Jan 9, 2012
03:45 PMDiscover Connecticut
Video and the Radio Stars
Did you ever have to readjust the rabbit ears on your TV set (or maybe even bribe a younger sibling to hold them steady) to get your favorite program to come in clearly? Probably not since cable TV came to town. When TV stations nationwide made the switch in 2009 from analog to digital transmission, as required by law, the results were a crystal-clear picture (although not necessarily better shows) for everyone. Suddenly, old TVs were cast out for sleek LED and LCD flat screen TVs neatly attached to cable boxes. But what do you do with that old antenna? Sell it at a swap meet at the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut in Windsor, and while you’re there, stop in to learn how electronic communications technology has evolved.
The museum, started in 1990 by teacher John Ellsworth (also museum director), had many homes before settling in Windsor. Ellsworth and a dedicated group of volunteers have built an impressive collection of electronics that run the gamut from wireless telegraphy to the Internet (with a focus on Connecticut’s contributions to the field). Volunteer Ed Sax says, “This collection illustrates how electrical technology has changed our lives.” There are crystal radios made by Tuska in Hartford and Elkay in New Haven, Dictaphone machines and Columbia Records, both manufactured in Bridgeport, and a phone booth with a made-in-Hartford Gray Telephone (Gray made the first pay phone). You can see 1930s Teletype machines, 1920s parlor radios, Edison Victrolas and even a Crosley Shelvador refrigerator radio (the radio is built into the fridge). Many of the exhibits are interactive, too. Tap out your name in Morse Code, make a fluorescent tube glow with a Tesla Coil, film yourself in a TV news broadcast or watch black-and-white sets from the Golden Age of television, including the first remote-control set made in the 1950s by Philco. A 1950s-style radio studio is used by veteran actors to reproduce old shows, and there’s even an amateur “ham” radio station here. As Sax says, “This collection goes way back.”
For classes offered and more info, call (860) 683-2903 or visit vrcmct.org.