Monday, March 4, 2013

Portable Radio

I enjoyed reading the comments yesterday, and hearing everyone's memories about the old tube radios. For those old holdouts still listening to these vintage radios . . . I wonder how hard it is to get the tubes for them now. Are all the old tubes even made anymore? I know the tubes burned out fairly frequently.

Anyway, today's picture is from the early 1900's and it shows a young lady listening to a radio. Again, massive batteries needed to run the radio. Battery technology was limited back then, so I bet the batteries did not last very long.


  1. There are still lots of tubes being made, ham-radio operators still use them frequently for things like power amplifiers for transmission. I have an old GE radio with some 5 tubes in it.

    One thing is that the old tubes in these radios had a larger bakelite base with the contacts. Newer versions of the same tubes are usually all-glass, so the base is smaller. You have then adapters that you plug into the old socket, in order to be able to put the new tube in. Two or three of the tubes in this old GE radio are newer ones, connected this way.

    Besides tubes, one thing which is really nice about these old radios is the large variable capacitor with air for dielectric. With a large knob (and sometimes a reduction gearbox too) they provide for a very smooth and sensitive tuning that allows to pick-up even the faintest signals out of the background noise. Nowadays all tunning is digital, PLL-based, so even when you have a turning knob, it is fake, you are just moving some fixed frequency steps up or down. It is ok for broadcast FM listening, but it is so painful for shortwave that takes all the fun of SW out of it :(

    1. The old radios also didn't have the "squelch" feature that modern radios you could pick up a lot of cool private broadcasts. There used to be a lot of guys that would broadcast a few hours a day from basement or garage studios.They didn't have very powerful transmitters, so some of them only broadcast at night when the signal would carry further without the disruption of the Sun's radiation. We used to sit up late or get up early just to see what we could find out there.

  2. I don't remember tube radios but I do remember tube TV's.

  3. Actually , tubes didn't burn out as often as most people think. It was a case of who manufactured the radios. There were many small companies that built radios but their technological prowess left much to be desired. They were more concerned about just getting working radios out there instead of really well designed radios with longevity built into them Major manufacturers like GE and RCA build radios that even today, still operate with the original tubes. There are tubes available (British reference to tubes is "valves") and more and more tube operated audio equipment is making it's way back into the home and commercial audio markets. There is a "purity of sound" that solid state devices lack when process audio signals. Tubes are Good...