Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Radio History and the BP-10 Personal Radio

Although personal radios have a significant historical place in the overall history of radio, few radio collectors seem interested in collecting or restoring them.  The majority of radio collectors are either after unique appearance (great cabinetry, fancy plastic, esoteric dials, etc.), or unique electronics (special circuits, sophisticated audio, short wave bands, etc.).  Radio history doesn’t seem to be a concern for most radio collectors, and there might be a good reason. 

The history of many radio manufacturers and the radio models they produced is lost for the most part.  In the heyday of radio (1920’s to 1940s) little in depth information about the individual radios was available to the public.  The exceptions were cost, appearance, and general description information available in advertisements.   This information had little to do with how the radio was accepted by the public, how it was used, who designed the radio, what the manufacture’s reason for introducing the model and any other information not pertaining to how the radio looked or functioned.  When the many radio manufacturers of radio’s heyday went out of business most of their documentation disappeared.  So today’s radio collectors can be forgiven for not appreciating the history of their radios, since most of the history is gone! 

An exception is the RCA model BP-10 Personal Radio.  This portable was extensively advertized, promoted, documented, and discussed at the time of its introduction in June 1940.  So much so, that today the information about the BP-10 is available from many sources.  RCA went on an advertizing blitz for the BP-10 that included nation wide newspaper, magazine, and movie personality endorsements.  The Personal Radio was the "brain child” of none other than David Sarnoff the CEO of RCA from the 1920s until the 1970s.   Before commercial radio was even possible David Sarnoff had a vision of a personal portable radio.  As head of RCA, he made a great effort to bring the idea to fruition.  Before about 1939 it wasn’t technically possible.  But, as soon as all the critical components needed for the radio were available RCA promoted it in a big way.

The following news clips give some sense of the importance of the BP-10 to both the public and RCA.  It’s strange that with all the publicity at such a historic time in world history (WWII) that the BP-10 has been largely forgotten by all but the most astute radio collectors.