AEG Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft & Magnetophon
Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG) (German: "General electricity company") is a German producer of electrical equipment founded in 1883 by Emil Rathenau.
In 1967 AEG joined with her subsidiary Telefunken AG creating Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft AEG-Telefunken. In 1985 Daimler-Benz purchased the AEG Aktiengesellschaft and wholly integrated the company in 1996 into Daimler-Benz AG (1998:Daimler Chrysler). The remains of the AEG became part of Adtranz and Deutsche Aerospace (1998: DASA, today EADS). By 1997 the AEG company no longer existed.
After acquiring the household division of AEG in 1994, in 2005 Electrolux bought the rights to the brand name AEG and now uses it on some of its products. As of 2009, the AEG name is also licensed to various companies.
In 1883 Emil Rathenau created in Berlin the Deutsche Edison-Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektricität, which name changed in 1887 to Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft. Initially producing electrical equipment (light bulbs, motors and generators etc.), the company soon became involved in AC electrical transmission systems. In 1907 Peter Behrens, was appointed as artistic consultant to AEG. This led to the creation of the company's initial corporate identity, with products and advertising sharing common design features.
The company expanded in the first half of the 20th century, and is credited with a number of firsts and inventions in the electrical engineering field. During the same period it entered the automobile and airplane markets. Electrical equipment for railways was also produced during this time, starting a long history of supplying the German railways with electrical equipment.
After the black period of the Second World War, the company lost those businesses located in the eastern part of Germany.
Foundation to 1940
The origins of the company can be traced to 1882, when Emil Rathenau acquired licences to use some of Thomas Edison's lamp patents in Germany. The Deutsche Edison Gesellschaft ("German Edison Company") was founded in 1883 with the financial backing of various banks and private individuals, with Emil Rathenau as company director.
In 1884, the Munich-born engineer Oskar von Miller (who later founded Deutsches Museum) joined the executive board. The same year, the company entered negotiations with the Berlin Magistrat (the municipal body) to supply a large area from a central supply, which resulted in the formation of the Städtische Elektricitäts-Werke AG zu Berlin (AGStEW) ("City electricity works company (Berlin)") on 8 May 1884; this date is considered to be the birthday of the German electrical industry.
The original factory was located near Stettiner Bahnhof. In 1887, the Company acquired land in the Berlin-Gesundbrunnen area on which the Weddingsche Maschinenfabrik (founded by Wilhelm Wedding) was previously located[citation needed. In the same year, in addition to a restructuring and expansion of the production range the AEG name was adopted.
In 1887 Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrowolsky joined the company as chief engineer, later becoming vice-director. His work on polyphase electric power led him to become the world's leading engineer in 3 phase electric power systems at the end of the 1880s.
In 1891 Miller and Dobrovolski succeeded in demonstrating the transmission of electrical power over a distance of 175 km (109 mi) from a hydro electric power plant in Lauffen am Neckar to Frankfurt, where it lit 1000 light bulbs and drove an artificial waterfall at the International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt am Main. This success marked one of beginnings of the general use of alternating current for electrification in Germany, and showed that distance transfer of electrical power could useful economically. In the same year the Stadtbahn Halle/Saale (City railway Halle–Saale) opened, the first electric tram system (of notable size) in Germany.
Tropp Paul began his work for the AEG 1889/90 until 1893, and Franz Schwechten designed the facades of the Acker- und Hussitenstraße in 1894–95.
In 1894 the site of the former Berlin Viehmarktgasse (cattle market) was purchased. This had a siding connecting to the Berlin rail network produced, but there was no rail connection between the two plants. Therefore, in 1895 a link between the two plots was built as an underground railway in a specially designed tunnel 270 meters long. The tunnel was built by Siemens & Halske (S & H) (later to become Siemens) under the direction of C. Schwebel and Wilhelm Lauter, and is now the Spree tunnel Stralau, used by public transport.
In 1903 the competing radio companies of AEG and Siemens & Halske merged, forming a joint subsidiary company with the name Telefunken.
In 1907 the architect Peter Behrens became an artistic adviser. Responsible for the design of all products, advertising and architecture, he has since become considered as the world's first corporate designer. With thought of Behren's idea was to create a building which is solid, strong and simple in its structure. It is perfect for doing its job of producing big and heavy machinery. The design and technique chosen for the heights and lengths of the building was to be able to have enough space in the inside for the turbines to be able to be transported across the hall above all the machines.
