April 1958 Radio-Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
The iconumerator (electronic particle counter),
the vidicon tube (TV image recorder),
the Electro Importing Co.'s Telimco (world's
first home wireless outfit), the Wireless Association of
America (founded before ARRL), the
Dynamophone (voice-activated switch),
the "Swatties" (members of the Society of
Wireless Telegraph Engineers), the "Detectorium"
(silicon crystal detector), Ralph
124C 41+ and his sweetheart Alice 212B 423
(Gernsback sci-fi series) were covered.
Radio Amateur News predated QST as America's premier magazine
for Hams, the famous 1919 "Verboten" cartoon
(protested limitations on private radio operators
from the wartime era), the de Forest "Oscillion," Major Armstrong's
superregenerative circuit, the first "network" broadcast
(WEAF in New York City and WNAC in Boston),
the Reinartz, the Super, the Autoplex, the Solo dyne, and the Neutrodyn
(home radio receiver kits), Tec-Teleducation
(audiovisual classrooms), variable
mu, metal, tuning eyes, octal, loctal, and acorn tubes, and much,
much more was reported in Hugo Gernsback's many electronics publications
during the half century period that began in 1908. Read about them
all in this extensive article written by Tom Kennedy.
Half a Century of Electronics Publishing - 50th Anniversary
By T. R. Kennedy, Jr.
50 years ago this month the world's first radio magazine
was launched. It - and those that came after it played an
important part in the half century of electronic progress
The first issue - Modern Electrics for April
half-century ago - April, 1908- Modern Electrics, the world's
first publication designed to explain and popularize "wireless,"
was published. Its editor and founder, Hugo Gernsback, was a Luxembourgian
who had come here in 1904 as a youth of 19, to market his first
invention, a layer-built dry-cell battery.
With his new battery - which he had patented in Europe - the
young inventor brought many new ideas and devices with him, It was
not long, therefore, before a new company to import, manufacture
and market devices for the electrical and the new group of "wireless"
experimenters, made its appearance. Called the Electro Importing
Co., it occupied a small loft at 32 Park Place, later a larger one
at 87 Warren St. and still later at 84-86 West Broadway, in lower
Manhattan; a little later, there was added a retail store at 68
West Broadway, the world's first radio store.
Among other items, the E.I.Co. began marketing the first home
or private radio ever offered the public. Called the Telimco (from
The E.I.Co. name) wireless telegraph outfit, it was advertised in
Scientific American in January, 1906. Sales were slow at
first - the new company had to convince not only the public but
the police that the device would send signals through the air without
wires - but it soon became the most important product of the E.I.Co.
The original Telimco model is now in the Ford Museum at Dearborn,
Early picture of the Electro Importing Co.'s first retail
store - the world's first radio store - and the type of
equipment that was sold before 1910.
So much explanatory material was needed in those days to tell
about what the Electro Importing Co. had to sell to electrical experimenters
and wireless enthusiasts that the company's voluminous catalog often
contained long explanatory articles. Gernsback found himself already
a publisher of electrical and wireless information, and it was but
a step to a regular monthly periodical.
Though he used the conservative Modern Electrics as
a title (a "radio" magazine pure and simple could hardly have survived
in 1908) the very first article of that original April issue was
entitled "Wireless Telegraphy." Another article "by our Brussels
correspondent" described a wireless-equipped automobile. There was
also a piece about long-distance records established by the United
States fleet, whose transmissions from the west coast of Mexico
had been received at San Francisco and at Pensacola, Fla.
The first issue contained 40 pages. Price was announced as 10
cents a copy - $1 per year.
In the very next issue of Modern Electrics (May, 1908),
Gernsback elaborated on his Telimco dot-and-dash wireless with an
invention he called the Dynamophone, in which the human voice, through
a microphone, coupled to a spark coil, transmitted to a distant
receiver enough energy to operate a relay and start an electric
motor. This might be called the great-granddaddy of today's numerous
voice-operated systems now used in oceanic radio and elsewhere.
In subsequent issues he commented on the electric tubes then
in existence, based on the Geissler and Crookes bulbs. July's
Modern Electrics carried an article by V. H. Laughter on
"Speaking Arc Lamp," forerunner of the high-power arc transmitters,
the arc flame of which was "modulated" by stepped-up voice frequencies.
About a year later, Valdemar Poulsen developed and announced an
arc transmitter that covered 150 miles on first test. Laughter,
incidentally, has continued as an author in these magazines to present
times. One of his latest articles (June, 1950) was on "Making Large
Replica of "the first radio set ever sold to the public,"
a small spark transmitter and receiver, now rests in Ford
Museum at Dearborn. This set was demonstrated at the IRE
convention in 1954, the last time spark transmission was
authorized by the FCC.
A "loud-speaking telephone," which could be heard without pressing
the device against the ear, was offered by the Modern Electrics
Berlin correspondent in the September, 1908, issue. Actual contact
with the ear, and thus the possibility of picking up germs from
the device, was said to be avoided. No other use was foreseen.
The Wireless Association of America was promoted in 1909, to
further the interests of wireless telegraphy and "aerophony" in
America. There were two conditions of membership - American citizenship
and ownership of a sending or receiving set (or both). Lee de Forest
was the first president. From the membership of this organization
and the "Swatties," or Society of Wireless Telegraph Engineers,
of Boston, grew the present-day Institute of Radio Engineers, which
came into official being on May 13, 1912.
A prominent article in the May, 1909, issue was entitled "Signaling
to Mars." In those days it was thought that a power of 70,000 kw
would be necessary. This could be supplied, the article pointed
out, by focusing many high-power long-wave stations on Mars from
various spots on Earth, synchronizing them to operate at the same
time from a single key.
Not content with pioneering in the new world of wireless, Modern
Electrics boldly attacked the unattainable objective of sending
pictures through space. In an article "Television and the Telephot"
in December, 1909, several approaches and proposals by leading experimenters
were described. All included a mosaic of selenium or other light-sensitive
cells as a transmitter and a similar mosaic of small lamps to form
the receiving screen. The state of the art had apparently not advanced
to the point where a synchronized scanning system could even be
visualized. Gernsback proposed a method whereby the large number
of wires could be cut down by using different frequencies and tuned
relays, and whereby varying light intensities could be reproduced
with varying current strengths. This was said to be necessary to
transmit images of objects in motion and to give a recognizable
image. No patents were taken out on the device, as it was considered
too complicated for practical realization in the form described.
Modern Electrics, now grown to a circulation of more
than 30,000, lent its issue of April, 1910, to the complete printing
of the proposed Burke Wireless Bill, which was devised to "regulate
and control the use of wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony."
This was one of the first actions in the struggle against Federal
attempts to "regulate" the amateur into oblivion or ineffectiveness,
in which the Gernsback publications were to take so active a part.
An early E.I.Co. scene. Not only was manufacturing and
shipping carried on here, but Modern Electrics
was edited on the premises too.
In Modern Electrics of May, 1910, it was learned that
Bellini and Tosi, two Italian experimenters at Boulogne, whose work
had been reported on in the March and May, 1909, issues, had devised
a system of directing wireless waves in space. The process could
be reversed - incoming waves could reveal the direction from which
they arrived. And so was born one of the earliest direction finders.
In the same month the entire organization moved into a roomy
5-story building at 233 Fulton St. Celebrating the new quarters,
Modern Electrics carried a leading story from Thomas A.
Edison on a new nickel-iron storage battery, which Edison had toiled
6 years to perfect.
The editor told of his new "Detectorium" in July, 1910. It incorporated
a silicon crystal detector as an integral part of a double-slide
tuning coil. The blunt silicon point, held in a brass cup, contacted
the coil wires as the slider was moved to tune. One actually "tuned
with the detector." The issue also noted the formation of the Wireless
Association of Pennsylvania, organized to fight the proposed Depew
Bill, which would have limited the use of the air to commercial
In the April, 1911, Modern. Electrics Gernsback leaped
into the 27th century with the now-classic serialized story "Ralph
124C 41+," which, intended to give the reader a picture of the distant
future, contained a considerable number of then astounding predictions
that have since been realized. Among other things, it pictured the
essential elements of radar, telling how pulsed radio waves could
be bounced off objects near and far, then to return to the sending
point to reveal the distance and direction of travel.
