As World War II was drawing to a close in 1945, Australian Radio manufacturers began to consider ways in which they could turn the manufacturing skills and technical know-how they had acquired during their wartime activities into profitable consumer production
The major manufacturers in this field were: -
- Amalgamated Wireless (A.W.A.)
- Standard and Telephone & Cable (S.T.C)
- Philips Electrical Industries (Philips)
- Electronic Industries Ltd (EIL)
All these organisations had been making home ‘wireless receiving sets’ for the Australian domestic market from the late 1920’s until 1939. They all had considerable component manufacturing ability as well as receiver design & production departments, which were put to essential work in the War effort between 1940-1945.
Electronic Industries Ltd (EIL), was a Local Australian company founded by Arthur Warner (later Sir Arthur Warner) and several associates during the mid-1930’s. The original Company name was Radio Corporation Australia. It manufactured the "Astor" brand of products. RC-A became Electronic Industries, later to encompass other production facilities created over time such as Eclipse Radio, General Dry Batteries, Gainsborough Furniture, Homecrafts, etc. The Company also had know-how agreements with several British, European and American manufacturers.
The Engineering Division of Electronic Industries Ltd was formed (under the direction of Mr. O. Oliver) to complete the manufacture of wartime radio equipment and develop new products for civilian sale.
It is appropriate to mention two issues, which were influential at this time. First, the General Public was thirsting for new manufactured items after 5 years of wartime austerity. Secondly, large quantities of special electrical components, both local and overseas items, which had been held for wartime manufacture, were held in "Bonded" Stores usually on the premises of the large factories. The Government had no further use for this stock, and it became available for civilian use. The challenge was to find saleable and profitable use for it.
In 1947 the Engineering Division of EIL had developed a line of high power audio amplifiers and associated equipment aimed at factories, schools and similar institutions needing public address facilities.
There were several engineers on the Engineering Division staff who had served in the wartime Signal Corps. They fairly quickly noticed that major public service departments, which relied on mobile transport (e.g., Fire, Ambulance, Electricity, Water and Sewage, etc.), were without real communication facilities. Several field experiments using wartime equipment were unsatisfactory - it would be necessary to produce purpose built units. The engineers came up with a series of mobile radio transmitters and receivers using wartime components, and components manufactured specifically. This equipment followed conventional wisdom of the period, that is to say it was Frequency Modulated, fairly high power (100-Watt Base Station and 25 Watt mobile transmitters), and was mounted in the vehicle boot - remotely controlled from the cabin. Wartime procedure was evident in that no concession was made as to weight or rigidity - the equipment was big and solid, and greatly influenced by USA design.
In the early 1950’s two Melbourne organisations agreed that the ability to communicate to and from mobile field equipment by Supervisors could have a profound effect on efficiency and costs. They were the Melbourne City Council Electric Supply Dept., (MCC) and the Melbourne Harbour Trust (MHT).
They were two very different clients. The MCC was land based, mainly to motor vehicles, and the MHT was mainly radiating to floating vessels in Port Phillip Bay.
The MHT requested some form of privacy for selected message broadcasts. This was provided electronically by an early form of "selective calling" unit. This approach was somewhat unique for its time. Most messages were "open broadcast", i.e., all receiving units could hear and only the nominated unit responded. If privacy was needed, special tones were transmitted before the message. These tones caused all the receivers, except the nominated one to be "muted". When the message concluded, the system reverted to "open" receiving. The muted station on any receiver was indicated by a red light on the control unit.
The MHT system was a very good example of early postwar radio communication. It was sophisticated for its day, reliable by current standards and ultimately embraced by all the operators. The Geelong Harbour Trust installed a similar system soon after MHT. Again, the Engineering Division of EIL gained valuable experience - not the least in the area of on-going field maintenance.
The MHT and GHT systems were in operation for some years, before being replaced by more modern equipment in the 1960’s.
Overall, the major Australian manufacturers of communication equipment at this time (l947-1950) confined themselves to large Government concerns. The equipment was more or less custom built to suit the system planning. The designs and physical size followed wartime practice mainly along the lines of American manufacturers who favoured high power and rugged construction. Little if any thought was given to the possibility of a popular consumer market.