Building of AEG Turbinenfabrik (architect Peter Behrens)
The activity of the company soon extended to all areas of electrical power engineering, in particular to electric lighting, electric power, electric railways, electro-chemical plants, as well as the construction of steam turbines, automobiles, cables and cable materials. In the first decades, the company had many factories in and around Berlin:
Maschinenfabrik (dynamos, electric motors, transformers)
Apparatefabrik (arc lamps, switches, fuses, resistors, controls, starters, electrical measuring equipment)
Kabelwerk (copper and metal works, rubber fabrication, insulator fabrication)
Glühlampenfabriken (carbon-filament and metal thread light bulbs, Nernst lamps) — later became part of Osram
Turbinenfabrik (steam turbines) — famous as an example of industrial architecture
A number of other notable events involving AEG occurred in this period:
1900: Invention of the hair dryer.
1901: The Neue Automobil Gesellschaft ("New Automotive Company") became part of AEG through the takeover of Allgemeine Automobil-Gesellschaft
27 October 1903: A three-phase AC AEG motor in a competition with Siemens & Halske achieves a speed of 210.2 km/h (131 mph) on the test track of the Königlich Preußische Militär-Eisenbahn (Royal Prussian military railway) between Marienfelde and Zossen. This world speed record for rail vehicles was held until 1931.
1904: Merger of AEG with the Union-Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (UEG) (literal: Union-electricity Company)
1910: Entry into the aircraft building market.
On 20 June 1915 the founder, Emil Rathenau died aged 77.
World War I bomber built by AEG (right)
1929: AEG produces its first compressor driven fridges and temperature controlled irons.
Many of the photos below are by David Winter of his FT4 Magnetophon. We appreciate his giving permission to display these photos on the MOMSR website.
1935: Presentation of the world's first tape device Magnetophon K1 based on work by Eduard Schüllerat the Berlin International Radio Exhibition
Magnetophon was the brand or model name of the pioneering reel-to-reel tape recorder developed by engineers of the German electronics company AEG in the 1930s, based on the magnetic tape invention by Fritz Pfleumer. AEG created the world's first practical tape recorder, the K1, first demonstrated in Germany in 1935 at the Berlin Radio Show.
1941: AEG buys Siemens & Halske shares in Telefunken and the company becomes a subsidiary.
The Magnetophon tape recorder was one of the first recording machines to use magnetic tape in preserving voice and music. However, early Magnetophons gave disappointing results.
One of the first concerts to be recorded on a Magnetophon was Mozart's 39th Symphony played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, during their 1936 concert tour. The recording was made on an AEG K2 Magnetophon running at 100 cm/s. The tape used was the early black iron oxide Fe3O4 type. When Beecham and the musicians heard the playback they were greatly disappointed with the distortion and noise on the recording. This recording survived until the 1990s and has been transferred. The tape is now "lost". Some other surviving tapes show a tendency toward over modulation.
Later in 1939, the Fe3O4 oxide was replaced by the Fe2O3 type, which gave a significantly better recording quality, so much that the formula became a worldwide standard until the 1970s when chromium dioxide tapes appeared.
Adding a DC bias to the record head gave some improvement, and in 1941, Hans Joachim von Braunmühl and Dr. Walter Weber, both engineers at the German national broadcasting organization RRG (Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft), accidentally discovered the technique of AC tape bias in which the addition of an inaudible high-frequency tone resulted in a striking improvement in sound quality. The discovery was made when a Magnetophone producing recordings of extraordinary quality was sent 'for repair'. The machine proved to have an oscillating DC bias amplifier. Magnetic media is inherently non-linear, but AC bias was a technique whereby the tape's magnetisation was left in a state proportional to the instantaneous audio electrical signal. The Magnetophon became a high fidelity recording system that outperformed gramophone recording (which was the 78 rpm system at this time).
