Casper’s Beach Boombox

As you brace for a cold winter in the next couple of months, think back to a warm sunny Saturday afternoon beachside with sand, surf, friends and your favorite tunes playing.

Casper Yardely shared some shots of one of his stereos (he has several) on the beach. He says, “The Aiko ATPR-9000 is the regular one that goes, thought one week I brought the Marantz CRS-4000… nervously. A JVC RC-656 makes its way up from time to time, and a Realistic SCR-8 once in a while goes along for the ride. The Aiko is the “beach goer”, and Its ridiculous how many people comment on it as we are walking there and even while we are there. Others have their cheesy iPod docking stations which sound horrible with exaggerated treble and crappy bass, where as the units I bring have the “throw” of mid-range and realistic treble and bass. All the same, I have yet to once see any body else… not one… have a traditional beach boom box up there…” By the way, Casper has a shop in the Chicago area and he can help restore your favorite radio if you need it. Look him up and give him a shout!

Thanks Casper!

Thrift Store Sightings

I was tasked with discarding an old (1999) Zenith CRT television this week. The set worked perfectly but it’s bulky and gets no use today. Our primary TV is a Sony KD-34XBR970. It’s also a CRT but a Hi-Def model, and supposedly the last CRT manufactured by Sony. I love the picture quality on this and have not yet seen an LCD or plasma that can compare to it.

I delivered the TV to the local GoodWill store and they refused to take it. “We’ll only take in TVs that were manufactured after the year 2000.” So, I travelled to another thrift store and, thank goodness, they willingly loaded the Zenith onto an old shopping cart and rolled it into the shop. Hope it finds a home!

Thrift stores are terrific for finding interesting, old electronic stuff and “Value Village” was no exception. I spotted a Sharp GX-CD10 boombox in decent shape and 100% operational. Take a look at the back of the radio–apparently by 1990, Sharp had already moved at least some of their manufacturing out of Japan and into Malaysia.

Up front and behind the main counter is where the store keeps its big-ticket stuff like artwork, jewelry, and apparently antique video game systems like the Sears-branded Intellivision, called the Super Video Arcade. I didn’t know Sears had sold a re-branded Mattel’s Intellivision, I knew they had done the same with the Atari 2600. This particular model looks different than Mattel’s system: note the white and dark brown color combination (as opposed to the gold and brown Intellivison) and the controller placement is different too. Did Sears actually redesign the console? The one I spotted is still in its original box. In 1982, this home game console cost just north of $200. Fifteen or so years ago, we were tripping over Atari 2600s, Odyssey IIs and the like in the general merchandise area of thrift shops, usually priced around five or ten bucks. Times have changed because the Value Village Super Video Arcade is priced at $99.99!

Boombox Museum Update

We’ve departed from our “classic” static HTML site and into something that allows for faster updates and better engagement from you. But the sentimental fellows we are, we felt compelled to preserve the original landing pages for our Boombox Museum. Hard to believe this site came to be way back in 2002. Getting nostalgic over a website about nostalgia…

From 2002:

From 2003+:

The Boombox.

Precisely when the term was coined we’re not sure. Department stores such as Sears and K-Mart began used it in their marketing as early as 1983. Merriam-Webster pins it at 1981, and defines the boom box as “a large portable radio and often tape player with two attached speakers”. Initially, it became identified with a certain group of society, hence adopting epithetic nicknames, like ghetto blaster, and jam box. But as the masses began to embrace this assemblage of electronics gadgets as an indespensible form of portable entertainment, it became an icon of popular culture, and we’ve yet to let go. Your hosts of Pocket Calculator Show endeavor here to provide a retrospective, including as many photos, facts and accounts as we can provide, during your tour of the Vintage Boombox Museum.

Cool Boombox

This is our homage to some of the greatest and most innovative portable stereos of all time, a Ghettoblaster Hall of Fame. The models below are the hallmarks of quality and innovation in the portable stereo world. You will not find anything comparable in today’s price-conscious and disposable marketplace, they are but fading memories of another time. Limited production and heavy price tags made many of these stereos exotic even in their heyday. While there’s no substitute for the real deal, we hope you enjoy a virtual tour of some of the coolest stereos of all time.


Big Ben? We’re curious how Sanyo came up with the name for this one. Does the sound bellow like the hourly chime from London’s famous clock? Perhaps the face of Big Ben came to mind after gazing into this stereo’s giant central woofer. Whatever the reason is, Sanyo’s Big Ben is an interesting boombox, and probably Sanyo’s largest release to date. Big sound, good looks by a strong audio maker make this model sexy and desirable.

Released:    198?
MSRP:        $??? USD
Dimensions:  75.4cm x 40.1cm x 20.4cm
Weight:      9kg
Output:      45W (22.5W/channel)

Feather-Touch Controls; Removable Speaker Grille; Subwoofer

MR-X20 w/ Exposed Subwoofer.


