Utility Radio

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The Utility Radio or Wartime Civilian Receiver was a valve domestic superhet radio receiver, manufactured in Great Britain during World War II starting in July 1944. Both AC and battery-operated versions were made. [1]

When war broke out in 1939 all the British radio manufacturers switched to producing a wide range of military radio equipment for the armed forces. Perhaps the most famous product was the R1155 communications receiver used by the RAF. After a few years there was a shortage of radio repairmen as they had all been called up to maintain vital radio and radar equipment. Similarly there was a shortage of spare parts, particularly valves, as all production was for the services. This meant it was very difficult to get a radio repaired and with no new sets available there was a desperate need to overcome the problem. Also though limited domestic production continued till 1942 (many factories destroyed in 1941) valves and some other parts including cabinets meant many unfinished sets stuck in production. The design was criticised at the time for omitting LW as it was evident that the war would be over soon, but partly it was because the design was finalised long before volume production started. It was only possible due to import of valves (tubes) from USA as UK manufacturers were producing over 1 million valve a week for proximity fuses in bombs (one bombing raid could use up to 250,000 valves). Similarly the UK produced two models of "personal" size receivers in the 1940s using RCA miniature tubes released January 1940 not seen in UK models till 1946 / 1947, but these near pocket size receivers using a separate battery pack of hearing aid batteries were only dropped to resistance for covert reception.

The Government solved this by arranging for all radio manufacturers to produce a standard design with as few components as possible consistent with ability to source them. Earlier the Government had introduced the 'Utility' brand to ensure that all clothing, which was rationed, was produced to a reasonable quality standard as prior to its introduction a lot of shoddy goods had appeared on the market. So the 'Utility' brand was adopted for this wartime radio.

The Utility Set had limited reception on medium wave and lacked a longwave band to frustrate attempts at receiving foreign broadcasts. The crude tuning scale listed only BBC stations.

The sets used a four-valve superhet circuit with an audio output of 4 watts at 10% total harmonic distortion; they performed as well as many pre-war sets. The valve complement consisted of a triode-hexode frequency changer, a variable-μ RF pentode IF amplifier and a high slope output pentode. A "Westector" solid-state copper oxide diode was used for demodulation, which saved one valve and allowed use of an available type of pentode for the audio stage. [1] The HT line was derived from a full wave rectifier. All valves were on International Octal sockets apart from the rectifier which was on a British 4-pin base. There were minor variations between set makers; for instance Philips used IF transformers with adjustable ferrite cores (so-called slug tuning) rather than the conventional trimmer capacitors.

The general public were unable to tell the manufacturer of a particular set although each manufacturer used a code letter to identify themselves to dealers. As UK makers often used different designations for the same valve (tube) and Octal tubes might be of USA origin all used standard designations prefixed by BVA (British Valve Association). They were produced by valve makers such as Mullard(owned by Philips since 1928), MOV, Cossor, Mazda and Brimar (Owned by ITT who also owned Kolster Brandes). Dealers, knowing the maker of a set and which valve manufacturer that maker used, could easily deduce which pre-war types these were and make warranty claims on the manufacturer. Post war the BVA returned to using their own codes, though Mullard had used US codes on pre 1941 Mullard Amerity valves (US tube imports), both Ever Ready and Mullard only used Philips codes after 1946.

About 175,000 sets were sold, at a price of £12 3s 4d each. [2] The set is often seen as the British equivalent of the German Peoples' Receiver (Volksempfänger), but the motivation was slightly different. The Volksempfänger was a range of sets designed to be cheap enough for all German citizens to afford, for those able to afford the expense, higher quality radios were always available, while the Utility Set was the only radio receiver that could be purchased on the British market.

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  1. ^ a b Charles Edward Miller,Valve Radio and Audio Repair Handbook Newnes, 2000 ISBN 0-7506-3995-4 pages 144-151
  2. ^ http://archive.is/20120730012922/http://www.classicwireless.btinternet.co.uk/warciva.htm retrieved 2012 March 7[dead link]

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