The Secret History Of: The Roberts RT1 transistor radio

My grandmother had one and so, possibly did yours. The Roberts transistor radio, with its leather case, was the classic radio of the Sixties. Designed by Leslie Bidmead, who went into a business partnership with Harry Roberts in 1932, the RT1 was, according to company lore, probably based on the shape of Bidmead's handbag.

Leslie Burrage, the CEO of the company today, says: "It was always quite a niche product, because Roberts was a small company and it was competing against the big brands. But Bidmead came up with this iconic design and it was a significant product for the company. It was quite unlike any other transistor radios of the period."

In the Seventies the radio was phased out, as its design no longer seemed to fit the requirements of the times. "People wanted things to look more technologically advanced, and they were movingon from the more traditional designs," says Burrage.

Then, in 1989, Martini ran an advertising campaign which featured an original red Roberts radio. Suddenly people started ringing up and demanding to know where they could buy one.

"Dick Roberts, the son of the founder Harry, decided to make a limited run of 500 and they were snapped up. So he did another run of 1,000 and called it the Revival, and they sold really fast too," says Burrage.

"Sadly he died in 1991, but there was a momentum by that stage and so we carried on. We did 10,000 and introduced new colours – windsor green and royal blue. Then Jaguar and Mulberry and Paul Smith all contacted us and wanted to produce limited editions in their signature colours and fabrics. And then we came up with the Revival DAB, and so it went on."

Now for every one analogue Revival that Roberts sells, it sells 33 Revival DABs. And that's in Britain alone.

"The Americans and the Japanese love them. They just ooze Britishness, I suppose. The company has a royal warrant and we made one in sky-blue suede for the Queen Mother. She used to give them as presents to visiting foreign dignitaries," adds Burrage.

It now comes in 12 colours and Roberts is about to launch the Revival iStream. This is internet radio which means you can listen via DAB, FM or the internet – so you need never miss The Archers again, no matter where you are in the world.

"It's perfect for anyone who lives overseas," says Burrage, who admits, with good humour: "If you had asked me back in 1994 how long the Revival would last I would have said it was good for a couple of years at most. We had no idea that it would prove to be so popular."

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

    SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before