Some engineers that gave us technologies we take for granted!


I’ll start with something simple like the car radio. Or is it simple? Two friends, William Lear and Elmer Wavering, decided to take their respective girl friends out for a drive in the late ‘20s to watch the sun go gown over Illinois (that’s what they said anyway). They thought, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to listen to late night radio. Both chaps being “techie” sorts, they soon realised that trying to work a radio in a car was a technological nightmare. Interference from the ignition, dynamo, trams, small aerials, fading when driving about etc.. They set about designing circuits to beat all this, and did. They teamed up with a chap called Paul Galvin who was making battery eliminators. These were boxes that allowed the valve battery powered radios of the ‘20s to run on household mains supply. As more radios by then were being made to run on the house mains house supply directly and with the depression was setting in, business was getting tough. Galvin wanted another revenue stream. He made a power supply that allowed Lear’s and Wavering’s valve car radio to run from the 6v or 12v car battery. The three eventually took their perfected design off to the local bank manager who agreed to have it installed in his brand new Packard straight 8. After half an hour of operation, the power unit caught fire. Needless to say, no investment!

Not giving up, Galvin installed the radio in his Studebaker and drove nearly 800 millas a Atlantic City para mostrar la radio en el 1930 Convención de la Asociación de Fabricantes de Radio. Not being able to afford a stand, he drove his car outside the convention with the radio turned up full to attract attention. That worked.

Several U.S. companies in those days were adding “ola” to the end of their product names. Victrola (record players), Radiola (radio sets) and so on. Galvin came up with his version, Motorola, the name was born. The sets were expensive at around $120 en 1930 and took 2 days to fit! He struggled for 3 años. The depression was coming to an end and Ford motor company started to offer the Motorola radio pre-installed. There was also a deal with the tyre company Goodrich, where the radios would be sold and installed via the stores. The installed price was now around $55, so affordable.

Paul Galvin went on to develop the push button pre select radio, two way car radio for the police and in 1940, developed the first hand held “Handie-talkie”, two way radio for the U.S army. En 1947 Motorola came out with the first television to sell under $200. En 1956 la compañía presentó el primer buscapersonas del mundo, en 1969, the company supplied the radio and television equipment that was used to televise Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon. En 1973 inventó el primer teléfono celular de mano del mundo. Today Motorola is one of the largest cell phone manufacturers in the world. It all started with the car radio!

Asi que, what happened to the two men who installed the first radio in Paul Galvin’s car?

Elmer Wavering y William Lear, terminó tomando caminos muy diferentes en la vida. Wavering se quedó con Motorola. In the ‘50s he helped change the automobile experience again when he developed the first car alternator, reemplazando generadores ineficientes y poco confiables, dynamos as us Brits would say. The invention lead to so many luxuries such as power windows, asientos eléctricos, y, finalmente, aire acondicionado.

Lear también continuó inventando. Él tiene más de 150 patentes. Recuerda reproductores de cintas de ocho pistas!? Lear invented that standard. Pero por lo que es realmente famoso son sus contribuciones al campo de la aviación.. Inventó los buscadores de dirección de radio para aviones, ayudado en la invención del piloto automático, diseñó el primer sistema de aterrizaje de aeronaves totalmente automático, y en 1963 presentó su invento más famoso de todos, el Lear Jet, el primer mundo producido en masa, jet de negocios asequible. No bad for a high school dropout!

Seth Pittham –

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