April 1944 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
"Necessity is the mother of invention,"
is a common saying that proves itself to be particularly true in times of war. World
War II launched scientists and engineers belonging to both the Axis and the
Allied powers into inventive frenzies in their efforts to hasten an end to hostilities;
of course each side also wanted to be the victor. We all know how the story ended.
Although some countries were not immediately able to capitalize on their countrymen's
technical advances, within about a decade normalized relations had been established
between former foes, and the exchange of products, services and scientific information
proceeded. Some discoveries were deemed too valuable to national security and were
therefore not divulged even, in some instances, to friendly nations. Many scientists
consider themselves to be "citizens of the world" and vehemently object to not sharing
all available knowledge out of a belief that mankind as a whole suffers when information
is reserved for a select few. Unfortunately while in theory the concept is noble,
in reality it only works out well if everybody involved plays nicely. In light of
that, I find it surprising that the U.S. Government permitted publication of this
article on what would be the first public airing of a radioactively powered radio
set. Its implications were far-reaching.
Mohammed Ulysses Fips articles seen in Radio-Craft magazine:
New! Crystron Lapel Radio,
Now - A Radio Pen, and
By what I am sure is sheer coincidence, they all appear in April issues!
By Mohammed Ulysses Fips
A photograph of the perfected Radium-Radio set. (1) The new radium
currentless radio tube. (2) Tuned reeds to operate the radio alarm. (3) Electronic
memory control to eliminate ad plugs. (4) Iron dust core tuning inductance. (5)
Radio alarm. (6) Low and high volume knob. (7) Switch to cut in or cut out objectionable
radio advertising plugs.
What may turn out to be the greatest radio-electronic development since Marconi,
is the subject of this revolutionary article. The Radium-Radio Receiver, with its
cold radio-electronic tube, which uses no batteries or outside current of any kind,
is so astonishing and so far-reaching in its import, that all of our radio receivers
will soon undergo a complete change.
How this great invention came about and how the inventor was persecuted by the
large radio-electronic interests forms an equally astonishing adjunct to the annals
of radio history.
Radio-Craft therefore is not only proud in presenting the story of this amazing
invention but also in exposing the nefarious work perpetrated by the powerful interests
who conspired to block the Radium-Radio Receiver. It is certain that in so doing,
Radio-Craft has rendered a signal service to the public at large. The receiver will
be made after the war.
It has always struck me that our present radio means, as far as our radio tubes
and radio sets are concerned, were noting but clumsy makeshifts and that much better
radio devices could be evolved in bringing radio programs to the masses.
Our radio sets and radio tubes have always suffered from too great a complexity,
which necessarily increases the cost of the final receiver to such a degree that
it often could not be acquired by the man of very moderate means. It had always
been my dream some day to produce a radio that would have everything and that could
be sold for less than $10.00, yet be a really first-class set. If such a, set were
mass-produced, millions could probably be marketed for $5.00. These considerations
were in my mind ever since the crystal set days.
Then we had a radio set without any batteries whatsoever. It didn't consume current
from the lighting mains and it could be easily transported and used anywhere. It
did not have resistors and a multiplicity of condensers - electrolytic and otherwise.
It was small and it was cheap. Best of all, the reception was also crystal clear.
But with the coming of the vacuum tube radio set everything was changed and the
entire radio industry followed blindly in a groove in which it has been ever since.
The Cold Radium-Radio Tube
Radium-Radio Tube RA-RA 4-1
Radium-operated radio tubes have been suggested since the earliest
days of the industry. One great obstacle has hitherto prevented the use, of radium
for the job. While a cathode surface coated with radium (or a radium compound) would
emit electrons, and while that emission would last for centuries, producing a tube
with a fantastically long life, the hitch is that radium emits both positive and
negative particles. Thus the anode would remain at the same potential as the cathode,
and there could be no external flow of current.
The method used to solve this problem in the Radium-Radio (Ra-Ra)
lube is simplicity itself, the only surprising thing about it is that someone has
not stumbled on it earlier. The alpha and beta rays of radium are deflected by an
ordinary magnet, but in opposite directions. The anode of the Ra-Ra is a magnet.
(See diagram.) The pole nearest the cathode is so shaped is so shaped that the beta
rays, which are ordinary electrons, are deflected to the first of the multiplier
plates which form an essential part of the tube. The alpha rays are bent very slightly
in the opposite direction and impinge on the pole piece, or anode, with an extremely
high positive charge.
Emission of beta rays is controlled by the grid, which for electron-optical
reasons is shaped like the grid of a thyratron. Means may be provided for keeping
it negative with respect to the cathode. This tends to accelerate the positive alpha
particles, and permits raising the anode to a higher potential, while not affecting
the control of the beta rays, or electrons emanating from the cathode.
