​Almanac: The transistor radio


On October 18, 1954, Regency's TR-1, the first radio that could fit into your pocket, was unveiled.

CBS News

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: October 18th, 1954, 61 years ago today ... the day Dick Tracy's wristwatch radio came its closest yet to reality.

For that was the day Texas Instruments and a company called I.D.E.A. jointly unveiled the TR-1 ... the very first transistor radio.

It was, the ads proclaimed, "A radio so small that while it can't quite be strapped to the wrist, it can be slipped easily into an ordinary suit coat pocket."

Instead of the big vacuum tubes that powered the old furniture-sized living room radio, this new radio used tiny transistors to produce talk and music right in the palm of your hand.

Small though it was, the transistor radio sparked a very big change in our popular culture.

It was embraced ... both literally and figuratively ... by the youth of the 1950s and '60s.

It was a fashion accessory in the 1965 movie, "Beach Blanket Bingo," and an object of fascination for co-stars Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.

While in the Beatles' 1964 movie, "A Hard Day's Night," Ringo's transistor radio became a flashpoint in the battle between the generations.

As it happened, the supremacy of the tiny radio was relatively brief.

From the portable cassette player, to the Walkman, to digital music players like the iPod that can hold thousands of songs, the world of personal music is endlessly changing.

As for the stuff INSIDE ... the glowing tubes became transistors, the transistors became even tinier chips, pretty soon the insides will get so small there won't be anything there at all.