Interview Date: Tuesday November 10, 1992
Interview Location: Old Bridge, NJ USA
Interviewer: Archer Taylor
Collection: Archer Taylor Technical Collection
Note: Audio Only
TAYLOR: Now we are recording, I trust. We are interviewing Ike Blonder, in his offices at Blonder-Tongue, in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
BLONDER: Of which I am the retired Chairman.
TAYLOR: There you go … this has been about what, three years?
BLONDER: Three years.
TAYLOR: This is the 10th of November, and interviewing by Archer Taylor. Ike was commenting, and I’ll make him do it again, because I pushed the wrong button and we didn’t record it … about how an engineer goes at designing a product for sale by … manufacture and sale.
BLONDER: Yes, you give an engineer with creativity, a project and he will go ahead and design it, and then as soon as he has it finished, he’ll figure another way to make it better and when he does that, it’ll be still another way to make it better … and then new transistors and other components come along which could improve the performance … so that in reality, practically no engineer will complete a project in the assigned time, or assume that it’s ready for market. The Chief Engineer has to take a look at it … make a judgment as to whether in truth, whatever is accomplished in the laboratories is capable of being turned into a product for sale and this is a judgment which is usually at variance with that of the engineer. So the Chief Engineer’s job is to say, “No more work … put it out.”
TAYLOR: But you still get improvements?
BLONDER: Oh, you continue to work on improvements! The competitors force you into improvements usually … you don’t have much choice.
TAYLOR: Now, just for fun, I am going to see if we recorded that. We did, and we are off and running now. You wrote this piece for Communications Technology and it’s written in Ike Blonder’s style, which is a unique style in …, our technical literature.
BLONDER: I have been told many times that I would have been better off being a comedian in the Catskills, than an engineer in a company … but all right.
TAYLOR: You’re both … you’re both. Would you mind sort of doing a brief resume of what you put in the “Dinosaur Droppings” and review it for the tape recorded record?
BLONDER: Well, why don’t I read it?
TAYLOR: All right, fine.
BLONDER: I will read it very quickly. Who am I? Why do I qualify as a cable dinosaur by age and experience?” I was born in New York City, June 24, 1916. I moved to rural Connecticut in 1922 and grew up at the same time as radio and TV … and always in a fringe reception area. Crystal radios were the principle means of radio reception in the early 20’s. Almost every household had long wire antennas strung from the house to adjacent trees. I will add one thing that I didn’t put in the article. When there was any kind of electrical currents, the darn things would snap! … to the nearest radiator, you would get a charge of electricity going in … the lightning arrestor was a very necessary thing. I didn’t put it in here.
TAYLOR: The Ben Franklin effect?
BLONDER: It was a real Ben Franklin. Every house had those things snapping with nervous housewives complaining.
TAYLOR: How many houses burned down?
BLONDER: Well I don’t know that … anyway, you listened to a crystal radio, with the earphones of course … and you could sit until the dawn, listening to one station after another, across the country, because each station pretty much had a unique frequency … which was not interfered with by some another. And as nighttime came along, the signals would have apparently the ability to skip. So you heard the whole country. Battery powered radio showed up in the mid-twenties, followed by AC powered home models and all sorts of styles. My father had a garage. I was a grease jockey until the end of my college career. I never could get my fingernails clean, by the way. That stuff acts just like tattoo. The earlier automobiles had expensive radios with dry cell B batteries, with a high voltage. I was educated, so I repaired the radios and electronics in automobiles. I had a great time. In 1940, I got a Masters in physics, from Cornell … no job. Finally, in ’41, General Electric personnel department, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, from the depths of a generous heart, took me on as a trouble shooter in the radio factory, at $40.00 a week, and said, “Please don’t tell anybody that you have a degree, because the factory doesn’t like to have people in it with a degree.” I am going to add one more thing. I got fired five times within the factory, for telling the truth. But I didn’t want to mention this in the article, to be published. Anyhow, several months later, in the mail, I got a letter from the United States offering me a position in the Army, for one year, to engage in research. When I got to Fort Monmouth before Pearl Harbor, I learned that research was being a Radar Officer in the British Army, in England … so I got experience in that. Four years later, out of the Army, strong on radar, weak on physics, I found a job with Panoramic Radio Corporation, where I met Ben Tongue.
TAYLOR: When was it you went to the radar … the British Army?
BLONDER: ’42. I was over there … for the year of ’42, I was in the British army, and I ran half-a-dozen radars in Cornwall. Very interesting experience. I enjoyed it … lucky no bomb dropped on me … though what the heck! … otherwise I wouldn’t be here, talking to you. Anyhow, I met Ben Tongue, and Ben Tongue, although he was very young, was the most qualified engineer they had … and they had some excellent engineers there … some of the top people in the industry. So that’s where I met Ben. I still wanted to be in physics, so I finally got over to City College and I became an instructor in Engineering Physics.
TAYLOR: What did you do at Panoramic?
