xkcd radio

RE: http://xkcd.com/1148/


Some younger folk did not understand the reference to Churchill's famous WW2 speech, and asked what it meant on http://forums.xkcd.com . Others responded with "can't you look it up with google, fool?". Here's my response to the escalating name calling which resulted:

Since we are belaboring the belaboring of the obvious, I should point out that the rounded trapezoidal object is a "radio", in this case containing "vacuum tubes", which are very large field effect transistors with all the semiconductor removed. The mesh looking thing is a "speaker", like a very large earbud and built into the radio instead of on a long cord.

To the right is a "dial", a display device with one fixed image that rotates behind the square hole, and a "knob", a rotating control that you twist with your hand instead of pushing a button. The knob connects to a "variable capacitor" instead of a digital divider feeding a phase-locked loop. Turning the knob was sort of like entering a URL except all the URLs were counts of something called kilocycles per second, and instead of websites, there were tall pointy metal things that spewed electricity and magnetism and probably gave people cancer, like cell towers only much worse.

The three smaller knobs below are a crude equalizer, with one controlling sound loudness, one adjusting high frequencies ("treble") and one adjusting low frequencies ("bass"). These turned a metal wiper that traveled over a horseshoe-shaped (*) spring thingy wrapped with a coil of nichrome wire. No matter how you adjusted the knobs, the sound was scratchy and weird, nobody said anything interesting about Brad or J-Lo or vampires, and the music all sounded like game show jingles only too long.

(*) A horseshoe, BTW, is a partial ring of metal that was nailed into the hooves of horses, before PETA put an end to this horrid form of animal torture.

The thing the radio is sitting on is a "chest of drawers", like something from Ikea except it was made from solid wood, not fiberboard, and it came already put together, from tiny little stores with less than fifty people working in them. Unlike real furniture, it did not have pseudo-swedish names, so you never knew what you were getting. The radio would sometimes display banner ads for this furniture, except there was no picture, only sound, and you were not permitted to log into your account on the radio to order furniture. In fact, you had to take pictures of dead presidents to the furniture stores before you could have the furniture, though in this particular case you had to take pictures of some dude named George, who was a Queen like Elizabeth or Effie Trinket, only a guy.

I hope that helps the google-challenged among us understand even more of the joke.

xkcdradio (last edited 2012-12-20 00:28:51 by KeithLofstrom)