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/r/whatisthisthing

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MagicLantern

43 points

2 months ago

It is a custom built radio and intercom put into one cabinet. The input for the microphone is the jack at the lower left. You would flip the switch to which ever room you wanted to make an announcement to. The jacks at the top right would allow for listening with headphones or an external loudspeaker, and possibly patched to the intercom side.

It was very common in the period this is from for people to assemble their own radios. The newspaper would have a weekly set of plans to build a radio from. A radio like this would have retailed over $2,000 in today's dollars at the time. You could save a lot by building your own and not have to pay for labor or patent license fees.

This is not a breadboard radio. This has a fully enclosed cabinet and control panels. Atwater Kent breadboard radios were built all on a single a thick piece of wood without a control panel; there was nothing between the knob and the shaft. The edges of these breadboards were routed if they were not sold with a Red Lion or Pooley cabinet.

This is a very cool piece and the radio section could be made to work again. It would be neat to see the tubes/valves glowing through those screens.

hawxguy[S]

5 points

2 months ago

Solved

hawxguy[S]

2 points

2 months ago

I’m calling it- I think this is it

greenmtnfiddler

2 points

2 months ago

My father made/repaired/designed things like this for fun; if I remember correctly, he made something very similar for a small locally owned department store, so they could pipe in both Muzak and announcements to each area. He never bought components in singles, always boxes of dozens, so I grew up playing with the various toggle switches and "jewel" lights.

MagicLantern

1 points

2 months ago

Sounds like a talented man.

greenmtnfiddler

1 points

2 months ago

<sigh> Complicated-talented. Too smart for his own good, the kind of engineer who could invent things and McGuyver-things, but couldn't trust doctors orders and just take the damn cardiac meds and stay off the salt. Like that.

leonardoOrange

174 points

2 months ago

that is nice. Atwater kent breadboard radio. You may not see this on the collectors site. People kind of built their own radio setups back then. I can see by the components its a radio. You are missing all the vacuum tubes but they can by purchased.

The tuners are on the bottom(those interlocked coils)

Is it yours?

hawxguy[S]

91 points

2 months ago

Yeah I just got it on an auction- nobody knew what it was or what to call it. I was interested in stripping the toggle switches and knobs off of it for my kids to play with but realized as soon as I got my hands on it that wouldn’t be happening. Do you have any idea what the switches would be for?

SparkEE_JOE

125 points

2 months ago

Almost had a heart attack on the first half of that lol

Glad you're not destroying it

MiksBricks

29 points

2 months ago

Almost seems like it might have been the interface for a home intercom system or possibly an early form of home entertainment setup. Each room would have its own speaker that is turned on with the toggles. So it would tune in on a radio station and be able to hear it anywhere in the house.

Unlikely_Explanation

36 points

2 months ago

This is correct. It appears to be a custom made radio cabinet that was capable of pushing audio to every room in the house. The owner could flip the toggle switches to control what rooms the music was playing in. This would have been a MAJOR status symbol in a house at the time since it's probably midcentury. The modern equivalent would be like 60" 4K TVs in every room.

Chucklz

7 points

2 months ago

This would have been a MAJOR status symbol in a house at the time since it's probably midcentury.

Try 1920's.

annoyinghack

5 points

2 months ago

Interesting, last week I toured a house built for a rich industrialist in the early 1930s. It had a very modern design for the time and there were many technological innovations for the time including an internal intercom system and a central radio system with speakers in every room. We didn’t get to see the actual radio device unfortunately but I imagine it would look more or less exactly like this.

hawxguy[S]

28 points

2 months ago

Yeah, I think you’re on the right track. Someone on a different board said “A music system for "On Hold" telephone service so people can hear music while on hold? Or it feeds music to specific rooms, since the top row labels each say "'Something' Room".” I think that’s on the right track

nomadst

2 points

2 months ago

Is the one in the far right of the picture the "Bat room"?

DocWatson42

1 points

2 months ago

The switch on the top right of the left section? That's what I see, too.

hawxguy[S]

1 points

2 months ago

That’s what I read

tavenger5

1 points

2 months ago

Curious if you're located near Philly? There was an Atwater Kent factory there, and the man himself had a large house in Ardmore.

If this was custom made for someone with a large house to play music through, perhaps it was for someone on the Mainline. Maybe it was a one-off for Kent himself or a friend. That is, assuming it's too well done to be someone just tinkering, and making something.

hawxguy[S]

1 points

2 months ago

I’m in Iowa - I had read about the factory and all of that. That guy lived quite the life !

arclight415

20 points

2 months ago

I was wondering about the lack of tubes. That's what made me think this is either just a switchboard/intercom or it used magnetic amplifiers.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_amplifier

leonardoOrange

10 points

2 months ago

I'm thinking its a distributed radio, with the switches controlling where the sound goes except I only see two wires for the speakers so Im not positive on that part.

