Transistor Radios Around the World

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Before '54 --- North America --- Western Europe --- Japan and Pacific --- East Bloc and USSR

1959 Emerson 555

Micro-table / coat pocket radio, thermoplastic cabinet
5 15/16 x 3 3/4 x 2 inches / 152 x 96 x 50 mm
Four transistors (Emerson, E046, E048, E049, E050), superheterodyne circuit
Four 1.5-volt cells
Manufactured by Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corp., New Jersey

The 555 looks like it was dipped in acrylic — the cabinet's front and back faces consist of a 1/16-inch thick transparent plastic that wraps around all four sides, and the back face's lattice design and the Emerson name at the bottom of the front face are captured in the clear plastic like a dandelion bloom in an acrylic cube. I can't think of any other radio from any country that shares this distinction. The 555 also came in a black-and-white cabinet color combo, and it sported the same distinctive fluorescent-pink dial pointer found on this version.

The 555 employed a mere four transistors in its circuitry, and so, like most other 4-transistor sets of the time, it called itself an "All Transistor" radio. (Apparently several later versions had 5- and 6-transistor circuits.) Here, the E046, E048 and E049 are top hats, and the E050 is an oval transistor with an aluminum shield wrapped around it.

The plastic used for the 555's cabinet, as stated in the Eastman Kodak advertisement shown below, is Tenite Butyrate. "Tenite" is the trade name for Cellulose Acetate. I don't know whether Cellulose Acetate Butyrate is stronger than ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene), the typical transistor radio cabinet plastic, but it is much softer and warmer to the touch.

The back face of the 555 nicknames its Butyrate cabinet plastic as, "NEVABREAK," and this same name shows up on the back faces of Emerson's 888-series cabinets, suggesting that maybe the 888 cabinets were also made of Cellulose Acetate Butyrate. (And as with the 555 cabinets, the 888 cabinets are much softer to the touch than is ABS plastic, or even nylon. The "NEVABREAK" name on these cabinets originally had lead many collectors in the 1990s, myself included, to assume that the cabinets were made of nylon, like the Zenith Royal 500 cabinets, but a simple solvent test using acetone or MEK (see my "Plastics" page) shows that nylon it ain't...)

1959 Emerson 555

1959 Emerson 555

back face

chassis — click on photo for a larger view

Eastman Kodak advertisement, Industrial Design, Sept. 1959

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