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Radio on the Move


The silver metal radio has two ivory-coloured knobs and shows the frequency numbers on the dial. To the left of the radio you see the detached beige and metal coloured loudspeaker box with a cable outlet and an attachment mechanism on its bottom.

Ducretet-Thompson: D1935V Car Radio, (1951), 11 x 15 x 22.5cm, loudspeaker 22 x 20 x 10cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.

From the earliest days of radio, battery-operated receivers were portable, if cumbersome. Listeners could take sets out with them, throw an antenna up in a tree, and find music to listen to while on a picnic with friends. But people found them too large and heavy to be carried very far. Radios were also designed for cars, although these, too, were far from common.

The BP-6A portable tube radio, made by RCA Victor in 1949-50. Often called a lunchbox radio because of its handle and rectangular shape.

Transportable Tube Radio, RCA Victor: Model BP-6A (1949-50), 28 x 34 x 14cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.

Shaped like a rectangle with a handle on the top, a speaker in the middle, two dials on the side, with a display on top. The radio has a yellow-green cloth finish.

RCA Victor: Model 94BP1 (1939), 26 x 31 x 17cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.


Radio really moved beyond the home in the postwar period. The late 1930s saw the invention of small, “low-drain” battery tubes, followed by the transistor in the late 1940s. In the 1950s, Canadians were able to take miniature or portable radios to the cottage, camping, or out to the beach.

Designers of modern plastic radios had compactness in mind. Some receivers, like the 1961 GE Model 807H, were brightened up with contrasting colours and modern design. In this case, a playful use of triangular forms helps capture the dynamism of radio on the move.

The small sized radio is black and gold with triangular accents. It has a handle on top.

Transistor Radio, General Electric: Model P807J (1961), 11.5 x 18 x 6cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.


Teenagers and young adults with disposable income for entertainment and luxury items popularized transistor radios in the 1960s. Hi-fi systems may have offered better listening conditions at home, but transistor radios allowed teenagers to hear the latest hits with friends out on the go.

The off-white plastic radio is small and vertically oriented with a dial at the top.

Transistor Radio, Emerson: Model Vanguard 888 (1957), 10.5 x 7 x 5cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.

This small and precious looking radio imitates a Bakelite brown casing, with gold accents and an imitation textile front.

Transistor Radio, Marconi CMC: Model 488 (1957), 16.5 x 10 x 5cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.

The small and vertically oriented radio has the body made of metallic plastic.

Transistor Radio, Zenith: model Royal 500 (1956), 15.5 x 10 x 4.5cm. Musée des ondes Emile Berliner.


When radio moved into cars and portable devices in the postwar years, its function changed significantly. No longer just associated with bringing the world into the home, it could accompany Canadians throughout their days. Car and transistor radios allowed Canadians to bring a sense of home with them everywhere.