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RADIO HISTORY: SUNSET

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war looms

Purchasers throughout the decade had tended to equate size with quality, even with portable receivers, seeing no reason to think ‘small’. The bigger the cabinet, the better the sound quality - a truism that still holds good with today's loudspeaker cabinets. In any case, portables and transportables were still powered by large and heavy HT batteries and LT accumulators. Still, by the close of the 1930s, smaller ‘second’ sets had been gradually introduced. Sets such as the 1939 Pilot Little Maestro (wooden cased model) started to find a market. Suddenly, things changed as war was declared and the people of Great Britain held their breath as the second appalling conflict of the 20th century plunged the bright 1930s into darkness.

At the onset of war, domestic radio production stopped as factories switched to providing for the war effort. People had to keep the old sets going for longer than they had ever expected to. Not easy, with an acute shortage of valves and components, not to mention a shortage of people with the expertise to fit them and repair the faulty sets. The radio engineer was needed elsewhere.

In 1944 (better late than never) the British government commissioned the development and production of two standard and basic ‘civilian wartime receivers’, one battery, one mains, both single waveband but with a very few, toward the end of production, with medium and long wavebands, to be produced by all major manufacturers. The sets employed common parts, valves and cabinets. The latter were basic indeed: cheap, non-veneered ply cabinet and a yellowish printed metal scale plate, no pretence of art: almost a return to the purely functional object of the late 1920s but without the handcrafted care of the latter. In other words the wartime sets are unlovely objects in terms of the crude presentation but they worked well and satisfied the pressing need for war news - mostly with a positive spin - to be fed to the British population. Unlovely they may be but they work well and are popular among collectors, probably due to their WWII association.

POST WWII

At the cessation of hostilities, radio production began again; haltingly at first, hampered by general shortages of valves and components. By 1948, over 11 million licences were taken out, though this figure includes 45,000 combined radio and TV licences. Kit radios made a comeback, with firms advertising in magazines such as 'Practical Wireless' TRF and a few superhet designs based around ex-WD valves and housed in cabinets remarkably similar to the Pilot 'Little Maestro' Bakelite and wood versions of the very late 1930s-early 1940s. 1950 and radio was still king in almost all households but television was waiting in the wings, transmission having been modestly resumed in June 1946 in the London area. 1949 saw the first regional TV transmitter open at Sutton Coldfield and by 1953, other transmitters were adding to the spread of TV availability, among them being Holme Moss, Wenvoe and Pontop Pike. Home receiving licences now (1953) neared the 13 million mark but of these, over two million were combined sound and vision.

Although some makers continued to produce innovative and clever radio receiver designs - Murphy, again, come to mind in this respect - the market evolved ever more toward the smaller radio and second set sales. There is no doubting that some at least of these less pretentious receivers were design gems in there own right: apart from the the first Bakelite ‘Little Maestro’, already mentioned, the Bush DAC90 and 90A remain as prized examples of this pared-down, cost-conscious but attractive style of set. 

 

 

 

BUSH DAC90A

VINTAGE RADIO world: SIXTEEN YEARS OF WEB PRESENCE