The following text is copyright © East Anglia Network 1997 and is reproduced here with permission.
Interest in sound started in the late 1880's when Edision used his Wax Cylinder to record famous people of his day, he used tubing and horns to project the sound. The big step into Radio was made in Britain by the British Broadcasting Company in 1922, this was the start of a British industry which gained momentum and flourished till the early 1970's and one of the major British manufacturers was Pye of Cambridge.
Pye of Cambridge are known as a radio and television manufacturer and the Pye
Record Label but in 1896 William George Pye started a part time business making
scientific intruments while he was employed at the Cavendish Laboratory. This
was 3 years before Guglielmo Marchese Marconi made the first radio communication
between Britain and France. Maroni's link was a simple train of waves which
could be interrupted, the morse system of communication could therefore be used
this was to be come known as Radio Telephony. Marconi shared the Nobel prize
for physics in 1909 for his work in Radio Telephony because of the amount of
lives saved by his work. Radio telephony started in earnest during World War
1 (1914-1918) mainly due to the war effort and because the thermionic Valves
were becoming more reliable. By 1914 W.G.Pye & Co employed 40 people manufacturing
instruments used for teaching and research. The war helped his business grow
and he ventured into valves for experimental purposes. When broadcasting started
in 1922 he was ready with his first Wireless. The demand was there and with
his scientific background he established a Pye factory at Church Path, Chesterton
making his own components for a series of wireless receivers. They got acclaim
from Popular Wireless and were scientifically good, his son Harold was put into
the job of salesman, having just graduated from St John's College in science.
It seems impossible now to imagine no radio and television shops but the trade
had to start somewhere and he visited the cycle shops and garages trying to
sell the wireless receivers but he did not sell one in five weeks. Harold helped
design a new series in 1924 with the help of his old tutor Sir Edward Appleton
and the business took off.
Logie Baird's Televisor was a mechanical affair but although it doesn't resemble televisions of today it was the first in history. The Televisor's picture was made up of 30 lines and 12.5 pictures per second, the parts that were used included a Nipkow disc, a motor a resistor to vary the speed of the motor and a neon lamp. Baird first demonstrated his Televisor at Selfridges in April 1925 but it did resemble the Zoetroupe (home cinema of the 1860's), spin the cylinder disc and watch the movement through slits in the cylinder from pre-drawn objects. To generate and receive signals for High-definition Television new development had to take place. The video signal requires a much larger bandwidth then the audio signal and the cathode ray tube (CRT) had to be developed from just showing scientific results (Oscilloscope) to give watchable moving pictures. In the early 1930's television signals were 30 lines per second could only be transmitted with an estimated 25 mile radius then so Pye had a problem being 50 mile away from the Alexandra Palace transmitter but they built a high gain receiver and demonstrated that it could pick up these transmissions. In 1937 a 5 inch Pye cost 21gns (a guinea was £1.1s old money) by 1939 Pye had sold 2,000 sets at a average price of £34 but notably they had produced a high gain valve the EF80, it was built for the amplification of high frequencies (front end). World War 2 then broke out and Pye's EF50 was soon required for radar. C.O.Stanley had purchased Pye in 1928 and decided to open a network of small factories in the East Anglia country side where he made components. Pye designed a field receiver selling 40,000 of these receivers for the British troops to use.
|1946 Pye B16T||1950 Pye B18T|
Pye had got very involved during the war and this certainly helped their progress after peace was established. In 1946 Pye produced the B16T 9" table model using the EF50 valve it had developed years earlier, so it was not surprising to find it quickly replaced by an up to date B18T, this had a EHT Transformer (extra high tension transformer), which was developed by German companies before the war to produce high voltages needed to run the CRT.
1955 saw the start of the Pye's Record Label and The Independent Television Authority, ITA, officially started transmitting late 1955 this meant more development, the tuners now had to be switched to receive ITV on band 3, Pye were ahead of this again and released in March 1954 a tunable V4. The model V14 followed the V4 but was a blunder, it had numerous component failings and was such a disaster many Pye dealers gave their support to other manufacturers. Pye never regained their dominance as leaders in development after this, although they did develop the first the first British Transistor in 1956. Treading carefully because of their recent problems, Pye decided to put transistors into a Pam 710 radio, Pam being a subsidiary company of Pye. As this was a minor success, Pye then released their own branded radio a Pye 123, the transistors in both these radio's had the Newmarket Transistors label on them, this was another subsidiary of Pye.
Pye enjoyed some very good years but unfortunately like so many of our British manufactures did not change with the times, they were slow to react to customer complaints and demands, then across the sea came a bigger threat. After the second war Japan had the help of other countries to prosper and this completely altered the way manufacturing electronic equipment had been carried out. Cheap radio imports from Japan started appearing during the 1960's, copying the well established British firms with cheap imitations. The factory line in Britain had worked well when we had no competition but keeping a line open generating the same set week after week when the sales of that model were not being sold in numbers led to disaster. British manufacturer's were frightened by the oriental threat and the abolition of price the Retail Price Maintenance (this prevented the supplier fixing a price with the shop) , they thought the only way to compete was on price, so a price war started with the sales forces trying to undercut each other and because of the way the production lines worked sets were stock piled and then sold at a loss to clear them.
Early in 1966 Colour Television had started test signals but transmissions did not officially begin until December 2nd 1967, because of the now two line systems, 405 and 625, sets had to be designed to receive both of them, so the launch of colour television had to cope with the sets being highly priced to today's standards. By 1966 Pye were in trouble and Philips put in a bid, they were allowed a 60% shareholding with an understanding to Anthony Wedgwood Benn (then Trade Secretary), that the Lowestoft factory would carry on making Television's. Pye had closed their Ekco factory in Southend earlier that year. In the early 1970's Sony and Hitachi hit the high street shops with their under £199 colour television. British firms followed this with their own competitive models. and fell right into the trap set. The Japanese then decided to go upmarket using a factory line making only the sets that were being ordered, thus having very little wastage. The British firms were left fighting over equipment made for the budget end of the market and the public decided cheap was not always the best, this left most British firms with stock but no cash flow. Slowly the British industry ground to a halt and with the industrial trouble at the time between the unions and management it unfortunately never recovered. Only the strongest European manufactures have survived, Philips being one of these. Philips a Dutch firm bought Pye out completely in 1976, the Lowestoft factory is now owned by a Japanese firm Sanyo making Japanese television's sets.
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