The Victoria Police had experimented with mobile communication in the 20’s but the equipment occupied most of the interior of the vehicle and was conducted in Morse code!
The association formed during the war between Pye Ltd. of Cambridge, UK and Electronic Industries Ltd. in Australia brought together two very similar marketing men - Mr. C.O. Stanley (Pye Ltd.) and Sir Arthur Warner (EIL). These two entrepreneurs could see the future market opportunities for popular communication products.
The Telecommunications Division of Pye Ltd. had produced a new mobile radio design in 1949, called the PTC108. Although based on the circuit of the PTC102 remote mount, contrary to the accepted technical practice, it was physically small and could be mounted under the dashboard of a standard car. It was low power and drew relatively little current from the vehicle battery, despite its use of a rotary motor-generator. Its associated base station, the PTC703, could plug into any power socket, and used a simple, easily installed vertical aerial. All this at low cost. This mobile radio equipment was enjoying some success in Britain in taxis, transport companies and ambulance services. Because of this success, Pye Ltd. coined the popular definition for such systems as "Two-Way Radio".
Sir Arthur Warner extended the association with Pye Ltd. to form "Pye Electronic Ltd." based on the Engineering Division of EIL. In 1950, Mr. Eric Price, a marketing executive of Pye Ltd. was seconded to Pye Electronic Ltd., based in Melbourne. His task was to investigate the market and introduce the range of Pye Ltd. Two-way radio equipment to Australia. Samples of the PTC108 mobile and PTC703 base station were sent to Melbourne for immediate demonstration.
The arrival of these demonstration units can be considered the start of a new era of popular radio communication. They were radically different from the type of mobile radio equipment already in use in Australia. The current equipment was based on American technology, which considered high transmitter power in both base and mobile units to be mandatory, and the method of inserting the intelligence at the transmitters (modulation) had to be wide deviation frequency modulation (FM).
The Pye Ltd. technical philosophy was quite different. It proposed that as the international frequency bands available for this commercially oriented equipment were Very High Frequency (VHF), the signals traveled a ‘line of sight’ path more or less irrespective of transmitter power. Thus expensive high power was not necessary to take advantage of the characteristics of VHF propagation (line of site radiation and low noise reception). Furthermore, Amplitude Modulation (AM) as proposed by Pye Ltd. was claimed to be cheaper to produce than its FM equivalent.
Australian engineers treated this low power AM philosophy as heresy, particularly the other major manufacturers, and it should be noted that not all of the technical staff at Pye Electronics were immediate converts. Suffice to say Pye Electronic took the only course of action to answer the critics; Mr. Price arranged demonstrations in each State in Australia. The regulatory engineers (Post Master General's Dept.), other Government Departments, possible customers and other interested parties were invited.
The UK units were set up and tested, undoubtedly worked very well. However, there was very little opportunity for Pye staff to really come to grips with the new units, and in-house field trials were minimal.
The first serious demonstration was scheduled for Brisbane in early 1951, arranged by the newly appointed Queensland agent for Pye Electronic Ltd, Mr. R. Tibbitts.
The base station was installed in the tourist Cafe on top of Mt. Cootha, and the mobile fitted to Mr. Tibbitts' Austin A40. Some of the audience traveled in the car, and the remainder witnessed the demonstration at the Café.
Good coverage was maintained over most of metropolitan Brisbane as it was then. When the vehicle returned to Mt. Cootha questions were invited from the audience.
The audience was astonished at the results. Some thought the event had been fiddled somehow, but most saw that the advance of technology was evident, and were keen to learn more.
It was one thing to conduct such demonstrations in the capital cities, but quite another to convince potential customers of the virtues of "two way radio", and to commit funds to its installation in their vehicles. It was obvious that the hire car market was a most suitable target. The industry itself was aware that many dead miles were traveled between customers. The service to the public was in two parts, Private Hire Cars, which could only be hired by telephone and could not be hailed from the street, and Streetcars (Taxis) which cruised freely waiting to be hailed.
In Melbourne, a firm called Beddison Luxury Hire Cars in Malvern were persuaded to install several PTC108 in vehicles with a PTC703 base station set up at their Glenferrie Road garage. The system was on trial for some months, and would be withdrawn at no cost if the trials were found to be unsuccessful.
