May 30, 2019 at 1:15 pm #2912
The level of understanding in our community of the revenue and employment value of the Adelaide electronics design and manufacturing industry is lower today than it was in the mid-twentieth century.
The electronics industry emerged late in the nineteenth century as wireless telegraphy and the main commercial application of electronics in the early twentieth-century was a two-way maritime wireless telecommunications service.
Broadcast radio came to Adelaide through 5CL in 1924 providing communities with a new source of information, education and entertainment. In 1927, 5KA was established, followed by 5AD in 1930. The first broadcast receivers sold in Adelaide were imported. Adelaide’s first radio receiver manufacturer, Newton McLaren Ltd spawned a manufacturing industry and by 1930 a further 12 had been established. (Ross, 1978). Television came to Sydney and Melbourne with grainy monochrome pictures of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and a range of educational and entertainment programs.
From the early radio broadcast era and through the television era our citizens knew the names of many of the broadcast receiver manufacturers. The establishment of the Philips factory in the Adelaide suburb of Hendon with more than 3,000 staff by the early 1960’s (Van der Eng, 2016) demonstrated to the community that the demand for radio and television receivers had created a significant, locally-based manufacturing Industry.
By the mid-twentieth century the electronics industry was established well beyond the consumer markets of broadcast radio and television in new professional, industrial and commercial sectors. Neville Williams (1963) Editor of ‘Radio, Television and Hobbies’ magazine wrote “ . . . the term ‘radio’ is no longer adequate to describe a science, which has spread far beyond the original concept, to invade almost every aspect of modern science and technology.”
Today, electronic technologies are so expertly embedded into products, processes, systems and services used by industry, research and community that those not engaged in the electronics industry cannot know the extent of the use of these technologies or the importance of electronics as a critical ‘enabling technology’ of our modern lifestyle.
Today the community perception of electronics is essentially limited to ‘consumer electronics’ products radio, television and the many later additions including computers, microwave ovens and mobile phones. Our citizens also know that these and other consumer electronics products are imported from low labour cost countries, so our community cannot be expected to understand that a highly productive electronics industry thrives in Adelaide designing, manufacturing and exporting a vast range of complex, high technology electronic products and systems for applications beyond those within the personal experience of our citizens.
Adelaide’s well-established electronics design and manufacturing industry has some 300 companies and 11,000 well-trained and well-paid employees. Its products, systems and services are sold in all Australian States and in more than 130 overseas countries for applications including aerospace, agriculture, biotechnology, defence, manufacturing, medical and transport and indeed, in all ‘Knowledge-Age’ industries and activities.
Those in our community who make the laws and set the regulations by which our industry is governed are drawn from our community so they cannot be expected to know the history, structure or significance of the $4 billion Adelaide electronics industry.
This industry has a critically important role in the role transition of our regional economy from its past dependence on ‘Industrial-Age’ manufacturing to our logical future as an education, research and ‘Knowledge-Age’ manufacturing region.
It is time for those of us who know this industry to inform those who govern us of its value to our regional economy.
Without the products, systems and services of the electronics industry our modern civilisation is unsustainable.
Ross, J.F. (1978) ‘A History of Radio in South Australia’, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide.
Van der Eng, P. (2016) ‘European Integration and Australian Manufacturing Industry’ 1960s-1970s’ Discussion Paper No. 2016-04, Centre for Economic History, ANU, Canberra.
Williams, N. (1963)’ Radio, Television and Hobbies’, Vol. 25, No. 9, December 1963.
NOTE: Australia’s first experimental wireless telegraph link was established over a distance of 10 Kilometres in 1899 between Henley Beach and the Observatory on West Terrace, Adelaide. This experimental link was established by Sir Charles Todd, Postmaster- General and Superintendent of Telegraphs and Professor William H, Bragg of the University of Adelaide.
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