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My thoughts on progress from outhouse to computers; Recalling my first transistor radio

By Edward A. Forbes, R.PH.

The Bulletin

I am a few years short of eight decades. I find this hard to believe. In my (relatively) brief time on earth I have seen many technological and social changes.

I was around when indoor plumbing predestined the disappearance of the outhouse, a common feature of homes in rural America.

Then came the introduction of the transistor into products that we use daily; the miniaturization of many products as a by-product of the transistor and solid-state circuits; the polylithic monsters that were the first computers evolving to become desktop computers, laptop computers, iPads and notebook computers.

The telephone evolved from a hand-cranked device shared by nearby neighbors (each with their own ring) with dubious privacy to a multi-functional device more powerful than the computers of the 1960s.

The Ataris of the 1970s were crude video games, but they changed the pastimes of a generation. It was not uncommon to see people at different venues huddled around a little table with a green-tinted flat screen as they played Pong.

My first purchase in the miniaturized world, made possible by the transistor in 1965, was a small radio. It was made by Sony and was about the size of a package of cigarettes. (Everyone smoked back then). I bought it at my brother-in-law’s pharmacy, where I was employed. I carried it around with me, the novelty of having music at your command, no matter the setting, was enthralling.

I was attending Alvin Junior College (now Alvin Community College) and was never without it. We had one instructor who was a nice man but the most boring lecturer I had ever experienced.

He could spend an hour imparting information in a numbing monotone, and I had my little transistor radio.

I arrived at the biology class early and secreted my radio (volume low but audible) in the skull he kept on his desk. As my classmates arrived, they quickly became aware of the impending practical joke.

The instructor began the lecture, and as he talked, he started walking around the classroom, lecturing in his usual monotone.

About halfway through his lecture, he finally said, “I don’t know who is playing the music, or where it’s coming from, but if you get it and turn it off now, nothing else will be said.”

This was too good an offer to refuse, so I slowly rose from my seat and went up to his desk, lifted the top off the skull and retrieved my radio. I turned it off and beat it back to my seat. “Not very funny” was his only comment.

I made it up to him by giving him a copy of Life Magazine with the first photos of a developing embryo in the uterus. He thanked me, and I felt like all was forgiven.

I also passed his class with an excellent grade, no thanks to my transistor radio.

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at or mail  comments to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)


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