Air King A-410 Radio-Camera

1947DecRadioRetailingIn 1947, Santa undoubtedly received many requests for one of these little beauties. It was obviously an idea before its time, but Air King obviously anticipated the cell phone camera. With the available technology of the day, they produced this combination camera-radio, the model A410, shown here in the December 1947 issue of Radio Retailing.

The camera featured a 50 mm lens, and could take either black and white or color pictures on standard 828 film.

The four tube radio ran on one flashlight battery and a 67-1/2 volt B battery.

1927 Medium Wave DX’ing Report

Meager putting the finishing touches on the Magnaformer.

Meager putting the finishing touches on the Magnaformer.

Ninety years ago today, the December 17, 1927, issue of Radio World carried the report of DX Hound Thomas F. Meagher. Meagher described his location in New York City as the one bad disadvantage he was saddled with, due to the proximity of so many local stations. But despite the disadvantageous location, Meagher was able to pull in over the course of six nights a total of 98 different stations in 43 cities. His log included stations as far west as WHO Des Moines and WCCO Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Meagher pulled this off with a loop antenna and the Magnaformer 9-8 receiver, the construction details of which were included in earlier issues of the magazine.

Meagher pointed out that he lived only 3/4 mile from WABC, and also close to other stations. The advantage of the Magnaformer was that it was able to “get in between” the stations with good selectivity. For example, he noted how he was able to go between WOR and WHN and pull in five out-of-town stations, WHJ, CFCF, WCCO, WFI, and WTAM. He reported that he took full advantage of the set’s loop antenna to null out the strong local stations.

1927Dec17RadioWorld2Meagher’s home at 7765 75th Street, Glendale, New York, is shown in the article. And lo and
behold, the same house is still recognizable in the Google Street View shown below.


1947 Philco Christmas Ad

1947Dec15LifeSeventy years ago, Santa was getting ready to head down the chimney with some of these Philco radios and phonographs shown in this ad from the December 15, 1947, issue of Life magazine.

The featured console was the Philco 1270, with a list price of $359.70. It featured an FM tuner, and also promised to let you say goodbye to record noise, with the “Philco Electronic Scratch Eliminator, the device that separates noise from music for the first time in the history of record-playing.”

If you wanted to add some scratches to those records to test the capabilities, the ad also featured two phonographs that could probably do the trick, models 1200 and 1201. The record was inserted into a slot on the front, and the ad promised “no more fussing with lids, tone-arms, or controls.” Model 1200 was just a record player, while model 1201 also featured a radio. Both were portable and could be carried anywhere.

You can see the 1270 in action at the following video.  While not mentioned in the ad, you can see from the video that the set also tuned 6-15.5 MHz shortwave.

1927 Soviet Fahnestock Clips


1927DecRadioL2Ninety years ago, the Fahnestock clip was well established in the free world as a convenient method of making electrical connections. They were readily available wherever radio and electrical supplies were sold.

Soviet amateurs, on the other hand, were forced to use a bit more ingenuity, as shown from this issue, 1927 issue number 6 of Радио любитель (Radio Amateur) magazine. The article, by Engineer V.D. Romanov, shows how to make Fahnestock clips! While I can’t read the text, the diagrams are quite clear. The clips can be cut from sheet metal. Or for the truly enterprising Soviet ham, the article shows how to fabricate makeshift Fahnestock clips from wire!

There will undoubtedly come a day when the Fahnestock clip becomes unobtainium. When that happens, you’ll be able to make your own. In the meantime, you can get them at Amazon:

1917 CW Crystal Set

1917DecWirelessAgeA hundred years ago this month, the December 1917 issue of Wireless Age showed this method of received undamped waves (CW) with a crystal detector.  Unlike spark signals, the CW signals had no audio modulation.  Therefore, with just a crystal set, you can’t hear anything.

The conventional method to receive CW signals is with a receiver that has a BFO, an oscillator that mixes with the incoming signal.  When the CW signal is transmitted, you hear a tone which is the difference between the frequencies of the two signals.

This circuit uses a rotating variable condenser in the circuit.  The article includes alternate placements, but the idea is the same.  An audio frequency (the same as the frequency of the motor’s rotation) is imposed on the signal, and the code can be copied in the headphone.  The pitch you hear is equal to the frequency at which the capacitor is rotating.

We previously showed a similar idea from 1943 in this post.  In this circuit, CW can be copies by interrupting the circuit with a motor driving a commutator.


1937 Two-Tube Broadcast Set


1937DecPM2Eighty years ago, the December 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics carried the plans for this simple two-tube portable broadcast set. It featured two type 30 tubes, one serving as regenerative detector and the other as audio amplifier to drive a set of headphones. The set could be taken on hikes or bike rides or to the ball game. And since the set ran a long time on a set of batteries, it was said to have a definite value in flood, hurricane, or earthquake areas.

