Innovation is driven by curiosity. “What if I hold this dead wildebeest over fire before eating it?” for example. Or, “How can I change the radio station without getting off my butt?”

The National Capital Radio & Television Museum captures the excitement of the inquisitiveness-to-invention cycle, from the telegraph to the TV set. Part of the fun is futzing with restored antiques, perhaps tuning into a live baseball game on a receiver that, to the modern eye, is as user-friendly as an airplane cockpit.

Local vintage-radio buffs in the 1980s longed to share their gizmos with others. In 1999, they opened this museum in a restored farmhouse in Bowie, Md.


Stuff to See
Ideas that outpaced their era’s technology wow the most. The lack of digital signals and microchips didn’t stop early- to mid-20th-century inventors from pursuing their dreams, however clunkily. There’s a 1941 radio that recorded shows onto blank phonograph records (which could hold only a few minutes of sound, requiring lots of disc-swapping) and the 1939 Reado, a receiver that could print awful-looking newspapers from image data sent over AM radio. You can watch a mechanical TV — a device popular in the late ’20s and early ’30s — eek out images so small a magnifying glass is part of the apparatus, or change a radio’s station with the Philco Mystery Control, a 1939 wireless remote that uses a rotary-phone-style dial.


In the Gift Shop
A restored 1936 radio, with warranty, costs $195.

National Capital Radio & Television Museum, 2608 Mitchellville Road, Bowie, Md.; Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat. & Sun., 1 p.m.-5 p.m., free; 301-390-1020.

Other interesting lesser-known attractions: