Thursday, January 28, 2010

Objects I Love: Panasonic R-70 transistor radio

Truth be told, I listen to the radio only a fraction of the percentage that I used to. I have an insanely large collection of music, and instead of taking my chances with what I suspect is largely crap on the airways, I pull something off my shelf (or out of my digital library) that I know I will enjoy. Is that elitist? Perhaps.

And yet, there are a couple things that I really enjoy listening to the radio. There's something soothing to me about waking on a weekend morning and hearing at least part of "Car Talk," and there are days when I come home from work and spend an hour in the kitchen working on a meal where I flip back and forth between sports talk radio and "Fresh Air" with Teri Gross.

I'm getting really circuitous here, but the other thing I absolutely adore listening to on a radio is baseball games (particularly college baseball). There's something about the numbers, the names, and particularly the cadence of it all that really appeals to me. There are the long periods of near dead air sometimes punctuated by rapid bursts of action and the ocassional low-scoring pitching duels that unfold with ever-increasing tension. I have my team that I follow, and this is where the cutest damn chunk of plastic and wires in the world enters the stage. Please let me introduce the Panasonic R-70 transistor radio (aka "The Panapet").

The coolest vintage radio ever? Probably

I discovered my first Panapet at a thrift store about 3 years ago. I'd never seen anything like it before and knew that for the $3.99 price, it would be mine whether it worked or not. I got it home and replaced the 9-volt battery and it crackled to life. I spun through the AM dial and realized that sadly, there wasn't much worth listening to. Not much to listen to, that is, except baseball...

In less than a month, it will be college baseball season, and my army (which now numbers 4, in 3 of the 5 total colors available) of Panapets will be ready to inform me of every inning of the season and provide a chattery backdrop as the days get a little bit longer and the temperature gets a little bit warmer.

From a design standpoint, I don't think that this particular device has been rivaled until recent times, if at all. It's got an Eames era, space age flair that just works in the five color combination that it were released in (blue, green, red, white, and yellow). In addition to the dual dials for volume and tuning (which look like eyes), the split body (which opens to reveal the transistor guts and 9-volt connection, along with a solid battery housing cage) is highlighted by a clear, rotating band display, a perforated speaker opening, a mono earphone jack and a built-in keychain. Yes, you saw/read that correctly, a keychain. It was the 70s version of the iPod, but much more colorful and playful.

Fortunately, they were also very popular, and if you can't find one at a thrift store, flea market, or junk store, they're abundant on ebay as well.

1 comment:

  1. Mine was red, and when we moved it was never to be seen or heard from again. Very bummed.