EDITOR'S COMMENTS From Antique Radio Classified for January 2002
(Copyright 1996-2002 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
January 1 always inspires hope of new beginnings. Perhaps this year more than ever we need that sense of renewal, and reflecting on the many "firsts" in radio history may help to boost our sense of optimism. Last month we celebrated Marconi's historic "first" the first transatlantic wireless transmission in December 1901. This month our lead article by Ken R., reprinted with the permission of Radio World, tells of the current efforts to preserve the memory of another radio "first" the garage in which Frank Conrad first experimented with radio broadcasting.
What is striking about the Conrad story is how quickly it followed the momentous events of 1901. In 1916, Frank Conrad, a Westinghouse engineer, first put a microphone next to a phonograph and thereby created a musical radio program broadcast from his garage. By 1920, urged by Conrad, Westinghouse had built the first commercial station, KDKA, which was licensed on October 27 and began broadcasting on November 2. Unfortunately, Frank Conrad has never been afforded the recognition due him for his enormous contribution to the popularization of radio; hence, the difficulty in raising funds to preserve his garage.
After KDKA went on the air, interest in radio began to skyrocket. A new profession was born -- radio announcer -- and our cover features Harold Arlin of KDKA, the first full-time radio announcer. In her book Inventing American Broadcasting 1899-1922, Susan Douglas reports that radio sales went from 60 million in 1922 to 358 million in 1924. Suddenly, all manner of events were being broadcast, from the Republican Convention in Cleveland in 1924 to church services and sporting events.
By the mid-1930s, radio was in its prime and being rivaled by television another "first" developed in an amazingly short time. A.R.C. staff member Ray Bintliff, a retired RCA engineer, had an interesting flea-market find photos of a mid-1930s RCA set resembling the TRK-12. A mystery lies in the Cyrillic lettering on one of the sets. Was it intended for export to Russia, Sarnoff's birthplace? What was the RCA-Soviet Union connection?
A "Puppy" transistor radio using only two transistors catches the eye in Photo Review, as does a Revere radio that looks like it's built into a camera case. And, a British World War I set will surely attract military buffs.
On the scale of "firsts," the Muchow auction in the fall figured very highly and was the reason we fell behind on reporting other events. We're now back on schedule and will begin the new year with reports from Ray Chase and Eric Stenberg on MAARC's RadioActivity, which beat great odds against tropical storm Alison.
Over 200 bidders defied the weather and boosted the sales to over $10,000. Happy bidders went away with sets at reasonable prices; for example, a very desirable black-dial Zenith console went for $360, a Crosley Oracle grandfather clock-radio for $260, and several Catalin sets in the $300 range. These modest Catalin prices relflected the condition of the sets. However, if you wanted a display set, not necessarily in pristine condition, this was your chance.
RCA is almost an underlying theme this month. John Hagman's weakness for RCA led to his rising to the challenge of restoring a Model 128. Luckily for us, he documented the before and after state of the set step-by-step, including thirteen coats of lacquer. John exhibits a true love of preservation, and we look forward to publishing his next article on an AK-545 restoration.
In a brief article about the nagging problem of rubber-covered wire in radios, Ray Bintliff ruminates about what lay behind such a choice by major manufacturers. Ray also hopes that the chemists among you might have answers to why rubber fails as an insulator.
Dick Desjarlais reviews Mark Stein's new price guide to pre-war consoles, which obviously fills a need for collectors. For many years, consoles sold for about $10. Now, as with the Zenith mentioned earlier, they are valued at much more. Dick calls Stein's extensive coverage of over 3,500 models a valuable reference guide, as well as a "feast for the eyes."
Radio Miscellanea inlcudes more on Marconi, whose achievements are of never-ending interest. We've also found that Canada was not to be outdone by England in the production of a coin commemorating the first transatlantic wireless transmission from England to Newfoundland. This page always adds layers of information to our compilation of radio history.
A.R.C. Benefits. The new A.R.C. benefits will extend into the new year. Books are shipped free by book rate to addresses in the U.S., and Discover and American Express have been added to Visa and MasterCard as acceptable credit cards. For our subscribers, we continue to offer a ten percent discount on all book orders. However, to qualify for the discount, you must be a current subscriber to A.R.C. and request the discount when placing your order. In addition, shipping must be to the address to which we mail your magazine.
Coming Radio Events. Kick off the new year with any one of the 40 meets scheduled for January 2002.
Among them is an ARCO meet on January 2 and an Estes vintage radio auction on January 19. On January 26, choose from COARA's 9th Annual Cabin Fever Meet or the CC-AWA's annual Winter Swap Meet, or stop by A.R.C.'s tables at NEARC's swap meet in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Happy Collecting in the New Year!
John V. Terrey, Editor
ON THE COVER
The "JW" on our cover is graphic designer Jack Warren. Sometime ago, Jack offered his illustration of Harold Arlin, the first full-time radio announcer, as a subject for an A.R.C. cover. We were delighted when the Conrad garage story came along, and the Arlin illustration proved to be an appropriate connecting link. Also, in our March 1996 issue, the lead article on KDKA's toppled tower mentions another "first" the first baseball play-by-play, announced by Arlin on August 5, 1921. The game was broadcast from Forbes Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phils 8 to 5.