Roberts R600. Vintage transistor radio manufactured from the late sixties to the early seventies. This specimen was obviously well loved and looked after but wouldn’t make a sound. These radios do turn up regularly but rarely in such good condition. They’re generally minus the silver tops to the caps and with a missing, or at best bent, aerial. Fault-finding was a frustratingly long and tricky process but Wayne got there in the end. Finally fixed, sounds great and ready to be boxed up for its return.
Amongst our radio treasures we have a working Dansette Capri transistor radio manufactured in the UK in 1963 by a company better known for its record players.
Although the popularity of the transistor radio was short lived, the transistor radio remains an important part of radio history. The invention of the transistor enabled radios to be developed which were small, portable and battery powered, in a dramatic contrast to the size and weight of the radio used in the family home. These little radios were manufactured in their billions for a market of post World War II baby-boomers with disposable income, a love of this new fangled rock and roll and a desire for independence from their parents.
The heyday of the transistor only really spanned from the late fifties to the seventies but if you owned one then you were hip and happening.
It’s very rare to find a radio like this in such good condition. There is no damage to the leather case, the stitching and the strap are completely intact and the radio itself has minimal signs of wear and tear.
The BUSH TR82 is the iconic transistor radio designed by David Ogle. As testimony to its appeal, since the late 1950s to the present day, there have been at least 16 different models and variations of this very same radio charting the development of portable radios and broadcasting from the earliest beginnings at the end of the fifties to the emergence of DAB today. Enthusiasts have devoted their life’s work to seeking out each and every version and just when they think they have a complete set, another one surfaces. It must be like playing Top Trumps for transistors.
I could tell you how to spot each and every variation but it would read like a complete nerdfest. Along with the technology they vary in model number, case colour and trim but here are the edited highlights.
The 1957 the MB60 valve radio for long wave and medium wave started it all along with an export version, the EBM60. It was pale grey with red rexine sides and brass lettering and trim. Two years later, the 1959 transistor version TR82 come on the market.
Bush used product placement with great success in the first remake of the classic film The 39 Steps starring Kenneth More as Richard Hannay. Tension mounted in the railway carriage compartment as the announcer could be heard breaking the news of the search for Richard Hannay. The camera panned to a close up of the lady in the carriage holding the brand new 1959 Bush TR82B and a shed load of radios were sold.
In 1997 the TR82/97 hit the shelves. An updated reproduction of the VTR103 manufactured in China. Enthusiasts and collectors are very sniffy about this version which is known as the “wonky-u”. It was thought that the Chinese stripped down an existing TR82 and went from there. On the original case the BUSH name was made by individual chrome-plated letters with two fixing pins attached to corresponding holes on the front of the main case. Looking to make savings, the letters were made as part of the moulding of the case and electroplated in chrome or gold. As part of this process, the letter “U” became more horseshoe shape – hence the wonky-u. This ones ours and, although I accept the manufacture could be considered to be slightly inferior to the earlier British made radios, I still love it because I love the solidness, shape and colour of the original design.
In 2007 the TR82DAB brought the insides of the radio bang up to date but the exterior remains fundamentally the same. Which just goes to show you really can’t top a good design. Why change it when it still looks this good nearly sixty years on.
The clever bit of these iconic designs is the production process which enabled both glazed and matt finishes to be produced on the same pot. Each of these Hornsea Pottery pieces has had the pattern screen printed onto the surface with specially developed ink designed to withstand high temperatures. After the pattern was printed the pots were dipped into tubs of glaze. The ink used to create the patterns contained oils and waxes which the glaze ran off. Simple. This technique combined with the limited palette of contrasting colours, created the Hornsea signature relief pattern and look.
Hornsea pottery is a great thing to collect. It was mass produced, so readily available after being stored in the back of grandma’s cupboard and it’s cheap and hard wearing enough to be used every day.
As the classic Bush TR230 was first produced in 1971, it could be the perfect radio to add to your Seventies set. If it’s John Clappison’s pottery that brings a smile to your face, the simple shape and styling of this little transistor would fit in perfectly and, what’s more, set against Saffron or Heirloom pottery, this radio is just the right shade of orange. Are you ready for the Seventies revival?
Our latest Roberts Radio restoration. 1970’s Solid State Portable RIC 2 Radio. The sun came out and our attention moved to the great outdoors and what could be nicer than this mustard yellow radio to brighten our day. And what does RIC stand for? It’s an integrated circuit of course, containing no less than eleven transistors. This radio could be connected to the car aerial or headphones. It had all mod cons and originally cost the princely sum of £16.85, when a Mars Bar cost 2p and Rod Stewart began belting out “Maggie May”. Back in the day, Bell bottoms, platform shoes and hot pants became fashion staples and every day was a bad hair day.
I love a radio with a back-story. We recently acquired this beautiful tiny EKCO transistor radio and it came complete with this little tale from its previous owner.
“I‘d love to tell you a story about it. The back panel was held on with bailing twine and the thing was black when I got it. It came to me from a farmer who told me that it had lived in his tractor since the ’60s. The only reason he was selling was because he’d just got a brand new tractor with a CD player in it. Ha”.
I had to check out what this tractor might look like and imagine my new radio taking pride of place in the cab.
I couldn’t help wondering about the 2013 version complete with four wheel drive, air conditioning, radio, CD, aerial and speakers. How times change.
What about the 2013 radio.
“Easy to use, compact radio with great audio and chic design Featuring a kitchen timer, alarm and auto-dimming OLED display, input for your iPod and takes an optional ChargePAK rechargeable battery pack for portable listening. Intellitext for on-demand access to stored scrolling text from participating broad-casters, textSCAN to pause and control scrolling text, Light sensor adjusts the display brightness to suit the light-levels in your room, dedicated kitchen timer button tone or radio alarm and 30 presets (digital or FM)”
There are more bells and whistles on the portable radio than on the tractor – but you can still give me a vintage radio any day.
The wonderful world of vintage radios has afforded us the privilege of being connected, albeit tenuously, to some fascinating people. The smallest of radios has introduced us to the works of two talented folk. Artist Fiona Charis Carswell was on the hunt for a vintage radio to use in her studio. Our emailing to and fro led us not only to Fiona’s heart-lifting work …