Originally published in the January 1985 C&E.
Faithful readers will recall the horror and worry that made the Christmas season gloomy for friends and family of the world’s greatest DXer, Oklahoma’s own Q.R. Zedd.
Somebody gave Zedd a personal computer for Christmas, and he — like lesser hams around the globe — went ape over it. The Christmas party at Zedd’s Honor Roll ranch, just a hoot and a holler south of town, became grim. Instead of smoking cigars and drinking Jack Daniels and dipping a little snuff and dancing with Tondelayo (Zedd’s nubile, blonde, 20-year-old QSL secretary and constant companion), Zedd hunched in front of his gift, Epson QX-10 and was in a world of his own.
Well, those who frequent the band know that it lasted almost a week. Zedd was not on. This marked the first time since World Its II that his rigs were silent. Momma Zedd went home to Arkansas with black bunting draped over her Honda. Tondelayo was beside herself with worry and grief. Friends from the South Canadian Amateur Radio Society maintained constant sorrowing vigil from their cars and pickups on the dirt road fronting the property.
Everybody tried to get Zedd out of his trance. Everyone knew that he had to be brought back to reality soon or he might end up joining the Central Oklahoma Computer Organization or subscribing to Byte or something even more ghastly.
“I’m modifying a few programs,” Zedd told us when we visited between Christmas and New Year’s. “I’ve about got this baby to where she’ll do her own thinking, and when I want to write a letter or design a new antenna or something, all I’ll have to It is ask her to It it, and she’ll do it, on her own.
“That,” Zedd added with a mad gleam in his eye, “will give me more time to write some more new programs. It really getting into this.
“Are you using BASIC or LISP or what?” we asked.
“All too slow,” Zedd replied, intent on the screen in front of him. “Machine code. That’s the only way to go. Hey. Watch this. After working only two days I’ve taught the machine to play tic-tac-toe. This is great.”
Tondelayo appeared, clad in black widow’s heels, and led us outside where we simply broke down in confronting the tragedy of it.
The darling girl consoled us. “I have a plan,” she said.
“What?” we asked eagerly, ready to grasp and straw.
“Listen to twenty tonight,” she told us.
We were at our rig as instructed that evening. For a while things were quite normal: a few hundred stations fighting and cussing each other in a pileup for South Africa, or maybe it was South Dakota, somebody reading from the Bible with periodic explanations that he couldn’t be on 75 as usual because his antenna had fallen down, etc.
Then a little before midnight the band opened over the pole to Russia. The first signal we heard was Boris Badenov, famed Russian DXer.
“QRZ?” he hollered. “Who wants work world’s greatest DXer, hah? QRZ!”
Out at Honor Roll, we learned later, Tondelayo had rigged Zedd’s computer so its speaker would pick up signals on 20. Zedd was deep into some weird program he was writing when Tondelayo, by remote, put Badenov’s boast into the computer.
Tondelayo says Zedd went sheet-white. The challenge was too much for him. His circuits overloaded. Dropping his HP calculator in his haste, he rushed out of the living room and into the shack. Fingers flew as he adjusted his linear and cranked the antenna around.
“Badenov, you bleep,” Zedd screamed as he keyed the mike. °There is only one greatest, and you know who that is. Get off my frequency. Clear the airwaves. Zedd is back in business. QRZ?”
The world clamored to reply on Zedd’s transmit frequency. Zedd stuffed some snuff in his lower cheek, winked once at Tondelayo, and started logging.
He was saved. The world owes it all to Tondelayo.