Commercial Receivers

In the North Room, here, are broadcast receivers of the period 1920 to 1925, starting with the Atwater-Kent down at the far end, and running down to Zenith on this end, alphabetically arranged.

I think it might be worth commenting about a few things here.  As I said at the other end of the room, these are broadcast receivers…Adams-Morgan,  Amrad, Atwater-Kent, Clapp-Eastham…Clapp-Eastham was the beginning of General Radio company, Crosley, and so forth.  When I speak about Crosley, Powel Crosley was quite a character, and down underneath is one of the…I think there were eight of them in WLW’s transmitter…that’s a water-cooled transmitter…I forget what the power of the transmitter was…something like 200,000 watts…maybe it was 500,000 watts…anyway, there was an international tussle between Mexico, Canada, and this country, because Crosley’s transmitter was so powerful that he was wiping out the Mexicans and the Canadians.  And the state department got involved, and they finally decided that there is no sense in the super high-power stuff, so the federal government knocked the power down to 50,000 watts as the max.  To this day, you can’t build a transmitter higher than 50,000 watts.  But that’s one of the water-cooled amplifiers, and you see, the anode is inside that copper tube which is immersed in water for cooling.

We were told that the…when that transmitter was on the air…Jack Gray was the Chief Engineer of WLW…and he gave us that tube. He drove it all the way from Ohio in the back of his car…and he told us that a wag living close to the transmitter, built a model railroad track around his house, and, on the locomotive, he stuck an antenna, fore and aft, inline with the tracks so that the locomotive went along with this antenna, and it was able to suck enough power out of the air to run the little model train!

So, these are all Crosley’s…in tribute to WLW.  Powel Crosley was a real character.  He had the ability to make something practical, and he charged about a third of what everybody else charged, so it became very prosperous.  And these are typical Crosley sets.

Lee de Forest, who has forever claim for putting the grid in the vacuum tube way back.

De Forest didn’t really understand what he was doing…he was kind of a clown…and come the twenties, he was kind of broke, and went into business making little shortwave sets of which this is.  It’s a very rare shortwave receiver.

Here’s another de Forest.

Federal…Federal was out in Buffalo, New York.

Freed-Eisemann was in downtown New York City…yes, Mike Thompson rigged this up with a transistor receiver.

Here are some roof antennas.

Grebe, located in Brooklyn, New York, had a reputation for excellent equipment, particularly to amateur radio operators, so…this is a Grebe CR-18, which had plug-in coils so you could get short waves on it.

Comical things were done (picking up a shell)…this is a loudspeaker…clever idea.

That’s the output amplifier of WPRO, and that’s WFCI…Frank Crook, Incorporated.

Fred – “Have you ever been in a factory where they made tubes?”

I can’t recall that I have.

Fred – “It must have been quite an operation.”

Yeah. Well, they made them by the skillions.”

That’s cute (opening top of box in Kennedy display)…the batteries go in here…one tuber.  Here’s another little one-tuber.

Magnavox were the world’s first high-fidelity people…because this is is a push-pull amplifier, not a single-ended amplifier…and push-pull means that the sine wave…has an amplifier up, and another amplifier down, so you don’t have a distorted shape to the wave form.  So, Magnavox…well, that’s a long time ago, but they also have another claim to fame.  Marconi, in his pushy way, the company brought suit against all the American Wireless people in 1910…this is the British Marconi company…and an English judge concluded that they were all infringing Marconi’s patent.  So, that put Massie out of business, it put de Forest out of business, it put basically all of the American manufacturers…basically shut down because of this law, but coming to Magnavox here, reminds me that Magnavox reversed that patent case.  In 1942, the Supreme Court decided that the 1910 British decision was in error.  The whole history of radio would have been changed, but all of the principals were dead by then.  Massie, in particular, was riding very high…he had a big yacht, you know…Commodore of the Rhode Island Yacht Club, and he was doing great…all of a sudden…off the cliff.  But if the English judge had not decided erroneously, who knows what Massie would have become!  Much more than just PJ.

RCA made some pretty nice stuff…and Westinghouse made it for them…see, this is Westinghouse Radiola.  This little set…this is a self-contained…I had this as a kid, and obviously…kids take things apart…but this used to have D-cells in here for the filaments, and “B” Batteries in here for the plates…and I thought this was the cat’s mustache when I was a kid.  We’d take it out in the bay when we went on these camping trips, and we’d have radio, you know?…Hooray!  But that’s got nothing to do with what you’re recording here…I shouldn’t talk…

Fred – “To ask a really dumb question, what does Heterodyne mean?”

It’s not a dumb question.  I should go back to the Greek roots.  “Dyne” is power, and “hetero” meaning, “mix”.  All those radios down there have…two-men-and-a-boy number of knobs to twiddle on the front.  You had to line up all these knobs together to synchronize it.  See, super-heterodyne, which was an invention of Armstrong…was that you would mix the incoming signal with a local oscillator signal, and all you’d have to do is vary the local oscillator signal so that the mixture would come out to a fixed frequency.  No matter what the incoming station is, you would amplify it all on the same frequency so you wouldn’t have a bunch of knobs.  So, a super-het has basically a control for the local oscillator and the antenna coil at the beginning.  And all the amplifier stages were of the same frequency, so you didn’t have to have a knob on each one.  And they peaked up and it simplified the whole thing.  This is another one of Edwin Armstrong’s inventions…the super-het.

So, as we go in evolution…you see, I don’t know if this is a super-het…maybe it is, I’m not sure…well, that’s a super-het…radios start getting simpler with the super-het, you see you don’t have a bunch of knobs…but we’re not moving in time along this counter…we’re moving alphabetically.

Text from the transcript of a tour of New England Wireless & Steam Museum’s Wireless Building given by Robert W. Merriam on a winter day in 2012. Transcription by Craig H. Moody, K1CHM. Edited by Fred Jaggi.