The World-Wide Virtual Radio Gallery

World-Wide Virtual Radio Gallery

The following essay was written shortly after I launched this website in 1995. The Web was vastly smaller then. Online commerce didn't really exist, and Web phenomena such as Amazon, Google, and eBay were still in the future.

Some of the things that I predicted in 1995—such as a globally-searchable Web database—may have seemed farfetched or over-optimistic. But the Web has surprised us all. My website grew to include hundreds of articles and thousands of images. Many other collectors took up my challenge to create radio websites of their own. And so it goes.

In any event, here is the original essay, just as written twenty-seven years ago.


At some point after building this online gallery, I realized that it presents a reality which never has existed in the physical world, and which probably never will. And that led to an exciting idea, which I'll get to in a minute. But first, what's really different about this way of presenting a collection?

Would The Real Collection Please Stand Up?

In the digital world you're viewing right now, every radio in my collection is always on display, shined up, beautifully lit, and nicely indexed. But in the physical world, these objects have never even been in one physical location, much less organized. Some live at home, others in my office. Some are scattered on shelves all over the house. Others live in boxes or cupboards. And they all trudge in and out of my workshop for various treatments over time. Before creating the website, I didn't even know how many there were. I honestly thought I had "about forty" radios, while the true number was over ninety!

Nobody in the world—including myself—has ever seen my entire physical collection in one place, and I would never bother to arrange such a display. What for? Nobody would trek to my little burb in Washington state just to look at a few old radios.

But lots of folks will click a hotlink. Since opening this gallery in August, 1995, I've gotten dozens of email messages from visitors from around the world—from Japan, Australia and Europe, as well as North America—including some fellow collectors who plan to put their collections online.

A Global Museum Is Evolving

It doesn't take much imagination to see what's evolving—a global "virtual gallery" that's far more than the sum of its parts. And this isn't a wild dream of the future. It's already happening.

When I launched this website, there was only one similar site in the world. A handful of new collections have appeared since then. In the last few months, the WWW virtual gallery of radios has grown from a few dozen to a few hundred items. By this time next year, it could comprise thousands of radios on display, from sites all over the planet. Nobody (least of all, me) can control or own this thing, a factor which makes it incredibly exciting.

What's different about this new global museum? First, it's free, and freely accessible to anyone, any time, from any place where your computer can make a phone connection. Second, compared to physical museums or publications, it's incredibly dynamic. The global museum can change daily—even hourly—as new collections and connections come online. And finally, it's totally egalitarian. No matter if you're young or old, or whatever you may look like, whether you have one treasure or one thousand to display—the enjoyment and education you can provide to others is equally valid.

What's coming next? Beyond simple pictures, how about making your website a database of radio information, searchable by maker, model number, date of manufacture, and similar keys? That's possible on a per-site basis with today's tools. And, given the rapid pace of WWW development, we may soon have ways to search across multiple websites. A globally-searchable information database would be an enormous benefit to collectors everywhere. Today's technology also offers ways for new sites to automatically add themselves as new links from an existing site. Extend that idea, and the vision unfolds of a new, organic, global entity that can flower in amazing, unpredictable ways.

Some folks find this kind of idea scary, but I find it beautiful. Remember, the "it" we're talking about is simply us. The global museum is just plain old folks—you and me—communicating and sharing in a new way. If you think communicating with other people is scary . . . well, maybe you need to get out more often!

The WWW Radio Collector's Manifesto

So, fellow radio lovers, this is my challenge to you. Don't hide your treasures under a bushel—join the party and share them with the world! It's simpler than you might think. See How I Built This Website for some basic tips. There are hundreds of websites with detailed info on how to build web pages. Here's one to get you started: Yahoo WWW Page.

If you're interested in this idea, or you're already working on a website of your own, I'd like to hear from you. Click the mike to share your thoughts in email.

Email to Phil

©1995-2023 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved