SC State Museum Receives Collection of Historic Transistor Radios | Arts & Culture
These days, an iPod with two ear buds typically provides portable music for the young and young-at-heart.
Half a century ago, however, it was one plug in the ear, and the other end of the wire ran to what was then the latest thing in electronics – a transistor radio.
The South Carolina State Museum has received a large collection of these iconic electronics, along with another type of radio that once gathered music and information from around the world – the short wave.
The collection is the gift of Columbia radiologist Dr. Sam Friedman. “As a child in the 1950s, he developed an early fascination with these cutting edge tools for communication, and he started collecting,” said Director of Education Tom Falvey. “The idea that you could carry a radio – which was often a huge piece of furniture from the 1930s to the 1950s, and was still table-top sized into the ‘60s - in your pocket was absolutely revolutionary.”
With shortwave, one could listen to music or information from across the globe. News, sports and culture from Hong Kong to Rio de Janeiro could be plucked from the air.
Friedman collected each of the significant models of transistor radios from the 1950s and ‘60s, though the collection goes into the 1970s.
The collection contains 81 items, including a companion collection of cameras. Falvey said that the variety of the miniature transistor radios is unique. “It’s neat to look at the beautiful designs, which run the gamut from really detailed ones to quite inexpensively-produced models. And the breadth of the collection, the great number of brands, is very impressive.
“Anyone who remembers the single ear pieces and the quasi-leather cases would enjoy a great blast of nostalgia from these artifacts. But a teenager of today would be stunned that anyone would carry around something this ‘big.’ It just shows you how times have changed.”
Falvey said the radios will be available for research in the near future, but “they would make a great temporary exhibit at some point down the road.
“We have some radios on exhibit now, but this increases our holdings significantly,” he continued.
The short wave “allows us to discuss where some people got a lot of their music and information in those times, compared to the ways we get them today,” said Falvey.
“On the transistor side, the whole idea of portability was very cool in the ‘60s. The transistor radio was probably the first, and may remain the most famous, product that introduced the space-age concept of transistors to the popular culture, and this is one thing that will always have ‘transistor’ attached to its name.
“And how cool is that?”
For more information on the collection, contact Tom Falvey at (803) 898-4921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.