Bang & Olufsen: Inside The Aluminium Factory / by Alastair Wiper

Bang & Olufsen (B&O) is the oldest consumer electronics company in the world. Founded in an attic in 1925 by two young electronics enthusiasts, Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen, the company went on to produce some of the most iconic audio and visual products of the 20th century, and to this day it still produces in Struer, Denmark, the town it was founded in.

Recently I was flicking through the pages of a suitcase sized book about the history of B&O, recalling some of the amazing designs that have been produced in Struer over the years, and I stumbled across something which instantly brought back a flood of feelings from my childhood: the Beovision Video Terminal. The Beovision Video Terminal was the advanced remote control that was supplied with many of the B&O TV’s of the late 70’s and 80’s, and my granddad had one as an accessory to the pride and joy of his life, his Beovision TV. Harry Wiper was a biscuit salesman from Yorkshire, and buying expensive luxury items was not his style - he even kept the plastic wrapping on the seats of his Honda so that it would retain it’s value when he sold it. But the plastic wrapping came off the Beovision remote control, and seeing the picture in that book triggered some memories that had long been buried at the back of my mind - I can still feel the cool metal of the remote and the reassuring (perhaps lethal) weight of the thing. I also remember that even as a small child I could figure out how it worked, much to the chagrin of my grandparents. I'm sure there are a lot of people my age out there that remember that weird record player their parents had that did everything without you touching it, or a CD player that looked like it should be on the wall of a gallery.

Factory 5 in Struer is the place that the aluminium parts of B&O products are produced. Apparently it is the only place in the world that can actually produce the parts to these specifications, and B&O have become such masters of aluminium that other companies come to them to consult on their expertise. I shot this for the winter 2014 edition of their magazine, and I'm thrilled to say I have been granted unprecedented access to all of their archives, testing and manufacturing facilities - so watch this space for a big project coming next year.

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