Uninformed Comment

Zenith Tombstone radio

Posted in Furniture, Old but cool, Technology by uninformedcomment on May 1, 2009

Tombstone radio: not just a lovely name

Meet the Zenith Model 811 Art Deco Tombstone Radio (1935).  Another one given to me by L, from this page, simply because of its art deco weirdness and off-beat beauty.

My own main Pure DMX-60 radio, which is permanently playing BBC Radio 4 in the kitchen while I’m up, is a rather more utilitarian affair, even though it almost certainly sounds better, is more reliable and has many more features:

It’s worth pondering what would be the reaction of the old Zenith’s engineers if you travelled back in time and showed them a radio like this, which records programmes, displays a programme guide with summaries, lets you schedule recordings based on the guide, and even pauses and rewinds live radio.  I’m not sure if they’d be completely astounded, or if they’d say “what, 2009 and you still don’t have personal jet-packs and flying cars and day-trips to Mars?”.

While today’s technology was largely undreamed-of in the past, let’s not forget that in many ways we disappoint.  Disease still hasn’t been eradicated (anyone who’s had a tooth extraction knows that some branches of medicine are little-changed since medieval times), and space travel pretty much amounts to a dull collection of communications satellites, a rather clean B&B in orbit (“nice views of the sea!”), and the oddunmanned interplanetary probe that occasionally shows us its holiday snaps.

If my eight-year-old self could see this PC it would almost get him over the shock of seeing the grey hairs of his future, but, on the other hands when that same-aged kid was taken by his mother to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on its release, he thought that Kubrick’s world of routine trips into space – not to mention computers that think – would be within his lifetime (although he realised, with a shudder, that he’d be 40 years old, too ancient words).  In fact, one of the remarkable things about the film is how little it’s aged – it still looks futuristic eight years after it was supposed to take place.  Only the 1970s-petrol-pump-type Nixie tube displays seemed to have dated the last time I saw it.  Nice one, Stan.

Back again to Zenith, here’s another one of theirs I like, also art deco in styling, the Zenith 5-R-317 “Glass Rod” radio from 1939:

 Zenith 5-R-317 Glass Rod radio

Zenith "Glass Rod" radio

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One Response

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  1. Bill Turlock said, on November 18, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    There. Will. Never. Be. Flying. Cars.


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