Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 3-D TV = 1931 Cabinet Radio

Dusty D was just listening to an NPR story about the imminent advent of 3-D TV. The interviewee said that for early adopters, a set will cost around $2,000. "Whoa," I thought, "who in their right mind would buy that?" Then I reflected that radios when they first started coming out around the 1930s cost a proportionately similar amount. Or did they? During the Depression? Really? So I dug up an ad to check it out.

Here's a 1931 ad from the Ypsilanti Daily Press. It's from Hopkins and Augustus, a shop then at 30 N. Washington, the current? (former?) meeting spot of the DDA.

You have two models in this ad to choose from. The tabletop model at $62 comes with "automatic volume control" [I think that means a volume knob], tone control (Dusty D remembers this, as a knob that would make things tinny or foggy), and "free dialing" [er, sounds like a made-up 'feature' for a new product). It cost $62,80, which would cost $880 today. Whoa, indeed.

If you prefer the cabinet model (The Historical Museum has a neat and pristine example of this up on the second floor in the music room, check it out) with "superheterodyne (Equal to 14 ordinary tubes)," well, then you'd have to shell out $122, or, $1,709 today. My stars. And that was during the DEPRESSION.

No wonder the 1930 Census had a check-box indicating whether someone had a radio, in an era that lacked the piles of shiny consumer things we have today. Guess it was a good predictor of whether someone had disposable income.

tl;dr: 1931 cabinet-style radios were roughly comparable in price to 2010 cutting-edge 3-D TVs.

2 comments :

jml said...

Enterprising (and broke) listeners could build their own crystal radio. Newspapers and magazines published plans using household items like wire and an oatmeal box to build the coil.

Dusty D said...

jml: that is very cool. My husband (electrical engineer major) made one.

And to my understanding, that's essentially the setup of the little analog radio I listen to, though not the bigger digital/electronic radio in the living room...which isn't working due to theorized interference from twirly-bulbs. Analog working just fine.