Radio Megger!

01 January 2015

Graham Margery, production director

Broadcast receiver or radio - HW SullivanIf buying a new radio is high on your current list of priorities, it’s pretty certain that you won’t be considering Megger as a potential supplier. That is a good thing, as radios are not part of the current product range – but they were once!

Actually, to be strictly accurate, the radios were made by H W Sullivan, one of the many companies that Megger has, in more than a century of trading, taken under its wing. The individual identities of these companies are starting to fade into the past but many have left a significant legacy, and that’s certainly true in the case of H W Sullivan.

Founded in 1895, H W Sullivan initially manufactured galvanometers, Wheatstone bridges and other equipment primarily intended for testing submarine telegraph cables. In the early part of the 20th century, the product range expanded to include precision AC standards and instruments for laboratory use.

The manufacture of radios was a minor diversion from these mainstream activities, which reached its peak in the mid 1920s soon after the BBC started broadcasting regular radio programmes in the UK. The illustration of an H W Sullivan “wireless set” that accompanies this article is taken from an advertisement in the October 15th 1924 issue of Wireless World magazine.

The price is equivalent to around £1,000 (€1,250, US$1,600) at today’s values, so this was definitely a luxury purchase. It’s interesting to note that this price didn’t include the valves (vacuum tubes), which is rather like selling a modern-day laptop without the silicon chips! There is, of course, a good reason for excluding the valves; in the 1920s, sophisticated radios like this one were mainly bought by enthusiasts, many of whom would already have suitable valves to hand.

H W Sullivan abandoned the radio market quite quickly, probably because the company was never geared up for or interested in mass production. By 1927 advertising in Wireless World had ceased, but H W Sullivan continued as a very successful developer and manufacturer of precision equipment for laboratory use. In 1967 it became part of the well-established Cambridge Instrument Company (CIC), which manufactured a complementary range of DC precision equipment. CIC was ultimately incorporated into Megger in 2002.

The H W Sullivan name continued to be used for many years after the merger with CIC, however, and a weighty catalogue from 1972 includes inductance standards, precision resistors and capacitors, bridges, galvanometers, electrometers and much more. The real legacy of H W Sullivan, however, was the calibration laboratory that it set up.

Originally assessed and approved by the British Calibration Service, this laboratory – in a re-equipped and fully updated form, of course – continues to operate today under UKAS accreditation. It not only offers calibration services for users of Megger instruments, but also provides the basis for evaluating all of the company’s current products to ensure that they meet the accuracy requirements prescribed in national and international standards. As a company, H W Sullivan may be almost forgotten, but the commitment to precision and innovation that ensured its success for more than a century most certainly lives on.

Tags: broadcast, H, megger, radio, receiver, Sullivan, W