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
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.
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
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
the 13 million mark but of these, over two million were combined sound
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.