Solar-Powered Radio from the ’50s

lrg_solar_radio.jpg

Modern Mechanix, astute as always, asks this question about this solar-powered radio from 1956, said to operate in the dark for up to eight months without recharging: “If they have a battery that powers the radio for eight months why would the solar cells be necessary?”

I just think it’s neat that there were solar-powered units in the ’50s. I have no reason to think otherwise, mind you, I just didn’t realize the tech was mature enough at the time to be seen in working products. I tend to think of solar as the power source of the ’80s.

Sun-Powered Receiver (Apr, 1956) [ModernMechanix.com]

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3 Responses to Solar-Powered Radio from the ’50s

  1. RupertGoodwins says:

    It’s all a lot older than that. The electrical effects of light hitting metals was spotted in the first half of the 19th century, and Einstein got his Nobel in 1921 for his work on photoelectrics – which kicked off quantum mechanics. Bell Labs created usably efficient solar cells (which I imagine are the ones in this radio) in 1954, and being low voltage devices they must have seemed ideal companions for them new-fangled transistors. I had a light meter from the early 1960s which used such a cell and one was also built into my Radio Shack 65-In-1 electronics kit in 1975.

    They really kicked off in public awareness in the 1970s and 80s with the development of low-power logic like CMOS, which meant they could power consumer gizmos like LCD wristwatches and calculators.

    As for crystal sets needing now power; yeah. For me, there’s nothing more magical than hooking up four or five components (which, at a pinch, you can make yourself and contain nothing not known to the Romans) and a length of wire, and hearing voices from around the world. That’ll go away when they switch off the last AM transmitters in favour of much more efficient digital modes.

    Rupert

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know about 1956, but around 1968 I remember playing with some International Rectifier B2M solar cells, so by then they must have been around long enough to filter down to the Cub Scout hobbyist level.

    (Of course, this was back before Radio Shack became Cellphone Shack, and when children were allowed to make improvised electronic devices. I’m not sure what Cub Scouts are doing these days.)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I bet it did not have a speaker, you had to use an earpiece, and it got AM only, and was pricy (newfangled transistors too, probably).

    Heck, a crystal set needed no power.

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