A lead from the magnet-anode is brought out to the external high-voltage
terminal of the tube. This is also connected through a resistor to the multiplier
bank. The latter is constructed according to standard multiplier practice, resistors
inside the tube maintaining each multiplier cathode-plate at a suitable voltage
below the next one above it, etc. The lead from lowest-voltage multiplier plate
is returned to the emitter, which is also grounded. A variable resistor across the
entire multiplier bank controls emission and acts as a volume -control when the
tube is used in radio reception.
The final collector is returned to the magnet-anode through the
load, which may be a loud-speaker, relay or indicating device.
Magnetic shields, which assist in controlling and focusing the
flow of electrons from plate to plate, are not shown, as they would unnecessarily
complicate tile schematic and drawings.
Under test, the Ra-Ra 4-1 worked well from 1 cycle to 300 megacycles.
The electrode spacing of the tubs so far constructed has been adapted to work at
audio and low radio frequencies, and there is little doubt that tubes designed for
the work will oscillate far into the UHF region.
S. H. Mann.
Several years ago I started work on my Radium-Radio Tube - an electronic tube
which requires no batteries of any kind. After the first few tubes had been constructed,
I was encouraged a great deal, so much so that I finally evolved the revolutionary
tube which is described in this article. Shorn of all technical language, the new
cold Radium-Radio electronic tube makes use of radium for its electronic emission.
This is not a new thought but is as old as radio itself, but up to now no such tube
could be constructed because radium emanates both positive and negative emission,
making such a tube useless. I then conceived the idea of using a magnet inside of
the tube, using one pole of the magnet as a plate. Now radium, as we all know, emits
two kinds of rays - the so-called Alpha and Beta rays. Both are deflected by an
ordinary magnet but, fortunately, in opposite directions. Thus, by making the plate,
or cathode, one pole of the magnet, I, can utilize the Beta rays which in reality
are ordinary electrons, .just as they occur in a standard vacuum tube. Then I can
utilize the Alpha rays on the other end of the magnet. I use these Alpha rays in
conjunction with the well known "multiplier" device and thus increase the electrical
energy obtained from the radium to operate the tube.
Engineer in Charge, Ra-Ra Development
Above I have given full technical data showing how a workable tube, which requires
no outside electric currents of any kind, is constructed.
Best and most important of all, the theoretical life of the Radium-Radio Tube,
is as long as the life of radium - 2500 years. There being nothing to burn out,
nothing used up except the infinitesimally small amount of radium, the tube for
all practical purposes will be everlasting. I have had tubes of this type jn constant
operation for over two years and they keep on working uninterruptedly, without any
attention of any kind, day and night, month after month.
The reader may ask: "By using radium in the cold Radium-Radio Tube, does this
not make such a tube very expensive?" The answer is "no." Radium has come down in
price until now it only costs $25,000 per gram, where originally it cost $150,000
per gram; but in my tube I only use the merest speck of radium, so little, in fact,
that only about 30c worth is put into one tube.
But I was not satisfied just to revolutionize the radio tube and all that goes
with it - I wanted a radio set that would be a fit companion to this remarkable
tube. After I had constructed a number of them, it was found that the sensitivity
as well as the power of these tubes was unbelievably great, so great, in fact, that
for the average home-radio set, I require only a solitary tube. Indeed, one tube
is so powerful in its output, due to its terrific electronic emission, that instead
of using a volume control on the speaker, I had to use what I call a "volume throttle."
The power of the tube, in other words; is so great that if the:entire power of the
single tube were turned loose into the loud-speaker, it would shatter it and bum
out the field windings. For this reason, for the first time in, a radio set, it
was necessary to incorporate small fuses in the speaker circuit to protect it!
Another new and quite revolutionary point of this set is that it is never turned
off. Having no batteries or no electric current to save, it is therefore unnecessary
to turn the set off completely. The volume throttle is constructed in such a manner
that when you turn it to "low," the receiver will operate at a mere whisper.
You may ask: "Why do this? Why not turn the set off entirety?" The answer is
very simple. Radio engineers for many years have tried "to find means to keep a
set turned on at a low volume, then when important news came over the radio set,
it could be turned up automatically, so that the owner would get the urgent broadcast
news. That is exactly what I have accomplished in my present Radium-Radio Receiver.
This is how it works :
At the broadcast station we have a special metallic gong arranged in such a manner
that it will give a, certain, musical note. When this gong is struck with great
force, a more than normal power-note is broadcast. In my set I have a tuned reed.
