Consumer Products

From the Garden Shed to a Global Business

From the garden shed in his back garden William George Pye developed and manufactured products primarily targeted at the scientific and teaching community.

His son, Harold, encouraged him to investigate the "new fangled" technology of the wireless receiver.

Encouraged by the early, experimental broadcasts from the BBC, the relatively newly formed company of WG Pye & Co turned their resources over to producing what was really their first consumer product - the Wireless Set.

Now free from their supportive war effort, by the start of the 1920 decade WG Pye & Co were set on a path to become one of the UK's largest producers of electronic products.

Radio Technology

Before looking at a representative selection of consumer products from Pye, it may help to have an appreciation of some of the technology that was key to so many of these developments.


Bob Bates has produced three simple videos to provide a little background to these technologies.




The first gives a general introduction to how radio works, both transmitting and receiving



The second video discusses a pair of extensions to this technology to further improve radio reception quality.




Finally the third video explains how the valves and transistors used in these products function.

To learn how these product lines developed, click the pictures below ...

For a comprehensive and descriptive listing of Pye Consumer Products by year, please select this link

Pye Ltd - Company Profile

Pye Ltd - Company Profile


Company Name:

Pye Ltd Radio & Television

Formerly Pye Radio Ltd, WG Pye Ltd


Pye Group Division:

Consumer Products, Radio, TV & Domestic Appliances


Site Location(s):

Various


First/Last Address:

Pye Ltd, St Andrews Road, Cambridge CB4 1DS


Date Formed/Acquired:

Origins date back to the original instrument company founded by Mr WG Pye

WG Pye & Co Ltd formed 1896

Pye Radio Ltd formed 12 Feb 1929

Pye Ltd formed 27 Jul 1937

Also traded as Invicta Radio Ltd for a period from 31 Dec 1977


Date Merged/Sold/Closed:

Pye Ltd ceased trading circa 1973 after activity taken over by Philips Electronic Industries UK Ltd, however Philips continued to use the Pye name as a second brand in the UK for several years.

Pye Ltd dissolved 09 Dec 2008 (Companies House)


Field of Activity:

Manufacturers and suppliers of domestic electronic and electrical products using the brand names Pye, PAM, Pamphonic, Invicta Radio, L. G. Hawkins and later using EKCO, Dynatron and EKCO-Hawkins.


Markets/Customers Served:

Consumer electronics and electrical equipment in UK and export markets


Products/Services Supplied:

Domestic radio and television receivers, record players, audio products, domestic appliances


Key/Milestone Products:

First 2, 3 and 4 valve radios 1923

1927 First “rising sun” motif radio

1927 Pye 25 one of the first portable radios

1930 Twin triple ‘Q’ portable radios for battery, AC mains or DC mains

1932 “MM” radio

1937 Baby Q lightweight portable

1939 “Mite” TRF midget type radio

1939 12C 12” Console TV whose TRF receiver later became the Pye IF strip used in wartime radar

1946 B16T 9” table model and D16T console model TVs

1948 B18T 9” table model and D18T console TVs with EHT generated by line fly-back rather than mains transformer

1950 LV/BV 30 Black screen TVs for viewing in daylight

1953 V4 14” TV with automatic picture control to control black level

1953 Black Box record player (made under licence from CBS)

1954 Record Maker able to record and playback magnetic disks

1954 VT4T Tuneable version of the V4

1955 Fenman I and II radios (first UK FM receivers)

1955 V14 TV notorious for poor quality and damaged Pye’s reputation for some years

1956 First British transistor radio launched under the PAM brand name PAM 710

1957 P123BQ first Pye branded transistor launched once PAM 710 proved to be a success

1959 Pye Mozart HiFi amplifier and tuner

1964 Achoic stereo record player (made under license from CBS)


Subsidiaries, Divisions & Departments:

Brand names: Pye Ltd traded using the brand names Pye, Pam, Pamphonic, Invicta Radio, EKCO, Dynatron, E.G. Hawkins, EKCO-Hawkins


Subsidiaries:

Pye Radio Ltd (Domestic radio & TV receivers)

Pye Ltd Sales Division (Home & Export) (Main sales operation for consumer products)

Corran Works Ltd (Production of domestic radio & TV receivers in Ireland)

Invicta Radio Ltd (Domestic radio & TV receivers)

Woodcraft Production (Cambridge) Ltd (Radio, TV & audio cabinets)

L. G. Hawkins & Co Ltd (Domestic electrical appliances etc)

Pam (Radio & Television) Ltd (Domestic radio & TV receivers)

TV Manufacturing Ltd Lowestoft (TV receivers)

UTM Ltd (TV rentals)

United Rentals Ltd (TV rentals)

Dynatron Radio Ltd (Premium brand radio, TV, audio equipment etc.)

