Check out the vintage electronics on this baby!

Slightly, blurry -- because I was so excited!

Blurry -- because I was so excited!

I was at the DayJob, taking one of my scheduled walk-around breaks (without which I would spend eight straight hours hunched over the keyboard and end the day looking and feeling like a gargoyle), when I came across the electronics-cleaning staff working on this. Instant nerd heaven!

Really, this tech is so old that it’s practically alien. Thus, my fascination at its weirdness. We Do Not Do It Like This Any More.

Still blurry, but you can see the essentials

Still blurry, but you can see the essentials

I should have included something for scale in the picture above, because what you cannot see is that these resistors are each about the size of your finger. This because they are from the days when electronics were, in effect, hand-rolled. Ranks and ranks of ’em, lined up like zipper teeth…

At least, I think they’re resistors, and not capacitors. Because I did not see any other object identifiable as a resistor.

One of you out there knows the answer to that — what say?

I do wish I’d gotten better pictures, but the item is no longer out on the premises.

This shot is better; you can see the tubes glowing! And that vague object to the right is vague not because I’m moving, but because it is. Because that’s what it does.

Justin St. Pierre's right hand provides scale.

Justin St. Pierre's right hand provides scale.

Because that component is a leslie.

Which makes this —

Old Hammond electric organ

Old Hammond electric organ

a Hammond.

I had been just strolling by, minding my own business, when I was struck blind by the beauty of the electronic innards on display. I didn’t even know it was an organ until I walked around to the front. Then: double dose of geekitude!

The cleaners were taken aback and nonplussed, watching me geek out over this lovely device. They had never seen me in that mode. To them, I’m just one of the girls in Accounting. (Yes, I said “girls”, because that’s what they say; that’s what everyone around here says. Even the women. All females are “girls” no matter what their age or station. It’s that kind of culture. Yes, I do feel like I’m on some other, less advanced, planet.)

The one guy who was on the same wavelength as me was Justin (he who also fixed my car), who is a true geek of the best 21st century sort. The Hammond was under his care, and he definitely appreciated what he was working on.

So I was going, “Whoa!” and “Sweet!” and “This is so freakin’ cool!”; and he was going, “Yeah, and look here!” and “Check this out!”

So we pulled out all the stops and made some noise.

the term STOPS left over from air-powered pump organs

the term "stops" left over from air-powered pump organs!

Alas, neither of us were keyboard players… that Hammond deserved, oh, maybe Billy Preston? Who was it who played organ for the Doors? Someone like that.

Feet pedals play bass notes!

Feet pedals play bass notes!

Seriously, I was so thrilled to see this.

And it got me thinking — exactly why was I that excited?

And I realized: it hit me on three of my geek points:


Three at once! Triple dose of gladness!

The only way it could be better would be if the organ also was:

Built by the Elves of Rivendell
Powered by steam from a DRAGON
Used for communicating with alien civilizations
In the process of achieving true independent consciousness

That would cover: science, tech, music, fantasy culture, fantasy zoology, SETI, cognitive sciences…

That would pretty much hit all my buttons at once. My head would probably explode…

No, hold on a minute…

There is something that hits all my geek points at once.

Yeah. My novels.

Well. That explains a lot.

10 Responses to “Sweet!”

  • Jo Anne Says:

    Aww, shucks. You should’ve posted a spoiler alert. Now we all know that the elves of Rivendell will be making an appearance in a future book.

    Seriously though, I think I would’ve geeked out with the old time organ as well. Looks sweet!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Jo Anne —

      I suspect you would have, being clearly a woman of taste and perception. (Obviously, seeing as you like my books!)

      Golly, sorry about the spoilers — of course, who says those elves are going to be in this series?

  • Tom Duval Says:

    Ahh, but I think the elves of Rivendell *did* in fact make Hammond organs until about 1968 or so.

    What model is it?

