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Repairing an Old 1980s Toshiba Microwave

I’ve never done this, but found a lot of information online. This is about my first attempt at repairing a microwave oven.

The microwave oven turns on, and the fan spins, and it makes the microwave oven sound, but the food doesn’t heat up.

The parts that drive the cooking are:

  • switches
  • the magnetron, which sends out the radio waves
  • the capacitor, which helps boost the voltage, and is part of the AC-DC rectifier
  • a high voltage diode, attached to the capacitor, which I assume is for rectifying the AC power into (sorta) DC
  • the power transformer

Here are some photos of the parts:

A quick search for the magnetron found replacements priced from $9 to $22, depending on location and newness. I was surprised that they’re available 30+ years later — but it appears that this part hasn’t changed that much in this long.

The capacitor was cheap in China, at around $2. The price in the US is around $8 used, shipped, and $15 new, shipped.

Diodes should cost a couple dollars, maybe less.

I learned that the main cause of failures was the switches. The switches on mine were fine; it powered up and seemed to run the fans, but it never got hot. Checking the switches with a multimeter verified that they worked.

So, I started to work through testing the parts. First, the diode:




Well, I didn’t have a 9v battery, so I need to get that first.

I got a battery, tested the diode, and it seemed fine.

Then I tested the capacitor, using these videos, I did all the tests, and they indicated a good cap. However, one of the tests was to use the cap tester – and mine showed 000 or 1. The one in the video showed some numbers.

Video: How to test capacitor

I had to check the tester, so I found an old capacitor and verified that the meter was working. However, the capacitor was a 25uF motor run capacitor that ran at a relative low voltage around 120 volts. The microwave used a 0.81uF that could go up to 1700 volts.

So my meter showing 1 or 0 wasn’t “wrong” – my capacitor was slow low that it might not be showing with my meter. The manual confirmed that for caps from 1 to 100 uF, the resolution is 1uF. In short, it’s not a great capacitance meter on this multimeter. (The brand is “Neoteck”, a $15 meter I got on eBay. It’s a basic DMM that’s a little nicer than the $8 generic meters from AliExpress. To do this diagnosis, I needed something that’s more sensitive.)

Then, I did some measurements on the magnetron. It seemed OK according to this video.


I’m suspecting that it’s the capacitor. I am going to dig around and find a motor capacitor, and measure that.


This book explains everything! It’s amazing.

Video: – How to troubleshoot your microwave.

This entertaining video is making me wonder about the switches some more. I’ll also go look for a second fuse.

This is the best video. It goes step by step into testing, in sequence.

of the

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Barbara Yung Ying at Minsky’s Burlesque in Newark at the Adams Theater

My father was born in Union City, NJ, and lived his first few years in Newark, so that might be a reason why he kept this ad, in addition to the fact Barbara Yung-Ying must have been one of the few Asian burlesque dancers in the 50s. Read more info about Minsky’s.

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Sold: 昭和レトロ Aluminum Rice Pot

This is an old rice pot. Estimated to be from the 1950s.

This was not part of a rice cooker. To use it, it was put over heat. The rim and lid were designed so that starchy, boiling water would not overflow down the sides. The lid is shaped like a cymbal, so that the handle wouldn’t be submerged by the boiling water.

This was verified for me by my mother, who immediately identified it as a rice pot and explained its use.

The logo on the lid is the kanji for “ooki” meaning “large”. The animal appears to be a tiger. The handle is made of wood. This does not appear to be the Tiger brand company.

The only indication of its COA is the word “Japan” stamped on the handle. It does not say “occupied Japan”, so I would assume that it’s post-occupation (after 1953). Also, because it’s stamped, I would assume it was intended for export.

See The Status of the Aluminum Industry in Japan by Eiki Usui to learn about the history of the aluminum business in Japan. According to, the first Japanese aluminum industry associations formed in 1947, so that industry was a postwar phenomenon. This isn’t entirely correct. There was a previous aluminum industry, starting in the late 1800s, before WW2, and it collapsed. Smelting aluminum was started only in 1930. Presumably, pre-1930 aluminum products were rarer.

I have found only one product similar: an aluminum pot from 北陸アルミ (Hokua Alumi) in the Hokuriku district in western Japan. (The district my mother was from.) The product is being sold as Showa retro, though it’s new. (The price is around $30, so this item sold at a premium, but not a significant premium if one wanted to import a new pot from Japan.)

The automatic rice cooker, which we now consider the main “rice pot” people use, was invented in 1955 by Toshiba. So the period in which this was produced was probably relatively short.

Also, the market for this item in the US was small. In 1950, the Asian American population was 321K people.

