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Fire Bottles: The 1928 RCA Radiola 18 and the Tuned Radio Frequency Design

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 So, what are some of the historic events of 1928?

  • February 25 – Charles Jenkins Laboratories of Washington, D.C. becomes the first holder of a television license from the Federal Radio Commission.
  • March 21 – Charles Lindbergh is presented the Medal of Honor for his first trans– Atlantic flight. 
  • April 12–April 14 – The first ever east–west transatlantic aeroplane flight takes place from Dublin, Ireland, to Greenly Island, Canada, using German Junkers W33 Bremen.
  • June 17 – Aviator Amelia Earhart starts her attempt to become the first woman to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean (she succeeds the next day). Wilmer Stultz was the pilot.
  • September 25 – Paul Galvin and his brother Joseph incorporate the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (now known as Motorola).
  • September 11 – Kenmore’s WMAK station starts broadcasting in Buffalo, New York.
  • November 18 – Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie, the third Mickey Mouse cartoon released, but the first sound film.
  • December 21 – The U.S. Congress approves the construction of Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam.

Oh yes, and the RCA Corporation built and sold the RCA Radiola 18 Tuned Radio Frequency Receiver

Were you around in 1928?  Probably not.  But the antique radio I just acquired was there to hear it all.  You can just imagine a family, “watching the radio”, as they listened to the news of Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Boulder Dam, and of course Mickey Mouse.  1928 was just a few years after the first radio broadcasts.  You an imagine that radio broadcasting was as exciting and full of possibilities as was the beginning of the public Internet in the mid 1990’s.

If you own one of these older radio’s you have at least three things.  First, you have a piece of history.  Second, you have an example of early radio receiver design that is not around any more.  And third, you have a usable radio that you can use everyday.  The AM broadcast spectrum has not changed much since 1928 so your vintage radio will still be able to receive the AM broadcast band as it exists today.

What people are willing to pay for these radio’s… well… depends on how much you value history.  There is a link below of a mint condition RCA Radiola 18 for sale for $450.  Lucky for me, I was able to get my fully restored and working RCA Radiola 18 and matching speaker for just $50.

Tuned Radio Frequency Design

Since 1930’s the TRF design gave way to the Superheterodyne. The Radiola 18 is a TRF.  Unlike a Superhet which mixes the incoming RF signal with a local oscillator to create a standard 455Hz intermediate frequency for any frequency on the AM band a TRF tunes and amplifies the frequency to be received directly.  There are a lot of disadvantages of the TRF; so obviously the Superhet rules the AM broadcast radio receiver world.

Bill Jeffrey wrote an excellent technical article on the Radiola 18’s design.  So take a look at the links below.

The Take

If you can appreciate history in general and the history of radio in particular then don’t pass up one of these old timers if you see one at a garage sale or flea market.  Buy a working one for display or listening; a non-working one can be a radio electronics project.  You can learn a lot just getting one of these radios to work.  $50 – buy a piece of radio history and think about all the families over the past 80+ years that may have owned your radio and sat in front of it to hear the great events of the day at the dawn of the age of radio broadcasting in the 1920’s

Resources

Great technical article on Tuned Radio Frequency Design and the RCA Radiola 18
http://www.nostalgiaair.org/References/Articles/Singles/Radiola18-2.htm

Mint Condition Radiola 18
http://www.underdahl.net/radios/RCA_Radiola_18/index.html

A few pictures
http://amradios.com/pictures/Radiola18.htm

This site has a lot of articles and links to the history of radio and original artifacts.  Here are just a few
https://frrl.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/long-live-the-all-american-five-or-recovering-a-piece-of-radio-history/
https://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/radio_experimenters_guide_newarksundaycall_1923.pdf
https://frrl.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/the-history-of-communications-the-past-150-years/
https://frrl.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/radio-broadcast-history/

Inside my Radiola 18 – a line of fire bottles along the top and a 3-ganged capacitor for interstage tuning.  Power supply on the right.  The coils that are part of the interstage tuning (LC circuit) are under the bottles.

