Japanese POW camp radio


On today’s HacDC Blabber list, Trammell Hudson posted a link to this awesome account of British soldiers building a radio in a Japanese POW camp. Trammel writes:

Since they didn’t have a local Digikey or Radioshack, everything had to be sourced from what was available. The caps were made from aluminum foil lining of tea-chests, the resistors were rusty barbed wire with burned tree bark, the rectifiers out of oxidised foil and salt water, they smuggled a tube (“valve”) in the camps and bribed the local Chinese power station operator to slowly step the output voltage up to 130 from 110 volts.

Amazingly they were able to receive the BBC broadcasts! The initial RX design was pretty basic, so they then built a super-het regenerative transmitter, too, but never made use of it.

[FYI: The image I used above is not from this story, just a diagram of your basic DIY foxhole radio.]

Construction of Radio Equipment in a Japanese POW Camp

8 thoughts on “Japanese POW camp radio

  1. weirdo557 says:

    the website isn’t working for me.

  2. Sean Weatherford says:

    I ran across this story many years ago and have listened to the audio of the interview from the BBC. Absolutely amazing. What these fellows did in their circumstances is really unbelievable. I am embarrassed that I did not think to bring this story to the attention of Makers earlier. I am quite sure that I could not fashion a capacitor from bee wire and fish paper, much less make some cinnamon bark resistors.

  3. Michael says:

    Yup, those were the days and they are over. Now we have digital radio. Not because the quality if better, but because out of greed so that they can sell more of the spectrum and squeeze more stations into a narrow bandwidth.

    One could never built a receiver with home-made parts that could deal with such a digital signal. I think this is a tremendous loss. People can’t Make a crystal receiver with their children to understand how radio works and discover the magic of tinkering.
    If the POWs were going to built this today they would hear nothing but digital white-noise …

    1. mi says:

      Still plenty of stuff is transmitted in analog across the world

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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