Tagged: ORBYX Tube Radio Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:01 pm on July 4, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: B-52, B-52 Stratofortress, Boeing, , , KC-135 Stratotanker, Leonard Nimoy, line products, , ORBYX Tube Radio, Straton, Stratosphere, Stratosphere Las Vegas, , , Wonder Stories, Zenith Electronics   

    Up There In the Stratosphere 

    Today, when we think about science fiction, we think of rocket ships and outer space. But things were different in the 40s and 50s. Back then the blue sky was almost as exciting a frontier as the black void of space. Hugo Gernsback’s magazine Air-Wonder Stories and TV serial Zombies of the Stratosphere featuring young Leonard Nimoy were all the rage.

    The word “stratosphere” was considered and became a futuristic branding element a bit less common than “o-matic” and “o-rama”. It seems to me that Boeing started this trend : B-52 Stratofortress bomber , KC-135 Stratotanker and 377 Stratocruiser. But then the marketers caught on to the hipness of everything “strato”: Sheaffer Stratowriter pen, Fender Stratocaster guitar, Pontiac StratoChief car and probably many other things that I don’t know about. Prefix “strato” was usually applied to top of the line products.

    And you don’t really get any more “strato” than Zenith Stratosphere 1000Z console.

    Considered by some to be the best vacuum tube radio ever produced, it is also one of the rarest. It was top of the line and cost $750 when it was made in 1930s. Times were tough, and there were not enough customers to purchase these amazing and beautiful radios. Only 350 sets were ever made, 40 are known to survive. Today 1000Z is a wet dream of any vacuum tube radio enthusiast.

    What attracts me to 1000Z? Well, first of all I am a fan of vaccuum tube sound. The absolutely stunning art deco design is just gorgeous, especially the airplane style tuning dial. It looks like it belongs on a starship. This is how I imagine Henry Kuttner’s “twonky” device.

    There is an interesting thing about the ads for 1000Z. As it can be seen in this ad, there is a art deco porcelain cat sitting inside the concave area of the cabinet of the radio. This led some collectors to believe that the cat was sold together with the radio. But apparently it was only used for the photo shoot. Still, people lucky enough to own a Zenith Stratosphere try to buy a cat statue to go with it.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:03 pm on January 20, 2003 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Musical tuning, , ORBYX Tube Radio, , Prague, state device, , ,   

    Twonky 

    Here’s something that my dream reminded me of. “Cat’s eye ” tube.

    When I was little, my dad used to have this huge vacuum tube radio. I think, actually this is it:

    I think that’s what a Twonky would look like.

    I am not sure of the model though, but there it is as I remember it. That was probably the device that introduced me to “radio buttons”. It’s tuning scale was a bit misleading – it was marked with names of different cities that you could supposedly get on the short-wave band. Prague, London, Paris, New York. Riiight.
    It had one very interesting detail – a “cat’s eye” tuning tube.

    “Cat’s eye” is a really amazing device. Basically it’s a tiny little CRT in a vacuum tube. It usually served as a tuning indicator. When you would turn a tuning knob, the pattern displayed on the tube would change. Here’s a more detailed article.

    There were several names these tubes were known under. “Cat’s eye”, “magic eye”, “electronic eye” and just plain “tuning tube”. They were (and still are) a bit pricey, so they usually were included only on high end radios.

    Here are just a few examples of such tubes from this amazing collection:

    Besides being amazingly pretty, IMHO they are actually very user friendly. It’s just that in modern solid state device there is little need for actual “tuning”, but they would make wonderful sound level indicators. It’s a great visual feedback mechanism.

    I am probably saying this just because I am into this whole glowing vacuum tube aesthetic though. Also these tubes make amazing blinkenlights.

     
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