The Magic of Radio in the 50's
WRITTEN BY: DARRON SANCHEZ | PUBLISHED BY: K9YA TELEGRAPH
Volume 11, Issue 11, November 2014

 

Dad_cover Darron Sanchez (WA5TCZ)
and his new Airchamp 200

 

I remember when I was 11 years old in 1950.

For Christmas my Mother and Father gave me a radio in a cardboard box because I was always fooling around with some kind of radio. The radio was the most exciting present I had ever received.

You have to remember radio in the 50's was still big time entertainment for most people and TV was in its infancy with only a few stations around the country radiating snowy and grainy pictures that signed off at midnight.

qrpp quote

I would listen to my radio in bed at
night when stations from far and near would come in loud and clear then disappear. This was the magic of radio, hearing a station from New York or
the Voice of America or the BBC
from England.

Wow, what a treat.
How could this be possible?

Having built many crystal sets and stringing antennas on top of the house and ground wires out the windows, to say I was a radio nut was completely correct.

Air Champ 200 Radio

CloneKit Friend Ham (call letters) with his Airchamp 200 in the 1950's

The radio I sought had two tubes powered by two flashlight batteries and a large 90-volt battery. I have been looking for the company or name of this radio for a long time. Just by chance, after countless searches and many hours on the Internet, my persistence paid off. I found out the radio was called the Air Champ 200.

The Air Champ Company of New York offered the radio. Air Champ was located at 577 East 156th Street, New York, 55, New York. Mr. Cavolina and his father founded the company around 1949 or 1950.

Mr. Cavolina saw there were no companies offering complete parts in one package for building simple and easy to use radios. His radios were advertised in the various electronic magazines of the day.

The Air Champ Company made several radio kits. These kits were simple to build and sold in major department stores to young boys interested in radio. They were also sold to Boy Scouts so they could earn a Scout radio badge. As a result, many young people were introduced to amateur radio.

CloneKit Darrons' new Airchamp 200 inside detail

 

Air Champ Company Kits

A complete crystal set with all the parts to make a working radio. The kit contained the crystal, tuning coil, earphone wire and step-by-step instructions to insure the set worked, at a price of $2.95.

A one-tube radio kit for the standard broadcast band. The kit contained all the necessary parts except batteries, for making a working AM band radio. This kit sold for $7.25.

A two-tube kit containing all the parts to make a radio that could be used with a speaker instead of an earphone, at a price of $11.95
The latter two kits also offered instruc- tions and parts to make them into shortwave radio sets.

The neat thing about these kits, in the 50s, was the introduction of a way to make the building simple and easy for a young person with no radio skills to complete a working and useful radio.

A pictorial diagram was used in the construction of the radio, one was sent with each kit. The diagram comprised a drawing of each part including wiring. The diagram was glued to the wooden building board. This eliminated any errors in wiring and parts placement for the novice builder. These pictorial schematics were a common building aid in the 50s.

Powering the Kits

The one-tube kit used one D size battery for the filament and a 221⁄2-volt battery to supply the plate voltage to the tube.


The Air Champ Company knew this and came out with a B battery eliminator to be plugged into an AC wall socket to replace the expensive batteries. The B battery eliminator was just a simple half wave rectifier that could supply 90 volts and 221⁄2 volts for the tube plate. You still had to supply the D size 11⁄2-volt batteries for the tube filaments.

The Air Champ radio my parents gave me that Christmas was the Air Champ 200. This was the deluxe two-tube radio using two 3V4 tubes.

qrpp quote

The Air Champ Company knew this and came out with a B battery eliminator to be plugged into an AC wall socket to replace the expensive batteries.

The B battery eliminator was just a simple half wave rectifier that could supply 90 volts and 22 1⁄2 volts for the tube plate. You still had to supply the D size 11⁄2-volt batteries for the tube filaments.


The two-tube radio used two D size batteries and a 90-volt battery to supply the plate voltage to the tubes. However, in the 1950s, the 90-volt and 221⁄2-volt batteries were quite expensive and most people could not afford them.

I think I was 11 years old at the time.

