As I recently stated on Facebook, “The Weather Cube was an entry level Weather Radio made for and sold by Radio Shack from about 1969 to 2012…It had undergone design changes quite a few times, but is still a classic. I keep one in my living room and was just listening to updates on Tropical Storm Chris on it. I always pictured it being furnished in an off grid cabin in Yellowstone National Park. I also plan to write a blog post about this cool Weather Radio in the upcoming days…”
Well, here it is:
This piece will be dedicated to the history and features of this classic Radio Shack product.
The Weather Cube does only one thing-receives the U. S. Government’s and possibly a few other countries’ Government’s Weather Broadcasts.
It does not have an alert siren, S.A.M.E. feature or standby mode, just on demand weather information from the nearest weather broadcast station at the push of a button.
Still, this item sold very well and was built very well.
It has almost a cult following by YouTubers and other electronics collectors.
I would guess production began on the Weather Cube back in 1969. The reason why I would guess this is because it was first featured in the 1970 Radio Shack Catalog and known as, “The Barometer that talks.” This neat little device was cleverly marketed to “Anyone who flies a plane, farms, goes camping, owns a boat or spends time outdoors…” The price was $14.95 that year ($97.09 in 2018 Dollars.)
I don’t know how long it was in the research and development phase prior to that, but this truly was a genius product as millions were sold and a good bit of them are still in use, mostly by collectors.
The 1969-1970 version featured one frequency, 162.550 MHz. I believe it was crystal controlled but with fine tuning. The catalog number was 12-164.
In 1971, the catalog number changed to 12-165. The price was still $14.95 ($90.92 in 2018 Dollars.)
Then in 1973 or so, the Weather Cube also began receiving 162.400 MHz in addition to 162.550 MHz. This is because 162.550 MHz had become extremely congested and skip would occur in the spring and summer (also times when severe weather was most common.) The 1973 version was capable of tuning between frequencies 161.400 MHz and 163.500 MHz, which means it could have potentially tuned in some railroad, marine and federal government frequencies in addition to weather. It could have heard the Southern Pacific Railroad, which commonly used 161.55 MHz and was still in existence until September 11, 1996. The price also went up by one dollar to $15.95 ($90.52 in 2018 Dollars.).
In 1974, the Weather Cube for that year tuned between 162.400 MHz and 162.550 MHz. I believe it was done with a switching between permanently installed crystals, but could be wrong. The price jumped up yet another dollar to $16.95 ($86.64 in 2018 Dollars.) Of course, there had been some improvement in the radio.
In 1975 162.475 MHz was added as an additional frequency, but it wasn’t mentioned until the 1977 Radio Shack Catalog.
Between 1975 and 1976, the catalog number for the Weather Cube changed from 12-165 to 12-181.
I would imagine some time in the late 1970s or early 1980s, that the Weather Cube supported reception on 162.475 MHz in addition to the other previous weather channels.
Also in 1980, the price went up by another dollar to $17.95 (54.89 in 2018 Dollars.) It would remain that price for the rest of its design run, ending in 1992 (where it would have been $32.24 in 2018 Dollars.)
In 1989 or so, four additional Weather Broadcast Channels were assigned, though few Weather Radios would come to support all seven right away. These new frequencies are 162.425 MHz, 162.450 Mhz, 162.500 MHz, and 162.525 MHz
From 1969 to about 1992, the Weather Cube had the same outward appearance, though the frequency controls and frequencies available varied over those years. The appearance was made of simulated Rosewood, had a silver play button on the top front and a speaker that fired from the top. The antenna was telescoping and in the back right corner. They were powered by a standard Nine Volt Battery.
There was no Weather Cube to my knowledge in the 1993 Radio Shack Catalog.
Then in 1994, a new Weather Cube design came about with a catalog number of 12-239. It was made of a no-nonsense black plastic with a top firing speaker shaped in three-quarters of a circle. The fourth quarter in the front was the play button to turn the radio on. The telescoping antenna was located still in the back right corner. The volume and frequency controls were at the bottom and I believe the tuner was rotary not crystal controlled. This probably caught all seven Weather Channels but I’m not 100% sure. The price went up another two dollars and four cents to $19.99 ($33.99 in 2018 Dollars.)
In 1995, this new Weather Cube was advertised to receive all seven channels.
This Weather Cube would be featured until the year 2000 (where it would have cost $29.25 in 2018 Dollars.)
In the year 2001, there was no Weather Cube featured in the Radio Shack Catalog.
There was a different entry-level desktop weather radio featured in the 2002 Radio Shack Catalog, but it wasn’t cube-shaped and it also had a talking clock. The catalog number was 12-256. The price went up by a whole ten dollars to $29.99 ($42.01 in 2018 Dollars), but in all fairness, it featured a talking clock. It also ran on three AA batteries.
Around 2009 or so, the Weather Cube made a comeback with an all-new design. The new catalog number was 120-500. There were some significant design changes such as the main part of the cabinet was made of a red plastic. It also had a front instead of a top firing speaker, which was black. The play button was grey and had a blue LED light to indicate that the radio was turned on. The telescoping antenna is still in the back right side of the radio and the frequency controls are rotary. It is designed to receive all seven Weather Channels. This latest and so far final incarnation of the Weather Cube ran on 4 AA batteries. It was sold until 2012 and had an MSRP of $24.99 ($29.35 in 2018 Dollars.) It was discontinued in the Summer of 2012 and actually, I purchased mine on clearance in early July of 2012 at the Radio Shack in Southland Mall. My hat still goes off to the girl (now a wonderful woman) in Radio Shack who reserved it for me, some six years later.
Since Radio Shack isn’t exactly in business anymore, I don’t think a new Weather Cube will be made for a long time, if ever again. If I ever came into serious money, I would start a company that could make replicas of all the cool vintage flashlights and electronics that are no longer on the market. There would definitely be some incarnation of the Weather Cube.
When the weather cube initially hit the market, weather broadcasts were done by a recorded human voice. Nowadays it is mostly computerized and that takes away most of the personalization in Weather Radio, at least in my opinion. I do keep one in my living room, loaded with Alkaline batteries from the Ruble, I mean the Dollar General.
While the Weather Cube has plenty of aesthetic appeals and makes an excellent conversation piece, people probably aren’t really willing to spend over $20 for a weather radio that won’t automatically activate. Also, very few people aside from hobbyists and collectors such as myself and those on YouTube will sit and listen to a Weather Radio broadcast on a regular basis.
I still say it would be the perfect coffee table or nightstand item to be furnished in an off-grid cabin either in the Smoky Mountains or Yellowstone National Park, but not many people actually listen to my ideas.
UPDATE May 2021: I actually wrote a story in which a Weather Cube is featured in an off grid cabin. However, the I’d imagine the cabin to be in Minnesota or Michigan, not the Smoky Mountains or Yellowstone since it is near a lake and up North. The model I pictured is either the either the mid 1990s model or the late 2000s/early 2010s model.
It was always advertised to receive Weather Radio broadcasts from transmitters up to 25 miles away. I have received them successfully (and mostly crystal clear too) on my Weather Cube from about thirty plus miles away, or so.
They do make excellent weather radios for power failures or getting vital weather information during an actual tornado but pocket-sized entry level battery-powered weather radios have since entered the market which is more convenient to carry to a safe room. Some of these were Radio Shack models others are made by companies such as Midland. The model that comes to my mind first is the Midland HH50B, which I hope to write an article about in the near future.
I guess this concludes my piece on the Radio Shack Weather Cube and I hope it has been a wonderful trip down memory lane for all you weather and electronics buffs out there!