Showing posts with label documentary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label documentary. Show all posts

Monday, July 21, 2014

Richardson "5" Update

Thanks to members of the excellent Antique Radio Forums and to a Mr Richardson (No relation, I think) I have found out more about the history of this receiver. It turns out that the set had been restored in the past from fairly sad shape after being purchased at an AWA swap meet in New York.

Underneath the top desk of the radio is the text "Oct.17.1996 Billy Richardson" which confirmed that the radio had originally passed though his hands while being brought back to life.

However I'll let Mr Billy Richardson tell the story in his own words:

I'm guilty of owning the Richardson "5", guys. It was in poor condition when I bought it in an AWA swap meet in New York way back there years ago. I restored it to the best of my ability to its original condition a few years later. It was not a restoration that had anything special going for it, so it was never shown in any of the contests around the country. It was working OK when I finished it, but I can understand why it doesn't work now.

To the best of my recollection, Richardson radios were first advertised as a superheterodyne kit. Their main feature was "self evident wiring", or something like that. Naturally. they didn't get away with selling a superheterodyne kit and the next and only ad I saw after that was a small one for the Richardson "5". It used the same type of wiring.

Here again I speak from a poor memory, but the wiring for this set is one long piece of rubber coated flexible wire. Along its entire length it has lugs that simply pierce the rubber cover to make an electrical contact. Not a good thing, because only one or two strands of wire may be making contact and a wee bit of oxidation is all it would take to break the connection. This was the case with the original wire, which was also hard and brittle. I replaced it with NOS flexible wire that looked exactly the same. The finished job is an ugly sight, just like the original. All the lugs are spaced an equal distant along the wire, regardless of how far it has to go to the next connection and most of the wire is too long for those connections. In other words, it's a jumbled up mess of wire and not something to be proud of.

I recognized the photo of this set immediately as being mine because of the label under the lid. There was enough of the original left to make a good copy and I thought the reproduction turned out real well.

Billy Richardson

Alan Douglas of the Antique Radio Forums found a clipping from Radio Retailer & Jobber Oct.1925 which told of Mr Richardson's exit from the Richardson Radio Corporation. Given the very short period where any advertisements were made it seems like this corporation didn't last very long at all, perhaps only a year or two at most. In the Radio News of 1925 the January issue has quite a large advertisement while the December issue has only the smallest note possible ... perhaps a sign that things were not going particularly well.

The only additional information I could find regarding either the Richardson Radio Corporation or Mr Richardson himself come from the clipping of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, August 1936.

Unfortunately it concerns what must have been his early death and does not specify the cause which would have been appropriate at the time.

The Class records with deep sorrow the death of our classmate, David W. Richardson, who died at his home in Mt. Kisko on July 16.
Dave spent the first two years out of college in the radio business. He helped organize WOR and was the president of the Richardson Radio, Inc.
He then entered the employ of Joseph P. Day and for five years was head of the private sales department. About a year ago he entered the brokerage business with Harris, Upham & Co. and on July 1 entered the employ of Eastman, Dillon & Co.
Dave was married in 1932 and has a son, David Welles Richardson, Jr. To his widow, his son, and his father we extend our deepest sympathy with the assurance that we will not soon forget him.
    For the Class of 1922
    William E. Stevenson, President
    G. M. L. LaBranche
    Hunt T. Dickinson
    Robert Buechner, Secretary. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Shock and Awe - The story of electricity.

Amateur radio has a long history, going all the way back to wireless experiments in the late 1800s. However the study of electricity has its roots in the observation of natural phenomena and stretches back much further.

I ran across this excellent three part documentary detailing the story of the discovery of electricity. The presenter is Jim Al-Khalili, currently Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He not only knows his stuff, he is also an interesting and engaging speaker.

The documentary runs for three hours but is worth your time if you are interested in the story of electricity and the people behind its discovery and history. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

From Backblocks To High Seas

I came across this great piece of history via the Google+ page of Cristian YO8TNB and had to share it here for others to enjoy. I have a soft spot for New Zealand, being so close to my country of birth, and I particularly noticed the carefully cultured accent of the announcer. On a more serious note, this video is an invaluable record of the wired and wireless technology used in 1939 and the procedures for transmitting a message from land to sea.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Birth of a Book - Smith-Settle Printers, Leeds, England

I'd love this video to be longer but as it is I still found it fascinating to watch a book come to life in a few minutes.

For the Daily Telegraph. Shot at Smith-Settle Printers, Leeds, England. 
The book being printed is Suzanne St Albans’ 'Mango and Mimosa' published as part of the Slightly Foxed series.
Shot, Directed & Edited by Glen Milner

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Now I understand - Standing Wave Ratio (SWR)

There are great books out there that explain radio principals in a plain and straightforward manner. Many are vintage military manuals whose primary aim was to give a functional understanding of the theory involved without getting caught up in the interesting but ultimately unnecessary details.

Modern material on the other hand can sometimes miss the mark of providing a functional understanding in favor of trying to completely address the high level theory and leaving practical matters to be addressed later ... or perhaps never.

The AT&T training video certainly hits the mark when it comes to explaining and showing the properties of radio waves. It shows how they are affected by termination and changes in impedance, what resonance looks like, how terminated and non-terminated lines reflect waves and much more.

Material like this is well worth the time of anyone who has an interest in radio or electronics.