My father helped me with the construction. The pictorial was glued to the wooden base. You then screwed 29 Fahnestock clips to the board to hold the components–no soldering required.

The radio was a regenerative receiver, a design typical for the time. After completing the radio the cardboard box the kit came in also served as a nice cabinet with handles to carry the radio.

My New Air Champ 200

CloneKit Darrons' new Airchamp 200 and Battery Eliminator
After finding out what the radio was called I made the decision to build an exact clone. The clone of the Air Champ 200 I built would not have been possible without the help of several people. My radio is an exact clone of the two-tube kit.


Those who helped were:

Bob Voss, N4CD. He sent great pictures and emails of his two complete Air Champ 200s one built and one not built, in original packages. The 16 pictures he sent were very detailed and included every conceivable angle of his completed Air Champ 200. He also sent the pictorial diagram of the original kit.

Without these pictures there would not have been a clone. This is why the radio is as close to the real thing as one can get.

He also sent detailed measurements of all dimensions needed to build the radio. This was a Super effort on his part and time consuming.

Kees Talen, K5BCQ. Kees supplied the needed coil dimensions and winding instructions with the correct number of turns for each part of the coil. Kees has a neat Web site with the one-tube Air Champ he built shown. The detail is so good one could build it just by looking at the
radio on his Website.

Craig Baker, K3NQD. Craig sent copies of all magazine ads used in the 1950s for Air Champ products.

Melanie Sanchez, my daughter, is a graphic designer. She designed the cardboard cabinet box. She took all the dimensions and made the cardboard box cabinet with handles.

She replicated all the artwork on the cabinet and all the other boxes shown in this article. Three complete boxes were made before the final one was made just right.

The outside covering on the box is actually some wallpaper found on the Internet; it matched the original shown in all the photos we had.

So, after about three months the radio was built and the story written.

Oh! And by the way.

This finally puts to rest my memories of a great time when I was 11 years old.

Now I know what this radio was called.

 

 

RECENT ARTICLES
The Magic of Radio in the 50's

I remember when I was 11 years old in 1950. For Christmas my Mother and Father gave me a radio in a cardboard box because I was always fooling around with some kind of radio. The radio was the most exciting present I had ever received.
read more

The Elusive Airchamp 200

The rebuild of this radio was an exciting adventure as it brought back many fond memories of my first encounter with radio.
read more

The Mighty Little Rockmite XCVR

Building and working the little Rockmite radios was done to see just how low you could go in power and still make a reliable radio contact.
read more

Dreaded Black Code Machine

This is the true story about how I got my Ham license at the FCC Office in New Orleans, LA.
read more

The Loooooong Project

How strong of an impression is made on a young child that took most of my life for this project to come to fruition. Here is a story about the little "Sucker Stick Transmitter", the receiver and the power supply.. read more

The A/N X-15 Galactic Transceiver

This is an April Fools story that includes myself and a friend with fictious call letters.

read more

A MOMENT IN TIME

SAMUEL FINLEY BREESE MORSE 1791-1872


Samuel Morse

 

Samuel Morse was an American painter and inventor.

 

After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs.

 

He was a co-developer of the Morse code, and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy.

 

MORSE CODE

Morse Code

Each dot or dash is followed by a short silence, equal to the dot duration. The letters of a word are separated by a space equal to three dots (one dash), and the words are separated by a space equal to seven dots.

 

The dot duration is the basic unit of time measurement in code transmission.

 

In 1832 he began a 12 year period perfecting his version of an Electric Telegraph and receiving a patent for his device, Along with Alfred Vail 1807-1859 and Joseph Henry 1797-1879.

 

These three developed the Electromagnetic Telegraph, and a code that assigned a series of dots and dashes to each letter of the alphabet.

 

Morse Code Key
A Morse key


The first telegram in the United States was sent by Morse on 11 January 1838, across two miles (3 km) of wire at Speedwell Ironworks near Morristown, New Jersey, although it was only later, in 1844, that he sent the message "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT" from the Capitol in Washington to the old Mt. Clare Depot in Baltimore.

Telegraph
Original Samuel Morse telegraph