• Published 11th Feb 2019
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Lab Horse: Redux - TheMajorTechie



A filly lives on Earth with a jobless physicist. She's just figuring out life, while he's going broke. She has no idea what she's doing.

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Log 5: The maaaaagic of radio!

"Urk," I grumbled, draped over the side of my bed upside-down, "I'm booooored. Nothing interesting happened at school today and Ranell got sick."

Mister Delmar looked up from his book.

"How about you read something?" he smiled, flashing the cover at me, "It's been a little while since I saw you reading anything lately."

Ack. I honestly would prefer watching TV or something, but there's nothing I like that's on, either. I guess I can find a book... maybe.

Mister Delmar scratched his head, setting his book aside. "Here," he continued, "How about we try building a radio?"

I scrunched my muzzle in the same way I've seen the ponies on TV do it.

"Build a radio? But doesn't that cost money?"

Delmar shrugged. "Eh, yeah, but honestly, the project itself is pretty cheap and I've got some parts laying around that I don't need anyway."

Without another word, he got up and walked out of the room to who-knows-where. He's almost like a real dad! He disappears randomly from time to time and you have absolutely no idea what he's doing! Wowwwww!

... Ahem. So, yeah. I guess we're building a radio then. But... don't they, like, need a dial or something? Or maybe a buncha buttons and a screen to pick stations and show you which one you're on? The screen would definitely be something expensive. I've seen the one in the car of our neighbor. His car has this cool-looking "T" logo on it and instead of having all these knobs and stuff on the dashboard it's just one big humungo screen and--

"Gadget, aren't you coming along?"

Whoops. Well, I guess the tablet's mic caught that for me so that I wouldn't have to type it telepathically. Sheesh, that mic must be sensitive to be able to catch Mister Delmar's voice from all the way over--

"Gadget?"

"Okay, okay!" I shouted back, "I'm coming!"


I stared at the pile of stuff that Mister Delmar laid out on the ol' workbench. A spool of enameled wire, a couple sheets of paper, some little thingy with two leads and a tiny crystal inside (sparkly!) and... aluminum foil?

Oh yeah, also scotch tape and a chunk of cardboard that Delmar probably ripped off of a box or something.

"So then," Mister Delmar began, "Let's see... where to start? Ah! Hold on!"

Without another word, he ran off to grab something. As far as I'm concerned, he might as well go grab a toilet paper roll or something. This stuff here already looks like more than enough to build a radio or whatever thing it is we're gonna make. I'm no genius in hardware myself, but I know from the show that I apparently came from that if it's gonna have a crystal in it, then that crystal's gonna do almost all of the heavy lifting and stuff for the entire machine. Take the Crystal Heart, for example. 'Cause y'know, a single crystal powers an entire freakin' forcefield. Y'know? Yeah.

Hm. Maybe I should charge up the crystal ahead of time before we get started. Probably would save us from the effort of having to find a reliable way to charge the radio up with mana before we use it. After all, what else would it be powered by? Unless Delmar's bringing some batteries with him when he gets back, I don't see how this thing's gonna even work. Maybe he plans on trying to invent some sort of magic-powered radio, and have it all disguised as a fun little project for me or something. Idunno. Anyway, let's see... charge my horn up a bit, be careful about the amount of mana I'm puttin' up there, and now slowly let it flow into the crystal like water... there! Haha, I have no idea how to magic but I still did a magic! I enchanted a crystal!

"Nearly forgot some stuff," Mister Delmar mumbled, dropping an armful of stuff onto the table, "We're gonna need these empty towel tubes to wind the wires around. Unless your idea of a good time is to try and make an inductor without any way to create a decent coil, that is."

Welp. It's not toilet paper, but it's close enough. Who could've known?

Delmar stared down at the crystal thingy, blinking for a couple seconds before picking up the thing and looking at me.

"Gadget? Was this diode glowing before?"

I shrugged. Mister Delmar shrugged too before putting it back down.

"Eh, probably just something in my mind. Anyhow, let's start!"

...I'm just gonna leave out the boring part where we spend like ten minutes making wire go around a tube and then messing up and having to do it again.

"Next, we're gonna build ourselves a variable capacitor," Delmar continued, "Since we're working with stuff we've already got on hand, aluminum foil and paper should do fine. Wrap some foil around that tube first, and I'll make the outer layer that'll slide on top of that to make the capacitor variable. This is how we're gonna be tuning the radio."

Huh. That's interesting. I always thought that there needed to be some kinda fancy dial or buttons or something to tune it. Not--

"The capacitor's basically like the tuning dial on older radios," Delmar continued, wrapping a sheet of paper and another piece of foil over the tube before taping it down, "Or like the internal circuitry that's triggered when you press a button to choose a station. It's obviously a lot more low-tech than either of those, but the goal of this project is just to show you how a basic AM radio works."

He paused for a moment, handing me the finished capacitor... thingy.

"'Kay, now that we've got all our basic parts, it's time to wire it up!" he exclaimed, pulling another length of wire from the spool, "You already know about series and parallel circuits from that other experiment we did a while back, right? The one with the light bulbs?"

I nodded.

"We're gonna connect the inductor and the capacitor in parallel, with the antenna and ground wires kinda sandwiched in-between."

I lit my horn and moved the two parts closer together. Delmar stuck his hand into the aura, guiding the parts as he taped the sanded ends of the enameled wire to the two different pieces of aluminum foil around the tube.

"And now," he continued, taking out the sandpaper again, "for the antenna and ground, we can just sand a spot on the wire off and attach two more pieces of wire."

...So we did that. I'll save you from the boring stuff again.

After that, we basically attached the crystal thingy (apparently it's also polarized) to the foil capacitor doodad, and then we stuck a wire to the other piece of foil on the tube and then wired it up to some old earbuds.

There, I saved another big long scary paragraph of boredom. Now, we can finally test it!


"So why are we stringing up a hugely long wire outside again?" I asked, holding the radio in my magic, "You said something about finding a good spot for the antenna, so why are we hanging wires up outside? I thought we were gonna use some big ol' dish or a pie tin or something."

Mister Delmar shook his head, hanging another piece of wire up on the set of poles we planted. "With how weak the signal is going to be when it passes through this radio, it's best to get the antenna as high up and long as possible."

I pointed a hoof at the shorter pole next to me that didn't have any wire. "What about this one?"

"That's for the ground wire."

Okay.

Delmar wiped his hands off on his pants as he walked back to me.

"There we go, everything's hooked up. Wanna try tuning into something and seeing what there is to listen to?"

I nodded my head as he put an earbud into my obviously-too-big-for-human-ear-products-filly-ear. I kept my eyes on the crystal thingamajig wired up on the radio as I lit my horn, slowly moving the movable foil sheet on the tube capacitor.

...Hmm, I don't really hear anything. Maybe it needs a bit more juice?

I let go of the foil and focused my magic once again on the crystal. Being so small, it probably lost whatever magical charge I had put in it before when we were still building the radio. I'm sure Delmar wouldn't mind, after all. He looks busy on his phone there anyway. Might as well pur a bit more mana into the crystal, then!

I let a surge of magic hurtle through my horn as I directed the energy at the crystal. Immediately, the thing started to glow. Violently. I... might've gone a bit overboard there...

...

...

"Mister Delmar?"

"Hm?"

"Is the antenna supposed to shoot a rainbow laser into the sky?"

He looked up just in time for the crystal thingy to pop, sending out a little wisp of magical smoke.

"...What?"