Zenith

I haven’t made any new graphics in MANY months. I used up my graphics gumption during 2020, in a frantic outpouring of science as entertainment to counterbalance the Nazi torturers misusing “science” as a god of genocide.

During most of 2021 I was just weary, bombarded with especially awful weather along with the torture. 2022 is definitely back to normal on the weather front, and it looks like the Nazis will grant us a brief reprieve starting in late March, before the next horrible fake imaginary fictional “threat” requires even more deadly and vicious and grotesque torture and murder to “protect” us from living, and to provide glorious sexual joy for the demons.

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I’ve been doing some C++ programming this month, updating my first and best courseware project to add more features and run on newer Windows. After reaching a point of satisfying semi-completion, I got hungry for graphics again, so decided to run up a couple of personally resonant items. I’ve been wanting to make these Zeniths for a long time.

The first is a Zenith ‘shutter’ or ‘clamshell’ radio. I owned one of these in ’68, and threw it away when I went to jail in ’69. The ‘shutter’ chassis was built in several forms and fitted into all sorts of cabinets. It was THE best radio in the late ’30s. Only the super-custom jobs by Scott were supposedly better; but I’ve never seen or heard a Scott so can’t judge.

Zenith specialized in fancy mechanisms, and the shutter chassis reached an absolute zenith of wonderful gadgetry. The band switch used a series of cams to push the ‘shutters’ aside. The other controls had dials visible through arc-shaped slots instead of plain old labels on the front of the set. Tuning was clock-style with a fast-moving second hand on a 0-60 scale and a slow-moving minute hand on the actual frequencies. The tuning knob had a big flywheel so you could throw it across the dial with one good spin. And of course the Magic Eye tube showed you when you were tuned in.

The Magic Eye presaged TV in some ways. Fancy dials with Magic Eyes gave you something to look at as you imagined the visual part of the show. TV ruined its initial promise by destroying your visual imagination.

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The second Zenith is the TransOceanic. Zenith carried this brand through four decades from 1941 to 1981, morphing from tube to discrete transistor. It was built in Chicago until 1979, one of the last consumer electronic products built here and very likely the last with discrete transistors and real wiring. The final version from ’79 to ’81 succumbed to ICs and digitalism and offshoring.

Wikipedia says the TransOceanic was inspired by Zenith’s CEO, a navigator and outdoorsman who wanted a portable. So the TransOceanic was not designed for room-filling volume or mechanical gimmicks; it was a rugged portable SW receiver for camp or boat, enclosed in a suitcase for weather protection. It had a choice of battery or AC power, switched by a toggle switch on the back.

The version I’ve made is the most familiar of the postwar types, the G500. This radio served me and helped me just after I got out of jail, so these two Zeniths form a sort of symmetrical pair.

I installed A and B batteries (which could still be bought at hardware stores) but never used the battery mode. Oklahoma didn’t have power outages. I also didn’t take advantage of the gimmicky separable WaveMagnet antenna, which could be removed and mounted on a window with suction cups. Oklahoma had excellent SW reception, so I just left the WaveMagnet on the lid.

I treasured the TransOceanic as a reassuring companion in those first few months as I was resuming life ‘on the bricks’. Open doors, bicycling, cooking my own food, not being raped.

In 1970 US media was in one of its crazy spells. Not nearly up to 2020 standards, but plenty bad enough. The ogre of Nixon and the “threat” of Antiwar Terrorists were filling the air in the same way as the ogre of Trump and the “threat” of Antivax Terrorists now. Several Euro SW broadcasters were neutral and objective on Vietnam. BBC and Lisbon and Nederland served as unwavering beacons while US Deepstate and media thrashed around in a partisan frenzy.

I’m not sure what happened to my TransOceanic after those first few months. In the next location I can remember, I was listening to a big Philco console, then dropped down to an uninteresting but competent Radio Shack transistor receiver in the ’80s. In 1990 I moved to Spokane, a dead spot for SW propagation, and then SW broadcasting itself died.

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Since I’m in Zenith mode, might as well turn out a couple other iconic Zeniths.

This AM-FM table model was the most popular Zenith in the late ’50s. For some reason it was more often seen in stores and workshops than in homes.

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And finally, this ‘owl-eyes’ clock radio just struck me as fun. Zenith got into the ’50s plastic styles with a vengeance.

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For Poser users, the four radios plus Orby are now at ShareCG.