ROGERS TO THE RESCUE

 

 

In the 1920's, radio was still mainly for the dedicated few. The receivers were large, clunky, hard to adjust, and heavy and aside from "crystal sets," they were all battery-powered. All receivers used tubes, and the tubes needed the dreaded "A" and "B" batteries. (The 6-Volt "A" battery was for the tubes' filaments; the plate supply was formed of 45-Volt "B" batteries. And yes, this is where the name "B+" for the plate supply came from.) Along came Edward Rogers (senior), boy genius, who brought not one but two technical innovations to radio receivers, that made them much, much more accessible to the general public. As it turned out, he was just getting started.

 

First, the A Supply. Ted invented the indirectly-heated cathode, that meant that the filaments could be powered from AC power. Since there were several tubes needed in the receiver, if you were clever you could then place all the filaments in series and power them directly from the 120-Volt mains. Rogers had just effectively eliminated the need to have an A supply at all.

 

Why didn't someone else try this? Well, they did, but with the regular tubes of the day, the AC hum from the filaments would come out the other end of the radio a lot better than did the intended signal. Ted's genius idea was to stop using the filament as a supply of free electrons, and instead use it as a heater for an electron-generator. His cathode was a specially-treated sleeve that slid over the filament heater. By its design, it shielded the cathode and the rest of the tube from the AC fields generated by the filament inside. The result: no hum!

 

Next, the high-voltage or B Supply. Rogers discovered the rectifier tube, which had already been invented by others, but not applied to radio receivers. He wasted no time in showing everyone how to do this, too.

 

The result was a console radio, with a loudspeaker, that wasn't continuously draining big, heavy, expensive batteries when it was being used. Ted Rogers, with his brother Elsworth, and financial backing from his father, started the Standard Radio Manufacturing Company (later Rogers Majestic), which begot the Rogers Radio Tube Company, which led to the Rogers Batteryless Radio Company. In August, 1925, Rogers unveiled the new indirectly-heated cathode tubes. A few weeks later, he displayed the first Rogers Batteryless receiver at the Canadian National Exposition. Rogers was 25 years old.

 

From 1925 until 1927, the only batteryless radio receivers on the market--anywhere--came from the Rogers plants. After that, the U.S. manufacturers caught up, and the race was on, to build and sell millions and millions of receivers, just in time for the Great Depression, and the Golden Age of Radio. Rogers' innovations, together with the rural electrification campaigns in North America at the time, suddenly made radio listening affordable for cash-strapped Depression-era families everywhere.

 

By this time Rogers had moved on to new things, too. He had taken his tube designs and applied them to radio broadcast transmitters. By 1927 he was ready to build his first broadcast station, which was also the first broadcast station in the world to run directly off the power lines. (Prior art used mechanical motor-generators to develop the high voltage and high current DC needed for the plate and filament supplies, which from this end of the century sounds complicated and awkward at best). The station signed on February 10, 1927, with 1 kW of power. The call letters: CFRB (Canada's First Rogers Batteryless), Toronto. (It didn't remain at 1 kW for long.)

 

Rogers went on to design other specialized tube types, and got the first TV broadcast license in Canada in 1931. He was involved in high frequency research, and early radar experiments. But sadly, by May 1939, it was all over: Ted Rogers, Sr, dead at 39.