On April 1, 1911, it was announced that the Wireless Association
of America had reached the then phenomenal number of 11,360 members.
Somewhat reluctantly, notice was given that the cost of association
buttons had to be raised to 20 cents. In the August issue Dr. Charles
P. Steinmetz, the electrical wizard, discoursed on "Lightning Phenomena."
A page ad in the October issue offered the "best Audion made in
the United States." Price complete on a wooden stand, $4. In the
same issue, Ralph 124C 41+ was seeking his sweetheart, Alice 212B
423, who had been kidnapped and whisked away into space by a villainous
Martian. Ralph was hard on the trail of the abductor, whom he had
located through his "polarized wave apparatus" or long-distance
radar - not so fantastic today as it sounded in 1911.
Early E.I.Co. catalog. These were the ancestors of Modern
Electrics, not only in name but in partial contents.
Membership buttons of two of America's oldest radio associations,
the Wireless Association of America - the world's first
- and the Radio League of America, both organized by Hugo
The US Naval radio station NAA at Arlington, Va., opened early
in the year, and could be heard henceforth around the world, transmitting
time signals at noon EST. On Dec. 11, the Alexander Wireless Bill
had been referred to the Congressional Committee on the Merchant
Marine and Fisheries and ordered to be printed. Modern Electrics
carried the full text in the February, 1912, issue. The same issue's
editorial practically wrote a constitution for the American amateur,
so closely was it followed in the Wireless Bill as finally enacted:
"Modern Electrics," Feb. 1912
"There should be 4 bill passed restraining the amateur from using
too much power, say anything above 1 K.W. The wave length of the
amateur wireless station should else be regulated in order that
only wave lengths from a few meters up to 200 could be used. Wave
lengths of from 200 to 1,000 meters, the amateurs should not be
allowed to use, but they could use any wave length above 1.000 ..."
Wireless Act of 1912 (Section 15)
Law enacted Dec. 1912
"No private or commercial station not engaged in the transaction
of bona fide commercial business by radio communication ... shall
use a transmitting wave length exceeding two hundred meters or a
transformer input exceeding one kilowatt except by special authority
of the Secretary of Commerce and Labor contained in the license
of the station ..."
The publisher announced that with the April issue the price of
Modern Electrics would be 15 cents. On April 14 the Titanic
had been sunk at sea. Wireless from the vessel brought aid and 700
lives were saved, proving the great value of the new medium. In
the April issue Clapp-Eastham announced its Blitzen tuner, and Murdock
its earphones, which, it was said, could bring in signals over 2,300
But Modern Electrics had about reached the end of a
long and important life as a publication. The last issue was published
in July, 1912, and Gernsback began to concentrate his ideas on something
new, a type of publication dealing more with the affairs of the
"Long live the amateur, long live wireless!" shouted the opening
article of a new publication, "The Electrical Experimenter," which
had long been pondered but finally was born with the issue of May,
1913. Gernsback had terminated a campaign on the part of the American
amateur in Modern Electrics, but he plunged at once into
the affairs of hamdom in the Electrical Experimenter by
publishing a lengthy but easy-to-read piece on "Building Large Spark
Coils." He would not accept or print advertising matter, an announcement
said. The periodical - which at 5 cents a copy was said to have
been produced at a loss - would be strictly a service to subscribers
and customers of the Electro Importing Co.
The assistant editor was Harry Winfield Secor, who had been with
Gernsback on Modern Electrics, and who was destined to
be a member of the organization - with brief interruptions - to
the present day.
Lee de Forest in the June, 1913, Electrical Experimenter
told of "Recent Developments at the Federal Telegraph Co." which
he said "enjoyed the distinction of having no press agents."
In the February, 1914, issue, Gernsback reported on his "Radioson"
detector, which was made by fusing a .0002-inch diameter platinum
wire into a tube of special glass so that only the most minute tip
of the metal was presented to the electrolytic solution. It was
said to have been some 1,246 times smaller than the best bare-point
Wollaston wire of the day, The wireless wavemeter, one of the fundamental
tools of the art, made its appearance in the Electrical Experimenter
In the spring and summer of 1915, with Europe at war, radio and
electronics began to move faster. On May 7 an SOS from the Lusitania
revealed that the vessel had been sunk by a German U-boat. Wireless
dramatically had proven again its usefulness.
In the winter of 1915-16, under the aegis of the Electrical
Experimenter, radio leaders in this country formed the Radio
League of America. Its purpose was to "promote the art of amateur
wireless telegraphy and telephony in the US ... to make available
to the Government a complete list of US amateur stations ... pledged
to serve the country in time of national danger or need ... "
First drawing of radar equipment appeared in Modern
Electrics in 1911, to Illustrate a science-fiction
There was plenty of opportunity for the magazine to take part
in the country's service, and it carried on a campaign to educate
the public - and the Government - to the dangers posed to the country's
neutrality by the large German stations at Sayville, N. Y., and
Tuckerton, N. J, The cover of the August, 1915, issue showed "Sayville
Wireless Receiving German War Report," and the editorial pointed
out, with examples, how simple it would be to send coded messages
which would assist German U-boats to sink enemy (and neutral) shipping.
In the very next issue of Electrical Experimenter came
the news that the Government had closed the station at Sayville,
later reopening it with a full Government staff, Charles E. Apgar,
wireless amateur of Westfield, N. J., had recorded Sayville's messages
on wax records and turned them over to Federal authorities for decoding.
These, when played back, furnished sufficient evidence to cause
the Government to close the station.
Meanwhile, the part played by the magazine aroused sharp resentment
from the old Sayville officials. Dr. K. G. Frank, head of the station,
wrote a bitter letter to the editor, the point of which was a little
blunted by the fact that by the time it was printed, the Government
had already closed Sayville. Dr. Frank, incidentally, was later
convicted as a German Intelligence agent.
By this time Electrical Experimenter (it was in the
spring of 1917) was carrying a few ads - the de Forest "Oscillion"
for $60, Pacific Laboratories displayed and described double-end
vacuum-tube detectors. Crystal detectors were still in the literature
of the day, but many realized they were on the way out. An editorial
on "War and the Radio Amateur," stated that the huge backlog of
amateur operators could be inducted into the country's service at
a moment's notice. "What other country could provide such a vast
army of well-trained and intelligent men as this, whose very multitude
is a priceless protection?"
Then on April 6 the US entered the war and President Wilson signed
the order silencing the amateurs for the duration. Many, forthwith,
went into the armed forces as an outlet for their activities. Gernsback
promptly gave vent to his imagination in an editorial on the possibilities
of "Shooting with Electricity," or magnetism, to be more exact.
Thereafter, Electrical Experimenter explored many facets of the
expanding use of electronics in warfare.
But for the Electrical Experimenter and its merchandising
associate, the Electro Importing Co., a crisis was at hand. Its
business - and inventory - has been increasing since 1908. Now President
Wilson clamped down on the sale of radio equipment. There was a
war on. With a fortune in parts on hand, there was no one to sell
them to. One of Gernsback's first acts was to assemble simple telegraph
outfits. He sold thousands, but this did not take care of the great
bulk of apparatus on hand.
Then one night he stayed in the factory till 2 am, "rummaging
over all the parts in the shop." Suddenly came the solution to the
dilemma. He would assemble sets of lamps, batteries, keys, phones
and other electrical components into a neat little box called "The
Boy's Electric Toys." Sitting up late several nights, he compiled
a 32-page profusely illustrated booklet of "100 Electrical Experiments"
that could be performed with the outfit. This little publication
may well have been the most important one the organization ever
printed. With its aid the shelves were cleared and the day saved
for the E.I.Co. and, of course, Electrical Experimenter.
