Happy Birthday to the Transistor Radio

Today is the anniversary of one of the most iconic gadgets of the 20th Century, the transistor radio. On this date in 1954, Industrial Development Engineering Assoc. released the first commercial version of a device, the Regency TR-1, based on a design by Texas Instruments. Forget about the popularity today of music players such as the iPod, when the transistor radio hit the market in the U.S. in the Fifties, it took off like wildfire, sparking a boom in popular music that revolutionized the world. The relationship between music and the consumer has never been the same since.

Prior to the transistor radio, there had been many advances in making radios portable. The first commercial radios from the Twenties were all powered by batteries but were bulky machines. By the Thirties, commercial radios were small enough to fit into automobiles. With further refinement, these vacuum-tube receivers stepped outdoors by the Forties. It was the introduction of transistor technology into handheld units in the Fifties, though, that set off a cultural phenomenon.

The music of the day, especially the new sound called Rock 'n' Roll, gained much of its enormous surge in popularity with the explosive rise in use of the transistor radio. The concept of being able to carry a small device anywhere you wanted and listen to your favorite songs was a revolution in the way people, particularly young people, thought about the world around them. It created a new generation that was "on the go." In fact, from the surfing scene to the space program, America's favorite word soon became "go" -- from "all systems go" to "going to a go-go."

And it all started with the little Regency TR-1. So happy birthday, transistor radio. Your legacy is still going strong.


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