Fallout shelter necessities

From 1962, a sparkling set of electronics for your fallout shelter.

Equip your fallout shelter.


    1. Lafeyette was like Radio Shack today, but before malls, and often sort of a hole-in-the-wall store on a side street.  They had the big console where you could bring in your vacuum tubes and plug them into the appropriate socket to test them, because TVs would blow tubes and people would bring in tubes to test them in the store. it was that or call the “TV Repairmen.”

      Heathkit metal detector kits were popular, and the first PC I saw was maybe a 1977 Heathkit home built.  I don’t recall it doing anything, but there it was….

      1. But they had a MAIL ORDER CATALOG.  As a kid I was signed up for Lafyette and Edmund Science catalogs.  I think my first ever mail order was to Lafayette for an aluminum chassis box to build a GSR “plant emotions” meter.

    2. I have a 1962 Lafayette catalog that’s so comprehensive I use it as a reference for vintage audio parts.  You could get nearly anything from them.  Stuff that I order from Shenzhen today you could walk up to the counter at the store and have trucked in for you within the week.  They sold quality electronics like Fisher and Scott, and magnetics from Peerless and UTC.  Altec speakers drivers, etc.

  1. I have that very Bendix radiation kit. My friend who’s really into that stuff told me that by the time those dosimeters indicated anything, you’d be likely to have a case of leukemia developing. Perhaps they were intended to let the gravedigger know when to get to work.

    1. Both my parents told me they were taught to always carry a piece of photographic film sandwiched between two pieces of black paper in their pocket.  Take it into their shelter and look at it under red light every night.  If it’s opaque black they’ve been exposed.  I don’t really know if this method is totally apocryphal, but it seems pretty legit.  Photographic film was what was first used in the accidental discovery of radioactivity.  And it reacts very quickly too.

      I’d welcome any criticism letting me know I’m actually very wrong and that kind of civil defense training never happened.

      1.  I can confirm that, while they may have been taught this, it wouldn’t tell you anything.

        Yes, film reacts very, very quickly.  The first problem is that if you can look at it, it’s been exposed to light.  Second, you’d have to actually develop the film (development amplifies the halides’ darkening from exposure to light/x-rays/etc by many orders of magnitude) so you can see the exposure.

        1. Would it have been film or would it have been photographic paper? I recall playing with paper that got dark from being exposed to light, as it would when making a print off a negative. 

    2. EBay had for many years a $30 Civil Defense kit (still in sealed cardboard boxes) with the exact stuff in the ad:  geiger counter (actually ion chamber detector, no clicking headphones) and high-roentgen dosimeters.  Probably these were govt-issue for town emergency shelters etc. The dosimeter-charger still had ancient D-cells inside; long dead but probably antique collectible Eveready “Nine Lives” brand zinc cells.

      The dosimeters were wrapped in thick lead. Presumably you could tell when you were nearing the lethal whole-body dose, so you could stay underground to recover, and instead send your kids out on the food raids.

      Quicky rad-detector: piece of broken TV picture tube inside some black-painted welding goggles. If you see some sparkles and glows, turn around and go back the way you came.

  2. most powerful 9 transistor radio! Just for fun I looked it up. A 2012 smartphone has something in the neighborhood of 100,000,000 transistors. Some reports put it above a billion. Meaningless numbers, really, except not.

    1. But then of course “powerful” in this context referred not to the transistor count but to its sensitivity/amplification capability.  Remember, this is a humble analog device.  If the reception scaled linearly with transistor count, your smartphone could pick up calls from, what, Alpha Centauri?

  3. Well I’ve got all that stuff but wouldn’t the electro-magnetic pulse from the nuclear weapon blow out the transistors in the radios?  

    1.  EMP happens only with upper atmosphere detonations. I don’t think EMP was understood at this time.

      And people make fun of fallout shelters and “Duck and Cover”. While I agree that such measures might not be that helpful in an all out wargasm with the nuclear weapons of the seventies and eighties, there was a broad period of time when fallout shelters and even duck and cover could have made the differences between life and death. Even shampoo and running water could have saved thousands of lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People couldn’t even wash the fallout off their bodies because water towers and pumping stations were knocked down.

      1. Tube type radios withstand EMP better… I was a CD volunteer radio op around 1970 and IIRC this was understood at the time.  Our equipment was all tube type at any rate.  For individuals without generators, a transistor radio in a farady shield, as someone else mentioned, would have been a better solution.

    2.  you would keep your spare “post attack” radios (and other electronics) in metal cabinets or boxes… the cabinet or box would form a Faraday cage and protect whatever was inside from the pulse.

  4. We are so lucky to no longer be living in an era when the USA and Russia each have thousands of nuclear weapons ready to launch on a few minutes’ notice.  How awful that must have been.

    Today, in a more civilized world, both the USA and Russia have agreed to back-down, and now keep their nukes ready to launch on several minutes’ notice instead.

  5. I love how the number of transistors is considered a feature. I’m pissed off at my iPhone 4S because it only has trillions of transistors, instead of the iPhone 5, which has 1.25 times as many. So mad!

    Also, the Pipboy 3000 should be on this brochure. 

  6. ah yes… dosimeters… didn’t actually tell you when it was safe to leave the shelter… people had to take it in turns every so many hours to go out for an hour (just fifteen minutes for the first few times). The shelter monitor would then measure the dose that person had received for that period outside and then plot it on a chart…  you could then see how the exposure rate was falling with time and work out from the curve just when it was actually safe for everybody to leave the shelter. Meanwhile, everybody who was actually in non-critical roles would have to take their turn getting exposed.

    1. The set had a ratemeter and a dosimeter.  You’re describing the ratemeter.  The dosimeter simply measures cumulative dose since last reset, while the ratemeter will calculate Roentgen per hour exposure rates based on short timed exposures.

      I have a Bendix-made Family Radiation Measurement Kit (the blue box version).  It has a ratemeter that has two scales, a 0-120 Rph scale for a one-minute exposure, and a higher-resolution 0-12 Rph scale for a 10-minute exposure.  You start with a one-minute exposure, and if the reading is still very low, wait 9 more minutes and then read the high-res scale.

      And you don’t have to make anyone go outside wearing it.  Most fallout shelters included small ports that you could poke sensors like this or a Geiger counter probe out of, without opening the shelter.

    1. Back in the days of Ronnie Regan and his visions of an Evil Empire, this fallout shelter business was again on people’s minds. Health physicists at one of the national labs did an analysis of surviving a nuclear war. Turns out if you can live in your basement (not necessarily a full-fledged fallout shelter) with clean water for two months, you’ll decrease your radiation dose 20-fold, primarily by not inhaling and ingesting dust laced with I-131 and other relatively short-lived byproducts.
      That will take a lethal dose of 1,000rem down to a survivable 50rem.

Comments are closed.