Transistor Radios Around the World

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1960/61 Spidola (Спидола)

Multi-band portable radio, thermoplastic cabinet
10 5/8 x 7 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches / 270 x 197 x 89 mm
7-band SW/MW/LW, 10 transistors (Russian, 8x П-15, 2x П-423 + two diodes (д9B, д101)
Superheterodyne circuit
Two 4.5v batts or six 1.5v cells
Manufactured at VEF (Valst Elektrotechniska Fabrika), Riga, Latvia

At first glance, a big and frumpy lunchbox job — but a closer look reveals its carefully considered design that outmatches almost anything made in Western Europe at the time. The cabinet was designed by the well-known Latvian industrial designer, Adolfs Irbite.

Note that this 10-transistor radio makes use of only two transistors, eight П-15 and two П-423 — each of the first four USSR transistor radios shown on this site also used only two transistor types in their circuits, but this was the most extreme example of making the most of the least during the those times...

The Spidola holds several “firsts” to its name: the first Soviet multi-band transistor radio, the first Soviet transistor radio made for export outside the USSR, and the first REALLY mass-produced Soviet transistor radio — you can find examples today on UK eBay and eBay Germany all day long. This was the first of many VEF radio models over the years named "Spidola", yet this original model remained in production until 1964 or later. No matter what the year of manufacture, the original Spidola is a great radio and certainly an important piece of Cold War history.

To those of us in the West who grew up during the Cold War era, it seems almost inconceivable now to realize that the most popular and best-selling Soviet radio ever made was a multi-band shortwave radio capable of receiving broadcasts from all over the world, including the US and Western Europe. And in fact this radio was front-and-center in a number of Soviet political investigations regarding "illicit" receptions of broadcasts from the West. It's been said that by the late 1960s the name "Spidola" in Russia had become nearly synonymous with the word "radio".

The Spidola's original sales price: 73 Rubles — about $2.50 in today's currency, considered quite pricy at the time.

1960/61 Spidola

1960/61 Spidola

the band-change turret — click on the photo for a larger view

schematic — click on the image for a larger view

back face: thermoplastic that's oxidized over time, looking now like oxidized Catalin plastic

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