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Engineering Freebies of the Past

I really enjoy estate sales. You have the opportunity to wander through someone’s house, look at everything that the family has not already picked out, and decide what kind of person lived there. Sometimes you encounter a very boring person (at least to me—I expect those folks would find me boring too). Other times you […]

Live in the Country? The Care and Feeding of Your Gas Lights

One of my favorite old technology books is MECHANICS OF THE HOUSEHOLD, published in 1918. It presents just about every technology that was used for heating, cooling, lighting, and plumbing homes in the 1910s. Gas lighting was still going strong if electricity was unavailable. The number of variants of gas lighting is what’s interesting to […]

A Pretty Machine–The British Imperial Typewriter

Ok. I’m not collecting typewriters. Really. I’m not. Really. But I bought one anyway. My wife was wanting to use a really old typewriter in the banner of her blog, so I was half looking for an ancient Underwood or Oliver. Turns out her dad gave her the Royal portable that took him through college […]

How Small Can You Go? Raytheon’s 1952 Military Portable

One of my previous blogs featured Motorola’s early contribution to handheld two-way radios. Lest anyone consider me biased towards Motorola, let’s look at a portable Raytheon created during the era of tube radios.

Raytheon developed the AN/PRC-6 handheld FM transceiver for the military. It saw long use from the Korean War into the […]

What on Earth Were They Thinking? Transitional Technologies

What is a transitional technology? A transitional technology has one foot in the old and the other in the new. It bridges a gap when a new technology appears, but that gap usually closes pretty quickly making the transitional technology obsolete.

Such a device shows up for one of three reasons. Sometimes it […]

Making the Large Small–Early Hearing Aid Design

I like to collect radios from the early 1920s. By 1930 most of the design weirdness that interests me had settled out. I don’t get interested in radios again until expensive transistors were introduced into radios in the 1950s. That’s when the weirdness starts over again.

An exception is portable radios. Designers were […]

A Few Words About Style

Some old technical objects look good simply because of the materials from which they are made. Brass, mahogany, marble, and such were nice materials when used in electrical instruments 100 years ago, but they look even more distinctive now that similar instruments are made of plastic.

Other technical objects have a great look about […]

Were there Techno-nerds in the 1940s?

From the look of the portable radio below, there certainly were.

Hey look buddy, there is no way your girlfriend is going to wear that–