Radios come in all shapes and sizes.
In the 1920s the mass production of radios made them more affordable, turning them into ‘home appliances’. Since then they have transformed our lives, bringing news, education and entertainment into our homes. Radios were a feature in many lounge rooms. Families and friends gathered around to listen to music, to catch up with Dad and Dave or hear news from the front during World War II.
From early broadcasting at 4BC and 4BK to the School of the Air, radios have played an important part in the everyday life of Queenslanders. Radios allow communication across the vast distances of Queensland. In remote and isolated places, radios were, for many years, the only form of immediate contact with the outside world.
The ‘Wireless’ - Radio Technology
Superheterodyne circuit of the AWA Radiola Model 249. In a modified form this technology is still in use in radios and televisions. This beautiful Kriesler Radio, made around 1947, uses the "Superheterodyne" circuit (H45332). Early Valve Radio sets required external speakers or headphones to transmit sound (H45540) But later speakers were built into receiving sets. The AWA Fisk Radiolette was named after Australia’s great radio pioneer Sir Ernest Fisk. This model was built in Australia entirely from Australian parts. (H17519)
Since advances in electrical technology first allowed the transmission of sound, the ‘wireless’ has continued to evolve. Changes in radio shapes and sizes as well as quality of sound can be linked to changes in technology.
After Marconi first demonstrated the long-distance transmission of radio signals in the early 20th century, the invention and refinement of the radio valve allowed the production of radio receivers. Radio or thermionic HYPERLINK \l "Valves" valves of all shapes, sizes and designs have been an integral part of radio technology. The design of valves allowed them to have more than one function in rectifying or amplifying electric signals.
Improved receiver performance came with successive developments of the Superheterodyne circuit by the 1920s, the transistor in the 1940s and later the integrated circuit.
The appearance of radios changed as different materials became available. Wood, leather, fabric and metal gave way to plastic, allowing different shapes and colour, lighter weight and smaller sizes. The Queensland Museum collection holds over 150 radios, representing many of these variants.
When plastic was first used for radio casings, the appearance mimicked earlier wood designs. However, advances in plastic manufacturing meant that radios could be presented in many shapes and colours. Art Deco designs, produced in the 1920s and 1930s, have remained a popular style with collectors.
Clever engineering in the second half of the 20th century allowed miniaturisation of parts. Radios became smaller and more portable. Portable Radios became a feature of everyday life. The rapid adoption of the transistor radio from the 1960s, gave people the ability to take radios with them. Radios keep people on the move entertained and informed.
Queensland Radio Manufacturers
Radios were manufactured in Queensland from the 1920s. Many other successful radio manufacturers were based in Sydney and Melbourne. The arrival of Brisbane based manufacturers was a positive change for the state, providing jobs and giving Queensland people access to less expensive radios. About 15 radio manufacturing companies started at one time or another but many small companies only lasted a year or so. Two of the most successful manufacturers were Music Masters and Crammond, both based in Brisbane. Music Masters Radio Company operated from 1930 – 1968. Their factory was located in Auchenflower and they had a showroom in Tattersalls Arcade in the city. They boasted that they were able to provide radios to the public at much reduced prices by “going direct from builder to buyer”.
Picture of Music Master H25518 (Link to On-line Collection – IA QM C 5)
Crammond Radio Manufacturing Co. was established in 1928 and continued operating until 1949. As a subsidiary of Melton and Co, they were one of the earliest radio businesses in Queensland and had premises in Queen Street in the city. They designed and manufactured a range of radio receivers including a police radio held in the Queensland Museum collection.
Internal workings - Valves
The valve (or vacuum tube) was a vital component in radios, televisions and other types of electrical technology in the first half of the 20th century. Consisting of a metal element contained in a glass bulb, valves look a lot like light bulbs, but they actually perform very different tasks. Valves create, modify or amplify electrical current, allowing a device like a radio to receive a signal and convert it into sound.
The Queensland Museum collection includes hundreds of valves used in electrical appliances in Queensland over the last century. These vary greatly in size and function. Some very small valves, barely larger that an AA battery, produced the warm glow of the radio dial. Others, almost the size of footballs, were integral to radio broadcasting, producing the energy needed to create a radio signal, and transmit it to the surrounding area.
In the 1960s, valves began to be replaced by far smaller devices like transistors. These technological innovations transformed the radio from an apparatus as large as a piece of furniture, to a gadget small enough to fit in your pocket.
Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.