The mobile unit was fitted under the dashboard on the passenger side. It was fortunate that vehicles of the period had deep dashboards and felt head linings, which gave the installers some room to move when installing the rooftop mobile antenna.
The Beddison installation was successful and other installations followed initially in Melbourne and Sydney, and then throughout the country. In 1952 the Beddison trial was repeated with Green Cabs based in Kings Cross in Sydney. The facilities of Radio Corporation Car Radio Division were used to install the mobiles.
With time, experience in UK and in Australia indicated that the PTC108 was not the ideal unit to progress the now rapidly expanding market for Two Way Radio. Although compact compared to remote mount installations, it was still fairly heavy and the rotary generator was very noisy. Advances in the design and supply of components facilitated the introduction in the UK of a new second generation of mobiles - the Pye PTC116 Reporter. The PTC116 was smaller and lighter than the PTC108, lower in current consumption and much easier to install and service. In 1952, after successful trials of imported units, it was decided to manufacture the PTC116 mobile in Australia. Again, using the facilities of Radio Corporation for guidance, a separate manufacturing facility was set up at the Park Street, Abbotsford, address of Pye Electronic to produce the Australian version of the Reporter to be called the PTCA116. A suitable base station was also to be produced in Abbotsford, type PTCA703.
Thus was started a whole dynasty of Australian mobile radio equipments. The PTCA116 Reporter was followed by the PTCA116 Mark 1, a higher powered version which was also provided with a mains power supply to become a low cost base station and very popular among the smaller users in rural areas. The MK11 was superseded by the PTCA116 MKIII and the MKIIIA, which featured a transistorised power supply. This was another forward step in reliability and economy of operation.
Before the introduction of the transistor power supply, the voltages necessary to operate the mobile were converted from the vehicle battery by means of an electro-mechanical switching device called a ‘vibrator’. These devices were used for many years in broadcast car radios and some country home wireless receivers. They were quite effective in their function but were notoriously unreliable. Furthermore, they themselves consumed significant power, thereby adding to the overall current drain. The introduction of the transistor power supply made vibrators obsolete - much to the relief of every maintenance technician in Australia.
The Pye PTCA116 MKIII mobile became the benchmark two-way radio unit for the larger taxi fleets, which had grown out of the amalgamation of smaller companies. In Melbourne, large fleets (100 or more mobiles) were appearing. To name but a few: the pioneering Embassy Taxis, the privately owned Astoria Taxis, Yellow Cabs, and the giant Silver Top Taxis run by the redoubtable Sid. Lunch. This expansion was matched in other Australian States.
During the 1960’s and into the 1970’s the two way radio industry developed rapidly. An ever widening range of users took to the medium. Transport operators, tradesmen and sales organisations all found the ability to have a conversation with their field operators both efficient and profitable.
Perhaps the most telling example was the growth of the Rural Ambulance Service in Victoria. In post-war Victoria, the Rural Ambulance Services were underwritten by Government Funds, and supported by volunteer groups. They all had special vehicles and depots to house them. The volunteers financed any additional equipment. It soon became obvious that the lack of communication between the Ambulance Depot and its vehicles was a severe limitation on the overall operation and indeed a hazard to patients. In Victoria, Pye Electronic managed to convince the Radio Branch to allocate a common VHF operating frequency throughout the State. The Company then embarked on a vigorous campaign of equipment demonstrations in the rural areas. As before, it was necessary to acquire the highest point in the town to gain maximum range. Pye Electronic field crews were soon to be seen installing aerials on water towers in Mildura and Swan Hill, wheat silos in Numurkah and Ouyen. If one was lucky enough to come across a small mountain, as was the case in Hamilton and Warrigal, this was a bonus.
As each system was installed (over several years) the value of the common operating frequency became clear. In an emergency, an ambulance could leave Mildura, on the road to the Bendigo or Melbourne Hospitals, and maintain communication with each District Officer as the vehicle passed through. The records contain many stories revealing the value of this to patients and crews. The radio equipment used was standard PTCA116 MKII and MKIII.
An interesting feature of the development of the Rural Ambulance radio communication network was the extensive coverage testing demanded by the Superintendents. Over several years, the Pye Electronic demonstration teams covered thousands of miles throughout Victoria. A special 80-meter collapsible tower was developed which was fitted to the vehicle and which enabled the Company to set up a demonstration site at very short notice.