BLONDER: Panoramic, I was the … basically Quality Control Engineer. I helped redesign the … I wasn’t designing the original units, but in the factory they wouldn’t work … you know, it was always something that had problems. So, I would take the units and redo the circuitry so as to optimize.
TAYLOR: Was the Panoramic unit, the spectrum analyzer, their only product?
BLONDER: It was the basic product that they had. The owner of the company was a fellow named Mike Wallace who was Hungarian. He was the one who invented spectrum analysis.
TAYLOR: I recall that … way back.
BLONDER: Yes. What we built were the Hallicrafter add-ons to their amateur receivers. It was a Panoramic, which you put into the IF that measured the signals in the IF and you could pick out, with the Panoramic adapter, the available signals and tune in on them. It was a good way to zero in on a weak signal. It was very good. And they made, basically, Panoramic test equipment and continued to do so, for some years after I left, and Ben Tongue left.
TAYLOR: Ben was still there when you left?
BLONDER: Yes. Instead of becoming Hewlett-Packard, they died off. But you know everybody doesn’t find themselves successful, but they were on the same path as Hewlett-Packard. Anyhow, I still wanted to be in physics, so I went to City College. They took me on as an instructor of engineering physics and I discovered that teaching was boring, which was no fun. The students didn’t want to listen to physics, they only wanted to listen to engineering, get their degree and get a job. So teaching a physics course was the same as being in the basement … nobody wanted to be there. But anyway … so a friend of mine, over at TeleKing, and asked me if I wanted to get into the field of television, which was brand new at the time. So I went over to engineer. I became an engineer at TeleKing Corp.
TAYLOR: When was that?
BLONDER: In ’48, 1948.
TAYLOR: And what was TeleKing’s product?
BLONDER: TeleKing’s product was basically television.
TAYLOR: Television receivers?
BLONDER: Yes. We built the old 630, and then we built the Novel Ten… all designed by RCA. The company simply took those models, and cheapened them, and put them into production.
TAYLOR: The 630 was an RCA model.
BLONDER: The 630 was an RCA model, which they were building at the time I got there. That was a very fancy unit, with a low frequency IF, and a well built, well designed unit. By the way, the early ones only were doing low band VHF. It took awhile to get high band VHF. One of the things I did while I was there, I designed a new tuner, which they purchased for the UHF portion of the receiver. We had two tuners. One is a UHF tuner, which I designed.
TAYLOR: That was a continuous tune?
BLONDER: Continuous tuning, el cheapo. I stayed there a couple of years. My problem was, that is, basically I am an inventor. I would come up with an invention, and nobody would want to buy it. The only way to get an invention out is to have your own company. Nobody else is foolish enough to put the darn thing on the market. I decided that in 1950, I decided that I’d like to go into business for myself. Ben Tongue, whom I kept touch with, felt the same way. We joined together, without a product. We went into business in a little store in Yonkers. And as I say in this article, which is kind of funny, the first week we were there, the police roared up, with their lights going, and challenged us. They thought we were bookmakers, like the people used to be in the store!
TAYLOR: I think Ben told that story too!
BLONDER: They were very disappointed when they found we were engineers.
TAYLOR: When you started this company, did you call it Blonder-Tongue at that time?
TAYLOR: And you had no product at all?
BLONDER: No product whatever.
TAYLOR: Just hope, yes?
BLONDER: Just hope. And we had to live off of our previous savings. It was kind of silly, because actually, we had products on paper, of laboratory equipment … somewhat similar to what Panoramic was doing. We were going to build some high faluting test equipment for factories, based upon sweeping signals. However, it seemed as if, when you are in the Westchester area, which we were in, that people needed very elaborate antenna systems, to be able to receive signals. And they had the money to pay for it.
TAYLOR: And this is what year now?
BLONDER: This is 1950. So we thought that one of the things we’d do, would be to go ahead and build some custom systems while we were designing our other gear … make a few bucks. So you put together a custom system, and you need a rotator, and a big antenna, and presumably, a well designed wiring system for the home … and you had a problem of signal to noise ratio. The TV sets were pretty poor at that time. Everybody had basically, tunable boosters where you had a tuner for the low band, one tube for the high band, and you tuned away. Well, to tune in, to get a better signal is a skill, and impossible for the average household. So we thought about it, and said, “We could probably improve that. Let’s come up with a broad band booster” … which nobody else had. So we designed a thing called the HA-1 … I don’t have one of them here, but I have the CA-IM here, which is the same unit, but with … basically the same four tube unit, but built in a case, and with the higher power than the HA-1. And this was built in, as you see, in Westfield, New Jersey. We moved to Westfield in 1951, from Yonkers. We first were in Yonkers … just for a year, in this little store. We moved to another place in Yonkers that still wasn’t big enough, because we were selling so many of the HA-ILs … business was good.
TAYLOR: Ike is holding in his hands, the commercial Antensifier model CA1-M, which is a somewhat later model than the original HA-IL.
