Thomson is one of the oldest technology companies that still exist today. It may be under a different name, but the roots of company which took over in the modern era can easily be traced more than a century ago.

Elihu Thomson (1853 to 1937) – Founder of Thomson

Man responsible for founding Thomson is an electrical engineer, born in March 26th in 1853, a man named Elihu Thomson. At an early age he moved with his family from his birthplace of Manchester in England to Philadelphia in the United States of America.

In 1879 Elihu started his first company, Thomson-Houston Electric Company, partnering with a colleague Edwin Houston. This was the time when Thomas Edison ran his own company, the Edison General Electric Company, with which Thomson actually merged in 1892, forming the General Electric Company, which operates to this day, with more than US$1.3 billion of operating income on a yearly basis.

In 1893 a company known as Compagnie Française Thomson-Houston was formed, basically a subdivision to General Electric. This company laid foundations for Thomson SA to be formed further down the timeline, based in Paris. The French subdivision operated mostly as an administrative office, focusing on sales.

In 1894 a sister company to above French based company was formed in Warwickshire, England – British Thomson-Houston.

In 1904 the French subdivision of Thomson-Houston was sold to French investors who maintained connections to the American foundries and struggled quite a bit with finding appropriate and capable staffing to move forward. After a decade of mediocre business results, they decided to move in on the consumer market, which proved to be a good move as the company slowly but steadily grew up into the 1930s.

In 1937 Elihu Thomson passed away, at the age of 83. He was an owner of over 700 patents which resulted in being awarded with numerous awards, such as Rumford Prize, Edison Medal, French Legion of Honor etc.

In the World War 2 era, as expected, the company did not manage to grow, yet their facilities were used to satisfy German’s army requirements, or the businesses were put to an idle state. This resulted in a significant shortage of electronic devices such as electric motors, electric switches and a variety of lights. This lead to governmental aid once the war ended to satisfy consumer requirements for these devices.

During the 1950s the Houston branding was dropped from the company and in 1953 the company seized connections to General Electric, as Thomson has proven to be an invaluable resource and supplier for both military and consumers. Being one of the pioneering companies in communication technology, Thomson managed to become a staple in France’s economy, managing to maintain commercial success on their own.

In 1966, after a long period of supporting French colonial moves, Thomson purchased Hotchkiss-Brandt, a successful French based company which had its roots in the military and automotive industry. This addition to their portfolio marked a beginning of substantial growth, also renaming the company to Thomson-Brandt.

Thomson-Brandt resumed to merge with numerous French technology manufacturers, first being Compagnie Generale de Telegraphie Sans Fils. This new division created in 1968, now called Thomson-CSF, took over France’s primary manufacturer of electronics for business and home use. During this rise, appetites grew and the division looked into extending to North America, Asia and Africa.

Over the next decade Thomson-CSF looked into creating new markets, merging with companies such as SGS, Contel and Xerox, but a series of bad management decisions lead the merger into financial troubles.

In 1981 as French Socialists came to power, the government had control over Thomson Brandt, with Alain Gomez taking the role of chairman of the company. He and his associates had quite a task ahead of them, as the merger was in an obvious mess. It took one year for the company to reorganize and form Thomson S.A.

Alain Gomez

In 1983 Alain Gomez made some controversial decisions which actually proven to be quite beneficial for Thomson S.A. in the long run. He made the decision to transfer most of cable and equipment manufacturing to CGE (Cie Générale d’Electricité), a French electronics giant. On the other hand, Thomson S.A. took over some of CGE’s manufacturing of electronic components and consumer electronics, which paved the way towards Thomson S.A. innovative designs further down the line.

In 1984 Thomson S.A. purchased Telefunken, a German company, after failing to acquire Grundig. This purchase made it much easier for Thomson S.A. to market in the German territory as well as some other parts of Europe.

In 1987 Thomson S.A. acquired the complete General Electric’s consumer electronics line by giving up medical unit production and cash investment. Similarly to Telefunken, Thomson S.A. made sure to make the most of GE’s highly viable marketing potential. This focus on acquiring large companies to make use of their marketing network did pose somewhat of a threat in terms of production and sales, especially in the consumer market. This is when Philips dominated, especially after managing to acquire Grundig. Companies such as Sony and Matsushita also made quite an impact at the time.

In 1990s Thomson S.A. created a high tech television brand – Prosean. This is when they focused on covering the American market which was proven to be the most lucrative. In 1994 Thomson S.A. completed headquarters in Indianapolis, also managing to push out CinemaScreen technology, which marketed as “TV made for Movies”.

In 1995 Thomson S.A. changed name once again to Thomson Multimedia, putting a focus towards entertainment devices. However, at this time, the company’s future was not really clear nor bright. Investments in the early 90s have taken a toll on the financial profile of the company, with losses starting to accumulate.

Thierry Breton

In 1997 Thomson Multimedia got a new CEO, Mr. Thierry Breton who immediately took action, reorganized operations and cutting down costs where necessary, such as in overseas manufacturing sites. He also managed to get a cash inflow of US$10 billion from the government as well as opening the company to shareholders in 1998. Microsoft, Alcatel and General Electric all took part in shareholding, for almost 8%. Strategic partnership with Microsoft was also created which made sure that Thomson Multimedia devices receive proper software support and cooperating with Microsoft’s future project, the Xbox.

In 2001 Thomson Multimedia purchased Technicolor from a U.K. company Carlton Communication, as well as NEC, combining their plasma TV technology to create a new venture. In June of the same year a key purchase was made – they acquired Alcatel’s DSL modem and router manufacturing, which spread the company’s profile further into the home and business networking market.

Editor’s note: This is an informative historical article, for any troubleshooting for your Thomson/Technicolor product kindly refer to your model’s Thomson user manual or check out our Thomson modem troubleshooting category.