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MEL
Mullard Equipment Ltd

MEL, or Mullard, or Mullard Equipment Ltd., was a British manufacturer and supplier of electronic components and equipment. The company was well-known from the 1920s onwards for its production of radio valves (tubes). The company later became part of Philips and by the mid-1990s it was one of the largest defence contractors of the UK. It is currently part of Thales.

Early Mullard logo

Although Mullard is mainly known as a manufacturer of electronic components, such as diodes and transistors, they also produced professional equipment and even cryptographic parts. In the early 1960s, for example, Mullard subsidary Egan Electric on Canvey Island (UK) produced the wheels for the British Singlet cipher machine. In the late 1980s and early 1990s MEL produced the PRC-319 Radio and the BA-1304 crypto/message unit under contract with the UK government.
 
MEL equipment on this website
Singlet cipher machine for which Egan Electric (Mullard) produced the cipher wheels PRC-319 Military Radio set BA-1304 Electronic Message Unit (EMU) with crypto capabilities BA-1403 patrol Burst Message Terminal (Modified Nokia PARSA)

 
History
MEL, or Mullard Equipment Ltd, was a British manufacturer and supplier of electronic components and equipment, founded in 1920 by Captain Stanley R. Mullard, as the Mullard Radio Valve Co. Ltd. Initially, the company was located in Southfields (London), but was moved to Balham in 1923 [1]. That year, Mullard teamed up with Philips, in order to meet the technical demands of the BBC when manufacturing valves (tubes). In 1927, Mullard became a full daughter of NV Philips 1 .

Two years later, in 1929, founder Stanley Mullard resigned as Managing Director, but stayed connected with the company (as a director) until his retirement in 1970 (aged 87). He died on 1 September 1979 at the age of 95. Until the early 1960s, the company traded under the name Mullard Equipment Ltd. as the abbreviation MEL was still owned by a confectionary company.

Simplified Mullard logo

By the early 1960s, MEL had a wide variety of unrelated product groups. This was rationalised after Philips took over 2 the Pye Group in 1966 [2]. Pye subsidary EKCO Avionics was moved from Southend to Crawley, MEL's TV transposer products were moved to Pye in Cambridge and MEL's Gas Chromatography products to Pye Unicam. The component manufacturing business was kept as a separate autonomous enterprice under the name Mullard Ltd., in order to circumvent import restrictions on non-UK manufactured parts. They kept using the old Mullard logo shown above.

MEL logo

In 1963, Philips finally acquired the rights to the abbreviation MEL and changed the name of the company to the MEL Equipment Company Ltd. From this time onwards, the name MEL was no longer seen as an abbreviation. Towards the end of its existence, MEL ceased to be a registered company and became MEL Division of Philips Electronics and Associated Intustries Ltd. [2]

In late 1989, MEL was sold to Thorn EMI and the site at Crawley (near London) became part of the Sensors Division of Thorn EMI. By the mid-1990s, Thorn EMI had become one of the biggest defence contractors of the United Kingdom. In 1995, the various defence-related businesses were sold, and the MEL communications business became part of Thomson-CSF (now: Thales) [3]. The site at Crawley still exists but has been redeveloped and in now incorporated into the Thales site.
 
  1. Philips had already acquired 50% of the Mullard shares in 1924, a year after the start of their cooperation, when Mullard needed funds to expand his company. Philips bought the remaining 50% in 1927 [4].
  2. Philips attempted to acquire the ailing Pye company in 1966, but was only allowed to buy 60% of the shares in order to prevent a monopoly. The remaining 40% of the shares were acquired by Philips in 1976.

Names
Over the years, the MEL business has been known under the following names:
 
  • Mullard Radio Valve Co. Ltd
  • Mullard 1
  • Mullard Ltd. 1
  • Mullard Electronic Products Ltd.
  • Mullard Equipment Ltd.
  • MEL
  • MEL Equipment Company Ltd.
  • MEL Division of Philips Electronics and Associated Industries Ltd.
  • Thorn EMI (MEL Division)
  • MEL Communications (part of Thomson-CSF) 2
  • Redifon-MEL
  • Thales Communications
  1. Note that Mullard Ltd. was a separate company to MEL, also under Philips ownership. It was a component manufacturer that also handled the import of Philips components that were not made in the UK. It also acted as the 'commercial interface' between MEL and Philips in The Netherlands. The company was also known as Mullard Electronic Products Ltd.
  2. MEL Communication was later merged with Thomson's other communications buisiness, Redifon Radio, and was renamed to Redifon-MEL. This combined comms business was later moved to Thales Communications.

References
  1. Wikipedia, Mullard
    Retrieved May 2015.

  2. Mike Keeping, Former employee
    Personal correspondence, December 2015.

  3. Wikipedia, Thorn EMI
    Retrieved December 2015.

  4. Old Philips Colour TV, Mullard and CES
    Blog. With additional information from Mike Keeping [2]. Retrieved December 2015.

Further information

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Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 17 May 2010. Last changed: Wednesday, 16 December 2015 - 09:56 CET.
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