The Radio That Started It All

The invention of the radio in 1895 by Guglielmo Marconi was a pivotal moment in the history of mankind. It was one of the first times that we have ever been able to communicate wirelessly over long distances, and the age of fast-traveling information came with the radio’s invention. It can be argued that the radio was one of the most important inventions that changed our modern society.

However, the radio that we are going to talk about was not invented in 1895, but in 1942 by Paul Eisler. All of the components were the same as previous radios, and this radio’s case was similar to its predecessors.

Although the radio was similar in some ways, before this new design, every electronic device was built with wires connecting each component. The radio invented in 1942 was the first electronic device ever to use a printed circuit board (PCB)

The First PCB

Electronic devices have always had similarities in how they function: electricity is applied to a circuit to perform a function. Before 1942, those circuits had always been built using wires. One problem with electronics without a PCB is how convoluted the wiring becomes as more components are added.

With small, simple projects, you can build a device by hard wiring everything. Once you add more components and your project becomes more complex, however, it is hard to follow all of the wires from their origin to destination. This problem becomes apparent when mass producing a complicated product.

In 1942 when Paul Eisler developed a radio with a PCB, he eliminated the common issues of traditional wiring. Once a product with hundreds of wires switched to using a PCB, there were no more issues with trying to follow the wires. Troubleshooting also became easier. With a PCB, you are able to follow each connection and easily test each end to see if there is a problem one section at a time.

The Inventor

Paul Eisler graduated from Vienna University of Technology at the age of 23 with an engineering degree. After he graduated, he got a job with the English Recording Technology firm. One of his first tasks there was to eliminate interference in the train’s radios because the trains caused a lot of static in the music radios played.

Due to a series of unfortunate events with the train company that hired him, the train company had to pay Eisler in grain instead of with money. Because of this difficulty, Eisler needed to move back to his hometown of Vienna. It was here that he got a job as a journalist and printer, but due to the war, he had to abandon his life in Vienna and move to England.

Not long after arriving in England, Eisler began to use some of the skills he learned while being a printer when he began developing a printed circuit board and was hired by a movie theater to design a chair that could be easily cleaned. During this time he was able to successfully create a PCB.

After a short stay in a British internment camp, he found a company called Henderson and Spalding that showed interest in his newly developed PCB. H&S decided they wanted to invest in Eisler’s technology and offered him an employment contract. In this contract, Eisler unknowingly signed away the rights to his technology. In the end, he lost everything but a 16.5 percent ownership of his technology.

When Eisler’s PCB technology began to grow in popularity, several companies and governments picked the idea up for use in their products and weapons. The U.S. government first used his PCB design in a proxy fuse design. After the war, the U.S. government granted open access to the PCB patents. Ever since then, companies have used PCBs in every tech product they can.

The Use of PCBs Today

It is now impossible to go a day without using a piece of technology with a PCB in it. Everything from cell phones to cars, blenders, computers and thermostats have a PCB.

The concept of a printed circuit board has not changed in all this time, but the process by which they are made has. When Paul Eisler was first developing his first PCB he used a very simple process. When he began, he drew all of the circuits onto the PCBs he was creating.

When we create a PCB today, we use CAM (computer aided manufacturing) software. We design and test our circuits on a computer before we print them. Although the method has changed, the basic concepts of Eisler’s invention influence our daily lives in more ways that most of us realize.

If you are interested in PCBs or would like a circuit of your own to be created, contact the professionals at Streamline Circuits today! With over 14 years of experience, we have proven time and time again our superiority in the marketplace.