BLONDER: This came in about ’53, and this was the best … by far the best broadband amplifier in the business for anybody … matter of fact, our first broadband amplifier was the first one ever made. And when we built the darn thing … and I thought I was selling it for home use, we discovered an awful lot of people using it to power a master antenna system for apartments. That’s why we got to building the CA-IM … was to provide a so-called professional model… and also to give it a 75 ohm capability, where the previous one was only 300 ohms. It was a built in transformer for 75 ohms, so you could use coaxial cable.
TAYLOR: But outside of the input impedance, and the metal cabinetry, it’s the same .
BLONDER: Basically the same unit, with a little higher … more dissipation on the tubes.
TAYLOR: What was the technology of the broadband amplifier?
BLONDER: The basic technology was to have two tubes for low band and two tubes for the high band and to be able to neutralize them so they didn’t oscillate, and you’d cover the entire band … and also to have a good input … the input had to be carefully neutralized … so that also would give a good noise figure. And we got a patent on it.
TAYLOR: What kind of noise figure did you get on it?
BLONDER: 9. But remember the receivers were running 15-18. They were terrible.
BLONDER: We were running somewhere between 9 or 10. Today of course you go down to 3 or 4, for that kind of quality.
TAYLOR: That’s right.
BLONDER: Transistors and whatever. But basically though, it was an amplifier, which had a good noise figure and could be used for distribution. I forgot to mention, it was in my article here, that while I was in TeleKing, the engineers in the factory, were in considerable trouble, because, there was a limited number of antennas you could put on the roof of the factory building … to pick up the New York City signals, even though we were in New York City. And when you brought the 300 ohm lead down to the bench, to the engineer, and more than one engineer wanted to tap that antenna, you got a signal you wouldn’t believe! Had more ghosts.
TAYLOR: … and a lot of things you didn’t want!
BLONDER: You didn’t want! There were all kinds of trouble. Let alone whatever was being injected into it, from the engineer at his test bench, so they were ready to kill each other. And I was in the laboratory. My primary job was to fix the test equipment. I went ahead and designed some resistance splitters, which solved the problem … but it was weak. And then because you couldn’t get an amplifier which would broadband the entire VHF band, I built cathode followers. Cathode followers will give you a little bit of gain and isolation, which is important. And as soon as the factory manager saw …
TAYLOR: And these were used in the laboratory?
BLONDER: In the laboratory, to give the individual engineer, a half a dozen of them, a signal that was clean from the roof.
TAYLOR: You were isolating …
BLONDER: It was isolating each system, and also having a good match, so that you didn’t get ghosts out of the 300 ohm lead. Also, the 300 ohm lead, if you ever mismatched it, acted like an antenna, and you would then get a second signal pickup on the 300 ohm lead … competition with the one on the roof, and you had ghosts beyond belief.
TAYLOR: Why … do you know why, it was all 300 ohm in those early days … why it wasn’t 75?
BLONDER: Well, actually there were extremely high losses – they were solid dielectric. The coaxial was available at that time … you put a signal in … didn’t come out the other end. They just were basically audio coaxes.
TAYLOR: Wasn’t the coax used in the military?
BLONDER: The coax in the military, also was very solid, heavy dielectric. I know because I used it as a radar officer. In fact I want to tell you a funny story. It might as well be funny! When I was in the British Army, and I took over some radars, the radars were pointing in one direction, where the airplane was supposed to be. In reality, the actual airplane was 30 degrees away. So it was a phase problem, and they didn’t know what to do with it. So I looked into the thing, and I discovered that the coax that they were using there, had solid lead sheath outer conductors, and with vibration, the lead would crack. So you would wind up with a center conductor, connected to you equipment, and the outer sheath broken.
TAYLOR: It was actually lead, no copper in the outer sheath?
BLONDER: It was a complete lead … it was a complete lead, well, lead is easy to make, you know, to extrude around a cable. So, with any vibration in the system, no matter how you tied it down, it would break at the connector. So, all I had to do was just go around and repair all the joints … make sure they were tight, and we had to inspect them regularly … and then the antenna pointed in the right direction. The phase relationship between the two antennas that you use for balance, indicate the direction of the airplane, that was now correctly oriented. This was the military type of coax. In fact, the BNC connector, is European, not American.
TAYLOR: Do you have any idea when they started using either braid or solid outer conductors?
BLONDER: I was in radar, of course, the whole time. During the time that I was in the United States, the braid showed up and the American …
TAYLOR: You mean, after you left England?
BLONDER: After, I left England, and came to the United States, I saw braid in the United States … we may have had solid copper sheath, but I don’t believe I ever saw lead sheathed cable.
TAYLOR: Well the radar was not airborne, then, at that time when you started?
BLONDER: Oh yes.
TAYLOR: And even airborne then … just lead? … incredible. Well, they didn’t lose the war!
