Yesterday, August 20th was National Radio Day, “a day to appreciate the AM and get down with the FM.” An important byproduct of the invention of commercial radio was a new way to play. Several toys emerged that allowed kids to speak into a device and instantly communicate with their friends, just like the adults were doing.
The Caravelle is a great example—this transistorized AM radio receiver and transmitter was released in 1962 by Remco Industries (an amalgamation of the words REMote COntrol). The toy radio was easy to assemble and included a microphone and a Morse-code oscillator key, both of which plugged into the base unit. A single 9-volt battery powered the toy, and Remco’s advertising highlighted they toy’s “without wires” capability.
When powered on, the Caravelle’s integrated 3.5-foot antenna received local AM radio broadcasts and could transmit on AM frequencies in a 500-foot radius. While this distance wasn’t enough for kids to launch full-blown pirate-radio stations, it was more than enough to dazzle family and friends with one’s DJ skills and gift for the gab.
Remco covered all the bases, designing the Caravelle to Federal Communications Commission requirements of the time, so it could be operated without a license!
MORE RADIO LOVE
In honour of National Radio Day, let’s also take a moment to remember WKRP in Cincinnati, the classic 1970s T.V. sitcom that focused on the hijinks of the employees of a fictional radio station in Ohio. Part of the show’s appeal can be attributed to its many on-air disk jockeys, like the irreverent rock-and-roll riffs of Dr. Johnny Fever and the silky-smooth stylings of Venus Flytrap.
The fascination with new technology has long been expressed through both toys and pop culture. In fact, this DIY DJ kit from Vanity Fair combined radio technology with WKRP to inspire a new generation of DJs.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.