The 22.5 volt B battery would last about six months. The filaments were powered by two flashlight batteries, which would be good for about five hours at a cost of only a dime each.


1958 Boys’ Life Radio Contest

1957DecBLSixty years ago this month, the December 1957 issue of Boys’ Life announced the 1958 running of the magazine’s radio contest for hams and SWL’s.

According to the magazine, over 300 Scouts and Explorers at the 1957 Jamboree had been licensed hams, and most of them got their start with one of the BL radio contests.

The 1958 running had two classes for SWL’s. Class A entries used manufactured receivers or converted surplus sets. Class B was for scouts using homemade receivers they made themselves.

There was also a class for licensed hams, but the magazine noted that licensed hams were never eligible for prizes for winning contests. Hams were to call CQ BSA, and exchanged message number, RST, rank in scouting, and BSA region or country.  For the SWL categories, prizes ranged from ARRL memberships to receivers.

This year, the SWL contest was based entirely on the number of US and Canadian regions logged, number of states, and number of countries. Once a station in a particular region, state, or country was logged, there was no reason to log another. There were bonus points for logging all regions and all states, and any station qualified, whether it was broadcast, TV, FM, code, armed forces, police, amateur, or other.

The log had to include a 25 word written statement of either “I like short-wave radio because…” or “I’d like to get an amateur radio operator’s license because….”

Logs were to be signed by an adult certifying that the scout logged the stations by himself, alone.

Radio Electronics in Our Life by B.V. Fomin, 1957

FominRadioelektronikaIt’s unclear exactly what’s going on in this picture, although there’s little doubt that the message being sent is critical to the success of the current five-year plan, and these comrades are making sure that the message gets through.

This is the cover of an intriguing little book entitled “Radio Electronics in Our Life”  by B.V. Fomin, published in Moscow in 1957 as part of a large series entitled the Popular Scientific Library.  This series, covering a wide variety of scientific and engineering topics, was published by the State Publishing House of Technical and Theoretical Literature (Гостехиздат; ГИТТЛ).

This and many other fascinating Soviet books and magazines can be found at Журналы СССР.

Peace Light 2017


This cartoon marking the 1st anniversary of Pearl Harbor appeared 75 years ago today in the Pittsburgh _____, Dec. 7, 1942.

This cartoon marking the 1st anniversary of Pearl Harbor appeared 75 years ago today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 7, 1942.

Pearl Harbor Anniversary

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, marking the entry of the United States into World War II.


The Peace Light

As a symbol of peace, we show the flame above, which has been burning for hundreds of years.  This flame was burning throughout the Second World War, the First World War, the U.S. Civil War, and every other war in modern history.  It’s shown here in my living room, but it originates from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where it has been continuously tended for hundreds of years.  The exact date that some monk struck a flint to ignite it is not known, but it is believed to be about a thousand years ago.

Each year during the Advent season, it is transported from Bethlehem to Europe and North America, courtesy of Austrian Airlines.  This year, it was brought to Kennedy Airport on November 25.  From there, volunteers fan out across the country to distribute the flame.  Most of these are connected with Scouting in some way, and Scouts and Guides in Europe participate in similar activities.

As I did last year, I played a small part in the distribution.  Prior to my getting it, the flame traveled to Indianapolis, and then to Chicago.  From there, it went to Des Moines, and I met an Iowa Scouter in Albert Lea, Minnesota, to transfer it to St. Paul.  From me, it was picked up by others who took it to Wisconsin and North Dakota.  From there, it will travel to Winnipeg, and probably to other points.  Meanwhile, others are taking it to other parts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

You can read more about the Peace Light at the U.S. Peace Light website or the Peace Light North America Facebook group.  If you’re close to St. Paul, Minnesota, and would like to receive the Peacelight, feel free to contact me and we can make arrangements.  In other areas, you can find a local source on the Facebook page.



One common question is how the Peace Light travels on two international flights from Israel to Austria, and then to North America.  The flame is transported safely in an antique blastproof miner’s lamp.  On the ground, it is walked through customs by airline employees to the airport chapel.



On the ground, the most common way to transport the light is with a lantern such as the one at the top of the page.  These are rarely used these days, since mantle type lanterns provide considerably more light.  But in the 19th century, the cold-draft kerosene lantern was something of a revolution in lighting, since it provides a fairly bright flame and is also relatively safe, since it will self-extinguish if tipped over.


A good history of the lantern can be found at this site.  Prior to such lanterns, the best available option for camp lighting was the candle lantern.  As the name implies, it was just a ventilated enclosure in which a candle was inserted.


