Siegmund Loewe

Siegmund Loewe was a German engineer and businessman that developed vacuum tube forerunners of the modern integrated circuit.

LoeweHe pioneered both radio and television broadcasting, and the company he established in 1923 with his brother, David Loewe, was the foundation of today’s Loewe AG, a corporation that continues to be a leader in the consumer electronics industry.

The Loewes established Radiofrequenz GmbH (limited liability company) to produce vacuum tubes and radios in Berlin. Discoveries Siegmund Loewe made during the first few years of the company’s operation led to a tremendous breakthrough in 1926. That year, Loewe succeeded in producing, with the aid of the young and talented Baron Manfred von Ardenne, a vacuum tube containing three smaller vacuum tubes and their connecting apparatus. This three-fold tube condensed most of the components of a radio receiver into a single entity. As a result, the sensitive equipment was not only more compact, but also less prone to damage from air and moisture because most of it was contained and protected by the same glass case.

The invention was first reported in the United States in the Radio News. In an article published in July 1926, G. C. B. Rowe described the three-fold tube and a two-fold tube produced by Loewe with great enthusiasm, predicting that, "These tubes of Dr. Loewe will doubtless be forerunners of a new race of vacuum tubes." Rowe was correct in his prediction, but Loewe’s real achievement (integrating multiple electronics and their connections into a unitary structure) was even more momentous than Rowe seems to have realized, for it paved the way for a modern electronics industry built upon the integrated circuit. The earliest semiconductor integrated circuit, much closer to the type encountered today, were not built, however, until the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the meantime, Loewe used his tubes to produce a radio receiver dubbed OE 333. It was the first truly affordable receiver; about a million were built and sold.

A few years later Loewe would be a player in another important advance in electronics. Working with von Ardenne, Loewe helped develop one of the world’s first fully electronic televisions, which used cathode ray tubes to both record and reproduce moving pictures. In 1931, at the eighth German broadcasting exhibition in Berlin, an experimental version of the device was demonstrated at his company’s stand. A few days before the exhibition, the television, or flying spot scanner as von Ardenne’s prototype was known, was announced as a special attraction in the New York Times. Two years later at the same broadcasting event, Loewe unveiled the first television ready for assembly line production. The local newspaper, the Berliner Morgenpost, enthusiastically reported:

"Even crowded scenes are clearly depicted, and the gleam of a horse’s back is splendidly reproduced. Public reaction is equally fascinating: People don’t just look; they stand staring, spellbound by the action on the glowing glass screen."

After Hitler came to power in Germany in the 1930s, the Loewe brothers found it necessary to emigrate. The company they had founded changed names several times and its facilities were used for military purposes during World War II. After the war, electronics production for civilians resumed. In 1949, Siegmund Loewe was reinstated as the head of the company, a position he maintained until his death in 1962. During that time, the Loewe company continued to make significant advances in electronics. In 1961, for instance, the company helped usher in the video age with the Optacord 500, the first German device for recording and viewing home videos.