Sunday History Photo / Au

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 at 05:26
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The company AWA commenced operations in 1909 as Australasian Wireless Limited (AWL), a Telefunken wireless agent.
In 1912 when the English Marconi Company sued the Australian government for infringing their patent (and AWL issued writs against firms using Marconi equipment), the government decided in future to use circuits designed by John Balsillie. Eventually the two settled their differences and, in July 1913, formed a new company, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd, with exclusive rights throughout Australasia to the patents, 'present and future', of both Marconi and Telefunken. Later that year the new entity established the Marconi Telefunken College of Telegraphy, (later re-named the Marconi School of Wireless.
The first chairman was Sir Hugh Denison. Sir Ernest Fisk, a foundation director, was general and technical manager. In 1916 he became managing director and in 1932 chairman.
In 1918, the first radio broadcast from the UK to Australia was received by AWA with then Prime Minister Billy Hughes praising the troops he had just inspected on the western front.
In 1922, the Australian Government, requiring a direct radio service with the UK - in lieu of submarine cables - commissioned AWA to create a service. The government boosted the new company's capital and became its majority shareholder. In 1926, the company established two large beam wireless stations on 180 hectare sites, a receiver site in Victoria at Rockbank near Melbourne and a transmitter site at Ballan near Ballarat which eventually become known as Fiskville. A shortwave beam radiotelegraph service between Australia and Britain undercutting the cable companies was inaugurated on 8 April 1927 and terminated on 31 May 1969. In 1928, it established a similar service between Australia and Canada. In April 1930 the Empire radiotelephone service commenced.
In 1930 AWA transmitted the first newsreel pictures from Sydney to London.

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The Australian Government in 1922 granted AWA exclusive rights to operate the Coastal Radio Service (CRS), a network of maritime radio stations that eventually included stations in New Guinea which had been hurriedly installed when Japan entered Word War II. The Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 resulted in the creation of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and ownership of the CRS was transferred to this new organisation on 1 October 1946.

AWA continued in maritime operations supplying marine radio operators to Australian registered vessels. The AWA Marine Division with its headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt continued to wholesale marine communications and radar equipment to the Australian maritime and leisure-boating market into the mid 1980s.

Prior to World War II, AWA was a major broadcaster, owning many Australian AM radio stations, before switching to radio manufacturing. However, it retained an interest in 2CH Sydney into the 1980s.

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The AWA Building 45-47 York Street in Sydney was completed in 1939 becoming an instant landmark with its art-deco style and large white radio tower on top in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and was the tallest building in Australia until 1958. It remained the AWA head office until the 1990s and is now heritage listed.
During the war, the Marconi School trained an extensive number of people in the military in signals and communications. Additionally, the Department of Defence operated the Ballan facility for military radio operations, though later it reverted back to civilian operations with the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC). OTC joined with Telecom Australia in 1992 to form the Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, later to become Telstra Corporation.

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In 1975, AWA brought the first Pick minicomputer system to Australia, and set up a computer services arm.
1979 saw the last Australian-made AWA appliances that were produced at the company's Sydney manufacturing plant in Ashfield. From the late 1970s, appliances such as TVs were being made for AWA-Thorn by Mitsubishi Electric of Japan. In 1984 AWA acquired Electrical Equipment Ltd, a major manufacturer of power transmission equipment and the AWA group had a combined staff of over 10,000.

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Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 at 07:26

Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 at 07:26
Yes Doug, 30 or 40 years ago, we actually made a few things in Australia.. Sadly there is no going back.. Great article, thanks Michael


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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 at 16:14

Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 at 16:14
They'd still be around if they didn't rely on a single foreign currency dealer to make profits for them! Didn't help off course that he had a car accident and was unable to manage his currency position. Heads rolled and a long standing company went down the toilet what a sad end.

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