Friday, October 24, 2014

Dale Chihuly's Portable Radios With Plastic Cases, and More


This is actually one of my occasional industrial design posts, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to begin using a link to an artist.

That artist is Dale Chihuly (1941 - ), master of glass installations (Wikipedia entry here). A couple of years ago, a museum devoted to Chihuly was opened in Seattle right next to the well-known Space Needle. Attached to the museum is a restaurant called Collections Café. Its Web site is here, and a Seattle Magazine article about it is here.

That article notes that the name "Collections" refers to the cafe's decor, which is dominated by objects Chihuly collected over the years. The link includes some photos that help give you the flavor of the place.

The photo at the top of this post is from Seattle Met magazine and shows a wall display in the cafe consisting of dozens of pre-transistor portable radios from the 1940s and 50s for the most part. The variety of styles grafted onto fairly similar electronic boards is astonishing.

A little context for that era of small (for the time) plastic-cased radios is offered below.

Gallery

Philco 40-180 - 1940
Many households of the 1930s had a large radio such as the one shown here.  Such a device was normally located in the living room and served as the focus for evening entertainment for a family.

Philco 84B - 1935
Not all radios were large back then.  That's because the chassis with its vacuum tubes (valves, in Britain) could be pretty much the same size for all AM radios since the electronic functionality was the same.  What usually varied was the size of the cabinet and perhaps the size of the speakers.  The radio shown here is a table-top type that could be placed in a living room, bedroom, home office or somesuch place.

The Philco model illustrated here is the same type as our family radio when I was a wee tyke; it was used until television came along.  I still have that radio.  It looks almost the same as the one above except that the dial has sort of an orange hue.

Philco 38-15T - 1938
By the late 1930s engineers were able to create more compact layouts allowing for even smaller sets.

Philco PT-25 - 1940
Philco cased its radios using wood through most of the 1930s, but added plastic by 1940.

Westinghouse H-127 Little Jewell - 1945-47
An early post- World War 2 portable radio, this from Westinghouse.  I include it because I had such a radio in my bedroom when I was young.  Unlike the old Philco, I no longer have it.

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