Watch this extraordinary instructional video of an extraordinary machine, the 1931 RCA VICTOR RADIOLA AUTOMATIC ELECTROLA. Designed to allow listeners to listen to up to thirty minutes of music at a time instead of having to get up and flip their 78rpm record every three minutes, the machine retailed for $275, a more-than-steep price in the depths of the depression. Needless to say the cost of building the machine and the lack of sales guaranteed that it would flop. And flop it did. I don’t know how many of these puppies are still out there but my guess is that many of them were junked while the handsome walnut cabinet the device was housed in was preserved, no doubt making a dandy place to store plates, glasses and liquor.
The incredibly complex mechanism involved in switching records is lovingly detailed in this video which clearly was made by someone who painstaking restored one of these rare devices. Apparently the original parts can still be found and the sound quality of the music accompanying the video (taken from the records actually being played in the video) is superb and not re-mixed/enhanced/cleaned up in any way. All in all a marvelously geeky way to spend seven minutes on this post-Halloween Monday.