Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Current and Past Perceptions of the RCA BP-10 Radio

It’s been seventy five years since RCA introduced the BP-10 radio.  At the time some at RCA thought that the radio would not go over with the public.  It was expensive and would only run from a unique high voltage battery.  On top of that, the BP-10 sensitivity and audio performance were not up to the standards of console radios.

RCA had invested a lot in the design and manufacture of the BP-10 and was not about to waste what RCA upper management believed was a great product.  So, they promoted the BP-10 radio in every media available.  Media outlets from Broadway plays to newspaper columnist were awash with continuous mention of the “new personal radio”.  And the public responded.  During 1940 and 1941 more than a quarter of a million BP-10 radios were made and sold. 

With its ties to RKO Pictures, RCA was able to get many celebrity endorsements for the new personal portable.

RCA went so far as to stage demonstration of the BP-10 at various public locations.

When radio production resumed after WWII the BP-10 personal portable concept was again promoted not only by RCA, but Emerson, Motorola, and many other manufactures.  Unfortunately, the public interest was no longer on radios.  It was on television.  Portable radios were still selling, but not like the before the war.   Not until transistor radios hit the market in late 1954 would the public again be fascinated with the small personal portable radio concept.  And technology kept the pace up, introducing portable AM/FM radios, tape players, then CD players, followed by digital players.  Today it’s smart phones.  By the early twenty first century the BP-10 was technological ancient history.

Looking back at the last seventy five years, a lot has happened in portable technology, entertainment, and communications.  When the BP-10 is viewed in its place in that history it’s obvious that the BP-10 was a seminal force in the social imperative toward personal electronics of all types.   In the 1940’s it wasn’t apparent that the public infatuation with the BP-10 and other personal radios would lead to an ever expanding list of personnel electronics. 

 Today, the BP-10 is respected by the radio collecting community as one of the first personal radios.  Here are a few aspects of the BP-10 acknowledged by radio historians:
-          The first truly personal radio.
-     A radio envisioned and commissioned by RCA 
-     RCA’s first commercial use of its new miniature tubes. 
-     Introduced at the legendary 1939 New York World’s Fair
-     An excellent example of art deco styling
-     The only radio placed in the cornerstone of the RCA R & D Center.
-      A radio in use prior to WWII and carried to war postings by many servicemen
-      Appeared in several plays and films

New radio collectors and people unfamiliar with radio history rarely heard of the RCA BP-10.  But if they research the history of portable radios, they eventually rediscover the BP-10.  Despite the technological pace since 1940, the appearance and performance of the BP-10 radio still surprises people.

Some of the comments of this new generation of BP-10 rediscoverers can be found on the web.  The Antique Radio Forum started a new topic on May 2, 2015 entitled “RCA Victor BP10”.  It can be found at: 

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