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Apr
16
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Made In Jersey: The Transistor – Getting Smaller Made AM Radio Huge
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By Greg Hatala | The Star-Ledger

As hard as it might be to believe, it was not so long ago when AM radio ruled.

Cool kids listened to hot hits on AM via portable radios while dads listened to ballgames with transistor radios pressed against their ears.

“The Good Guys” on 570 WMCA-AM; “Famous 56, WFIL!” “Seventy-seven, WABC!” “Murray the K and the Swingin’ Soiree” “The Wonderful World of Wibbage!”

Back in the day of the transistor, North Jersey kids might have tuned to Cousin Brucie Morrow, Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy and Dan Ingram broadcasting from New York City, while south Jersey teens listened to Philly rock jocks George Michael, Hy Lit, Jerry Blavat and Long John Wade.

The transistor, which took the radio out of bulky cabinets and put it in the palm of listeners’ hands, was developed by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley in 1947. Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley were engineers at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill when they came up with the tiny transistor, which eliminated the need for large vacuum tubes and made radios portable.

By 1948, the three engineers had developed a prototype transistor radio. The Regency TR-1, built by Texas Instruments in 1954, was the first practical transistor radio made available to the public and sold for $49.95 – equivalent to more than $400 in the 21st century. By the 1960s, the cost of a similar but more powerful radio had dropped below $10.

Thank you, AM radio, for bringing us top-40 hits, the British Invasion, prize patrols and wisecracking DJs. And thank you Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley, whose innovation helped make music mobile.

And here’s a little flashback — of course the sound needs to be on!

Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.



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