October 1947 Radio-Craft
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Hugo Gernsback, a name familiar to anyone who has been reading some of the vintage
electronics articles posted here on RF Cafe over the years, was never short on ideas
- both serious and fanciful. In 1947, when this editorial appeared in his very popular
Radio-Craft magazine, radio had become ubiquitous in the commercial and
consumer worlds, but he laments that the appliance had not yet received its due
compliment of ancillary devices. Telephone, which had been around even longer that
radio, had a fair market of add-ons like a shoulder rest for the handset, an amplifier
for the hard-of-hearing, remote ringers, etc. There was not yet a selection of similar
devices for the convenience of radio listeners, and here Mr. Gernsback suggested
a few. Big money was to be made on such products. Among them he mentions a couple
humorous ideas like the "Warmeradio," where a chassis with inset wells could be
used for heating baby bottles, and the "Humidoradio" which would use the ample heat
from vacuum tubes to service cigars in a built-in humidor. It's an interesting read. Here
is the "Money in Radio
Gadgets" editorial by Hugo Gernsback from the February 1933 issue of Radio-Craft
Fortunes Are Still to Be Made in Successful Radio Ideas
We hear continuously from many of our readers who come up with unusual radio
ideas on which they seek our advice. Hardly a week goes by that a number of such
letters do not pass across our desk.
There is, indeed, a good deal of money in radio gadgets; i.e., adjuncts to radio
receivers. These gadgets are auxiliary items, performing some useful function in
connection with radio receivers. They may or may not be electrical.
For the man who has little money, but who has original ideas, a successful business
frequently springs from such a simple idea.
Consider that in this country there are now over 65 million radio sets. While
the radio receiver performs the primary function of disseminating programs, that
is by no means all it can do. The manufacturer who builds radio sets is interested
only in supplying a receiver for listening purposes. Yet many radio set owners could
very well have other effective uses for their receivers.
A parallel might be cited with the home or business telephone. Hundreds of gadgets
have been invented as auxiliaries to the telephone, indeed many concerns have and
are now making money from such devices. There is, for instance, a rubber device
that clamps on to the telephone handset that enables you to place the handset on
your shoulder while carrying on a conversation. The oval rubber block holds it in
place so you have both hands free to write with and hold on to the writing paper.
Another very widely-used gadget mutes your voice so that when you talk into the
mouthpiece a person sitting near you cannot hear what you say. Such a device is
often necessary in business when you do not wish to reveal to persons in the same
room what information you are giving over the phone.
Another gadget for names and telephone numbers slides out of sight underneath
the telephone set. When pulled out, the device gives you an alphabetic list of names
and numbers. We could continue this catalog of similar phone gadgets, many of them
highly successful, even though frowned upon by the telephone company.
There are many parallel opportunities in radio but, strange to say, radio technicians
and inventors have hardly begun to exploit this great potential and most lucrative
Let us begin with the most obvious one. There is an urgent demand for a device
for near-deaf persons and those hard of hearing who wish to enjoy their radio programs.
The same is true for those who do not wish the set turned on too loud thus disturbing
others in the same room. This is particularly the case in bedrooms. The wife or
husband may wish to listen to a radio program while the other is sleeping. For this
purpose, a few radio manufacturers have equipped a receiver with a device such that
a headphone or earphone can be connected to the set; but only a very few radio set
manufacturers provide such a facility. It should be almost universal. For bedrooms
there is also a pillow receiver that is placed inside or underneath the pillow so
that one person may listen to a radio program without disturbing others in the same
room. This is a particularly useful gadget not only for the home but hospitals as
The trouble with these items is that unless you know something about radio or
call in a serviceman, you cannot connect such an earpiece to the radio set. That
is probably the reason why these items are not sold in far larger quantities, as
A much simpler gadget is needed, one that anybody can attach to any existing
radio receiver without jacks and without making special connections. It will take
a little ingenuity to solve this, but we believe it can be done.
