A Look Back at an American Invention
costs, quickly dominated
the market. US radio
manufacturers held on for
a few years by moving
production to Japan, but
most had given the market
up by the early 1970s.
The impact of the
transistor on our everyday
lives cannot be overstated.
Their use in portable radios
made broadcasts much
more accessible and less
costly, in addition to
making them far more
mobile. As a result, in
ever-greater numbers, these devices were purchased for
and by children — and retailers soon realized they had
children as a major audience. Music evolved as younger
listeners came to dominate radio audiences.
Soon, the transistor carried over into virtually every
product that used tubes. Portable televisions soon
appeared and, as time went on, increasingly sophisticated
electronics using transistors became available to the
average consumer. Audio gear, televisions, appliances,
and —eventually — computers and cellular phones were
mass marketed. Today, virtually no electronic device is
built without transistors. These devices have become ever
smaller, with the average dime-sized computer CPU chip
containing millions of them!
Figure 7. Clear backed TR-1.
Note that the clear case has
the dimple ground in it, even
though the tuning capacitor
no longer has the setscrew.
Collecting Transistor Radios
Collecting early transistor radios is a fun hobby. TR-1
radios are not inexpensive (examples of the standard
colors, in good condition, can sell for anywhere from
$200.00 on up), but one can easily begin collecting radios
that are priced from a dollar or so. So many different
models have been made since 1954 that no reference even
attempts to list them all. Virtually every collector chooses
a field of specialization based upon his or her interests.
For example, many collectors focus on something
called “Boys’ Radios.” These radios — which contain two
About the Author
Sarah Lowrey has been an avid radio collector since
childhood. She has devoted her energies to a website about her
passion, transistor radios. Sarah’s Transistor Radios is on the web
at www.transistor.org She welcomes correspondence at
Figure 8. TR-1s in sheeps’ clothing. From left to right:
Bulova 250 in leather, Bulova 250 in white plastic,
and Mitchell 1101 in suntan leather.
transistors or less — were a Japanese invention to get
around the high import tariffs charged on radios by the US.
Any radio with less than three transistors was classified as
a “toy” and so was taxed at a much lower rate. These
“Boys’ Radios” can have some very enchanting designs.
Several reference books on the subject are available;
see the resources list. There are also many fine websites
on the Internet devoted to radio collecting and they can
supplement reference books because there are usually
many photos of models. NV