The amateur station of Charles Apgar. Equipment with
which the Sayville wireless messages were recorded may be
seen at right.
The editorial of January, 1919, was entitled "Electric Music."
It predicted telephone receivers covering every audible tone, with
almost any required amount of loudness. Thus was anticipated the
current world of high fidelity, the loudspeaker without a horn and
the high-power amplifier to drive it. Even electronic or "concrete"
music was predicted.
In the February, 1919, issue, Electrical Experimenter
began a series of articles entitled "My Inventions" by Nikola Tesla.
To persuade the great Tesla to write his own autobiography was no
mean feat, and the editor still looks back on it as his greatest
journalistic beat. The series ended in the May issue, with the author
stating confidently that his proposed system of wireless transmission
of power, temporarily defeated, would finally become a "triumphal
With the war over, the question of "regulating the amateur" came
up again. The 65th Congress proposed to amend the Alexander Wireless
Bill, but the proposed amendments forbade so many things essential
to the amateur that the editor was moved to lampoon the bill in
a bitter cartoon in the February Electrical Experimenter. The bill
was killed. The hated demon had been effectively exorcised by :he
power of the cartoonist's pen and of the printed word.
The Acting Secretary of the Navy announced that, effective April
15, 1919, all restrictions were removed on radio receiving stations
other than those used for reception of commercial traffic.
News is born
The opening of the broadcast era was at hand, and the Electrical
Experimenter wrote of this and other marvels to come, in the
January, 1920, issue. Among this bewildering maze of wartime inventions
and discoveries, none was more dramatic in operation than the radio
compass, described by Pierre Boucheron. It used a large Kolster
coil or loop rotated by a handwheel to which was attached a compass
card. Fixed below was a pointer to indicate degrees, hence the bearing
of the ship transmitting the signal.
In July, 1919, Gernsback had begun a new publication, Radio
Amateur News, It was his first strictly radio publication,
"the logical outcome," he went on editorially, "of many attempts
to put out a purely radio periodical, independent throughout and
devoted to American Radio Amateurism." He explained that in 1908
he had started the "first magazine in America-Modern Electrics
- in which many radio articles appeared, but radio amateurism then
being in its infancy could not support a purely radio magazine."
For that reason Modern Electrics devoted about one-quarter
of its content to radio. Then came the Electrical Experimenter
in 1913, "which had been more prominent than any other on account
of its very important radio section. Even during the war, with amateurism
dead and nearly every radio magazine discontinued, Electrical
Experimenter at great financial loss continued radio articles
uninterruptedly, month after month, to keep alive the radio spark
in the hearts of our amateurs."
A communications receiver, with regeneration, as used
by amateurs about 1916.
But with the war won and a new law defeated that would have killed
amateurism, he wrote, "we will witness the most wonderful expansion
the radio arts have ever dreamed of. I predict an astounding growth
in the next 10 years."
Electrical Experimenter had, for some months, been carrying
on its cover a second title - "Science and Invention." In August,
1920, Science and Invention became the official name, leaving
Radio Amateur News to cover practically all the wireless
material formerly handled by it. Electrical Experimenter-Science
and Invention carried tremendous prestige and was immensely
useful. During its life - till 1929 - it was virtually the electrical
and experimental bible for countless youngsters and grownups - the
primary stimulus for many a future career.
The famous "Verboten" cartoon, said to have been an important
factor in defeating the amended Alexander bill, which would
have destroyed amateur radio as we know it.
The October, 1919, Radio Amateur News carried a stop-press
bulletin that "all restrictions on amateur radio are removed," and
a longer mention appeared in the November issue. The world of the
ham operator would resume its pre-war status under the Department
Inspired by the great possibilities of remote control of all
kinds of systems by radio, the June, 1920, Radio Amateur News
pointed out that "vast fields remain to be tapped in this category."
The work of John Hays Hammond Jr. in this new field, the editorial
stated, mystified those who watched torpedoes and small craft maneuvering
without visible means of control. Radio, of course, was doing it,
by transmissions from hidden shore stations. After June, 1920, the
word "Amateur" dropped out of the name, and the magazine became
simply Radio News.
In April, 1921, a full-page ad announced Cunningham power tubes,
type C-302, 5 watts output, price $8. Incidentally, RCA Radiotrons
UV-200 and UV-201, the "best detector" and "best amplifier," sold
for $5 and $6.50, respectively. The first annual Amateur Radio Show
and Convention was staged at New York's Pennsylvania Hotel Roof
The first religious broadcast came over KDKA from the Calvary
Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh, on Jan. 2, 1921. The 200-kw Alexanderson
alternator went into service at Tuckerton, N. J., the same month.
KDKA carried the first boxing match - Johnny Ray vs Johnny Dundee,
on April 11, and that station also broadcast the first theatrical
performance from the Davis Theatre May 9.
In an experiment conducted early in 1922 at the request of the
Italian Government, a portrait of King Victor Emmanuel was transmitted
by facsimile equipment devised by Dr. Arthur Korn. Dr. J. H. Miller
of the Navy's Radio Research Bureau devised a radio-frequency amplifying
system with a range of 800 to 20,000 meters (375 to 15 kc), "with
some gain as low as 150 meters" (2,000 kc ) .
Attending church with a crystal set in the early 1920's.
Bettmann Archives Photo
The famous Amrad Basketball variometer was advertised - $6.50
to $11.50. General Radio of Cambridge, Mass., put a quality audio
transformer on the market - $5. Magnavox got out an 18-inch gooseneck
horn dynamic loudspeaker - $85; "for those who wish the utmost."
Broadcast stations on the air by August, 1922, reached 227 and,
by December, 569 Radio News reported. Major Armstrong announced
his superregenerative circuit on June 28. By August, WEAF, New York
City, was sending from the Telephone Co. Building in lower Manhattan.
That same month it broadcast the first sponsored program ever put
on the air - 10 minutes for $100 - sponsored by the Queensboro Corp.,
to sell real estate.
January of 1923 saw the first "network" broadcast, a 3-hour hookup
of WEAF in New York City and WNAC in Boston. Dr. J. A. Fleming,
the great British inventor of the Fleming valve rectifier, began
a series of articles in February. It was titled "Electrons, Electric
Waves and Radio Telephony."
It was a period of great concept and invention. Prof. Louis A.
Hazeltine described his soon-to-be-famous Neutrodyne, based on a
mathematical principle, to the Radio Club of America. An editorial
in the August, 1923, issue pointed out the tremendous field of research
open to the radio amateur on waves between 1 and 10 meters, "where
static almost vanishes, and new and unsuspected phenomena await
Some 600 variable condensers were on the market at one time in
that period. All had to bear the label "low-loss" or they wouldn't
sell. Louis Gerard Pacent created one of the first of the new order
of inductances. He called it the "duo-lateral" and pronounced it
the most efficient ever.
On the cover of Science and Invention in November, 1923, Gernsback
showed his Osophone, the first bone-conduction device with which
the deaf could hear through the teeth.
Another invention ("the only patent that ever brought me in any
money") was filed for patent on Sept. 27, 1923. It was a variable
condenser, comprising " ... a condenser plate, secured on the base
... and a cooperating resilient plate ... means for flexing the
resilient plate." In clearer language, it was the compression capacitor,
now used almost universally as a trimmer, to track the sections
of a variable capacitor gang. The device was sold to Crosley and
was used as a "book condenser" in the Crosley Trirdyne receiver.
Patent drawing of the compression capacitor; prototype
of today's trimmers.
In Radio News in December, he advocated a "single-knob
control" for radios, adding that "one of these days" we will tune
in with one knob ("and possibly an additional one for volume") and
get along without all the multi-control paraphernalia of the usual
receiver of the day. He had visited the television laboratory of
C. Francis Jenkins and called what he saw there the "most marvelous
thing of this age." Crude television, but impressive then.
