It was an online auction and the minimum bid was set very high. It just had to be a special old radio, I thought! Back then I knew even less about antique radios than I do now, but I was sure there would be hot bidding for such a fine specimen and I intended to snipe the sucker! A week later, with only one day left, there were exactly zero bids. Minutes before the auction’s end, there were still no bids! I knew, I could feel, my competitors heavy breathing getting ready to throw their bids in at the last second, just as I was going to do. With seconds to go I held my own breath and pecked in a maximum bid. I won hands down with the only bid. The owner had flipped it for a handsome profit but apparently had no interest in shipping. After waiting for 5 weeks I located the young crook's Canadian home and pleaded to his father for help in getting my merchandise. That is another story.
Finally my radio arrived. “Mint”? Hardly. It looked nice but in no way was the exterior finish original! I had not done my research and I was a sucker. Caveat emptor indeed. It didn’t work, either. Two of the six tubes were DOA. Replacements did not help much. Just a few weak static sounds came out of its speaker. Any sound at all is a good sign, though! After some ohmmeter checks I was fairly sure the plate circuit of one of the six UV199s was open, often caused by a failed transformer (a common problem in radios of this age) but this one presented an additional complication. Most of its circuits are buried within a “catacomb”, a 4 by 10 inch sealed metal box. In 1924, RCA both manufactured and licensed radios (Westinghouse actually made this model) with a revolutionary new superhetrodyne converter circuit for which they owned a bunch of patents. RCA lawyers were not shy about chasing any manufacturer who dared use the ideas without paying for them. To further discourage infringements they buried the bulk of their new-fangled circuitry inside a can of hardened goo. No peeking! It was sealed tight except for a dozen wires sticking out. Catacombs were not meant to be repaired. If one went bad it was to be replaced. Even today, catacomb repair is not a simple task. I believed stories about how difficult they were to work on, this was the first one I had seen, so I just took a few pictures of my new acquisition and eventually “forgot” about it.
For years my new radio was pretty to look at and dead as a doornail. Since then I have gained a lot of experience bringing these relics back to life. By golly, this one must be next! next-->