In the early days of radio, you’d have what we now refer to as a “breadboard radio”. You’d buy, say, the power supply, or the power supply and the detector, mounted on a wooden board that resembled a breadboard. You’d then add an RF amp, a VFO once those came available, an AF amp and so on, until you’d built up your desired system. You’d then assemble the A and B batteries and set about to hooking it all up and aligning it so it would work. In other words, you had to be something of a technician if you were going to have a radio, or you’d have to know a technician willing to help you with the hours upon hours of component selection and set-up.
I’ve said for years that we’re still in the breadboard phase of computer technology. It is changing, but we’re still there. Similarly, in the early days of the automobile it was not uncommon to purchase your chassis from one manufacturer, and take it to the coach builder of your choice for the body work and interior.
Son got a computer yesterday, along with a multi-track recording interface. We selected the computer for high processor speed, a large amount of RAM, and at least a TB of HD. We had to add a firewire card, making sure the available slots on the motherboard would accommodate the particular firewire card with the particular chip we wanted.
The damned thing still won’t work. Something about a 32 bit verses 64 bit Win 7 OS, and something about a sound card, or sound card driver (we still don’t know which) that doesn’t allow for something referred to as “direct audio input”. Never heard of it. Don’t understand why the sound card is even a factor, since it was my understanding that the recording interface, and it’s related software, took care of all those functions.
A thousand bucks into it (and that’s a screamin’ good deal) and we’ve only begun to spend. The technicians at the computer stores are of zero help, so now it’s to the digital recording specialists we know (I grew up in the analog, magnetic tape days, so I’m of little use), and to the manufacturer of the interface.
All this of course represents a business opportunity.
ETA; actually, you’d get either the A and B batteries or you’d get the AC power supply for your “radio set” once the AC supplies came available. It took several decades for the complete system being sold as a unit to become the rule. I have a 1931 Atwater Kent system that came in basic form as the old breadboard unit, though it was a complete, functioning breadboard set. It also has the optional wooden cabinet, into which the breadboard slides, with the control knobs and frequency display mating up into cut-outs in the cabinet front. The “dynamic loudspeaker” is another option in this set. This one is the alternate to the free-standing loudspeaker, or to a mere headset. It hangs on two hooks inside the optional cabinet. Then it also has the optional coil loop antenna. All components were sold by the same company and complimented one another nicely. That’s about where we are with tower PCs these days, except that the components don’t always match up or work at all together. Hence, putting together a computer system for some specific purposes is a hobbyist’s or technician’s activity, rather than a simple consumer purchase.