Discussion in 'Silent Keys / Friends Remembered' started by W1RC, Apr 26, 2021.

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  1. W1RC

    W1RC Subscriber QRZ Page

    It is with deep sadness and regret that I report the passing of Steve Finberg, W1GSL, of Cambridge Massachusetts, the founder and Benevolent Dictator of the “Swapfest, the Flea at M.I.T.” who became a Silent Key on Friday, April 23rd 2021 just before 7:00 PM.

    Steve started the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology electronics flea market in 1985 and ran it up continuously until October 2019. That was 35 years, 8 shows a year, always the third Sunday of the month, April through October. I don’t recall it ever being canceled. An outstanding accomplishment! “The Flea” produced many amazing treasures over the years, things you would find nowhere else. You never know what you will find at “M.I.T.”, an event that was highly popular with amateur radio operators and electronics enthusiasts in the Northeast. “Chip” Cohen, W1YW, inventor of the fractal antenna said that he bought all the test equipment and parts he needed at the M.I.T. Swapfest to invent his revolutionary antennas when he was first starting out.

    Steve was a long-time analog electronics engineer at Charles Stark "Doc" Draper's lab at MIT and the holder of several patents. He was still working at Draper Labs at the time of his passing. Steve was an intensely private man and not much is known about his life outside of his work at Draper and M.I.T. I know he would probably not approve of all this attention but the fact that he was so high profile and popular at most amateur radio hamfests and flea markets in the eastern United States makes it necessary.

    In addition to his work with The Swapfest, he also compiled and produced the bi-weekly New England Flea Market list for over 30 years. He was a very familiar figure in his signature red sports shirt and straw cowboy hat at hamfests anf flea markets for many years all over the east coast and as far south as Orlando FL distributing his famous list along with the Flea at M.I.T. promotional flyers.

    Steve was a personal friend for many years and was a knowledgeable source of information on New England hamfests and electronic flea markets. His deep wisdom, advice and wise counsel were invaluable to me when we started the New England Amateur Radio Festival, aka NEAR-Fest at Deerfield NH, in 2007.

    In 2009, Steve was awarded the NEAR-Fest Lifetime Pass Award for his contribution to the advancement of the hobby in New England.

    Unfortunately, there were no M.I.T. flea markets in 2020 and it doesn’t seem there will be very many or possibky none this year as well. However, the radio clubs at M.I.T. and Harvard University, (the MIT Radio Society, the MIT UHF Repeater Association, the MIT Electronics Research Society and the Harvard Wireless Club) beneficiaries of the “Flea” since the beginning will be resuming the event as soon as conditions allow it. First one is tentatively scheduled for August 15th 2021. The Web site is

    Definitely the end of an era. Thank you Steve for all those wonderful fleas and the lists.

    May he rest in peace.


    Michael Crestohl, W1RC/VE2XL,
    “Mister Mike”,
    Benevolent Dictator,
    New England Amateur Radio Festival,

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2021
  2. K1LKP

    K1LKP Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    W1GSL a beautiful  funeral flag.jpg


    W1GSL MIT.jpg
    W1GSL ARRL amateur radio club.jpg


    1 A SILENT KEY SALUTE OCT 2020.jpg

    ========================MAY HE REST IN PEACE
  3. K2HAT

    K2HAT Premium Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Volunteer DX Helper QRZ Page

    Sad to hear another Amateur Radio Enthusiast has gone SK.

    Steve was a fixture so to speak, at many many hamfests handing out the flyers for the Flea at MIT.

    After I retired in October 2013 I started attending even more hamfests at a further distance from the Albany NY area. I was never surprised if I would see Steve there handing out flyers.

    He looked tired at the Boxboro 2019 and I offered him a water and a seat in the outside flea market, he only sat down a moment. I am not positive he took a bottle of water.

    I asked how he was feeling, and he smiled said casually, I am not getting any younger.

    I recall seeing him in Orlando, but don't recall whether it was both 2018, And 2019 ,
    but I was there 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020. The years blur together sometimes.

    RIP 73 K2HAT now in FL.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2021
    K1LKP likes this.
  4. K2HAT

    K2HAT Premium Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Volunteer DX Helper QRZ Page

  5. N1VAU

    N1VAU XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sad news indeed.

    RIP Steve, your pleasant personality, straw hat and tireless enthusiasm for amateur radio will be missed by many.

    K2HAT likes this.
  6. KB1MM

    KB1MM Ham Member QRZ Page

    RIP Steve...I met him casually at the flea markets held at several different fairgrounds over the years, Deerfield, Hopkinton, and others I can't think of immediately. The very first one I met him at was known lovingly as The Frying Pan held on the asphalt apron of the old Grenier Field, now MHT held in late July in the mid 80's (who remembers those?). I went to several before it was scuttled due to the impending expansion of the airport.

    I didn't have my license at the time and he encouraged me to get it. I did get it within a year.
    K2HAT likes this.
  7. W1GSS

    W1GSS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I remember telling Steve that no Hamfest is complete until I get the flyer and a big smile from Steve. He will be sorely missed.
    N1VAU, KB1MM and K2HAT like this.
  8. WY1Z

    WY1Z Ham Member QRZ Page

    Steve was a character. Does anyone know of any family he might have? Parents' names? Siblings? I used to help him at VE sessions at MIT and we had some good conversations, along with walking and talking at various fleas.

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