November 1, 2015

Imagine! The "perfect jewel"!



That's an ad from page 67 of the September 18, 1960 issue of The New York Times — an issue I was reading yesterday, for my "Moscow Suspicious of Hillary" post.

I love paging through all the old ads. There's one in that issue for "Fantastic, magical: typewriter correction tape — "Type-Out" —  to "save hours of costly re-typing." And there's one for "Daylight Blue" TV that "Adds a Tint of Blue" to improve the clarity of black-and-white TV. The TV is "big... like a movie screen" when it's only 23". And I love that the elimination of glare is attributed to something called "Ultra-Vision Glarejector."

What got me thinking back the transistor radio I'd seen was this Tech Times article Meade just texted me:
Electrical engineers from the University of Wisconsin have developed a flexible silicon phototransistor, which to date is the fastest and most responsive ever created... Just like mammalian eyes, phototransistors collect light and then transform this into an electrical impulse. In mammals, this pulse is transported by the brain's nerves but in digital devices, the electrical charge becomes a binary code that software converts into a digital image. Many phototransistors are flat because they are fabricated on rigid surface but the new phototransistor is flexible so it can easily mimic the behavior of the eyes of mammals....

20 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

I like the placement of the cigarette in the ad. It's dual function:

1. Demonstrates the size of the radio.

2. Calls attention to the elegance of the radio's case, which resembles a nice cigarette case.

[3. Those things will kill you, as will the rock and roll your teenager will play on that thing, which you should give him for Christmas, so he'll have something to listen to while he smokes.]

chickelit said...

A few years ago, I got interested in the history of transistors and the like. There is a brilliant description somewhere of a Texas Instrument engineer demonstrating the first practical silicon transistor, including immersing it in oil. Prior to that, all the work (including Shockley's) had focussed on commercializing germanium transistors. Germanium would have never cut it for the subsequent revolution.

Just today, I saw an advert for a copper backed device which was much more flexible than main group element devices. Elements are cool.

Curious George said...

More amazing is the price. That's $244 in 2015 dollars. The prices must have fallen drastically and quickly, because I remember listening to the 1968 World Series on one of those, radio hidden in my desk, the cord for the ear phone bud run through my shirt and up mu sleeve.

SayAahh said...

James Lileks = Master archivist of old ads.

Big Mike said...

Fifty-five years is a long time in the age of technology.

Michael K said...

The most amazing invention of the time was the digital watch.

I used one to navigate to Hawaii in 1981. It replaced the chronometer, the greatest practical accomplishment of British science in the 18th century.

Parliament voted an award of 20,000 pounds for the invention. That was an enormous sum, millions

William said...

The chief and, perhaps, the only advantage of old age is the awareness of how much of life truly sucked fifty years ago. It really was like some kind of third world country. Rabbit ears on a b&w television with a rolling horizontal hold. Porn without pubes. Shoe laces that broke on shoes that you had to break in. The complete absence of organic broccoli. Life was hard in those days.

Larry Davis said...

My older brother gave me a Motorola five transistor radio for my high school graduation in 1957. I had no idea it was that expensive (according to Curious George!)I loved that radio...it brought rock and roll into my life. It was white and chrome with a red dial. It had a handle on top to carry it and the antenna was in the handle. That ad brings back memories.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I noticed the other day that gas was around $2.65 (in the SF south bay area). I recall (enfeebled by age, I suppose) lowest prices in the late 60s being around $0.25. I didn't have an inflacation (that's a typo, but I'm leaving it because "inflacation") calculator at hand, but I remarked to my lunch date that it seemed like the same price to me.
I used to go across the street to watch Star Trek, first run, in color, on the neighbor's set.
When I was in high school, I cut apricots for sun drying as a summer job. When my daughter was in high school, she cultured mouse brain glial cells in a secret underground lab. That's Silicon Valley.

D. B. Light said...

You should definitely check out James Lilek's blog. He has wonderful illustrations and commentary on mid-twentieth century culture.

etienne said...

I find it interesting that they used a cigarette to compare the size of the radio.

The price is outrageous. You could probably buy two home console radios for that price.

I'm sure the battery lasted maybe an hour.

loudogblog said...

As the photo transistors got faster and more sensitive, they realized that they could send analog and then digital signals through them. They went from receiving simple pulses from infrared remote controls to receiving high speed digital signals from optical fibers. We would not have the high-speed internet and large, high-speed computer networks without them.

traditionalguy said...

And six year old Steve Jobs subconsciously absorbed a marketing style, "... that sure looks like the itransistor1 to me."

Drago said...

Lets elect a socialist so we can put a stop to all nettlesome advancements which creat wealth! Then we can all finally be equal!

Lacking toilet paper and food and fuel but EQUAL!

chickelit said...

Electrical engineers from the University of Wisconsin have developed a flexible silicon phototransistor, which to date is the fastest and most responsive ever created.

I am at a loss as to how so much of the early research in electronics got done w/o government contract. I mean, William Shockley did some part-time paid consulting work for the War Department, but that was patriotism and not capitalism.

ken in tx said...

I had a six transistor AM radio, Silvertone from Sears. It used a 9 volt mercury battery. After the battery died, you could smash it with a hammer and get liquid mercury out of it to play with.

Nichevo said...

Ann, can you even read that Tech Times article, let alone understand it?

Peter said...

"More amazing is the price. That's $244 in 2015 dollars. "

1. There's been a revolution in electronics technology, yet many other technologies seem to have stagnated. For example, today's jetliners go no faster than a 1960 Boeing 707. Improvements in many non-electronic devices (e.g., automobiles) are mostly due to the use of electronics in the products themselves, and/or in the manufacturing processes used to make the products such as robotic assembly and CNC machining).

2. The general rule seems to be that the price of many big-ticket items has stayed the same or increased (houses, cars, and especially college education) while the price of many small things (paper clips, small appliances) has decreased.

3. Technology improvements should produce measurable increases in human happiness, yet there's little evidence they do so.

mikee said...

Peter:

1. Jetliners stay subsonic because the fuel, design, and environmental costs necessary for supersonic flight are not profitable. But the Concorde flew supersonic decades ago! The military now, compared to 1960, has plenty of supersonic jets for specific missions, from single-seat versions up to those carrying nuclear cargo. Car design, just the metal bits that squish on impact, have improved so much since 1960 that automobiles are now a small fraction of their former size, yet more survivable in a crash.

2. Your general rule is wrong. Globalization has had profound impacts on the prices of things worldwide. College education costs have been most strongly affected by lending $$$ to college students, perversely deferring the expense of college at ever higher prices, more than inflation, more than administrative bloat.

3. Happiness is hard to measure. The difference between a good time playing hopscotch and a good game of HALO is hard to quantify. Lifespans, inflation-adjusted health care costs, other measurable things demonstrate measurable increases in tech's impact on our lives, for better and worse.

4. Numbering facile statements does not add intellectual rigor nor a factual basis to the itemized list.



Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.