Check-Out Scanners and UPCs (Feb, 1978)

Apparently in 1978 time didn’t consider gypped to be an ethnic slur.

Checking Out Tomorrow

Americans spend more than $153 billion a year on food and other purchases in supermarkets and grocery stores, and have an abiding suspicion that they are getting gypped at the check-out counter. Their mistrust should be considerably allayed, and the waiting lines shortened, by the ever growing number of computers that are taking over the tally.

At a computer-equipped check-out line, all the clerk has to do is pass each item over a Cyclopean eye linked to a cash register and a scale. In a twinkling, the eye “reads” the striped UPC (Universal Product Code) symbol, by which the computer system identities the product, brand name and other pertinent information about the item. (The store manager can program into the computer price changes for specials or daily fluctuations.) Then the computer prints out both the name of the item (say, one 4-oz. can of sliced French beans) and the price on the receipt list.

Faxes Used for Telegrams In Chinese (May, 1945)

TELEGRAMS IN CHINESE are being speeded for wartime communication between four of the most important cities of China by Telefax apparatus built by the Western Union Telegraph Company. Previously, the Chinese system of telegraphing has involved using a code number for each of the 9,000 characters employed in writing. On the receipt of such a telegram, it must be decoded by turning the numbers back into their corresponding characters. Such telegrams occasion delays that hamper the war effort. Since the Telefax apparatus electrically transmits in facsimile whatever is written on paper, there is no loss of time in either sending or reading the message. . At left, a Chinese telegraph employee examines a test message.

ORBITING NEEDLES To Aid Communication (Jan, 1961)

ORBITING NEEDLES To Aid Communication

A MAN-MADE ionosphere—composed of millions of tiny metal needles—soon may replace the ionized layer of atmosphere presently used in radio communication. The artificial ionosphere, actually two narrow bands of needles, 3,000 to 6,000 miles from Earth, will make possible for the first time reliable, high-quality and low-cost, television, voice radio and teletype communication between any two points on Earth.

Unlike the natural ionosphere, the bands will stay at the same distance from Earth, have a constant density and the same radio-reflecting qualities undisturbed by storms and sunspots. The system has been developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Air Force Air Research and Development Command.

From Stage Thrills to Radio Drama (Dec, 1924)

From Stage Thrills to Radio Drama

Behind the Scenes in Studio Where Weird Devices Give Realistic Effects for Unseen Listeners

A SHOT rang out on the still night air, as the old-time fiction writers used to begin their stories. A farmer’s family in Maine; a banker in his library in a middle-western city, and a group of cowpunchers in a bunk house in Texas listened breathlessly; for the sound was carried by wireless. Untold thousands of radio fans scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico heard it, too, for all of them were tuned in on the drama “Pierre of the Plains,” broadcast from an eastern city.

The old-time thriller of the past, that reached its glory when the box office hung out the “S. R. O.” sign—standing room only—may have had as many as twelve hundred people hanging breathlessly on the actor’s lines, but nowadays when a melodrama is put on the air its invisible audience may run into the millions.



An ultra-short-wave radio station has been installed at Vatican City, Italy, for communication between the Vatican and the summer residence of Pope Pius XI at Castel Gandolfo, twenty miles away. The set uses waves only fifty-seven centimeters (about twenty-one inches) in length. According to its noted designer, Gugleilmo Marconi, it represents the ”first practical application of microwaves.” Marconi has been endeavoring for more than thirty years to harness these waves, which are a minute fraction of the length of those used in ordinary broadcasting.



For the convenience of telephone users, an instrument has been devised to take messages and answer calls received when the owner is absent. It consists of a small cabinet containing records similar to those used in dictating or talking machines. If the person is not at home when the phone rings, the instrument repeats a message which has been dictated to it, stating that Mr. So-and-So is out and will the caller speak his message, or any other greeting the owner wishes to give.



The apparently impossible feat of transmitting conversation while confining it to the speaker and the person for whom it is intended has been accomplished recently in Washington. It was done by a combination of the “superphone,” the invention of Maj. Gen. George C. Squier, chief signal officer of the army, and the principle of using electric light or telegraph wires, as in the receiving station at Chatham. Cape Cod.

Working Record Recorder for Kids (Sep, 1949)

That kid’s record recorder is pretty awesome. It works like a tape recorder. I wonder how well it worked.

“Playtalk” electronic toy for children uses a grooveless paper disk coated with “powdered” iron to record and reproduce magnetically music or voice. Records hold about two minutes of recording; can be “erased” and reused often

A — Twelve-pound self-powered tape recorder swings over the shoulder like a camera case. It is used by newsmen to cover news for the “Mutual Newsreel” programs; the small microphone may be held in the hand, or strapped on wrist

B — All-channel television and FM indoor antenna of unusual design employs parabolic-dipole arrangement on telescoping rods. Swivel joints make numerous adjustments possible

Pencil Forms Midget Radio Set (Sep, 1934)

Pencil Forms Midget Radio Set
A MIDGET crystal set, built into a common lead pencil, is the technician’s answer to demands for a personalized radio receiver. The crystal and cat’s whisker are built into eraser end of pencil. Headphones complete the outfit. Construction plans for a similar device were carried in the May issue of this magazine.

Inventors on the Air (Nov, 1937)

Inventors on the Air


THROUGH the microphones of broadcasting station WQXR in New York City, amateur inventors describe their new devices to radio listeners in a regular weekly program aptly named “Can It Be Done?”

In addition to placing their ideas before a potentially large audience, they benefit by the criticisms and suggestions of an advisory board of manufacturers, merchandisers, and business executives. A phonograph recording made before the broadcast protects each inventor in his claim to prior conception.

Although comparatively new, the novel radio feature is said to have resulted in the sale of several inventions to manufacturers. Some of the devices presented on the program are shown on these pages.