We can think of one simple solution. A person hard-of-hearing could use a simple
low-cost stethoscope, similar to those used by physicians. At one end would be earplugs
and at the other a large diaphragm to catch the sound vibrations. Merely by placing
this close to the loudspeaker by means of a simple attachment, a person so equipped
could readily hear a program. This is a simple solution and does not require any
electrical parts whatever. Even by turning down the radio set to a low volume, the
near-deaf person still hears very well. We know, because we tried it. There may
be other and better solutions.
In the early '30's several manufacturers designed a few radio toys which were
highly successful at the time. Among them was a dancing figure which was placed
on top of the radio receiver. A simple microphone placed near the loudspeaker energized
a small electromagnet inside the dancer who then jigged in unison with the radio's
sound waves. The trouble with this toy was that it was much too expensive. Something
of a similar nature that would sell around $2.00 could very well make a little fortune
for its maker. Indeed, it is not even necessary that the toy be electrical in nature.
If you place your hand on the top of any radio, when turned on, you will feel the
vibrations induced by the loudspeaker. Twenty-two years ago the writer described
in one of his former radio magazines a dancing toy in which small figures, whose
legs were three stiff bristles, danced slowly but effectively on top of a metal
diaphragm, which was also the loudspeaker. That was long before we had such efficient
and powerful loudspeakers as we have today. The same idea is still good: small dancing
figures can be made to go through their motions right on top of any radio set. A
simple metal guard will keep the dancing figures from falling over the side of the
receiver. Such a toy could be sold at a good profit for $1.00. Other similar ideas
utilizing the natural vibrations of an operating radio set can be evolved with a
little ingenuity. Specialty stores, department stores, radio stores and other outlets
are always ready to buy such gadgets; every parent of young children is a potential
Radio sets, as we all know, give out a considerable amount of heat. To the best
of our knowledge, such heat effects have not been used for any radio gadget.
Last spring at the Chicago Radio Show we gave away a booklet wherein the trade
was treated to a collection of humorous radio ideas. Purely fanciful, they still
contained the germs of ideas for successful gadgets. We mention only two of these
which made effective use of the heat in radio sets. The first one was called the
"Humidoradio." The idea here is to have a small flat tank placed just above the
radio tubes. The little tank contains water, while a small pipe leads into the top
cigar compartment. As the water evaporates, the cigars are humidified.
Another idea, the "Warmeradio," also a humorous one, was to seal the radio hermetically
so no heat could escape. Two holes were fashioned in the top of the receiver. You
placed your baby's milk bottles into the openings to keep them hot!
It would seem that some clever designer could make better use of the surplus
heat generated by the radio tubes for other and more practical purposes. We can
think of moving figures for toy purposes, revolving colored discs or globes to amuse
Junior, and dozens of other similar ideas. Low-price gadgets of this type, if well
made and reliable in performance, are always in demand.
To the best of our knowledge, neon tubes have so far not been harnessed to radio
sets for visual effects. These colorful tubes use very little current and produce
exceedingly beautiful effects. We can make small glass figurines, which glow softly
in green, red, and other colors in the dark. It is a simple matter to connect such
a device in the audio circuit of your radio so that the figures or illuminated devices
would glow in unison with the music. If produced in quantities, such an item can
be made reasonably cheap; it will find a ready sale not only for home use but in
stores which sell radio sets, etc.
We now come to another branch of radio gadgets. These are in the servicing field.
In this magazine we describe from time to time a number of such ideas, particularly
pocket radio servicing probes. There is always a good market for these, especially
those that can be sold at low prices. Servicemen require them and will buy if the
item is priced right and works well.
At the present time there is an abundance of war surplus material, much of which
can be bought at low cost and which can be used by the manufacturer of servicing
gadgets of this type. Any new device that will make it easier for the radio serviceman
to service his sets - provided such an item is low enough in cost - will find an
Fortunes are still to be made in radio gadgets of the types we have discussed
here. This country with its superabundance of radio sets should be an inspiration
to all inventors and designers. The potential market for such devices is incredibly
Posted November 2, 2020