Monday, January 11, 2016

Interview with K.E. Edwards

After publishing that write up of the classic crystal radio book Radios That Work For Free, [LINK] I reached out to Hope and Allen publishing. Martin Allen himself wrote back and the enigmatic K.E. Edwards granted me his first interview in 35 years. To preserve his anonymity I avoided questions specific to his identity.  How classic?  It was written up by Wired Magazine in 2007 [LINK]. Currently Edwards is engaged in writing the sequel to his now classic book. So this interview comes at a fine time to revisit his original work.

1. Can you tell me about the first crystal radio you built and when? 

I was 8 years old, in 1952. This crystal set was a square piece of wood about 1.5” x 1.5”, about 4” long. It had a slider bar and a fixed capacitor. I had one half of a headphone, one ear piece. I would listen to it with the headphone under my pillow. It worked poorly, and I only got one or two stations. But it was magic. The slider would get moved off the top of the wire, the galena and cats whisker would get bumped and I would work to find the right spot.

2. Did any person, friend or neighbor start you on the radio path? 

I did not know anyone who could help me. I asked radio and TV repair men how to build one and they offered what they remembered from the early days. I did not know it then but the conditions of the early days of radio where so much different that the crystal sets they used allowed for poor sets to do OK. Not like the 1950’s or today.

3. Did you further your radio knowledge at a radio training school, military or technical school? 

No. I finished the 12th grade. I was married and raised a family. All of my crystal set knowledge came from self study and experimenting.

4. Are you now, or have you in the past been a licensed ham? 

Yes. I operate QRP CW, mostly.

5. Have you ever worked in commercial radio? 


6. Your book Radios that Work for Free was published in 1977. Books and article on crystal radio building have already been around since at least the 1920s. What inspired you to write your own?

It is true that those works were around from the 20’s. But they had been removed from the library systems for lack of use. Also much of it was no longer relevant. I wanted to show my children how to build a crystal set. I knew how to make one but wanted the latest knowledge on how to do it and went looking for info. I could find none, or just bad info. It was not like today with the internet, where a search will gives you copious amounts of info. So I took my notes from years of experimenting, and decided to share what I had gleaned.

7. My edition has no bibliography. Were there any particular crystal radio books that informed or inspired your work?


8. Are there any particular crystals or whisker combinations that you prefer to use? 

I love to play with crystals, but that is for amusement and research. A diode is the answer.

9. What are your thoughts on the sub-type of crystal radio... the foxhole radio? 

The boys of the second world war wanted to be informed or to be entertained, they used what they had to get the job done. Dissimilar material or imperfect contact detection is what is happening with the foxhole radio. It works, its fun.

10. What has led you to begin work on a second edition of your now classic text? 

I have never stopped experimenting, and building crystal sets. The interest in these sets is ongoing. As you can do the math I am 71 now and none of us know how long we have here. I wanted to share some of the things I could not cover in my first book. Let me say hear, we could write volumes on every single aspect of this fun hobby. I have had to leave so much out of the first book and this second, I feel bad. They are but simple little things but it all adds up to making a better radio. If you read my first book and this new one, I tried to keep my words to a minimum. So some of the smaller sentences; contain the most important info.

Jose, Thank you for your interest in radio. I love this hobby, it has changed my life. I think everyone, 
especially young people can benefit from the experience of building a crystal set. It offers so many rewards that go beyond radio.