December 1937 Radio-Craft
[Table of Contents]
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics.
Radio-Craft was published from 1929 through 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles
Here's another electronics-related Hallowe'en article for you
just in time for tomorrow's office (or lab) party. I almost
made an inane statement about how you can substitute a cellphone
for the radios used in these pranks, but then I remembered that
a cellphone is first and foremost a radio in and of itself.
I fondly recall the old days as a technician at Westinghouse
Electric when, on the evening shift, we used to get away with
playing practical jokes on each other in the lab. Ours were
low tech stuff like connecting a high voltage supply to someone's
metal toolbox or squeezing water from a soldering iron sponge
wetting bottle through a length of plastic tubing (taped under
a workbench) onto a guy's crotch while he was working intently
on something. You'd probably get fired or sued for such
shenanigans in the workplace today. Send me some of your
infamous pranks and I'll be glad to post them
(with or without attribution per your
is a legitimate alternate spelling for the more familiar 'Halloween.'
The celebrated day was originally called 'All Hallows Eve,'
so other forms are a shortening of the full phrase.
Fun with Radio Parts
Once you get started it's easy to make a "radio party." A
number of clever ideas are described in this article. They range
from decorations having a "radio" angle to a regular entertainment
program for a house-party. Look these over and let us know whether
you can add to the list.
Fig. A - The Radio Witch.
The life of the party," is what they will call the radio
experimenter who exhibits a little ingenuity in applying to
amusement purposes some of the simplest of radio principles,
when next he entertains his friends.
The fun may extend from a simple foursome of personal friends
to an extensive party perhaps having a holiday tie-in.
Augustina Zilch shown in Fig. A, for example, once furnished
no end of hilarity for a group of Hallowe'en merrymakers composed
of some well-known Chicago radio and advertising people. Augustina,
the combination ghost and witch who formed a committee of one
to welcome the arriving guests at this particular party, comprised
certain wood fittings, a bedsheet and a loudspeaker and audio
amplifier. Groans and sepulchral greetings enough to turn the
hair of any ordinary person set the guests in the proper Hallowe'en
mood for the evening. Ghost-Witch Zilch was placed at the entrance
gate and certain members of the party located in the house gave
voice to this "spirit of Hallowe'en" by remote control merely
by speaking into a microphone connected to the amplifier.
You may wish to apply this idea to a post-Hallowe'en" party.
The possibilities of providing many unusual effects for parties
of this kind are limited only by the ingenuity of host and hostess.
For instance you might use an electric phonograph to reproduce
a previously-recorded program of blood-curdling sound effects,
in place of having hidden conspirators talking into a remote
microphone; and in lieu of an effigy of sorcery an illuminated,
hollowed-out pumpkin may be used to house the loudspeaker. With
something of this sort as a starting point the manner of continuing
the bedevilment throughout the evening becomes quite easy.
It might be well to give your next house-party a more nearly
"radio" atmosphere, right at the start, by using radio parts
for decorations as well as entertainment. A little thought on
this subject will show just how attractive and inexpensive such
party decorations can be made.
For instance, I know of one radio fan who is quite successful
at fashioning animals - dogs, cats, giraffes, etc. from lengths
of stiff wire. The colored hook-up wires are particularly attractive
for this purpose. The wires are twisted and formed into grotesque
forms which resemble (it is hoped) the animal represented. The
tails are formed by untwisting the insulation and cutting off
the inside wire.
One radio fan, with an artistic bent, has made some fine
caricatures of famous people using radio parts for the features
and outlines. These caricatures are made on wooden panels which
may be hung on the wills as decorations. Such parts as dials,
binding posts, pilot lights, hook-up wire, etc., are used in
the makeup of these amusing ornaments. "Goofey Gus," shown in
Fig. B, is one example of a radio ornament that never fails
to get a laugh.
Fig. B - Goofy Gus. You make him out of wire
and a telegraph-key knob.
Other interesting ornaments made from radio parts, which
I have seen, include many items that also have considerable
utility. For instance, ash trays may be cut from transformer
cans; table lamps from transformers, coils, tubes and other
Radio Checkers and Chess
If the group you plan to get together is sufficiently technical-minded
you can spring on them the novelty of a "radio checkerboard"
made as shown in Fig. 1. All you need is a piece of board and
some way to mount it at the proper height for playing the game;
and a set of 24 discarded tubes. If you haven't enough tubes
handy the local radio repair shop probably will bless you for
taking a quantity of them off its hands. To provide the "radio
checkerboard" thus costs you no more than the time it takes
you to get the above items together and to drill the proper
number of prong holes in the board. The game is ready after
you've lacquered the tubes on top; red for one player and black
for the other.
The same idea may be extended to chess by lettering the tops
of the tubes to represent the chessmen (K, king; Q, queen; R,
Fig. 1 - Tube "men" plug into board. (G.E.
Co. once suggested game with "metal" vs. "glass.")
