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When Your Car was a Docking Station–The Convertible Radio

When a technology is new, strange products can hit the market. Because of the relatively high cost of new tech, certain things make sense that seem silly just a few years later. I particularly like to collect these silly, odd products.

One such item was promoted during the early years of portable transistor radios. […]

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 […]

Brave New World–1940s TV in America

The television revolution really got on its feet in 1946. People had cash saved up from war-time jobs. Rationing was over and companies were again allowed to produce consumer products. The uncertainty over television broadcast standards that kept TV from taking off in the late 1930’s was largely in the past. The astronomical prices associated […]

One-Upping the Competition–The Columbia Symphony Grand Graphophone

I recently noticed that my Columbia Symphony Grand just turned 100 years old. Here are some photos and the history of this unusual phonograph.

Big horn inside, and a beefy, three spring motor:

Another Symphony Grand at auction:

Until 1906, all commercially made phonographs had outside horns.


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–

When Small was still Pretty Big–The Auto Graflex Junior

While we were on vacation I saw a camera in an antique shop that I nearly bought. I haven’t seriously collected cameras since I left Kodak, but this one was so tiny and cute! I later found the same model camera on EBay for half the price and bought it (had to wait over two […]

Rugged Individualism–Fixing Your Own Stuff

There is a particular attribute of rugged individualism that we have lost since the 1960s–repairing your own electronics. When I was a kid, nearly all TVs had tubes. Every Seven-Eleven and many other stores had a tube tester like the one below.

Those of us who didn’t want to pay a television repairman […]

A Pretty 1940’s TV–The General Electric 806

Sorry to bore you guys with another TV restoration, but getting one of these old beasts running can be as gratifying as beating a hard video game—touch and go for a while, then victory.

Up until now, I have restored electrostatic televisions. These TVs used high voltage plates rather than magnetic fields to build […]