February 1933 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Substitute "cellphone" for "radio" in this title ("Money in Radio Gadgets") and editorial by Hugo Gernsback and it would fit right in with today's market of wondrous gadgetry. Prescient
as always, Mr. Gernsback describes in this 1933 issue of Radio-Craft
magazine, among other things, what we now refer to as
energy harnessing to power ancillary devices and props. He also recommends a scheme
for causing 'dancing dolls' on the surface of a table vibrated and mobilized by
the sonic waves of a large speaker - a lot like the way years later vibrating football
games were made (remember them?) where the men danced randomly across the painted
metal playing field. It sounded like a pair of electric hair clippers running. Gernsback
imagines the potential for a hand-held remote control device for remotely controlling
your radio from the comfort of your easy chair.
Money in Radio Gadgets
An Editorial by Hugo Gernsback
The dictionary does not define the word "gadget." It is supposed to be a mechanical
appliance or accessory, which may, or may not, be a necessity. The radio industry
is turning out an increasing number of such gadgets, and many of them have acquired
a wide sale; a number of them may even be termed necessities. It all depends upon
the point of view, because frequently a gadget may become an important radio accessory.
These gadgets are of importance, today, because they give new outlets both to those
branches of the radio manufacturing industry that are equipped to turn out such
devices, and to the radio Service Man who installs them.
These gadgets are important, and should be taken most seriously by the radio
trade because anything that enhances the radio owner's interest in his set is, after
all, important. When a radio owner has a radio set in his home which he does not
use, he becomes a direct loss to the entire industry. Give him something to either
amuse himself, amuse his children, or get better radio reception through the means
of his radio set, and immediately that man becomes again a live asset to the industry.
It is surprising how little attention the radio industry has paid to the toy
radio gadget. I was, perhaps, the first one to point this out in an article published
in one of my radio magazines in 1925. This particular article of mine showed how,
by means of a loudspeaker arrangement, dolls with wire feet were made to dance on
a large diaphragm. The loudspeaker unit, of course, was plugged into the radio set,
and the dolls danced in unison with the vibrations of the 6-inch diaphragm.
Few engineers and few experimenters seem to understand that every radio set actually
generates a small amount of power on its output side. Some manufacturers have already
recognized how this power can be utilized, and are now putting out a number of radio
toys. A recent example came to my attention where a papier-mâché dog would wag its
tongue when connected to the output side of the radio set. Another novelty, which
is gaining vast popularity, is not plugged into the radio set, but works by means
of a small microphone placed in front of a radio. This particular toy is a dancer
which dances a jig to the tune of the sound vibrations issuing from the loudspeaker,
transmitted to the little microphone, which in turn energizes a number of relays;
this operates the dancer.
The possibilities in this particular line are, of course, tremendous; and during
the next two years we will see a veritable avalanche of such toys, instructive and
otherwise. I predict that an entirely new branch of radio will be created in this
Then we have other types of gadgets. Right now, there seems to be a small boom
in miniature microphones, which are connected to the detector of your radio set.
You are then supposed to broadcast from a concealed point to your friends, giving
all sorts of amusing fake announcements over your own radio without benefit of the
broadcast station. It is said to be an excellent entertainer. On good authority,
it is understood that close to half a million of these little microphones will be
sold during this year. Then, we have the "radio" clock, a most useful gadget.
In my home, such a radio clock promptly turns on the radio at a pre-determined
hour every morning, and I am awakened by radio unfailingly, and better than could
be done by means of, a plain alarm clock. Your ears becomes used to an alarm clock
so that after a while you no longer hear it. But the radio program, every morning,
is different. It may be talk or music, or what not. There are a number of excellent
clocks of this kind on the market, and they make valuable adjuncts to any man's
Next on the list are remote control attachments that make it possible for you
to sit in a chair at the other end of the room, tune your radio and control the
volume all from the same gadget. While these remote control outfits have not revolutionized
the business during the past few years, the reason probably was that the price was
too high. A low-priced remote control gadget would certainly prove a good seller.
Then, we have a host of new trick aerials which have been flooding the market
in the past few years. Many of these have been out and out fakes, which every radio
man would immediately spot. There are, however, a number of notable exceptions.
High gain sets, for instance, do not need outdoor antennas in all cases. Some
recent gadgets are intended to be placed underneath your home telephone receiver,
the idea here is that we have an insulated plate upon which the telephone is placed.
This plate goes to the aerial binding post of your set. The plate being insulated,
gives a condenser action to the bottom of the telephone set, and it makes a fair
interior antenna. It suffers from the disadvantage that every time you lift up
the telephone receiver you get a loud and noisy click in your set.
More important and vastly better, are new shield leads for outdoor antennas,
very much in vogue now. These are supposed to eliminate the usual man-made static,
and by means of a small transformer attached to the upper part of the antenna, they
actually succeed in cutting down a great deal of man-made static. This particular
type is used for broadcast waves.
Another type, whereby the aerial is transposed, by means of transposition blocks,
is especially adapted for short waves, and in actual practice is most efficient.
All of these devices are interesting, particularly to the Service Man, and those
who have to make a living from radio merchandise.
Radio Service Men should be particularly interested in all such new devices because
they mean a new source of income which becomes increasingly important as time goes
by. There are many reasons why radio set owners become dissatisfied with their radio
sets, and it is always a good idea to rekindle their interest by means of new devices.
Incidentally, the profit on these gadgets is as great as the profit on other important
accessories. Frequently, extraordinary good sales are reported by various Service
Men who have gone into this branch of radio.
Posted October 7, 2020(original