vintage radio

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.

P. Litwinovich collection

As the roaring twenties came to a close, radio technology would continue to evolve with significant improvements to consumer sets, particularly in the area of shortwave reception. Read my past articles for more details as to how this transpired. The price of radios would continue to fall as availability continued to increase. Herbert Hoover could have added "a radio in every home" to his famous "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" campaign slogan. This radio boom would continue right up until December of 1941, when the first bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbor.