14. The Philips Type Number System

PhilipsLogo Philips used to put some information about its radios in the type number. This small note describes the coding system used during a period of about twenty years, from 1946 to 1966.

The 1957 Coding System

In the December 1957 issue of Philips Review there was an explanation concerning the interpretation of Philips radios' type numbers of the era. According to this classification type B4F61A/01, for example, would be interpreted as a middle class table top radio produced in France in 1956, AC-powered.

To understand the meaning of the type number, it must be decoded in the following six parts:
Part here Encodes
First letter B Type: Table top
First Digit 4 Luxory class
Second letter F Origin: France
Digit group 61 Usually year, 1956
Third letter A Power: AC
Suffix 01

First Letter, kind of radio.

Atuner
Btabletop
FConsole
Hradio with pickup
Lportable
Ncar radio
Pportable/car radio
Ttelevision
The type of the unit is codified by a single letter with meaning as indicated on the left. The P and T coding were added to the system later. The T from circa 1948 when the first televisions were produced. During the fifties, television type numbers were preceded by extra numbers giving the screen diameter in inches. The picture on the right shows a wall model; a radio similar to a console, but without the legs and supposed to be hung on the wall. It is coded with an F (F4X21A).

First digit, price class.

This part is a digit; 1 is plain, cheap, and simple, 9 is top-line and expensive. The small radio shown right was one of the cheapest Philips radios ever made, it has a 0 as the first digit. The cheap bakelite acdc radios often had a price class 1 or 2 (see the
BX200U). Glimpsing through catalogues we felt that a 5 already means quite a good radio and 3 a standard salon-type radio, like the BX321A.
Higher numbers, ie, 6 and up, often indicate radios with built-in phono or tape unit. Class-9 set were rare; as far as I know, only two sets were made during the fifties, the Philips BX998A and a console variation (not counting the BX925A communications receiver). The photo left shows the F9X38A console of 1965, with built-in record player, tape unit, and signal scope. The extremely popular line of Plano models, running from 1958 to 1965, that could be found in almost every Dutch living room in the sixties was coded in class 5.
To further illustrate the price class, here is a price list from the 1956 Philips catalogue:
BX135U     ƒ   80,-    BX156U     ƒ   98,-      BX250U   ƒ  148,-
BX233U     ƒ  155,-    BX253U     ƒ  198,-      BX350A   ƒ  198,-
BX453A     ƒ  278,-    BX454A     ƒ  328,-      BX553A   ƒ  378,-
BX653A     ƒ  438,-    BX750A     ƒ  528,-      BX998A   ƒ  820,-
LX444AB    ƒ  165,-    LX452AB    ƒ  282,-      LX548AB  ƒ  340,-
BX332Arood ƒ  165,-        crκme  ƒ  170,-      HX348A   ƒ  198,-
HX424A     ƒ  255,-    HX553A     ƒ  625,-      FX551A   ƒ  598,-
FX552AD    ƒ  698,-    FX651AD    ƒ  898,-      FX652AD  ƒ  998,-
FX723AD    ƒ 1298,-    FX744AD    ƒ 1690,-      FX824A   ƒ 1498,-
FX995AD    ƒ 2300,-    FX997AD    ƒ 2700,-

Second letter, production origin.

LetterCountry LetterCountry
XNetherlands/BelgiumGGreat Brittain
AAustriaIItaly
INIndonesiaIFIreland
DGermanyNNorway
DKDenmarkSSweden
ESpainSFFinland
FFranceWU.S.A.
RBrazilZASouth Africa
The second letter coded the country of production according to the list on the right (which is far from exhaustive). The most common code found on radios in the Netherlands is, understandibly, the X; this letter codes not only for the Netherlands, but also for Belgium. The production center can sometimes be derived from the series number of the set, for example, an E-number is from Eindhoven, and a PL-number from Philips Leuven.

Because Philips, being the world's largest radio manufacturer at the time, had production plants in more countries than there are letters in the alphabet, for some countries the origin was coded with two letters, see Finland. In America Philips radios were sold under the brand name Norelco, but coded in the same type number system usually; you can find examples of both in Marty and Sue Bunis' Collector's Guide to Transistor Radios. A Norelco radio could be produced either in The Netherlands or in America, as indicated by the second letter.

Digit group, sequence number.

The sequence number consists of 2 digits (from 00 to 99). In principle these numbers have nothing to do with the year of manufacturing. Meanwhile, often, it was arranged that the first digit of this number gives the last digit of the year of design. So, the BX690A would be designed for the 1949 model year; in practice the radio could have been actually brought out in 1950, and in any case a type could remain in production during several years.

The other digit was of course necessary to distinguish between two different radios of otherwise the same characteristics. A five as the third digit usually indicates an export model.

Third letter, power supply.

LetterPowered
AMains, AC only
BBatteries
TTransistorized,
low voltage batt.
UMains, AC or DC
VAccumulator, with
vibrator unit
XMains, AC or, with
vibrator, DC
ZMix of accu/socket
The most commonly found are the A-powered radios, with A suffix. Also very well knows are the
ACDC radios, also referred to as transformerless, or universal radios. These radios do not have a power transformer, the tube filaments are connected in series over the mains supply, and they can be used with either AC or DC mains. Radios working on batteries had a B suffix if tubed (consequently there were a low and a high voltage battery) and a T if they were transistorized. Vibrator radios were found mostly in cars, but the BX505AV table top could also be accumulator-powered (as well as from the mains, of course). The X radios had the common AC power supply, but had an additional vibrator to enable use with DC mains, so they differ from V sets by having a hig-voltage vibrator. The Z supply indicated accumulator possibility, with vibrator, and it isn't clear to me at the moment how they differ from V sets.
Combinations of these letters were common. Left is show the Philips L4X71AB portable, which could be supplied from either batteries of AC mains; other portables (LX401UB) had additionally a possibility for DC mains.

The letters X and Z are quite rare, as is V.

Final digits: execution suffix.

The suffix, a slash and two digits, is optional and can mean almost anything, including indication of development centers, technical fixing, and manufacturing for specific market (code .X..../29 seems to indicate `made in Holland for export to France'). We have seen /25 to denote suitability for 25 Hertz main power.

Sometimes radio documentation comes with an additional sheet to document a technical modification, which comes with a different execution suffix.

The Post-War Coding System

The coding as indicated was used for about 20 years, some parts of it even longer. A suffix indicating the power supply was already used from 1931 (with the additional letter C indicating DC mains only!). Since about 1940 the first digit indicated price class, and shortly after World War II the full coding system came in use. From 1946 to 1956 all three digits followed the first two letters, from 1956 to about 1966 the first digit preceded the second letter. This change was of course needed to avoid ambiguity, for example between the
B5X94A (1959) and the BX594A (1949). The change was not effected in all countries in the same year: in Germany the old order was used until 1958, probably because there had not been production between 1946 and 1949. In France the new order was already introduced in 1956.

The system was abandoned around 1966, when other information was coded in the type numbers. In some exotic places like Canada and Australia the system wasn't used at all.


Gerard Tel, gerard@cs.uu.nl.