In the early days no opportunity was lost to become noticed by the public. Pye Electronic provided VHF communication for the Royal Tour of 1954. The Royal Couple were traveling on the SS Gothic, as the Royal Yacht Britannia had not been finished. As the SS Gothic approached each of the Australian ports on the tour, radio communication had to be provided before landfall to enable the on-board telephone switchboard to be connected into the Australian telephone system. Pye Ltd. in the UK had fitted the SS Gothic with suitable radio equipment and Pye Electronic supplied a PTCA704 configured as a portable terminal for the shore end of the ship to shore link. This was transported to various Australian cities including Hobart, Freemantle and Melbourne.
Pye Electronic also provided the VHF communication for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. Most notably covering the whole marathon course from and to the MCG. An innovative touch was provided for the marathon events in that a Pye Electronic Technician was permitted to stand beside the marathon-starting official holding a special microphone. This microphone picked up the starter’s instructions and the starting gunshot, which were simultaneously sent via the main transmitter to each official along the route. This enabled them to record an accurate time for each section along the route.
By 1965 the list of "two way" radio users covered a wide variety of businesses and Government Departments in which mobile activities were important. The vehicle fleets were becoming larger and, therefore, the radio system controlling them became more complex. The earlier simple Amplitude Modulated (AM.) units were fading out in favour of the latest more versatile Frequency Modulated (FM) equipments, which had become smaller and more technically sophisticated. The advance of solid state technology enabled the design of a wide range of control functions. Automatic vehicle identification, selective calling, driver emergency alarms and visual message display, to name but a few of the newer features which were becoming incorporated into smaller, higher power multi-channel modules. Indeed the complete change to solid state technology initiated a new era of "two way radio" as revolutionary, if not more so, as the 1940’s introduction of the Pye under dash mounted low power mobile radio units into the Australian business community - but that is another story.
In 1967 Philips took control of the Pye Group of companies world wide, however the Pye mobile radio companies continued independently for some time. In Australia, Pye Proprietary Ltd was in competition with Philips mobile radio. In 1970 the two competing Pye and Philips mobile radio businesses were amalgamated into one Philips company.
Philips Australia began trading in Radio Telecommunications in the late 1930’s initially with imported equipment ex-Holland. As the market expanded, local adaptation, design, and manufacture of equipment began in the Philips Projects Division, located at Brookvale in Sydney. After World War 2, Philips Industries purchased an old wartime munitions factory in Hendon South Australia, to enable centralization of its electronic manufacturing capability. Thus, the Philips Special Projects Division eventually relocated to this Adelaide facility.
In 1948, in conjunction with the South Australian Police Force, the first Philips Australia mobile radio product was released. This product, type number FM1609, was a 3-unit, 20-Watt, FM modulated, all valve transceiver and basically occupied the whole boot of a car. The power supply utilized 3 vibrators to generate the required HT supplies for the receiver and transmitter and the frequency band used was 68-88MHz. The size and cost of the units (individually hand assembled by craftsmen) limited the market to those emergency services where communications were essential.
The major post-war development for the radio industry was the miniaturization of valves utilizing all-glass techniques. The availability of these new components enabled radio engineers to reduce the size of radio communications equipment and turn them into commercially viable products.
The first Philips product to use these components was the FM1611 mobile radio. This was a single unit radio product with specifications similar to the 1609 (a boot mounted 20-Watt FM transceiver in the 68-88Mhz band). This model evolved into the 1645, which was released in 1956. Although size had ceased to be a significant factor, cost and battery drain still were still market limiting factors (a large QQE06/40 valve was used for the transmitter final amplifier). Thus the market for the product was still predominantly limited to Emergency Services.
The Special Projects Division within Philips Industries could not practically address the volume market for radio communication products in Australia, so in 1958 Philips Australia formed a separate company, Telecommunications Company of Australia (or TCA, as it came to be known) to address the new market. At that time, the Taxi industry was becoming aware of mobile radio and how its use could improve their business. To address this market, TCA released the FM1649 mobile. This was a single-unit construction equipment designed for under-dash mounting. It had a 7.5-Watt RF output transmitter utilizing FM modulation. It was also the first model to be made in volume on a production line by "non skilled" labour. The cost and hence the selling price was reduced considerably.
