Monthly Archives: March 2016

Uncle Tom’s Corner, 1965


We’ve previously mentioned prolific radio author Tom Kneitel, best known by his 1960’s era call sign, K2AES.  Starting 50 years ago this month with the March 1966 issue of Electronics Illustrated, Kneitel wrote the regular column Uncle Tom’s Corner, which he continued until the magazine’s demise in 1972.

His first column carried a sidebar with a biography, calling him an “irascible misanthrope, a rabble rouser and the dirty old man of electronics.” It noted that he was the leading writer on the subject of SWL’ing who later “gave the Citizens Band its name and was instrumental in making it into the world’s most dynamic radio service.”

According to the biography, Kneitel was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and got his start in electronics as a disc jockey. He later spent six years with United Artists, “selling 16mm films in–of all places–Greenland and Liberia.” In 1966, he had lived in New York, Florida, California, and Oklahoma. It noted that he drove a Jaguar and had a bloodhound named Zelda.

Kneitel had earlier held the calls K3FLL and WB2AAI. Prior to his death in 2008, he was W4XAA.

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1941 “Prairie Dog Special” Transmitter


1941MarRadioNews2Seventy-five years ago this month, the March 1941 issue of Radio News carried the plans for the “Prairie Dog Special” transmitter, specially designed for Field Day or emergency use. The set was named after the Prairie Dogs, a Chicago area radio club, which had assembled a number of the transmitters, resulting in first place in the four transmitter category in the 1940 running of Field Day.

The transmitter covered 160 through 10 meters, and would put out about 24 watts on phone or 35 watts on CW. It had built-in power supplies for either AC or 6 volts DC, making use of a vibrator.

The circuit consisted of a 6V6G oscillator, with cathode keying for CW. The final amplifier was a HY60 tube, although the article noted that the venerable 807 could also be used. The modulator consiste of a 6C5 audio amplifier, followed by a 6V6 modulator. Two 6X5’s in the power supply did the rectification duties.

Portable operation required FCC notification, and the rules were somewhat complex:

A word about operation. The FCC regs specifically provide that portable operation can only be done on the week-end and then only on 48 hour’s notice to the Commission’s nearest office to your home QTH. Besides this the law provides that the transmissions MUST be from portable power sources. These are batteries, or some generator or another. The use of 155 v a.c. house lines even if they be strung out into a field is specifically prohibited; though a motor generator producing this voltage is not. So use your P.D. Special only on 115 v a.c. at home, or if in the field, then only from some motor-generator or battery. The provisions concerning reception are left open, and there is not any requirement that the receiver be battery or motor-generator powered.

The article’s author was Raymond Frank, W9JU.

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EICO 753, “Seven Drifty Three” Review, 1966


Fifty years ago, the February-March 1966 issue of Radio TV Experimenter magazine published a review of the Eico 753. This was a bare-bones SSB and CW (with AM tossed in as an  afterthought) transceiver for 80, 40, and 20 meters. I happen to own one of these monsters, and it’s actually a nice radio for what it is. I’ve worked DX with it, and I even took it with me on a mini-DXpedition to YV-land. I worked a few stateside stations from there, and even worked Europe on 40 phone.

The review was generally favorable, concluding that “so far, the EICO 753 stacks up as the best ham transceiver buy for 1966.

The radio is affectionately known as the “Seven Drifty Three” for its propensity to drift. The review covers this point:

After a 15 minute warmup the EICO 753’s stability was well within the specified 400 cycles–in fact, we were able to work relatively long contacts with but one or two tuning corrections (done with the receiver offset). We must allow for the other ham’s station having some drift.

In 1966, the radio sold in kit form for $179.95, $299.95 wired. Unless you had a power supply, you would need that as well. The AC supply with speaker sold for $79.95 in kit form, $109.95 wired. Mobile power supplies were available for the same price.

