Vintage Radio

Late 1920s Atwater Kent Littlestove radio
Late 1920s Atwater Kent Littlestove radio
Credit Paul Litwinovich

In this occasional series, WSHU Chief Engineer Paul Litwinovich explores aspects of vintage radio. The subjects will range from the radio sets themselves to the people and technology that made it all possible. He'll talk about collecting, dating, and restoring these relics of yesteryear. Each article features a different vintage set with information about its place in the development of the electronic age. Some of the sets featured are from his own collection. 

Comments and questions are welcome at paull@wshu.org

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Portable Radios, Part 1
12:27 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

You Can Take It With You

Edwin Armstrong’s homemade portable radio, circa 1923.
Credit 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.

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Vintage Radio
4:01 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Catalin: The Crown Jewel Of Table Radios

Motorola 50-XC, circa 1940.
Credit 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.

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Vintage Radio
12:12 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Atwater Kent

Atwater Kent, circa 1925.
Credit 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.

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Vintage Radio
12:06 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Radio prepares for war, part 2

A BC-348 military aircraft receiver as used on the B-17 bomber.
Credit 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.

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Vintage Radio
12:14 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Radio Prepares for War, Part 1

1935 National HRO U.S. Navy Receiver.
Credit 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.

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