Remember Pocket Transistor Radios?

Fads | December 29, 2017

12/15/1953-New York: Tiny, new transistors, which take the place of conventional tubes, mark a new step in the progress of experimental pocket-sized radios. (Getty Images)

Americans have always loved their music. Way back when, however, if the music wasn’t live, it required electricity or some other power source. Back in the 1930s car radios were introduced to consumers. Obviously, it ran off of the car’s battery. It was something of an overwhelming concept and had people worried about distracted driving. Some states even banned listening to car radios while driving. If only they had known what is going on these days!

In the 1960s and 1970s, countless American homes had record players and stereos to play their favorite music. I vividly remember the stereo console in my family’s living room, complete with a radio, turntable, speakers wired to the basement clubroom and storage for our vinyl. It was a prominent fixture in our home and it was the center of attention. The one in the picture above is quite possibly the exact style we owned.

In an effort to encourage people to patronize their businesses, restaurant owners and other businesses began installing jukeboxes with current, popular music. It was awesome! You could deposit a coin and listen to whatever song you wanted (as long as it was in the directory). Of course, stereos, record players and jukeboxes all required electricity.

The transistor-based circuitry was invented in the late 1940’s making it possible to communicate without electricity and became one of the greatest inventions in communication history at that time. Although they were big and bulky, portable radios became available thanks to this invention.

The 1960s and 1970s portable radios saw a huge increase in popularity because they had begun to evolve and were smaller and easier to transport. Low and behold, you could even get some of them in your pocket! As if that wasn’t miracle enough, headphones could be plugged in, so you could listen to your music or the ball game anywhere you wanted. All you had to do was make sure to stock up on batteries!

This new fad of carrying music in your pocket took off like wildfire. It was a convenient and modern concept at the time. It did have its drawbacks, though. The reception wasn’t always the best depending on where you were. Also, station choices were limited as well as some only having one band, AM. Sometimes, right in the middle of your favorite song, it went to static. Often, if you were listening in the car, you could sometimes hear people on their CB radios break through.

Transistor radios were most definitely a driving social force, especially with young people. They were very successful early on and greatly influenced pop culture. During the era of the growing popularity of rock and roll music, it was a novelty item that could be seen just about anywhere. They were being used as props on the big screen and television. Everyone was getting onboard. As they became more popular, competition became huge. Manufacturers had to step up their game to get the sale, so they became more decorative and sophisticated in their evolution. They were cutting edge at the time.

It is no surprise that technology has taken over and the transistor radio is now obsolete. Although it may be an obsolete way of listening to music, they are still bought and sold as collector’s items. I guess they are gone, but not forgotten.

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.