Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GE Transistor Radio

This old GE radio is a great example of 60’s electronic design.A big shiny metal grille dominates the front face. At the time it was probably to still cheaper to stamp some steel than mold some plastic. The frequency display is, of course, entirely mechanical. The LCD displays we are used to nowadays on the cheapest of devices were an expensive bit of tech when this radio was made. With a gear here, a spring there, the same knob can control the frequency tuner and move a little marker past a scale that shows your approximate tuning.

Notice the charming leather strap and rugged outer casing. This was mobile entertainment, the ipod of it’s day. You could use it in the garage, on the boat, at work, hell on the moon(probably.)

Opening the device is a matter of unclasping a strap and lifting the hinged leather back. Inside we find a battery holster(4 AAs) and a cubby with a coiled-up AC cord inside. Here’s one of the weird things about 60’s electronics - not only is the AC-to-DC transformer built into the device(Even non-portable devices today usually leave it outside in the form of a wall-wart), but the power cord(2-prong, of course) is permanently attached. It’s a good 2 or 3 feet long!

Opening it up even further reveals some other interesting features. The circuit board is protected by a flimsy plastic cover held by some tabs. To access it, you just slide the cover off the tabs and lift it off. That’s it. There are no security screws. There’s no warranty sticker. No-one was interested in stopping you from screwing with the guts of this thing. In fact, it was expected. See the little silver cubes with what look like plastic flathead screws in them?

Those are trimpots - essentially adjustable resistors. I think these can be used to adjust the tuning circuit. At the time a radio like this was a significant purchase - it was expected that at least some people would perform their own maintenance. I just wish I knew how to make those adjustments - I can’t pick up anything but static on this damn thing.

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