Usually when we think of wearable technology we think of cutting edge technology and modern developments. After all, wearable technology is only a recent development right? Actually not so much. Some of the cutting edge technologies of the 40s and 50s were actually wearable, including the Radio Hat. Introduced as the ‘Man-From-Mars Radio Hat’ this hat was geeky, extremely non fashionable, and completely ahead of its time.
What is the Radio Hat
The Radio Hat was essentially the forerunner to headphones and portable radios, but was manufactured 5 years before the transistor radio. Therefore, the radio hat used vacuum tubes, a loop antenna, and much of the clunky technology that made radios the size of today’s microwaves at the time. The inventor, Hoeflich, packed all of this technology into a metal pith helmet and manufactured it as a wearable, portable radio that you could use to listen to music everywhere.
The radio itself had a range of 20 miles or 32 kilometers, which is about on par with today’s portable radio range of 20-30 miles. While battery operated portable radios were already invented at the time, Hoeflich’s design gave the radio a new package that could be worn anywhere and listened to in semi-privacy.
How it Works
The Radio Hat is a classic two tube radio with an external battery pack. The batteries used 1.5 and 22 voltage power to make the hat safer than the standard 6-12 volt that was standard at the time. Batteries powered the hat for 20 hours, or usually about 3-6 days of listening to music depending on how long the wearer listened to music. The two tubes allowed the wearer to pick up 540Khz to 1,600 Khz, which was slightly lower performance than the 4 and 6 tube radios being released at the time.
What Happened To It
The Radio Hat was introduced with great advertisement campaign in 1949 and was mostly sold by mail order. Stores across the nation would take orders for the hat and then ship it to the buyer, or allow the buyer to pick it up at a local store. In either case, the Radio Hat was a huge success at first, but sales eventually petered off. By the end of 1955, Hoeflich admitted that sales had stopped, and the limited success of his novelty radio was over.
During it’s period of success, the Man from Mars Radio Hat was featured in multiple magazines including Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Mechanix Illustrated, and it’s biggest cover, in Radio Electronics. In Radio Electronics, the hat was given a two page feature, modelled by the up and coming actress Hope Lange, and it’s architecture was fully explained through blueprints.
Where to Get One
While the Man from Mars Radio Hat originally sold for $7.95 (a then expensive price), it can now occasionally be purchased on forums and sometimes on eBay. However, if you want one, you’re better off finding one of the many instructions for making a replica and having a go at it yourself, as it will save you a lot of money.
Although the radio hat is long gone, it was ahead of it’s time then. Most people today wouldn’t even think of wearing one, but in the 1950s, some where glad to!