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MECA Electronics

New Germanium Source - The Radio Month
March 1953 Radio-Electronics Article

March 1953 Radio-Electronics

March 1953 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Electronics, published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

For a few years, each month's edition of Radio-Electronics magazine included a column entitled "The Radio Month," which was a collection of a dozen or so relevant news items. The March 1953 issue reported on transistorized hearing aids (those old vacuum tube types didn't fit in your ear very well), how the number of TV sets in the U.S. had out-paced the number of telephones thanks to new UHF channels, the continued rapid expansion of television in Europe, and the upcoming 1953 I.R.E. Show (Institute of Radio Engineers) in New York City. Of particular note was the new germanium ore source discovered in Kentucky - not the first place I think of with a semiconductor mother lode. At the time, germanium (Ge) was still the primary element used in transistors and diodes, although silicon was making rapid inroads. The story was germanium sold for $350 per pound in pure metallic form (equivalent to $3,400 in 2020 money per the BLS Inflation Calculator). The actual germanium market trade price as of this writing is around $3,800 per pound, so the cost has not changed much in nearly seven decades. Here is a history of Germanium prices from 1945 through 2010 (multiply $/kg by 2.2 for $/lb). Alaska and Tennessee are prime locations for germanium mining today.

The Radio Month: New Germanium Source

New Germanium Source, March 1953 Radio-Electronics - RF CafeNew Germanium Source - the richest found thus far - has been discovered in a Kentucky coal deposit by prospectors seeking new supplies of the urgently needed substance. Worth $350 a pound in pure metallic form, the germanium is little more than a trace in the coal and must go through an elaborate process of extraction and refining before it is suitable for use in transistors, diodes, and power rectifiers. Despite the new find, the tremendous increase in the demand for the valuable metal will probably bar any immediate decrease in cost.



Posted February 28, 2020

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