In 1925, working out of a Danish farmhouse, Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen reinvented the radio. A century later, that entrepreneurial spirit of innovation lives on in every single item made by Bang & Olufsen.
Peter Bang (1900–1957), son of Camillo Bang, a successful Danish businessman, showed great interest in radio technology from an early age. After graduating as an engineer in 1924, he spent six months working in a U.S. radio factory. Upon his return to Denmark, he teamed up with his friend Svend Olufsen (1897–1949), whose parents made the attic of their manor house in Struer in Jutland available for experiments.
Their first product was developed in the attic of the Olufsen's manor house in Denmark where the family still lives today. The company of Bang & Olufsen was founded on 17 November, 1925 by the two young engineers who shared a passion for radio transmissions. When they officially opened their business, Bang concentrated on the technology while Olufsen dealt with business.
The first commercially viable product to bear the Bang & Olufsen name was the B&O Eliminator in 1927. The Eliminator enabled a radio to be connected directly to the mains rather than being battery-operated which had been previously the norm. That same year, production moved to a new, purpose-built factory at Gimsing, just outside the town of Struer in northwestern Jutland.
Towards the end of World War II the factory was burnt down by pro-Nazi saboteurs as punishment for the management's refusal to collaborate with the Germans. Undeterred, Bang and Olufsen rebuilt the factory, producing electric razors until 1955, and then going on to develop a range of radio, radiogram, and television sets.
From the outset Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen concentrated on quality materials and the application of new technology. Following the move to the new factory a new idea developed, a pre-set tuning button, which was one of the many innovations that earned the company the Danish Hallmark of Quality.
During their time together Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen were considered unorthodox in their approach - conventional wisdom held that products of the twentieth century should display their technicalities and little or no attention needed to be paid to their physical appearance. Their innovative ideas were to form the basis of the success of the company in the years to come. Bang & Olufsen is - and has always been - a visionary enterprise.
The 1960s brand slogan, ‘We think differently’, remains inspiring – rooting Bang & Olufsen in an approach to design that embraces risk and experimentation. This spirit of innovation has led to many of Bang & Olufsen products being celebrated and collected by leading art and design museums, including MoMA’s permanent collection.
Within the company there has been an unbroken link with family members still taking part in the company's vision. Peter Bang's son, Jens Bang, has been an active member both of the development team and of the B&O Board for many years. Svend Olufsen's family, too, has continued to play an active role within the company.
Since 1989 the Board has been chaired by Peter Skak Olufsen, Svend Olufsen's nephew and owner of the manor of Quistrup, where the two young engineers in 1925 took up 'the new radio cult'.