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 Post subject: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Fri 03, 2021 2:22 am 
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Location: San Diego, CA
I have always been intrigued by early digital radios. The early types were most always conventional analog sets with a digital counter. PLL frequency synthesis was available in the early 70's, but only on certain hi-fi FM tuners, not on portables. Sony's CRF-320 from 1976 was equipped with a digital frequency readout. But it was huge and barely a portable, not to mention hyper expensive. The Sony ICF-2001 from 1980 was much more compact, but still nowhere near pocketable in size.

So, when did the first pocket radio with digital readout appear on the market? The answer to this question required quite a bit of research. The major Japanese manufacturers didn't offer this feature until the walkman era of the 1980's. Well that is, in international markets.

Turns out that Sony launched a line of radios called "Eyesee" in October of 1978 for the Japanese domestic market. This comprised of three models: the ICR-D8, The ICR-D9 and the ICF-D11. The ICR-D8 and ICR-D9 were AM only and the ICF-D11 was AM/FM. All three had built in alarm clocks in addition to the radio functions.

What made this series remarkable was the appearance of a digital frequency readout in LCD form. The CRF-320 had a LED readout. The use of a small low power LCD meant the Eyesee series was much smaller and portable than anything offered before.

These are not PLL synthesized units, as this technology was yet to be perfected. They used a conventional analog radio circuit with a digital frequency counter. Still, it offered a futuristic glimpse of what was to come. And no other manufacturer, to the best of my knowledge, offered anything similar in 1978.

The ICR-D9 is the most compact of the three, and it is impossibly thin as well. This is due to its use of LR-44 button cell batteries and a high tech samarium cobalt loudspeaker. The unit also boasts the use of a FET RF amplifier.

It is interesting to note, the set does not offer FM. Perhaps this would have increased the size significantly, ditto for the power consumption. Also, adding a Telescopic antenna would have most likely added bulk as well.

The ICR-D8 and ICR-D9 were produced only for one year. The ICF-D11 lived an extra year, and was actually exported to the US under the ICF-D11W designation.

Browsing Sony catalogs for subsequent years, they seem to have regressed to using conventional analog dials in their thin pocket radios. It was only in the late 1980's that synthesized portable "walkman" type radios began to appear, but those required headphones since they lacked an internal speaker.

Perhaps the early digital technology was so expensive, Sony was losing money on it. It may have also been an experiment of sorts.. Who knows?

I managed to obtain a ICR-D9 and it arrived in the mail today. It is in excellent condition and I was impressed by its thin design and extensive use of metal surfaces, including buttons. Some of the lettering is also engraved, which is a nice touch. The digital display is a little dim and hard to see at certain angles. Early LCD's are notorious for this. The dim display may also be just weak clock batteries....

The radio works quite good. KNX 1070 from Los Angeles came in loud and clear. The sound quality is ok but the thin design doesn't help in this regard. The digital counter works fine, but it requires a lot of small adjustments to tune to an exact frequency. The set tunes in 1 kHz intervals.

I also pictured it alongside my 1957 TR-63. You can see how much technology progressed in 20 years or so. Although the ICR-D9 is actually longer than the TR-63!

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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Sat 04, 2021 12:19 am 
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Location: Palos Verdes, CA
crooner - I enjoyed reading about the Sony ICR-09 and your comparison of the radio to the TR-63. A friend gave me a CC Pocket AM/FM radio that I'm currently listening to, along with a National pepper FMAM RF-120, which uses 2 - AAA batteries and still works. I also included a Sony TR-63 in the photo as it is one of the favorite transistor radios in my collection,


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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Sat 04, 2021 1:11 am 
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Thanks 3Transistors for the kind words. I enjoyed preparing that write up. While I admire the classics such as the TR-63, I also enjoy discovering forgotten gems, and in this case for not much outlay.
Nice collection you have there! I have heard great things about the CC Pocket. The National is interesting and probably not that common.

The ICR-D9 is so thin, that I'm wondering if it's all surface mount components. Perhaps another first for Sony. The use of a Samarium Cobalt speaker was certainly innovative. The magnet material would be the basis for the MDR-3L2 Walkman headphones launched the following year.

So that makes me think, the radio was a testing ground for new ideas that would be launched worldwide in other products: The Walkman and the ICF-2001 synthesized receiver come to mind...

Now, it's remarkable it still works given the early miniaturization!


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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Sat 04, 2021 1:38 am 
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crooner - My brother bought a National RF-120 while in Japan and I would search for one on eBay, but never thought someone would give me one for free! The CC Pocket was bought by my friend for his mom, who passed away last year, who was also a close friend of mine for years.

I always wanted a Sony TR-63 and it took a long time to find one on eBay at a decent price. I also bought a few TR-63 "parts" radios and have been surprised that they all still work to some degree, even after taking a lot of abuse. Although Sony made a lot of TR-63 transistor radios, I imagine a lot of them ended up being dropped, damaged, and then thrown away. It seems more Regency TR-1s have survived than Sony TR-63s. - Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Sat 04, 2021 2:15 am 
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3transistors, that National is a gem. I wonder why Matsushita (Now Panasonic), didn't keep the National brand name. I know they couldn't use it for a while here in the states due to the existence of the National Radio Company. But that was a long time ago...

I hear you on wanting and finding a TR-63. I lucked out last year and found a mint one for less than what they go for. Not exactly a steal, but given the condition (quite amazing!), I am happy with my purchase.

It still works with all its original caps, but only receives the strongest local stations. If I use it with my miniature AM transmitter, then it's perfectly fine. I have thought about recapping it, since there are now some miniature high capacitance films that are perfect for this application (to replace the old electrolytics), but keep putting it off. Maybe if I find another example in less than stellar condition....

And yes, I agree not many TR-63's survived. I handle mine with kid's gloves. It's amazing it survived unscathed all these years!


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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Sun 05, 2021 12:56 am 
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Joined: Aug Sat 16, 2014 2:19 am
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Location: Palos Verdes, CA
crooner - I started to use my CC Pocket daily when a local AM station stopped playing Rock & Roll and switched to classic music, so I went back to FM. I previously used a Zenith 900 transistor radio that was all original for a couple of years and never had a problem. I ended up buying a GE Superadio III that was for sale on eBay and have been using it everyday since as you can run it off AC and not have to use batteries.

Your Sony TR-63 is really nice and quite valuable as they will sell quickly, even if they don't work. - Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Tue 07, 2021 11:47 am 
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Great write up. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Sony ICR-D9 - First Pocket Digital Radio from 1978
PostPosted: Sep Tue 07, 2021 5:22 pm 
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Colin Ames wrote:
Great write up. Thanks!


Thank you very much Colin!

I actually need to make a correction: I found a German 1980 Sony catalog showing the replacements for the ICR-D8 and ICR-D9.

They are models ICF-M10W and ICF-M20W. Both using PLL synthesized tuning with memory presets but strangely no LCD frequency display.

So I suppose Sony's economies of scale and technical limitations did not allow offering a PLL synthesized pocket radio with a digital frequency display during those days...


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