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Sep 14

Brett Moss
9/14/2012 4:38:00 PM 

Dale McCubbins of WCVK/WJVK/WZVK in Glasgow, Ky. brings to our attention this delicious gem of a gadget that didn’t quite succeed — the Radio Hat. Thanks to the Retronaut for making this public.

Touted in the pages of the June, 1949 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine, a publication edited by the legendary electronics inventor, radio/TV pioneer, technical journalist and sci-fi publisher Hugo Gernsback, the Radio Hat most likely was one of those items that would eventually be advertised in the back pages of a magazine (and intensely desired by boys under the age of 12). Retronaut also has a Radio Hat from the period.

The RE article carries a great deal of technical information about how the battery-powered hat works and how it is designed. It’s a little fuzzy on exactly where that clunky battery goes, however. Remember, those were the days before hat-mounted solar cells were common.

The Radio Hat was the brainchild of Victor T. Hoeflich and manufactured/distributed by the American Merrilei Corp., based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Apparently that company is no longer around. Perhaps it was run out of business by a flood of transistorized bikini-mounted radios from Japan.

The overall fashion statement of the Radio Hat is Runway Diva-worthy. The tubes sticking out of the pith helmet provide a suitably cyborg look while the circular arial on the back positively screams, “Alien spacemen have landed! Run for your lives!” No surprise that an ad for the chapeau described it as the “Man-from-Mars Radio Hat.”

Tuning looks to have been achieved by a knob on the front of the hat. Most likely it was limited to AM. Had the Radio Hat proven a success, perhaps an FM beret (for NPR and Indie listeners) or a baseball cap (for the rest of us) might have been forthcoming.

None other than Life magazine proclaimed that the Radio Hat “Works fine.” It’s not clear if that was meant as a radio, as a hat or as the complete RF fashion statement.

One might ask, what would Steve Jobs have done with this idea?

One might also wonder, how will Retronaut in 2050 treat the Great Google Glasses craze of 2012?    

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