Hoffman P411 Home & Travel SOLARADIO. First announced January 14, 1957 by California’s Hoffman Electronics Corp. Initially available at a cost of $150, plus $9 for the four rechargeable AA size batteries and in five cabinet colors: (R-P411 -Calico Red), (T-P411 – Turquoise), (P-P411 – Circus Pink), (K-P411 – Seal Black), and (B-P411 – Desert Sand (tan)).
Designed to operate from the stored energy in the AA cells or from solar power when the cells in the handle were exposed to sunlight, the handle mounted solar panel also served to recharge the AA batteries whenever exposed to sunshine. Initially the handle containing the solar cells was in a tall fixed position and the earliest sets did not have the word “SOLARADIO” etched into the plastic as is seen on almost all of the production sets.
After the first sets the Solaradio handle was swivel mounted so that it could be adjusted up and down or angled to receive maximum sun exposure. A “sibling” non-solar set – also a 6-transistor radio – was available in the same 5 colors and these P410 models, which had a simple “bail wire” handle in lieu of the Solaradio handle, were priced about $70 less. Both the P411 Solaradio and non-solar P410 sets had a flip-out kickstand on the back which sported the name SONY. This is because the plastic cabinets were identical, except in color, to those used by the Japanese firm Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo on their 1956 “Sony” TR-6 transistor radios.
While years later having the name of a competitor foreign electronics manufacturer so prominently displayed on a USA-made product might well have been objectionable, it was not an issue of concern in early 1957 because at that time no product with the then-unknown-in-the-USA “Sony” name had yet been exported for sale in America.
In addition to the five P411 Solaradio cabinet colors included here is a unique example fitted in a clear plastic cabinet. It is assumed to have been either a salesman’s display sample or one made for a trade show exhibit or similar purpose.
From the Bill Burkett collection