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Lola Schofield, WMBB Chicago, 1926

LolaSchofieldIn an earlier post, we covered WMBB radio, which broadcast from the Trianon Ballroom, the “World’s Most Beautiful Ballroom” from 1925 to 1928. Shown here is more of the station’s on air talent, Lola Schofield. This picture appeared in the March 13, 1926, issue of Radio Digest, which noted that she helped make the station’s programs pleasant with her dramatic soprano voice. The station concluded its broadcasts with the cast singing, “W-M-B-B Chi-ca-go,” an early example of a station jingle.

Shown below is more of the station’s talent, “Dell Lampe’s Syncopators,” which, according to the caption, could always be depended upon to provide lively dance music.



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Radio Scouting, 1916

9UZ1916Shown here in the March 1916 issue of Boys’ Life magazine is the wireless transmitting and receiving apparatus of Boy Scout Troop 4, Covington, Kentucky. According to the magazine, the station was owned and operated by the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader, Austin Edwards. The troop’s scoutmaster was listed as Mr. Nelson J. Edwards.

According to the 1916 Call Book, Austin N. Edwards of 99 East 4th Street, Covington, Kentucky, was the holder of call sign 9UZ.

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Meissner 9-1081 2-1/2 Meter Transceiver

Meissner91081The 1941 issue of the Radio Handbook carried this ad for the Meissner Model 9-1081 2-1/2 Meter Transceiver.

This portable transceiver covered the 2-1/2 meter band, 110-120 MHz, and was reportedly built to withstand the abuse of portable service. It contained a compartment for microphone, headphone, and log book, and ad a built-in telescoping antenna.

The set measured twelve inches high, eleven inches wide, and 6-1/4 inches deep. It weighed 13 pounds without batteries.

Few details were given in the ad, and I haven’t been able to find any reference to a surviving example of this early portable. I suspect that the set was similar to the 5 meter transceiver I wrote about earlier, in that it probably used the same tube as both a superregenerative receiver and transmitter.

A later ad shows the price as $34.50.

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1936 Zenith Car Radio


This advertisement from the March 1936 issue of Radio Today shows a Zenith car radio.

The ad touts Zenith as producing “America’s safest auto radio,” and details some of the safety features. The tuning and volume controls are mounted on the steering column to keep the driver from having to fumble with the actual radio, which would be mounted somewhere else under the dash.

The dial pointer on the large “safety dial” was illuminated, but only when the dial was actually being turned. The dial was viewable at any angle, with never any glare to blind the driver.

The ad in this trade publication was directed at dealers, and reminded them that this radio sold fast!

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1916 Boys’ Life Heliograph

Heliograph1A hundred years ago this month, the March 1916 issue of Boys’ Life magazine carried the plans for this simple heliograph.  This device is capable of signalling many miles, depending of course on the altitude and whether the sun is shining.  It allows the sender to flash signals using any code, although the article recommends use of the Morse code.

The heliograph consists of a mirror with a hole drilled through it (for sighting).  Drilling the hole through glass was probably the most difficult part of the process, as the article points out that “any optician will drill the hole for you for a quarter or less.”

The construction details are rather straightforward, as shown by the illustration below.  To use, the sender first sights the receiving station by looking through the hole, and lining the stick in front up with the destination.  Then, the mirror is adjusted so that the sun is focused on the stick.  To send, a card is simply placed in front of the mirror and raised to send a flash.


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1936 Tube Tester


Shown here is one of the tools of the trade of the radio serviceman 80 years ago, as shown in the March 1936 issue of Service magazine.

From the Precision Apparatus Corporation, this is the Electonometer Model 500 tube tester.

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1943 Wartime Intercom


This intercom from the March 1943 issue of Radio News shows the kind of ingenuity that was necessary in the face of wartime shortages on the home front.

The article notes that with defense priorities, many small business firms were in need of interoffice communications but unable to get them. The only immediate answer, according to the article, was to make a small radio do double duty.

The article describes a four-station intercom constructed with a six-tube table radio. The only additional parts, all of which were available at the “radio bargain counter” were nine switches, four speakers, and a roll of shielded cable. The hookup allowed for the station with the radio to serve as the master, able to call or receive calls from the other stations. As an added bonus, any of the four remotes could listen to the radio, but stil l make calls.

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