Major Edwin H. Armstrong invented the superheterodyne (superhet) in the closing days of World War I. After the war, Armstrong sold the patent rights for the superheterodyne to the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Radio broadcasting was in its infancy and most of the radio sets of the time were simple one-tube regenerative receivers, with, perhaps, one or two stages of audio frequency amplification. Armstrong called the superheterodyne the “Rolls Royce method of reception” because of the large number of tubes required to make one and the resultant complexity and cost.
RCA refused to license the manufacture of complete superheterodynes to all but a few companies. However, that did not stop individuals from making their own superheterodyne for personal use. There was a great demand for superheterodynes so many companies sprang up from out of nowhere to supply parts that were specific to the superheterodyne (mainly IF transformers and oscillator couplers). Most of the superheterodynes of the 1920s were either built from complete kits or pieced together from whatever parts could be found. In a few short years the home brewed superheterodyne of the mid 1920s was obsolete and most of them were tossed in the local landfill. This site is a small collection of some of the survivors.
The “Rolls Royce of Reception” (Richard T. Ammon’s site. This is the best site on the Internet for technical data on 1920s superheterodynes!)
Who invented the superheterodyne? (Good historical article by Alan Douglas)
Battery Superhets of “Radio Heaven” (Ron Lawrence’s site. Good photos of 1920s superheterodynes!)
IndianaRadios.com (Michael Feldt’s site. Good photos of 1920s superheterodynes!)
ElectronicFossil (Check out some of the high-class supers!)
“Roaring 20s Superhets” (1920s Superhet thread on antiqueradios.com)
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Published February 2, 2010
email: duane_bylund (at) yahoo (dot) com