c. Martin Limon, 2006
The Changing Face Of Home Entertainment
(first published by Best of British magazine, July 2006)
In an age of high technology we almost take for granted the devices now available for home entertainment. Ultra-thin large screen televisions with plasma or LCD displays, digital satellite receivers, DVD recorders and Ipods are just some of the electronic gadgetry that in the 21st century is becoming increasingly commonplace. When we look back fifty years or so into British homes of that era it soon becomes apparent how dramatic these changes have been
Writes Martin Limon
A visit to one of Britain's major electrical superstores, like Comet or Currys, would today reveal the names of a host of brands which to a shopper of the 1950s would have been largely unfamiliar. Instead of Sony, Sanyo, Samsung or Panasonic a fifties consumer visiting his local high street retailer would have seen names like Pye, McMichael, Ultra, Cossor and Decca. These famous names in the manufacture of wireless receivers had developed their business in the pioneering years of radio after the First World War.
The firm Pye of Cambridge had grown out of a scientific instrument business started by William Pye in 1896. Using valve technology his son Harold Pye helped design a new series of wireless receivers in 1924 and the business took off. Similarly the radio receiver business of Ultra developed from the enterprise of Edward Rosen and Company. Teddy Rosen was of Polish-Jewish descent and in 1920 had begun making headphones and then loudspeakers (one of which was called the Ultra). From these components it was therefore logical to move into the manufacture of radio receivers and the Ultra Company made its first mains receiver in 1931.
Of course companies like Pye and Ultra were able to expand their production of wireless receivers as the general public became more familiar with the radio services of the BBC. In 1927 the British Broadcasting Corporation had been created, paid for by charging listeners a licence fee. As radio receivers became more sophisticated and more sensitive the British population were also able to tune in to the British overseas programmes broadcast on long-wave by continental stations such as Radio Normandy and, above all, Radio Luxembourg.