This reed is tuned only to this special broadcast gong. Remember that the set is
never turned off. When this special note comes over the circuit in my set; the reed
starts vibrating, thereby making a contact which turns the set on to its "high"
volume point. Immediately the news, such i as important war news, catastrophes,
etc., is received with full power on my new radio set, and with such strength that
the entire household cannot fail to hear it. The volume is strong enough to wake
up a hearty sleeper. After the news has been received, the owner of the radio set
turns it down again to the the "low" point, and the receiver is then ready for the
next impulse when it comes along.
The Radio Alarm
This impulse - but a different kind - comes early in the morning when you desire
to be awakened. Besides the special reed for news and other purposes, I provide
four more extra reeds. Number 1 is marked 5 A.M.; Number 2, 6 A.M.; Number 3, 7
A.M.; Number 4, 8 A.M. Before you retire, you turn a little knob which puts one
of the reeds into the circuit. Each reed is tuned to a different note. Every broadcast
station (besides the large "news gong") will have four other gongs or whistles,
all tuned to the four reeds of your set. Suppose you wish to get up at 8 A.M. and
have turned the little knob on its appropriate reed marked 8 A.M. In due time in
the morning, the 5, 6 and, 7 o'clock gongs or whistles will sound in the broadcast
station (to which your set is tuned) but nothing happens, because none of the three
reeds will be in the circuit, but at 8 o'clock the last reed will be connected and
consequently, it will begin to vibrate, thus making its appropriate contact. This
automatically turns on the set to "high" and the radio goes on full blast, awakening
you on the dot.
The above illustration shows an idealized view of the new tube.
(1, 3) Reflecting, parts of the magnet. (2) Lead container with radium. (4) Grid.
(5) Reflecting vanes. (6) Glass vane supports. For clarity's, sake, the resistors
have not been shown in our illustration.
That, however, is not all. I incorporated still another device in my set which
I term "ad-plug-eliminator."
Many people have been exasperated by a number of the smaller radio stations which
plug continuously trashy ads over the air. This has been a "thorn in the ear" of
many listeners. While lucrative for the broadcast interests, it is often very annoying
to the radio set owner. For those who do not wish to listen to repeated low class
advertising plugs, there is a button on my set marked "ad-plug-eliminator" which
can be turned. Its modus operandi is as follows:
I used the now well-known memory device of which several are made at the present
time.* This is nothing but an electrical robot which has a "memory." I have improved
upon the present device in such a manner that once. the radio set "hears" one of
the many ad plugs, it stores it permanently in its mechanical brain. Then as soon
as the same advertising plug begins again, the robot cuts the set off the air until
the plug is finished, then the set is turned "on" again. In practice this works
very well, but it is not to be confused with dignified occasional advertising of
important programs. Only those 30 seconds or one minute pure ad-plugs which are
a bane to so many people nowadays, are affected.
The photographs in these pages show not only the new Radium-Radio Tube but the
new Radium-Radio receiver as well.
Now you would naturally assume that a great and revolutionary invention of this
type should get immediate acceptance by the large radio manufacturers, but alas,
the contrary is the fact.
A Persecuted Inventor
When I had my final model built, I immediately made it my business to go and
see one of our great radio set manufacturing companies. They seemed much interested
but insisted on buying the invention outright. Having had such experiences with
other inventions oi my own, I told them I was .not interested in any outright sale
but preferred a royalty arrangement; I indicated that I would be satisfied with
a modest royalty for each tube and set. After several months of haggling, nothing
came of all this, until one day I was called into the office of the president of
the corporation who proceeded to give me a long lecture, I do not wish to tire the
reader by telling him all that transpired there, but the following was made plain:
The president called my attention to the fact that a revolutionary invention
such as mine would immediately raise havoc with the following powerful interests:
(1) the radio tube interests;
(2) the radio set-building industry;
(3) the electric light and power industry;
(4) the alarm clock industry;
(5) the battery industry;
(6) a goodly number of others.
The president pointed out to me that, for instance, the radio tube interests
would immediately have their tube business cut tremendously because my set only
uses a single tube. Worst of all, with a tube lasting theoretically 2500 years,
there would be no tube replacements and once a tube was sold that would be the end
of it, consequently the radio tube business would be "shot to Hell in no time" -
these were the president's exact words.
Then there was the radio set-building industry. Instead of getting prices anywhere
from $50.00 to several hundred dollars for a set, "they will starve to death by
making. your cheap and popular, pauper's set." I am using the president's words
Then there would be the electric power interests. These gentlemen, too, would
be hurt tremendously, because today radio sets use a most substantial amount of
power; this is very lucrative business which the electric power industry would miss
Next inline was the venerable old alarm clock industry, which by means of
my "crazy fool" set would be totally deprived of all of their business. Three-quarters
of them would surely go out of business entirely because my radio receiver, being
in a way an alarm clock itself, would be too powerful a competitor for the alarm
clock business, thought the president.
