Be­gin­nings of ra­dio

The Shed - - Radio Collector -

Crys­tal ra­dio re­ceiver sets were de­vel­oped in the early 20th cen­tury and were used to re­ceive Morse code. World War I gave a boost to de­vel­op­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. Then as elec­tron­ics evolved and voice sig­nals were sent by ra­dio broad­cast, ra­dios took off be­tween the 1920s and 1940s and evolved into to­day's ra­dio broad­cast­ing in­dus­try.

In Amer­ica, ra­dio man­u­fac­tur­ers set up na­tion­wide. Many fell by the way­side as the years pro­gressed so the sets they man­u­fac­tured are rare and sought af­ter by se­ri­ous col­lec­tors.

“RCA had a real stran­gle­hold on patents and noth­ing much moved with the de­vel­op­ment of valves and other parts un­less RCA had a fin­ger in the pie,” Gra­ham says. “It was dif­fi­cult for a lot of man­u­fac­tur­ers to break away from that, and they were forced to use RCA tubes in their ra­dios.”

The first ra­dios were bat­tery-op­er­ated. “It was prob­a­bly the school kids’ job early in the morn­ing to take the bat­tery to the lo­cal garage to have it charged so that dad could lis­ten to the ra­dio at night, and God help them if they for­got to pick the bat­tery up on their way home from school,” says Gra­ham. In New Zealand dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion of the 1930s the gov­ern­ment put an im­port em­bargo on built-up ra­dios.

“The New Zealand ra­dio dis­trib­u­tors of the day were able to im­port the ba­sic guts of the ra­dio but they couldn’t im­port the cab­i­nets so they were made here. There were some beau­ti­ful cab­i­nets pro­duced. The skills of those cabi­net mak­ers were su­perb — ev­ery­thing was done by hand, they didn’t have fancy ma­chin­ery, maybe a few power tools, cer­tainly not spin­dle mold­ers, and any shap­ing of mold­ings would have been done with hand planes.”

Ra­dios were man­u­fac­tured in Hast­ings, Welling­ton, Auck­land, and even in Whanganui where, Gra­ham dis­cov­ered by chance, Gor­don ra­dio man­u­fac­tur­ers made the chas­sis of only 38 sets. He knows of only two ex­am­ples — he has one and the other is in Palmer­ston North. Gra­ham says “An un­cle saw it sit­ting on a shelf and his first words were, “Where the devil did you get that from? Be­cause when I did my ap­pren­tice­ship as a ra­dio ser­vice­man I built those sets. I will have worked on that set be­cause we only made 38 of them!”

Vin­tage record play­ers, also part of Gra­ham’s col­lec­tion, de­vel­oped quickly. He has a cou­ple of early Edis­ons (built prior to 1920) that play car­tridges, which look a bit like a toi­let roll.

“The prob­lem with them is that they are all made out of wax and they get very crumbly. Some­times they can fall apart in your hand.”

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