BLONDER: But building extruded aluminum, was very difficult. I guess it was a technique that was learned later and as far as the braid was concerned, the braid shielding wasn’t good enough. I could take, in the early days in doing engineering … I could lay lines down from one end of the laboratory to other … for whatever reason … to delivery antenna signals or test signals, standard frequencies, and by the time I got to the … let’s say, a hundred feet away, from the starting point, with single shielded braid … braided cable … the two would be just as if they were coupled together, with a coupling device. The amount of coupling that went on over the braid, into the coax, was extremely high. It was obvious that the ordinary braided cable, which was also military, wasn’t good enough. Very often, if you wanted any real shield, you had to put them inside a metal conductor … pipe … it would be the only way you could be certain … if fact the broadcast stations were forced into that. They had to have it at a broadcast station. With the high levels that were there, they couldn’t exist with braided coax.
TAYLOR: Is it your recollection, or do you know, did the extruded aluminum come in before or after various welded and lapped copper? They tried the longitudinal wrap.
BLONDER: Oh yes. As a matter of fact, I thought the funniest thing that ever happened was up in Ellenville, New York. I think it was a Mr. Wiener who owned the system.
BLONDER: Ellenville. In Ellenville, which I visited one time, to look at the system, the owner of the system was completely unhappy with braided cable. So what he did was he had a company make a cable for him, which consisted of copper foil, wrapped spirally, around the installation. So now you had copper overwrap, and very considerable overlap, which could conduct conductivity. It was wonderful, when they put it up, and in no time at all copper oxide got to it. Next thing you know, he had the same thing I had over in England – no shields. You know what they used to do? They used to send the technician up with a sledge hammer and they would give each length of cable a sock with sledge hammer so as to break the copper oxide and make a connection …
TAYLOR: This must have been before Larry DeGeorge did the strip braid bit.
BLONDER: Yes, it was. It was before Larry DeGeorge did it.
TAYLOR: You think he would have learned from that experience. That was the same problem he had with the strip braid.
BLONDER: Remember the gentleman who put this in paid for on his own, and had his own design done, so I’m pretty sure …
TAYLOR: It wasn’t generally known then.
BLONDER: Not only was it not generally known, but it was a custom made item, which worked initially. Initially it was great.
TAYLOR: So did strip braid.
BLONDER: Yes. But the contact, you know, copper oxide is not a conducting device and …
TAYLOR: Sometimes called a rectifier.
BLONDER: That’s a rectifier, exactly! And you know, hitting your transmission line with a sledge hammer is not exactly …
TAYLOR: You know, they used to call it baseball bat treatment … go around and beat on it! Restore the high frequency!
BLONDER: So anyhow, until the foil got in, almost all cable that was braided, could leak. And that meant it could pick up interfering signals, especially if you are in a strong signal area in the city, it was just a pain. Anyhow, one of the things that I did, when I was in the factory, is as soon as I, so-called, solved the problem in the laboratory, the production manager came out and grabbed me by the ears, and said, “You have to do the same thing in the factory.” In no time at all, I became head of Quality Control. Well, they didn’t have an engineer in the factory, you know … just technicians. A lot of things go wrong, that really the technician is not …
TAYLOR: And this was TeleKing?
BLONDER: This was TeleKing, yes. Technicians really, although they are very capable, whatever, they are usually not equipped to look at the fundamentals of a problem. If you have a fundamental problem, you have to approach with fundamental engineering.
TAYLOR: Even physics.
BLONDER: Well, the word “physics” … now I found that in my entire career in physics, that the physicists couldn’t make anything work. I don’t mean to knock physicists, but the motion picture projector that they were using, usually broke down … some “A” student had to come in … you probably remember that.
BLONDER: They had test equipment. Test equipment was giving the wrong answer and they didn’t know it … because you take a piece of test equipment, and you’d turn it on. And if it indicates something you take it for granted it’s right.
TAYLOR: It’s right.
BLONDER: Yes, but to calibrate it … make sure that every piece of equipment is always calibrated and understood before you use it … that’s out of the ken of a theoretical type. So I had a wonderful time in Cornell. I was doing more repair work, than was doing physics.
BLONDER: Well, I was basically a repairman, because I was brought up in a garage, with dirty fingernails. Well anyway, to finish this page here, let’s see … I had an experience, I think I put in here, the fact that when we brought out our broadband booster, designed for home use, that it started to be used industrially, and we then started making amplifiers like the CA-IM, and MLA tubed amplifiers, that were more adapted to the broadband industry. According to my information, I don’t have any specific statement on it, but according to my inside information, the amplifiers were copied by everybody else in the business. We had the first broadband amplifiers. But the reason why we didn’t become big locals in the cable business, it is very simple. I mentioned it in my paper … couldn’t get paid. The cable people did not pay for one year, because they had no money. I can’t blame them. They were running on shoestrings and we were running on shoestrings, too. So we only sold to people who could pay us. They were the parts distributors. And their customers were the home installations and the TV installations, the apartment installations. So our equipment was basically directed for that market, for that reason. We did build a line of cable equipment at one time. Perfectly good amplifiers, master antenna … cable equipment quality, but the same problem … I couldn’t finance the cable companies.
TAYLOR: What period of time was that?
BLONDER: This was in the sixties. I think you probably come to ’70, and we were out of the business. I was a MSO president, you know, for six years … mostly in northern California … also in Bedford, Indiana.
