59th anniversary of the transistor radio

October 18th marks the 59th anniversary of the transistor radio. The Regency TR-1 was announced on that date in 1954, and went on sale the following month; they sold nearly 100,000 the first year alone. The transistor radio was a watershed in entertainment, in some ways more significant than television. The first wave of rock and roll hit about the same time, and the combination proved a potent social force. Many parents disapproved of rock and roll, especially of so-called "race music", the very bedrock of the new genre. Parents controlled the big tv in the living room, and the radio too; everybody still had one. Even if you had your own radio in your room, none had headphones so your parents could still enforce their listening standards. The tiny transistor changed all that; it had a little mono ear bud, and a tuning dial much too small to see from a distance. You could listen to Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and Elvis without your parents ever being the wiser. The inherent greatness of the music was enhanced by the clandestine listening experience, a secret forbidden thrill shared with your friends as you discussed your favorite songs, stations and DJs at school the next day. For many it was their adventure with their new transistor radio was the first time they considered the possibility of going agains their parent's wishes. I'll always believe that the youth-oriented cultural revolution that continued into the '60s started with the transistor radio.

Illustration for article titled 59th anniversary of the transistor radio

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