©Elias Touil

ALAIN, COLLECTOR

Alain, retired economist, collector of olds radios and recorders
“It creates a sense of satisfaction to get something working again after it’s been left off for almost 60 years.”

Alain has been fascinated by how radios and recorders operate since his youth. As a teenager, he tried to understand the functioning of these devices, which have changed so much over the years. He followed the example of his father, a handyman, who also repaired machines for the people around him.

Looking for ways to decorate his new apartment, Alain acquired his first two radios from an antique shop while out walking in Montreal. Today, he has more than 100 devices in his collection dating from 1925 to 1965. They were obtained through specialized websites, his collectors’ club or museum donations.

Each new acquisition must meet a number of criteria, including the aesthetic quality, design, and mechanical innovation, but above all, the amount of restoration required, particularly when parts of the unit are missing. “My challenge is to solve the puzzle.” Although unique and beautiful, the devices are very fragile. The quality of the original mechanism and the sound can endure over time, but the parts wear out, hence the importance of Alain’s work.

  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil
  • ©Elias Touil

Buying a radio was a big investment for families at the beginning of the 20th century. At the time, manufacturers, such as RCA, Marconi, and General Electric, added decorative details that increased the cost of the device. After the Second World War, radios were produced in greater quantities. They became smaller and the aesthetic quality was somewhat reduced.

Alain has an unusual audio device in his collection, the dormiphone, which was very popular in 1950. According to common belief, it allowed people to learn while sleeping. The device could program a tape so it would play non-stop on a loop.

A member of the Société québécoise des collectionneurs de radios anciennes (SQCRA), Alain shares his passion with more than 100 collectors. He has even won several awards, including the president’s prize at the Concours de restauration d’épaves in 2014.