Maj. Edwin H. Armstrong had brought back from his wartime service
in the U.S. Army in France an unusual receiver called the superheterodyne.
It outshone all others for sheer sensitivity and selectivity. Those
who dared could buy the diagram and parts and build one of these
"supers" - if they had the skill, patience, time and sheer luck.
This was the heyday of the hookup, and Radio News published
accounts of them all. Experts and nonexperts built the Reinartz,
the super, the Autoplex, the Solo dyne, the Neutrodyne and scores
of others that caused sleepless nights to thousands of tinkerers.
Even Radio News had its pet circuit, called the Ultradyne,
and told the story of its development in February, 1924. It was
an improved superhet, devised by the associate editor - Robert E.
Lacault - and gained wide popularity.
The oscillating tube appeared in a new role - a producer of music
- with the Staccatone, conceived by Gernsback and developed for
him by Clyde Fitch. It consisted of a Hartley oscillator with a
large tapped inductance consisting of several 1,500-turn honeycomb
coils. The instrument's keys were connected to the taps, and two
large capacitors could be switched in to increase the range. It
was used as a 2-note interval signal on WRNY (a very useful device
at a time when a station might be silent a few minutes between selections
without announcement or' apology) and was apparently the first interval
signal to be used so. The musical 16-note instrument had been heard
on the air before - over WJZ in November, 1923, and had been demonstrated
in conjunction with an orchestra under the direction of Dr. Hugo
Riesenfeld. Its construction was described in the March, 1924, issue
of Practical Electrics.
In May, 1924, H. C. Harrison of Western Electric Co. received
a patent on the electrical recording of sound, greatly increasing
the tonal quality of the phonograph record. Western's sister company,
Bell Laboratories, worked out an improved acoustic phonograph with
an exponential horn to take advantage of the new electric recordings,
which could not be heard to full advantage on older phonographs,
In March, 1925, a contract for commercial use of the new recording
method and the new phonograph was signed with the Victor Talking
Machine Co., and in November the new Orthophonic line of phonographs
and the new records were put on the market. At practically the same
time, Brunswick offered an electrical phonograph; the Panatrope,
with a pickup designed and manufactured by General Electric, in
which records could be played through an amplifier, an improvement
even on Victor's new acoustic Orthophonic system.
Major Armstrong and his superregenerator, with its 1200-
and 1500-turn honeycomb coils.
The humble beginnings of pioneer station KDKA in the
upper story of Dr. Frank Conrad's Wilkinsburg, Pa., garage,
Brown Bros. Photo.
A regular 6-city broadcast network was set up with WEAF as the
key station in October, 1924. It had increased to 12 cities by the
spring of 1925. Thus was networking firmly established.
During the '20's, when it was hard to supply all the information
needed in the new art, new publications were welcomed and read avidly.
Beside the Experimenter, Gernsback published an annual Radio
News Amateur's' Handibook, which ran from 1923 to 1929, and
Radio Review, "A Digest of the Latest Radio Hookups," ran from 1925
to 1927, when the hookup craze had started to die down. Radio Internacional,
which was Radio News in Spanish, ran through 1926 and 1927. Radio
Listener's Guide and Call Book was published in 1927 and 1928 as
a quarterly, giving broadcast stations and shortwave transmitters.
There was also the Radio Program Weekly around 1927 - the only weekly
ever published by the organization. Television, the world's first
TV magazine, came out in two annual issues - 1927 and 1928. Later,
in 1931 and 1932, a bi-monthly, Television News, was also to be
the only television magazine of its time.
Books as well as periodicals were also in demand. The organization
had been printing books since 1910, when the first call book of
amateur stations was printed under the sponsorship of Modern Electrics.
The Electric Library, whose second publication was the one-time
famous The Wireless Telephone, published from the earliest days.
During the Electrical Experimenter period it gave way to the Experimenter
Library, a title that proved so popular that it was revived in the
1920's for a new series of books. These were usually small, stiff
paper-covered works dealing with simple radio subjects. Gernsback
in 1922 wrote a larger work of 291 pages, entitled Radio for All,
which was published by Lippincott.
In November, 1921, another new magazine, Practical Electrics,
was announced. Beginners were finding Radio Amateur News
a bit over their heads most of the time, and the new magazine was
slanted to "the electrically inclined layman, the electrical professional
man, the experimenter, the student and the beginner." In 1924 the
name was changed to The Experimenter, and the magazine
continued to February, 1926. It was then merged with Science and
Invention, which carried on a number of its departments for the
experimenter and student.
The Experimenter of November, 1924, envisioned a military
"radio television plane" which would fly without a living person
aboard. Its movement would be controlled by radio from the ground.
The plane would be equipped with "eyes" to look in six directions
at once. Miles away, and safely behind the lines of the battlefront,
the control operator would be able to inspect what was taking place
in the plane's vicinity better than an aviator in the plane could
do. The radio-controlled craft could be directed to reconnoiter,
or to drop bombs on the enemy. It was a fantastic picture of warfare
then, but by no means so today viewed from the vantage point of
some 35 years of technical progress.
In January, 1925, Radio News began the story of Prof.
Reginald A. Fessenden. It was perhaps one of the most important
autobiographies in radio literature. He is credited with more than
300 inventions, without which the art today would not be what it
is. In the issue of January, 1925, Dr. Greenleaf W. Pickard, one
of the most consummate experimenters of his day, described his discovery
of the oscillating crystal, giving the credit for it to Dr. W. H.
Eccles. The average Radio News was a big periodical by
now-200-odd pages in the April issue, with a monthly print order
of 400,000 copies.
The regenerative Interflex receiver, using a diode detector
in the grid circuit of the first audio tube.
There were 564 broadcast stations in the country by June, 1925,
operating on 100 channels. Crowding was a big problem, but with
time-sharing and geographical separation there were channels for
550 stations. Then the broadcast band was extended downward and
100 more channels came into use. As a result, 800 stations operated
under conditions short of ideal because high-quality transmission
was being used, and 10-kilocycle separation was not adequate for
best reception. Radio News explained the situation editorially.
New sets would be made to bring in the extended channels, but existing
receivers could do nothing about it economically, if at all. In
July, 1925, Radio News launched its own broadcast station,
WRNY, which later (in 1928) achieved the distinction of being the
first broadcast station to transmit television.
Then came a new idea in radio. It was the ac tube, chronicled
in Radio News of June, 1925. A low voltage was applied
to the filament from a transformer, through terminals at the top
of the tube which could be plugged into the sockets of a battery
receiver. These Kellog tubes disappeared when more advanced ac types
In Radio News of September, 1925, Gernsback described
a rather unusual receiver of his own development. It was a four-tube
single-dial tuner with a crystal in the grid circuit of the second
tube, which would normally have been a grid-leak detector. He called
this receiver the Interflex and stated that his detector-amplifier
stage gave "great amplification with unusual stability of operation,"
The Interflex was later improved by balancing the rf stage and in
December, 1925, the "Regenerative Interflex" was described. It had
the crystal in the grid circuit of the first tube, with a tickler
coil to produce regeneration, thus combining rf and af amplification
in a single tube, with a direct-coupled diode detector.
This picture from the Experimenter, in 1924, was the
first description of military television. A remote-controlled
plane was represented as being equipped with television
cameras looking in the four directions as well as up and
down, and the scenes would be projected on a six-paneled
screen at general staff headquarters.
The spring of 1926 had come. "What in your opinion will be the
next great development?" the editor of Radio News was asked
one day. "Undoubtedly," he replied editorially in the May issue,
"it will be the ability of man to see objects at a distance - any
distance. Why not? Through practically the same medium-radio - we
hear from all over the world!" He went on to describe television
- today's television - at considerable length, and visualized whole
networks of stations operating from a single program source, "capturing
with the utmost detail all the features of a face or landscape,
with sound of highest quality."
