Transistor Radios Around the World

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

1959 ('58?) Olympic 666

Coat pocket radio, thermoplastic cabinet
5 7/16 x 3 7/16 x 1 5/8 inches / 138 x 87 x 41 mm
Six transistors (General Transistor Corp., USA: GT81R, 2x GT109SR, 2x GT760R, GT761R, + Raytheon 1N295 diode)
Superheterodyne circuit
One tubular 9-volt battery
Distributed by Olympic Radio & Television, Inc., New York

Although Olympic Radio & Television was a US radio manufacturer which had made radios going back to the 1940s, the 666 was made in Japan, one of the first of many transistor radios to be made by Japanese manufacturers for US companies. The semiconductors used in the 666 were made by US manufacturers, but most of the other components were Japanese-made. And the word "Japan" is stamped on the bottom right corner of the cabinet's back face.

One oddity here is that the number stamp on one of the Nippon Chemi-Con electrolytic capacitors for this 666 example is 0157264, indicating that the capacitor was manufactured on the 26th of January, 1957 — would Olympic really have used a two-year-old part in its radios, especially an electrolytic? The capacitor's number stamp is clear and unambiguous, but I find it hard to imagine that a US radio manufacturer began outsourcing to Japan as early as 1957. (The stamp on the second electrolytic directly below it can't be seen without unsoldering it from the circuit board, and I ain't doin' that.)

Radio historian Michael Schiffer states on page 212 of The Portable Radio in American Life, "In 1959, several companies, including Bulova, Olympic, Magnavox, and Columbia, immediately contracted with Japanese firms to supply shirt-pocket radios that would carry their American brand names." And a May 3, 1959 New York Times article outlines this historical move among US radio manufacturers as being a 1959 event, emphasizing Motorola's Tokai-made X11, the first US shirt-pocket made in Japan.

Olympic 666

inside back cover — interestingly, the cabinet color options are listed on the lable

chassis (click on photo for a larger image)

chassis (click on photo for a larger image)

back to US index page

go to 1959 Japan index page

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