1942 Rochester, MN, Flood


This photo of a flooded KROC, Rochester, MN, appeared in Broadcasting magazine 75 years ago today, June 15, 1942.

The picture was apparently taken on June 4, 1942, during a localized flash flood  along the Cascade creek which caused one death. Between June 3-5, the Rochester airport had recorded 3.26″ of rain, with 2.33″ of that falling within a single day. The creek basin had apparently received even higher rainfall.

The magazine noted that the station staff had to ignore the biggest news story of the year as it literally flooded right into the station’s doors. Due to wartime restrictions on weather reports, the announcer on duty had to ignore the waters rising around him, despite his strong desire to tell listeners about it as the water slowly climbed to waist depth.

“Just as the tubes began to sizzle,” they cut power and waited calmly for three hours until being rescued. While they waited, they were said to amuse themselves by warding off the rabbits, field mice, gophers, frogs, and pheasants that had sought sanctuary on the tiny island.

Damage was estimated at $1500, and the station was back on the air in less than 12 hours.

Radio Facsimile: 1947

4.1" facsimile receiver for connection to FM radio

4.1″ facsimile receiver for connection to FM radio

Today, we take a look at a technology that never caught on, namely, broadcast facsimile.

Seventy years ago this month, the June 1947 issue of FM and Television carried an article optimistically entitled, “Facsimile is Ready for Home Use,” detailing both the technology and the economic aspects. At that time, a standard had not yet been adopted, and the author, the magazine’s publisher Milton Sleeper, noted that this was the first step necessary to get the technology off the ground. Home receivers were ready to hit the market for $100, but sales were unlikely unless consumers knew that the set could be used to receive future facsimile broadcasts from any FM station.

The author advocated for a standard of a 4.1 inch width, 105 lines per inch, 3.43 inches per minute. He noted that this would require a subcarrier with an audio signal ranging from about 2-5 kHz, which he pointed out would be well within the flat-response range of all FM receivers. Others were apparently pressing for an 8.2 inch width, which he noted would require greater bandwidth.

The “chicken and egg” problem, of course, was content. As he noted, newspapers weren’t particularly keen on providing content to a free competing service. Even if they could be convinced, there was little interest in starting the service before receivers were on the market. And receivers wouldn’t be on the market without content.

Few, if any, technical barriers stood in the way. Sleeper describes how he set up a demonstration at a trade show on short notice. He was given the idea the day before the show, and managed to get the equipment installed at a station that same evening. The station had an experimental license, and apparently broadcast the facsimile over its normal audio channel. The receiver could be plugged in to any FM receiver, and was also set up in short order.

Sending unit, ready to plug in to FM station's audio line and play.

Sending unit, ready to plug in to FM station’s audio line and play.

Cooking With Sugar Rationing


Sugar rationing took effect in the United States in May 1942, and the next month, CBS radio personality Kate Smith stepped up to the plate in the June issue of Radio Mirror with recipes with which the housewife could conserve the commodity, but still prepare deserts.

Smith knew that her readers would accept rationing for what it was–“an emergency method of making quite sure that everyone gets all the sugar he needs and that no one gets more than he really needs.” She also knew that her readers wanted to make sure that they didn’t use their portion wastefully.

Therefore, she presented these recipes showing how delicious deserts could be prepared with other sweetening agents such as corn syrup, prepared pudding mixtures (which used dextrose), molasses, and honey.

Her sugarless layer cake used corn syrup, and the molasses cake used molasses along with a bit of brown sugar. She suggested that an easy and delicious filling for either cake could be made with a package of chocolate pudding mix and milk, following the package directions, but with a bit less milk. Instead of frosting, the cake could be covered with nut meats, currants, or raisins, or a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar could be used.

She also included a chocolate souffle recipe using a packaged pudding mix, and baked stuffed oranges using corn syrup or honey.

For glazing a ham, she included a recipe with a corn syrup glaze.


Mirrorphone, 1942


Shown here on the cover of National Radio News, June-July 1942, is the Mirrorphone from Western Electric. The magazine noted that the magnetic tape recording device was being used by radio announcers, actors, and in speech classes as an aid to speech improvement.

It recorded the subject’s voice onto a steel tape, which was presumably in n endless loop. A switch provided for immediate playback, allowing the speaker to detect and correct errors of pronunciation, emphasis, or tone.

The recorder automatically erased previous recordings.

The magazine noted that the device was in use by a number of radio stations, dramatic groups, and speech classes to train thousands of new telephone operators and secretaries in government agencies and war industries.

More information about the Mirrorphone, along with photos, can be found at this link.

1957 Five Transistor Loudspeaker Superhet


Sixty years ago, the transistor radio was starting to become more and more a reality, as shown by this project in the June 1957 issue of Radio Electronics.  A year earlier, the magazine had carried plans for a four-transistor superheterodyne pocket receiver.  and had announced that “this is it,” in that the transistor could finally be used in a usable radio that could be built by the average hobbyist.  The project shown here was an update of that project, and featured one thing missing from the earlier set, namely a speaker.