When remarks attributed to Edison charged that "radio is a commercial
failure with waning popularity," the editor of Radio News
flew to its defense, pointing out that interest is "steadily increasing"
and that "radio dealers are now making money." Radio sales in 1926
alone would top $520 million.
The National Broadcasting Co. was formed by RCA on Dec. 9, 1926.
RCA had purchased WEAF in July, taken over its 18-city Red Network,
and in December added the WJZ Blue Network. The World Series that
fall had been carried by the Blue Network, as the Yankees and Cardinals
fought it out. The Edison Phonograph Co. had released a 12-inch
disc capable of playing 22 minutes - the world's first long-playing
"Hello, London! Are you there, New York?" And thus - on Jan.
7, 1927 - went 2-way trans-Atlantic voices over the first overseas
radiophone service ever offered for public use. Single-sideband
transmission was used. The preliminary story on the project had
been carried in Radio News of December, 1925, and a complete report
given by G. C. B. Rowe in the March, 1927, issue.
"Can We Radio the Planets?" was the title of a Gernsback article
in the February, 1927, issue. It was proposed to erect a powerful
beam transmitter on one side of the earth, bounce signals off the
moon or planet, and pick up the signal at a station on the opposite
side of the earth. This forecast became a reality 19 years later
when US Signal Corps scientists first established radio contact
with the moon. Interestingly, the January, 1958, Proceedings of
the Institute of Radio Engineers, in an article "Lunar Radio Echoes,"
refers to this early article as the first serious proposal to send
signals to other heavenly bodies "and return."
Thus went the round of invention and development. John L. Baird,
Scottish inventor, described his television system at Glasgow, Scotland.
A Washington's Birthday address by President Coolidge was carried
by a 50-station network from a joint session of Congress. Wire television
was demonstrated between Washington (D. C.), New York and Whippany,
N. J., by the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Secretary of Commerce
Hoover spoke at the Capital City and was seen and heard at this
end. Later in 1927, the Labs demonstrated color television.
"When broadcasting was established in this country," Gernsback
wrote in an editorial for Radio News of July, 1927, "the
universal opinion was that it would always be free." And thus he
disposed of the question of "wired vs space radio," venturing that
toll radio would always be a challenge to the ingenuity of builders
to overcome it and get something for nothing - the bootlegger would
take what he could.
The first "portable radio," an RCA superhet of the middle
In the November, 1927, issue of Radio News, the publisher
disclosed for the first time a new principle in receiver construction
called the Peridyne. It embodied a new method of "shield tuning"
designed to bring the various rf stages into perfect interstage
alignment, hence to operate at maximum possible efficiency. He did
this by placing above the coil a metal disc that was moved up and
down with a threaded rod. The so-called "slug" or "shield" thus
compensated for inequalities in the inductance of the tuning coils,
raising or decreasing the inductance in accordance with its distance
from the turns of the coils. The Peridyne principle is the first
use of nonferrous slugs or plates as tuning or trimming devices,
and introduced the service technician to the screw-adjusted trimmer.
True ac-operated sets began to come on the market in the spring
and summer of 1927. RCA had announced the ac-heated 226 and 227
tubes early in 1927. By the end of the year the ac era had arrived,
and several articles in the November issue of Radio News
confirm that fact. The Columbia Broadcasting system went into operation
in September, 1927.
Radio News of January, 1928, announced that the double-grid
tube had arrived, calling it "probably the only real advancement
... since the invention of the triode." The tube had enjoyed tremendous
popularity in Europe, but had been neglected here. Double-grid tubes
had been described "for years in this magazine" and had been used
in the Solodyne, which eliminated the B-battery.
The Peridyne receiver, which introduced nonferrous trimming
slugs for coil tracking.
The electrodynamic cone loudspeaker was developed by the Bell
Telephone Laboratories and demonstrated in April, 1928. Radio
News carried the news at that time and touched on it again
in November issue. The device revolutionized techniques of sound
reproduction. Twenty-one manufacturers were putting out such units
by late 1928. Installed atop a New York office building, one dynamic
speaker was heard three miles away on the New Jersey shore. So great
was their popularity that stores could not get them fast enough,
and reproduction was considered faithful from the lowest to the
highest tones in the range of human hearing.
"During the past few months," editorialized in Radio News
in September, 1928, "a new era seems to have opened that will be
known hereafter as the 'Shortwave Cycle.''' Short waves, it was
explained, are not new, having originated back in the days of 1908
when amateurs began first to converse with each other on waves below
200 meters with dots and dashes. Marconi, in October, 1927, speaking
at the Institute of Radio Engineers, had predicted that the short
waves "are destined to be vital in radio and television." The editorial
went on: "As time passes the interest in short waves becomes greater
and greater ... It would not surprise me at all if during the next
5 years, both sight and sound would be transmitted completely on
short waves, and the upper channels from 200 to 600 meters were
abandoned completely." The Radio News station 2XAL, WRNY's
transmitter on 30.91 meters, which had started in the spring of
1928, "had poor reception within 200 miles of New York, but beyond
that it gets better and better."
In the spring of 1929, Radio News, Science and Invention,
Amazing Stories and associated magazines, were sold to
other interests. Radio News of April, 1929, was the last
Gernsback issue. In July of the same year he created a new magazine
in the fields of the set builder, shortwave fan, radio serviceman
and amateur. He named it Radio-Craft. It would devote itself
to the experimenter and constructor, he editorialized, noting that
in the United States and Canada there were some 250,000 to 350,000
active radio enthusiasts. Radio-Craft would not carry "re-hash
stuff," but new material, "edited first, last and always for its
Under the heading "the Constructor," the first issue of Radio-Craft
carried a story about the "Supreme Power Amplifier" which had two
CX-350 tubes in the output stage. Another story was on the "Harkness
Screen-Grid De Luxe." The magazine also described the Pilot "Super-Wasp,"
which became one of the most famous shortwave sets, in an article
by John Geloso (now one of the leading Italian manufacturers of
electronic and hi-fi equipment). Other authors included Jack Grand,
H. G. Cisin, Clyde J. Fitch and Charles Golenpaul.
Marconi's early "microwave" equipment. Apparatus with
parabolic antenna at left is transmitter; that at right
The permanent-magnet dynamic speaker made its appearance in 1931.
It was recommended for use with battery portables - scarcely anyone
then foresaw it as the universal speaker it is today.
In June, 1930, Short Wave Craft magazine had begun.
It noted the huge buildup of the art, which "promises to assume
large proportions in the years to come." In the June-July issue
of 1931 it was reported that 7-inch waves had spanned the 21 miles
of the English Channel between Calais and Dover, and that amateurs
were blazing trails with contacts throughout the world. The boys
were getting started on channels as short as 5 meters. A 15-watter
had been heard almost around the globe.
With the May issue of 1937 the publication had a new name -
Short Wave and Television (later Radio and Television),
and combining the fields of the shortwave and television experimenter,
had the largest circulation of any such periodical in existence.
In the May issue, John V. L. Hogan, who then owned and operated
New York City's WQXR, wrote on "Short Wave Broadcasting." The publication
continued to dominate the radio-video field until 1941, when it
was merged with Radio-Craft.
One of the decisive tube inventions of the early 1930's was the
"variable-mu" (also known as super-control or remote-cutoff) tube.
It could be biased to control rf gain gradually, hence was a highly
effective device in automatic volume control circuits. It also eliminated
cross-modulation, a bad feature of earlier screen-grid rf tubes.
Based on the variable spacing of grid wires, it was the invention
of the late Stuart Ballantine of Boonton, N. J.
Gernsback Publications put out an Official Radio Service Manual
late in 1930, collecting for the service technician many hitherto
unobtainable schematics of the sets he had to service. Editions
followed annually, and in July, 1933, a Consolidated Manual, combining
the first three volumes. was announced. One of the most important
and valued radio documents of the day, it sold more than 80,000
Meanwhile, British tube makers had produced Catkin metal tubes,
and American manufacturers were quietly experimenting with the metal
In 1932 the Radio-Craft Library appeared. This was a
collection of practical radio books, some of which were made up
of material from the magazine. They were larger than most of the
earlier books published by the organization, running about 64 pages.
