Here’s an interesting 15 min. video demonstrating the Army Signal Corps using an Hallicrafters SCR-299. While certainly a promotional piece for Hallicrafters, this has great footage and captures a bit of the excitement of radio expanding into new frontiers. There is a discussion of how the radio was modified for military conditions as well as some innovations which were implemented to make such a system mobile.
I think what intrigues me most about these types of pieces is the sense of a common purpose — the nation was at war and everyone was pitching in. Yes, Hallicrafters was a business first and foremost, but there was a sense of pride of being able to contribute to the war effort. And of course, it does not hurt that this was the time of big, beautiful radios–I have a real soft spot for them!
As an aside, it never ceases to amaze me how clear and crisp black and white film technology of the time seems somehow better than the color images which replaced it. But that may just be me — a black-and-white guy living in a colorized world!
There is a second part to this video, as well as other WWII-era videos available on YouTube with a bit of searching.
Another thing I find intriguing when listening to audio from the 40s, 50s, and 60s is just how good the audio sounds. Larger speakers contributed to this of course, as did transmitting/receiving in AM mode, but there was also a distinct difference in noise levels and interference. Back then more interference was caused by crowded bands than by ambient noise.
Much of our modern gear’s internal workings are designed to give us tools to fight local interference, power line noise, and the like, but the audio itself has definitely suffered. Even on a well-filtered signal the audio of the station received is not as crisp and clear, and this is more than just the narrower bandwidth of SSB.
One of my goals for this year is to understand audio better to see what I can do at my station to at least get signals to sound better. I may not be able to achieve the clarity of days gone by, but the interview with Bob Heil I posted earlier has definitely got me thinking about how to get better audio in and out. And of course, one day I will own one of these 1940s/1950s gems for my own, and I will be able to capture just a taste of what operating these beautiful beasts felt like!