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400 Million U.S. Radios?
May 1947 Radio-Craft

May 1947 Radio-Craft

May 1947 Radio Craft Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Craft, published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

Famous quotation books are full of statements made by people - many of them "experts" - throughout history which have proven to be hilariously wrong, and unfortunately some have been tragically wrong. Thomas Watson, president of International Business Machines (IBM), in 1943 famously predicted on digital computers, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." In 1946, 20th Century Fox's Darryl Zanuck declared, "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." Virtually on the eve of the PC revolution (1977), Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) founder Ken Olsen, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain assured his countrymen regarding Adolph Hitler's assurance of nonaggression, "I have returned from Germany with peace for our time". In 1947 Radio-Craft magazine founder and editor wrote this article telling of the many in-the-know types who were predicting a grave future for commercial broadcast radio once television became a common fixture in households. He postulates how, "foolish and completely without merit these dark forebodings are."

400 Million U.S. Radios? - Radio saturation is not in sight

400 Million U.S. Radios?, May 1947 Radio-Craft - RF CafeBy Hugo Gernsback

Every few years, unimaginative radio people - who really should know better - begin to have grave doubts about the future of radio. This hoary, old depresser has been paraded before the radio world ever since the boom of 1922. It continues to pop up with irritating regularity.

To show how foolish and completely without merit these dark forebodings are, let us look at the record.

From the best available estimates there are now at least 35 million homes equipped with radios. This leaves out automobile radios, radio sets in factories, commercial institutions, and others. The total number of radio receiving sets in the United States in 1946 was computed to be somewhat above 60 million.

If we look at the curve of radio sets in use in the United States we will observe that ever since 1922, when radio broadcasting started, the curve has been one of practically uninterrupted ascent. This curve will not change appreciably in this country for a long time to come, for the following simple reasons.

There was the time when radio sets were used strictly for receiving purposes; news, entertainment, music, etc. Times have now changed. In the future there will be many new and different types of radio sets aside from the ones now in vogue. Take, for instance, the rise of radio amateur sets, which now run into the hundreds of thousands.

In the late 20's we started to install radio sets in cars purely for entertainment purposes, like the radio in the home. Already the radio telephone set, for communication purposes, has been added and is now expanding at an extraordinary rate. With some 26 million passenger automobiles in the United States today the time is not far distant when a very large percentage of automobiles will be equipped with these two-way telephone radios, plus a radio set for entertainment and news, etc., which means that soon there will be two radio sets in an automobile.

How many millions of the two different types of car radios there will be during the next ten years is a guess today. At least every business man who owns a car will want to have a communication radio set in his automobile. The limit is apparently only the ability of the telephone companies to manufacture these sets fast enough and install them.

Originally we started out with one radio receiver in the home. Now a very large percentage already has two and three sets; one in the living room, one in the bedroom and children's room, and in the servants' rooms - even an appreciable percentage is in the bathroom.

Where this tendency will stop no one knows, but the, chances are that three radio sets in the home will certainly be the average before very long.

We next come to a type of radio which was not on the Radio-Craft for MAY, 1947 horizon even a few years ago. That is Citizen's Radio - the type with which a person can communicate directly with another, by means of ultra-short waves. How many of these radios will come into use during the next decade is difficult of computation, but there certainly will be millions of them.

Next on the list we have the facsimile radio. Already newspapers are broadcasting the printed word over facsimile sets in a number of cities in the United States so that with your breakfast in the morning you have spot news on a sheet of paper issuing from your radio set! This is a comparatively new type of radio set on the market, and although it has been known experimentally for several decades, no practical set has been turned out in quantity, until recently.

Another type of specialized radio set which is about to make its appearance is the small receives, the size of a cigarette pack. This will be kept either in your pocket or on your desk at home or in the office and will be designed for only one purpose - time and brief news announcements. You pick up the tiny set any time during the day or night and you will have the time, weather reports and other news shorts. Only a single station will be received with such sets. It is conceivable that anywhere between 30 to 50 million of such receivers will be sold during the next few decades, for the important reason that they; are really a necessity in this country.

Still another type of radio - now already beginning to emerge - is the pocket type broadcast receiver. This small type of miniature set - forecast in these pages for several years - is now a reality. When we speak of pocket sets we really mean the type of radio receivers small enough to fit into the vest pocket - a set not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. There is an enormous demand for such novelty sets. Whenever news appears that someone is bringing out such a receiver the manufacturer is immediately swamped with mail. It probably will be another five years before these radios have been perfected, so that they will stand up under all conditions and that the reception will be entirely satisfactory to the public. That over 50 million such sets will be sold in this country within an appreciable time is a foregone conclusion.

Add to this the utility sets, such as are used in factories, offices, restaurants, and other commercial houses.

In factories where there is tedious work, radio has been found to enhance the morale of the workers. It speeds their work and improves general conditions. In many plants, where there is much noise, the ordinary type of public address system is often not feasible and in smaller factories individual sets are used right alongside the workers.

If we add up all these different types of radio sets it becomes apparent that during the next decade we can confidently look forward to a future. in which there will be between 400 and 500 million radio sets of various types in this country. Even this will not be final saturation; because by the end of 10 years several new types of radio receivers - for instance television combined with radio sound sets, and many others - will have made their appearance.

Add to that replacements of obsolete radios and even the most pessimistic radio man must admit that saturation in this country is - for practical purposes - distant and unreal.

Six American railroads were using either carrier or high-frequency radio by the middle of the past summer. Most frequent use has been in freight service.



Posted April 7, 2020

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