Subjects ranged from radio set analyzers to frequency modulation.
The library ran to 28 books and suspended in 1941, due to war shortages.
Some of these red-covered booklets are still to be seen in old-timers'
collections. Short Wave Craft published a number of blue
books on shortwave construction and operation. One of these, on
coil winding, was so useful to the constructor that inquiries for
it are still received occasionally.
In February, 1933, Radio-Craft announced "The Greatest
Set of the Year," a complete ac-dc receiver which could be held
in the hand. The famous International Kadette opened an age of table
midgets, though its size (8 5/8 x 6 1/2 x 4 inches) would not be
startling today. Indeed, it was a three-way portable, for it could
also be used with a 6-volt (auto) battery and B-batteries! The set,
incidentally, was not a superhet-c - it had one stage of rf, power
detector, an audio stage and a small mercury-vapor rectifier which
had been designed for automobile B-power units.
Radio-Craft of December, 1933, carried a feature article
on an even smaller set, called the "Kaydette," by the same company.
It sported two tubes and an indoor antenna.
Elaborating further on his Osophone of 1923, Gernsback described
in Radio-Craft of March, 1934, a later idea in the field,
the Phonosone. It was a Baldwin balanced-armature loudspeaker phone
attached to a headphone headband and worn against the forehead,
permitting vibrations generated by the output of a radio to be transmitted
to the bones of the head, to lighten the world of the deaf and near-deaf.
The Osophone was the first description of a bone-conduction hearing-aid
unit. In the July issue was a story on a light-sensitive device
worn on a strap around the neck. Equipped with a battery and buzzer,
it would help guide the sightless.
A typical radio store of the mid-'20's. It was operated
by United Cigars - believe it or not. The same company had
four service stations in New York City.
Brown Bros. Photo
An editorial in Radio-Craft of August, 1934, noted that
the television "picture is still pitifully inadequate," going on
to remark that "as long as we cannot have an image at least a foot
square of excellent detail that can be viewed in broad daylight,
it is obvious that the television set has not arrived."
Radio, meanwhile, had grown into a multi-million dollar industry
- RCA alone in May, 1935, announced plans to spend $1 million for
field television tests. The radio servicing industry had grown likewise.
The July, 1935, issue announced that "the service business has advanced
to where it must now be recognized as a separate industry, its dollar
sales are in the millions." Estimates from all sources "have established
the amazing figure of some $30 million in labor costs alone in 1934."
Added to equipment costs this swelled the total to $45 to $50 millions
annually. "And this is only the beginning."
Metal radio tubes, similar to those we now have in the shops,
came from American tube makers in the middle 1930's. October
Radio-Craft of 1935 carried an exhaustive semitechnical story
about their design and capabilities. Glass tubes, then, appeared
to be on the way out. However, in Radio-Craft issues of
late 1936, 16 or more new receiving tubes were pictured and described.
Only one was a true metal tube.
"Good servicemen need not be worried about the quackery practices
by the so-called 'gyps' of the game," who were "outnumbered and
certainly would be eliminated," editorialized the July, 1937, issue,
pointing up to present-day readers that the gyp apparently always
has been with us. The same issue reported that the Department of
Commerce had installed ultra-shortwave fan type markers to aid air
traffic at landing fields.
A special, more than double-size number of Radio-Craft
in March, 1938, celebrated the 50th anniversary of radio as dated
from the production of the first radio waves in 1888 by Heinrich
Hertz. It was filled with articles on the progress of radio, its
early history, memoirs of old-timers, and included a few predictions
for the future. The most striking feature was the illustrations,
which depicted radio equipment and installations from the earliest
days. Numbers of the better-established radio companies reprinted
advertisements that had appeared originally nearly two decades before.
Not the least valuable contribution made by the "Jubilee Issue"
was the preservation of historical material in some of the articles
and the old-timers' reminiscences, some of which would be hard to
The International Kadette, earliest of the true small
The best news of summer, 1938, came - television-wise - when
the NBC revealed plans to broadcast 5 hours of visual programs weekly.
Pictures were 441 lines, with a 5 to 6 aspect ratio (10 by 12 inches,
said July's Radio-Craft).
Meanwhile, at the convention of the IRE, Vladimir Zworykin and
R. R. Law of the RCA Laboratories had projected pictures on an 8
x 10-foot screen.
With the July, 1939, issue 10 years of uninterrupted publication
of the magazine had been completed. Gernsback wrote: "I take this
occasion to voice our heartfelt thanks to the thousands of loyal
followers of the magazine and to the large majority of those who
have read it through all these years. Radio has come a long way
since then. In 1929 we had no pentodes, no variable mu, no metal
tubes, no tuning eyes, no octal, loctal or acorn tubes, no black-and-white
cathode-ray tubes that finally made television possible."
A. P. King of the Bell Labs had demonstrated that megaphone horns
could launch 15-cm waves along a wire over distances to the horizon,
adding in the November, 1939, issue that the fidelity of transmission
was "flat within 1 db over a bandwidth of 250 mc," enough to carry
40 or 50 TV channels. Dr. George Southworth of the same organization
was experimenting with coaxial cables and waveguides, and told stories
about removing the inner conductor of a quartz-insulated cable without
affecting the efficiency of transmission, and then of removing the
outer conductor, allowing the microwave signals to be "conducted"
by the insulating quartz alone.
By early 1940, frequency modulation had earned for itself an
almost permanent niche in the Monthly Review department, as the
continuing progress in that field was appraised. Much experimental
work was going on. Major Armstrong's Alpine (N.J.) station W2XMN
had been on the air for some time. On Oct. 31, 1940, the FCC issued
the first commercial FM licenses. The December issue carried an
ABC primer of FM prepared by authorities.
FCC's special authorization for use of Gernsback spark
transmitter at 1954 IRE exhibition. Note that this 1906
equipment was well up in the vhf range.
In the issue of March, 1942, Radio-Craft carried some
30 pages devoted entirely to what leading American radio engineers
thought about FM and its future. Major Armstrong wrote a lengthy
piece. The New York Times paid a million dollars odd for WQXR and
W2QXR. The NBC had installed its FM station - W2XWG - atop the Empire
State Building. There was a station on Mount Washington, N.H. The
radio map of FM was rapidly filling up.
But most radio activity was grinding to a stop because of war
duties and war shortages. The service technician was compelled-and
urged as a patriotic duty - to keep America's receiving sets operating
without new tubes or components Radio-Craft instituted
a special Wartime Radio department, beginning in the August-September,
1942, issue. Articles began to appear on servicing volume controls,
rf coils and other components formerly replaced. There was even
a story on "Wartime Transformer Rewinding" and the long series of
tube-replacement articles began with "War-time Tube Replacements"
in February, 1943. Dozens of such articles - and even a few books
- were printed. The service technician became adept at substituting
practically every tube in the manual, and even repairing a few!
About this time, with the US in the middle of World War II, the
ugly head of "radio censorship" made its appearance and Wendell
Willkie demanded: "Let's not have any more of this nonsense." Radio-Craft,
editorially, echoed those sentiments in December, 1942. Dr. Lee
de Forest, father of radio, had celebrated his 70th birthday at
Los Angeles on Aug. 26, 1943, and his comments on radio in general
were printed in the October issue, following the anniversary.
Nikola Tesla, possibly the greatest inventive mind of all history,
died Jan. 7, 1943. The next issue of the magazine printed a complete
article on the life and inventions of the almost-forgotten genius
who had given us our now-universal alternating current, had pioneered
in high-frequency, radio remote control and in power transmission
by viscosity of liquids, but had in most cases seen his patents
run out long before society was technically able to put them to
work. Expressions of appreciation from the leading figures in the
electronic world indicated that more than one had cut his scientific
teeth on the Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla,
published in 1894.
