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One Transistor Pocket Radio
July 1960 Popular Electronics

July 1960 Popular Electronics

July 1960 Popular Electronics Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Electronics, published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

If this 1960 Popular Electronics magazine article was written today, the title would more likely be, "One IC Pocket Radio," and rather than a couple dozen resistors, capacitors, and inductors (and a transformer), and there might be one or two decoupling capacitors. Everything else would be contained within the integrated circuit. There are plenty of single-chip radio circuits available from distributors like Digi-Key, Newark Electronics, etc. Oh, and how many of you even know what a phenolic board looks like? Better yet, how many of you can identify the unique smell of one heating up or burning due to component overheating? If you can't, then consider yourself lucky, because that probably means you're 40-50 years younger than I am, and you have that much longer to live then me ;-)

One Transistor Pocket Radio

Reflex and regenerative circuits are combined in this sensitive and stable radio.

One Transistor Pocket Radio, July 1960 Popular Electronics - RF CafeDesigning and constructing a one-transistor pocket receiver is a challenge to any experimenter. A good many "pocket" receivers are either too large or too bulky for true "pocket" operation. Or they simply don't possess enough sensitivity and gain to pull in stations without an external antenna.

By Alvin Mason

The little receiver described here gets around both of these weaknesses. It uses a combination of reflex and regenerative action to cut size and components to a minimum and increase sensitivity to striking proportions. The complete unit measures only 4" x 2 1/2" X 3/4". And it's powerful enough to pull in every local station on the dial with no external antenna at all!

Reflex Circuit

Because of the "reflex" action of the circuit, a single transistor is made to amplify the signal twice - once at radio frequencies and again, after detection, at audio frequencies (see "How It Works"). To simplify the circuit, a diode is used as a detector, leaving the transistor free to do nothing but amplify.

Also acting to increase the circuit's simplicity and stability is the regeneration hookup. The circuit is designed so that the amount of positive feedback or regeneration doesn't control the overall sensitivity as is usually the case with regenerative detectors. What's more, there is no regeneration control or annoying oscillation to contend with.

Parts List

B1-15 volt battery (two Eveready 404E's or . equivalent in parallel)
C1-365·µµf. variable capacitor (Lafayette MS-445 or equivalent)
C2-10-µf., 25-volt miniature electrolytic capacitor C3-30-µf., 25-volt miniature electrolytic capacitor C4-.0005-µf., ceramic capacitor
C5-.01-µf., ceramic capacitor
C6-Gimmick capacitor (see text)
D1-1N60 diode
L1-Antenna coil for C1 (Superex 2004 or equivalent) L2-Six turns of #26 insulated wire wound on L1 (see text)
Q1-2N78 transistor
R1-10,000 ohms
R2-22,000 ohms          All resistors 1/4 watt
R3-560 ohms
R4-10,000-ohm volume control with s.p.s.t. switch S1 (Lafayette VC-28 or equivalent)
S1-S.p.s.t. switch (on R4)
T1-Coupling transformer (Philco 32-4763-2 or equivalent-see text) 1-2000-ohm impedance earphone (Lafayette MS-368 or equivalent)
1-Transistor socket
1-4" x 2 1/2" x 3/4" plastic box
1-4" x 2 1/2" x 1/16" phenolic board
Misc.-Tuning dial, knob for volume control, wire, solder, etc.

One transistor does the work of two in this highly efficient circuit - RF Cafe

One transistor does the work of two in this highly efficient circuit. The signal is amplified twice-once at radio frequencies ,and, after detection, at audio frequencies.

How It Works

One transistor and one diode are employed in a circuit that combines the advantages of both reflex and regenerative action. Because the signal passes through transistor Q1 twice - once as r. f. and once as a.f. - the transistor is properly described as operating in a "reflex" circuit. Adding to the already high efficiency of this circuit is the regeneration furnished by gimmick capacitor C6.

In operation, the r.f. signal picked up by antenna coil L1 is tuned by coil-capacitor combination L1-C1 and induced into secondary coil L2. Fed directly into the base of transistor Q1, the r.f. signal is amplified and passed to transformer T1. A portion of the signal from Q1's collector is returned to Q1's base by capacitor C6 to provide additional gain through regeneration , The signal induced in T1's secondary is detected by diode D1, smoothed by capacitor C5, and returned to the base of Q1 through volume-control R4 and coupling capacitor C2.

Transistor Q1 again amplifies the signal, this time at audio frequencies. The audio signal from Q1's collector is fed through the primary of T1 to the earphone.

Since the remarkable efficiency of this little set doesn't depend on regeneration alone, only a limited amount of regeneration is used. Its stability is evidenced by the fact that, once adjusted, the set is as stable as most non-regenerative detectors.

Although a Philco r.f. transformer was used as T1 in the model, this particular transformer is available only from authorized Philco distributors and may prove hard to get. However, T1 is in no way critical - a number of transformers were substituted for the Philco unit, and most of them worked satisfactorily.

The Argonne AR-162 (available from Lafayette Radio, 165-08 Liberty Ave., Jamaica 33, N. Y., for $2.95) seems to be a good substitution. A miniature output transformer measuring only 1" x 3/4" x 3/4", the AR-162 has identical center-tapped primary and secondary windings of 500 ohms with a d.c. resistance of 18 ohms. You'll have to remove the transformer's strap and laminations to fit the unit in the small plastic box specified in the parts list. But you'll find that this bit of disassembling proves no problem (see illustration on next page). The windings are light enough to be held in place with a strip of transparent tape. The center-taps are not used.


The chassis is a piece of Formica or phenolic board about 4" x 2 1/2" x 1/16". Depending on the size of the components, the chassis should fit into a small plastic box measuring about 4" x 2 1/2" x 3/4". Homemade printed circuitry was used on the model, but standard wiring will do just as well. Most of the component leads are long enough to permit point-to-point wiring, but a transistor socket was used to prevent possible damage to the transistor when soldering.

Coil L2 consists of six to nine turns of No. 26 insulated hookup wire wound on the "ground" end of L1 and spaced 1/16" from it. "Gimmick" capacitor C6 is made up of two 1/2" lengths of insulated hookup wire twisted together several times to form a small capacitor.

It's a good idea to layout all parts and drill most of the holes in the chassis before starting assembly. Since the wiring is relatively simple, you should be able to take your time and do a good job. As with any construction project, time spent in careful wiring will payoff in the long run.

Parts are mounted on a phenolic board - RF Cafe

Parts are mounted on a phenolic board; R2 and C6 are on the reverse side.


After ail parts have been mounted and soldered in place, double-check all connections. Now, with the switch off and battery B1 in place, plug in the transistor. Turn on the set and rotate the volume control to full on. Select a station, preferably the strongest one on the dial. Listen for distortion. If necessary, either loosen the coupling in capacitor C6 by untwisting the leads slightly or by snipping off the leads bit by bit until the distortion disappears.

Once adjusted, the set should be nearly as stable as the superhet in your living room. And it's a safe bet that in sensitivity and portability this little unit will have few equals.

Coupling transformer T1 must be a miniature unit - RF Cafe

Coupling transformer T1 must be a miniature unit. If Arqonne Type AR-162 is used, it can be reduced in size by removing the strap and laminations.



Posted December 1, 2022
(updated from original post on 11/30/2011)

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