Popular Electronics, All Issues Online, for Free

Over at RadioHistory.com they have scanned and put online an enormous collections of radio-related yearbooks and magazines. Amongst them, the full run of the legendary Popular Electronics magazine, from issue 1 released in October 1954, until its last issue in November 1982.

Issue 1 featured an article on how to build a "bike radio".

Issue 1 featured an article on how to build a “bike radio”.

All magazines are carefully scanned and OCRed, which makes them searchable, and available as downloads in high quality PDF format.

Not only is this an outstanding resource for engineers and makers, it is an amazing cross section of thirty years of technological progress, broaching arguably the most exciting decades of electronic advancement of the 20th century. Somewhere midway through, for example, is the issue published in January 1975. The cover shows the Altair 8800, the seminal personal computer “to Rival Commercial Models”, as the magazine blurbs. When Paul Allen showed it to Bill Gates, they decided to create a BASIC interpreter for it, and, thus, Microsoft was born.

The game-changing Altair 8800 article in the Jan 1975 issue.

The game-changing Altair 8800 article in the Jan 1975 issue.

The ads alone are an excellent window onto how electronic technologies advanced over time: from training in vacuum-tube radio and TV repairman courses in the fifties, we jump to “electronic slide rules” in the 60s, and lots and lots of stereo HiFi equipment in the 1970s. The last issue from November 1982 is overrun by ads for personal and micro computers, IBM targeting the business and professional market with its new 8086 PC, and Sinclair with the ZX81 (“the $99,95 Personal Computer“) aiming at the home hobbyist and gamer.

Thanks to its in-depth and educational articles, Popular Electronics soon became the “World’s Largest-Selling Electronics Magazine“. The circulation hit 240,000 by 1957, and it exceeded 400,000 by 1963. At the height of its popularity, an article in Popular Electronics could make or break a company.

In November 1982 the editors ill-advisedly changed the name to Computer & Electronics and continued publishing the magazine until finally folding in 1985.

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