The Sunday Leader

Where Have All The Transistors Gone?

The transistor radio is a thing of the past - Photo Courtesy vintagebygolly.com

The transistor radio is a thing of the past - Photo Courtesy vintagebygolly.com

By Thilaka V. Wijeratnam

The ’60s were the era of the transistor. We were then stationed in Mullaitivu. I remember how those boys who went to Saudi on various job assignments would bring battery-operated transistor radios, and turning the volume high would stand outside their gates and enjoy the loud music from the Commercial Service.

My husband also bought one, not to advertise to all and sundry that we have a transistor, but to listen to the journey of Apollo 11 to the moon. He brought a neat little one, kept it on the table and admired it from all angles as  man would a woman, and commented proudly, ‘She’s pretty’ – and then fearing feminine jealousy quickly added ‘like you’ – that was the first time anyone had called me pretty.

But men are born liars – at least the married men are.

That apart, the little lady as we called her behaved well for a month. Then trouble started. She just wouldn’t say a word, leave alone sing. My husband tried to manipulate her but gave up in disgust. I took over. I tried patting her.  She, like a woman scorned began to make all sorts of jarring noises that my husband shouted, “Shut the d—- thing”. This led to more traumatic outpourings from her.

But I never gave up on her. It was sad to see her sitting there, without a word and sans the interest of the man who brought her here in the first place.
“You are pampering her” he said. “ I have to, till the landing on the moon,” I said stroking her gently and patted her and all of a sudden she broke out into a song. She had yearned for the human touch.

The programme which my husband and I looked forward to was the “news”. Then one day she suddenly went mum. I coaxed her, pampered her and went on tapping her – and at last there was a murmur. We drew close. She spoke, but what came out was not the news but the weather report! She had got the better of us that day.

Whenever I go to bed I would take the little lady and keep her on a stool near  my bed and listening to her music I would fall asleep. On one such occasion, I woke up with a start to hear a howling, shrill noise. Could it be a burglar alarm I thought. No chance for over there at Mullaitivu the best burglar alarm was the vigorous vibrations of all our discordant vocal cords in accordance! I tiptoed to our old ayah’s room – she was a snoring Zzzzzzzzz! It struck me that the culprit was our transistor – yes, there she was wailing like the sirens of odyssey – I had forgotten to switch her off. Soon after we got a transfer out of Mullaitivu and had access to radio and  TV. The little lady who had spoken to us in our lonely days was soon ignored. She had no importance in our home.

What had happened to the transistors in the country?

Perhaps dumped in the junk box – a toy for the little ones – who would have, like ours, reduced them to wires and unidentifiable pieces.

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