Radio Shack's Classic Flavoradio
complete set of Flavoradios from the collection of Phil MacArthur
In the 70's when cheap pocket-sized transistor radios were king, manufacturers were competing on style. For example, Panasonic had a bunch of colorful models, so Radio Shack wanted their own version for their Realistic house brand. They rolled out the Flavoradio line - pocket transistor AM radios in six colors. The colors were named after fruit flavors, (much like a line of Macintosh computers I seem to recall from the last century). There was Pistachio, Plum, Lemon, Orange and Blueberry. Mine is a 2nd generation strawberry... though "mauveberry" is probably more accurate.
Flipping through the virtual pages at radioshackcatalogs.com, I found the Flavoradio in catalogs from the 70's through to the early 80's. It was a popular thrifty gift, and a good experimental starting point for electronics fans. Here are the details of a young man's project to turn the Flavoradio into an inexpensive shortwave receiver back in the 70's. The catalog shows the Flavoradio's price creeping up from the $6.95 in the 1975 ad here, to $7.88 five years later. Oil crisis? Reaganomics?
The Flavoradio was available exclusively at Radio Shack from 1972 to 1986, an astonishing 15 years - the longest running production radio ever built. Radio Shack retooled the case twice more, offering models up until 2001. At that late date, the Flavoradio was the last AM-only radio available anywhere.
This long run puts it up there with such perennial classics as Minimus speakers and the Executive Decision Maker. By the mid 80's, the Walkman revolution was turned up to full volume, so Radio Shack listeners wanted better fidelity, FM, and of course those miraculous cassettes. By the time they finally let go of their beloved Flavoradios, Radio Shack was stocking their own versions of the Walkman too.
Radio Shack used to have a healthy selection of house brand products. Fans enthused that these were somehow made better than regular brands, or were easier to fix. Others had less flattering opinions. One unique aspect of the store used to be that many of their signature models remained available for far longer than products at other retail outlets. Perhaps Radio Shack didn't feel the same commercial pressure to continue renewing products?
I usually think of Radio Shack products mostly being of serious dark plastic with fakey woodgrain trim. Perhaps some brushed aluminum... so the multi-colored radios were a surprising addition to the line. I never got one back then, and I must admit that here's a question that has plagued me since then. Did anyone besides me else think that the Flavoradio was going to have the scent of the fruit it was named after?
I think that I just figured out our next Retro Thing exclusive product...