Popular Electronics


Popular Electronics is an American magazine published by John August Media, LLC, and hosted at TechnicaCuriosa.com. The magazine was started by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company in October 1954 for electronics hobbyists and experimenters. It soon became the "World's Largest-Selling Electronics Magazine". In April 1957 Ziff-Davis reported an average net paid circulation of 240,151 copies. Popular Electronics was published until October 1982 when, in November 1982, Ziff-Davis launched a successor magazine, Computers & Electronics. During its last year of publication by Ziff-Davis, Popular Electronics reported an average monthly circulation of 409,344 copies. The title was sold to Gernsback Publications, and their Hands-On Electronics magazine was renamed to Popular Electronics in February 1989, and published until December 1999. The Popular Electronics trademark was then acquired by John August Media, who revived the magazine, the digital edition of which is hosted at TechnicaCuriosa.com, along with sister titles, Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Astronomy.
The cover showed a 15-inch (38 cm) black and white TV kit by Conar that cost $135. The feature construction story was a "Radiation Fallout Monitor" for "keeping track of the radiation level in your neighborhood." (The Cuban Missile Crisis happened that October.) Other construction projects included "The Fish Finder", an underwater temperature probe; the "Transistorized Tremolo" for an electric guitar; and a one tube VHF receiver to listen to aircraft.
Dan Meyer saw the business opportunity in providing circuit boards and parts for the Popular Electronics projects. In January 1964 he left Southwest Research Institute to start an electronics kit company. He continued to write articles and ran the mail order kit business from his home in San Antonio, Texas. By 1965 he was providing the kits for other authors such as Lou Garner. In 1967 he sold a kit for Don Lancaster's "IC-67 Metal Locator". In early 1967 Meyer moved his growing business from his home to a new building on a 3-acre (12,000 m2) site in San Antonio. The Daniel E. Meyer Company (DEMCO) became Southwest Technical Products Corporation (SWTPC) that fall.
The magazine was digest size (6.5 in 9 in) for the first 20 years. The cover logo was a sans-serif typeface in a rectangular box. The covers featured a large image of the feature story, usually a construction project. In September 1970 the cover logo was changed to an underlined serif typeface. The magazine's content, typography and layout were also updated. In January 1972 the cover logo added a second line, "including Electronics World", and the volume number was restarted at 1. This second line was used for two years. The large photo of the feature project was gone, replaced by a textual list of articles. In August 1974 the magazine switched to a larger letter size format (8.5 in 11 in). This was done to allow larger illustrations such as schematics, to switch printing to offset presses, and respond to advertisers desire for larger ad pages. The longtime tag line, "World's Largest Selling Electronics Magazine", was moved from the Table of Contents page to the cover.
In 1953, William B. Ziff, Jr. (age 23) was thrust into the publishing business when his father died of a heart attack. In 1982, Ziff was diagnosed with prostate cancer so he asked his three sons (ages 14 to 20) if they wanted to run a publishing empire. They did not. Ziff wanted to simplify the estate by selling some of the magazines. In November 1984, CBS bought the consumer group for $362.5 million and Rupert Murdoch bought the business group for $350 million.