They began publishing Popular Electronics magazine in 1954, and it soon became one of the best-selling DIY electronics magazines. And now you can relive those bygone days of yore by browsing through this archive of PDFs of all back issues from 1954 to 1982.
Reading back through the magazine’s history gives you a good feel for the technological state of the art, at least as far as the DIYer is concerned. In the 1950s and 1960s (and onwards) radio is a big deal. By the 1970s, hi-fi equipment is hot and you get an inkling for the dawn of the digital computer age. Indeed, the archive ends in 1982 when the magazine changed its name to Computers and Electronics magazine.
It’s fun to see how much has changed, but there’s a bunch of useful material in there as well. In particular, each issue has a couple ultra-low-parts-count circuit designs that could certainly find a place in a modern project. For example, a “Touch-Controlled Solid State Switch” in July 1982 (PDF), using a hex inverter chip (CD4049) and a small handful of passive components.
But it’s the historical content that we find most interesting. For instance there is a nice article on the state of the art in computer memory (“The Electronic Mind — How it Remembers”) in August 1956 (PDF).
Have a good time digging through the archives, and if you find something you really like, let us know in the comments.
42 thoughts on “Popular Electronics Magazine Archive Online”
I’m reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, and it tells of Paul Allen finding on a newstand the January 1975 issue featuring “First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models – Altair 8800”. He takes it to his friend Bill Gates and says “This thing is happening without us!”.
In 8 weeks, they created a Basic interpreter (its size was 4K) and licensed it to Altair for $30 per copy. They had to make up a company name for the contract, and they decided on MicroSoft.
The Altair issue: http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Poptronics/70s/1975/Poptronics-1975-01.pdf
The company that produced the Altair was MITS.
“Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) was an American electronics company founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico that began manufacturing electronic calculators in 1971 and personal computers in 1975. Ed Roberts and Forrest Mims”
And soon after for the 6800 by SWTP ( I think) . I had a Sphere all in one base on the 6800 at work. I ordered the basic intrepter on paper tape and using a 110baud teletype took 45 min to load, I saved to an 8 inch floppy and use it with Micorsoft help to run a 2000 channel ASTRO DATA data acquisition system. MS provided links it the code to put in I/O assembler functions using the Basic INPUT and PRINT statements. This replaced a 2 desk sized IBM 1620 that used Cards.
I have most of these – in print.
Me too. I can finally pack them away now and free up some space on my book shelf!
Nothing beats being able to photocopy and transfer a to-size template to a single size board. But that said, I have not done this since sometimes in the 80’s!
Still got some of the magazines in my collection.
Another good archive for this sort of thing, even back to the 1920s, is http://americanradiohistory.com/. I always enjoy the circuits but as you pointed out, the historical perspective is one of the most interesting parts.
The links supplied in the blog post are to americanradiohistory.com
DOH! That’s what I get for not paying attention to the urls attached to the links.
I grew up reading the Carl and Jerry stories in the Popular Electronics of the 60s. THey inspired me to work in electronics and computing. Although from a simpler time, they still are entertaining.
I grew up reading them (Carl & Jerry) in the 70’s from my dad’s collection. Those were some great stories to inspire a kid to start tinkering.
Jeff Duteman has collected all the Carl & Jerry stories in both print and online.
Radio Electronics is available at InternetArchive.org. I’m having a hard time finding a link there which makes it easy to get them all in one place or I would post that here. If you’re not into radio don’t let the title turn you off, they had all sorts of electronics articles. After 92 they even took Radio out of the name and renamed it Electronics Now and then in 2000 it was merged into Poptronics. I thought they were very similar to Popular Electronics in content and style.
If you ARE into Radio then there is also 73 magazine. When it’s author, Wayne Green shut it down he made all the back issues available online for free. http://www.ae5x.com/blog/2011/12/23/an-easy-way-to-download-17gb-of-73-magazine/comment-page-1/
I hope the Gernsback Popular Electronics become available too! I’m not even sure what I would do with all the bookshelf space that would free up for me!
That being said, I wouldn’t actually get rid of anything, just pack them away somewhere. If you want to produce a PCB from one of the articles you might want to re-scan it on a flatbed scanner.
I am familiar with the http://www.americanradiohistory.com project. I have communicated with the author in the past. I am working on a similar large-scale scanning project that will include all known English language hobby electronic magazines from the U.S., UK, Australia, India, etc…more than 20 complete collections of magazines. I have been collecting the magazines needed for the project over the last 3 years and have scanned more than a Terabyte. They will be released next year. Stay tuned.
Did your scanned magazine archive ever see “the light of day”??
Find me a full “Eletronics Today International” and “Elector” back catalog and then we are talking…
For those of us over a certain age, this brings back so many memories.