Thus the battle lines in the Australian market were drawn. Pye addressing the market with Amplitude Modulation (AM) products and Philips addressing the market with Frequency Modulation (FM) products. The combined market share of these two companies was 70%.
In 1960 TCA released the FM1674 mobile. This product was aimed predominantly at the Government market. It featured a 25-Watt FM transmitter and, as the specifications for mobile radio had become more stringent, a receiver designed for 60kHz channel spacing. A further technical advancement was that it was the first model to utilize a transistorized power supply instead of the vibrator switching PSU used in earlier models. This move provided a quantum leap in terms of equipment reliability.
The FM1674 was available in the 68-88MHz and the 148-174MHz frequency bands. A variety of mechanical versions were available - local control units with either inbuilt or external power supplies, remote control versions and dust proof ruggedised versions in a die cast aluminum case. For the price sensitive commercial markets, a lower power 10-Watt output version was also released.
During the 1960s, component technology was breaking new ground. The semiconductor was now reliable enough to operate in the harsh mobile radio environment. Thus in 1963 TCA released the FM1675 transceiver. This unit had a fully transistorised receiver, and a hybrid transistor/valve transmitter. The audio processing and low level RF stages of the transmitter were solid state, whilst the driver and transmitter final stages utilized thermionic valves. The transmitter was available in either a 25-Watt version or a 10-Watt version. The unit was housed in a die cast aluminum case which was designed for under-dash mounting.
Gradually, the popularity of mobile radio resulted in severe congestion of the frequency bands, particularly in the larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Accordingly the Government regulator for the radio spectrum issued new specifications, which halved the channel spacing. Thus the FM1675 product line was updated to include a 30kHz channel spacing variant. This became the model FM1677.
By now, the telecommunications business had become an important market for Philips internationally, and TCA was restructured to become a full International Division of Philips Australia, reporting to the Product Division Telecommunications and Defence Systems (TDS) in Hilversum, Holland. The Company was renamed Philips Telecommunications Australia (or PTA as it became known).
The European design centre at Philips Telecommunicatie Industrie in Holland and PTA Australia jointly developed the world’s first fully solid state transceiver. This was the model FM1680, which was released in 1968. In the Australian market the transmitter had a power output of 25-Watts, but lower power in some European markets. The electronics were housed in a die cast aluminum frame designed for under-dash mounting with local control by the user.
In 1967 Philips gained control of the Pye Group of companies worldwide, although complete ownership took some time to achieve.
By 1970 it was decided to amalgamate the Australian telecommunication activities of Pye and Philips and to rationalize the manufacturing activities.
Telephony activities were relocated to Erskinville in Sydney and became Telephone Manufacturing Company (or TMC).
The radio communications activities were relocated to the Pye plant at Clayton, Melbourne, Victoria and traded as Philips Mobile Communications (PMC).
The Hendon works became the manufacturing center for Philips Electronic Components ( Elcoma).
Both TMC and PMC became part of The Radio Corporation. PMC marketed both the Philips and Pye branded products.
This re-organised grouping had considerable difficulties in becoming an efficient operating company. Its main difficulty was in providing product to the market in a timely fashion. For example, the Pye Overland model 734 had been released in early 1970 just prior to the merger. However it suffered with technical problems and delivery times extended to periods unacceptable to the market. The Philips FM1680 also had extremely long delivery times as manufacturing at Hendon had ceased and the start-up at Clayton been delayed. As a result the new Company dropped over 20% in market share.
As the market size increased, the radio spectrum once again came under pressure, and frequencies for new services became extremely difficult to obtain. To overcome this shortage of frequencies, the regulator opened new bands for mobile radio in the UHF spectrum (450-520MHz). The initial frequencies were in the 450-470MHz band. As a result of this initiative, the FM747 mobile was released in 1972. This was an UHF version (450-470MHz) of the Pye FM734 mobile and the transmitter had a 15-Watt power output. The unit was released under the Philips brand only. A 25-Watt version was released later in the product life cycle.
