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Radio Museum connects generations

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April 6, 2004
by John Miller

Bellingham, Washington--  What would the world be like without TV? You're about to visit a place that can give you a good idea. In fact, it's one of the most amazing collections of vintage radios, electronic gizmos and gadgets in the world.

The American Museum of Radio is the place to go, curator John Jenkins is the man to see. Of course telegraph was invented in the mid 1800s. The Hughes telegraph was played like a piano, and it prints out on the other end. So what it looks like here is that somebody destroyed a pretty nice piano, to make a pretty mediocre telegraph!

This was the case for all the early electronic successes-- Microphones, vacuum tubes, and ultimately-- the radio. John proudly displays the failures. Like the great grandfather of the cellphone, The Collins wireless telephone, things that looked to ridiculous to work. Which is probably why they didn't.

We're right in the neighborhood of the Theramin-- the first electronic musical instrument, made in 1929. It was supposed to be the wave of the future, you could play it with a wave of your hand, but after its use in so many old scary movies, and that old Beach Boys song, “Good vibrations”, history bid it goodbye.

The Visionola synced a record and a film, and was the sweetest home theater system on the market in 1926. At over $900, in 1926, it was very pricey. You could buy a house for twice that. And they have probably the largest collection of electrical and radio related apparatus under one roof in the world.

Parents will take their kids here, and see a radio that they had when they were a kid. The museum sort of ties the generations together, giving old timers a chance to tell the younger set how it used to be.

posted at 4:05PM by dave.miller@walb.com