Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Transistor Radios

Not many of you can recognise this . This was the the 60's equivalent of the iPod. Even though a small pocket size transistor radio cost about $60 (at that time currency was the dollar) it was beyond the means of many students.

My first awareness came from a girl from Sarikei (Rosie) who loved singing and she had one which she proped on her girls' hostel table. The small radio would produce the English songs like "Oh Carol" and "Wooden Heart" and all of us would sing along with her. She was a very pleasant senior girl with a good personality. She held the important social position as the girl who "would be the rist to sing the new pop songs" because she had the transistor radio. Today this kind of social pecking order still exists especially in the fashion scene. My young colleagues call it "happening" person.

Because the new "toy" was so precious to all of us none of us dare to touch it. I am glad that that was my first introduction to "a sense of property ownership". I believe that at that time the word "materialism" was not in our vocabulary. And probably we were all under the impression that by touching it the radio would "spoil".

Apart from Rosie no one else owned a transistor radio in the school for a long time. Perhaps some of the boys did but I would never know.

The transistor radio continued to be an important part of our lives from the 60's. No one of course brought it to school (unlike the children today) to show off. I believe in those long ago days "showing off" was not the "done" thing and probably a transistor radio was a family belonging and no child would take it to school.

Many families would gather to listen to the small transistor radio and enjoy the programmes like today's families which gather in front of the TV. The transistor radio took the place of the home radio was usually set up on the kitchen table or even on the open air hawkers' tables. To this day I will remember how we used to gather around the transistor to listen to top news about how many communists were killed in the Sarawak jungle and then the news would end with rubber and pepper prices. And believe it or not all of us then preferred the Foochow news. Radio Sarawak was very sensitive to the communal needs )Foochows and Hakkas) of the Chinese then. But then it was probably because there was a great need to win the hearts of the Foochows too.

We would always be dismayed when the batteries ran out and we had to run to the nearest shop to buy new batteries. It was fortunate that batteries seemed to last longer then.

Because we had the transistor radio we did not need (somehow) to subscribe to the New Straits Times or even the now defunct Sarawak Tribune. My family only had the See Hua Daily News. And most of the neighbouring housewives would come around to "borrow the newspapers to read". It was a good social thing. Sometimes they would compare the radio news with the newspapers. My mum was quite a resource person in our small neighbour.

Many years ago when I had some arrears coming to me I bought a high end Sony transistor radio so that I could have the luxury of listening to BBC London and the Voice of America . It was also to help many of my students develop their listening skill. Listening Task activies were hard to come by then. And I believe that Malaysian students should really be trained to listen to different varieties of English so that they don't go "ha?" with their wide eyed look (think Peter O'Toole with black eyes) and shocked faces all the time.

This is the radio :

What is a transistor radio?

A transistor radio is a small transistor-based radio receiver. Historically, the term "transistor radio" refers to a radio that is monaural and typically receives only the 540–1600 kilocycle[1] AM broadcast band.

There are numerous claimants to the title of the first company to produce practical transistor radios, often incorrectly attributed to Sony (originally Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo). Texas Instruments had demonstrated all-transistor AM (amplitude modulation) radios as early as 1952, but their performance was well below that of equivalent vacuum tube models. A workable all-transistor radio was demonstrated in August 1953 at the Düsseldorf Radio Fair by the German firm Intermetall. It was built with four of Intermetall's hand-made transistors, based upon the 1948 invention of Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker. However, as with the early Texas units (and others) only prototypes were ever built; it was never put into commercial production.

Texas Instruments was behind the Regency transistor radio. In May 1954, they had designed and built a prototype and were looking for an established radio manufacturer to develop and market a radio using their transistors. None of the major radio makers were interested.

The Regency TR-1, announced on October 18, 1954 by the Regency Division of I.D.E.A (Industrial Development Engineering Associates of Indianapolis, Indiana) and put on sale in November 1954 was the first practical transistor radio made in any significant numbers. Patented by Dr. Heinz De Koster (Ph.D. of physics), a Dutch employee of the company. It cost $49.95 (the equivalent of roughly $364 in year-2006 dollars) and sold about 150,000 units. Raytheon and Zenith Electronics transistor radios soon followed and were priced even higher. Even the first Japanese imports (in 1957) were priced at $30 and above. Transistor radios did not achieve mass popularity until the early 1960s when prices of some models fell below $20, then below $10 as markets became flooded with radios from Hong Kong by the mid to late 1960s.

RCA had demonstrated a prototype transistor radio as early as 1952 and it is likely that they and the other radio makers were planning transistor radios of their own. But Texas Instruments and Regency were the first to put forth a production model. Sony, at the time still a small company named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, Ltd., (aka "Totsuko"), followed soon after introducing their own five-transistor radio, the TR-55, in August 1955, under the new brand name Sony[2]. With its release, Sony also became the first company to manufacture a radio from the transistors on up, and to utilize all miniature components.

Sony's first official import to the U.S.A. was the "pocketable"[3] TR-63 released in March 1957[4], a model which proved highly successful in that market. (The term "pocketable" was a matter of some interpretation, as Sony allegedly had special shirts made with oversized pockets for their salesmen[5]). In January 1958, the company changed its name to Sony[6], adopting the name that had previously been the reserve of its radio brand. The Sony TR-610 was released some months later, marking another resounding success and taking its place as the first transistor radio to sell more than a half-million units.

Sanyo 8S-P3.The use of transistors instead of vacuum tubes as the amplifier elements meant that the device was much smaller and required far less power to operate than a tubed radio. It also ensured that reception was available instantly, since there were no filaments to heat up. The typical portable tube radio of the fifties was about the size and weight of a lunchbox, and contained several heavy (and non-rechargeable) batteries: one or more so-called "A" batteries just to heat the tube filaments and a large 45- to 90-volt "B" battery to power the signal circuits. By comparison, the "transistor" could fit in a pocket and weighed half a pound or less and was powered by standard flashlight batteries or a single compact 9-volt battery. (The now-familiar 9-volt battery was introduced specifically for powering transistor radios.)

Listeners sometimes held an entire transistor radio directly against the side of the head, with the speaker against the ear, to minimize the "tinny" sound caused by the high resonant frequency of its small speaker enclosure. Most radios included earphone jacks and came with single earphones that provided only middling-quality sound reproduction due to the bandwidth limitation of AM (up to 4500Hz). To consumers familiar with the earphone-listening experience of the transistor radio, the first Sony Walkman cassette player, with a pair of high-fidelity stereo earphones, would provide a greatly contrasting display of audio fidelity.

A modern transistor radio (Sony Walkman SRF-S84 transistor radio, released 2001, without included earphones)The transistor radio remains the single most popular communications device in existence. Some estimates suggest that there are at least seven billion of them in existence, almost all tunable to the common AM band, and an increasingly high percentage of those also tunable to the FM band. Some receive shortwave broadcasts as well. Most operate on battery power. They have become small and cheap due to improved electronics which has the ability to pack millions of transistors on one integrated circuit or chip. The prefix "transistor" basically now means an old pocket radio; it can be used to refer to any small radio, but the term itself is today somewhat obsolescent, since virtually all commercial broadcast receivers, pocket-sized or not, are now transistor-based.

Source : Wikipeadia.

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