Consumer electronics have been an integral part of our lives since the heyday of radio during the 1920s and ’30s, the widespread acceptance of television in the 1950s, and the craze for hi-fi audio systems in the 1960s. A parallel to these innovations was the miniaturization of electronic devices, also in the 1960s, when tiny transistors replaced bulky vacuum tubes.

Today, most serious audiophiles still prefer tube components, particularly when it comes to amplifiers. The sound is warmer, they claim, although definitive data to back up this preference is tough to come by. But tubes or not, vintage stereo components such as receivers, tuners, and speakers can be interpreted as a rejection of today’s digitized culture, in which entire libraries of music and video can be toted around in a device smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Stereo buffs would much rather surround themselves with walls of vintage vinyl records, a high-quality turntable to play them on, and perhaps a reel-to-reel tape deck for that rare “Betty board” of the Grateful Dead at the Academy of Music in the spring of 1972.

CB and ham radios represent another class of vintage electronics that have been replaced by current technologies. In the 1970s, CB radios were favorites of long-distance truckers, who used the Class D “citizen’s band” created in 1958 by the Federal Communications Commission to warn each other of hidden highway patrol cars up ahead. An earlier incarnation of amateur communications over public airwaves was the ham radio, which took off after World War I. Unlike CBs, which generally have a range of no more than five miles, ham operators around the world can communicate with kindred spirits beyond the range of their transmitters via networks of repeaters that pick up signals before sending them on their way.

Transistor technology itself is collected in the form of transistor radios and devices such as eight-track tape decks and cassette players, from bulky boomboxes to more elegant devices such as the Sony Walkman. More recently, as the pace of digital technological innovation has accelerated, some people have sought out the first few generations of iPods made by computer pioneer Apple.


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The Vintage Knob

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