Communications Receivers

What we have beyond here are communications receivers of various kinds made by various manufacturers.

Fred – “These are all receivers?”

Yes…well there are Handi-Talkies which are transmitter/receivers, but most of them are just receivers.  These are World War II Handi-Talkies.  These are my age in the Army.  These are vacuum tube devices, and they’re quite heavy…push-to-talk, you know…

Fred – “Being tubes, are they delicate?”

Yes.  They were ruggedized.  Motorola made them, and of course, over evolution, this is the same thing later.

Down here…various kinds of receivers…that’s a military two-way thing…it really is not important to talk about…these are all communications receivers along here…RME was a manufacturer that I rather liked when I was a young fellow.  This row is all RME…from here…down to here…Radio Manufacturers Engineers.

Fred – “Now, do these seem to get better over time?”

Oh, absolutely…with evolution…Hallicrafters, known to most hams as “Halli-Scratchy’s”…Bill Halligan was a Boston radio guy in the 1910’s, and he went out to Chicago and founded Hallicrafter Company.  And he wound up making television sets and all kinds of stuff toward the end, and these are all Hallicrafters.

Fred – “So this top row is…what did you say they were? RME?”

Radio Manufacturers Engineers.

Fred – “Okay, so the top row is that, then this second row is Hallicrafters except for that couple of World War II walkie-talkies?”

Right.  And down here is National.  National was in Waltham, Massachusetts, and their SW-3 is a classic. It is a three-tuber.

Fred – “Now, these don’t look like you’d have them in your living room”

No, these are communications receivers…this is a three-tuber.

Fred – “What do you mean by communication receiver versus a radio receiver?”

Well, it’s all-wave, not just broadcast band…short waves, and so forth.  And, as a matter of fact, Admiral Byrd…do you remember he wrote a book called, “Alone”? He spent the winter down on the ice at the South Pole.  His means of reaching out was with the SW-3 as a receiver.  Richard Byrd…Admiral Byrd…made the SW-3 pretty famous.

Fred – “Didn’t he nearly kill himself from carbon monoxide?”

Carbon monoxide, absolutely.  And they could detect…everything was telegraph, you know, communicating with a key…and I think they detected that his sending was getting all blurred and screwed up, so they mounted a rescue team and got him.

National was a famous company…this is the FB-7.  That’s another National…all various types of National receivers.  Hallicrafters, you see, goes all the way down to the end.

And then, of course, you had classic…in the 1930’s, with the depression, and people not having much money, they would build their own sets.  And there would be startup companies that would make simple receivers…and this is a typical 1930’s receiver made in New York.

And we have here…I made a little set, a little bit smaller than that, when I was going to be shipped overseas in the army in World War II…and of course, it was strictly verboten to have a radio on a ship because a sub of the day could detect the regeneration.  Anyway, I tried to sneak this thing in my duffle bag, but you go through different stages of inspection, and I finally came to an inspection station and somebody took it out and threw it away.  I never forgave them.

This is a classic of simplicity and high performance.  The nineteen has two triodes in it…I don’t know if you can see that…but it’s got two tubes in one.  So, what you need for a simple regenerative receiver is a detector and an amplifier.  One of the tubes is the detector, the other’s the amplifier.  And it’s a regenerative receiver, plug-in coil to change the band…you can see how cheap it was…it was just a piece of tin, but it was very, very popular.  My cousin, Dick Day, down in Maryland, built one…not from the kit, but from the description, and I was amazed how well the darn thing worked.  He and I went to the same prep school together many years ago.

Pilot was in Brooklyn, New York, and they were a big time manufacturer for quite a while, and these are the Pilot Wasps.  They were a famous set.  It’s a super-duper Pilot Wasp.

Getting higher and higher in frequency…like today, they are way, way up past visible light…doing things, but…5 meters was the rage for a while, and this is a little 5-meter receiver.

Merrill Budlong, who was one of our founding directors in this museum, W1QLD…during the war he was exempt from the military…he was too old, I guess, and he had a bunch of kids and so forth, so he didn’t go to war but he got very active in the Civil Air Patrol, another quasi military group…he designed this little radio, and they must have made about thirty of them…so that the different stations around the state could communicate in emergencies.

Fred – “That’s a transmitter and receiver, it says, right? A transceiver.”


Fred – “Now, there’s another one over here…it says, ‘Make: Merriam’”

Well, the Doerle…I don’t know anything about him…never could find much about him, but he was from San Francisco, and he wrote an article in “Short Wave Craft”, describing the Doerle receiver.

This just a joke…when Paul was young, I made this with him to get him interested in it.  But it’s absolute rudimentary, you see, the chassis is nothing but wood,  the front panel is masonite with aluminum foil on the back for shielding.  You know, it couldn’t be cheaper, but it’s a two-tube blooper and a super performer. They were very popular…”Short Wave Craft”.

This is World War II military…that radio is a BC-191 that was mounted in the rear end of jeeps with a big whip antenna…World War II…piece of junk, designed about 1930 by General Electric, absolutely replaced by Motorola’s frequency modulation…this is a Motorola frequency modulation…that’s a backpack set…but it would sail circles around that one, but that’s pretty darn heavy to carry.

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.