Autophon AG, Solothurn

Autophon Logo The Autophon Company in Solothurn war one of the major producers of military communication equipment as well as comsumer radios from 1940 - 1960; then their activities turned over to wireless telephony and Autophon became one of the founder partners of „ascom“.

Compyna history

Autophon A.G., Solothurn, has been founded as a „Special manufacturer for automatic telephone equipment“ in 1922. One of the leading personalities was Mr Walter Hammer from Solothurn.

Walter Hammer was born April 22nd 1893 in Berne, he went to Burgdorf School of Engineering and worked with Siemens in Berlin and their Swiss branch in Zurich. After WWI, Walter Hammer became head of the telephone department of the Hasler Company at Berne. He died March 23rd 1949 at Solothurn.

The Autophon Company started with production of automatic telephones and automatic telephone exchanges, the production of the Army telephone 32 in it's wooden cabinet and the field telephones 41 and 47 in their leather bags have been the first contracts with the Swiss Army. Next was a contract for a Sound direction meter (SRI 37) to support aiming at adversary artillery posts. Shortly before outbreak of WWII, the French Army made an order for 100 SRI sets, which never was to be completed, as France was attacked by German Wehrmacht forces.

During the time of the depression in 1931, Autophon started production of A.F. wired broadcast receivers for the Swiss network of wired broadcasting over telephone lines (Telephonrundspruch) in 1931 and production of R.F. wired broadcasting receivers and radios in 1932, which were the first steps of the Autophon Company in designing R.F. equipment.

The impending danger of Switzerland beeing forced into war was the reason to change development from civilian radios to shortwave receivers and wireless sets for military use.
The construction of the measuring all wave receiver RD-2679 based on the National PW dial and plug in coil sets as found in the National HRO was quite a challenge for Autophon, the receiver has been produced in a small series, but the company got much experience in the field of R.F. equipment design, which was a milestone in the development of the All wave receiver E39, the first really modern receiver used by the Swiss Army, which covered 100 kHz - 60 MHz and featured CW reception with a BFO.
A few years later, Autophon started development of a modern shortwave receiver with a turret tuner arrangement and a calibrated frequency dial which became the E44 and a similar design air raid warning receiver with selective call capabilities E45, none of them had any success in the commercial communications market.

Autophon made te first steps in constructing transmitters with the transmitter AS60 produced under licence by Telefunken and with airborne wireless transceivers. In 1941/4 Autophon developed the onboard two-way radio system AF105, which was never built in large numbers, as there was no demand for radio equipment for fighter airplanes after the end of World War II.
The VHF low power transceiver MAX, which has beeen developed in 1942 - 1945 was ahead of it's time with the use of the VHF band for military communications and was bought only in small numbers by the Swiss Army. The company was not very happy with the decision of the Swiss Army War Department to buy cheaper surplus WWII VHF equipment from mainly U.S. sources after war instead of offering a contract to Autophon.
Autophon brought out the E-627 shortwave surveillance and communications receiver and it's companion, the E-628 VHF receiver which were the last hollow state all wave receivers constructed and built in Switzerland.

After WWII, the Swiss Army acquired a series of single channel shortwave „walkie talkies“ BC-611 from U.S. sources, Autophon got a contract for licence production of the same set with slight improvements, called FOX and made an external antenna, a power meter and a test set for it.
In 1951, Autophon brought out a completely newly constructed battery operated manpack transceiver which should cover 24 channels and should have a weight of not more then 7,5 kg. In it's SE-101/2 Autophon constructed a masterpiece of a compact transceiver using a „quartz drum“ which made multiple use of the expensive oscillator crystals to keep the radio's price down.
Next was the development of a powerful table radio station, the SE-407/11 introduced in 1959, which came with twelfe pretuned channels stored mechanically, which could be selected by the tank commander from his control box. As the big brother of the SE-101, Autophone came out with a low power manpack or vehicle set compatible with the SE-407's channels. The SE-206/9 could be powered from a vehicle battery, from a mains power transformer or a hand cranked generator.
The SE-18 was a very successful two-way radio for railway, firearms and police use, the SE-125 was the solid state variant of these sets and was used with all troops of the Swiss Army as short range „walkie talkie“ personal or patrol radio, it was faded out in the late nineties, but for Civil Protection services, the SE-125 has still been in use well after 2000.

Another legendary development from the Autophon company was the Barryvox set for protection in avalanche hazards: Normally, the small set is set to transmitting mode, when one starts for a ski tour on the mountains, when a member of a group or expedition has been submersed in snow by an avalanche, the set can be switched to direction finding reception mode. The VS68 avalanche rescue set has been developed for the Swiss Army was introduced in 1968 and has been in production until 1994.

After 1952, Autophon did expand to foreign countries, after 1967, Autophon had production and service facilities as well as sales represants in France, Belgium, Italy and Germany.
In the sixties, the development of Swiss made television sets has been halt and this chapter of the company history bas been brought to an end.

In 1984, Autophon merged with Gfeller AG, Flamatt, to form the Autophon Holding AG. In 1987, the Autophon Holding AG (6'000 employees, 800 Mio sFr. in 1986), the Hasler Holding AG (6'800 employees, 880 Mio sFr. in 1986) and Zellweger Telecommunications AG (850 employees, 195 Mio sFr. in 1986) merged to form the ascom company, which is still in business in telecommunications technology today.

further information

  • Nachrichtenmittel für die Schweizer Armee, W. Stricker, Solothurn, Autophon Bulletin 13/14 (1972)
en/autophon.txt · Zuletzt geändert: 2018/10/27 08:53 von