More than just a Ham radio blog.
is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Steampunk Radio

I was watching an item on BBC television about the rise of a fashion phenomenon know as ‘Steampunk’, which is an offshoot of Cyberpunk and Goth styles. Steampunkers tend to dress in Victorian clothes adorn themselves with gadgets styled as if from the science fiction of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and H.G. Well’s Time Machine. I was extremely taken with the beauty of the gadgets with their polished wood and brass, but it was the glowing valves that really took my eye. However much as I might find it fun to dress in tailcoat and top hat I know I am somewhat past what might be considered an acceptable age for such satirical elegance but there is definitely a spark of yearning inside that wants to Steampunk something. The attraction is possibly because it was the glowing valves within the polished wood and brass of our old radios and radiograms that attracted me, as a child, to radio in the first place. Then later when I got into amateur radio and first sat in a friend’s radio shack with the warm light and the smell as the valves heating up, while we chased one drifting oscillator with another drifting oscillator.

Old radios were quite often at least a piece of furniture and sometimes verged on being ‘art nouveau’, compare that to the stark functionality of today’s plastic and steel. There is a certain beauty in the simplicity of modern designs, but where are the purely decorative swirls and flourishes. Maybe there is room for amateur radio equipment that looks as attractive as furniture with modern functionality, but I cannot see it getting mainstream, more is the pity. So I sit here and think that maybe I could build a Steampunk PC because there are plenty of people who have done that and I could easily modify their designs but as far as I know no one has done it with an FT-817. There is probably little chance of me actually doing it but I can see a Walnut case with brass scrollwork decoration with the rig hidden inside and the Bakelite controls under a flip up lid with the valves of the linear and coils of the tuner visible through a glass porthole. Oh well back to looking at pictures on the Interweb!

There is one kit that almost goes some way to having the look I desire, unfortunately it is only a receiver. Have a look here.


  1. you're never too old to dress up! At the annual UK steampunk convention, "The Asylumn" in Lincoln the average age of attendees was 40 and there were several beautifully dressed "Victorians" in their 70's!
    Go on join us, you know you want to!

  2. But HAM-Radio is already as steam and as punk as possible :-) Let me demonstrate http://www.squidoo.com/glowbugs

  3. Thanks for the link Andy. Love the look and warm glow of that stuff.