Assembling radios by hand, 1925

Here's the radio set assembling room at the Atwater Kent factory in Philadelphia in 1925. Thank goodness those ladies had all those men to stand around, directing and observing. Queens of the Radio: 1925 [Shorpy]
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7 Responses to Assembling radios by hand, 1925

  1. Takuan says:

    that’s it, gonna buy a cabinet radio again. Pity about all those I let go by. It is truly wonderful how I could plug the ancient two prong into mains power, watch the warm up glow and still receive AM radio signals through a speaker with better tone than many made today. Old radios have a smell, did ya know that kids? They really do make those theremin noises when you tune them. Listening to broadcast radio and searching for distant stations (yeah, you could make an antenna that mattered)was like driving stick down country roads. Think for a moment, if you have a working radio made in the twenties (not at all uncommon), that speaker reasonated to ” “2X2L calling CQ … Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there … anyone?”, to ” this day will live in infamy” to ” missiles in Cuba” to “One small step for man”…..

  2. zuzu says:

    Looks to me that the men were too dumbshit to understand how to assemble the radios, and the women were showing them how.

  3. dustinmeyer says:

    Good thing radios are all made by children now, because I would never buy one made by a woman.

  4. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I’ve taken apart a cabinet radio from that period. It was fascinating. There was a lot of skilled handwork in the assembly. The engineering was better than it needed to be. For instance, subassemblies had been individually dipped in some kind of gutta-percha compound and allowed to dry or harden before being incorporated into the works. There was clearly no thought of obsolescence when that thing was made; and if the previous owner’s dogs hadn’t gotten hold of it, it would still have been working when I bought it.


    Radios are now made by machines. Production of consumer electronics is now almost completely automated. Miniaturization is one reason for this. Parts are too small to be handled so machines are constructed to assemble circuit boards. A few years ago it was said that the first time human hands touched a DVD player was to lift it into the shipping box. Every other operation was mechanized. In many devices there are still manual operations for plugging in cables & such, but not many.
    BTW, it was also said, and I believe it, that the single most costly component of the aforementioned DVD player was the cardboard box it came in, because there was no way to drive further cost out of it.

  6. BuildUupBuzzKill says:

    without men standing around telling not only women what to do but other people in general where would we be today? dont be so sinical that man has a penis and knows whats best!


    Many of the skills used in hand assembling electronic devices are now lost arts. Nobody hand-ties wiring harnesses in cord any more. The most complex part of any audio amplifier is usually the output transformer. It may have a dozen or more separate layered sections of wire, some of them hair-fine. Everything needs to be carefully measured and counted, turns tensioned and insulated, tied off and connected correctly. Properly made, they will last 50 years or more. Among US manufacturers of audio amps I believe only Mcintosh made all of their own transformers in house. They still make tube amps but may outsource parts since they’re no longer family owned. The coil winders were almost all women, and their skills were highly respected by everyone at the company.

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