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Monday, September 8, 2008

New Serial Feature: Allied Radio 1930 Catalogue

It's been a while since we've had a serial feature here at Fourmilab, so this week I'm rolling out the latest: a week by week posting of the Allied Radio Corporation catalogue for 1930. If, like me, you were an electronics nerd in the 1960s, the Allied catalogue was the ultimate wish book: Knight kits, all the components you'd need to build your giant electronic brain for world domination, and cutting edge things you didn't remotely understand (MECL III, anyone?), but wished you did (and that you could afford to play with them).

But let's flash back three decades and a tad, to 1930. The stock market had crashed the previous October, but the impact of that event wasn't at all clear: after all, it had crashed from an unprecedentedly high level, obviously the popping of a bubble, but surely before long the correction would be over and prosperity would return. After all, the great engineer was in the White House, and the wisest minds were advising him how to mitigate the consequences of the present difficulties while waiting for the market to set everything aright.

Still, there was a sense that something wasn't right. And so, even as the golden age of radio was still building momentum toward creating the first continental scale shared popular culture, the preeminent vendors of the one-to-many connectivity technology of the epoch, AM radio, led their pitch with price.

Welcome to 1930. Well, I hope, only in this document, not that we're re-living the events of that year and its sequelæ, although that may regrettably come to pass. But anyway, direct from 1930, here's the Allied Radio Catalogue for that year. I've started with eleven pages as a teaser: from now on, I'll post four additional pages each Friday, with perhaps a few more on holidays and special occasions. The entire catalogue is about two hundred pages, so it'll take a while to work through, but it will be worth it. Trust me; the initial pages are somewhat tedious—obviously the same radio chassis sold in a variety of different cabinets—but when we get to the bits and pieces, it's fascinating, at least if you're a nerd who's fond of vintage technology—guilty as charged! Wait until we encounter the page of components for bleeding edge early adopters experimenting with mechanical scanning disc television.

Posted at September 8, 2008 22:21