Beginning with the May issue of 1943, the Radio-Craft
cover had begun to show the name "Radio-Craft and Popular Electronics,"
advertising that the periodical would henceforth cover the ramifications
of the broader field. A monthly section headed Electronics was carried
thereafter in all issues, and grew rapidly in size and importance.
One of the first comprehensive stories therein covered the evolution
of the Klystron, and a serial "Practical Electronics" had begun
under the authorship of Fred Shunaman, then associate editor.
Age of Television
On August 21, 1945, the FCC lifted its wartime ban on one amateur
band - 112-115.5 mc. The other bands were freed Nov. 15, permitting
some 60,000 stations to resume operation after 4 1/2 years of silence.
In November, RCA announced that postwar TV sets, priced from $200
to $450, would be available in 6 months. Other manufacturers were
following suit. By September, some 515 FM stations had been applied
for, also 129 TV transmitters and 265 AM outlets.
The book-publishing division of the organization picked up in
1946 where the Radio-Craft Library had left off. Under
the title of Gernsback Library, a number of smaller paper-covered
books were printed. Starting in 1951 with Frye's Basic Radio Course,
larger, cloth-bound editions were printed, with such excellent results
from the viewpoints of both publisher and reader that smaller books
were dropped almost entirely, and only full-length works printed,
though they can still be obtained in paper-covered as well as cloth-bound
Large-screen television of 1939. The tube stands upright,
projecting an image upward to a mirror on the slanting cabinet
lid, from which it is reflected to the viewing screen.
The 40th anniversary of the invention of the vacuum tube by Lee
de Forest was marked by a special issue of Radio-Craft
of January, 1947. The inventor was then 73 and still inventing.
Articles by de Forest himself, Frank E. Butler, his chief aid during
the inventive years of the early 1900's, and others who remembered
or were associated with the birth of the Audion, were included.
Radio-Craft in January, 1948, published its first Special
Television Number. It was the first of 10 annual television issues,
the earlier ones of which especially filled a need for detailed
and consolidated information which could not be obtained elsewhere.
The special TV issues were discontinued only when such information
became general and easily available.
On June 30, 1948, the Bell Telephone Laboratories announced and
demonstrated the transistor, a crystal that could amplify an electric
current like a vacuum tube. The discovery was heralded throughout
the world and was the subject of a feature article "End of the Vacuum
Tube?" in the September issue. Treating the coming of the transistor
later (in the January issue of 1949), Gernsback declared: "It will
play an increasingly important role in the future. When we look
back at the humble beginning of the crystal detector, we marvel
at the spectacular comeback it has made in the form of the new transistor,
destined some day to supplant the vacuum tube."
Late in the spring of 1948, a letter had been addressed to the
older subscribers by the publishers. The name Radio-Craft
no longer seemed to be the proper name for a publication that had
so much to do with the modern world of electronics. "Would the readers
suggest a new title?" And so Radio-Craft, at the end of
20 years of existence, became Radio-Electronics with the issue of
October, 1948. Gernsback promised that the publication would ever
be in the forefront of radio-electronic happenings the world over.
One of the first articles in it was about the new LP microgroove
phonograph record announced by CBS and Columbia Records to the newspapers
in the spring of 1948 and discussed subsequently at technical meetings.
- Gernsback Electronic Publications 1908-1958
Modern Electrics - 1908-1912
Experimenter (Science & Invention ) - 1913-1929
- Radio News -1919
- Practical Electrics - 1921-1924
- Radio News Amateurs' Handibook - 1923-1929
- The Experimenter - 1924-1926
- Radio Review - 1925
- Radio lnternacional (in Spanish) - 1926-1927
- Radio Questions and Answers - 1926-1929
- Radio Program
Weekly - 1927
- Radio Listener's Call Book - 1927-1928
- Television - 1927 - 1928
- Radio Dealer's Personal
Edition Radio News - 1928
(now Radio-Electronics) - 1929
- Television News - 1931
- Short Wave Craft - 1930 - 1936
and Television - 1937 - 1938
*Radio and Television -
1938 - 1941
*The name Short Wave Craft was changed to
Short Wave and Television in 1937, and to Radio and Television
Radio waves had long been directed through the air and carried
over wires, and much experimenting had been done with more advanced
methods of guiding those of ultra-high frequency. In its December,
1948, issue Radio-Electronics told the story of the microwave
guide, which channeled the uhf waves like water through pipes. This
was a project of the Bell Labs at its Holmdel, N. J., field laboratory,
based on pioneering work done for years by Southworth and others.
The work is still going on at Holmdel - with round guides - and
is considered one of the most promising fields of research for the
future of long-distance communication.
Television was getting into high gear in the spring of 1949.
"When broadcasting began in 1920 it engendered the first major radio
boom, but now we are in the middle of another similar cycle," commented
Radio-Electronics editorially in March. "This time it is
television that is gaining rapid momentum. The difference is that
the present boom will make the first look small by comparison."
As of Jan. 1, the editorial pointed out, only 1,037,000 homes were
TV-equipped and the public had paid some $432,429,000 for sets.
Authorities had predicted that in 1949 the public would own a minimum
of 2 million sets at a cost of some $650 million. "All in all, it
will be seen that television will enrich our economy by $1 1/2 to
$2 1/2 billions at least."
By Jan. 1, 1950, 98 TV stations were operating in 24 cities.
Noting TV's advantages, the Navy had begun to use it in teaching.
The January, 1948, issue had carried a short note on the American
Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s plans to connect New York and Boston
telephone-wise by microwave. Experimental transmissions had been
made as early at Nov. 13, 1947, with Washington hooked in by coaxial
cable. On May 1, 1948, this circuit was inaugurated as the Bell
System Eastern Network. A Midwestern network opened Sept. 20, and
on Jan. 11, 1949, the Eastern and Midwest networks were linked,
extending the system from the East Coast to St. Louis. Sept. 4,
1951, saw the beginning of coast-to-coast television.
Radio-Electronics reported in October, 1949, on a new
lightweight printed circuit introduced in the Telex model 200 hearing
aid. It was some 1 x 2 inches in size and with all components weighed
1 1/16 ounce. How to build a see-in-the-dark Snooperscope with war-surplus
materials was described and pictured in the same issue.
Radio-Electronics noted in December, 1950, that the FCC had picked
the CBS sequential color TV system as standard for the country.
It had been tentatively approved on Sept. 1, but now was finalized
and commercial broadcasting had begun Nov. 20. An estimated 7 million
sets then in the public's hand would need an adapter to tune in
the programs correctly and convert to color - the cost per set:
$125 to $150. Calling the FCC decision a "bombshell" to the TV industry,
Gernsback editorially called it "Choleric Color TV," stating that
"color television should be allowed to develop naturally," just
as radio did. "To use forceps to force a premature birth may mutilate
the color TV child for life." And most of the TV industry agreed.
"Electric Spaceships" was the subject of an article by the German
rocket expert, Prof. Hermann Oberth, who touched on the use of electrical
repulsive forces to drive the rocket into space. It ran in the December,
1950, and January, 1951, issues. Once free of the earth's atmosphere,
he went on, "we can then build machines which collect energy from
the sun ..." At the time the article was considered almost fantasy
(but fantasy backed up with rigid mathematics) and even Gernsback
would scarcely have dared to predict that by 1957 we would have
a space vehicle in flight.
Phonevision, the first proposed toll TV system, was advocated
by Zenith. Subscriber-Vision, engineered by Skiatron, had also been
undergoing tests over New York City's WOR-TV. The picture was given
an electrical "jitter" by the transmitter in both these systems.
It could be taken out at the home receiver by a call to the phone
operator or by inserting a special card key that introduced a correcting
By May, 1951, television and the various subjects associated
with it were occupying a clear majority of the pages of the magazine.