At some more ambitious parties a "radio mind-reading act"
has been put on with great success. Whether you feel like tackling
the idea depends. mainly upon your ability to build a very small
short-wave sending and receiving set. In any event, you'd need
a transmitting license to operate the equipment; or you could
get a licensed amateur to operate it for you. The general idea,
illustrated in Fig. 2, is outlined as follows:
Mind-Reading Act - Radio System
A tiny radio transmitter made in the form of a belt worn
by the "man" in the act is concealed in his clothing as he wanders
about through the audience asking questions which his girl companion
(blindfolded and seated at one end of the room or on the stage)
answers, concerning the members of the audience. A tiny fixed-tuned
receiver concealed in the girl's clothing or in the chair on
which she sits provides the necessary communication to enable
the acts of so-called mind reading to be performed. An inconspicuous
phone unit of the type used for deaf-aids is carefully inserted
in her ear with the wire slipped under her hair and down to
the receiver. The actual details of transmitter and receiver
may be determined experimentally by the radio man. The small
"acorn". tubes or, better yet, the tiny English tubes described
in past issues of Radio-Craft lend themselves admirably to this
purpose both as transmitters and receivers. This is the "radio"
method of putting on a radio mind-reading "act."
Fig. 2 - A short-wave set helps along a "mind-reading"
Mind-Reading Audio System
A simpler method, and one which has worked out admirably
in practice, is the "audio" method; one version of it, worked
up by Radio-Craft for the Radio Show in 1935 utilizes a specially-recorded
phonograph record, 2 microphones, and a power amplifier and
loudspeaker, as shown in Fig. 3. Visitors to the Show will recall
this as the "Radio Oracle" that answered any and all questions
- and how!
Fig. 3 - The "Radio Oracle" apparently answers
your question straight from a phonograph. That is, provided
you don't know the "secret," a concealed confederate, as shown
The "- and how!" is where the fun comes in. A confederate
concealed in a place where he (or she) can watch without being
seen is equipped with headphones and a microphone. The "master
of ceremonies" or interlocutor acts as the go-between for inquiring
guests and the "Radio Oracle." The "m.c." arranges the guests
in a row and takes them as they come, one question per guest.
The trick is to make the whole operation appear on the surface
to be a full-fledged "radio" act; and to ask leading questions
that the person acting as "Oracle" can turn into a laugh-provoking
situation by a clever remark perhaps based on the question or
on his knowledge of the person asking the question; that's where
the "seeing without being seen" part comes in.
We've kept you in suspense, but here's how the phono record
works in. On it is recorded, say, 3 slow "bongs" of a big dinner
gong, a snatch of music, a fade-in of a deep, sepulchral voice
slowly intoning, "T-h-e R-a-d-i-o O-r-a-c-l-e S-p-e-a-k-s,"
a fade-out of the voice, and then the "oracle" comes in with
the answer. Each time a question is asked the master of ceremonies
must pick up the tone arm and put it on the phono record again,
and repeat the playing of the introduction - the pickup is then
left on the record and the record allowed to turn, until the
question has been answered; whereupon the pickup must be immediately
removed or the turntable stopped.
The illusion thus created in the minds of most non-technical
persons - and even some radio men! - is that the "answer" is
recorded on the record and that the correct answer is being
picked up from the record by some sort of mystical hocus-pocus
that is not quite clear. If properly done the illusion is very
effective. Any of your friends owning a radio set equipped with
a home-recording attachment will be glad to help you make the
Yes, indeed, a radio experimenter with a sense of humor and
a few radio items can have no end of fun working up a "radio
The Mock "Broadcast"
You can close the evening with a "mock broadcast" that will
have them guessing for quite some time. Here's how you do it.
Connect a microphone into the audio section of your radio
set as shown in Fig. 4A, then "fade" from a hot dance orchestra
to your microphone and put "on the air" some special announcement
of a humorous nature directed at one of the guests.
Some people who have worked this stunt prefer to do it this
way. (You don't need the potentiometer, for fading, shown in
Fig. 4A.) Just wait until the music has ceased and the station
announcer is just about due to come in with his station announcement.
Instead, you come in with your own announcement (having previously
grounded the antenna or otherwise cut out the radio station
in some way), leading off with some such statement as. "This
is station W--. We interrupt our program at this point to make
a special announcement. Mr. John Q. Pinchpenny has just won
a $10,000 sweepstakes. Will Mr. Pinchpenny please get in touch
with this station as soon as possible? We now return you to
Mr. Pinchpenny, one of your guests for the evening, gets
himself into a lather thinking about the $10,000; and the guests
who were previously (and similarly) "initiated" go into hysterics.
The trick here is not in the radio-set hook-up, shown in Fig.
4B. but in the "line" you work up for the "broadcast."
Fig. 4 - Kidding the kidders - with a mock
How about it, fellows, have you ever put on such a "party"
as Mr. Palmer outlines? Radio-Craft will be glad to receive
contributions from readers who have actually worked up entertainment
novelties, based on radio, not mentioned in this article. Come
on! Let's hear from you!
Posted October 29, 2015