Friday, December 17, 2010

Commercial Break : Wakey Wakey.

Last year I acquired a job lot of Picture Post magazines from the 1940s and early 1950s and as well as the fascinating pictorial and editorial content, the adverts provide a unique insight into life in Britain sixty years ago. This advert for a modernistic EKCO radio caught my eye for a whole series of reasons. I had always assumed that clock-radios were a relatively recent development but here we have the promise of waking up to music in November 1949 (according to the best-selling music charts of the time it might have been The Inkspots or perhaps Billy Cotton and his Band). The manufacturers name also brought back memories : when our family acquired their first television set three years later than this advert it was also an EKCO.

EKCO was a pioneering British radio and television company established by Eric Kirkham Cole in the 1920s. During the Second World War the firm was heavily involved in the manufacture of radar sets and after the war it switched its production to domestic radios and televisions. ECKO eventually vanished as a trade name in the 1960s.

So, how much would you need to pay for "radio's most ingenious receiver"? The price was 16 guineas (a guinea was an ingenious unit with an ever changing numerical value : two guineas was two pounds and two shillings, sixteen guineas was sixteen pounds and sixteen shillings). So what would the equivalent price be in 2010? It all depends how you do the calculations, of course, but there is an excellent site run by the Economic History Association that incorporates a calculator which will do the maths for you. In terms of inflation, the price of that ECKO radio today would be £442 ($687). But if you take the proportion of your average wage you would need to spend now compared to the proportion back in 1949, the equivalent price is a massive £1,330 ($2,076) Prices like that make waking up to Billy Cotton an expensive luxury.


  1. Hmmmmm... It might have been nice to wake up to the Inkspots singing "If I Didn't Care" in 1949! "I've Got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts" would only have made me hit the off button fast.

  2. Fascinating to read about uncovering Britain's rich history and culture this way. These vulnerable magazines are a treasure trove.

  3. nice. made me think of the adverts in the comic books in my collection from back in the day...recently pulled out some of mine from the 70s to show my boys...

  4. How wonderful, I love these details from the past. You had television way before us; earlier this year NZ celebrated 50 years of television and we didn't have one in our home until 1962.

  5. A real blast from the past. Suddenly I'm thinking Sunday roasts and Family Favourites.

  6. Anonymous10:02 PM

    wow.. you are going back in time here.. I think I was 4 years old. This coming Monday (Dec 20) I'll be 65. Merry Christmas to you and the Mrs. !! :) The Bach
    Lord Thomas of Wellington

  7. What an interesting ad!

    My Auntie had a shed full of old valve radios. She gave me several. Some worked. The glow of the valves and the glass dials (with all their exotic sounding station names) was magical. Others didn't. I got into taking them to bits and making crystal sets out of the coils and variable capacitors I salvaged. I was hooked on radio, and went on to become a radio amateur.

    There's a photo of the Ekco clock radio at

    Goblin (of teasmade fame, I assume) were also making a similar device at the time.

  8. I've also just discovered that Ekco is a contraction of its founders name, Eric Kirkham Cole. (There's a good Wikipedia article).

    Talking of early version of things we think of as modern, Ekco launched its first car radio in 1934.

  9. Oh, I do remember my father singing this song very often, so it has a soft spot for me as a result.

  10. Eeeuw earworm now. That's dearer than an iPhone!


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