Sex and Speakers

 The two triode audio amp tubes are on the right, and the three radio frequency tubes are on the left in this classic early radio
The two triode audio amp tubes are on the right, and the three radio frequency tubes are on the left in this classic early radio
Here is a similar radio with the speaker on top. They had just tuning, volme, and on/off controls at first, just the one AM band we use today
Here is a similar radio with the speaker on top. They had just tuning, volme, and on/off controls at first, just the one AM band we use today

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"

Typical Atwater Kent speaker
Typical Atwater Kent speaker
Typical sensitive headphones for either a AC or battery powered radio or a Crystal set of the early 1920's and for  "Ham" Radio use up to the 1950's
Typical sensitive headphones for either a AC or battery powered radio or a Crystal set of the early 1920s and for "Ham" Radio use up to the 1950s

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.

A early wind up phonograph with two horns for more sound volume and being able to cover more area so a larger crowd could listen. Now, being with the crowd that listened to the latest music, and danced the latest dances was the new social need
A early wind up phonograph with two horns for more sound volume and being able to cover more area so a larger crowd could listen. Now, being with the crowd that listened to the latest music, and danced the latest dances was the new social need

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

This is a "Oatmeal Radio" that was popular because people could use the round oatmeal box to wind the tuning coil on easy and make a cheap crystal radio
This is a "Oatmeal Radio" that was popular because people could use the round oatmeal box to wind the tuning coil on easy and make a cheap crystal radio
A simple crystal radio, made up of a store bought tuning coil, a crystal, a cat's hair detector wire, and a pair of headphones
A simple crystal radio, made up of a store bought tuning coil, a crystal, a cat's hair detector wire, and a pair of headphones

 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

A book, for only 25 cents, on how to make your own crystal set. A pair of  "Baldwin" style very sensitive headphones are over her hair.
A book, for only 25 cents, on how to make your own crystal set. A pair of "Baldwin" style very sensitive headphones are over her hair.
A very simple crystal radio, the "dector" which gathered the sound out of the radio signal, just loud ebough for sensitive headphones, is rear center, the crystal in the small round pot. The fine "Cat's Hair" wire just touching the "Xtal"
A very simple crystal radio, the "dector" which gathered the sound out of the radio signal, just loud ebough for sensitive headphones, is rear center, the crystal in the small round pot. The fine "Cat's Hair" wire just touching the "Xtal"

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

A early songbook for a popular song of the 1920's
A early songbook for a popular song of the 1920's
Someone enjoying some music or a comedy show coming out of a AC power Atwater Kent radio with it's paper cone speaker. The speaker could produce enough volume for a  large living room so the whole family could hear
Someone enjoying some music or a comedy show coming out of a AC power Atwater Kent radio with it's paper cone speaker. The speaker could produce enough volume for a large living room so the whole family could hear
Women started to "Get in on the action" early, when programs, shows music, and the early "Celebrities" were created on the early radio stations
Women started to "Get in on the action" early, when programs, shows music, and the early "Celebrities" were created on the early radio stations

 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

These are two "#45" triodes, the first popular audio amplifier tube that allowed a radio to drive a paper cone speaker. The Atwater Kent radios pictured used one
These are two "#45" triodes, the first popular audio amplifier tube that allowed a radio to drive a paper cone speaker. The Atwater Kent radios pictured used one

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

The Victorian design style apparent in the "Grille", designed to help keep curious hands off the paper cone inside the all metal case
The Victorian design style apparent in the "Grille", designed to help keep curious hands off the paper cone inside the all metal case

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

The clothes and customs of the day and also the women getting more racy with styles and the spirit of new freedoms, including being able to listen to the latest music
The clothes and customs of the day and also the women getting more racy with styles and the spirit of new freedoms, including being able to listen to the latest music
A "Modern" 1920's bachelor, maybe reading the latest novel, while listening to a horn speaker being powered by the new tubes in the radio amplifier
A "Modern" 1920s bachelor, maybe reading the latest novel, while listening to a horn speaker being powered by the new tubes in the radio amplifier

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

This is a 1930 Zenith Radio, still kind of Victorian with the carved legs
This is a 1930 Zenith Radio, still kind of Victorian with the carved legs
This is a later 1930's console, now without the legs, having the new style tall cabinet. A more modern look, leaving the 1920s behind
This is a later 1930s console, now without the legs, having the new style tall cabinet. A more modern look, leaving the 1920s behind
This is a 1936 Zenith, showing the large round tuning dial, with many more new stations from all over the world transmitting new shows
This is a 1936 Zenith, showing the large round tuning dial, with many more new stations from all over the world transmitting new shows

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

This couple may be sitting after dinner, father still in his work clothes, listening to the latest evining news or one of the new comedy shows like Phil Silvers
This couple may be sitting after dinner, father still in his work clothes, listening to the latest evining news or one of the new comedy shows like Phil Silvers

