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The Collins Radio Company of Cedar Rapids,Iowa - a thumbnail history

(Inspired by the Collins Collectors' Association site).  Visit the Collins Radio Association.

The Collins Radio Company was founded in 1932 by a youngradio amateur, the late Arthur Collins, WCXX. Collins started making transmittersfor his fellow hams. During that early era,  there was nothing finer than a Collinstransmitter. When WW-II started, the Collins Radio Company received many contracts for thedevelopment and manufacture of radio equipment for the military. The U.S. Navy TCS-12 HFshipboard radio system, and the famous AN/ART-13 Autotune LF/HF transmitter, are examplesfrom this period. After the war, Collins continued to design and manufacture all types ofmilitary, amateur and commercial radio systems, avionics and radar for a broad spectrum ofcustomers. In the late fifties, Art Collins’ friendship with General CurtisLeMay, KGRL, led to a successful demonstration of HF-SSB aboard Strategic Air Commandaircraft. This showed that round-the-world HF communication was practical; within a fewyears,  HF-SSB became the world standard for HF radio-telephony. However, ArthurCollins never forgot his ham radio roots, and continued to manufacture the finest radioequipment for the amateur market. Back then, anyone could buy a KWM-2, S-Line or 30L-1amplifier from a Collins dealer. All one had to have was the wherewithal to pay for it.Even the venerable R-390 was available for public sale in the mid-sixties. This gear wasso excellent that government, military and commercial customers bought the same equipmentto serve their HF needs. (In fact, the S-Line, KWM-2 and 30L-1 even saw service in the1991 Gulf War!)

Collins' presence in the amateur market until theseventies was also driven by the fact that the decision-makers in many of their customercompanies were radio amateurs. The amateur product line was thus a first-class"promo" for their commercial and military product lines. In later years, thisfactor became ever less important; as a result, Collins exited the amateur market in theseventies, shortly after the company's acquisition by Rockwell International.Their last ham rig was the KWM-380 HF transceiver, an amateur variant of the HF-380 system. TheKWM-380 is still highly prized by collectors.

On June 29, 2001, RockwellCollins, Inc. was spun-off from Rockwell International and began trading itsshares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COL." Today,Rockwell Collins, Inc. designs, produces, markets and supports electroniccommunications, avionics and in-flight entertainment systems for commercial,military and government customers worldwide.

As the years and decades rolled by, RFtechnology underwent massive changes. The transistor, and later the integrated circuit,supplanted the vacuum tube. The frequency synthesizer even eclipsed the Collins PTO(Permeability Tuned Oscillator). The highly-stable PTO had been the key to the rapiddeployment of SSB in mobile applications. Broadband designs incorporating switchedbandpass filters replaced tuned preselectors, exciters and power amplifiers. DSP began toappear in, then ultimately to take over, the IF and "back-end" functions of manyradio sets. But notwithstanding the sophistication and superb performance of today'scompact amateur HF transceivers, there is a sizable community of Collins collectors andrestorers in the amateur fraternity.

Read the officialhistory of Rockwell Collins, Inc. and a short biographicalsketch of Arthur A. Collins.

Page last updated: 09/25/19