Oklahoma From Argentina!
RCA Victor- the name alone stands as the cornerstone of radio and television development in the United States and across the globe. Had it not been for the ingenuity and the efforts of David Sarnoff and RCA, we would never have global wireless communication as we know it, or even the humble vacuum tube that forms the foundation for our exciting and beautiful hobby.
The 1950s was a time of development, progress, expansion, and globalization. The electronics industry was a leader in this movement. This time of connecting the world brought us many great works of art (mid-century modern) and was a special time when this art was combined with technology. Put all of these factors together and you get this very special radio.
This 1957 RCA 5J-X-2B labeled “Oklahoma” is from the country of Argentina. Retro Radio Farm acquired this radio from the grandson of the original owner. The grandson told Retro Radio Farm that he remembers this radio in his grandmother’s kitchen throughout his childhood. RCA manufactured this radio to work with 220V mains. At some point, this radio found its way to United States. It was then modified by someone for 120V mains. The cabinet, knobs, backing board, and labeling survived in remarkable condition. The Argentinian radio does not have the RCA nipper logo because it was only licensed to be used in North America. A circuit board from a donor 8-x-51J was installed in the radio but without the RCA jack adaptation. The original circuit board was included with this radio at the buyer request.
I think that it is incredible that something from across the hemisphere survived 60 years, made it to North America, and was able to be restored in beautiful working and cosmetic condition. Due to this unique importation, most likely this is the ONLY radio of its color scheme and model in the United States. I have not seen anything else like it in anyone’s collection and I cannot find anything like it anywhere on the internet.
The color of this special RCA is a distinctly central/south American scheme and reminds me of a ‘cilantro/lime’ idea. I imagine that this radio lived in a brightly painted kitchen in South America home to many incredible smells and flavors. One can only imagine what this radio witnessed and played during its many years of service to a family. What kind of family owned it? According to the seller, this radio was a part of multiple generations of the family. Through the years did they listen to the news of JFK’s untimely death? The moon landings? Reports from the Vietnam War? The Argentinian Revolution in the 1960’s and subsequent reorganization in the 1970’s/80’s? I am happy now in 2017 that it can now find home in my apartment bedroom, where I listen to the news and smooth jazz on local AM stations each day.
Interestingly enough, this radio has an American RCA counterpart, the RCA 8-X-6 series. These radios are fairly common in the U.S. and came in colors of white, pink, gray, or yellow. (https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/rca_8_x_68x_ch_rc_1178rc117.html) In fact, RRF sold a pink one in 2014 (https://www.retroradiofarm.com/products/pink-tiffany-retro-jetsons-vintage-1956-rca-victor-model-8-x-6f-am-tube-radio-works)
Electronically, both the Argentinian version and the American version are very similar except for a couple of elements. On most All American Five (AA5) radios, the dial light is wired into the rectifier tube (35W4) and the phono is wired into the volume potentiometer and the final audio output tube, the 50C5. In terms of supply voltage, Argentina runs on a 220v 50Hz power system while the United States runs on 110-120v 60Hz power. Since the AA5 was invented using the United States’ electrical standards, modifications had to be made in order for AA5 radios to operate on a higher current at a different phase. While this difference does not change the tubes and their filament voltages, (the 35W4 converts the incoming alternating current power (AC) to direct current (DC) and the capacitors change the voltage many times over through the radio’s different stages) it did mean that the chassis would have to be re-wired with an American plug for 120v power. The Oklahoma uses the standard set of AA5 miniature tubes (12BA6, 12AV6, 12BE6, 35W4, 50C5). On the 220v AA5 radios, most were sold in the 1950’s with an extra resistor in-line with the power cord. This raised the wattage to around 43 watts but dropped the incoming voltage for the tubes.
Overall, this radio stands as a beautiful example of the quality restoration and preservation work done by RRF. It is an important artifact in the development of worldwide radio and a beautiful example of a mid-century modern piece with a South American flavor and flare. I am looking forward to using it as a functional display piece in my home and a great conversation starter!
Author: Jacob Weinstein, December 2017. Jacob, the contributor to this RRF Gallery Article, is a music student at the University of Georgia and an avid radio restorer and collector.