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In the IBM era of personal computers, the Soviets built their own closet-sized computers, and memory was stored on giant "platters" [магнитные диски: magnitnye disky]. Even in modern PCs, these remain the primary storage device. Yes, get this - hard disks contain actual disks. The old platters, meanwhile, have found new life in Kazakhstan as homemade TV antennas [Самодельная ТВ антенна : samodelnaya TV antenna]. In the richer, more central parts of town, satellite dishes reign, but in the scruffier regions of private homes, nearly every house has a hard disk platter posted on a pole, often in a so-called "dipole" format, with two platters on either side to pick up signals. We might call these twin disks "Mickey Mouse ears", but Russian-speakers call them Cheburashka [Чебурашка], after a famous Soviet stop-motion cartoon character, a furry little monster with great, antenna-like ears.

Besides these cartoon character computer platters, there are lots of other DIY antennas that show up in these DIY neighborhoods. The second-most common kind, called a shirokopolosny dipol [широкополосный диполь], look like an oversized aluminum bowtie, with metal springs welded to the back. In Russian, by the way, the same word is used for bowties and butterflies, babochka [бабочка], and this is the nickname used for this species of antenna. I can't imagine that every homeowner here has access to hard disk platters and aluminum sheet metal, so there must be some homemade antenna master roaming the streets of these places, hawking his roof sculptures to media-hungry citizens. One day I'll find him, and I'll ask him plenty of penetrating questions while he wonders what the heck this American kid is up to. 

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