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Old 7th Feb 2011, 5:33 pm   #1
David G4EBT
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Default Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

We visited the V&A Museum today, and viewed the radios on display on floor 3. We only came across the radios by chance, and have associated such displays not with the V&A, but the Science Museum. If anyone is in London any time, the V&A radio display is well worth a visit.

Quite a nice collection of what we might expect to see - AD65s, Superinductance, Bush DAC90As to mention just a few, and more modern transistor offerings. Among those on display was a Pye M78F - a compact and stylish portable radio using miniature B7G valves, with the 'Sunrise' design cut out of the perspex front, released in 1948. I'd only ever seen one before, at the NVCF, described as 'very rare' and with an asking price of £900 as I recall.

I'd wondered why they were so rare - were they too expensive in their day, did the styling not grab the attention of potential buyers? What I hadn't appreciated was that the reason the radio flopped was that the 'rising sun' motif looked remarkably like the Japanese flag, so had evoked painful recent memories of the sufferings endured in a war not long ended.

As the story goes (according to the V&A), of an initial production run of 1,000 M78Fs, only 200 were sold. Allegedly, dealers who displayed them attracted public scorn, so the remaining 800 were recalled and destroyed at the Pye Cambridge factory. I dare say many conspiracy theories have been spawned about what really did happen to the sets, and whether at least a few survived the cull.

It's hard to believe that such a dinky little radio, with its two-tone perspex cabinet in a range of colours, which looks so innocuous today, could have aroused such hostile emotions back then. Pye had used the 'sunrise' design before WW11 with considerable success, and it clearly hadn't occurred to them that to resurrect the design after the war would arouse the hostilty that it did.

It's said that the 'sunrise' design was originally spotted in the 1930s by a Pye employee on a cigarette case and he thought - correctly as it was before the war - that it would make an attractive design for a radio speaker fret. I don't suppose the M78F will appeal to everyone, but for those who may not have seen it, there's a pic at this link:

http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/pye_m78f_m_78_f.html

Ahead of its time perhaps, given that most (though not all) of the portable valve radios throughout the 50s were bland 'attache cases' with a frame aerial in the lid, with little to distinguish one from another.

Hope that's of interest.

David
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Old 7th Feb 2011, 6:13 pm   #2
newlite4
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

In spite of these sets appearing to be rare, I have come across a number of examples, their owners quite unaware of their rarity. Did they really get destroyed? It would be good to establish just how many of these are about.
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Old 7th Feb 2011, 6:19 pm   #3
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

There is a good article on this subject here:-

http://www.stonevintageradio.com/des...392.15.184.107

The Pye "Rising Sun" motif traditionaly had clouds in the design but the M78F did not and resembled the Japanese flag, hence the controversy.

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Old 7th Feb 2011, 6:42 pm   #4
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

I've heard another yarn wherein the M78F was eventually withdrawn from sale due to unreliability/technical issues. This may have been true or it may have been a Pye smokescreen to divert attention from the Japanese flag issue.

Whatever the truth or myth, I suspect a lot more were actually sold than sources claim because, although not too common today, they're hardly what I'd call rare.

A view I've held for a long time is that people may have bought them without making the connection with the Japanese flag, only to later realise or hear via the grapevine and then stuff the radios into cupboards out of sight. This might partially explain why the still turn up to this day.

We also have to remember these radios tended to suffer from cabinet degeneration. So logic says a lot more have been scrapped as a result, between the time of manufacture and when they became an item of interest. This would add weight to the belief that more were sold than is generally thought.
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Old 7th Feb 2011, 7:43 pm   #5
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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Originally Posted by David G4EBT View Post
As the story goes (according to the V&A), of an initial production run of 1,000 M78Fs, only 200 were sold
The figure of 200 sold seems unlikely to me. Assuming an average survival rate of 1%, that would suggest only two(ish) survivors should still exist if 200 had been released originally. But I have seen quite a few of these over the years in different colours at radio events, eBay, dealers, collections etc, and those I’ve seen won’t be all that are still in existence. Even multiplying the average survival rate several times because they are small and easy to put away, (together with reasons given in other earlier posts), would still suggest only about a dozen survivors, and I reckon there are quite a few more about than that.
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Old 7th Feb 2011, 8:09 pm   #6
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

I don't see why they weren't recalled and production sets fitted with a cheap metallic grille glued over the top of the original grille and sold on like that--why waste a huge build number of needed radio sets?

Gerry once said it was because they ballsed up with the design of the case, and it was just a little too small for the battery it was supposed to hold to run it. That's why they were recalled and scrapped.
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Old 10th Feb 2011, 12:03 am   #7
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

Personally, I'd believe there were more than 200 sold. "On The Air" seem to have had a few for sale over the past few years and I've seen around 5 on ebay. I have one myself and I think there are a couple of forum members who have one.
One thing is certain though, they are a pretty little set. I have mine in the sitting room with some of my better radios including an immaculate black Ekco. When people come to the house the one set they comment on is the little Pye!
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Old 10th Feb 2011, 11:20 am   #8
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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I think there are a couple of forum members who have one
I have two and until I sold one a couple of months ago I had 3!!