Ultra-high frequency was the keynote of the national IRE convention
summarized in the June Radio-Electronics. In the same issue it was
announced that Western Union had organized a television service
outfit. Opening shop first in New Jersey, it would handle Du Mont
installations and do service work in several counties at rates commensurate
with Du Mont's regular charges. Radio-Electronics treated the topic
editorially in the July issue. Conclusion: Western Union "has still
to learn the business, and that they cannot do overnight." The furor
member of the staff
One of the oldest members of the staff is the invisible Martian
office boy, Mohammed Ulysses Fips, who in the early days of
Modern Electrics had his own department, The Martian Spark.
Now, grown to a grave and long-bearded consultant, member of many
learned societies with unheard-of name, he confines himself to the
description of one wonderful discovery a year, usually in the April
issue. These range from a radium-operated one-tube receiver, so
powerful that it needs a throttle rather than a volume control,
to a means of keeping an office quiet by picking up the noise with
a microphone, amplifying it and reproducing it at equal volume,
but opposite phase, to the original sound. Thus complete silence
would result. Fantastic, when published, but patented within 2 years
by one of the country's greatest acoustic researchers. Other ostensible
April Fool stories were trial balloons, stories of things a little
too far-fetched to be predicted with confidence, but which might
or should be invented. Such was the Westinghouse 1933 vest pocket
receiver, so ridiculously small for the time as to arouse the indignation
of engineers, but a clumsy and bulky set by today's standards, or
Electronic Brain Servicing, screamingly funny in 1950, but quite
serious when described in July, 1956, as manufactured by Lavoie
"A radically new type of teaching now becomes possible," Gernsback
editorialized in the September, 1951, Radio-Electronics.
Television had now made many things possible that were not easy
before. With television in all public schools, wired with a city
TV Education Center, 50 brilliant teachers could reach the city's
800,000 students, whereas, with the usual system, 35,000 teachers
The silver tribute awarded to Hugo Gernsback by the radio-electronics
industry in 1953.
An editorial in the November, 1951, issue pointed out that "the
radio-electronics industry will soon be one of the top three" in
the country, ranking next to steel and aircraft production. More
than $7,600,000,000 in electronic contract's will have been awarded
by the year's end, Dr. Allen B. Du Mont reported.
Tape recording, a new field of the electronics industry, had
been growing rapidly. In the August, 1952, issue it was noted that
newspaper opinion held that a "revolution was taking place in the
science of capturing and reproducing sound" and was being used widely
in many fields - entertainment, business, education and professional.
The January, 1953, issue - the sixth annual television number
- noted editorially that as the issue went to press "the first closed-circuit
telecast of the Metropolitan Opera was about to be carried to a
number of theaters.
In April, 1953, Gernsback predicted that "intercontinental TV
programs are feasible." He added that the idea was not original
with him - Baird had actually bridged the ocean with images as early
as 1928 but with low frequencies - present-day TV used high ones.
It would be necessary "to build many relay stations to skip from
island to island" over any large bodies of water. Where natural
islands were not available, "iron islands" in the form of steel
caissons are advised for the relays.
In the April issue there was also an article on a new German
electrostatic speaker - not a new idea exactly, but a new design.
In June, the editorial told of a new "booming field for video-closed-circuit
television," which, the editorial went on, "is certain to rise in
the next 10 years to unimagined heights." Du Mont had produced three-dimensional
or stereoscopic TV for use in atomic research.
In May, 1953, several hundred leaders of the electronics industry
awarded the editor and publisher of Radio-Electronics,
at a Radio Industry Banquet in Chicago, a trophy, a large sphere
cradled in rare metals, mounted atop a handsome silver base set
in ebony. The whole stands 27 inches high. On it were engraved the
names of his many friends and associates (33 firms and 97 individuals)
who contributed to the award, as well as the names of 75 living
and dead "immortals" in the field of electronics.
Part I of a series of special articles on "High-Quality Audio"
began in the September, 1953, issue. An important -feature of the
series, it was said, would be to go beyond the purely technical
details and treat the subject as an extension of the art of music
in general, as one would like it in the home. Richard H. Dorf was
the author. The FCC, which had granted a limited tentative approval
to the NTSC compatible color TV system in midsummer, now brought
the year to a happy close by granting full approval on Dec. 21,
thus opening the door to our present system of color TV broadcasting.
Use of the G-Line, invention of Dr. Georg Gobau of the U.S. Signal
Corps, was described as an ideal facility for long uhf-TV transmission
lines in the March, 1954, issue. The pros and cons of "High-Fidelity
Loudspeakers" were discussed in this and subsequent issues by the
British authority, H. A. Hartley. The August issue carried a Bell
Laboratories story on the solar battery, which operated a small
transmitter and was the first practical attempt to obtain real electrical
power from light.
"'How foolish we once were,' our children will say in future, 'to
allow our great scientists to speak to only a few dozen, or perhaps
a few hundred pupils when the great man could lecture to 500,000
at the same time,' " Gernsback editorialized in the February, 1955,
Radio-Electronics on the topic of "Tec-Teleducation," the
substance of which he had proposed as far back as December 1950
in "Newspeek," a prognostic spoof on the times. "Fortunately," he
went on, "we have in our hands today the means of making Teleducation
a reality in the immediate future ... Just as we have a national
closed-circuit TV network, there will be a similar one for grade
and high schools, colleges and universities, covering the entire
country ... Teleducation will not displace our teachers - it will
supplement and augment them."
About the Author
To prepare an article of this type required an unusual
combination of qualifications - expert knowledge and wide
experience in the fields both of journalism and electronics,
Radio-Electronics found this combination in Tom Kennedy,
recently retired associate radio editor of the New York
Times. His acquaintance with radio goes back to 1907, when
as a high school student he assembled a crystal set from
parts bought from the E.I.Co. (following it up the next
year with a 12-inch spark). He studied electrical engineering
at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, then
worked on radio compasses, first as Radio Compass Officer
in the Navy (World War I) and later as civilian employee,
installing equipment on more than 50 destroyers and a dozen
land stations. He was radio editor of the Pittsburgh Post
and Sun and technical radio editor of the Philadelphia Evening
Ledger before joining the Times in 1927. Since his retirement
Mr. Kennedy has done some consulting work in high-fidelity
(his activities in the high-fidelity and amateur recording
field were the subject of an article in Fortune, October,
1946) and free-lance writing in electronics and kindred
More than 42,000 radio engineers registered at the 1955 national
convention of the Institute of Radio Engineers. Ultrasonics was
one of the chief subjects. It drilled teeth painlessly and was useful
in internal diagnostic work. RCA exhibited a new tri-color vidicon
tube, and Du Mont displayed the Iconumerator, which counted a million
small objects in the twinkle of an eye.
In the August Radio-Electronics was a story of reliable
TV "scatter" communication over 188 miles between Holmdel, N. J.,
and the Round Hill station of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
near New Bedford, Mass. Sixty-foot antenna "dishes" beamed the 4,000-mc
waves over the horizon, and scattered bits were recovered at the
receiver and reproduced as the complete image.
The Philco "Apple" cathode-ray tube for color reception was described
in the last special television issue, January, 1957. It is a 21-inch
single-gun device coated with a repeating array of red, blue and
green stripes arranged vertically. The term "Apple" is a Philco
code word and has nothing to do with apple characteristics.
The picture-on-the-wall TV tube, which had been predicted for
some time by many, "has at last reached the advanced laboratory
stage," reported Eric Leslie in the March, 1957, issue. The account
was from English sources and described a flat tube in detail. Others
in this country are experimenting with similar devices and have
pooled their patents with the British developers, the article revealed.
H. C. Ko, of the radio observatory of Ohio State University, wrote
in August, 1957, about the 96-helix radio telescope being used there
to sound outer space for galactic signals, and gave some hints to
would-be radio astronomers. The Solion and the Spacistor-new amplifiers
neither like tubes or transistors - were described in the November,
1957, issue. An editorial about the same time wondered about, them,
and what would come after them, but closed on the note: "The greatest
scientific discoveries still lie in the future - the art has barely
Posted July 28, 2014