|Industry||FM Broadcast, Shortwave, LF/VLF Systems, and specialized Science & Industrial Products|
|Founder(s)||James O. Weldon|
|Headquarters||Dallas, Texas, United States|
|Products||High-power RF systems|
|Owner(s)||Lone Star CRA Fund|
Continental Electronics is a major American manufacturer of broadcast and military radio transmitters, based in Dallas, Texas. Although Continental today is best known for its FM, shortwave, and military VLF transmitters, Continental is most significant historically for its line of mediumwave (AM) transmitters, many of which are still in active service as either main transmitters or backup facilities. Among clear-channel AM stations in the U.S. and Canada, the Continental 317C was the most popular transmitter type in the 1970s and 1980s.
Continental Electronics was founded in Dallas in 1946 by James O. Weldon, as a spin-off of the broadcast consulting business in which he was a partner, Weldon & Carr. In 1953, when Western Electric's radio equipment business was broken up by Federal antitrust regulators, Continental acquired the AM transmitter business, and with it the U.S. patent on the Doherty linear RF amplifier. Continental became part of Ling-Temco-Vought in about 1962, the first in a series of sales which would later bring it under the control of E-Systems and then Varian Associates in 1985. Tech-Sym acquired Continental from Varian in 1990, and then sold it to Integrated Defense Technologies in 2000. DRS Technologies acquired IDT in 2003, and in 2005, private-equity firm Veritas Capital (which had previously owned IDT) bought Continental back from DRS. Weldon remained with the company until his retirement in 1988.
In 1958, Continental introduced a more-efficient Doherty-style amplifier based on a tetrode (previous Doherty designs made by Western Electric and Continental used triodes) with the type 317B transmitter. With four subsequent revisions, more than 200 units were sold in the 317 line (a substantial number given the limited customer base for 50-kW AM transmitters in the North American market); the final revision, the 317C-3, was introduced in 1990. By this time, competitors such as Harris had demonstrated the workability of all-solid-state 50-kW AM transmitters, which were far more energy-efficient than tube transmitters, and the North American broadcasting industry rapidly shifted away from vacuum tube-based AM transmitters. Continental eventually dropped the 317 from its product line, but still makes transmitters using similar modified-Doherty designs for high-power longwave and shortwave broadcasting and military customers.
In 1980, Continental purchased the Collins Radio line of broadcast transmitters from Rockwell International. Collins's high-power FM transmitter, the type 831, replaced Continental's type 816 in production, and was renumbered the 816R. More than thirty variants of the 816R have been produced since 1980, and the line is still in production today.
Continental's principal competitors today in the North American domestic broadcast market include Broadcast Electronics, GatesAir, and Nautel. In the international shortwave market, Continental competes with Thomson Grass Valley.
- Mishkind, Barry. "Continental Electronics Equipment Archive". Retrieved May 24, 2007.
- "New Owner for Continental Electronics". Radio Currents Online. Radio Magazine. November 3, 2003. Retrieved May 24, 2007.
- Continental Electronics. "Dedicated Ownership". About Continental Electronics Corporation. Retrieved May 24, 2007.
- Mishkind, Barry (April 27, 2004). "Western Electric 320A Tube". Retrieved May 25, 2007.
- Mishkind, Barry. "The Continental 317 Series". Retrieved May 25, 2007.
- Mishkind, Barry. "The Continental 816 Series". Retrieved May 25, 2007.
- Continental Electronics. "816R Series High Power FM Transmitters". Retrieved September 30, 2008.