The ad at the left, from the June 1916 issue of Boys’ Life, shows both types of lamps.  Interestingly,  in addition to providing more light, the kerosene lantern is actually less expensive.  Candle lanterns start at $1.50, but the cold-blast lantern is only 75 cents.


Both types of lanterns are readily available today.  The cold-blast kerosene lantern can be found at Amazon at any of the following links:


You can also obtain the lantern at WalMart with this link or this link.  The fuel is available at this link.  You can order the lanterns and fuel online with these links, and then pick them up the same day at the store.

And for those who want to be even more retro in their camp lighting, these candle lanterns are also available at Amazon:

The lantern shown below is very similar, or possibly identical, to the 1916 candle lantern shown in the ad:

How to Transport the Peace Light

If you need to transport the flame only a short distance, one good option is to use a votive candle at the bottom of a coffee can. For longer distances, I place the lanterns at the top of the page inside a 5 gallon bucket similar to the one shown at the left, wtih sand or cat litter at the bottom.

Carrying it in this manner is very stable, and I have never experienced it tipping.  If it does tip, the entire lantern is safely contained, and the lantern will self-extinguish.

It should be noted that because there is an open flame, you should not refuel the vehicle with the Peace Light in the car.  Fill up your gas tank before picking up the light.  If you need to buy gas before you reach your destination, it will be necessary to leave the lantern at a safe location before driving to the pumps.  And while the combustion of these lanterns is very complete, it is a good idea to keep a window of the car open slightly.

Plans for a more a elaborate carrier are also available at the site.



Patrick Vincent Coleman, 1872 – 1917

Vince Coleman. Wikipedia photo.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, December 6, 1917.  We remember it as a great act of heroism by a telegrapher, train dispatcher Vince Coleman.

Tall cloud of smoke rising over the water

Only known photograph of the blast, probably taken about 15 seconds after detonation from about one mile away. Wikipedia photo.

The 1916 explosion in Halifax harbor killed approximately 2000 people and injured 9000 more. It represented the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons, and released the equivalent of 2.9 kilotons of TNT.

It was the result of a collision between the SS Mont-Blanc, a French freighter carrying high explosives, with the Norwegian vessel SS IMO. The Imo was en route to New York to take on relief supplies for Belgium. The ship was given clearance to leave the harbor on December 5, but had been delayed due to fueling. By the time the ship had taken on fuel, the submarine nets were up for the night, and the ship had to wait.

The Mont-Blanc had arrived from New York the night of December 5 and was heavily loaded with explosives. The ship intended to join a convoy, but was also arrived too late to enter the harbor due to the submarine nets.

When the nets were lowered the next morning, the ships passed in a strait called the Narrows. At 8:45 AM, the two ships collided. While damage was not severe, barrels of Benzol broke open and flooded the hold. Sparks ignited the vapors, and a fire started at the water line. As the crew of the Mont-Blanc frantically boarded their lifeboats, they shouted warnings that the ship was about to explode.

At 9:04, the ship exploded, with a cloud of smoke rising over 11,000 feet. The shock wave was felt over 129 miles away, and an area of over 400 acres was completely destroyed. A 50-foot tsunami hit Halifax.

Panoramic view over traintracks to destroyed cityscape

Halifax ruins. Wikipedia photo.

Vince Coleman, 45, was a dispatcher for the Canadian Government Railways. He, along with Chief Clerk William Lovett, was working at the Richmond station, only a few hundred feet from the pier. He was responsible for controlling trains along the main line into Halifax.

Minutes after the fire started, a sailor had been rushed ashore to warn people of the ship’s cargo. The men in the station began to rush out of the building, but Coleman hurried back to send a warning message to the other stations down the line. In particular, Coleman was aware that a passenger train was due, and that its path would take it right to the explosion. He sent the following message to all of the other stations down the line:


The message was heeded. The passenger train, with 300 aboard, was halted at Rockingham station, about 4 miles from the downtown terminal. It is almost certain the Coleman’s message saved the lives of those 300 passengers. In addition, the message, which was received by numerous other stations, along with the line then going silent, gave news of what had happened, allowing relief supplies to be immediately sent to Halifax.

This was critical, since a winter storm soon delayed further relief supplies. The passengers and crew of the first arriving trains began rendering assistance, but the first dedicated relief train was udnerway by 10:00 AM, and arrived by noon.

The next day, Halifax was blanketed by 16 inches of snow, delaying other relief trains from Canada and the United States. Coleman’s heroic message ensured that relief was on the way while there was still time to save hundreds of lives.

This short video dramatizes Coleman’s heroism:

It also features in the 2007 miniseries “Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion”: