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©Copyright 2011-2015 Eric Wrobbel



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  Before the transistor, electronics devices had vacuum tubes. This Fleetwood NR-260, measuring 8 inches across, is a mid-late 1950s example of one of the last tube radios, made in Japan during the early transistor era. Note the attractive 'underpainted' plastic trim around the knobs and logos. From 'Tubes and Transistors' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/tubes-transistors.htm

Before the transistor, electronics devices had vacuum tubes. The Fleetwood NR-260 (above), measuring 8 inches across, is a mid-late 1950s example of one of the last tube radios, made in Japan during the early transistor era. Note the luscious “underpainted” plastic trim around the knobs and logos.

As you see, the transistor did not sweep away tube devices immediately. Many companies were heavily invested in their tube-making facilities. And, in fact, tubes are still with us today: Tube hi-fi is still valued for its warm sound and tube guitar amps are still valued for their ability to distort in a pleasing manner at high volumes, as opposed to transistor amps which just shriek.

 
Vintage tubes and transistors: DeForest Audion tubes DV5 c.1920 and model 427 c.1930, and a couple of smaller 'peanut' tubes from the 1950s. The transistors here are all from the mid-to-late '50s, by Tung-Sol, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, Sylvania, Philco, and RCA. The small flat tube in the middle is a 'subminiature tube,' designed by Raytheon for the military. From the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/tubes-transistors.htm

Vintage Belmont Boulevard 5P113, the first true pocket radio ever made. Not a 'transistor radio,' this pioneering radio from 1947 contains five 'subminiature tubes' as designed by Raytheon for the military in World War II. The Boulevard was clad in leather and required an earphone for listening; there was no on-board speaker. From 'Tubes and Transistors' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/tubes-transistors.htm

Sometimes collections just happen to you. Though I didn’t set out to collect vintage electronics parts, with all of my fooling around with radios it just sort of happened. I thought readers unfamiliar with these technologies might find it interesting to see just exactly what tubes and transistors actually look like and to see them side by side.

Vintage Tiny Tooner pocket radio (c.1950, Acousticraft, Chicago, USA) measures just 4-1/4 inches long and has two subminiature tubes. Jacks on the side are for phones and antenna. Like the Belmont Boulevard, the Tiny Tooner could be heard with earphones only; there was no onboard speaker. From 'Tubes and Transistors' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/tubes-transistors.htm

Upper left are two DeForest Audion tubes, the DV5 c.1920 and the model 427 c.1930. Next to them the smaller “peanut” tubes typical of what would be in the Fleetwood radio at top. Next is packaging for Tung-Sol and Raytheon transistors. The two blue gizmos are indeed Raytheon transistors. Other transistors by Sylvania, Philco, and RCA are shown in their packages. The small flat tube in the middle is called a “subminiature tube” and was designed by Raytheon for the military in World War II. Five such tubes are inside the first true pocket radio ever, shown above, the leather-clad 1947 Belmont Boulevard model 5P113.

The Tiny Tooner pocket radio (c.1950, Acousticraft, Chicago, USA) measures just 4-1/4 inches long and has two subminiature tubes. Jacks on the side are for phones and antenna. Like the Belmont Boulevard, the Tiny Tooner could be heard with earphones only; there is no speaker.