1957JuneRadioElec2This set boasted loudspeaker volume on many local stations, with the sound audible as far as 10-15 feet away in a quiet room. For distant stations or for private listening, an earphone jack was provided.

The set featured five PNP transistors, with four 2N1112A’s as converter, first and second IF, and detector, and a 2N138 providing enough audio to drive the speaker.  The set was powered by a 4 volt battery.  A specific battery was mentioned, but the article noted that three N cells providing 4.5 volts would work well.


Lidice Massacre, 1942

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Lidice Massacre, June 10, 1942, at Lidice, in the current Czech Republic. In retaliation for the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich,

Hitler and Himmler ordered the destruction of the village of Lidice. On this day, the 173 male residents over 15 years of age were executed by shooting. The 184 women and 88 children were deported to concentration camps, where they were gassed.

Unlike most atrocities, the Nazis bragged about this one. The German radio station, received by the Associated Press in New York, reported “all male grownups of the town were shot, while the women were placed in a concentration camp, and the children were entrusted to appropriate educational institutions.” A total of 340 died in the reprisal.

1942 Air Raid Alarm

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The June 1942 issue of Service magazine carried this ad for an air raid alarm to be added to any radio.  It noted that the first sign of an air raid would often be local radio stations leaving the air, lest they serve as a beacon for incoming bombers.  If you were listening to the radio during the day, you would know immediately.  But at night, with the radio off, you would be caught unaware.

With this home alert, you would leave the radio on standby, and if the station you were tuned to left the air, this would be the sign of a possible air raid.  The ad noted that during air raid alarms in Los Angeles, radios equipped with this device sounded the alarm from six to ten minutes before the sirens sounded.

The unit sold for $5, and could be installed by a local service shop.

Recording a Record for Servicemen, 1942.

1942June8ChiTrib75 years ago today, the June 8, 1942, issue of the Chicago Tribune carried this ad from the Marshall Field department store.

So that customers could express their gratitude to the men in the service, the store had a “canteen” on the second floor containing 576 different gift ideas that were, after “consultation with the War Department and the boys themselves,” were guaranteed to please the serviceman. The ad invited customers to “spend very little, or quite a lot, but send the boys something regularly.”

The store’s prices included free shipping by railway express to any military or naval post, station, camp, or ship.

One suggestion to include in the box to the boys was a phonograph record. For just a quarter, you could record five minutes on two sides of a 6 inch phonograph disk so that the boys could hear a voice from home.

1947 Toy Telephone Crystal Set

The Twilight Zone Lili Darvas Billy Mumy 1961.jpg

Twilight Zone “Long Distance Call” 1961. Wikipedia image.

You might recall the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “Long Distance Call.”  If you don’t recall, five-year-old Billy received a toy telephone from his grandmother, who then promptly died.  After her death, Billy continued to receive “pretend” phone calls from her, in which she encouraged him to join her in the hereafter.  Finally, the father stepped in, picked up the toy phone, and told Grandma, in no uncertain terms, to knock it off.

We offer a possible explanation from just

Youngster listening to 1947 toy phone, presumably tuned to strong local station.

Youngster listening to 1947 toy phone, presumably tuned to strong local station.

fourteen years earlier, in the June 1947 issue of Popular Mechanics.  That article showed how to convert a toy telephone, which looked just like Billy’s, into a crystal set.

According to the article, Daddy really made a hit with his youngster by doing the conversion, and the youngster was, indeed, able to hear voices through the toy telephone, in the form of a pre-tuned local radio station.

The conversion entailed use of a 1N34 diode, and tuning was accomplished by a premeability-tuned coil. Dad presumably preset the tuning to the strong local station, although I suppose it’s possible that he accidentally tuned it to the hereafter. The earphone that the author was able to find was a war surplus low impedance unit, necessitating the addition of an audio output transformer.

Billy's telephone just 14 years later. Coincidence?

Billy’s telephone just 14 years later. Coincidence?


1917 Dictaphone

1917June6ChiTribA hundred years ago today, the banner headline of the Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1917, reported that 308,809 Chicago men had registered for the draft. It predicted that the total for the country could pass ten million, with 640,000 of those in the State of Illinois alone.

Whatever the exact numbers, it was clear that many American men would soon be under arms, and that labor shortages would probably result. It wasn’t surprising then that one company made the best of the situation by promoting in the same paper its labor-saving device: The Dictaphone.

The ad (which was itself dictated into a Dictaphone, it was claimed at the bottom) proclaimed that “the man-power of the country is enrolling in defense of the flag–but business must go on.”

The ad reminded the businessman that “you have always needed The Dictaphone,” but these times of stress and pressure made the need even more acute.

The businessman who had already adopted The Dictaphone “knows where he stands. He has a flexible, efficient, provably better way to handle his correspondence.”

The ad promised that “The Dictaphone will more than make good your loss of experienced, able office personnel who may be called to the colors.”