There was an interesting convergence of events that led to the extreme popularity of home electronic projects. First, there was the invention of the transistor in 1947 at Bell Laboratories. Second, Heathkit began selling kits to the general public so that they could build everything from oscilloscopes to robots! Heath actually began in 1912 selling aircraft parts but recognized the post-war economic growth and came to the table with a very successful business model. But it was apparent that there was a market for wide scale dissemination of electronic projects and technology was moving quickly. And, Popular Electronics began to fill that need.
Of course there were magazines that covered electricity and particularly, radio. After the widespread introduction of radio broadcasting, the field of radio transmission expanded to include amateur radio and related interests. The early 20th century was a great time for beginning experimentation. But, it was a time that had somewhat of a limited focus, and in time, that would change.
In 1954, Ziff-Davis Publishing introduced the world to Popular Electronics, a monthly magazine with electronic projects, access to parts, (by mail of course), and ideas to stimulate the budding hacker. It was the “World’s Largest Selling Electronics Magazine” with a circulation in 400,000 by 1963. A competitor, Rival Electronics World, merged with Popular Electronics in 1972. The magazine underwent some changes in name and then ceased publication in 1985. But, it was bought by Gernsback Publications and came back in 1989. But, once again the magazine stopped publication in 1999. And like the Phoenix Rising, it ended with the name Electronics Now, and its final issue was in 2003.
But, the story actually has a good ending as there is now a complete archive of all of the issues over the entire time span of the publication’s life. All issues are available in PDF's complete with advertisements. But, be careful when ordering as many of the companies are out of business! The link is here. Time to warm up the soldering iron!