Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Museum of Broadcasting

Today I visited the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting in St. Louis Park, MN near Minneapolis. This is a great place for anyone interested in the history of radio and TV.  Their collection starts with spark generators (as used on the Titanic), then moves on to early tube radios with many varieties on display.
Early Tube Radios

I was fascinated by the first tape recorder in the US, The Magnetophon K4, imported from Germany immediately after WWII by a signal Corp guy, Jack Mullin.

The Magnetophone K4
At that time Bing Crosby had a radio show, the Craft Music Hall, but did not like the inflexibility imposed by performing live, and the sponsors and audience did not like the poor quality of wire or disk recordings. Crosby's technical producer decided to try the K4 which solved the problem. Because there were only 2 of these machines in the US, Mullin encouraged Ampex to develop a machine and the first Ampex 200 recorders went into use in 1948.

The Ampex 200 used by Bing Crosby's Radio Show

Right after I got out of the Navy, I assembled four DynaKits: an FM tuner, preamplifier, power amplifier, and a switching unit.  To my delight I found these four units in the museum's collection.

Dynakits like the ones I built

The last item I'll talk about is the Theremin, a musical instrument played by moving your hands near two antennas. One controlled the volume and the other the pitch of the note being played. The museum has a working original RCA theremin that I was allowed to try to play and I learned it is not easy to do.
1929 RCA Theremin
If you are ever in the Minneapolis area with some time to spare, check out this place!


  1. Hi, this is a long shot. But my husband and I met a Bob and Ellen Gardiner on our honeymoon whilst we were sailing on the west coast of Scotland. On learning that we were newlyweds, they kindly left a Jefferson Cup on our deck and a lovely card. We still have this and, because of a recent house move, have just unpacked it and it got me wondering about Bob and Ellen. They invited us on board the following evening for a night cap and it was lovely to be warmed by their hospitality and their stove (inclement Scottish weather). If you are related to the same Bob and Ellen, please pass on our regards. From Susan & Duncan Morrison from the Yacht Bragar!

    1. Susan & Duncan:
      Sounds like the same Bob & Ellen to me. I have forwarded your note to them, but your email address was not included so they won't be able to reply to you. If you would care to send it along, I will forward it to them.

      Allen Downs