What would you say is the most widely-adopted electronic device in history? Would you guess the iPhone that you (or any number of your friends) have? In fact it’s the humble transistor radio. Transistors were themselves a revolutionary device when debuted by Bell Labs (makers of the first telephone) in 1947. Able to amplify current, they were a breakthrough in terms of size, dramatically shrinking down all electronics. The electronics manufacturer Texas Instruments demonstrated the capability of transistors by creating the first desktop five-inch-high radio, and although it sold well, they exited the market to focus on their core business. Into that gap stepped a new Japanese manufacturer.
On this day, August 7, in 1955, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering) released their TR-55. For the brand name, their company name was a mouthful, and they decided to go combined the Latin word for sound — “sonus” — and the term “sonny boy” commonly applied to bright young men at the time. The end result was the name Sony.
As transistors got smaller, so did the electronics. Transistor radios went from desktop to handheld and pocketable, with a concurrent breakthrough in magnet technology creating small over-ear headphone. With that, news and music became portable — a particular boon for teenagers who could suddenly listen to music, particularly rock ‘n’ roll music, away from their parents’ disapproving ears.