I thought this was funny.
No, it’s not the name of a robot from a Star Wars parody. It’s the model number of the Panasonic tape recorder I got for my 13th birthday.
My Aunt Alvera and Uncle Ray had a neighbor who worked for Panasonic. He could get electronics cheaper than retail, so offered to obtain a tape recorder for me. I was to look at a catalog and pick out the one I wanted. I don’t remember why I chose the one I chose, but the model number has stuck with me for almost 40 years.
I used this tape recorder to interview my younger brother one morning while our parents slept. I used this tape recorder to record tapes to my grandparents in Wisconsin and to play the ones they sent us. I used this tape recorder to record tapes for Jeremy and to listen to the ones his family sent me. I used this to secretly record conversations on long trips in the car and then play them back for laughs.
When Mom and I were sorting her attic treasures I reached into a box and felt something hard. I grabbed it and began to pull it out of the box. Before I saw what was in my hand I shouted, “RQ-209s! I’ve found RQ-209s!”
Sure enough, I held my long-lost tape recorder. I pushed the play button and heard a whirring noise, but nothing turned. I checked the battery compartment and found four 10 year old batteries. I guess I’d found this within the past 10 years and tried it out. I sort of remembered that it didn’t work anymore, but decided to take it home anyway.
I was right, even with fresh batteries, the wheels don’t turn. I suppose it could be the belt and I could purchase one for under $5 on the Internet, but what’s the point? I lost the microphone (this model doesn’t have an embedded microphone) and the AV cord. I’ll probably toss it in the trash before too long, or I could list it on Ebay.
But for now I’ll just look at it — one of my first pieces of technology. It makes me happy just to see it sitting there.
Another thing I found when helping my mom sort out her attic was a tape my brother, Kevin, and I made in 1969. I was 13 and he was 6. I’d recently acquired a tape recorder and was practicing my interview skills.[audio:kevin_dona_interview.mp3]
D: What’s your favorite subject in school?
D: No, first — What school do you go to?
K: Highland School
D: What’s your teacher’s name?
K: Mrs. Varisco
D: What grade are you in?
D: What’s your favorite subject?
K: [Intake of breath] — What’s– Um — No — Ah — Recess!
D: No! Your favorite subject.
D: Like favorite um reading or math or stuff like that.
K: Math? We don’t got math.
D: Math – yeah, don’t you have arithmetic?
K: Arithmetic Workbook
D: Oh, OK. Um — What do you like to do at home?
K: Play with the tape recorder.
D: Oh, tape recorder? Who has a tape recorder in your house?
K: Dona! I’m talking on it.
D: Oh. Um — What else do you like to do at home? Do you help your mommy?
D: Sometimes? Do you help her enough?
D: What do you want for Christmas?
K: [Sigh] Dona! It’s too long to tell and I can’t remember all of ’em.
D: Say a couple things.
K: Battling Tops, Bang Box, [sigh] – um, more Lego Blocks, and all that stuff, other stuff.
D: Lego Blocks? Um — Hot Wheels?
K: Yeah, except we didn’t put that on the… Oh yeah, yeah we did. And hot wheels and all that stuff, all that stuff. I don’t know what you guys are gonna give me.
D: I do
K: You know?
D: Oh yeah, I forgot, I was going to show you what I got Daddy.
Here I turned the tape recorder off, presumably to show Kevin what I got our Dad.
D: How many people are in your family?
D: Do you have any animals?
D: What’s that?
K: A dog. We used to have a cat named Puff
D: Mmmm. What’s the dog’s name?
K: Jock — and um — but — our friends were taking him to the farm — to a farm — and then he — the window was open — ah — so um — just so much as he — Puff could get out — jump out.
K: So he jumped out.
D: Mmm. That’s sad isn’t it?
K: Yeah — but he ain’t dead or anything — got ran over because he’s smart enough.
D: Mmm, huh. Well. — Is there any problems you have with your mommy? What do you call your mom?
K: Mrs. Patr[ick]
[tape was turned off before he could finish Patrick, I probably said something about how he doesnlt call his mom by her last name, but it was not recorded.]
D: [Are there any] problems at your house?
K: No, not much.
D: Um — Does anyone get into any fights or anything?
D: Like – how -, are they real bad?
D: Hmmm, who fights usually?
K: My mom.
D: And who else?
K: My dad.
D: Do you and your sister ever fight?
D: Very much? Is it very bad when you fight?
D: Do you fist-fight or just talk-fight?
K: Fist-fight and talk-fight
D: Do your mommy and daddy fist-fight or talk-fight?
D: Really? They do? They punch each other?
K: No, talk-fight.
D: Oh, I was kinda worried there. Um — um
K: Dona! I was doing something.
D: If. Um.
[Tape recorder was turned off]
D: Well, let’s see now.
K: Well, let’s see now.
[Tape recorder was turned off]
D: Do you know any nursery rhymes?
K: Um, yeah.
D: Tell me some of them.
K: Hey diddle, diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed
To see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon
D: Do you know any Christmas carols?
K: ‘Cept Jingle Bells
D: Well, just say a little bit of it
K: Dashing through the snow
On a one-horse open sleigh
[something] spirits rise [someone started snapping at this point]
Laughing all the way
D: Mmmm, huh. Very good! Um, well — Gonna have to stop now, so, um.
K: K. you say g—
D: What’s your favorite… What is your favorite stuff for supper?
K: Um, mmm yum mmm, — I’m thinkin’. Ahh — fish.
K: Mmm, huh.
D: Oh, well, let’s say goodbye —
K: You say goodbye first
D: Bye. And don’t you dare say “Goodbye Dick” [whispered]
D: Ok. K: Dick!