Cathodeon Crystals

Cathodeon Crystals

Cathodeon Crystals Brochure

Selection of crystals, filters and natural quartz

Top Left: Quartz crystal units

Top Right: Crystal and LC filters

Centre: Frequency adjustment of monolithic dual elements

Bottom Left: Resistance weld sealing cabinets

Bottom Right: Phase zero frequency measurement

From the Company Marketing Literature -

Company Introduction

Cathodeon Crystals is an approved manufacturer of BS9000 and DEF STAN components. The Company has take a leading and active role in the committee stages in the formulation of the various documents and has lent its enthusiastic support to the principle of the BS9000 system. The Company has specific approval for the supply of Quartz Crystals (BS9610), Crystal Filters (BS9600) and Oscillators (BS9620).

Quartz Crystals are used as reference standards throughout the electronic industry and great care is devoted to their highly accurate measurement. Cathodeon is equipped for Frequency/Temperature, Humidity, High Temperature Endurance, Leak and Climatic Sequence tests as well as for Mechanical Shock, Vibration and Bump Testing. Cathodeon has developed special measurement procedures and techniques to allow accurate and reliable measurement of all critical parameters.

A new computer design technique, recently developed by Cathodeon Crystals, coupled with the Company’s advanced mathematical knowledge has greatly simplified crystal filter design, enabling the Company to offer products of advanced design in a relatively short period. Fully computerised testing is also used for Oscillator manufacture.

Product Lines

Quartz Crystal Units, Crystal Filters, Crystal Oscillators, Crystal and Component Ovens, pi-Networks

Cathodeon Crystal Company Background

Cathodeon Crystals Limited (CCL) was started ‘inside’ Pye Cathodeon Ltd by Brian Gough in 1952 but spun out as a separate activity in 1953. Norman Rolfe was recruited from STC (Standard Telephones and Cables, then ITT, and latterly Nortel) to run the company. The main factory in Linton was built on a green-field site in 1960 and extended in 1971.

Initially, all products were delivered to Pye Telecommunications (the raison d’etre for the company) but, in line with the Pye Group philosophy, soon began supplying products to the general telecommunications market.

The company grew rapidly and became one of the three key suppliers of frequency control quartz crystals to the UK market. The largest customers were Pye Telecommunications and Racal Tacticom (for military and para-military radio). Staff numbers peaked in 1978 (approximately 550 - many of whom were part time ladies from Linton) but were reduced from thereon.

Despite the success of its products, in the late 1970s Cathodeon Crystals suffered from the conjunction of three forces: -

Communications relay via satellite became a reality and the (very significant) supply of crystals and, especially, crystal filters for certain military and para-military radio applications died almost overnight.

Electronic techniques generally improved: specifically, the phase-locked loop frequency synthesiser became a reality; whereby the 24 crystals required for a 12 channel radio were replaced by just a single crystal, a phase-locked variable frequency oscillator (VFO) and some (very clever) integrated circuits.

Japanese industry expanded: in essence, and in line with their strategic plan, the Japanese electronics industry did exactly what the Pye Group had done in earlier times i.e. they set up a vertically integrated infrastructure to supply components to their equipment manufacturing companies in line with their predictions for world trade.

As a result, from circa 1980 onwards Cathodeon Crystals (in line with the whole of the UK electronics industry) was fighting a rearguard action to repel the invaders.

This scenario may seem very clear in hindsight but, at the time it was not so obvious. The three big crystal companies (STC, Salford & Cathodeon) were each fighting for market share with ever-tighter margins and the industry was unaware that, in reality, it was fighting inevitable market forces rather than just each other.

In 1981 ownership of CCL was transferred by Philips into Cambridge Electronic Industries along with other ex-Pye ‘B’ companies.

Of the three main UK suppliers, Cathodeon fell first (in 1988/89) by which time the staff had been reduced from the high of ~550 to just over 200.

This was by no means a disaster for Philips as the factory was demolished and the site sold for housing. Basically, the real estate (which was transferred to head-office in 1983) had become worth more than the company as a trading entity.