Many speeches, concerts, and operatic performances were recorded. Since many of the recordings survived World War II they were later issued on LPs and compact discs. One of the more remarkable series of recordings took place at the Vienna State Opera House, also known as Wiener Staatsoper, in 1944, when the German composer Richard Strauss recorded many of his famous symphonic poems, including Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, and Also sprach Zarathustra, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
AEG engineers made rapid strides in perfecting the system and had practical stereo recorders by 1943. Until 1945, about 250 stereophonic tape recordings were known to exist, including some Richard Strauss and Furtwängler. Only three survived. This includes a performance of Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with pianist Walter Gieseking and the Berlin Reichssenders Orchestra conducted by Artur Rother. This remarkable performance was later issued on LP by Varèse Sarabande. Later in 1993, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) issued a special CD for the 50th birthday of stereo recording. This CD not only includes the "Emperor" Concerto, but the two other stereo recordings known to exist: a Brahms serenade and the last movement of Bruckner's 8th Symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Piano Library also issued the Emperor concerto, and Iron Needle issued the Brucker recordings (catalog IN 1407). ArkivMusic released a CD of the concerto, as well a later recording Gieseking made of Beethoven's first piano concerto with the Rafael Kubelik and the Philharmonic Orchestra.
Magnetophon recorders were widely used in German radio broadcasts during World War II, although they were a closely guarded secret at the time. Allied intelligence experts knew that the Germans had some new form of recording system but they did not know the details of its construction and operation until working models of the Magnetophon were discovered during the Allied invasion of Germany during 1944-45.
American audio engineer Jack Mullin acquired two Magnetophon recorders and fifty reels of magnetic tape from a German radio station at Bad Nauheim near Frankfurt in 1945. The allied forces were traveling through Germany during WWII when they first discovered the device. The Allies then handed the Magnetophon over to Mullin. Over the next two years Mullin modified and developed these machines, hoping to create a commercial recording system that could be used by movie studios. American popular vocalist Bing Crosby would use the technology, as modified by Mullin and the fledgling Ampex company, to record his radio broadcasts in the more relaxed atmosphere of the recording studio, which was a significant break from the then-norm of live studio audience broadcasts.
David Winter also has several Magnetophon demonstrations on YouiTube at these links:
1939 AEG Magnetophon FT4 • First tape recorded with 1934 AEG Magnetophon prototype • 1948 AEG Magnetophon K8 tape recorder
1945 to 1970
In 1945, after the Second World War, the production in the factories in the western sectors of Berlin what today is the building of the headquarters of DW (TV)Deutsche Welle and Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Mulheim an der Ruhr resumed and further new works were erected, among others an Electric meter plant in Hameln.
The steam and electric locomotive plant in Hennigsdorf (Fabriken Hennigsdorf) became a Volkseigener Betrieb (VEB) (people owned enterprise) as the Lokomotivbau Elektrotechnische Werke (LEW) ("electric locomotive works"). The cable plant (Draht-, Kabel- und Metallwerk Oberspree) and apparatus factory (Apparatefabrik Treptow) and other facilities also lay in East Germany and became Sowjetische Aktiengesellschaft (SAG) (Soviet joint stock companies). Over 90% of assets in Berlin lay in the Russian occupied zone and were lost.
The headquarters for the non-expropriated parts of the company was moved first to Hamburg and then finally to Frankfurt am Main, the headquarters in Berlin having been destroyed.
1948: The AEG factories Kassel (FK) were founded on the site of the former MWK Motorenbau Werk Kassel at Lilienthalstrasse 150 in Kassel/Hesse/Germany. The first factory part was the high voltage switchgear factory (HSF), later the refrigerator factory (KSF), the ticketprinter factory (FDF), the isolating material factory (IF) as well as the worldwide accepted high voltage institute (HI)were founded. In the early sixties more than 5000 people worked for AEG in Kassel. Today, the site Lilienthalstrasse still produces high voltage switchgear.
1950: The new corporate headquarters is at the Friedensbrücke (Peace Bridge) in Frankfurt / Main. The number of employees in the Group rose from 20,900 in September 1948 to 55,400 persons in September 1957. In the same year the turnover exceeded one billion DM for the first time, however the high level of investment in the rebuilding of the company (1948 to 1956 over 500 million DM) placed a considerable strain on the balance sheet.
1958: The slogan "Aus Erfahrung Gut" (benefit from experience) is introduced, leading to unflattering parodies such as "Auspacken, Einschalten, Geht nicht" (unpacking, switching on, does not work) or "Alles Ein Gammel" (everything is 'gammy').