What’s the definition of “ghettoblaster?” Many people will argue that the Conion C-100F (also released under the Clairtone and Helix brands) is the quintessential boombox. It’s loud, flashy and reached legendary status on city streets in the ’80s. The obscure brand may not be recognizable but chances are you’ve seen the C100-F–it has made cameo appearances in countless movies, commercials and music videos over the last 20 years. Rumor has it that the Conion is a standard issue prop for any film or video that involves breakdancing.

Released:    1984
MSRP:        $??? USD
Dimensions:  75.4cm x 40.1cm x 20.4cm
Weight:      12.0kg
Output:      45W (22.5W/channel)

Dual Cassette; Burglar Alarm

Conion stereo catalog.


In 1981, Panasonic released what resembles a home stereo system in portable form. Its smooth silver face and wood grain end panels make this an appropriate addition to the home office or living room. Operate the cassette deck with its logic controls, tune the receiver with the weighted tuning dial. But RX-7000 wasn’t just built to look good–crank up the volume and you’ll quickly forget you’re listening to a portable.

Released:   1981
MSRP:       $749 USD
Dimensions: 56cm x 33.3cm x 17.6cm
Weight:     9.0kg
Output:     15W (7.5W/channel)

Dolby B NR, 3 Memory TPS System, 0.05% WRMS

l-r: Panasonic stereo catalog; RX-7000 mounted on RD-9870 cabinet; RX-7200 w/ digital tuning.


JVC was a strong brand in the boombox market–their PC-5, RC-M70 and RC-M80 are desirable models today. But the M90 was their largest and most feature-packed. Eight bands of tuning, Super ANRS noise reduction and full-logic tape control system are but a few of the bells and whistles on this complicated stereo. Though JVC isn’t known for its cassette systems, this one boasted a super low 0.05% WRMS.

Released:    1981
MSRP:        $??? USD
Dimensions:  66.8cm x 35cm x 17.7cm
Weight:      10.0kg
Output:      40W (20W/channel)

Super ANRS Noise Reduction, 6 SW Bands, 5 Memory TPS System

JVC Stereo Catalog.

SHARP VZ-2500 (VZ-V20) 

If you want a full stereo system that you can take with you, look no further than Sharp’s offerings. 20+ years back, the VZ-2500, VZ-2000 and VZ-3000 included compact stereos systems with a radio, cassette recorder and yes, a turntable. And these were no ordinary turntables mind you, these used “AutoDisc” technology, marketed by Sharp with the phrase “Play Both Sides.” Think of auto-reverse tape technology for a record player: using two tonearms, these stereos allowed one to play Side A or B without having to flip the LP over.

Released:    198?
MSRP:        $??? USD
Dimensions:  ??cm x ??cm x ??cm
Weight:      ??kg
Output:      ??W (??W/channel)

Super ANRS Noise Reduction, 6 SW Bands, 5 Memory TPS System

VZ-V20 in red.


While this stereo’s design was no doubt inspired by Sharp’s GF-777, enthusiasts suggest the “Personal Disco Component” was built for the eyes, not the ears. With a black case and gold controls, this behemoth is nicknamed the “DiscoLite” for obvious reasons. LEDs cover the stereo’s speaker area and light up when the music plays. This monstrosity originated in China and made its way to discount electronics shops in the late ’80s.

Released:    1986
MSRP:        $??? USD
Dimensions:  72cm x 37cm x 13cm
Weight:      8.7kg
Output:      30W Music Power; 22W Maximum Power

Twin Tape System, 7-Band Equalizer, AM/FM/SW1/SW2, 10 Segment 
VU Meter

Madonna w/ Disco-Lite in 2005 music video “Hung Up”.


In the 1980s, Pop music was in the midst of a synthesizer explosion. The charts were dominated by the likes of Prince, Culture Club, and Duran Duran with their catchy, keyboard-heavy tunes. Sharp responded with their Melody Searcher, a twin-cassette stereo, AM/FM radio and a detachable keyboard computer capable of piano and rhythm functions. The armchair musician could now record his favorite hit on the radio and re-produce the sound on this personal music studio. The MR-990 was a short-lived model. Perhaps the price or the initimidating array of switches, buttons and lights that kept consumers from making this stereo a hit.

Released:    1985
MSRP:        ¥128,000 ($550 USD)
Dimensions:  ??cm x ??cm x ??cm
Weight:      ??kg
Output:      12W (6W/channel)

Twin Tape System; 5-Band Equalizer; Detachable Speakers; 
Melody Computer

l-r: Japanese Sharp MR-990 Catalog; Sharp MR-990 Melody Computer

The Boombox Future?

You’re viewing a hopeful vision of the future in portable stereos. Many thanks to Dwayne Colon for dreaming up these amazing designs.

Sophisticated Sony Concept design with twin mini-disc recorders! We’re big fans of the multi-colored digital display.