Spending a good portion of my allowance to buy Popular Electronics from the newstand in town and then reading every word, cover to cover. So many projects to build, if only I could afford to buy the tubes. And then, after starting to work part time at age 12, being able to afford to buy a couple of CK722s and wiring up circuits out of those pages.
And, as a Lee Gleason mentions, there were the Carl and Jerry stories. Whatever happened to those guys? It was a simpler time, but a memorable one.
On the other hand, I am happy to have ESP8266s to play with now and they bring just as much pleasure as the first transistor circuits. Instead of Popular Electronics once a month, I have Hackaday every morning.
I guess the world changed, but I didn’t.
What is funny to me is that the early issues seemed to be really big into RC aircraft!. I guess like most hobbies you had to build a lot of the kit yourself to start with.
Also a zipped index here http://www.ae5x.com/utilities/73_magazine.zip
I used to read these type of magazine and usually ran into the problem with “unobtainium” of finding the main component in the local store. Back in the days before the interweb and mail order means sending a postal money order in the mail. :(
It was around the last year in my high school that I have decided to do my own design with parts I can get my hands on that I have really start to learn electronics. Never looked back at the days of building project from someone else’s plan.
I got many of these mags back in the day. Sadly there doesnt seem to be much like it out there now. ‘Make’ magazine is okay but doesnt go as deep and wanders off to other ‘arts and crafts’ kind of projects that dont hold my interest at all. Anyone else got any good suggestions?
Yup, I totally agree. I started looking for a replacement about 10 – 15 years ago. Elektor magazine is the only thing I think that comes close.
Try Nuts & Volts: http://www.nutsvolts.com/magazine
There’s Circuit Cellar, and AudioXpress, and QST/QEX. Also, the UK magazine Electronics World is worth the expense of an overseas subscription. Nuts and Volts is OK too, but it’s at about the same depth as “Make” without the crafts projects.
Nuts & Volts is kind of hit-and-miss for my interests (tried subscribing years ago, but gave that up), but I’ll give them credit for sticking around and having fun.
For what I’ve found to be a more serious/practical Electronics Magazine, I’ll tip my hat to the imported-from-the-UK “Everyday Practical Electronics” also known as EPE. It’s a monthly, and my local Barnes & Noble has them in (usually by the 10th of the month or so) for $9.99 (save 10% off of that if you’re a B&N whatever the heck they call it Member). I could subscribe to them, but their international rate comes in marginally more expensive than just buying them piecemeal at Barnes & Noble, so I use it as an excuse to visit the store and see whether Nuts & Volts is worth buying that month (works out well!). They have some sort of relationship with Elektor (another worthy publication), as some Elektor articles end up in EPE (and I assume, v/v).
Someone else already mentioned AudioXpress… a fine magazine for those of us with audio electronics interests… great writers/editors.
For those with interests in robotics, Servo does a good job of things too.
For the record, I’ve been a MAKE aficionado from the beginning, but since they switched formats and moved to a 6/year print schedule a year ago, their content has really gone downhill. This year will probably be my last year of subscription. It was good while it lasted, but the farther it gets from its roots the shallower it gets.
Here is a list of hobby electronics magazines available for paper and electronic/PDF subscription I’ve been compiling. If you know of more available in English please share.
SC. Silicon Chip ( Australia),
Elektor (Europe available in multiple languages including English)
EPE. Everyday Practical Electronics (UK)
New Electronics (UK)
Nuts & Volts (UK)
Circuit Cellar (UK)
On FB and insta.
On a similar note, Google Books has Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines archived back to the early 1900’s.
I eagerly await the day when they have all issues, (even those after the merger and name change) up until they stopped publishing.
All issues under all titles are now online
Don Lancaster (TTL/CMOS/Cheap Video/etc. Cookbook) wrote several project articles for Popular Electronics.
so, a 1954, 6 watt amplifier kit, in today’s dollars (according to inflation calculators) was $137.00
Hmm…a bit cheaper now!
I found these files interesting. but it was painful to read online. so wrote an autodownloader that would download these files.
Thanks… wish I had time to browse, I will sometime dig some of my projects out and share with my grand son.
Funny, the Oct-1980 is missing an entire article for some unknown reason: “ELECTRONIC GAMES: SPACE-AGE LEISURE ACTIVITY.” Would really like to read that one, actually.
I will look into my collection to see if I have this one, but may take a few months to dig it out.
does anyone remember anticipation sampler and thought control add on
I have a complete set of Popular electronics from Oct 1954 on then Electonics Now to Dec 99. They are located in NC/
I could ship and you could pick them up. They are for SALE as a complete set only. Let me know if you are interested and
what you pay. John
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