Regency Model TR-1 Transistor Radio

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
Object Name
radio receiver
Date made
Idea Incorporated
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
Place Made
United States: Indiana, Indianapolis
location of prior holder
United States: Texas, Dallas
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
model number
Popular Entertainment
Artifact Walls exhibit
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Dr. Willis A. Adcock

Visitor Comments

9/26/2015 4:15:00 PM
Nancy Warren
Were headphones and/or ear buds available back then?
10/13/2015 10:37:18 AM
Hal Wallace
Good question, Nancy. In this case, no, the Regency TR-1 did not have headsets or earbuds. However the desire to use these small portable radios without annoying others quickly resulted in the adoption of a small ear-phone like those used in hearing aids at that time. The ear-phone was a single, monaural device similar in size to the earbuds familiar today and became standard accessories with transistor radios.
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