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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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Unfortunately, until a few years ago, there were only two radio stations—Radio One and Radio Two—that were both operated by the government. This greatly reduced our window into the outside world.

From the first time I heard the sounds coming from the radio, I wanted to know what was going on inside. I’d stare at the exposed circuit boards and wonder what all those wires did, why they were different colors, and where they all went. How did these wires and bits of plastic make it possible for a DJ in Blantyre to be speaking here in my home? How could music be playing on one end of the dial while the preacher spoke on the other? Who’d arranged them this way, and how did this person learn such wonderful knowledge?

Through nothing more than trial and error, we discovered that the white noise was caused by the integrated circuit board, the biggest piece, which contains all the wires and bits of plastic. Connected to the integrated circuit are little things that look like beans. These are transistors, and they control the power that moves through the radio into the speakers. Geoffrey and I learned this by disconnecting one transistor and hearing the volume greatly reduce. We didn’t own a proper soldering iron, so to perform repairs on the circuit boards, we heated a thick wire over the kitchen fire until it became red hot, then used it to fuse the metal joints together.

We also learned how the radio picks up each band, such as FM, AM, and shortwave. To receive AM, the radio has an internal antenna because its waves are long, but in order to receive FM, the antenna must be outside and reach into the air to catch the smaller, more narrow waves. Just like light, if FM waves hit something like a tall tree or building, they’re blocked.

Since we learned everything through experimenting, a great many radios were sacrificed for our knowledge. I think we had one radio from each aunt and uncle and neighbor, all in a giant tangle of wires we kept in a box in Geoffrey’s room. But after we learned from our mistakes, people began bringing us their broken radios and asking us to fix them. Soon we had our own little business.

We operated out of Geoffrey’s small bedroom, located just behind his mother’s house. There we waited for customers, the floor below us strewn with heaps of wires, circuit boards, motors, shattered radio casings, and unidentifiable bits of metal and plastic that appeared along the way. Our usual exchange with clientele went something like this:

“Odi, odi,” someone said, standing at the door. It was an old man from the next village, hiding his radio in his armpit like a chicken.

“Come in,” I said.

“I heard someone here fixes radios?”

“Yes, that would be me and my colleague, Mister Geoffrey. What’s the problem?”

“But you’re so young. How could this be?”

“You mustn’t doubt us. Tell me the problem.”

“I can’t find the station. It won’t listen.”

“Let me see…hmmm…yes, I think we can manage. You’ll have it before supper.”

“Make it before six! It’s Saturday, and I have my theater dramas.”

“Sure, sure.”

IF WE WERE GOING to determine what was broken in the radios, we needed a power source. With no electricity, this meant batteries. But batteries were expensive, and Geoffrey and I didn’t earn enough from our repairs to keep buying them. Instead, we’d walk to the trading center and look for used cells that had been tossed in the waste bins. We’d collect maybe five or six, along with an empty carton of Shake Shake booze. Even after all these years, I was still finding uses for these stinking cartons.
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