More video are available from the AT&T archives here :

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Virtual Tour of W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station

Virtual W1AW Tour on Sunday, February 12 at 5 PM EST (2200 UTC)

Join W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, on a virtual tour of W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station, the Amateur Radio station at ARRL Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut. Carcia will lead this tour via a live webcast on . Anyone with an Internet connection will be able to watch the tour here.

W1AW - The Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station

"We want viewers of this live Internet tour to feel as if they are actually at W1AW," Carcia explained. "If you came to W1AW in person, you would see the same things that we are going to show on the virtual tour: The three operating stations, the W1AW workshop, the transmitter racks that we use to send out our bulletins and use for the code practice transmission, the control console and Old Betsy, Hiram Percy Maxim's personal spark gap transmitter."

Al Petrunti, KA1TCH, of the New Day Group, will follow Carcia as he leads viewers through the station. ARRL Staff members, including Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, and Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B, as well as local television weatherman Geoff Fox, K1GF, will also be on hand at W1AW during the tour.

"Hams around the world know of W1AW, and thousands have made contacts with this impressive station -- but most hams never get to see it," Pitts said. "Thanks to Al Petrunti's group, we hope that folks enjoy seeing what's at the other end of the signals. As in all live broadcasts, you never know just what might happen. We invite you to join us." Pitts is producing the live web tour.

From the ARRL Letter, available at

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New video from ARRL : The DIY Magic of Amateur Radio

From the ARRL:
ARRL's new video, "The DIY Magic of Amateur Radio," is an 8-minute video that follows some of the innovative, imaginative and fun ways "hams" use radio technology in new and creative ways. The presentation is directed toward the DIY (do it yourself) movement, which is inspiring a new generation of creators, hackers and innovators. The message should be helpful for existing members to shape the ways they understand and talk about ham radio.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Preserving the past - Australian built broadcast transmitters

Arguably some of the best looking radio equipment was produced in the 50's and 60's when art-deco motifs, streamlining and other elements of design made their way onto consumer and even industrial electronics.
Unlike modern times, when cost is the only consideration, designers and engineers took the time to ensure that their creations looked good as well as being functional and long lasting. It was worth taking time over the placement of meters, switches & panels, even if it did mean that the final product cost a few dollars more to manufacture.
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) or AWA produced an extensive range of home and commercial equipment in the 60s and many vintage radio collectors have examples of AWA radio receivers in their collections. The larger equipment like broadcast transmitters takes an extra special effort to preserve as their large size, demanding power requirements and the specialized knowledge required to maintain them presents a barrier for all but the most dedicated enthusiasts.
We are fortunate then that Don Bainbridge has taken up the challenge and preserved a remarkable collection of Australian built broadcasting equipment and maintains much of this equipment in operational order. The YouTube video below and his website linked here offer a rare glimpse into the world of vintage high powered broadcast equipment before plastic took over and economical design stripped away the chrome and pinstripes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Old Time Radio (OTR) at

When tuning across the AM broadcast band I'm often reminded that there is little left but sports radio and talk shows. I'm not particularly against either but I remember that in the past there was a lot more to pick from. With this in mind I have been looking around the Internet for a source of old time radio and found an excellent storehouse at

I noticed while talking with friends that not too many people know about or assume its only used to hold podcasts. Nothing is further from the truth.

Take a look at  for an excellent collection of old time radio shows and once you've had your fill there, take a look at and the video archives.

For a quick taste click the play button below and listen to Strange Tales.

Tales of the strange and bizarre, the weird and the wicked. Stories not necessarily of the supernatural, but of the unnatural

(If the player doesn't appear you may need to go to and listen to the radio show there)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wartime Radio: The Secret Listeners

This is a great documentary filmed in 1979. It tells the story of amateur radio operators intercepting German Naval messages and the development of secret listening posts in the UK. Lots of good footage and history along with interviews with historic personalities.

Illustrated with archival film and photographs, as well as interviews with those involved, the documentary traces the evolution of civilian involvement in radio-based intelligence during both world wars.

It was the tireless work of amateur radio enthusiasts during World War I, that initially convinced the Admiralty to establish a radio intercept station at Hunstanton. Playing an integral role during the war, technological advances meant that radio operators could pinpoint signals, thus uncovering the movement of German boats, leading to the decisive Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Wireless espionage was to play an even more important role during World War II, with the Secret Intelligence Service setting up the Radio Security Service, which was staffed by Voluntary Interceptors, a band of amateur radio enthusiasts scattered across Britain. The information they collected was interpreted by some of the brightest minds in the country, who also had a large hand in deceiving German forces by feeding false intelligence.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making a Spherical Audion Tube by Ron Soyland

Another great series of videos from Ron Soyland. In this video he recreates the classic Audion tube invented by Lee De Forest in 1906. The particular tube he creates in this video appears to be similar to the 1909 version of the Audion but substantially better made. The original Audion tubes were usually crudely constructed without the benefit of modern tooling or our current understanding of thermionic emission, they were expensive and had a short lifetime but paved the way for better tubes in the following years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making a Fleming Diode Tube - Ron Soyland

Its not often we get to see someone create a vacuum tube in their home workshop. Ron Soyland, a member of the Houston Vintage Radio Association, created these YouTube videos to show the process behind reproducing a Fleming diode tube. He carries out every task himself, from creating the glass envelope to final evacuation and testing.
Each video is approximately 10-15 minutes long and there are seven parts. Grab yourself a beverage and sit back to watch this fascinating process from raw glass to electronic component.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why not thorium?

A thought provoking documentary on nuclear energy using thorium, a safer and abundant source of reactor fuel.