In 1904, entrepreneur Hugo Gernsback launched a mail order business called the Electro Importing Company to sell radio components—and four years later, he launched his first magazine, Modern Electronics, “The Electrical Magazine for Everybody.” A few years on, he launched The Electrical Experimenter, and in 1919, Radio Amateur News, which became Radio News. (It’s worth noting that he also launched Amazing Stories magazine, in which he coined the term “scientifiction”—aka science fiction, aka why the Oscars of sci-fi today are dubbed the “Hugos.”)
A wildly prominent voice in the industry, Gernsback also owned two radio stations. He eventually lost Radio News in a financial battle, but it carried on with a new publisher … one who had to do battle with Gernsback’s freshly established publication Radio-Craft.
With the new publisher came a cover change formula. Given his status as a futurist, one of the hallmarks of Gernsback’s era was the proliferation of the editor’s predictions—which often made their way to the covers of the magazine. The new owner shifted to a series of staid red covers spotlighting equipment.
Another owner went on to experiment with the stars of radio to no avail, before the post WWII proliferation of tech to the public synced with the magazine’s subject matter and gave it new life.
Radio News became Radio & Television News in 1948, then Radio & TV News in 1957, and Electronics World in 1959. It eventually merged with Popular Electronics in 1972.
In 1989, the owner of Hands-On Electronics bought the magazine’s name.
Popular Electronics lasted until 2000, when it merged with Electronics Now magazine to form Poptronics.
Gernsback would go out of business in 2002, with Poptronics folding in 2003.
All told, a pretty remarkable story of how a single publication tells the story of the evolution of tech (and magazine media) in America.
Here’s a look at some more of those golden age editions of Radio News.