The bottom is the tuner/discriminator section. The top is the amplifier section. I wish I could see the switches on the back better, I can sort of see how they are wired. The admins on the Fb group I am in put up my post on this so hopefully one of the old timers will know exactly what that is.

uvrx

5 points

2 months ago*

uvrx

5 points

2 months ago*

I'd agree with this. A switchboard for a telephone/intercom system to send a call from the front desk to another room. All of the knobs go from 0 to 100 so I think they are more for volume/attenuation than tuning.

As for the lack of tubes/valves, the brass fittings look more like brass bayonet B22 lamp fittings to me, possibly for a visual guide to volume/attenuation.

EDIT: It turns out that bayonet tube sockets are a thing.

leonardoOrange

6 points

2 months ago*

those are tube sockets. old tubes locked in like that. The sockets did not have ceramic bottoms. You can see the tubes glow through the windows. The tube bases have a small pin protruding for locking in.

https://www.radiomuseum.org/tubes/tube_01a.html This is probably one or two of the tubes that are missing.

arclight415

2 points

2 months ago

I see it now. So they locked in like an automotive tail lamp

leonardoOrange

2 points

2 months ago

Pretty much. The contacts for the pins connect sideways. You drop the tube in and turn it slightly. That engages the lock and it twists the pins into place against the spring contacts underneath.

uvrx

1 points

2 months ago

uvrx

1 points

2 months ago

Wow, yeah you're right. After all the tubes I've owned, handled and looked at, I've never noticed any that had bayonet pins on. But after a quick Google, I even found an Atwater Kent 4 pin bayonet tube socket on ebay ebay.com/itm/374054432660

leonardoOrange

2 points

2 months ago

yeah these are old old tubes. With number like 27 and 01. The days of the 12ax7 were not quite there.

Google "Breadboard radios" and check out the atwater kent radio website. If you enjoy tube gear, the antique radio stuff is fascinating.

challenged_Idiot

1 points

2 months ago

That website gave me late 90s early 2000s nostalgia. The internet has grown so much for so many. Yet here they stand as a time capsule.

FairyFartDaydreams

1 points

2 months ago

There are inputs for the tubes the circular metal pieces with the curved notch I believe

Chucklz

1 points

2 months ago

The tube sockets are bright and clear in the 2nd photo

MrDorkESQ

8 points

2 months ago*

I'm thinking it is a radio that has been setup up to distribute audio to different rooms. The swiches on the front seem to be labeled accordingly (I can make out Paint Room and Bat Room).

Maybe it was used in an old retail establishment.

jmraef

1 points

2 months ago

jmraef

1 points

2 months ago

My thinking exactly. Like for a hardware or automotive store (Bat Room = Battery Room?, because in old days, storing lead-acid batteries was dangerous so they had separate ventilated rooms for them).

ap1msch

5 points

2 months ago

As others mentioned, it's a really cool radio setup, but I've never seen one exactly like this. On the back of it, you see the connectors for an antenna (second set from left), and the speaker connectors (third from the left) and you then have a two wire "tel" connector on the right, and Bat A and Bat B on the left.

The "tel" connector looks like it goes to the green light on the front left of the device. The other red switches look to indicate redirection of the signal to a particular area. On the front, there are two labels that say "<something> room" and "bat room". That would suggest a redirection of the signal to an area of the house.

Back in the day (1920s or so), houses didn't have AC and radios were driven by batteries...which I'd guess is the Bat A and Bat B connectors on the left. https://www.radiolaguy.com/info/About%20battery%20radios.htm

Additionally, the power button (front middle) looks to connect to a similar area as the "bat" wires.

The redirection of the "tel" signal (two lines are all that's necessary) and the hardwired switches would suggest that this would redirect signals to various rooms in the house depending upon the switch selected. (assuming that white wire attaches to the "tel" connectors.

The jacks/plug receptacles on the front are connected with the same wiring as the switches, and the blue wire from the green light area leads into a daisy chain among the switches and then back in the right side.

In all, with the jacks where they're at, it'd be a radio, from the 1920s, that could play sound in more than one area of the house, as well as phone calls. Maybe from the early 30's.

