Duane’s Antique Radios
Major Edwin H. Armstrong invented the superheterodyne during the closing days of World War I. After the war, Armstrong sold the patent rights of the superhet 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 ore 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. Tubes were relatively expensive, and the invention of the alternating current tubes that would operate on house current was still several years away.
RCA refused to license the manufacture of complete superhets to all but a few companies. It was illegal for most companies to build and sell superheterodynes, but the law did not prohibit amateurs from making a superheterodyne for personal use. There was a great demand for the superhet so many companies sprang up from out of nowhere to supply parts that were specific to the superhet (IF transformers and oscillator couplers). Most of the superheterodynes of the 1920s were home brewed affairs, either from complete kits or from whatever parts could be found. In a few short years the home brewed superhet 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” (Superhet forum thread on antiqueradios.com)
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Published February 2, 2010
email: duane_bylund (at) yahoo (dot) com
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