"Non-manufacturers" Was: Re: OFF TOPIC Radio comments...

From: Christian Fandt <cfandt_at_netsync.net>
Date: Fri Jan 8 13:51:18 1999

At 09:00 01/08/99 -0800, Dave Dameron wrote:
>At 11:11 AM 1/8/99 -0500, Bill wrote:
>>OT followup follows...
>>WEAF became WNBC, the flagship of the now defunct NBC radio network.
>>The network was sold of by General Electric ( -- who was stopped from
>>buying RCA in the '30's by anti-trust issues -- ) to Westwood One
>>which has now been partnering with Westinghouse (now the owner of CBS).
>Wasn't RCA started as some sort of "holding" company, that didn't
>manufacture products of their own? They first sold items made by (you
>guessed it) General Electric and Westinghouse. Later they acquired
>Cunningham who were also making vacuum tubes/valves and included them in the
>name "radiotrons" for them.

Basically correct Dave.

RCA was created in mid-October 1919 under the early-1919 ideas of President
Wilson and the US Navy to head off the monopoly that American Marconi
Company had in international wireless communication. American Marconi was
controlled by Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Britain. There was a
desire for a US-based wireless communications company -preferably a
Government monopoly --later changed to a corporate monopoly-- to handle
only commercial wireless communications. (Commercial international
communication by wireless back then was the equivalent to the satelite and
undersea cable communications we have today.) Hence, British Marconi was
pursuaded to sell its stock in Amer. Marconi and General Electric was
persuaded by the US Government to be the purchaser. Radio Corp. of Amer.
was borne from this action by the Board of Trustees of GE with GE being the
major stockholder. Amer. Marconi employees, products, patents, good will,
etc. came under control of the new RCA in Nov. 1919. Products made by GE
were sold by RCA exclusively. Later in 1920, Westinghouse bought RCA stock
and began making equipment for sale under RCA name. Many, many more details
are involved before, during and after what I described above had transpired.

A few months later, the extremely sudden popularity of broadcast radio hit
hard and fast. The so-called "Radio boom" as it was described. This was
reputedly as a result of the broadcast of the Presidential Election Returns
in Oct. 1920 over radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh which was owned by

Up to until 1929 over one thousand radio companies were believed to have
been started and at least four thousand different radio models were sold
-just in USA and Canada. RCA got into selling broadcast radios to the
public and became a huge player once GE and Westy got broadcast radio
designs off the drawing board in 1921. There were a couple of dozen other
big players that came along in the 20's.

Quite a few of the 1000 or so companies were small garage-based outfits not
too much unlike how Steve Jobs and The Woz started their little company.
The computer boom paralleled the radio boom in many ways. One could buy
radio components from a radio parts supplier, setup on the kitchen table
and build several dozen or more radios to sell at the local hardware stores
or automobile supply stores. Most of those small companies died. Sounds
like many computer companies in the 70's and 80's and even PC companies in
recent times.

I'd like to discuss this subject even more as old radio history is one of
my strongest areas of interest but we need to move on as it's quite
off-topic here.

To do that, and to segue the concept of Radio Corporation of America as
being a mid-20's non-manufacturing radio company into classic computers,
let me ask a question that I've thought of for some time now:

Were there many computer companies, if any, who were not manufacturers but,
like RCA from around 1921 to 1928, sales-only outfits? I'm thinking of
pre-PC compatible days, '82 and earlier, because as you know, any major or
fly-by-night outfit could put their name on a PC nowadays. Also, strictly
non-PC computer companies are included even up to ten years ago (to keep it
on classics). Keep it on-topic and change your Subject line if you reply on
some other on-topic subject.

Regards, Chris
-- --
Christian Fandt, Electronic/Electrical Historian
Jamestown, NY USA cfandt_at_netsync.net
Member of Antique Wireless Association
        URL: http://www.ggw.org/freenet/a/awa/
Received on Fri Jan 08 1999 - 13:51:18 GMT

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