Smithsonian Collections

Regency Model TR-1 Transistor Radio

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Data Source
National Museum of American History
During World War Two scientists and engineers at Bell Laboratories conducted research on many radar and radio devices. One goal was to find a replacement for fragile and energy-wasting vacuum tubes. Building on war-time research, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, working with group leader William Shockley, developed a device they called a transistor. The first laboratory demonstration took place on 23 December 1947. Bell publicly announced the new invention on 30 June 1948.
At first the US military bought all the transistors Bell Labs could make, and the company agreed to license other manufacturers. As engineers learned how to use the new invention, plans were made for commercial products that could take advantage of the transistor's small size, energy efficiency, and rugged design. In 1953 hearing aids became the first commercial product to use transistors.
A small, portable radio seemed a good opportunity, and a company called Idea Incorporated designed and produced the Regency. Planning began in 1951 between Idea and Texas Instruments, supplier of the transistors. Work began in earnest in the spring of 1954, and this first Regency transistor radio was in stores for the Christmas season later that year. The Regency model TR-1 contained four transistors. Capable of receiving AM stations, the radio cost about $50 (that would be almost $400 today.)
Currently not on view
Idea Incorporated
Date made
Credit Line
from Dr. Willis A. Adcock
Physical Description
red (case color)
cardboard (box material)
plastic (case material)
receiver: 12.7 cm x 8.7 cm x 3.5 cm; 5 in x 3 7/16 in x 1 3/8 in
Object Name
radio receiver
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Artifact Walls exhibit
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ID Number
accession number
catalog number
model number
Place Made
United States: Indiana, Indianapolis
location of prior holder
United States: Texas, Dallas