The FM734 had some teething problems and developed a reputation for poor delivery. To overcome this difficulty, a MK2 version was released in 1973. This was released under the Philips brand with a new cosmetic appearance. Besides fixing the equipment problems, this was also a marketing exercise to try and recoup market share. The longer-term fix was still in development and at least one year from release. The move was successful to some extent - it lifted market share by 5%.
The first entirely new product to be developed by the new combined Pye/Philips company was released in 1974. This was the VHF version of the FM828. The unit was designed as a full duplex unit and thus had a transmitter capable of 25-Watts output with a continuous rating over the temperature range -10degrees C to +60degrees C. The power amplifier was thermally and electronically isolated from the receiver and exciter modules. The isolation between the exciter and receiver modules was obtained by housing them on opposite sides of an aluminum die cast chassis. Thus the core design was also available in a low cost base station format (both simplex and duplex), a link controlled base station format and mobile versions (both local and remote control).
In 1974, the company had also changed structure once more, and again became a Local Division of Philips Australia, as opposed to a Business Unit in the TDS Product Division and reporting to Holland. The company name changed to Philips Telecommunications Manufacturing Company (shortened generally to PTMC).
In 1978 the UHF versions of the FM828 were released. These were available in the frequency bands 450-470Mhz, 470-500Mhz and 490-520MHz. The complete family of FM828 based products was finalised in 1982 with the release of the FM815 base station. This was the UHF version of the FM814 base station, which had been released in 1976. Both had 50-Watt transmitter power outputs. The FM814 had a continuous rating over the temperature range, whereas the FM815 specification reduced to 40 watts for continuous operation. Both units were available only in 19-inch rack mounting (designed for communal site operation).
During the late 1970s, as was the case with most Governments around the world, the Australian Government had been wrestling with the problem of the flood of unlicensed 27Mhz Citizens Band (CB) products. Philips along with the Industry Association had been advocating the introduction of a legal CB type service using FM modulation in the UHF bands. The Government eventually accepted this proposal and in 1979 the FM320 was released. This unit had been designed to meet the requirements of the Citizen Band Radio Service (or CBRS) specifications for Australia. Thus the receiver specifications in terms of selectivity, blocking etc. could be half that required in PMR, as the service was specified as a mobile-only service and all transmitters were separated by 10MHz from the receivers. The transmitter specification was 5-Watts RF output. The target market price of A$300 was achieved, and the service became an instant market success.
In 1981, the FM828 range began to be replaced with the FM900 range of mobiles. The FM900 Series was a major achievement for a relatively small company like PTMC and was fully microprocessor-controlled, available in local and remote, simplex and duplex versions.
The project was the result of a joint development with Philips TRT in France. TRT required a mobile suitable for them to market to the French Government (particularly the Electricity Utilities and Railway markets). Thus the unit had to be capable of duplex operation, the transmitter to be capable of continuous operation, have a channel capacity of at least 100 channels, be suitable for remote control and be mechanically very robust. These requirements were satisfied with the FM91 range of mobiles.
In Australia whilst the market required a mobile such as the FM91, it also required a mobile suitable for the Commercial markets. This had to be smaller in size, capable of either remote or local control and able to be sold into more cost conscious applications. This requirement was satisfied with the FM92 range of mobiles. Both markets required a large range of signaling and other options. To enable this to be done cost effectively, the equipment was completely controlled by a microprocessor, and programmed by means of a computer interface. Models from the FM900 Series were later manufactured in UK, France and Spain for a variety of demanding applications, both simplex and duplex.
This was the most successful period for PTMC. It had a very prosperous period with better than 50% market share in PMR and several other successful lines of business; radio beacons, cable termination equipment and meteorological radiosonde equipment.
In 1985 Philips decided to merge all of its various worldwide radio communication businesses into one single Business Unit (except the 49% owned company Marantz of Japan).
From January 1986 this new corporate entity was named Philips Radio Communications Systems (or PRCS as it became known). The corporate headquarters was established at the Pye Telecommunications site in St. Andrews Road, Cambridge, England and Ian McKenzie, the former MD of PTMC Australia was appointed as Managing Director.
More text to follow....
Sources: 1. Mr. A. Dawes 2004, 2. Mr. K. Turner 2004, 3. Pye Australia building image courtesy of Kevin Poulter