Radio Waves: 7/12/19

New Projects

I have two new projects to work on this Summer.

The first is a “transistor radio” made by RCA Victor – RCA , of course, short for Radio Corporation of America – sometime around 1962.  I always liked that old RCA logo with the lightening bolt coming off the A.

This was my Dad’s, I assume. It was in his garage in the accompanying case, though I never saw him use it. Probably for good reason … have you ever seen a battery like that? Fatter than a typical AA supplying 4 volts, it is a VS149. Can’t use a radio when you don’t have a battery!

So I went out to find one. Turns out the VS149 is fully obsolete, but a replacement A133 is the same size and supplies 4.5 volts. A little high, but apparently within tolerance for these old radios, according to an old radio forum I was reading.

New battery popped in and … it doesn’t work. It almost does, though. Sound is very distorted and may be as simple as some resistors in the amplifier circuit. So far that’s as far as I have gotten on this one.

The second one is more of a mystery. I was given it by my friend Wayne, who South Bay locals know as the former owner of Harbor Brake Service in San Pedro. There is no brand marking on it at all, and I have never seen one like it. The logo in the dial makes me think Westinghouse, or perhaps Wards, as at least one of the tubes is marked “Wards Super Airline.” 

It has a dial that resembles an old dial telephone, though I have a hunch that this radio may pre-date dial telephones. Inside the “finger holes” are stickers that mark the approximate place on the dial for your favorite radio stations, sort of a pre-set before there were presets. This one happens to include some that are still around and others that are long gone:

KMTR/Hollywood, KFSD/San Diego, KMPC/Beverly Hills, KEHE/Los Angeles, KHJ/Los Angeles, KFVD/Los Angeles, KRKD/Los Angeles, KGER/Long Beach and KVOE/Santa Ana. 

Wayne had told me that it was used for years by his Dad and later him in his garage, though he assumed it’s been at least 40 years since it was last turned on.

It didn’t get the variac treatment, in which you start low and slowly increase the voltage of old equipment that has not been used in a while to avoid problems with old, dried-out capacitors … Wayne tried out the radio before he gave it to me so it came recently powered up. No blown capacitors, at least.

But no reception, either. While I was pleasantly surprised that there is no loud hum as is often the case in vintage radios that need repair, this one is silent except for a faint hum/sound coming from the speaker. But the sound didn’t include any radio stations, and was barely audible. I have not tested tunes as of yet, but one thing I did notice was a wire that seems to be disconnected off the tuning circuit. 

The wood case is in exceptional condition for a radio as apparently old as it is. 

I would love to know more about both radios, so I am including photos of both in case you happen to know something.

Rumor Mill

Cumulus sold KLOS (95.5 FM) already; last week it announced WABC/New York was sold for $12.5 million to Red Apple Media. Is KABC (790 AM) next? Both WABC and KABC have been drains on the Cumulus bottom line, and both stations have struggled to find an audience after previous management destroyed the stations in multiple cost-cutting moves. Having a standalone station in Los Angeles is tough enough if it is FM. When it is an AM with few listeners … almost impossible.

Of course I could save it, but they won’t let me program it. Yet.