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,
New England Amateur Radio Festival,