If you are a certain age, it is hard to wrap your head around the fact that an old radio might have transistors — the old ones all had tubes, right? But a radio from the 1960s or 1970s is reaching the 60+ year mark and people are restoring old transistor sets. [Adam] picked up his first old radio, a 1970s vintage Ajax Command S-74.
He was fortunate. The only repair needed was to replace a corroded battery holder and clean up the mess from the batteries. You can hear the radio doing its thing in the video below.
Ham radio operators can be pretty selective about their gear. Some are old-school tube purists who would never think of touching a rig containing transistors, and others are perfectly happy with the small Software Defined Radio (SDR) hooked up to their PC. The vast majority, though, of us are somewhere in between — we appreciate the classic look and feel of vintage radios as well as the convenience of modern ones. Better yet, some of us even like to combine the two by adding a few modern bells and whistles to our favorite “boat anchor.”
[Scott Baker] is one such Ham. He’s only had his license for a few months now and has already jumped into some great projects, including adding a panadapter to an old Drake R-4B Receiver. What’s a panadapter, you may ask? As [Scott] explains in his excellent writeup and video, a panadapter is a circuit that grabs a wideband signal from a radio receiver that typically has a narrowband output. The idea is that rather than just listen to somebody’s 4kHz-wide transmission in the 40m band, you can listen to a huge swath of the spectrum, covering potentially hundreds of transmissions, all at the same time.
Well, you can’t actually listen to that many transmissions at once — that would be a garbed mess. What you can do with that ultrawide signal, however, is look at it. If you take an FFT of the signal to put it in the frequency domain (by using a spectrum analyzer, or in [Scott]’s case, an SDR), you can see all sorts of different signals up and down the spectrum. This makes it a heck of a lot easier to find something to listen to — rather than spinning the dial for hours, hoping to come across a transmission, you can just see where all of the interesting signals are.
[Mr. Carlson] is truly an old radio surgeon. The evidence? He recently restored an 83-year-old DeForest radio by transplanting an identical chassis from another similar radio. The restoration is fun to watch, but the 7D832 radio dial looks amazing. The dial is very colorful and the wooden knobs and preset selector are beautiful. To seal the deal, the center of the dial has a magic eye tube, giving the radio a retro high tech look.
The donor chassis needed some work before the surgery. In addition, [Carlson] makes some improvements along the way. The radio showed signs of previous service work, which is not surprising after 83 years.
[MisterM] seems to specialize in squeezing new electronics into old but good-looking technology. His latest creation focuses on a space-age specimen: an interesting car radio from 1963 that could be pulled out from the dashboard and taken along wherever. The beat goes on, thanks to a shiny built-in speaker on the bottom.
He replaced the non-working radio guts with a Raspberry Pi 3 running RetroPie and a Picade controller board. A Pimoroni Blinkt LED strip behind the radio dial glows a different color for each emulated console, which we think is a nice touch. [MisterM] built this console to play in his workshop, and even made a dock for it. But in a lovely homage to the original radio, it’s self-contained and can be taken to the living room or to a friend’s house. There’s also a USB port for whenever player two is ready to enter. For [MisterM]’s next trick, he’ll be converting an 80s joystick.
We love that [MisterM] repurposed the dials as housings for start and select buttons. As he points out, this keeps them out of the way while he’s wildly working the controls. Just enter the Konami Code to unlock the build video below.
The meaning of the word portable has changed a bit over the years. These days something has to be pretty tiny to be considered truly portable, but in the 1940s, anything with a handle on it that you could lift with one hand might be counted as portable electronics. Zenith made a line of portable radios that were similar to their famous Transoceanic line but smaller, lighter, and only receiving AM to reduce their size and weight compared to their big brothers. If you want to see what passed for portable in those days, have a look at [Jeff Tranter’s] video (below) of a 6G601 — or maybe it is a GG601 as it says on the video page. But we think it is really a 6G601 which is a proper Zenith model number.
According to [Jeff], 225,350 of these radios were made, and you can see that it closes up like a suitcase. The initial 6 in the model number indicates there are 6 tubes and the G tells you that it can run with AC or batteries.
Antique radio receivers retain a significant charm, and though they do not carry huge value today they were often extremely high quality items that would have represented a significant investment for their original owners. [CodeMakesItGo] acquired just such a radio, a Philco 37-11 made in 1937, and since it was it a bit of a state he set about giving it some updated electronics. Vintage radio purists, look away from the video below the break.
Stripping away the original electronics, he gave it a modern amplifier with Bluetooth capabilities, and a Raspberry Pi. Vintage radio enthusiasts will wince at his treatment of those classic parts, but what else he’s put into it makes up for the laying waste to a bit of ’30s high-tech.The original tuning dial was degraded so he’s given it a reproduction version, and behind that is an optical encoder and two optical sensors. This is used to simulate “tuning” the radio between different period music “stations” being played by the PI, and for an authentic feel he’s filled the gaps with static. The result is a functional and unusual device, which is probably better suited than the original to a 2019 in which AM radio is in decline.
If you think of a high-end set like this Philco as being the ’30s equivalent of perhaps an 8K TV set, you can imagine the impact of AM radio in those early days of broadcasting. We recently took a look at some of the directional antenna tricks that made so many AM stations sharing the band a possibility.
This Bluetooth speaker is full of delightful surprises. The outer shell is an antique radio cabinet, but its practically empty interior is a combination of Dead Bug circuitry and modern BT receiver.
[PJ Allen] found the BT receiver on Groupon and decided to whip up amplifier and threshold detector circuits using only parts he already had in order to make this vintage-looking Bluetooth speaker. The cabinet is from a Silvertone Model 1955 circa 1936. Don’t worry, no antiques were harmed in the making of this hack, the cabinet was empty when he bought it.
The amplifiers, one per speaker, began life as a circuit from TI’s LM4871 datasheet. Some of the departures came about because he didn’t have the exact component values, even paralleling capacitors to get in the right range. The finished board is a delightful mix of “Dead Bug” and quasi-Manhattan style construction, “quasi” because he carved up the ground plane instead of laying pads on top of it.
Look at the front of the cabinet and you’ll see a rectangular display. Watch the video below and you’ll see that it throbs in time to the music. To do that he came up with a threshold detector circuit which started out based on a circuit from a Sharp/Optonica cassette tape deck, but to which he made improvements.