Paul Litwinovich

WSHU Chief Engineer, author of Vintage Radio series

Paul caught the radio bug as a child. By age 12, he had taught himself the basics of vacuum tube theory.  He began repairing old, discarded radio sets, the kind that we now call vintage sets.  He loved listening, too, to local programs, DJs who picked their own music, talk shows designed to inform, not shock the listener.  But his favorite listening was to short wave radio, with its magic of music and programming from all around the world.

Hobby led to career.  Paul was a design engineer and engineering manager in the broadcast industry  for 14 years before coming to WSHU in 1990.  He holds an FCC commercial radio license, and an extra class Amateur radio license. And, oh yes, he's still restoring and collecting vintage radio sets, for more than 45 years now, and counting.  

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Vintage Radio
1:53 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

A Radio for the Great Depression, Part II

1931 Philco Model 70 in a cathedral cabinet
Credit P. Litwinovich collection

Last month we looked at radio at the start of the Great Depression and how RCA’s President David Sarnoff made the decision to license the heterodyne circuit to any manufacturer willing to pay royalties to use it. The heterodyne circuit, combined with the new developments in vacuum tube technology, allowed manufacturers to build affordable radios that performed far better than most of the high end sets from just a few years prior.

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Ducting
2:20 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

WSHU signal interference

As the weather warms and humidity rises, you may experience problems tuning in some of the WSHU Public Radio Group’s frequencies.  This is due to a phenomenon called ducting.  Ducting occurs when radio waves are trapped below or between layers of the atmosphere having different air temperatures. It is the same phenomenon which can hold layers of smog or humidity close to the earth. It often occurs when there is a sudden weather change such as the arrival of a cold front, or it can be the result of a stagnant hot air mass.

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Vintage Radio
1:47 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

A Radio for the Great Depression

Edwin Armstrong as a major in WWI

Last month we looked at the RCA Radiola 46, a lavish high end radio that went into production in the spring of 1929, about 6 months before the October market crash that began the Great Depression. This month will be the first half of a two part article in which we will look at how radio faired in those difficult times and how RCA in particular changed its business philosophy to survive.

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Vintage Radio
1:23 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

A Radio for the Roaring Twenties

1929 RCA Radiola 46
Credit P. Litwinovich collection

Last month we looked at radio cabinetry. This month we take a look at one of its examples, a 1929 RCA Radiola 46 in a high boy console. David Sarnoff (*1), a Belarusian born immigrant, led the Radio Corporation of America for an incredible span of 51 years, from 1919 until his retirement in 1970. He passed away a year later at age 80. By 1929 RCA, under Sarnoff's leadership, had established itself as a giant of the radio industry. It’s chief (and at this time larger) competitor was the Atwater Kent company, named after its owner. (*2), Atwater Kent was a privately held corporation whose radio factory covered more than 15 acres. I’ll spend more time on Atwater Kent and his company in the future.

The RCA Model 46 was a prime example of where radio was prior to the market crash of 1929 and the great depression that followed. This radio was grand, it was a reflection of the times. It represents a high end set that featured new technology and an elaborate cabinet. It sold for $179 (*3) which is the equivalent of $2,430 in 2014 dollars. (*4). For the upper class, primarily business owners and those invested in the stock market, it was a time of affluence. The average per capita income nationally however was $750 per year, with that of rural and farm income being  $273 per year  (*5), so this radio would have been out of reach for most. It should be noted though, that when compared to high end sets made between 1925 and 1929, that the average selling price of radios was dropping. As with almost all technology, this was due to higher volumes, and better manufacturing techniques. The upcoming economic depression would force this trend to a whole new level.

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Vintage Radio
11:45 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Sounds good, looks great: Radio Cabinetry

1923 Atwater Kent model 10 breadboad

As the popularity of radio increased, the household radio evolved into more than just a technological wonder. It became a part of day to day life. It was company for the housewife as she did her day to day chores, a gathering place for the family at the end of the day, and an opportunity to listen to sports events as the happened. Radio brought music and culture into the average home.  It also brought something new to society, the potential for near immediate dissemination of global news events as they happened. The radio sets themselves were evolving into something that was part of the home décor. By the end of the 1920s, the radio was considered to be not only a technological device, but a necessary piece of furniture. Manufacturers now competed not only to have the latest technology, but also the most visually pleasing way to present it.

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