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.
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.