Sex and Speakers
This is the culprit here
Above is an early tube radio. It is an Atwater Kent model 30 battery set as used on farms across the United States in the 1920s. This was before AC power was laid out to the rural areas so farmers used batteries. These sets used large round speakers like the one shown here below or very sensitive high impedance headphones with what were called "Pin Jacks"
The frame is a very pretty Victorian statement before there was grill cloth. The other choice was a set of headphones like this period Baldwin Bakelite model This radio is one of the first made in quantities that used a vacuum tube “Amplifier” to drive the above speaker with a real paper cone instead of headphones or a horn type speaker. Paper cone speakers were a real advancement as they had more bass and a fuller sound. They needed about five watts of power to drive them, to move the paper cone, instead of a small headphone diaphram.
Before there were radios that anyone could buy, not some experimental set that the hobbyist built, these Victrolas, or Phonographs were the rage. They were the first real way music could be recorded, and then played just days later in cities far away, and a few weeks later across the country. Early Phonographs before tubes used the physics of the horn to amplify the sound, as the expanding horn acoustically "Amplified" the sound without AC or battery power.
First before all, Crystal sets brought the sound of Spark Transmitters to the ears via headphones. It was the battery radio with early 4-pin triodes that had enough power to drive a paper cone speaker.
So the battery radio had the first need for a way to electrically amplify the sound with tubes, driving headphones or a loudspeaker, so the whole family could sit around and listen to a show from a far away place like the next state over, a far away place like New York or maybe even Europe. This was a fantastic experience for people living in the 1920s
I want to touch briefly on the crystal set the beginning, before amplifiers existed
Before there were tubes there were crystal sets and these often very home brew sets used a special crystal and a “Cat’s hair whisker” to detect the sound from a key sending morse code on a low band spark transmitter, then a bit later, voice, then music
Radios were the extension of the telegraph, which could only send morse code, a series of clicks, across any distance that had been covered by wires, or an undersea cable. The Wild West had telegraph lines even before the trains, and sometimes the wires were brought down by Indians
Crystal, or Xtal sets or radios, were only able to drive headphones, a development from the telephone hand set, like two mouthpiece elements, one for each ear.
Complex versions of these sets picked up the signal from powerful Spark transmitters sending Morse Code messages from boats, across the country, and across the sea from Europe. It was the time of transatlantic trips by Passenger liners and bootleg whisky, with spark transmitters sending frantic wails across the sea, sometimes warning of storms to the big ships
Coming out of the Victorian era, were spark transmitters, Morse Code, and Xtal radios that only drove headphones, so listening was a solo experience
Sound, a voice, was first transmitted via telephone wires, then by radio, when the first triode tubes were sold to the public, and the techs went to work
In about twenty short years America went from the popular songsmiths, artists writing sheet music, that could be played on pianos across the country, to radios with loudspeakers playing music from popular shows that came across the ether
By about 1915 tubes were “The new guys on the block” This first generation of tubes had rounded glass globes that had four, then five, then six, metal pins sticking out of a Bakelite base as the tubes became more complex
There were about twelve small companies around the world that made these new things. Each company tried to make globes with a distinctive shape or color that was their style. Companies then were in a race to make better and more complex, and higher power tubes
Above is a pair of audio power tubes and a low power triode, that were the muscle that gave early radios enough power to drive a early, late 1920’s, speaker like the one below, a paper cone speaker that could fill a room
Radios changed shape almost overnight to “Console” models on fancy carved legs
These had loudspeakers inside nice cabinets that besides looking much nicer, helped the speaker to produce much more sound, more bass, better tone for music.
Fancy cabinets became the rage, and the race to make bigger, more powerfull radios was on, larger groups wanting to listen to music, and news from far away
Now larger more complex, big tall consoles were being made. These came with
large Push-Pull amps with more power, that could drive larger speakers. The new radios could also reach farther bring in the new stations from all over the world. These were developed for modern society, that wanted to be able to listen to more and more of the world.
Here are "Console" radios from 1930 to 1936
Here is a family enjoying a Sunday together listening to the 1940’s console radio below. Saturdays and Sundays now had a whole day of shows, from Buck Rodgers and Mystery serials, to comedy shows like amos and Andy, creating the social need for amplified sound that could fill a room so the kids could hear as well
We have now gone from the time when your great grandpa would listen to random signals through headphones, to when the entire family could sit around the radio and listen to weekly broadcasts from the many AM radio stations across the world. The amplifier, driving paper cone loudspeakers made it possible. They were amplifying the sounds of the new society, the new world as well.
Around the same time, 1935, a newcomer, the Jukebox, gave us a way to play music through large loud speakers driven by powerful push-pull triode amps for dance halls. Teens could regularly go to a “Juke Joint” and feel the bass from big 15” speakers in Seeburg or Wurlitzer Jukeboxes driving the need for better and more powerful amplifiers. New records brought the latest hit song of the day to the jukeboxes in restaurants, bars and nightclubs
Separate turntables, modern microphones and portable amplifiers came from the needs for public speaking to large crowds, and people wanting to dance to music all over. Now we are at the late 1940’s, and small bands were playing and singing all over. The whole world was becoming more electric, and musicians wanted to be free of having to make a record to be played in jukeboxes to be heard.
Another new kid on the block were electric guitar amplifiers. Starting out in the late 1930s, guitar amps were simple, becoming very powerfull and complex by the late 1940s. one of the leading companies was fender. after the war, many companies bought surplus parts cheap to build electronics gear, and Fender was one of them.
Three classic “Combo Amps” from the mid 1950s going from vintage to the more pro sleek look as cabinets were custom made for each company, everyone trying to grab that new kid with a special style. These guitar amps and Rock and Roll’s need for louder guitar and bass drove a whole industry to develop higher and more reliable, quieter tube amplifiers before the “Hi-Fi” boom had even started.
Another new kid on the block was "Hi-Fi". This picture shows a "Wife of the 50s'" in the kitchen, listening to the latest records, played through a small record player, one of the new "PA amps" that had a phono input, and a neat small "Bookshelf" two way speaker. All on a wheel-around cart, so the Hi-Fi, High Fidelity, system can follow her around the house.
Then about 1954 this monster was born
Below is one of the first modern transistors that was produced in quantities
The transistor needed no filament heat, small and had a very low power drain, so it was to become the replacment for tubes, the next new age. Smaller and faster everything except for cars, was being made, portable was the answer, as we headed now into the late 1950's.
These are typical of early transistors, most were custom made before standard models were decided on, so many different types existed in the beginning
The first two products the engineers came up with are below, a large “SS” or "Solid State" radio, in a nice plastic case, and the last, is the very first thing Motorola engineers could make, the shirt “Pocket Radio”!