Smithsonian Acquires Marti Remote Pickup Unit for Radio Collection

July 1, 2013

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently collected an early Remote Pickup Unit developed by Texas broadcast engineer George Marti. Known as the Marti, it was in operation at KCLE in Cleburne, Texas, in the 1950s, and then by KGAF in Gainesville, Texas, until the early 1960s.

An RPU is a portable radio transmitter specially designed for use within a 10–15-mile radius from locations that lack broadcasting capability. A reporter covering a story in the field can use an RPU to transmit to a local radio station from which the signal is rebroadcast to the listening audience. Marti designed his first RPU in order to broadcast live the Cleburne High School football games.

Beginning in 1960, Marti Electronics manufactured the Model M 30BT fulltime in Cleburne. Marti RPUs are still used by radio stations across the U.S. and are exported globally.

The inventor, George Marti, has received numerous awards from both the Texas and National Association of Broadcasters. RPUs like the Marti are an interesting element in the history and evolution of radio technology.

The Marti joins the museum’s extensive radio collection, which includes examples of studio broadcasting equipment from throughout the 20th century. This latest addition allows curators to more fully document the invention and innovation involved in this field. There are currently no plans to put the RPU on display, but it will be available for study by scholars and on the museum’s website.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is currently renovating its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.