United Television Manufacturers (Servicing of Pye Group radio and TVs)

Radio & T.V. Services Ltd (Servicing of Pye Group radio and TVs)

Combined Electronic Services (Servicing of Philips and Pye Group radio & TVs)

Pye Ltd/Ekco Heating & Appliance Division (Domestic and industrial heating appliances)

Gibbard Rentals (TV rentals)


Company Statistics:

Annual Sales Turnover:

1965/6 £21M

1966/7 £15M

1968 £14M

1969 £16M

1970 £20M

1971 £27M

1972 £42M

1973 £60M

1974 £54M

1976 £39M

1977 £44M


Known Managerial Staff:

Tom A.W. Robinson (Joint Managing Director 1929 to 1937 responsible for Production)

R Millward Ellis (Joint Managing Director 1929 to his death in 1946 responsible for Sales)

C. O. Stanley (Joint Managing Director from 1933, later Chairman until 1966

E J W Stanley (CO Stanley’s brother was Sales Director)

John Stanley (C O Stanley’s son deputy MD 1966)

Baden J Edwards (head of TV Development 1934 later to become Technical Director and died in 1960)

Dr Ladislav Lax (Pye Research Laboratories 1950s)

Laurie W Jones (Production manager 1930s to the 1950s)

Ken H Robinson (Production Manager 1950s)

Lord Peter Thorneycroft (Chairman 1968)

Peter Threlfall (Export Manager 1946, Managing Director 1960s)

Richard King (Sales Director 1967/68)

John O’Neil (Sales Director)

Moreton Pinfold (Export Manager)

Bill Reid (Export Manager)

R M A Jones (Lowestoft)

Peter Hill (in charge of Sales Office)

Bob Scott (Northern Sales Manager)

Hugh Tracey (Southern Sales Manager)

John Hodgson (Pye/Ekco Sales Manager)

Tony Dugdale (Sales and Marketing Director (General Manager) 1983)

Len Briggs (Service Guru 1946 to 1980s)




Key Achievements/Milestones:

1922 Unit system radio produced for teaching the rudiments of wireless

1928 First British mains powered radio

1948 first TV in the world with EHT generated by line fly-back rather than mains transformer (Subsequently became the standard technique used by all other manufacturers

1948 demonstrated working sequential colour TV

1949 sold complete monochrome TV studio to CBS of USA

1953 Pye sequential colour TV used at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation

1955 first UK licensee from Bell Labs to manufacture the transistor

1956 first British transistor radio marketed under the ‘Pam’ brand name

1957 the first television to win a design council award, the CS17 designed by Robin Day

1966 the Pye 1108 radio designed by Robin Day wins a Design Centre Award presented to Pye by the Duke of Edinburgh


Company Time Line:

1896 a part-time business making scientific instruments was founded in Cambridge by William George Pye, an employee of the Cavendish Laboratory, which became W. G. Pye and Co. Ltd. The company was initially set up in a garden shed at 19 Humberstone Road.

1897 moved to 30 St Andrews Road and in 1899 moved to Mill Lane (Granta Works).

1913 Moved to Cam Road/Haig Road – 40 employees making lab equipment for students used for teaching and research. World War 2 increased demand for such instruments and the War Office needed experimental thermionic valves. The manufacture of these components afforded the company the technical knowledge that it needed to later develop the first wireless receiver when the BBC began broadcasts in 1922.

1928 Pye Radio Ltd was formed by Charles Orr Stanley to acquire the radio branch of the business from W. G. Pye & Co and separated from the instrument business.

1928 First British mains radio, the Pye 275

1932 a TV department set up by Peter Goldmark who 18 months later moved to CBS in America and is credited with inventing the LP record and sequential colour TV

1934 B J Edwards appointed head of TV development

1935 Cathodeon Ltd set up to produce valves and cathode ray tubes

1935 Collaborated with Ever Ready to design and manufacture radio receivers.

1936 Marketed a 9 inch set when the BBC first broadcast in 1936.

1937 a 5-inch Pye television receiver was priced at 21 guineas and within two years the company had sold 2,000 sets at an average price of £34.

The new EF50 valve from Philips, enabled Pye to build a high gain 45MHz fringe reception receiver, a Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) type not a Superhet type.