TAYLOR: Probably knew that at one time, but I’ve forgotten about it.
BLONDER: And they were equipped with Blonder-Tongue amplifiers … the whole equipment. And we had a lot of fun with them. I mentioned one thing that I think people don’t realize, you couldn’t get technicians … for cable operators. Radio repairmen made enough money doing radio repair, why should he climb a pole? So the guy you got climbing poles, knew nothing about electricity, to speak of. It was quite a job keeping a system in operation, as a result. I had to do a lot of long distance troubleshooting across the country.
TAYLOR: Now those broadband amplifiers were probably just 12 channel – low band, high band?
BLONDER: Only 12 channel … that’s all we had at the time.
TAYLOR: And split band, like the MLA?
BLONDER: Yes, except that towards the end, I built … and here it is in front of you … I built a distribution amplifier, which I designed and built myself, by the way … I’m not a complete engineer, but this particular one, nobody else wanted to work on it, so I built a competitor to the Spencer-Kennedy, and this one is …
TAYLOR: Chain amplifier?
BLONDER: Chain amplifier. And this one is a 10 to 216 distributed amplifier with triodes , not pentodes. I got a better noise figure … flatter responses, excellent amplifier, and it was built as the market disappeared.
TAYLOR: Good timing!
BLONDER: Good timing! In came the other channels. And this amplifier could only go to 216. It was heavy and brutal, but it was an excellent amplifier–very flat, good noise figure–quality was there, but …
TAYLOR: Did any of those get in the market?
BLONDER: I have one here which obviously was made by Blonder-Tongue … it was in our catalog. We sold a few, but it was a good product too late for the market.
TAYLOR: This was you think in the mid-sixties?
BLONDER: Yes. I have information around here of the various catalogs. I could locate it and tell you what time, but my memory says it was in the mid-sixties … well, earlier than that … about ’58.
TAYLOR: Interesting thing about the patent I’ve been trying to run down on the chain amplifier. Fitz Kennedy told me years ago, long before he died, that I thought he told me that he had the patent and people like …
BLONDER: I have a patent on this too.
TAYLOR: … International Telemeter were using it without license. Turns out that it was a British patent … EMI, a guy by the name Percival had a patent, and apparently, SKL was operating on a license, and they were annoyed because Amplivision as not licensed and just copied their amplifier.
BLONDER: My company was always under the finger of a patent attorney. Bob Rines, whom I met in the Army. He was a radar officer, and turned into a patent attorney eventually, and he was with us from day one. He is the reason that I have 36 patents. Some of which are fairly worthless. But there are several good ones among them. We went through the Supreme Court on a patent case. But because I had always had a qualified patent attorney at our elbow, we won.
TAYLOR: So the chain amplifier, you had a patent on that.
BLONDER: I have a patent on that, on that particular one. The reasons and how the patent was gotten, I don’t know, but it is legit.
TAYLOR: Have you or Ben given us a list of patents?
BLONDER: I can find a list of patents for you around here someplace. I’ll have to look in my documents. I brought a lot of documents to look at.
TAYLOR: The material you gave Larry … there may be a list in that.
BLONDER: Ben had the list of patents, I know that.
TAYLOR: I may already have it. I will look when we break.
BLONDER: Let me see what I’ve got here. I may find it … I have a lot of paper here.
TAYLOR: I presume, since you have a patent, that either the British patent had expired, which is entirely possible …
BLONDER: We had a very conservative, honest, straight forward patent attorney … you know, he is a friend of mine … and whatever patent I got was legit. I mean we didn’t overstep somebody else’s patent and claim what he claimed. The guy that I was up against in the patent case, that went through the Supreme Court, was a professor at the University of Illinois, who had gotten the idea for the patent from Wright Air Force Base, and it was a government program. He went ahead, and built the broadband amplifier, and got a patent on it, but he signed in as the inventor, and he wasn’t. When you sign a patent form, you state “I am solely the inventor.” It is a misdemeanor if you misstate that. We never did that. I had a lawyer that wouldn’t let us. So whatever we had was legit. And you know, there are so many things going on in engineering, where everybody does a little trick here and a little trick there, and when you see the products that somebody else had, and you copy that trick, you don’t know if you are copying something that is public domain, or whether there is a patent on it. And as an engineer, and as a company, we were always willing to pay if somebody had it. I will give you an example. Right in front of you is a tubed camera. By 1960, we were manufacturing industrial cameras. We were doing about a million dollars a year … doing very well, and we were paying one-half percent of our sales price to RCA License Company, who claimed that they had a license – a patent on this. We looked into it, and we said, “My lawyer said that their claim was specious,” but rather than have a legal battle, we paid the fee.
TAYLOR: Was that the Vidicon I presume?
BLONDER: It was Vidicon, which we got from RCA and the circuits … but it wasn’t all RCA, maybe Farnsworth was involved … I really don’t know. But we paid one and a half percent when we made the cameras, which wasn’t very much. I think the reason why it was that low was that there had already been court battles over the validity of the patent and they were willing to take whatever they could get.
