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The Radio Boys Adventure Book Series
Kirt's Cogitations™ #323

RF Cafe University"Factoids," "Kirt's Cogitations," and "Tech Topics Smorgasbord" are all manifestations of my ranting on various subjects relevant (usually) to the overall RF Cafe theme. All may be accessed on these pages:

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The Radio Boys book covers - RF Cafe

The first four covers of "The Radio Boys" adventure book series. (radioboysandgirls.org image)

For many years Melanie and I have been collecting and reading The Radio Boys series of thirteen books, which were written in the 1920s by Allen Chapman. It was a time in history when the miracle of radio communications was capturing - even enrapturing - the public with its seemingly miraculous ability to convey messages across town and around the world without the need for wires, hence "wireless." The stories center around four teenage buddies, namely Bob Layton, Joe Atwood, Herb Fennington, and Jimmy Plummer (aka Doughnuts") who, with the assistance of a local pastor, Dr. Dale, took an avid interest in radio and built from scratch a successful crystal radio. Their enthusiasm compounds upon itself as adventures and experiences using wireless foster interest in building better receivers and then building transmitters for sending Morse code and audio ("phone").

Jack Binns (Radio Boys) - RF CafeWho Was Jack Binns?

"CQD CQD HERE MKC SHIPWRECKED!"  Jack Binns, who wrote the forewords for Allen Chapman's Radio Boys books, was supremely qualified to comment on the subject of the fledgling and burgeoning wireless technology. Mr. Binns was the radio operator aboard the "RMS Republic," a luxury liner of the White Star fleet, when on January 23, 1909, it was rammed by the Italian ship "Florida."he Radio Boys with the Iceberg Patrol - RF Cafe Jack Binns is credited with orchestrating via wireless communications what was at the time the world's largest (and first?) rescue at sea. It was likely the motivation for The Radio Boys with the Iceberg Patrol (which I own and have read). BTW, Mr. Binns was later offered and declined an opportunity to be the radio operator on the RMS Titanic! Here is the website page hosted by Jack Binns' granddaughter.

See "In the Days of Spark - A Rescue at Sea" in the November 1966 issue of Popular Electronics.

In order to appeal to his intended audience - primarily young boys - villains, good guys, hapless bystanders, government agents, local law enforcement, family, and even the occasional damsel in distress are woven into the fabric of tales from book to book. The Radio Boys fit in well with the teenager adventure genre that included The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift, all of which we own many volumes. Ours are the original prints rather than some that were re-printed decades later. They are not very expensive it you are willing to accept less than perfect condition and maybe without a dust jacket.

In addition to telling a good story, Chapman is sure to include instruction on materials and methods through conversations between the boys and their fellow radio enthusiasts (both youths and adults) and with descriptions of homemade tapped tuning coils, antennas, enclosures and even speakers. Additionally, mention was made of many innovations of the day, including Lee DeForest's Audion vacuum tube, high voltage generators using rectifier tubes, regenerative circuits, and multi-element antennas. Many readers interested only in the adventure content are unwittingly tricked into learning something about wireless in the process.

An example of the aforementioned is a statement made by the principal (Mr. Preston) of the Clintonia High School to the Radio Boys after having recently listened to a speech given by President Calvin Coolidge* whilst in Washington, D.C. After the boys stated they had listened to the speech live on the radio, Principle Preston asserted that the boys had actually heard the speech before he did, even though they were a couple hundred miles away and he was only a hundred feet away in the audience. How could that be so, queried the boys?

Replied the principal, "And if you had been thousands of miles away, what I said would still be true." "No doubt there were farmers on tractors out on the Western plains who heard him before I did." Puzzled looks filled their collective faces. Then, he continued.

"You see it's like this. Sound travels through the air to a distance of a little over a hundred feet in the tenth part of a second**. But in that same tenth of a second that it took the president's voice to reach me in the open air, radio could have carried it eighteen thousand six hundred miles***." "...I never thought of it in just that way before," responded Bob. "Equal to about seven and a half time around the earth," observed the principal, smiling, "In other words, the people who were actually sitting in the presence of the president were the very last to hear what he said." "Radio is the fairyland of science in the sense that it is full of wonder and romance." He expounds even further, but you'll need to read the book to continue the lesson.

You might want to visit "TheRadioBoysAndGirls.org" website for a brief description of each book, along with a hyperlink to read a Kindle version for free or to purchase a hard copy.

There is also a book series entitled The Radio Girls, written by Margaret Penrose, set in the same post-world War I era. Only four editions were printed, and we own two of them, all purchased on eBay. They are typically more expensive than The Radio Boys books.

* Warren G. Harding, who preceded Coolidge, is said to be the first president to have made a radio address.

** Sound travels at sea level at 1125 feet per second, or 112.5 feet per 1/10th second (at 20 °C).

*** Radio waves travel at 186,000 miles per second, or 18,600 miles per 1/10th second.



Posted December 1, 2020

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