1937 Pye Radio Ltd renamed Pye Ltd and C O Stanley took over management of the business

1946 After the war, Pye's B16T 9" table television was designed around the twelve-year-old EF50 valve.

1948 The B18T 9” TV was launched which used an extra high tension transformer (EHT), a technique previously developed by German companies before the war to produce high cathode ray tube voltages.

1949 Pye claimed to be "The largest TV manufacturer in Britain".

1949 Pye Ltd acquires 51% of Pamphonic Reproducers Ltd and provided further cash for operations.

1949 Robin Day commissioned to perform industrial design of some products

1949 Pye demonstrated field sequential colour television at Radiolympia

1951 Oulton Works, Lowestoft opened and progressively took on all PYE TV manufacture

1953 Colour TV used to show the Coronation

1954 Pye's V4 tuneable television was launched in March.

1955 Pye acquired remaining 49% of Pamphonic

1956 PAM (Radio and Television) Ltd formed

1956 Pye developed the first British transistor. Pye first used transistors in a product sold as a subsidiary brand: the Pam 710 radio, with the transistors from Newmarket Transistors (another Pye subsidiary). When the product proved acceptable the company launched the Pye 123 radio.

1957 Pye CS17 TV designed by Robin Day receives Design Council Award

1960 Pye introduce a range of remote controlled TV receivers using a wired remote control to change channel and operate volume and brightness.

1960 EKCO (founded by Eric Kirkham Cole) merged with Pye Group as British Electronic Industries; initially each company retained its own operations and management but by 1962 the new company had complete control of EKCO and was re-named Pye of Cambridge although Ekco continued to manufacture its own Radio and TV designs until 1966.

1963 Check Rentals in Northern Ireland financed by Pye and major investment into Gibbard to enter the rental TV market.

1964/5 The six press button integrated tuner introduced on Television. This was a major problem since the buttons broke on these regularly. This problem contributed to a significant loss of market share at that time. This proved to be a significant contribution to the financial problems at Pye.

1966 Pam discontinued and merged into Pye.

1972 Pye Stevenage began manufacture of Audio products and In Car Entertainment (ICE), the factory had previously been Pye Ether Controls.

1973 Pye and Ekco Sales forces finally merged and Invicta Radio ceased trading and consolidated under Pye. Peak demand due to the Barber boom in 1973. Factory at Lowestoft unable to meet demand and there are product quality problems. Major problems with the Unions at Lowestoft and products being sabotaged

1976 Philips now owned 51.7 percent of Pye. It absorbed the Pye consumer businesses (i.e. radio, television and domestic appliances) and agreed with the British Government that Pye would concentrate on professional/industrial electronics markets.

The Lowestoft factory was subsequently sold to Sanyo for the manufacture of television sets after Philips moved the manufacture of Pye televisions to Singapore.

After 1976 Pye TV sets were fitted with the Philips G8 and G11 chassis which were much more reliable.

The EKCO Southend factory was sold to Lloyds bank to house the ACCESS credit card company.

In 1979 Pye had 10% of the UK TV market and Philips had 20%.

During the years 1980 to 1985 the Japanese had established a good reputation due to their product quality and also had VHS video recorders which meant that they became much stronger in the market than Philips and Pye who were using the Philips V2000 VCR format. This was less of a problem for Philips since it had a strong market position in Europe but it was a serious problem for Pye since they were primarily in the UK.

1985 Pye TV operation closed down.

1986 to 1990 the Pye brand continues to be used as Philips second brand in the UK inorder to preserve Philips’ name as the premium brand.

After 1990 the Pye brand was discontinued for TV.


Document Sources:

‘The Setmakers -A History of the Radio and Television Industry’, Keith Geddes in collaboration with Gordon Bussey, ISBN 0 9517042 0 6

‘Radio Man The Remarkable Rise and Fall of C.O. Stanley’, Mark Frankland, ISBN 0 85296 203 7

‘The Story of Pye Wireless’, Gordon Bussey, booklet published by Pye Ltd and Gordon Bussey in 1979 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the formation of Pye Radio Ltd

Discussions with Mike Kemp

Communication with Geoffrey Griffiths, ex Newmarket Transisitors

http://new.tvhistory.tv

http://www.pamphonic.co.uk

Pye History Trust Archives

‘Maverick Inventor – My Turbulent Years at CBS”, Peter C. Goldmark with Lee Edson, ISBN 0-8415-0046-0

Discussions with John Hodgson, Tony Dugdale and Jimmy Yuill