Pioneering SRA

 Advertisement for radios from SRA, Svenska Radioaktiebolaget (ERA, Ericsson Radio Systems).
Advertisement for radios from SRA, Svenska Radioaktiebolaget (ERA, Ericsson Radio Systems).

The development of radio communications was followed with great interest in Sweden, not least in military quarters. In 1919, Svenska Radioaktiebolaget (SRA) was established, its owners including L.M. Ericsson, AGA and ASEA. To ensure SRA had access to international know-how, the Marconi company was also invited to take part.

In 1927, L.M. Ericsson acquired the shares of its Swedish partners, reaching a holding of 57 percent. Premises were rented at Alströmergatan 12 on Kungsholmen in Stockholm, and initially the company had a staff of about ten. During its first year of operation, SRA constructed receivers and transmitters that were suitable for two-way radio communication.

“Broadcasting” was a new concept, and the head of SRA, Ivar Wibom, wanted it to be launched in Sweden without delay. In May 1923, SRA became the Swedish pioneer in broadcasting.

Programs were transmitted from the loft at Ålströmergatan two or three days each week, usually went on for a few hours and consisted mainly of music. Telegrafverket soon started collaborating with SRA on these broadcasts.

The first generation of receivers used valves, and listeners had to wear earphones. The quality improved, however, and soon receivers were being sold under the Radiola brand name.

This is an account given in the jubilee issue of SRA-Nytt in 1969:

The first transmitter – a marine installation with a telephone microphone – was mounted on the wall of the Managing Director’s office at Alströmergatan. It was assembled after office hours had ended and dismantled by the announcer on duty at the end of the evening so that the Managing Director could continue to enjoy suitably dignified surroundings. The announcer was the young correspondence clerk and bookkeeper Hjalmar W. Carlsson, who was appointed to the position by Director Wibom with the following brusque remark: “So, now we have a radio station. Then we need someone who can talk into it. It will have to be Carlsson, because he has a clear and distinct voice”. Soon other talents were recruited to assist Carlsson, among them a young man called Sven Jerring [later to become a legend on Swedish radio].

In 1925, AB Radiotjänst (Radio Service) was established with both the state and the radio industry as owners. It took over broadcasting in Sweden. During its first ten years, the factory at Alströmergatan produced more than 150,000 Radiola radio sets – outside Scandinavia they were sold under Ericsson’s trademark. In 1928, Radiola sets were equipped with built-in loudspeakers, and in 1929 the first gramophone was introduced. In 1935, SRA demonstrated the first “picture radio” as it was called at the local offices of the Stockholm newspapers. This involved experimental television transmissions in collaboration with the German radio manufacturer Loewe. It was not until 1954, however, that the technology and the market were mature enough for mass production. Regular television transmissions began in Sweden in 1956; SRA had begun to manufacture television sets a few years earlier.

One important area for SRA, particularly during the war years of the 1940s, comprised radios and radar equipment for the Swedish defense forces. At the beginning of the 1960s, SRA made the strategic decision to focus solely on this type of product, and in 1964 it sold the production of radio and television sets to AGA.

By the end of the 1960s, SRA had about 1,800 employees in various parts of Sweden.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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