The Motorola Museum: 2


Car Radio

Car radios in the 1930s were plagued with electrical interference from naked electrical sparks in the automotive ignition system. This Super Power Auto Radio contains a “Magic Eliminode” (presumably, a diode in the power supply) so that you won’t need a “spark plug suppressor” (a capacitor on the electrical system), but I’ll bet some crackle was still audible.

The “universal control” that could be mounted at the center of the steering column seems an exciting idea—but in an era before pushbuttons, let alone signal-seeking electronics, you would have been finding your favorite stations by peering at the tuning dial. Today, in a more safety-conscious era, the dual threat of regulation and litigation would make such a device vanishingly implausible.

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  1. Nice find! But as for implausibility, the complex touch screens being built into modern cars are way more distracting than the interface on this gem.

  2. That “INSTALLS IN EVERY MAKE CAR” looks suspiciously like Helvetica. I don’t believe that sign is really original.

  3. From what I can find it looks like the “Magic Eliminode” is completely passive. Filter to separate out the spark noise, invert it, inject it into the filament supply to cancel it out. The box connects in different ways depending on some voodoo with the phase of the noise, and there is at least one control to tune the circuit.

    It’s in Riders volume 8 if anyone has a set, the only scan I can find online of the page is pretty unreadable. I’m curious now, I think I may have volume 8, my set is pretty sparse. I’d have them all but my grandfather dumped all the stuff he had from his radio repair shop from the 1930s just before I got interested in the stuff. :( Lots of cool stuff gone forever.

  4. If you take the description literally, you could also outfit your purse with one.

    Lugging around the battery must have been painful.

  5. @Anonymous:
    It’s not like sans-serif fonts were invented with Helvetica – the related Akzidenz-Grotesk was designed in 1896.

    Then again, the curved right leg on ‘R’ seems to be a common feature of the 50s designs (Helvetica and friends); A-D and the other old sans fonts seem to prefer a straight line. Hmm.

  6. I think the spark plug suppressor they were talking about was actually a resistor or resistors to put on the spark plug and/or coil wires. Hence the “Full Motor Efficiency” notice, since the resistors would take a toll.

  7. but in an era before pushbuttons, let alone signal-seeking electronics, you would have been finding your favorite stations by peering at the tuning dial. Today, in a more safety-conscious era, the dual threat of regulation and litigation would make such a device vanishingly implausible.

    I have neither push buttons, nor signal-seeking electronics in my car radio (nor FM, for that matter), but finding favorite stations is easy enough — when you have a device controlled by only two dials, plus knowledge of which end of the spectrum your stations broadcast, this sort of thing does not require your eyes to come off the road.

  8. It’s refreshing that even in the 30’s, advertisers still didn’t know the difference between Insure and Ensure.

  9. ah about the litigation thing – they sell dashboard mounted tvs now – i can’t imagine anything more dangerous than tv on the dash.

    –Tom

  10. Anonymous “…i can’t imagine anything more dangerous than tv on the dash.”
    Can you imagine…two dashboard TVs?

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