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Biographical Memoirs, Volume 85
his grandfather’s three-tube radio, mostly listening to the air broadcasts. Radio technology was still a mystery to him. When school started that fall, he went to the library to look for books on radio. Later he met his friend Larry Reilly. Reilly gave him a copy of Radio Craft magazine containing an article, “The Junk Box Radio.” Cutler later wrote in his journal, ”This, I believe to be the most crucial event of my life.”
“That’s how I started,” he said, “I built the junk box radio receiver, using parts from a defunct broadcast set. I screwed the parts onto a pine board and used a single old vacuum tube. I salvaged even the wire and the solder from the old radio and used my dad’s soldering iron heated on the kitchen stove.” After the radio was built he heard “dit, dit, dit, dah, dit, dit, dah” from a station in Mexico City, and he was forever hooked on radio.
Shortly after, his father took him to a talk given by a visiting scientist from the newly established Bell Telephone Laboratories. The talk was “The Wonders of Radio and Communication.” It was a popular talk with demonstrations. The speaker modulated a neon bulb, talked over a light beam, and demonstrated inverted speech. That was when Cutler learned of Bell Laboratories and decided what he wanted to do with his career. Experimentation with electronics soon became his avocation, and he supported his hobby by baking beans and selling them to neighbors.
In the summer of 1933 Cutler graduated from the Springfield Technical High School. His father and mother were determined that he should go to college, but no one in the family had college experience and none of them had any idea of how to enroll. One day in August he was stopped by his neighbor Eddy Milde, then a graduate student and a track star at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Eddy encouraged Cutler to apply to WPI and gave him an appli-