When I was a kid I saw an ad for a new bicycle with a built-in radio. What a dream! Like any other kid I dreamed of one, but it never happened. But – read on!
The Huffy RadioBike, made by Huffy Bicycle (Huffman Corporation) of Dayton, Ohio, came out in 1955. The radio was in the “gas tank” between the handlebars and the seat. It ran on three vacuum tubes and turned on and off with a key – just like Dad’s car. AM only in those days.
Vacuum tubes needed high voltage & large batteries: you can see the power pack mounted above the rear wheel. Poor battery life – and expensive. Transistor radios were brand new. An article I read said they came out about the same time but cost about $40, almost as much as the RadioBike. Remember, this was 1955, the same year the US minimum wage was increased to $1.00 per hour. Only about 8,500 were ever built. It was available for 2-3 years. I didn’t get either a RadioBike or a transistor radio!
Fast forward to 1978. I took an engineering job with Yellow Springs Instruments (now YSI). Yellow Springs, Ohio is a small village/college town about 20 miles (32 km) east of Dayton.
Imagine my surprise when I found a RadioBike tank on the marketing Vice President’s bookshelf, complete with a radio. YSI had made them for Huffy!
Here’s the circuit schematic drawn by Hardy Trolander, engineer, one of the founders and the first President of YSI. One of my favorite people.
PS: 50-plus years earlier Dayton was home to the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop. Huffman began in the late 1800s, so I’ll bet they knew each other.
References: Huffy Radiobike – American Vintage Bicycles (american-vintage-bicycles.com).
1955 Huffy Radiobike – The Online Bicycle Museum.