TAYLOR: Patents are a strange thing. Their value is usually what you can sue for.
BLONDER: The patent is only as good as your lawyers and most of the time, the patent was defensive, not offensive. We never sued anybody because they copied anything we had. We got a patent out so we wouldn’t be sued, which is an interesting way to look at it – that was the practical result. Anyway, just to finish off what I had down here on this paper … I have always been very, very skeptical of pay-per-view, and of pay TV and all these other so-called improvements in the business of being a cable operator. One of the systems that I bought in California, had low band only at the time we got it – $3.50 dollars a month. We immediately put in some microwave to pick up signals from San Francisco, I think it was and we then ran a full channel system and they would now have to pay $5.50, right?
BLONDER: And if they didn’t pay $5.50, we just put a simple high-low splitter in it, so they only got the low band … much to our disgust and amazement, the people on there with the $3.50 were very happy and didn’t want more television … because it would cost more money! And you know, you think, “Well, gee whiz, you offer more … people will be willing to pay” … the heck they were! Then they would be getting programs that were worthwhile – sports teams on the high band and it was a very difficult sell. We finally had to go to the council and say, “Hey, we can’t go along with this split deal … we need to charge everybody full amount of money and we were allowed to do it. So you never know.
TAYLOR: All right. What was your objection, or your skepticism about pay TV?
BLONDER: The skepticism was regarding the value of a program that could be gotten on VCR’s. The VCR was a competitor that was beyond belief. I just think the VCR competition was just too difficult. If it hadn’t been VCR, if it hadn’t been alternative programming, then I think charging for the individual channels – whether if it’s on a per channel basis, or an individual basis, would be a lot easier. But the VCR is cheaper … much more convenient.
TAYLOR: Do you recall when the VCR’s began to be around?
BLONDER: Well, you remember when the first VCR’s were a super flop? They were designed by Ampex and RCA came out with their model, and it didn’t work … just poor quality. Then when it was taken over by the Japanese and they came in with products that worked. Then the thing really took off. And I think that was in the ’70s.
TAYLOR: Sounds about right. For quite a while, competition was between Beta and VHS formats.
BLONDER: You know the simple answer, don’t you?
TAYLOR: I don’t know what you are speaking of.
BLONDER: You got more hours on the VHS.
TAYLOR: Oh yes, right.
BLONDER: The customer cannot recognize quality.
BLONDER: The customer cannot recognize audio quality, either, by the way. Stereo/audio, although it’s been improved, and I was on the committee that set it up, nobody used it at home. Everybody I asked, and I can hardly get an exception, except some odd-ball, never has two separate speakers. Without speakers about 15 feet apart, while you’re sitting in the middle, you don’t hear stereo.
TAYLOR: That’s right. Many of the TV sets are built with two speakers, but the speakers are three inches in diameter and …
BLONDER: Three inches in diameter, and seven inches apart … and that’s a stereo?! You’d have to be a mouse to get stereo in that thing! And besides, the triphonic effect is there, which people don’t know about. You heard of triphonic effect, haven’t you? The Emil Torick of the CBS.
TAYLOR: I know the name… I know Toric.
BLONDER: Oh, the triphonic effect is very interesting. And they demonstrated at one NAB show that I went to, and it was done beautifully! They showed Johnny Carson on a big screen. Two speakers … oh, I don’t know, about 30 feet apart, and his voice was about 10 feet above the screen. Turns out that psychologically, two speakers give you a center of transmission, above the line between the two speakers. Fifteen feet apart … the center of the … apparent center psychologically … psychophysically, of the audio … is seven feet above the line between two speakers.
TAYLOR: I knew that it came between … I’ve experienced that.
BLONDER: So when a person is talking and the speakers are apart, his voice is above his lips. You could see the lips move, but the voice is above the TV set. To bring that down, you must have three speakers. So in the demonstration at the NAB show, they gave you three speakers: a monophonic in the middle, and the two at the other. When they threw the switch, the voice came down to the lips … the monophonic went in. This is the triphonic effect. Now nobody pays any attention to it, but without it …
TAYLOR: Now the height above is dependent on the separation.
BLONDER: The further the separation, the higher the part … and that’s psychophysical … it’s the ear and the brain give you the impression with two speakers that .
TAYLOR: I am just thinking about my own stereo at home. This is just audio stereo, and the speakers are probably, maybe six … eight feet apart.
BLONDER: Yes, but is it music and not video?
TAYLOR: Oh it’s music.
BLONDER: Well music you don’t know the origination of the sound, so who cares?
TAYLOR: Well we’ve had some where it’s just voice – narrating … but I have observed that the sound seems to come from the middle and as I look at it now, it probably is a little bit above … it is a little bit above, but it isn’t seven feet.
