March 1953 Radio-Electronics
[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
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 - 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
Posted February 28, 2020