my own substitute charging dock for my thrift store Neato robot vacuum, I picked up two 120V AC to 24V DC adapters. That accounted for all $24 dollars of cash I walked in with!

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