The one I sold was in a poor state with several cracks to the cabinet and a chipped dial - I'd bought it 5 years previously just for it's handle to use on another example and sold it for a few pounds more than I paid so happy about that.

I tend to subscribe to Gerry's theory that the lack of success was more due to poor performance and battery problems than patriotism - as you can see from the pic the recently sold example had been adapted to run off an external LT/HT battery.

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Old 10th Feb 2011, 4:12 pm   #9
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

I have often wondered about the flag motif. When I started work there a few people in the wiring section who had worked in the radio trade selling or repairing. The set was being advertised frequently and non of them ever mentioned the Japanese connection. A few of them had served in the Forces and I am pretty certain that if feeling was strong enough to warrant recall they would have made some comment. They usually referred to them as pork pie sets.
It seems likely to be a rumour to distract from the real reason.
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Old 10th Feb 2011, 4:48 pm   #10
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

Hi,
I must say, I'm a fan of these radios, I'd love to get one, but I hardly ever see them, or when I do their asking daft prices for them
What type of battery did they use and what sort of prices has anyone actually paid for one? If £900 is the going rate, I think I'll give up looking for one!!

Regards, Lloyd.
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Old 11th Feb 2011, 12:43 am   #11
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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what type of battery did they use? and what sort of prices has anyone actually paid for one?
See pics for battery info and the damage to my recently sold wreck which went for £117.67.....

Alvin
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Old 11th Feb 2011, 2:02 pm   #12
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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... and the damage to my recently sold wreck which went for £117.67.....
Alvin
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Old 12th Feb 2011, 3:01 am   #13
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

Only a D cell for the LT? Sheesh, it must've eaten those like candy, just like the personal sets did in this country.
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Old 12th Feb 2011, 10:33 am   #14
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

Probably about 4-5 hours continuous, maybe twice that intermittent. (Hard info on zinc carbon cell capacity seems to be carefully hoarded by the manufacturers- presumably since it's so low). The filament current is a bit less than a typical torch bulb of the period (250 vs 300 mA). A modern alkaline cell would give more like 60 hours, so rather more user friendly!

A PP3 special HT battery (using MN1604 alkaline version) should give similar life.
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Old 12th Feb 2011, 3:36 pm   #15
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

Strewth - any idea what caused the damage Alvin? The crack along the top edge looks like a stress fracture, perhaps due to the forming of the perspex into a right angle with heat during manufacture. It doesn't look like the sort of damage I'd associate with it having been dropped.

I wonder how they formed the holes in the front that make up the sunrise design? No laser, plasma or water jet cutting techniques back then! An old codger in a basement room with a tredle fretsaw, beavering away like 'Father Geppetto' maybe?

An intriguing and enigmatic set - a bit ahead of its time IMHO - I'm surprised that it didn't sell well and have a longer production run. All the info about the reasons for it having been withdrawn, and the numbers actually sold (or pilfered perhaps, diverting them from their alleged fate of usold recalled stock by destruction at the factory), appears to be highly speculative and anecdotal.


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Old 12th Feb 2011, 4:40 pm   #16
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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Strewth - any idea what caused the damage Alvin?
I've no idea - it was like that when I bought it off ebay solely to transfer the handle to a much better example.

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Old 12th Feb 2011, 6:14 pm   #17
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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I wonder how they formed the holes in the front that make up the sunrise design? No laser, plasma or water jet cutting techniques back then! An old codger in a basement room with a tredle fretsaw, beavering away like 'Father Geppetto' maybe?
By moulding, presumably.

Father Gepetto may well have been the toolmaker......
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Old 13th Feb 2011, 12:55 am   #18
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

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I tend to subscribe to Gerry's theory that the lack of success was more due to poor performance and battery problems than patriotism - as you can see from the pic the recently sold example had been adapted to run off an external LT/HT battery.
Mine had been modified to run off an external battery in exactly the same way.
Cheers
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Old 12th Apr 2011, 3:17 pm   #19
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

My M78F is one of the Black variety bought in a Torquay junk shop in 1990 ish The story about the 200 sold and 800 being burnt was in Radio Radio so I wonder where that originated. I have seen far too many over the years for the 200 sold story to be the whole truth. However it's small so survival rates are likely to be higher than 1%. Have fun Mike T
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Old 12th Apr 2011, 4:31 pm   #20
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Default Re: Pye M78F Radio controversy C1948

I'll go with the 60 hours from alkalines given the calculations I did on my P17B. Nice looking set with the added advantage of LW compared with the P17B, I keep thinking about modifying mine to get LW too, but where to put the switch?
 
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