The first radio for commercial use can now be heard in Bahía Blanca

Guillermo D. Rueda / [email protected]

After a thorough restoration, the Westinghouse Aeriola Senior type RF S. 109 was put into operation. I mean, it began to make itself heard. It is not just another radio.

“A week ago I finished the job. You can enjoy it now, ”said — relieved — Carlos Benítez, who directs the Carlos Gardel Museum of Antique Radios, located at Laprida 268 in our city.

Aeriola is the first commercial radio – factory built – to appear in the world. Today, one of them is in our city and is available to see it —with free and open access— in the historian’s museum.

Coincidentally, this Friday 27 was 101 years since the first radio broadcast in our country, in the Buenos Aires episode called Los locos de la Azotea: Enrique Telémaco Susini, Luis Romero Carranza, César Guerrico and Miguel Mujica. The date is taken as the radio day in Argentina.

The Aeriola Senior type RF S. 109 from Westinghouse was put into operation in December 1921. It had a single valve regenerative equipment. It worked with a Westinghouse WD-11 tube and had a cost, already in 1922, of a fortune for the time: 8 dollars.

Benítez got it two months ago. It was owned by a collector in our city, although it was out of use.

“I had to do a comprehensive repair and review of all the components, but the most important thing was the replacement of the original valve, something that is not available on the market. I had the WD-11 and now it works with the 1299 ”, he detailed.

The cost of repair, including the valve, could be estimated at just over 20,000 pesos.

“How much does the radio cost? It is impossible to determine. Perhaps what someone is willing to pay for a unique piece “, he calculated.

The historian admitted that there are very few Aeriola Seniors in the country and that the one in our city is the first that he has managed to put into operation.


At the conclusion of World War I in 1918, General Electric, AT&T (more commonly known at the time as Bell Telephone and its subsidiary Western Electric), and Westinghouse created a group of radio patents with cross-licensing rights. The group was controlled by a new company, Radio Corporation of America, better known as RCA.

Westinghouse had already developed and was selling some units when they signed the agreement for RCA to take over the distribution of their radios. The first two models were the Westinghouse Aeriola Junior and Senior.

In 1915, a youthful David Sarnoff, who later became the creator of the NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and president of the RCA, wrote a memorandum to his bosses referring to the so-called radio music box, a device that would carry those tones wirelessly to every home without the need for phonograph records or musical instruments.

“The receiver,” Sarnoff wrote, “can be designed in the form of a simple Radio Music Box and could pick up different waves. The radio music box would be equipped with the recently perfected vacuum tube technology, it could tune in the signal and send it through headphones ”.

Sarnoff convinced the RCA company to market a radio to the general public. This was the Aeriola Senior radio receiver, type RF, built in East Pittsburgh by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, as RCA did not yet have its own manufacturing facilities.

The set cost Sarnoff’s estimate: $ 75, but it didn’t include the cost of the vacuum tube, antenna, batteries, or headphones to listen to it.

The radio models are very similar on the outside, but the Junior model was a Galena radio; that is, no valves and no electricity requirements. The Senior came out in December 1921 and was a single valve regenerative equipment; It was powered by a Westinghouse WD-11 tube.

The WD-11 valve fits into a socket below, but sticks out above the panel so you can see that it is glowing and needed batteries to provide the electricity to power it; one of 1.5V and another 22.5V.

It also required high-impedance headphones to listen to it, or to buy the accessory power amplifier, something that began to be marketed a year later. It had a black painted wood panel and a metal ring where the tube sat.

The later version (co-branded RCA) has a Bakelite panel and black ring and the case is made of poplar. A later version of this radio, released in 1923, had a molded Bakelite panel and a mahogany body. That model would become known as the Radiola Senior.

Later models used larger valves that did not allow the lid to close if installed on earlier models.

These radios had an instruction card inside the cover. The first units sold by Westinghouse have only the Westinghouse inscription. When RCA began distributing them, the cards were co-branded with Westinghouse at the top and RCA at the bottom. A couple of years later, RCA changed the name to Radiola and modified the card to a small nameplate.

The radio spread quickly and RCA continued to sell more and more units. Along with Aeriola, RCA offered the Radiola line, with Radiola I debuting in 1922, followed by Radiola II in December of that year, and the popular Radiola III (S. 366), launched in 1924. In the first three years , RCA radio sales reached $ 83.5 million.

What is it about

The Carlos Gardel Museum of Antique Radios is interactive and non-profit. It is freely accessible and free, with prior consultations at WS 291 4 223928; Instagram, charlyb2019 and Facebook Carlos Benitez y/o Carlos Gardel Museum of Antique Radios.

Specific material from old radios from 1920 to 1970 is exhibited; didactics; old Edison cylinders; acetate, pasta and vinyl records; phonographs; gramophones (vitrolas) of all kinds; specific reference books and a microcinema with a projector.

In addition, repairs and restorations of old radios and vitrolas are carried out at the site to private and / or public and private companies.

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