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The Transistor Radio

The transistor radio announced by Texas Instruments and Regency Electronics in 1954

History

It’s 60 years since the announcement of the first commercial transistor radio. On October 18,1954, Texas Instruments and Regency Electronics introduced the transistor radio. The radio was portable, affordable, and the transistor technology allowed instant access to information, music, and entertainment without waiting for those filaments in tubes to warm up. It came on instantly and was shock resistant. Bell Laboratories had patented the transistor-circuitry based devices in 1947, but it took a while – and other companies — for it to be produced as a fun, sellable item. The transistor radio became the most popular electronic communication device in history.

The cost for the Regency TR-1 in 1954, which was announced in time for Christmas purchases, cost $49.95. (That’s pretty steep. For a little perspective, that would be worth $432.74 in 2014 dollars. Also, the average American’s income in 1954 was $2,300. (Our families didn’t have transistor radios until the early 1960s.) They sold 150,000 units. The transistor radio cashed in on several trends. One was the demographic of young people, that is, the post World War II baby boom generation. A second trend was the growing affluence and disposable income for many Americans, particularly the middle class. The third trend was the interest and rise of doo-wop and rock and roll music. These songs differed from what the grown-ups liked. Teenagers now could use the earphone and turn up the volume to hear that rock and roll, doo wop music, or whatever music they liked away from the family’s ears.

To read a Daily Doo-Wop blog post about “How We Listened,” please click here.

The transistor radio, which was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, eventually gave way to the Boombox, cassette player, CD player, iPod, iPad, smartphone, and other personal electronic devices we use today.

If you like to collect or want to learn about transistor radios from our doo-wop era, please click here for: Transistor Radios: 1954-1968 (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

 

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