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Sharp QT-50E

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Japan (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1986 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sharp Corporation (manufacturers)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr. Gillian Naylor

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Sharp QT series went against the prevailing 1980s predilection for chrome and matt black 'high-tech' designs for audio systems, the taste for which had developed as radio components became smaller, lighter and less mechanical-looking. The wide, 'streamlined' speaker grilles, range of soft colour tones and single-piece moulded plastic shell recalls an earlier period of radio design, appealing to consumers' sense of nostalgia.

Place of Origin

Japan (manufactured)


1986 (made)


Sharp Corporation (manufacturers)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 24 cm, Width: 58 cm, Depth: 29 cm

Object history note

Given to the V&A in 1992 by Dr. Gillian Naylor, former Director of the History Design Course at the Royal College of Art [93/181].

Historical context note

The first successful radio transmission was made by David Edward Hughes (1831-1900) in 1879. Some years later, in 1896, Gugliemo Marconi (1874-1937) patented a system of electromagnetic radio wave communication which, unlike the already-established telegraph system, was ‘wireless’, meaning signals could be heard by anyone with a radio receiver in range of the broadcast. Marconi established the world’s first radio factory in Chelmsford in 1898, where sets were hand-built to high specifications for mostly scientific, governmental and military customers. Another early customer was Queen Victoria who in 1898 had a set installed at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, so she could communicate with the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, as he convalesced aboard his yacht at Cowes.

Military applications meant that radio technology advanced rapidly during the First World War, and in the 1920s regular civilian broadcasting began, changing the domestic experience forever. The previously diverse parts of the radio; the valves, controls, wires and speakers, began in the mid-1920s to be enclosed inside a single cabinet. In this early period, radios were seen essentially as furniture and some companies employed cabinet-makers and well-known furniture designers. As radios were new to the domestic interior, their design had no precedent, which allowed manufacturers to design them creatively. This struck a chord in the late-1920s and 1930s with the expanding synthetic plastics industry; oil-based plastics were also a recent innovation, the first, Bakelite (phenol-formaldehyde), having been successfully synthesised in 1907. The collaboration between industrial designers and manufacturers gave rise to many very modern radio designs, particularly in America. Tastes in Britain remained, in general, more conservative, favouring wooden cabinets or Bakelite cabinets imitating wood. During the Second World War the manufacture of civilian radios essentially ceased in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the ‘Utility’ radio (see V&A CIRC.678-1975) produced under government directive by 42 companies.

After the war, domestic radios became smaller and lighter, incorporating wartime technologies such as miniature valves and polystyrene, and later transistors and printed circuit boards. As the components became smaller and lighter, subsequent generations of radios have often been often incorporated as a single function of more complex audio systems.

Sharp are a Japanese electronics company, founded in 1912. They take their name from the first product they manufactured: the ‘Ever-Sharp’ mechanical pencil. They began designing radios in 1925, following their relocation to Osaka after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

Descriptive line

model QT 5OE (P); Japanese 1986 man. Sharp

Labels and date

[20th century gallery]

Designed and made by the Sharp Corporation, Japan, 1986
Polystyrene case and synthetic fabric strap
Given by Gillian Naylor
Sharps's QT range of 'retro' style coloured radios was inspired by 1940s and '50s models. They stood in opposition to the many chrome and matt black 'high tech' models then available. Although designed for the Japanese youth market, their popularity abroad prompted others to reconsider their approach to case styling.




Injection moulding


Audio equipment; Plastic; Product design; Electrical appliances; Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type

Mass produced


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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