Ninety-five years ago, in 1927, Detefon emerged as a revolutionary radio receiver, marking the initiation of radio broadcasting in Poland. Conceived by engineer Wilhelm Rotkiewicz, this eco-friendly device operated without electricity, drawing power directly from radio waves. Its affordability and ability to pick up long and medium waves made it a household name.
Early Struggles and Ingenious Design
Facing slow radio adoption due to low electrification, economic constraints, and expensive receivers, Polish Radio commissioned the State Telecommunication Factory in 1929 to develop a low-cost, non-electric radio. Rotkiewicz’s Detefon utilized galena crystals and a steel needle, converting radio waves into sound without external power. Despite being a precursor to semiconductors, the scientific community couldn’t explain its workings until the 1950s.
Detefon’s Popularity and Advancements
Detefon’s success lay in its low price—24 zł for the receiver, 39 zł with accessories—making it accessible to diverse socioeconomic groups. Although it had limitations, such as headphone-only reception and a need for a robust antenna, Detefon garnered massive popularity. By 1939, around 500,000 units were produced, contributing to Poland’s radio reach.
Post-War Legacy and Pionier’s Success
Post-war, Detefon production resumed until the mid-1950s. Rotkiewicz later designed the Pionier, a lamp-based radio produced until 1959, continuing Detefon’s legacy. Affordable and reliable, Pionier played a crucial role in post-war radio adoption.