1896 W. G. Pye and Co Ltd was founded in Cambridge by William George Pye, an employee of the Cavendish Laboratory, as a part time business making scientific instruments.
1914 By the outbreak of World War I, the company employed 40 people manufacturing instruments that were used for teaching and research. The war 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 develop the first "wireless" (as early radios were called) when the first UK broadcasts were made by the BBC in 1922.
The company started a wireless components factory at Church Path, Chesterton and the series of receivers that it made were given positive reviews by Popular Wireless magazine.
1924, Harold Pye, son of the founder, and Edward Appleton, his former tutor at St. John's College, designed a new series of receivers which proved even more saleable.
1928 William Pye sold the company, now renamed Pye Radio Ltd, to Charles Orr Stanley, who established a chain of small component-manufacturing factories across East Anglia.
1929 Public company.
1935 Collaborated with Ever Ready to design and manufacture radio receivers. This was in pursuit of Ever Ready's commercial policy of encouraging the use of battery powered equipment, although strangely one of the first 2 designs was mains powered. Charles Orr Stanley was invited onto Ever Ready's Board as a non-executive director. The chassis and cabinets were made by Pye and put-together at Ever Ready's Finsbury Park factory, supervised by Pye management. The collaboration only lasted for a few years. Just before the war Charles Stanley fell out with Magnus Goodfellow (Ever Ready's Chairman) and the venture came to an end
When the BBC started to explore television broadcasting, Pye found that the closest of their East Anglian offices was some 25 miles outside the estimated effective 25 mile radius of the Alexandra Palace transmitter. Stanley was fascinated by the new technology and on his instructions the company built a high gain receiver that could pick up these transmissions.
In 1937, a 5-inch Pye television receiver was priced at 21 guineas (£22.05) and within two years the company had sold 2,000 sets at an average price of £34.
1937 Name changed.
The new EF50 valve from Philips, enabled Pye to build this high gain receiver, which was a Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) type, and not a superhet type. With the outbreak of World War 2 the Pye receiver using EF50 valves became a key component of many radar receivers, forming the 45MHz Intermediated Amplifier (IF) section of the equipment. Pye went on to design and manufacture many famous army radio equipments such as Wireless Sets No. 18, 19, 22, 62.
WWII. Manufactured parts for the De Havilland Mosquito.
1944 In February, Pye formed a specialist division called Pye Telecommunications which it intended would design and produce radio communications equipment when the war ended. This company developed, prospered and grew to become the leading UK producer of mobile radio equipment for commercial, business, industrial, police and Government purposes.
After the war, Pye's B16T 9" table television was designed around the twelve-year-old EF50 valve. It was soon superseded by the B18T, which used an extra high tension transformer (EHT) developed by German companies before the war to produce high cathode ray tube voltages.
1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Radio Receivers, Radio Gramophones, "Videosonic" Television Transmitting Equipment and Receivers; Telecommunications Equipment (Pye Radio Telephone); Public Address and Sound Amplifying Equipment; Car Radio; Radio Test Gear; Laboratory Instruments and Equipment. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. C.151g)
1954 Pye's V4 tunable television was launched in March, and was followed by the V14. The V14 proved to be technically unreliable and so tarnished the Pye name that many dealers transferred their allegiance to other manufacturers. This failure so damaged corporate confidence that Pye avoided being first to market thereafter.
1954 Ericsson Telephones and Pye jointly developed a VHF multichannel radio-telephone system
In 1955, the company diversified into music production with Pye Records. The Independent Television Authority (ITA) started public transmissions in the same year so Pye had to produce new television designs that could receive ITV, and the availability of a second channel introduced the need for tuners.
1956 Pye developed the first British transistor.
1960 Pye acquired Telephone Manufacturing Co, fighting off a bid from a consortium of Ericsson Telephones, AEI, GEC, Automatic Telephone and Electric Co, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co, Plessey Co and STC
1960 E. K. Cole merged with Pye as British Electronic Industries; each company retained its own operations and management initially but by 1962 the new company had complete control of Ekco
1961 Products of the group included radio and television apparatus, television transmitting and studio equipment, telecommunications and industrial electronic equipment, domestic appliances, scientific instruments and other other products.
They also produced broadcast television equipment, including cameras which, as well as international sales, were very popular with British broadcasters including the BBC. The early cameras were called "the Photicon" and the later ones by their Mk number 2,3 etc. The Mk7/8 solid state monochrome cameras were the last ones produced. The Pye Mk6 Image Orthicon camera was the last version supplied to BBC Outside Broadcasts in 1963 for a new fleet of 8 outside broadcast vans. The ITV companies purchased the popular Pye Mk3s, and to a lesser extent the Mk4s and Mk7s. Unfortunately, Pye (TVT) never made it into producing a colour broadcast television camera, but there was an abortive colour telecine camera, few if any were sold. The reason for this was probably the financial difficulties the company was in.
1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Car radios.
1964 Pye acquired Ether Langham Thompson[
Pye first used transistors in a product sold as a subsidiary brand: the Pam 710 radio, with the transistors themselves labelled Newmarket Transistors (another subsidiary). When this proved acceptable the company launched the Pye 123 radio (still with the Newmarket label on the novel internal components). Products such as these reversed the decline but the arrival of Japanese competition reduced demand to a level that threatened the viability of the manufacturing plants. The company, like most of its domestic competitors, attempted to restore demand with price competition and, where viable production exceeded demand, sold excess stock at loss-making clearance prices. This tactic has no strategic value and by 1966 Pye was in such difficulties that they started to reduce their manufacturing capacity with closure of the Ekco factory in Southend.
1966 Philips attempted to buy out the ailing Pye. The Trade Secretary, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, determined that a complete sale would create a de facto monopoly so he permitted the transfer of just a 60% shareholding with an undertaking that the Lowestoft factory would continue to manufacture televisions.
Mr J. Langham Thompson led a group of shareholders supporting the past chairman and deputy MD of the company against the incumbent management on the question of the future potential for radio and television in Pye
The arrival of colour television in the mid sixties was not the rescue that domestic manufacturers had hoped. Test signals began in 1966 and scheduled transmissions commenced on December 2, 1967. The colour transmissions introduced 625-line transmissions alongside the 405-line broadcasts so the receivers had to handle both systems, with a consequent cost overhead. The resulting high price of the new technology delayed consumer adoption.
In the early 1970s, Sony and Hitachi launched UK colour televisions at under £200 and most domestic manufacturers decided to compete with them in that market. This decision handicapped the domestic manufacturers when the Japanese moved upmarket using just in time (JIT) manufacturing. When the UK consumers chose quality over price, domestic manufacturers found themselves with high stocks and low cash flow at a time when industrial relations were poor and there was little flexibility in cost reduction.
1976 Pye was unable to recover and the entire Pye group of companies was bought by Philips
The Lowestoft factory was subsequently sold to Sanyo for the manufacture of television sets after Philips moved the manufacture of Pye televisions to Singapore