Radio hats were the forerunner of the iPod. These geeky accessories have been around since the 1920’s, and you can still buy one.
Every day when I go for a walk, my iPod keeps me company with an audio book to help pass the time. Actually, my first device was a Zune. Remember them?
The most famous of the radio hats was the Man From Mars model, sold between 1949-1955. It contained a two tube AM receiver built into a red pith helmet, shown above. A gimmick? Yes, but they sold a few. Popular with guys who mowed lawns all day. It sold of $7.95 and was available in eight colors. This was perhaps the earliest commercial wearable technology, with the circuit built on a flexible board that fit inside the had. As shown above, the heavy battery pack was separate and had to be carried in your pocket or purse.
The first of the radio hats was built by a young inventor in 1922. It fit inside a top hat. In December 1936, Radio Craft magazine published instructions for a three tube wearable radio. You strapped it to your waist, built an antenna into your hat, and away you go.
But perhaps the most interesting of the historical radio hats is shown in this Pathé newsreel from 1931. It was built by a European inventor who is shown traveling with his radio.
Radio Hats Replaced by Transistor Radios
Early portable radios were quite bulky. Zenith produced the first portable in 1924. But these were not unlike the first portable computers. Big, heavy, and could not actually be used while portable. Remember carrying around your first Compaq portable PC?
In 1955 everything changed with the arrival of transistor radios. By the way, you can still buy radio hats. Occasionally one of the Man From Mars models shows up on E-Bay. And there are more modern FM radio hats available on Alibaba.