I read this story in the late '80s or early '90s, but I suspect was written much earlier. It was about a precocious boy, about 10–12 years old, who was always getting into mischief.

One day he decides to experiment with the family TV with a soldering iron. While he is doing this there is an alien invasion force coming towards Earth because we are an easy target.

Due to this boy's experiment he creates a shield/weapon which drives the aliens away and then promptly burns out.

I say this was probably written much earlier because the family has only one TV and the author talks about vacuum tubes and such in describing the inside of the TV.

What is the name of this story?

  • The Adventures of Young MacGuyver? More serious: Do you know the country the story played in? Maybe names? Also the vacuum tubes and other stuff could be there to explain the boy being able to solder anything at all - in more modern TVs you can't really change or rewire a lot without simply damaging everything, due to the "excessive" use of ICs and PCBs.
    – Mario
    May 24, 2014 at 19:03
  • No I do not remember any names. This was in middle school in the US so this book the story was in was probably from the 70's or earlier. I could have been from the public library.
    – user25866
    May 25, 2014 at 1:04
  • I've read this. The family has an old television. The iron creates all sorts of connections, resulting in something that would only be invented 200 years later. The aliens detect it and try to overpower it with theirs. It proves to be much stronger and they only just manage to withdraw before being destroyed. The ships hull is paper thin and the crew are sterile. "They would have no more little [aliens]'". The boy only sees a fantastic rainbow of colours and blips. Later when his father turns the tv back on, the innards melt down in a puff of smoke and he says they are going to get a new one. Aug 14, 2020 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


Finally turned up this. The story is "A Quiet, Rainy Afternoon" by Paul J. Nahin, published in Analog, July 1979. He's an American electrical engineer, which explains the technical details of the story. The story has only been published in one other place, in German.

It's too bad the top physicists and electrical engineers in the country weren't there. Then they would have seen the first Mosaki Sub-Space Quantum Modulator in operation, two hundred and thirty-two years before Philip Mosaki rediscovered it. Yes, rediscovered, because by an incredibly amazing series of accidents, that's what Jackie Hawkins had turned the color television into. And a good thing he had, too.

The television set was no longer merely flashing pretty colours and making burbling sounds. It was glowing with a dull red-purple halo, while seemingly fading in and out in substance. First Jackie thought he could see the back wall of the room through the set and then the set would become solid again. And then it would appear to fade again, the cycle repeating once every five seconds or so.

  • Hey, he's the guy that wrote "The Man in the Grey Weapons Suit"! Can you dig up any quotes from the story? hint
    – DavidW
    Mar 23, 2022 at 19:38
  • Not sure what you mean, but here a link to the German version. Mar 23, 2022 at 20:04
  • 1
    I meant that I linked to an online copy of that issue of Analog and you should grab a couple of short quotes from it. (I read it, and this is definitely the correct answer.)
    – DavidW
    Mar 23, 2022 at 20:21

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