Vacuum Tubes and Big Ol’ Trucks

A slightly fictionalized account of What I Do For a Living, as told to my mother and aunt, via email..

One of the parts of my job is to write articles on command. I don’t usually get to pick the topic, just the angle. M2 (who is in charge of selling links) will email me and say, “I need 500 words about hybrid technology for a green website” or “Please write 1200 words about different anti-theft measures for cars.” Generally, my turnaround time is 4-8 hours, when I can easily research stuff on the ‘net.

On Thursday, M2 said, “I need you to write something technical about vintage pickup trucks for this website.” He gave me the URL, and I went and looked, and it was really overwhelmingly technical. Stuff like, “How to modify a flat six engine in a 1949 truck.” or “How to replace the hinge in the windshield of a 1941 truck.” I was a bit daunted, but I love a challenge. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll write something, but I need the weekend for something this specific.” Making my task even more difficult than I originally thought was the fact that the website in question, is THE AUTHORITY for restoring vintage pickups. Everyone links back to them. No pressure.

I did what anyone would. I begged a friend for help. “Rana,” I said to my friend who grew up in West Texas, and knows the difference between types of shotguns the way the rest of us know the difference between Dolce & Gabbana and DKNY. “Rana, I’m a city girl. You say ‘truck’ and I envision something with ‘FedEx’ emblazoned across the side. I have no clue what to write about – they’ve even covered upholstery.” (No pun intended.)

We brainstormed on and off over the weekend, and finally we hit upon an untouched subject. “Radios,” she said, “No one wants a truck without tunes.”

“Oh, good idea,” I said. “They were still using tubes back then, weren’t they? It was pre-transistor.”

So I fired up Firefox and Blingo, and found some information about radios and trucks, partly from some links Rana found, and partly from my mad Blingo skillz, and put together 381 words on “common technical problems with vintage truck radios,” including a lot of stuff about tubes and vibrations and capacitors…and as I was writing, I was back in Grandpa’s basement watching the wavy lines on the oscilloscope.

So what began as the assignment from hell ended up an interesting trip down memory lane.

Thanks, Rana.