More historic events of  1928

  • February 11 – The II Olympic Winter Games open in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
  • February 25 – Charles Jenkins Laboratories of Washington, D.C. becomes the first holder of a television license from the Federal Radio Commission.
  • March 21 – Charles Lindbergh is presented the Medal of Honor for his first trans– Atlantic flight.
  • April 10 – “Pineapple Primary”: The U.S. Republican Party primary elections in Chicago are preceded by assassinations and bombings.
  • April 12–April 14 – The first ever east–west transatlantic aeroplane flight takes place from Dublin, Ireland, to Greenly Island, Canada, using German Junkers W33 Bremen.
  • May 10 – The first regular schedule of television programming begins in Schenectady, New York by the General Electric’s television station W2XB (the station is popularly known as WGYTelevision, after its sister radio station WGY).
  • May 15 –  The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia commences operations.
  • May 24 – The airship Italia crashes on the North Pole; one of the occupants is Italian general Umberto Nobile.
  • May 30 – A rescue expedition leaves for the North Pole.
  • June 17 – Aviator Amelia Earhart starts her attempt to become the first woman to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean (she succeeds the next day). Wilmer Stultz was the pilot.
  • June 24 – A Swedish aeroplane rescues part of the Italian North Pole expedition, including Umberto Nobile. The Soviet icebreaker Krasin saves the rest July 12.
  • June 28 – The International Railway (New York – Ontario) switches to one– man crews for its trolleys in Canada.
  • June 29 – 1928 Democratic National Convention: At the Democratic National Convention in Houston, New York Governor Alfred E. Smith becomes the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for President of the United States.
  • July 2  – Jenkins Laboratories’ W3XK station begins broadcasting on 6.42 MHz using 48 lines.
  • July 2 –  The Representation of the People Act 1928 becomes law, extending the right to vote to all women in the United Kingdom.
  • July 6 – The world’s largest hailstone falls in Potter, Nebraska.
  • July 12 – Mexican aviator Emilio Carranza dies in a solo plane crash in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, while returning from a goodwill flight to New York City.
  • July 25 – The United States recalls its troops from China.
  • July 28 – The 1928 Summer Olympics officially open in Amsterdam.
  • August 22 – Alfred E. Smith accepts the Democratic presidential nomination, with WGY/W2XB simulcasting the event on radio and television.
  • August 25 – Ahmet Zogu proclaims himself King Zog I of Albania; he is crowned September 1.
  • August 27 – The Kellogg– Briand Pact is signed in Paris (the first treaty to outlaw aggressive war).
  • August 29 – The Club Deportivo Motagua of Honduras is founded.
  • August 31 – The Threepenny Opera (German: Die Dreigroschenoper) by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill opens at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin.
  • September 1 –  Richard Byrd leaves New York for the Arctic.
  • September 11 – Kenmore’s WMAK station starts broadcasting in Buffalo, New York.
  • September 25 – Paul Galvin and his brother Joseph incorporate the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (now known as Motorola).
  • September 28 – Alexander Fleming discovers Penicillin.
  • October 8 – Chiang Kai– shek is named as Generalissimo (Chairman of the National Military Council) of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China.
  • October 12 – An iron lung respirator is used for the first time at Children’s Hospital, Boston.
  • October 26 – International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRM) formally established with the adoption of “Statutes of the International Red Cross”
  • November 4 – At Park Central Hotel in Manhattan, Arnold Rothstein, New York City’s most notorious gambler, is shot to death over a poker game.
  • November 6  –  Swedes start a tradition of eating Gustavus Adolphus pastries to commemorate the old warrior king.
  • November 6 –  U.S. presidential election, 1928: Republican Herbert Hoover wins by a wide margin over Democrat Alfred E. Smith.
  • November 10 – Enthronement ceremony of Japanese Emperor Hirohito is held, after some two years since he actually took the Imperial throne on December 26, 1926, the following day of the demise of Emperor Taishō.
  • November 17 – The Boston Garden opens in Boston.
  • November 18 – Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie, the third Mickey Mouse cartoon released, but the first sound film.
  • December 21 – The U.S. Congress approves the construction of Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam.
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Written by frrl

June 23, 2011 at 2:00 am

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