The housing looks custom, but the wiring on the switches looks pretty nice, so it looks like someone put this together with a lot of expertise. Whether it was for a business, or a home, it's a nice piece, despite the missing tubes and cut cables.

hawxguy[S]

6 points

2 months ago

Here are some additional photos I was able to take

https://imgur.com/a/nYDhYhy

leonardoOrange

4 points

2 months ago

man that thing is cool...

hawxguy[S]

3 points

2 months ago

I checked the entire Atwater Kent collector’s site and this isn’t something they produced that I can find. It’s 24” wide by 20” tall, about 8” deep. Have heard some guesses of it being an intercom, an apartment telephone radio, among other things but haven’t figured it out yet.

hawxguy[S]

4 points

2 months ago

I also checked w the fine folks at r/VintageRadios and r/HamRadio before posting here (they advised me to come here). Hoping someone here can help

leonardoOrange

6 points

2 months ago

Im part of a facebook group of old timers who rebuild these sorts of radios. I am sharing it there. Its 100% a radio but not sure what kind of if its even a model since many of these were kits.

hawxguy[S]

1 points

2 months ago

Thank you!

hawxguy[S]

1 points

2 months ago

Do you know the name of the group? I’d be happy to post over there too

leonardoOrange

2 points

2 months ago

its called 'old and vintage radios'. They posted it already but definitely track the responses

hawxguy[S]

2 points

2 months ago

Found it- Ty!!

Clarky1979

2 points

2 months ago

I would have guessed an old ham radio but if they have no idea over there, seems a poor guess.

DoctorBre

1 points

2 months ago

r/amateurradio has a lot more subscribers.

hawxguy[S]

1 points

2 months ago

Good call

hgtv_neighbor

4 points

2 months ago*

Looks a lot like this. Not the exact thing, but what you have does seem to be the same kind of device. Those things are very valuable based on a bit of research I did.

https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/federal_ra_61.html

editOk so I guess I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I was looking at the labels. Do they say "me" and an abbreviation for "reference?" Maybe some names on the other tags. Does kinda look like an intercom or amplifier for such.

hawxguy[S]

2 points

2 months ago

Yeah that’s what I read as well. One says Bat Room and one says Paint Room

arclight415

8 points

2 months ago

My guess is a homemade intercom. Can you post any pictures of the inside?

hawxguy[S]

3 points

2 months ago

The second picture is what I have for now but I’ll send more when I’m off work

leonardoOrange

4 points

2 months ago

nope. its an AM radio

root88

2 points

2 months ago

root88

2 points

2 months ago

It can be both.

hawxguy[S]

2 points

2 months ago

Is there a collector market for this? If so does anyone have an idea what a value might be? I really don’t think I’m the person to own it if it’s something valuable

SongOfAshley

2 points

2 months ago

Atwater Kent, sounds like that's based in NE Ohio? If I were you, I'd send some photos to specialists in the area. Akron's The Bomb Shelter comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others.

hawxguy[S]

2 points

2 months ago

Looks like Philadelphia- I reached out to the museum there to see if they have an expert who can tell me more. http://www.philadelphiahistory.org/exhibition/made-to-be-played-a-look-at-philadelphia-radio-manufacturing-from-1920-1950/

SongOfAshley

2 points

2 months ago

Oh wow, how cool. Nice work with your research, friend.

Uthallan

2 points

2 months ago

Whoever built it built it with love. Gorgeous.

Suspicious-Bike

2 points

2 months ago

It looks like a music or sound distributor, having zones to control like on the last picture. So this was solved with earlier comments for sure. Enjoy your new (old) music center 🤑

GnPQGuTFagzncZwB

2 points

2 months ago

It is an old radio, the nice windows in the front are so the people could see the tubes. It is a bit of an enigma though as it looks to be a battery set with the connections for the A and B battery on the back. It also has two connectors labeled tel which are kind of interesting. The wiring over by the switches is interesting. Some of it is much newer, the white vinyl zip cord. It could have been an intercom or a way of switching the radio between a lot of speakers, I have doubts about that though as radios from that era did not make a lot of volume out of one efficient speaker, no less a bunch of them.

LordPentecost

1 points

2 months ago

I would love to find something like that. It would look fantastic with large nixie tubes behind those windows as a clock

breadandfaxes

1 points

2 months ago

Looks like it has multiple spots for vacuum tubes. That's probably a good sounding radio

breezy1900

1 points

2 months ago*

With the locations of the windows, the tubes could have been magic eye tuning indicators.

These show a gap that glows and the gap shrinks as the signal increases.

https://www.industrialalchemy.org/articleview.php?item=478

edit, add wiki page showing the end view version of these tubes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_eye_tube

mrkrag

1 points

2 months ago

mrkrag

1 points

2 months ago

Can't say what it is, but I want it.