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.  

P. Litwinovich collection.

Last month, we took a look at the beginnings of what would be the age of connectivity on the go, the battery portable radio. This month I'll feature a line of battery powered tube radios that brought the technology to its pinnacle. The Zenith Trans-Oceanic series of shortwave portables would stretch from 1941 through 1982, with tube models produced until 1963. The radios performed so well, and became so popular, that they earned the nickname "The Royalty of Radios."

Columbia University, Wikipedia, and others, photographer unknown.

In today’s age of mobile devices we can hardly imagine being on the go and not being connected at the same time. It was not always the case. As soon as radio became popular with the masses, the desire for portability, and hence the ability to stay in touch with what was going on in the world from anywhere became a priority. It was however, not a goal that would be easily achieved with 1920s era technology.

P. Litwinovich collection

As the country emerged from the Great Depression, and with war looming on the horizon, Americans were looking for something to cheer them up. The radio industry answered with Catalin cabinet radios. Catalin is a brand name for the popular thermosetting polymer developed by the American Catalin Corporation in the 1930s. It is an early plastic made from phenol formaldehyde resins. Early on, radio manufacturers had sought an economical replacement for costly wood cabinets.

Atwater Kent

Nov 18, 2014
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, photographer unknown.

I could not write articles about vintage radio without including Atwater Kent, both the man and his radios. He is a legend among vintage enthusiasts and radio collectors, revered with near deity status.

P. Litwinovich collection

Last month, in part one of Radio Prepares for War we looked at the National HRO receiver, which set the bar for the standards required by military radio communications.  The HRO was a superb receiver for land or ship based use, but it was too large and heavy for use in aircraft. It also would have been difficult to redesign it for use on 28 volt aircraft power systems. The HRO also was relatively difficult to operate in a fast paced combat environment. It required changing coil packs to change from one group of frequencies to another.