Cathodeon Crystals Ltd - Company Profile

From information supplied by Bill Metcalf

Site Locations

Main site: Linton, Cambridge

Feeder factory: Weasenham Lane, Wisbech

First/Last Address: High Street, Linton, Cambridge

Date Formed: Founded: 1953

Date Closed: Closed: 1989

Field of Activity

Electronic component manufacture

Quartz crystals

Crystal filters

Crystal oscillators

Markets/Customers Served

Radio telecommunications

PMR (Private mobile radio)

Fire, police, ambulance

Military (HF and tactical radio)



Scientific instruments

Electronic process control

Products/Services Supplied

Quartz crystals

Crystal filters

Crystal oscillators

Crystal ovens

Pi Networks (minor, but important activity)

Subsidiaries, Sub-Divisions, Main Departments

Main departments:

Sales department

Crystal manufacture

Optical shop

Wisbech feeder factory

Electrical shop

Test department

Filter department

Oscillator department

Oven manufacture

Engineering department


Industrial Engineering

Plant Engineering

Accounts department

Company Statistics

Annual Sales Turnover: £2.8M (1985)

Profit before tax: £165K (5.9%)

Exports: 35.7%

Total Employees: 520

Employees at main location: 470

Employees in Wisbech: 50

Managerial Staff

Chief Executives

1. Founder - Norman Rolfe (ex. STC) 1953-1971

2. Tony Mugford (ex. Magnetic Devices) 1971-1975

3. Bob Collins (ex. Mullard / Belling Lee) 1975-1977

4. Bill Metcalf (former Technical Director) 1977-1987

Senior staff

Roy Brasher (Finance Director)

Stan Bainbridge (Production Manager)

Des Grimwood (Production Director)

Ed Robinson (Production Manager)

Ian Lines (Wisbech Factory Manager)

Andy Finlayson (Sales Manager)

John Howe (Senior Sales Engineer)

Eric Kentley (Chief Engineer)

John Dowsett (Senior Crystal Engineer)

Tony Rogers (Senior Filter Engineer)

Senior Staff (continued)

Derek Smith (Senior Oscillator Engineer)

Ed Chamberlain (Industrial Engineering Manager)

Gordon Hulyer (QA Manager)

Barry Reader (Electrical Shop Foreman)

Phillip Biggs (Electrical Shop Foreman)

Roy Butters (Optical Shop Foreman)

Derek Cox (Plant Manager)

Keith McCullum (Plant Manager)

Colin McLeish (Senior Accountant)

Ken Jacobs (Personnel Manager)

Roy Jackson (Personnel Manager)

Ken Curl (Personnel Manager)

Christine Moon (Personnel Manager)

Winnie Clayden (Canteen Manager)

‘Old Fred’ (for those who remember)

Key Achievements or Significant Company Milestones

1953 Opened in Shepherd’s Hall, Linton

1960 Moved to purpose-built factory

1965 First 10.7 MHz filters

1971 Extended factory to ~ 90,000 ft2

1971 First SSB filters (1.4 MHz)

1972 Introduced synthetic quartz

1972 Set up oscillator production

1976 Opened Wisbech factory

1977 Introduced high precision (glass) glass crystal

1978 TCX (temperature compensated crystals)

1978 Bulk manufacture of 10.7 MHz crystals

1983 Closed Wisbech factory

1988 Closed main factory

1989 Closed remaining operations

Key Products

Quartz crystals

Metal cans (solder-seal, cold weld, resistance weld)

Glass encapsulation (high precision)

Crystal filters

Filters for HF communications (USB, LSB, DSB, etc.)

Mainly used by the military and for diplomatic communications

10.7, 11.5, 21.4 etc. MHz filters

Mainly used for mobile radio

Miniature filters

Used for the first generation of mobile (latterly, GSM) radio.

Note: Worked with the Vodafone design team who were temporarily working in Cincinnati prior to their launch in the UK.

Crystal Oscillators

OCXOs (Oven controlled oscillators)

Mainly used for scientific instruments

TCXOs (Temperature compensated oscillators)

Used as a frequency reference for tight channel spacing telephony

SPXOs (Simple Packaged oscillators)

Used for a variety of electronic applications requiring better than average frequency control

Company Time Line

1953 Founded

1960 Factory in Linton

1971 Major extension

1973 Opened Wisbech feeder factory

1976 Pye purchased by Philips

1981 Transferred from Pye to CEI

1988 Closed main production

1989 Closed all operations*

* For a short while there was a residue of operations within Newmarket Microsystems run by Ian Lines.

Cathodeon Crystals Limited was dissolved in 1992 according to Companies House (Company No. 00525339)

Personal Notes on Cathodeon Crystals from Bill Metcalf (2014)

(please scroll the document below)

Bill Metcalf - Personal Notes.pdf