BLONDER: But that is only a few feet, but you go to fifteen feet, and try again … and Emil Torick, of CBS, is the one who did the research at Stanford … that demonstrated it. So it means, that if you want a good stereo system, you got to have three speakers. And one of them is a genuine monophonic … not just combining the two together … but it’s got to be monophonic … a left and a right combined together is not monophonic. So it’s a problem, which nobody recognized. Just getting back though, to the VCR, nobody that I know, has also ever complained about quality, but it’s one-third less than NTSC and the Beta was a little better. So people went around saying, “So buy Beta, because it’s better than VHS.” But VHS gave you six hours. Now that’s the same thing that’s happened with CD. The CD, in my opinion, has nothing to do with better quality, it has to do with ease. The CD cannot be scratched, and there is no needle. You plug the thing in – it works. Most people can’t put a needle down on a record without scratching it. This is the difference, between the CD and LP …is not of quality, because as just demonstrated, in one of the articles I read recently, where they quadrupled the number of bits being used for a CD … a new kind of a CD … and they said, “That demonstrates that the old CD is poor quality.” Which I always felt – it always sounded distorted to me. And there is a distortion, because not enough bits. So, you know, you can go on and on, but …
TAYLOR: You’ll probably then have some skepticism about HDTV.
BLONDER: I wrote the Commission a comment, which I put in, and my comment said very strongly, “No HDTV. It’s not necessary.” Psychophysically, at a distance of 8 feet, a 20″ television set, with NTSC, good quality of course, cannot be distinguished from a high definition TV receiver, the same size at that distance. The eye’s ability, to see pictures, is only about a quarter of a million pixels. What do you want the high definition for? And who can afford to put a screen up, and projection is terrible, because you have to darken the room.
TAYLOR: This is why people like Walt Ciciora, and Larry Lockwood, and a number of others, say that, “HDTV really depends on having the flat panel screen … a large flat panel screen.”
BLONDER: The average housewife hasn’t got room in the house for a big flat panel screen and a projection unit means that the room has to be darkened.
TAYLOR: Well the projection is not going to do it. Projection is …
BLONDER: Well, that gives you the big screen.
TAYLOR: It gives you big screen.
BLONDER: … and cheap big screen and let’s face it …
TAYLOR: They’re so unsatisfactory in a lot of ways.
BLONDER: The cost is too high for all this, and it is unnecessary. I just came back from a trip to Europe looking at PAL, in a store, Selfridge and I saw the European 100 Hertz television set … not 50, but 100. They did line doubling. I saw a line double set, side by side, with an ordinary 50 Hertz set. They have learned how to do the studio work, so you don’t see the flickering anymore. None of the sets showed flicker, because I think they were the grey not the white. If you grey down the white, you don’t see flicker. Anyway, side by side, line doubled set, with a set that was not line doubled, I couldn’t tell the difference. I counted the number of hairs in the mustache … looked about the same. The only thing I got was better color … the face color was better, but that might be just do to better filtering.
TAYLOR: This was right.
BLONDER: I don’t think it was due to the line doubling at all. So the line doubling, which everybody talks about, in good quality sets … no improvement, that is really visible. Mind you, I am up with my eyeball right against the screen, trying to see the resolution difference. You stand back any distance at all, forget it. The improvement in television … it means improvement in human beings!
TAYLOR: How about the wide aspect ratio?
BLONDER: The wide aspect ratio is the biggest joke of all. What they did, is what I call … it’s hard to describe it, but when the manufacturer deliberately gives you a picture that’s distorted, in order to accommodate the wide screen, that’s collusion, perversion, pandering to taste. Let me tell you what they did. If you want the 4 by 3 screen to be seen, on a wide screen set, 4 by 3 picture to be seen on a 16 by 9 set, you get two bars on the side. To fill them up, here are the tricks they did: they would stretch the picture, to fit the whole screen, cut top and bottom … so now the 4 by 3 picture is reduced to about …
TAYLOR: So you’ve got the letter box.
BLONDER: … about 60 percent of its original height … 20 percent top and bottom is cut off … that’s one way to do it. The other way, which they did, and it was built into the receiver, by throwing a switch, was to give you a horizontal distortion. They would take and stretch the horizontal, so everything was oval shaped. Have you ever watched a picture that everything was oval shaped?
TAYLOR: I haven’t seen that. Well, yes, I used to in the old days … everybody had flat heads and purple faces.
BLONDER: I saw it a couple of weeks ago in Selfridge … built in, so that you wouldn’t have the black bars, because nobody wanted the black bars on the screen. It looked abnormal.
TAYLOR: I think the real issue on the wide screen is when the film is produced, or the program produced in sixteen by nine aspect ratio.
BLONDER: The average producer, has a mandate, which people don’t realize … people making film, making shows, and that is that while they have a full scene, the scene that they actually concentrate on, which they are working on, which they put their effort into, is cut down in size … at least 10 percent vertically and about 40 percent horizontally, in a standard motion picture film. Now the reason for doing that is not necessarily because it will be in a format with or with this change, or cut off or whatever, but you concentrate your attention on the performers, the middle. When the eye looks at a scene, it blocks out the rest of it. If you concentrate on a point, you have pinpoint, you don’t have a full width scene. But you might see things on either side, but in reality …
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A
TAYLOR: OK, it’s recording now, and you were saying about focusing your attention at the center of the screen.
