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At last, a solid, dependable British company!

Well, actually no, they’re based in the Netherlands, though a lot of people still think of them as a UK electrical goods manufacturer, as well they might be, with a name like that, factories all over the place, and they’ve been around for yonks.


Dutch Johnnys eh, so was there a Mr Philips?

Indeed there was, two of them in fact. Father and son Frederik and Gerard Philips set up a small factory in Eindhoven in May 1891 to make light bulbs.


And doubtless they were very good light bulbs!

Quite so, light bulbs remain one of their core businesses, and the foundation of their extensive research and development divisions. They set up their first laboratory in 1914, they’ve got six of them now, making them one of the world’s largest privately funded research institutions


So how did they get into TVs and VCRs?

Steady on! They developed x-ray tubes in 1918, they begun experimenting with TV in 1925 and started making radios in 1927. By 1932 they had made one million of them. The first electric shavers appeared in 1939. Philips in occupied Europe went on hold for the duration of the second World War but production was back in full swing by 1946.


Any other notable firsts?

How about the compact cassette in 1963? They started making their own microchips in 1965. They invented the first affordable home video recording system in 1972, when they launched the VCR format. Prototype Laservision systems, or VLP as it was originally known were demonstrated the same year.


How about TV?

During the 1970’s Philips grew to become one of the world’s largest TV manufacturers.  The original VCR format fizzled out when Betamax and VHS arrived in the late 70’s but the company had another stab at the home video recorders when they launched the V2000 format in 1981. It was technically innovative but too late to be an effective challenge to VHS which was well on its way to market dominance by then.


And since then?

Laservision beget CD in 1983, CD led to CD-ROM, CD-i, Photo CD and a zillion other variants on the optical disc theme, culminating in MMCD which took Philips and their long time optical disc partners Sony into DVD. That brings us pretty well up to date, with Philips still making top-notch light bulbs and shavers, they’re also responsible for some excellent TVs and VCRs, and have become world leaders in home cinema technology. 



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Copyright (c) 2005 Rick Maybury Ltd.