MIT's Specialized Flea Market Wins Fans
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
If you can't make it to L.A. for the E3 you might check out another technology event, though this one is a little less glitzy and a little less high tech. The MIT swap fest known as The Flea is sponsored by ham radio clubs at Harvard and MIT.
Reporter Doug Shugarts stopped by the gathering in Cambridge, Massachusetts and he sent this report.
DOUG SHUGARTS: What can you find in a parking garage between the co-generation plant and the Department of Brain and Cogitative Sciences at MIT?
STEVE FINBERG: You can find all things nerdly here.
SHUGARTS: All things nerdly?
FINBERG: All things nerdly.
SHUGARTS: That's Steve Finberg, the organizer of the swap fest or The Flea at MIT. Finberg says that among the chemical lasers and World War II Cipher machines found at The Flea, he's even seen the odd piece of heavy weaponry.
FINBERG: One fellow had what looked to be an air-to-air missile. It turns out it was a mock up from the Raytheon Company that didn't make it. They'd lost the contract, but he had this beautiful looking air-to-air missile that he had out for awhile.
SHUGARTS: At the swap fest, antique typewriters and oscilloscopes tower over dozens of little boxes filled with switches and dials and maybe even a low frequency oscillator.
What brings you out today? What are you looking for?
DAVID WILSON: Old parts for old synthesizers that I can use to restore old Moog or Arp synthesizer.
SHUGARTS: David Wilson, curator of the New England Synthesizer Museum, has been searching for sounds at the swap fest for over 15 years. Music and the contraptions that make it have always been a big part of The Flea and at a nearby table, a man was trying to sell a set of electro acoustic bagpipes.
DAVID IRISH: It's got all the decorative stuff and everything. I could put this all together for you if you want to hang it on your wall.
SHUGARTS: David Irish from Chelsea, Massachusetts doesn't do eBay. Irish says The Flea is a great place for lifestyle nerds like himself.
IRISH: I'm a sci-fi movie buff. I'm into computers. I used to have Apple computers and I recently got into bagpipes.
SHUGARTS: I wonder, could I ask you to play one of those things for me? Would you do that?
IRISH: Sure, I'll demonstrate the practice chant since it's less offensive.
SHUGARTS: Well, you know, in this case offensive might be good.
(SOUNDBITE OF BAGPIPE)
SHUGARTS: That was great. Thank you very much.
In the parking lot downstairs, Arthur Jolie from Manchester, New Hampshire, was manning a rickety folding table stacked with vintage RCA radios and a Wilcox record lathe. Jolie also sells radio teletype machines that make a sound he describes as the two-tone warble.
ARTHUR JOLIE: Any time a science fiction program wants to show the hi tech communications from outer space to earth, they use that distinctive two tone radio teletype warble.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO TELETYPE)
SHUGARTS: It's fun to imagine what might eventually turn up at The Flea. Optical lasers, DNA extractors. Maybe even a giant radio receiver dish. Harvard has one at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute. Their principle investigator was at The Flea. Maybe someday he'll bring a friend.
From NPR News, I'm Doug Shugarts.
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