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Virtual Travel

The three-colour print illustration in red, blue and black shows a woman in the foreground. A conductor, a hockey player, a dancing woman with a musician, a clown and an actress in costume form the middle ground, overlapping the title of the book.

Radio Log (1929): cover. Canada. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.

In the 1930s, receiving shortwave signals became a feature of many floor consoles and some tabletop models. Listeners could tune in to shortwave signals from international destinations, along with the standard (AM) and emergency or police bands.

Radio allowed people to connect with other places. Early on, a hobby called DXing developed. The name comes from DX – the telegraphic shorthand for “distance” or “distant.” Radio listeners would simply try to pick up signals from far away stations. DXers kept a radio log and mailed reception reports to distant stations. In return, they would receive cards called QSL cards, confirming what they heard. DXers treated QSL cards like postcards, collecting them from all over the world and marking station locations on a map.

Multicoloured print with a large black square as background for two drawings. The first is the family listening to the radio. A game is illustrated behind the family scene as a horizontal band. Text and images of radios are below the square.

“Atwater Kent Radio,” (date unknown). Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.

One of radio’s great powers was the ability to provide listeners access to other places and events as they happened. Listeners could hear the King’s annual Christmas address from England. They could also attend concerts, boxing matches, or baseball, football, or hockey games. All this without leaving their homes.

Detail of the radio showing the console with five circular dials below.

Marconi: Model 85 (c.1936), Montreal, Quebec, 109 x 68 x 36cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.


Designers imagined radios to be like ocean liners or airplanes. Listeners could travel effortlessly across the globe and take in different cultures and experiences. Some manufacturers caught on to this idea. They even produced radio maps and atlases to help listeners visualize their virtual travels.

Double-sided map with the water shown in light blue, the continents in light yellow and red lines for the indication of the radio stations.

Philco Radio Atlas of the World (1935): pp 2-3. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.


The 1930s was a time of heightened political tensions. A global depression began to unfold, and war was on the horizon. Being able to escape from or connect to distant lands and cultures never seemed so crucial.