So, it’s been basically impossible for me to find an equivalent rice pot online. The current retro rice pot trend in Japan is to go back to ceramic pots and wooden containers, and is reflective of a trend toward artisinal foods.

昭和レトロ, Showa retro, means vintage goods from the Showa era 1926 to 1989, but mainly focuses on postwar era objects made in Japan, as well as US objects that were common in the postwar era. It’s not the same as vintage Asian or vintage Japan, in that it’s not “chinoiserie” or “japanoiserie” of Japan-themed goods, designed to evoke the East, made for non-Japanese markets. Rather it’s about the continued modernization of Japan in the postwar era.

PS – after reading about the aluminum industry, I had to wonder if this was cast rather than spun.  Spun means that a block of aluminum, or a molded aluminum piece, is rolled and stretched into shape.

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Restoring a 1980s Digital Alarm Clock Radio: the General Electric P’Jammer

Once this is partially restored, it’ll sell for $13 plus shipping. I don’t think I can fully restore it without risking some damage to the paint. If you’d like to get it directly, for le$$, contact me via the contact page.

Note: the sleep button doesn’t seem to work 🙁

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Skosh Word Origin

Skosh, Sukoshi
Skosh, Sukoshi, from Pacific Stars and Strips sometime in the 1940s or 1950s during the Occupation of Japan

Origin of the word “Skosh”

The currrent assumption is that the word was brought over from Japan during the postwar era, when the US occupied Japan. People returning from the Occupation would know a little bit of Japanese.

The above picture from Pacific Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, had a column, Japanese n a Hurry, teaching Japanese to military foreigners working in Japan. I found this in my family collection of random paper from the past. If you’re interested in this kind of think, you can dig around this website. I sell some of the stuff online, and at

“Skosh” Pronunciation

The borrowed word rhymes with “squash”.

The Japanese pronunciation is su-koh-shee. It’s three syllables. As you say it faster, it sounds like s’kohshi. Japanese doesn’t have any accents, and each syllable gets the same emphasis.

“Skosh” Etymology

スコシ, 少し, すこし

I was unable to find the etymology of the words. Using the online translators at Bing and Google, most attempts to translate ended up finding words, around Asia, that sounded more like the Japanese word “chotto”. Turkish and Indonsian translations had “s” sounds: küçük, sedikit.

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What is an NFT anyway?

This is a description I wrote to a fb comment:

It's a digital collectible. You can buy a URL that will show you a picture, and it shows up on the blockchain proving that you paid money for the URL. You can also resell the URL.

It's kind of like buying some genuine Louis Vuitton, and showing it off, except, there's no "thing". Also, the people you are showing off to are, basically, other people who bought LV. And each LV item is slightly different. But they are all genuine, no fakes.

Also, it's artwork, but typically, it's a computer doing some automated copy-pasta to produce a picture, based on a library of artist-created parts. Kind of like Colorforms or Mr. Potatohead.

The technical details are:
* blockchain - a shared ledger of transactions
* coin - unit of currency used to conduct transactions
* token - aka coin, a piece of data that represents value
* non-fungible token (NFT) - a token that's unique, similar to a URL, but also represents some value, like real estate

Coins, tokens, NFT, are created through software that runs on the blockchain. The blockchain is a database that can also run code. The database is supported by a network of computers that replicate the entire database, using technologies that allow many unrelated parties to participate in the project.

This stuff is popular with capitalists, for many reasons, but mainly because they think it'll create a system that allows money to be exchanged without central banks or governments.
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Corona RS 7041 Razor Tooth Folding Saw, 7-Inch Blade

When I unfolded this saw, it reminded me of a pocket knife.

The blade is stored in the handle, and when it’s time to saw, you unfold it, and lock the blade into the fully extended position.

Then you get to sawing. It saws well. It’ll cut through tree branches as thick as your wrist.

Unless you have huge trees, this saw is more than big enough for most tasks. It’s perfect for small fruit trees.

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New Balance Men’s Vazee Urge v1 Running Shoe, Yellow/Black, 9.5 2E US

I bought these in a hurry, and within a couple months, they became my favorite shoes. It’s been a couple years, and I’m still wearing them. (I made them last by rotating.)

These soles are worn down, and it seems to make the shoe even more comfortable.

This wasn’t a very expensive shoe when I first bought it, but, now, look around: the price has roughly doubled. Some people must be liking this shoe, a lot.

Update Oct 2021: I am still wearing the shoes, but the firm rubber sole has worn away, and the softer rubber is now the “sole”. Soon, a hole will form and the shoes will be history.

Update March 2022: Still wearing them, but not all the time. I can feel the ground through the soles.

You can buy new and used Vazee Urges at Ebay.