1962: The Group has 127,000 employees and generates annual sales of 3.1 billion DM. In Springe a new factory is opened in February
1962 a new factory for the production of fluid control units with 200 employees.
1962: Walter Bruch at Telefunken in Hannover develops PAL color television.
1966: The largest industrial space in Europe is created (175 m long, 45 m wide and 26 m high) for the construction using cranes of engines and generators with weights up to 400 tonnes. Robert Kennedy attends the opening.
1 January 1967: Merger with Telefunken creates AEG-Telefunken, headquartered in Frankfurt am Main.
After a merger in 1967 the company was renamed Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft AEG-Telefunken (from 1979 on only AEG-Telefunken). The company experienced financial difficulties during the 1970s, resulting in the sale of some of its assets; in 1983 the consumer electronics division Telefunken Fernseh und Rundfunk GmbH was sold.
AEG-Telefunken delivered the two-millionth tape recorder, a Magnetophon 204 TS (right), on August 5, 1969. The 204 recorder is seen here in the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording.
When AEG was bought by Daimler in 1985, "Telefunken" was dropped from the company name.
In 1970, AEG-Telefunken had 178,000 employees worldwide and was the twelfth largest electrical company in the world. However the company was burdened by, among other things, ultimately unsuccessful projects, such as the construction of an automated baggage conveyor system at Frankfurt Airport and its entrance into the nuclear power plant building business. The companies' line of Boiling water reactors were not successful on the market. In particular, the nuclear power plant at Würgassen, the commissioning of which was delayed by several years due to a number of technical problems cost AEG hundreds of millions of DM. As a result the company provided a dividend for the last time in 1972.
The entertainment arm (Telefunken Fernseh und Rundfunk GmbH) headquartered in Hanover was sold. This was followed by the computer mainframe business (TR 4, TR 10, TR 440) (a partnership under the name Telefunken Computer GmbH with the company Nixdorf) was sold to Siemens. The process computer (TR 84, TR 86, AEG 60-10, AEG 80-20, AEG 80-60) continued as Geschäftsbereich Automatisierungstechnik (after 1980 as ATM Computer GmbH).
In 1975, the former Telefunken Headquarter at Berlin-Charlottenburg, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7 was sold. The building had been previously rented to the Technical University of Berlin
In 1976, to circumvent the requirement of equal participation of employees in the Supervisory Board, Dr. Walter Cipa (Dipl.-Geol.) (AEG boss from 1976 to 1980) created four further companies as wholly owned joint stock companies in addition to the two household appliance companies.
In 1979 Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft AEG-Telefunken was renamed AEG-Telefunken AG by dropping the supplement "Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft", used since 1887. For reasons of European Union, the corporate form AG (Aktiengesellschaft) had to be added.
In February 1980, Heinz Dürr became board Chairman (until 1990).
In August 1982 a restructuring plan, backed with federal guarantees of 600 million DM and new bank loans of 275 million DM, fell apart at the first disagreement between the banks. A banking consortium provided an administrative loan of DM 1.1 billion to the AEG Group until June 1983; 400 million of which only to be available on a guarantee by the federal government. Not only was AEG-Telefunken AG affected, but also its subsidiaries Küppersbusch AG in Gelsenkirchen, Hermann Zanker Maschinenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG in Tübingen and Carl Neff GmbH in Bretten. The Alno-Möbelwerke GmbH & Co. KG in Pfullendorf was taken over by the minority shareholders, and separated from the group.
The suppliers to AEG were affected and some filed for bankruptcy—including Becher & Co. Möbelfabriken KG in Bühlertann—with lack of continuity of company policy a factor. The site at Brunnenstraße in the former Berlin district of Wedding was also sold, as were the firms AEG-Fabrik Essen and Bauknecht.
1983/84: the consumer electronics division (Telefunken television and broadcasting GmbH) was sold to the French group Thomson-Brandt.
In 1985 the company re-took the name AEG and the remainder of the company was acquired by Daimler-Benz; the parts that remained were primarily related to electric power distribution and electric motor technology. Under Daimler-Benz ownership, the former AEG rump companies eventually become part of the newly named Adtranz in 1995.
In 1996, AEG as a manufacturing company ceased to exist.