Re: Poptronics Is Gone???
Posted: 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.