Tel Aviv's First Walkman and the Lechi


Tel Aviv's First Walkman and the Lechi


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The Original Walkman

By Matania Ginosar

You probably have already seen people walking with a very small Bluetooth headset in one ear talking with their cellphone hand free. It is quite common here; no one pays attention to it any more.

But in Tel Aviv they did pay a lot of attention.

Sixty eight years ago I walked with "slightly" larger earphones on my ears listening to music, with probably the first Walkman in the world, and almost everyone was looking at me

I was building, like many other kids, crystal radio sets. I made different size coils, bought a variable air condenser to select the right frequency, and build the circuits needed --for those who know radio essentials. I bought a radio crystal with a flexible needle that was fairly stable (a sharp needle touching a crystal allows radio waves to go one way only, essentially extracting the audio from the radio frequency signal. When I was satisfied with the reception of the only Hebrew station in the country (a few Arab ones from Jordan and Lebanon were heard sometimes too), I built a small wooden box for it, some five by three by five inches, and installed the miniaturized set in it. I connected a five foot wire antenna to it, I used a set of earphones, nearly identical to today's small units, and tried it on our balcony- to reduce interference and get a better reception.

It worked well- I was ready for the mean streets of Tel Aviv. There were almost no mean streets in those days, however.

I held the set in my hands, my earphones on my ears, and threw the antenna over my shoulders to my back, and walked down stairs and listen. Despite the jolts of the stairs it still worked; I did not shake the needle out of its place. I walked slowly listening to classical music from Kol Israel, the British controlled middle waves radio. No other type of music was played on Kol Israel except Jewish religious music, beautiful cantorial songs usually Friday afternoons toward Shabbat, and on Saturday night, the Havdala, the prayers ceremony separating Shabat from the secular week, culminating with the satisfying Shavuah Tov, Shavuah Tov song (a good week.).

I lived near the end of Rothschild Boulevard, near the Habima National Theater, and few people were nearby in the early afternoon, just few mothers and their noisy kids chasing one another. No one paid attention to me.

As I walked toward Shenkin Street near the number 5 bus station, people were every where. Heads snapped towards me in surprise, what is that nonsense? But no one said a word. I was surprised; Israelis were not known for being bashful. Now that was good, I noticed, they were looking.

I walked around the central city and some people noticed my strange contraption. I was hearing the music without almost any interruption. The signal in Tel Aviv, the largest Israeli city then, was very strong.

The experiment was a success.

That experiment probably saved my life.

My interest in electronics grew with times and father, in his quiet wisdom, convinced me to study at the Montefiore Technical High School. The school demanded from us full normal studies in Hebrew, Religion, Arabic, English, Math, History and more, to pass the standard High School graduation examination. But, in addition, we had to spend a lot of time in our chosen technical field, either Mechanical or Electronic engineering fundamentals.

And all of these in three years while the regular high school took four years. Add to it my Lechi underground nearly nightly duties - I was a very busy youngster.

I passed the test to go to the mechanical option, but chose the electronic one instead. The mechanical test was tough. The teacher spread in front of me many mechanical parts and told me to reassemble them into a unit. He timed me too. I looked around the mess of over thirty complex parts, and tried to visualize their relationships. I don't know how and why but in short order I saw the relationships in this puzzle and put all the parts together. Then he told me it was a fuel injection for a diesel engine.

Electronics seemed to me so much more complex and demanding, so I chose that option. And continued it years later in the U.S.

Because I had knowledge and experience in electronics my Lechi underground directed me to operate loudspeaker systems from rooftops and to help build, and operate our second radio transmitter.

When most Lechi members joined the Israeli Army in 1948, the Lechi leadership wanted to have a technical man and arranged a military deferment for me to help establish its political party. I later served in the Israeli Air Force, again in electronics - group 206.

So I was spared from direct combat. Many of my dear friends were not spared from battles, and too many of them did not return.


from the August 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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