Poptronics Is Gone???

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rshayes
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Re: Poptronics Is Gone???

Post by rshayes » Sun Mar 09, 2003 6:20 am

If anyone is interested, here is a little more ancient history.<p>Popular Electronics was started as a new magazine by Ziff-Davis Publications near the end of 1954. I didn't have a subscription to it until January 1957, a Christmas gift from my father. One of his friends had all the issues back to the first, and I got to browse through them sometimes.<p>Ziff-Davis also published Electronics World, which was later merged into Popular Electronics. This magazine started back somewhere in the 1930's or possibly 1920's as Radio News. It may have been called other names before that. Shortly after World War II, Radio News was renamed Radio and TV News. During the early 1950's, this magazine was weighted toward radio and television servicemen. It ran a monthly series of stories similar to the Carl and Jerry stories called Mac's Service Shop. I don't recall if John T. Frye also wrote these stories, but he may have. I suspect that as TV sets became more reliable and easier to repair, the number of service shops declined, and this triggered the renaming of the magazine to Electronic World.<p>Popular Electronics was oriented toward simple beginner's projects. For the first few years, most of the projects had a pictorial drawing showing the physical construction of the project as well as a schematic drawing and several photographs. Most of the projects used between one and three tubes or transistors. The projects in Electronics World were more complex and there were no pictorial drawings.<p>I think Hugo Gernsback began publishing electronics magazines about 1910. By the 1930's, he was publishing a magazine called Radio-Craft. After World War II, this was renamed Radio-Electronics. Many of the Radio-Craft articles were republished in a series of small soft cover books called the "Gernsback Library". I don't know if this series of books was sold to TAB Books or simply renamed, but several of the later books in this series became some of the earlier TAB Book titles, sometimes with the same number and bearing both logos. In the 1950's, Radio-Electronics was quite similar To Radio and TV News and Electronics World, with a little less emphasis on the servicing business.<p>This may put Gernsback Publications in the position of publishing some of the first electronics magazines in this country as well as on of the last. The failure of these magazines may be a symptom of other problems.<p>Several years ago, the Los Angeles Times published a story about a project culling the book collection of the Los Angeles Unified School District. One of the librarians on the project was interviewed, and remarked that selecting some of the books to be discarded was a "no brainer". The example of a book that obviously should be discarded was "The Boy's First Book of Radio and Electronics" written by Alfred P. Morgan in the early 1950's. This was one of a series of books that he wrote starting in the 1920's describing how to build simple versions of many mechanical and electrical devices such as steam engines, electric motors and radio receivers (of about the same complexity as the Popular Electronics projects). Earlier titles were "The Boy Mechanic" and "The Boy Electrician". These were some of the few books that I ever saw that encouraged a child to actually build things and tried to tell them how to do it. Yet, to a modern librarian, the content was not important. The important thing was the title, and, since it referred only to boys, it might discourage young girls from reading it. This was an unforgivable sin.<p>I might note that a used copy of "The Boy Mechanic" or "The Boy Electrician" will probably cost over fifty dollars, if you can find it at all. Lindsay Books does a fair business selling paperback reprints.

Dean Huster
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Re: Poptronics Is Gone???

Post by Dean Huster » Sun Mar 23, 2003 7:27 pm

Stephen, that same librarian would toss a cherry Zenith Stratosphere radio into a landfill because it didn't receive stereo FM and took too long to warm up.<p>Don't you just hate "political correctness" sometimes (all the time)? Tossing out books because of the "boy" problem is stupid; tossing them out because they were written for 1954 electronics is stupid. <p>But the problem of not promoting building stuff is just as ingrained in the hobby as it is outside the hobby. Check out the differences between the 1962 or 1967 editions of the ARRL's Radio Amateur Handbook vs. the newest editions. The bulk of the big projects are mostly gone, with the possible exception of linear amplifiers. You use to have two or three RECEIVER projects and several transmitter projects as well as RTTY converters and a lot of other test equipment or station accessory projects. It's just not the same anymore.<p>Dean
Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).

R.I.P.

bodgy
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Re: Poptronics Is Gone???

Post by bodgy » Sun Mar 23, 2003 8:08 pm

My very first book on electronics was in the Ladybird series (pub Wills & Hepworth)
How it Works Radio
' ' ' Television
' ' ' Computers<p>All 280 pages cost 15p each (3 bob) and I was 11 at the time.<p>i still have the computer one along with The Life of the Honeybee 1969 (when I was younger that 11).<p>Colin
On a clear disk you can seek forever.

rshayes
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Re: Poptronics Is Gone???

Post by rshayes » Mon Mar 24, 2003 2:54 am

Deah, I certainly agree with you about the ARRL Handbook. My father was involved in electronics during World War II and worked as a Field Engineer until he retired. He used to buy the ARRL Handbook about once every four years, and I remember practically wearing them out browsing through them. I didn't have the money or materials to actually build much of that but it was interesting to see how things were actually done. I believe that he had 1943, 1949, 1953, and 1957. Since then, I have picked up used copies of most of the years from 1940 to about 1990. The trend that you observed is definitely there.<p>A similar, but much less frequently revised, book is the "Radio Amateur Handbook", published by the Radio Society of Great Britain. This seems to have retained more of an emphasis on construction. This may be due to lower wages and higher costs for imported equipment in Great Britain, possibly making a necessity out of a virtue.<p>Sometimes these old books can supply some surprising useful information. One of the receiver construction articles about 1940 described a method of coil winding similar to universal winding that can be done by hand. This is very useful for coils that need more turns than can be put in a single layer, since a multilayer winding often has too much stray capacitance. I have never seen this technique described anywhere else since.<p>The same trend happened in the more professional magazines such as "Electronics". From the 1930's to the 1960's, many of the articles were about the circuits used in actual pieces of equipment. After this point, most of the articles seemed to shift to a "technology overview" emphasis, with the only circuits appearing in a column called "Ideas for Design". Eventually this also disappeared. Of course, the magazine also disappeared, I think about 1985.<p>You can also see the same trend in "73 Magazine" and "QST".<p>Maybe there is still barely enough market to keep "Nuts and Volts" in businesss. I guess we will know in a couple of years.

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