VOLUME 15 MAY 1998 NUMBER 5
Amrad MemoriesWeb Edition
BY FRANK W. SMITH
Back about 1924, my father purchased a radio known as "Amrad." The original version was a single deck affair which I think used a single Type 201-A tube and originally would drive only headphones. Later, Dad bought an add-on deck, which mounted on top of the original piece and used three Type 01-A tubes.
Alan Douglas has supplied this photo of an Amrad 3500-2 (3730 and 2634) which Alan believes could be the set Frank Smith describes. A Model 3380 (3108 and 2634) might be closer, but a photo was not available.
A "well" built into a window seat of a large bay window of our home housed two or three 45-volt B batteries, a 6-volt storage battery for tube filaments, and a battery charger. This up-graded version would now do a reasonable job of driving a small speaker, and make a passable effort at operating a larger horn speaker.
When conditions were right in the evening, we could hear WSB (Welcome South, Brother) in Atlanta, about 120 miles distant, as well as KDKA in Pittsburgh. One of my first clear recollections is traveling at the age of five or six with my dad to Atlanta, where he sang in a quartet over Station WSB on top of the Biltmore Hotel. I clearly remember Dad raising me up so that I could see over the parapet around the roof of the Biltmore, from which Stone Mountain was visible in the distance. Of course, the folks back home were glued to the old Amrad that evening, but alas! -- weather conditions were not favorable, and they could barely hear sounds emanating from WSB.
About 1928, Dad traded the Amrad to my cousin, who dabbled in selling radios around town. I remember very well that he got $10 for the Amrad in trade.
By this time, I had acquired a very active interest in radio, and I persuaded my cousin to sell me the Amrad back for $1. Now I was the proud owner of this beautiful, grand old radio, replete with variometers, varicouplers, rheostats, tap switches, dials, brass-based 201-As with the tip on top, and much else. I recall that there were many different knobs and controls on the front panels.
So what did I do with this gem? Unfortunately with the folly of youth, I systematically salvaged every possible part of that old set. Over a period of years, I cut up the Bakelite panels, removed the wire from the variometers, used the screws, bolts, nuts, washers, binding posts, tube sockets, resistors, condensers, and rheostats in my various radio projects. All I have left today is a couple of filament rheostats and a potentiometer that somehow managed to survive.
In the meantime, a friend had found an old loose coupler in his attic, and with that and parts salvaged from the Amrad, we made a noble effort to build a crystal set. I had no idea where to obtain a galena crystal, but I had read somewhere that iron pyrite might serve. I had some iron pyrite in my chemistry set, so into the crystal holder it went! Sadly, all we were ever able to get on that radio was static noise. Perhaps if we had had a station in the vicinity, it might have worked. However, WSB or possibly a new station at Athens, Georgia, were the only possibilities.
My point in relating all this is that it was probably an antique radio that launched my whole career in radio, electric power, and electronics. I wish so much now that I had preserved that old Amrad. It might capture the interest of other young people and be a factor in launching other careers.
(Frank W. Smith, W4EIN, 2023 Haven Crest Dr., Chattanooga, TN 37421)
At about age 12, Frank Smith built a small Tesla coil. In 1936, at age 15, Frank received his call, W4EIN. World War II interrupted his education at Georgia Tech, but he graduated in electrical engineering in 1947. In the military, Smith worked briefly in radar, and wound up as a technician in VHF radio. Since retiring after 34 years with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Smith has taught electronics and related subjects at local colleges.