From Spark to Byte
Artifacts in this gallery represent key milestones in the history of electronics. The oldest artifact in the museum collection is here—a specimen of the 1858 Atlantic telegraph cable. (Radio began not as an entertainment medium, but as “wireless telegraphy,” an outgrowth of the telegraph industry to provide point-to-point message communication, especially for ships at sea.) Visitors can see a de Forest Audion tube, the first electronic device capable of amplifying weak signals. For the next half century its descendants made possible radio, then television, and even early computers. Also in this gallery are an early 1920s homemade crystal radio, representing the beginning of radio for home entertainment, a 1931 Philco “cathedral” style radio representing the era when Americans turned on their radios to listen to President Roosevelt giving his “Fireside Chats,” a 1954 Regency transistor radio (the first consumer transistor radio), a tiny 1947 Pilot television set, and an early Apple smartphone, that provides modern users with radio, television, a camera, and more. Thus, this gallery illustrates the remarkable progress made since the beginning of the electronics revolution.