In the late 1950s, Remco released a hand-held toy radio that needed no batteries.
The Tiny Tim Pocket Toy Radio was a kid-friendly version of a crystal set. Remco’s offering was equipped with a 35-inch antenna to pick-up AM radio signals emitted from nearby stations in the early days of radio broadcasting. A ground clip attached to the radio could be connected to a nearby metal object, such as a pipe, to improve reception.
The radio signals powered a small crystal diode inside Tiny Tim, which would demodulate them to produce sounds that could be heard through the toy’s built-in earphone. A tuning rod, located adjacent to the antenna, was also available to allow children to fine-tune the reception. It could be secured to a shirt or pants pocket with a pocket clip that came attached to the back of the toy.
Despite advertising claims that Tiny Tim’s sound “plays loud and clear,” it, like most crystal radios of the time, was only as good as the environment it was used in. Children in rural and remote settings were often disappointed with the results. Still, crystal radio sets remain popular to this day as science and hobby projects.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.