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Some Early Amateur Ingenuity

One young lad of seventeen, known to possess an especially efficient spark, CW and radio telephone station, was discovered to be the son of a laboring man in extremely reduced circumstances. The son had attended grammar school until he was able to work, and then he assisted in the support of his family. They were poor indeed. Yet despite this young chap had a marvelously complete and effective station, installed in a miserable small closet in his mother's kitchen. How had he done it? The answer was that he had constructed every last detail of the station himself. 
Even such complicated and intricate structures as head telephones and vacuum tubes were homemade! Asked how he managed to make these products of specialists, he showed the most ingenious construction of headphones from bits of wood and wire. To build vacuum tubes he had found where a wholesale drug company dumped its broken test tubes, and where the electric light company dumped its burned-out bulbs, and he had picked up enough glass to build his own tubes and enough bits of tungsten wire to make his own filaments. To exhaust the tubes he built his own mercury vacuum pump from scraps of glass. His greatest difficulty was in securing the mercury for his pump. He finally begged enough of this from another amateur. And the tubes were good ones - better than commercially manufactured and sold. The greatest financial investment that this lad had made in building his amateur station was 25 cents for a pair of combine cutting pliers. His was the spirit that made Amateur Radio. -- Clinton B. Desoto, in 200 Meters and Down