Bred from good stock, this is the RC-M100, a descendant of the classic JVC RC-M90. This one is improved by offering 10 inch woofers, graphics equalizer and dual cassettes.

Look familiar? This JVC resembles a model from 1983 but has been enhanced with modern-day bells and whistles. Cassettes replaced with mini discs recorders and a 10-band eq. But thankfully, the backlit display for the tape controls remains intact. Indeed, the wood accents are a nice touch.

Say hello to the Holy Grail of tomorrow: Panasonic’s RX-5350 Rev. B. Inspired by the legendary RX-5350 but this one has a digital displays for clock and tuner and yes, a fluorescent display for the equalizer! Don’t rush off to buy one just yet, this is but an idea in Dwayne’s head.

Twenty years have passed and the classic GF-777 has evolved in a big way. Now sporting a matte black finish, digital controls and mini-disc recorders we can only guess the sound is even better than it was. But thankfully the super woofers remain intact so it’s guaranteed to be just as loud.

Ocassionally, companies re-issue products purely for sentimental purposes. This Conion ghettoblaster would be a perfect example. This C100-FXL remains true to the original, only a few enhancements have been made, like 10 inch woofers and a equalizer. Like the red or would you prefer the traditional silver?

Sony walkman fans will remember the legendary Boodo Khan walkman, but imagine that deep bass emanating from this beast! That’s right, it’s the Sony Boodo Khan in boombox form.

Turbo Sonic Boombox Shop, Tokyo

I was extremely fortunate to visit Tokyo and one of my most anticipated visits was to a little shop in the west end of the city called Turbosonic. This shop sells nothing but vintage boomboxes and stereo accessories! I believe this may very well be the only ghettoblaster store on the planet. If you don’t have the ability to hop on a plane and check out Turbosonic, hopefully the photo tour below will suffice. You can also visit their website.

I finally arrived after a frustrating 90 minute metro ride and one hour search for the shop. The shop is on the 7th floor of a building pretty close to the subway station. But if you don’t know Japanese (like me) getting around can be very difficult.

The left wall…see anything you like? Some of the most sought after radios are present on these shelves: The Sanyo Big Ben, Panasonic RX-7200, RX-7700, JVC RC-550, 2 Sharp turntable boomboxes!

The owner keeps a select collection of headphones and vintage audio tapes under glass. Somewhere in there is a new in the box Soundburger!

As you enter the shop you instantly notice that all of the TV boomboxes are displaying the same thing–these hypnotic videos synched to ’80s homegrown beats. Very cool effect.

The owner also collects 12″ vinyl.

More classic radios against the back wall. Check out the Pioneer Disco Robo in his own little cabinet.

That arcade shaped thing was homemade by the owner’s friend who’s an expert in plastic. The illustration in the back was done by some well-known Japanese designer. It also serves as the illustration for the “official” Turbo Sonic t-shirt.

Shouro and Hisami are the owners of the shop. Incredibly nice people–they kept bringing out stuff to show, old catalogs, brochures, articles, etc. I wish I could’ve stayed longer!

I was pretty overwhelmed by all the stuff in here. Just now I’m noticing the boombox in the back with the color tv.

If you can make it to Turbo Sonic, please check it out. You can take the Marunouchi or Chuo Line to the western part of the city, the address is: Turbo Sonic, ACP Building 7F, 4-23-5 Koenji-Minami, Suginami-Ku, Tokyo. tel: 03-3313-5717.

I had a hard time finding it, but it’s just a 2 minute walk south of the Koenji stop on the Chuo Line. It’s on the 7th floor of an office building with a white facade and a large green sign on the roof.

UPDATE: Their shop has moved to the Shibuya district, a much more accessible neighborhood. Please visit if you can!

Boombox Sightings in Times Square

The following frame captures are from the 1980 film Times Square. Not only is the movie rife with incredible ghettoblasters, but the story, soundtrack and acting are all pretty good. Grab the DVD if you can. Times Square was shot entirely in depressed, gritty post-disco New York City at a time when boomboxes were to be seen and heard at every turn.

Shoulder-strapped JVC. Ignore the guy with his hand in his pants.

Main character Nicki blasting the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” in the halls of a psychiatric hospital.

Times Square electronics shop open late for business.

Main character Nicki dancing to the sound of dude’s JVC RC-550.

Friends gathered around a boombox on a rooftop.

Getting through mid-day traffic with the help of a stereo.

Self-conscious teen punk chicks oblivious to the wonders behind them.

Teen girls resist the dangers of Times Square armed with a boombox.

Jimmy’s RC-550

Jimmy in Montreal valiantly won this classic JVC RC-550 in a fierce auction on eBay a while back. It’s a rare piece and one of a select few equipped with a 10″ woofer. There’s a little directional microphone up top, a fine tuning knob in the front and five bands of radio coverage. In case you were wondering, this model records and plays back in mono only.