Transistor Radios Around the World

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Before '54 --- North America --- Western Europe --- Japan and Pacific --- East Bloc and USSR

1956 Motorola 56T1

Coat pocket radio, aluminum cabinet
5 1/16 x 3 1/8 x 1 1/2 inches / 129 x 79 x 38 mm
Five transistors (Texas Instruments, 2x 2N146, 2N172, R35, TI354), superheterodyne circuit
One standard 9-volt battery
Manufactured by Motorola, Inc., Chicago, Illinois

Motorola's first transistor radio. It's very likely that production began in late 1955 and the 56T1 became available for sale in early 1956. It uses a standard 9-volt battery and it has a PC board. Interestingly, on this example (see the chassis photo below), each Texas Instruments transistor has been over-stamped with a Motorola "M" logo, either on the top of the transistor or on the face bearing the TI logo.

The cabinets of some of Motorola's early transistor radios seem to have been more fragile than those of other manufacturers of the time, and for several reasons — this 56T1 has a nickel-plated cabinet coated with a gold-color lacquer that has turned out not to stand the test of time very well: on many examples the lacquer has worn away in places, leaving the nickel color exposed. Another problem was plastic mold, something found fairly often on the 7X23E and several other early Motorola models as well. The 56T1 has a painted speaker grille, something not all that common among US transistor radios. And since the cabinet is metal, the antenna is housed in the radio's plastic handle.

Motorola 56T1

Motorola 56T1

Motorola 56T1

inside label

Motorola 56T1

chassis — click on the photo for a larger image —
(note the "M" stamped on each of the TI transistors)

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from the 1999 M31 web site page for the Motorola 56T1:

Motorola's first transistor radio, and the smallest of its "antenna handle" coatpocket radios... All these sets have a metal cabinet -- so where does the ferrite rod antenna go?

GE solved this problem on its own metal-cabinet radio, the extruded aluminum P-715 and P-716 models, by placing the ferrite rod in a discreet and unassuming black plastic housing cut into the top back of the radio's cabinet -- you hardly even notice it's there.

Motorola's solution was much more in-your-face in appearance than was GE's -- nearly bordering on the ridiculous -- and also much more memorable... The antenna was housed inside a plastic "carrying handle" many times bulkier than a simple brass wire handle such as what the Zenith Royal 500 or Emerson 888 employed. In terms of actual fat content, Motorola's "Weatherama" handle, pictured on these pages, wins the prize hands-down: The cubic volume of the handle alone exceeds the entire cabinet volume of many of the smaller Japanese pocket transistor radios.

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