That leaves the broadcast interests, who, as I have already hinted above, would
now be deprived of one of their most lucrative business plums - that is, short ad
plugs now so common in America. Inasmuch as most of the small radio stations have
to depend upon this type of business and as "that is their bread and butter, your
hair-brained crazy 'mouse-trap radio' would put 60% of these poor stations out of
business immediately." I am once more quoting the president.
Then there is the battery industry which would be deprived of their "B" battery
and "A" battery (portable sets) business as well, according to my spokesman. He
cited several other industries which I was about to kill, and he left me dazed when
he handed me a tabulation of all the millions of dollars' worth of business which
my invention would exterminate with one "fell swoop" - in the president's words.
Losses to Affected Industries Due to Radium-Radio Set
(1) Radio Tube Companies $128,000,000.06
(2) Radio Set-Building Industry 226,000,000.58
(3) Electric Light and Power Industry 74,950,000.89
(4) Alarm Clock Industry 46,890,000.65
(5) Battery Industry 24,650,000.28
(6) Other Industries 74,000,000.95
Total Loss $574,490,003.41
I told him that I could see some justification in his contention but I also said
that progress was like that and that the same argument could have been
given to the inventor of the automobile, which put the horse and carriage
trade out of business, too. I quoted many other new inventions which, worked havoc
in a parallel line. But, I continued, you also must remember that when one of these
revolutionary inventions comes along, it also benefits the public at large, and,
damn it, I'm for the public-first, last and always."
Then I gave him my ultimatum and told him that if he and his interests did not
wish to buy my great invention at my own terms, I would start in the manufacturing
business with private capital and manufacture the tubes and sets myself. He got
very angry at this and we parted enemies.
A simplified diagram of the new radium-radio set. At the left
we see the iron dust core tuning inductances and how they are connected with the
RA-RA 4-1 tube. Also of interest are the tuned reeds which are energized by special
gongs or whistles from the broadcast station.
That was the beginning of my troubles. One night when I was putting the finishing
touches to my radio set in my laboratory, there came a knock on the door.
Being unmarried, I had only one good and trusty friend, and that was Annie. Annie
is my pet anteater. She was very useful around tile laboratory because at one time
I was interested in ants and built those little ant houses - the contrivances with
live ants which you study through a plate glass. Sometimes some of the ants would
escape, then Annie would eagerly lap them up so that they would not run all over
the house and laboratory. Annie, .too, liked to eat sawdust and small shavings,
and when I was busy filing a piece of metal she didn't mind eating some of the filings,
Well, as I said before. there was an ominous knock at the door. Innocently enough
I opened it, only to have a couple of burly gangsters jump me and I was tied hand
and foot in no time. Poor Annie. too, was kidnapped along with me. They put her
in a canvas bag, however, and lugged her along. There followed an interminable automobile
ride and I sure thought my end had come. At dawn we pulled up in a wild-looking
place which afterwards proved to be a small island in the midst of a lake.
For two years I was confined in a sort of prison with a heavy iron grating, making
my escape impossible. I was treated well enough during this period and we had enough
food. When I say "we," I mean Annie and I. If it had not been for Annie, I think
I would have died of loneliness. Several months ago during a terrific storm with
an accompanying fire, I found a chance to escape - how I shall not say here for
a number of reasons. I immediately decided that my life was no longer worth a plugged
nickel, because I knew that the big interests were after me and would use every
possible means to stop me from marketing my invention.
So I decided that I would publish my entire invention in the pages of my favorite
magazine, Radio-Craft, because I knew they would be courageous enough to at least
give the world the news of my epoch-making inventions.
Unfortunately, there were several reasons why I could not prosecute the big interests
which kidnapped me and kept me out of circulation for two years. The main reason
is that I have no absolute-proofs against them. Then, Annie was still in "jail"
and I was in mortal fear that if I mentioned any names the gang would probably kill
the poor companion of my kidnapping days.
Since I returned home, I have written the president of the great radio corporation
and told him that unless Annie was returned on a specified date, I would expose
him and his bloodthirsty gang.
The puzzling part of the entire proceedings is that the day I finished this story,
I received a mysterious telegram from the president. Curiously enough, it contained
*See Radio-Craft. July, 1943, page 588, "Electric Memory Machine Helps Ignition
Posted April 1, 2022
(updated from original post on 4/1/2015)