Sunroof mystery

One of the little mysteries of auto history is the soft spot in roofs. Metal shaping technology wasn’t up to the task of pressing out a complete rooftop without wrinkling and stretching the middle. GM finally perfected the ‘deep-draw press’ in 1935, and others soon copied.

I’ve been puzzled by the continued use of crude and unmaintainable wood frames covered with cloth to fill the space. This continued from 1920 to 1935 in most cars. There was no technical reason why the space couldn’t have been filled with a single-curve piece of metal, welded or gasketed in. This would have been a much more durable solution, but it wasn’t even tried until 1936 by Chrysler and Hudson as a (ahem) stopgap until they could copy GM’s press tech.

I’ve also been puzzled by the failure to use the hole as a sunroof. The Euro divisions of US companies filled the hole with a folding or sliding sunroof, making lemonade from the soft lemon. This design was obviously available to Detroit, but they never tried it.

Even more puzzling: In 1939, after everyone had the new presses, actual sunroofs appeared for the first time in some US cars. The hole was no longer innately there, so it had to be cut out specifically to form the sunroof.

Did anyone buy and use those few ’39 sunroofs?

Yes. A 1940 station album from KFEL in Denver shows how:

This is a ’39 GM car, probably a Buick. They’re using the sunroof as a ‘camera port’.

Who invented the Like Button?

I’ve been pointing out that radio, especially shortwave, made it harder to constrain expression. SW always sneaks around borders and walls and jammers.

But radio also made it harder to run a pay-for-value business. Subscriptions and customer service require either printed magazines sent to specific addresses, or a hard-wired communication system. Telegraph and telephone and web are naturally subscriber-based, and are gradually returning to natural after a decade of UNnatural advertising-based business.

Radio has only two ways of making money: advertising and government licenses. Neither is sensitive to listener feedback.

Scramblers and descramblers could have created a one-way subscriber service, but I’m pretty sure they were never tried in a commercial way.

American Radio Library has added some issues of Crosley’s promotional magazine. The April 1924 issue includes a speech by Herbert Hoover, who was Sec of Commerce at the time, setting out regulations to allocate spectrum ‘real estate’. He had a surprising suggestion:

The Godfather of radio, Secretary Herbert C. Hoover, in a recent talk on radio regulations, pointed out the immediate need for a new radio invention which would permit the broadcast speaker to sense the feelings of his invisible audience and get their hisses or applause. “If there was some sort of a negative push button on your sets,” he said, “you could discourage some broadcasters.”

This was NOT technically possible in the ’20s. Hoover knew it was impossible and explained the problem clearly. Each radio would need to be a powerful transceiver with its own private frequency, and there weren’t nearly enough freqs available.

Cellphones are two-way devices now, using a massive infrastructure of local towers and time-sharing.

Two-way communication would have been possible via telephone or telegraph lines in that era. In fact a complete two-way subscription radio system via telephone was tried in a few places.

The AI silliness in previous item told us authoritatively that JFK invented cheddar cheese, and George Washington invented the police speed radar. If it had claimed that Herbert Hoover invented the Like Button I would have laughed….. until now.