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Radio Corporation Of America (RCA)

Radio Corporation Of America (RCA)

Radio Corporation Of America (RCA)

Thanks to Steve of Mullard Magic for this interesting blog on the origin of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was formed in 1919 by General Electric, AT & T and United Fruit with the encouragement of the US Federal Government which wanted to maintain US leadership in long distance communications. Post war American Marconi was bought by General Electric and transferred to RCA. General Electric and Westinghouse made RCA their exclusive marketing channel for receivers and tubes in return for cross licenses to their patents.

In 1941 RCA had decided to bring its R&D on to a single 260 acre site it purchased near Princeton University. The chosen site was close to its manufacturing locations at Harrison and Camden and was opened in 1942 with a staff of 125 engineers and scientists. Early on its programmes were dominated by war-time military contracts which did not necessarily relate to RCA manufacturing. Engineers worked on radar antennas, phosphors for radar screens, acoustic fuses for anti-submarine munitions, navigation, infrared cameras and microwave communications as well as television, an important consumer product for RCA.

Post war the laboratory research programme needed radical redirection in order support the innovation demanded by RCA Chairman, David Sarnoff. He told the Radio Manufacturers Association in 1947:

“The industry does not pick up where it left off before the war… The radio manufacturer is the logical producer of radio-heating equipment, radar, loran, shoran, teleran, and hundreds of allied radio-electronic devices. He must push on to new ventures. To be successful he must not only manufacture, but he must encourage research to create new methods, new devices, new services.” [cited by Kilbon 1964]

Post war the RCA Laboratories were reorganised and expanded working on consumer products such as colour television, hi-fi audio, computers and components such as transistors, lasers, integrated circuits and advanced vacuum tubes.

Interested in radio? Then please click on the following link!

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What Do Radios and Ovaltine have in common? The Ovaltiney Radio!

Ovaltiney radio

What Do Radios and Ovaltine have in common? The Ovaltiney Radio!

Today I have decided to write a blog about the Ovaltiney radio, (known as the Ovaltiney because it featured in a nostalgic TV advert for Ovaltine).

To start, here are some interesting facts about Ovaltine!


1920's Ovaltine Poster
1920’s Ovaltine Poster

Ovaltine was developed in Berne, Switzerland. It was originally named Ovomaltine (from ovum, Latin for “egg”, and malt, originally its main ingredients). Ovomaltine was exported to Britain in 1909. Fortunately, the trademark registration was misspelt and that led to the name being shortened to Ovaltine in English-speaking markets. This is a much better name to say and remember!

By 1915 Ovaltine was being manufactured in Villa Park, Illinois, for the US market. Originally advertised as consisting solely of “malt, milk, eggs, flavored with cocoa”, the formulation has changed over the decades. Today, several different formulations are sold all over the world.

Unfortunately, I am one of those people whom feels nauseous at the smell of Ovaltine, never mind the taste, (Yuk!) but there are many more people that love it. However, I do love the adverts and the ‘Ovaltiney’ song.

This iconic tune was first transmitted by Radio Luxembourg on Sundays, from 1935, for a UK audience. There was an Ovaltiney club for 5-14 year olds, with comics, badges, and competitions. It had over 5 million members by 1939!

I think many of us (the young and young at heart) know at least the first line to the song… (click on the link below.)

“We are the Ovaltineys, little girls and boys”

On the later TV adverts, the children are sat drinking Ovaltine and listening to the radio. According to my radio fanatic hubby, the radio is a Philips 634A Superinductance TRF, known simply (thank goodness!), as the Ovaltiney radio.

The Ovaltiney Radio

1930's Original 'Ovaltiney' Radio
1930’s Original ‘Ovaltiney’ Radio

The Ovaltiney radio or Philips 634A ‘Superinductance’ TRF set, went into production in 1932/3. An AC version followed in 1943. The quality of this radio was superb; equivalent to the purchase of a state of the art 50″ LED TV today!

Tinned 'York' Ham- notice the shape!
Tinned ‘York’ Ham- notice the shape!

The wooden case is shaped like tinned York ham and was difficult, and therefore expensive, to manufacture. This aesthetically pleasing shape is known as ‘Cathedral’. These beautiful radios are much prized, they cost a phenomenal 16 guineas (equivalent to £1100 at 2016 prices) to buy in the 1930’s. Today a good one commands a value of around £400.

The 1984 Replica Ovaltiney Radio

1984 Replica Philips Superinductance 834 Ovaltiney Radio by ITC
1984 Replica Philips Superinductance 834 Ovaltiney Radio by ITC

In 1984, Philips marketed a reproduction Ovaltiney radio to commemorate its 50th birthday.  It was made by ITC in Romania, originally on behalf of Philips. When Phillips withdrew their branding ITC continued to sell under their own brand.

Instead of containing valves, this replica comprises transistors and diodes! It has the added bonus of being priced at just over 5% of the real thing! This is a lovely replica designer piece for a retro Art Deco home or office: click on the following link to our shop. 

The Techie Stuff!

1930's advert for the Philips 834 Superinductance Radio.
1930’s advert for the Philips 834 Superinductance Radio. The arborlite cased version with identical internals

The Philips 634A “Superinductance” range of T.R.F. (Tuned Radio Frequency) sets was housed in a large mahogany cabinet with a bakelite loudspeaker surround. It was unveiled at the Eleventh Radio Show at Olympia (in London) in 1933.  At this time, most manufacturers had already embraced the superior superheterodyne (superhet) technology, which utilised frequency mixing to improve sensitivity and selectivity.

Some would criticise the TRF circuit topology as ‘old hat’ and, for the inexperienced radio user, more difficult to ‘drive’ /tune receivers of this type. Some may also consider the TRF design to be quite basic, however, the execution for the Ovaltiney radio is sublime. Whereas in a superhet we typically see only one tuned stage, in the Ovaltiney there are actually four! {Apparently, again according to my resident radio guru, this means that it is good for performance…}. These are ganged via a phosphor- bronze belt to simultaneously tune as well as vary the grid bias for the H.F. valves. Thus altering the sensitivity in the same way as Automatic Gain Control (AGC) as found in a superhet set.

A characteristic of all Philips Superinductance radios are the coils. And what coils! Each coil was wound using Litz wire on large 2-inch glass formers. These are housed in substantial copper screening cans in order to reduce the losses, and hence improve the sensitivity (and selectivity) of the receiver.


  • T.R.F. design covering LW and MW wavebands
  • 5 Valves (Two S4VB, SD4, PM24A plus 1821 Rectifier)
  • A.C. Mains
  • Original cost £16 16s 0

So there you have it, the link between Vintage Radios and Ovaltine: a piece of pure nostalgia! Both are quite tasty- according to him indoors…