Vintage Electronics Magazines Predicted Our Current Future

Do you remember the magazine Popular Electronics? What about Radio Electronics? These magazines were often the first exposure we had to the world of hacking. In December we learned that Americanradiohistory.com has gone to the trouble of scanning nearly every copy of both, and continues to add many many others — posting them online for us to enjoy once more. Since then we’ve been pouring through the archive pulling out some of the best in terms of nostalgia, entertainment, and fascinating engineering.

Yes much of this material is very dated; CB Radios, all-mighty computers, phasors, stun guns, levitating machines, overly complex circuits for simple tasks, and aviator eyeglasses. But found among all of this, many innovative mixed-signal circuits and other interesting ideas that have been developed into our tech-centric world. Many of those modern inventions you’ve welcomed into your life actually started long-long ago in the forward-thinking hacks shown off in these publications. The Google Glass precursor seen above is but one example. Keep reading to see the early roots of the tech we tend to think of as “new”.

Watch out Google Glass!

Much has been written about the demise of Google Glass but for readers of Radio Electronics we know that Glass really came in 2nd place.

watch TV from behind your TV
You can watch TV from behind your TV, get distracted while trying to direct air traffic, and many more applications for the 'Television Monocle,' (Radio Electronics, Sept. 1962).
take an MMOOC on learning to fly aircraft

Engineers and Technicians in the 70’s and 80’s

As innovators of bleeding-edge technology we are not typically known for our fashion sense. This is apparent when paging through our favorite vintage electronics magazines.


Let jimmy buffet repair your TV
Saturday Night Feaver meets tape drives

Computers Around the World and in Your Hands

In the mid-70’s and 80’s computers could do anything. Can you imagine having computers connected together throughout the world, or a computer that you hold in your hands?

OMG this dot matrix printer is attacking us from outer space

Advertising Bizarro:

Some of the ads and a few of the projects stretch the boundaries of reality.



Radio Electronics 08 1967 Hydronics

Breaker Breaker


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In the 1970’s it’s all about CB radio. For those of you around in the 70’s lets not deny it, you probably still have that CB radio in the basement or garage. I admit it, even in the early 90’s I owned two CB radios and had a great deal of fun with them.




Testers testers and more testers:

What’s up with all of these testers? There are numerous projects for transistor testers, IC testers, and many other fairly complex testing devices.

whats up with all of these testers RE Sept 1984
Useful and relevant circuits:

It’s been fun joking about our electronics past but in all seriousness many of the projects in these magazines were very good and the magazine provided excellent documentation. Many show examples of clever blending of analog and digital circuits. Others provide in depth explanations of basics of audio power amplifiers, how to use unusual vacuum tubes, or even how to build your own laser from scratch.

Build your own Helium Neon Laser (Radio Electronics June 1986).
Make your own Electronic Bongos (Radio Electronics, July 1969).

Learn how to use a Dekatron tube or how to build your own shortwave radio (Radio Electronics, Sept. 1962).

EEVBlog Wades Through a Huge Collection

Even [Dave Jone] gets into vintage electronics magazines on occasion.

Take a stroll through memory lane to have a few laughs and learn a thing or two about analog circuit design. Our hacker heritage has been documented well by Popular and Radio Electronics magazines. Who knows, there might be a few great unrealized ideas still lurking on those pages waiting for you to rediscover them!

Filed under: Featured, misc hacks

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