August 1947 Radio-Craft
[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.
Hugo Gernsback is not necessarily
a household name in 2020, but in the early to middle 20th century, he was fairly
well known in both the hard science and science fiction realms. He was a prolific
author of books and magazines in both areas, applying his profound knowledge of
technology and his ability to foretell the futures of many aspects of communications,
mechanics, electronics, and marketing and societal behavior to the aforementioned.
If you are a regular RF Cafe visitor, you have seen very many articles written by
Hugo Gernsback reproduced. This particular work of prognostication appeared in a
1947 issue of his Radio-Craft magazine. It presciently claimed that a post-war
boom in consumer buying after half a decade of sacrifice of creature comforts for
the good of the country and world would feed a significant adoption of FM radio
over the interference-prone existing AM standard. The "Use it up. Wear it out. Make
it do, or do without" mindset was quickly retired from the public conscience - it
was time to move on. History proves he was right again.
FM Radio Boom
By Hugo Gernsback
Frequency modulation made notable progress before World War II. It has now -
in the postwar period - reached boom proportions. This is true of both FM transmitters
erected and contemplated, as well as in FM receiver production.
The latest figures made public by the FCC give the following picture as far as
FM transmitting stations are concerned:
FM stations operating as of June 1, 1947, total 223. As of June 1 there have
been granted 568 construction permits for transmitters, which reasonably may be
expected to be in operation before very long. This gives a grand total of 791.
Against this we have 1,239 licensed AM transmitters as of June 1, and 522 AM
stations under construction, or a total of 1,761.
To keep abreast of all the new FM stations, which are now mushrooming all over
the countryside, the radio set industry has striven valiantly to keep up with the
FM receiver demand, yet so far it has not been too successful. The demand continues
to outrun production.
Last June the Radio Manufacturers' Association predicted that total radio production
may be more than 15% under the expected 1947 output.
The RMA looked for a 1947 output about equal to that of last year's 15 million
sets. Yet, during the past few months the industry was producing at the rate of
18 million sets a year. The trouble, however, is that the radio makers find that
they cannot sell all the sets they make, particularly in the AM classification.
FM receivers are selling at an accelerated rate over AM sets, and it is quite
likely that there will be no decline in FM output which reached a high of 112,000
sets in April, according to the RMA.
A spokesman for the RMA also stated "Manufacturers who formerly scoffed at FM
are now eager to enter the field with its new market potentialities. However, FM
sets are not easy to make and some manufacturers will not reach planned production
So far the radio industry itself has not told, by publicity or otherwise, the
bewildered public just what the AM vis-a-vis FM radio situation means.
The average set buyer nowadays knows of the existence of FM mainly because the
radio dealers educate the public to it. But the average buyer is puzzled as to the
future of radio reception as a whole.
They want to know the answer to the question "Is AM radio here to stay or is
it being supplanted by FM?" Then there is also the extra puzzle of television, thrown
in for good measure, which further bewilders the public.
It is easy to understand why AM sets are not selling as well as FM sets nowadays
because anyone listening to the much better reproduction of FM sets would almost
automatically choose an FM over an AM receiver. The nearly staticless reproduction
- without background noise - naturally impresses the public.
How soon will AM become obsolete in this country? That is a difficult question
to answer, one guess being as good as another. It would be futile to predict how
many years it will take to accomplish this, but one thing seems certain: AM will
fade slowly and gradually out of the picture. There seems little doubt that today
we are in a transition period. The tremendous upswing in FM transmitters certainly
points the way to the future of radio broadcasting in this country.
There are those who will maintain that we will always have AM. It is entirely
possible that there will be a number of such transmitters still operating for very
many years to come in this country, but certainly the trend is unmistakably toward
In the meanwhile manufacturers of radio receivers are trying to straddle the
fence by serving the two fields, i. e., in building combination AM-FM receivers
so that both types of reception can be had in one receiver.
Unfortunately the consensus of opinion is that so far such combination receivers
- at least the smaller table models - have not worked out too well. There are many
technical difficulties to be overcome, and while in due time such combination receivers
will be produced successfully, with few exceptions at the present time the results
have not been too good.
Despite the fact that FM receivers are more expensive than AM receivers, the
public - always eager to get the latest and the best - prefers the more expensive
FM sets. FM receivers eventually will sell for less than they do nowadays, but not
until radio manufacturers become more expert in the intricacies of their manufacture.
In the not too distant future, FM sets probably will sell at a lower price than
present-day AM sets. That stage has not yet been reached.
A somewhat similar situation prevails in automobile FM receivers, which so far
are not in large production, and portable FM sets, which are still in the experimental
stage. Many technical problems have to be solved to make such types possible, but
they will be solved.
With automobile receivers there are, of course, some disadvantages to FM. With
FM range limited to about 25 miles from the transmitter, anyone taking a long automobile
trip will have to switch from station to station as he progresses along the road.
Thus, during a hundred-mile trip, switching or tuning to 4 different stations will
be necessary. This mayor may not be a great disadvantage. It might even be pointed
out that many AM transmitters become weaker at the 25-mile range too, except for
the much more powerful transmitters.
As for portables and pocket FM radios, both these seem to be in the future. So
far only experimental models have been evolved and much engineering work remains
to be done in that class.
The country now has one of its cyclic radio booms - this time in FM - which conceivably
may last until the end of 1948 and perhaps longer.
Posted May 5, 2020