A Transistor Museum Interview with Joe D’Airo

Transistor History at Trans-Aire Electronics Inc

Curator’s Introduction

During the 1950s and 1960s, transistor technology evolved very rapidly, with dramatic changes in the design, manufacture and economics of devices and products using semiconductors.  The well documented struggle of American transistor radio manufacturers to compete with foreign manufacturers during this timeframe provides important insight into this many faceted story.  (See the Ray Andrejasich Oral History for specifics on the Zenith transistor radio saga). This Transistor Museum™ interview with Joe D’Airo provides a very unique personal viewpoint on the activities and products of another American transistor radio company, Trans-Aire, that managed to stay in business throughout the 1950 and 1960s by selling large quantities of inexpensive radios.  Between the summers of 1965 and 1968, Joe worked as a teenager at the Trans-Aire facility in New Hyde Park NY, where his father, Leonard D’Airo, was employed as an RF engineer.  Joe’s direct involvement with Trans-Aire during this key time in American transistor radio history is the basis for this Oral History.  His personal recollections of the technology, facilities, personnel and manufacturing processes of the 1960’s era Trans-Aire provide a very interesting commentary on this important aspect of transistor history.





D'Airo Historic Audio Recordings



Curator’s Introduction

Here is a brief summary of facts and observations regarding the important aspects of Trans-Aire contributions to transistor history:  


● Trans-Aire designed and manufactured inexpensive transistor radios during the 1950s and 1960s, with facilities in several suburban NY locations, including New Hyde Park, Jamaica and Mineola.  During the 1960s, Trans-Aire also maintained a manufacturing facility (Trans-World) in Hong Kong.  


● Trans-Aire radios were branded with a variety of names (almost never Trans-Aire).  The most common radio house brands made by Trans-Aire include Harlie, Saxony, Electra, Montvale, Mayfair tape recorders and Sinclair oil company radios.  Trans-Aire also made many radios for Bulova (Joe recalls AC-powered table radios branded Bulova.)  


● A key factor in Trans-Aire’s success for low-cost manufacturing was the use of “fallouts” (factory rejected transistors) from such companies as Raytheon, GE and Fairchild.  These rejected devices were bought very inexpensively in large quantities, and then re-tested and relabeled by Trans-Aire for use in radios.  In order to meet good performance levels, while minimizing costs, these “fallout” transistor tests were quite extensive, and conducted to determine best circuit placement (audio, driver or high frequency) for the devices.  Paper labels or different color paint swatches were used to identify performance levels of the tested transistors.


Go To D'Airo Oral History, Page 2

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