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

This is a Seeburg Jukebox with a very wild cabinet and grille cloth. This jukebox could play 100 of the new smaller 45 rpm records, that played just long enough for one hit song per side
This is a Seeburg Jukebox with a very wild cabinet and grille cloth. This jukebox could play 100 of the new smaller 45 rpm records, that played just long enough for one hit song per side
A typical all triode, push-pull amp of the late 1930's, used in jukeboxes, organs and radios, with about fifteen watts of power, enough to drive a 12" loudspeaker
A typical all triode, push-pull amp of the late 1930s, used in jukeboxes, organs and radios, with about fifteen watts of power, enough to drive a 12" loudspeaker
This is a big mid 1930's Wurlitzer, all triode jukebox amp and custom speaker, that when restored, sounded very smooth and sweet
This is a big mid 1930s Wurlitzer, all triode jukebox amp and custom speaker, that when restored, sounded very smooth and sweet
You can see the "Modern" amplifier with the newer 6L6 pentode tubes,   and the big 15" loudspeaker here.
You can see the "Modern" amplifier with the newer 6L6 pentode tubes, and the big 15" loudspeaker here.
Here you can see one of these classic "Jukes" in action providing up to 24 bands, or records for this party in the late 1930's
Here you can see one of these classic "Jukes" in action providing up to 24 bands, or records for this party in the late 1930's
This ad for a AMI jukebox shows that sex and new ways of social living were here brought by the new "Jukebox music scene"
This ad for an AMI jukebox shows that sex and new ways of social living were here brought by the new "Jukebox music scene"

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.

A small fifteen watt amp made by Knight, a company that sold kits and complete units. Many small companies sprung up all over making amplifiers for the new age
A small fifteen watt amp made by Knight, a company that sold kits and complete units. Many small companies sprung up all over making amplifiers for the new age
Here is a RCA "PA" or public address amp. It has the new "metal" tubes, a full 25 watts of power, and input jacks for both microphone and "Phono" or record player.
Here is an RCA "PA" or public address amp. It has the new "metal" tubes, a full 25 watts of power, and input jacks for both microphone and "Phono" or record player.

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.

A 1949 Fender, "TV panel" front, guitar amp, with it's distinctive "Tweed" covering
A 1949 Fender, "TV panel" front, guitar amp, with it's distinctive "Tweed" covering
The back of the Pro amp, showing the 25 watt amp, with the new 6L6 "Pentode" tubes, and a nice Jensen twelve inch loudspeaker
The back of the Pro amp, showing the 25 watt amp, with the new 6L6 "Pentode" tubes, and a nice Jensen twelve inch loudspeaker

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.

A still looking old Oahu amp, pronounced "Oh-wah-hoo". This amp is a 1952 model, but the design is from the 1940's
A still looking old Oahu amp, pronounced "Oh-wah-hoo". This amp is a 1952 model, but the design is from the 1940's
Made by the Gretsch guitar company, with a very"Space-age" look, the "Jetson's" style. My parents had a whole house full of furniture in this style, and I wish I had it now!
Made by the Gretsch guitar company, with a very"Space-age" look, the "Jetson's" style. My parents had a whole house full of furniture in this style, and I wish I had it now!
Made by the Masco company, one of the many small American groups making amplifiers of all sorts, and cabinet designs
Made by the Masco company, one of the many small American groups making amplifiers of all sorts, and cabinet designs

 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.

after WWII, many compamies sprang up, making loudspeakers and amplifiers of all sorts. Also turntables, tape recorders and tuners, the birth of the "Components" age.
after WWII, many compamies sprang up, making loudspeakers and amplifiers of all sorts. Also turntables, tape recorders and tuners, the birth of the "Components" age.

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.

A 1954 "Germainimum" transistor, about 1/2 inch across, so nine of these could fit into a small radio case and run off a single small battery
A 1954 "Germainimum" transistor, about 1/2 inch across, so nine of these could fit into a small radio case and run off a single small battery

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”!

A classic portable, battery powered transistor radio that is ready for a day at the beach
A classic portable, battery powered transistor radio that is ready for a day at the beach
First the engineers that invented them, then the public were proud to walk around with a radio in thier pocket, being able to listen to music anywhere
First the engineers that invented them, then the public were proud to walk around with a radio in their pocket, being able to listen to music anywhere
This 1950's ad shows the new modern couple with their new portable radio, with it's speaker and tubes playing the latest music, background to the latest styles and new way of living
This 1950's ad shows the new modern couple with their new portable radio, with it's speaker and tubes playing the latest music, background to the latest styles and new way of living

Comments 2 comments

slc334 profile image

slc334 5 years ago from Canada

Really enjoyed the hub! I'm a sucker for audio and pretty pictures!


Jason R. Manning profile image

Jason R. Manning 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

What a terrific hub on the history of radio and audio quality. This hub should be rated much higher than it is. You have captured some real beauties and put some thought into this. Its too bad some of the other hubs have Amazon garbage in them with higher ratings and no intelligence. Cheers.

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