PHOTOS: Radio Relics Aplenty at Antique Radio Swap Meet

A tape-cutting radio relic is one of many pieces of broadcasting history at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda.

A tape-cutting radio relic is one of many pieces of broadcasting history at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/KQED)

When was the last time you tuned a radio that wasn’t in your car? With smartphones and streaming services like Spotify, most people don’t have traditional AM/FM radios lying around anymore.

But on Saturday, vintage radios and transmitters were aplenty at the first antique radio swap meet of the year put on by the California Historical Radio Society, a non-profit located in Alameda that is dedicated to the preservation and study of early radio and broadcasting. The society has nearly 300 members.

Even when there aren’t official swap meets, it’s not unusual on any given Saturday to find the back of the society’s building in Alameda filled with older guys like retired electrical engineer Jim Fink, tinkering with knobs and wires.

“It keeps my finger in the pie and allows me to play with stuff,” says Fink, who’s been a member for 3 1/2 years. “[Radio] has been my hobby and a vocation.”

Fink and others fix up some of the vintage radios and modernize them by adding Bluetooth and auxiliary cords so someone can hook up their smartphone. Even Fink listens to music on his smartphone.

“I’m listening to Pandora if I’m streaming,” he says. “Everybody streams now!”

These revamped radios then get re-sold at places like the famous Alameda Point Antiques Faire to help raise funds for the society, which hopes to open up an antique radio museum in Alameda.

But for now, the group will continue to repair, collect and restore pieces of broadcasting history.

Members of the California Historical Radio Society tinker with old AM/FM radios at the society's building in Alameda on February 3, 2018.
Members of the California Historical Radio Society tinker with old AM/FM radios at the society’s building in Alameda on February 3, 2018. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/KQED)
Old radios and transmitters sit on a table at the vintage radio swap meet at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda on February 3, 2018.
Old radios and transmitters sit on a table at the vintage radio swap meet at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda on February 3, 2018. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/KQED)
Vintage radio consoles, broadcast transmitters and phonographs clutter the California Historical Radio Society building in Alameda. The society's goal is to open a museum dedicated to these relics.
Vintage radio consoles, broadcast transmitters and phonographs clutter the California Historical Radio Society building in Alameda. The society’s goal is to open a museum dedicated to these relics. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/KQED)
Some of the radio consoles at the California Historical Radio Society date back to the 1920s.
Some of the radio consoles at the California Historical Radio Society date back to the 1920s. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/KQED)
A broadcast transmitter from the 1960s sits at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda.
A broadcast transmitter from the 1960s sits at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda. (Alyssa Jeong Perry/KQED)
PHOTOS: Radio Relics Aplenty at Antique Radio Swap Meet 3 February,2018Alyssa Jeong Perry

Author

Alyssa Jeong Perry

Alyssa Jeong Perry is a on-call reporter at KQED. She’s had stories air on NPR and WBUR’s Here & Now, PRI’s The World and WNYC’s The Takeaway.  And her written stories have been published in The Guardian and The Nation.  For her reporting on immigration, Alyssa was honored as a 2015 Ford Foundation fellow through International Center for Journalists and a 2016 Mark Felt fellow with the UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program.   She’s also interned at Oregon Public Broadcasting and has her masters in journalism from the UC Berkeley. Before diving deep into journalism, she lived in Korea for almost four years and traveled extensively through Central America and Asia.

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