These stations carried commercials (like that for Ovaltine). Despite the efforts of the British government to discourage rivals to the BBC, by 1938 Radio Luxembourg had 45% of the Sunday listening audience compared to the BBC's 35%.
By the 1930s radio was no longer a solitary pastime for the enthusiast with headphones. Valve amplifiers could now drive external loudspeakers so that the whole family could gather round the set. For those who could afford it there were also radiograms: impressive pieces of cabinet furniture with large loudspeakers, mains radio, and an electric turntable with autochanger for playing 78 rpm records. However in the days before the diamond stylus records had to be played with copper needles which had to be changed after they had played ten records.
By the mid 1950s records were available in three types: 33,45 and 78 rpm and there was a growing teenage market for pop music fuelled by artists like Bill Haley and the Comets with the song Rock Around the Clock (recorded April 1954) and, of course, Elvis Presley. Presley's first success in the UK was the disc Heartbreak Hotel, entering the charts in May 1956. The booming market in popular music also created an icon of the product used by many teenagers to hear their collections: the Dansette record player. The Dansette was the work of the Margolin family who had emigrated to England from Russia and had set up in business as cabinet makers in London. In 1934 they produced their first electric turntable but the real breakthrough came in the early 1950s when the Birmingham based firm BSR offered them a cheaper British made autochanger as the basis for a new type of portable record player: the Dansette. With a stack of 45 rpm singles ready to be dropped automatically onto the turntable the Dansette was a major success and became the 'must-have' item among the teenagers of fifties and sixties Britain. Thousands of Dansettes were assembled at a new factory at Stanmore in Middlesex and in their bright leatherette colours of red, blue, green, pink and cream became a regular sight in teenage bedrooms up and down the land. The first Dansette retailed for 33 guineas (£34.65) but by 1962 you could buy one for 11 guineas (£11.55).
Other products were also added to the product range although by the early 1970s the company faced increasing competition from Japanese manufacturers.
Just as Dansette came to dominate the market for small portable record players other manufacturers turned their attention to making radio sets less cumbersome. Although portable valve sets could be made they consumed large amounts of power and their batteries were quickly drained. It was the development of the transistor in the USA in 1948 that paved the way for smaller battery operated radios. Further work was needed and it was not until 1956 that Pye developed the first British transistor. Others also rushed into the market including Perdio, a relatively small manufacturer specialising in the production of transistor radios.