    Before I got my new job, I had a semi-regular gig with a guy who had a keyboard player who hauled around a B-3. That thing just sounded so … unbelievably amazing. Like chocolate would be if it was a sound.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Tom —

      Sorry, I don’t actually know which model it was.

      It was actually the first one I’ve ever seen in the flesh, so to speak, and it didn’t occur to me to even ask — I was too starry-eyed at the hand-rolled resistors.

      B-3 you say? Ha, I finally understand that Chicago lyric: “…be thinking of B-3’s, and leslies going round…”

  • Mairead Says:

    If you mean the brown-looking things lying crosswise to the photo, and that appear to have windings on, then yes, possibly resistors. Or coils. Almost for sure not condensers (the name for capacitors back then) because capacitors are buffers. I say “almost” because it’s barely possible they’re some really weird kind of condenser and I just can’t tell from the photo.

    (I’d to giggle at your joy – that was leading-edge technology when I was a kid.

    I was the Designated Nerd in our family, so when our radio would go out, I’d find the dead vacuum tube, wait til it cooled down, pull it, and go get a replacement at the corner drugstore.

    Nearly all drugstores had a sort of kiosk by the front door with boxes of all the common tubes inside and sockets for testing on top. Find the right one, pay up (generally $0.50 – $2.50), and Bjorn Stronginthearm’s your uncle.)

    • Rosemary Says:

      Mairead —

      (I really wish I had a better picture!) Yes, the brown things lying crosswise on the edge of the board — but they’re also lying in a nested V formation all the way down the length (<<<<<<<<<<<<<). That was the first sight that grabbed me — such an opulent display of resistors, and so obviously hand-made and hand-laid.

      I was almost certain they were resistors, and everything everyone is saying seems to confirm it. My only doubt originally was due to the extreme age of the electronics; I wondered if the design of components had not yet been standardized. But maybe they're not from that long ago!

      Hey, I remember those kiosks! Little goggle-eyed me would look up at them, wondering What the heck is that about? And some time later, they seemed to vanish.

  • Yves Meynard Says:

    Cool find! But it’s leaving me really curious about where you work… What kind of business has an old B-3 lying around?

    Regarding the parts: I’m no electronics expert, and the photo’s rather small. Still, I believe the rule goes thus: thin cylinder with a wire at each end = resistor. Flat disk with a pair of wires on the bottom = capacitor (small). Big upright cylinder = capacitor (big mutha). So those are probably resistors in the top part of the photo.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Yves —

      My DayJob is in the Accounting department, but the company itself is a disaster recovery service, paid for by your home insurance, usually. Like, a meteor hits your back deck, we rebuild it; kid sets fire to your living room, ditto, plus we take out everything that survived and get the smoke & soot off. Floods, lightning, car crashes through your front window — that sort of thing.

      The warehouse (where I take my leg-stretching walks) is where they store stuff taken from damaged homes, and includes a workspace to clean & fix up the items. This is where the Hammond was temporarily hanging out, its back-panel off so the guys could get at its soot-covered innards.

      One other time, the boss of the on-site cleaners, knowing about my interests, led me back into the Ozone room, and showed me a specially-autographed copy of a signed limited print of Al Bean’s “That’s How It Felt to Walk on the Moon,” and very old signed limited print of the classic Chesley Bonestell’s “Saturn as Seen from Titan”, both being cleaned up after either fire or flood. I absolutely flipped out.

  • Brian Says:

    Check out: http://www.retroaudiolab.com/b3-pr20.htm. It has hi-res pictures of the insides of a Hammond B3. To me, it looks like the organ in your warehouse is a lot older than the B3. Is it still there? Could you get the model number?

    • Rosemary Says:

      Brian —

      Alas, the item is no longer on the premises.

      Based on info and images from Wikipedia, it seems to be an M-series, which, while not predating the production of the B series by all that much , seems to be a lot less feature-laden. One octave only on the bass pedals, for instance.

      Part of its apparent age might be the result of smoke and soot not yet cleaned off. Still it’s probably 60- odd years old, at least!