Teardown of iconic Sony TR-63 transistor radio from 1957

I'm reading Matt Alt's fantastic new book, Pure Invention: How Japan's Pop Culture Conquered the World. Early on in the book, he points to Sony's TR-63 transistor radio (introduced in 1957) as the beginning of Japan's gargantuan influence on the world through consumer electronics, toys, entertainment, and other aspects of popular culture.

I was curious about this transistor radio so I looked it up online and learned that IFixIt did a teardown of the radio back in 2009.

The TR-63 was introduced in 1957 - it was the first "pocket-sized" transistor radio ever made and the first Sony-branded product exported to North America, by the then-named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo company (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation). It became a huge commercial success, over 100,000 units were sold.

It seems "pocket-sized" was a bit of a marketing gimmick at the time - although smaller than any competing product, the TR-63 was a bit too big to fit into a standard shirt pocket. So story has it that company salesmen wore custom-made shirts with slightly bigger pockets to show off the TR-63's small size. But unlike desktop radios of the day which were promoted under the idea of "a radio in every home", the TR-63 was uniquely marketed as something each person could own and carry with them. A foreshadowing of the Walkman and iPod, perhaps?

The TR-63 contains a whopping 6 transistors. By comparison, the Cell processor chip in the PS3 contains two to three hundred million transistors. That's an indication of the progress made in the electronics industry in the past 50 years.

Read the rest

Scientology's $5,000 E-meters are surprisingly well-engineered

The E-meter is a quack device used by Scientologists in a religious ritual called "auditing" in which changes in skin potential are said to indicate past traumas (including traumas from past lives) being re-experienced and cleared from your psyche. Read the rest

What's inside one of those magic chess boards?

Square Off is a crowdfunded chess board that uses a computer and magnets to move pieces physically while playing a human opponent. YouTuber What's Inside? does a teardown to see how it works. Read the rest

Hair clipper teardown: comparing changes in design after 50 years

Steve Hoefer broke his 50-year-old electric hair trimmer, so he bought the latest model. He opened it to get a peek inside, and wrote about the similarities and differences.

The screws holding the faceplate have decreased from three to two, and they go through the other side, but they’re the same self-tapping screws in both. Same Phillips head, same diameter and length, same thread pitch.

And the mechanism in the interior is virtually identical.

The way it works is by utilizing the 60Hz oscillation of AC power to run an electromagnet. AC power inverts the polarity of the electricity 60 times a second. When you use this to run an electromagnet, it effectively turns it on and off every time the power alternates. In the clipper, the electromagnet is the big orange thing near the front, wound with all of the copper wire and a C-shaped ferrous core that’s fastened securely to the case. The motion is created by the vaguely question-mark-shaped piece of metal on the right side. It’s only attached at the base of the unit near the cord with two beefy screws. (The cover in the 2016 version blocks access to the screws from the outside, which seems fair. Unscrewing them without opening the case would be bad. But they also made them pentalobe screws, which means they don’t want owners touching them.) The straight part of the question mark is a very sturdy flat spring, which attaches to another C-shaped (or rather Ꜿ-shaped) block of metal at the front.

Read the rest

High-res MacBook Pro teardown

Apple's new MacBook Pro has a 220 dpi screen and an i7 CPU, yet is only .7" thick. iFixit took a look inside. Read the rest