Fifty-Cent Phonograph May Pierce Iron Curtain (Jan, 1956)

Fifty-Cent Phonograph May Pierce Iron Curtain

A new weapon for sending messages behind the Iron Curtain without danger of radio jamming has been offered to the U. S. by RCA. It’s a refinement of the basic hand phonograph and could be mass-produced for 50 cents each.

The little machine is in three unbreakable plastic parts—base, turntable and tone arm —and can be packed to drop by parachute.
Heart of the design is a clear-plastic semi-circular vibrator screwed inside the top end of a guard. A plastic cube cemented on takes the needle in a force fit. RCA designers say that they get best results from a common steel needle of the long-playing kind. A metal crank spins the table.

Records are 78-r.p.m. unbreakable-plastic seven-inchers costing five cents, but the arm can take a 10-inch record. The speed, common in Europe, is easy for hand turning.

  1. Rick says: October 14, 200810:31 am

    I lived through that era and I doubt seriously that anything like this was ever used. If we were going to take the chances to fly over Soviet controlled airspace to distribute messages it would be far cheaper and more effective to drop leaflets than these things.

  2. George says: October 17, 20087:30 pm

    Leave it to a big company like RCA to make something that complex:

    In the mid-fifties, my father had a folding cardboard phonograph. It was an industrial advertising gimmick that was mailed to his office in a flat envelope.

    It was one piece, there was a small metal stud for the spindle, and the record had a drive hole in it that you stuck a pen into and were instructed to “turn it like stirring a cup of coffee.” The arm was flat cardboard that swung mostly by bending, no pivot bearing, but was not really a problem because the record’s diameter was only about 3 inches. The needle was attached to the cardboard which also was the diaphragm.

    It was clearly audible and understandable, and if I ever need industrial machine tools, I’ll be sure to use Bullard.

  3. Rick says: October 18, 20088:58 am

    Hi George,

    Wow, a cardboard phonoraph! That must have been neat! It would be even neater if some of them survived and are still out there, preferably somewhere like in an industrial design museum.

  4. George says: October 18, 20087:40 pm… (not the one I described, but even simpler. That RCA unit is starting to look as complex as a Linotype.

  5. Danny says: February 14, 20126:13 pm

    Remember the records you could cut right out the back of the cereal box? They were plastic coated cardboard and played pretty good. I still have one of them by the Archies.

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