BLONDER: It’s well known, that you don’t see the whole scene, when you’re looking at something. You are seeing, basically, what your are attractive to, your attention is attracted to and only a small part of that is in focus. The rest of it really is out of focus when you are looking at it. And the producer knows this. So he concentrates his attention on the performers. Usually it’s a man and woman fighting with each other … hardly … “relating” to each other … better word. And that’s the effect. And even if you had a so-called wide sports scene … do you look at the whole scene? You’re looking at the quarterback throwing the ball, you’re looking at the person catching the ball, or whatever is going on in the field … you don’t look at the whole field. And this concept that you need a wide screen, doesn’t take into account the human psyche. I don’t think it’s necessary.
TAYLOR: Well there is one reason for either wide screen or high definition or both and that is to give the dealer something to sell.
BLONDER: That’s exactly what a gentleman from RCA, whose name I won’t mention, but I had a fight with him for about half-hour over the wide screen. He said, “Well the real reason is that when the customer goes into the store, the salesman says, “Here’s the new set.” It’s very visible. It also costs 50 percent more.
TAYLOR: OK, let’s break here, and we’ll resume this afterwards.
TAYLOR: We are back on the tape now, after lunch. We are going to go through the inventory of historic equipment, lying on the desk here and make some comments about what it’s about. Let’s take it the way I have inventoried it …I’ve got a BT Labs Observer Videcon Camera – TVC1AC. Was this the first Vidicon camera to your knowledge?
BLONDER: Yes, that is the first Vidicon. That’s a tube model and we later brought out a transistorized model. And that work was done in the fifties, and we quit about 1960. The reason for our quitting is very straight forward. We purchased the Vidicon tube from RCA for $175 … and together with the other parts, whatever, retailed for around $350, out of our retail/wholesale … for about $350 out of our house. About 1960, in came a Japanese camera at $187. So I immediately put fifty people out of work, closed down a building in Newark, and dumped the inventory. Familiar story, isn’t it?
TAYLOR: Yes, it’s familiar. Was this the first Vidicon industrial camera?
BLONDER: No, there were a couple of other people making them in the business, but I think we were selling better than anybody else. I was doing about a million a year, on this thing. It was quite good, and there was good demand for it.
TAYLOR: There were other cameras, but yours was better priced, or better marketed?
BLONDER: No, better suited to the use with a cable system … master antenna system … it was designed for it. Whereas the others were basically stand alone … you might call them basically, “to help the watchman,” and ours was really a basic camera for general use in a cable system. For programs as well as for surveillance.
TAYLOR: OK, sitting right next to that is a DA8, VHF distribution amplifier, with eight outputs, apparently, is that correct?
BLONDER: That’s correct.
TAYLOR: It says, 36 dBmV per channel, for seven channels, and the inputs and outputs are both 300 or 75 amps.
BLONDER: That’s right.
TAYLOR: Then there is a model over here, that says, “for reference only.” It looks like a prototype model that was DA8.
BLONDER: That’s right. Out of the laboratory came models which we finally congealed into one … you liked the word?!
TAYLOR: Historically, what is the significance of the DA8?
BLONDER: The DA8 was a basic apartment house amplifier, and that was our market.
TAYLOR: Can you date it?
BLONDER: In the ’50s. Remember, our basic amplifier master antenna system started about ’51. At that time we were just moving out of Yonkers into Westfield. We stayed in Westfield until about ’55, when we moved to Newark.
TAYLOR: Then we have the equalizer ME-1.
BLONDER: That’s one of the many items we needed for cable systems …
TAYLOR: For apartment house?
BLONDER: Yes, for apartment house use – cable systems. Apartment houses had long runs … they needed the equalization.
TAYLOR: And then we have the channel 10 amplifier.
BLONDER: That came with our master antenna system package for headends, with individual amplifiers and filters and attenuators. You could set up a system at a very low cost. It’s got two tubes, plugged into a master power supply amplifier.
TAYLOR: This is kind of equivalent to the strip amplifier.
BLONDER: It is a strip amplifier.
TAYLOR: It is, but it isn’t strip!
BLONDER: It is a strip, however, that one happened to be an amplifier … you could also get a plug in filter … if it was a strong signal, then you simply reduce the level to the level you wanted.
TAYLOR: This would plug in and has the pins on the back … that would plug into a base board.
BLONDER: A base board, with which had a broad band amplifier built-in.
TAYLOR: I see.
BLONDER: So this was basically input to the broad band amplifier. It could have been used in cable, but it was basically for master antenna systems. I’m sure a lot of this stuff found its way into the smaller cable systems. If I remember correctly, wasn’t the Blonder-Tongue headend mentioned as much as 25 percent of the cable systems in the United States at one time?
TAYLOR: Could be … could be.
BLONDER: It was. When you looked at the lists, that occasionally they would print …
TAYLOR: I never went through that … the analysis, but there were a lot of them, yes. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that its only fault was that it was too cheap! Because it worked very well, very reliable.
BLONDER: But it was designed for a master antenna systems, rather than for cable. Had it been designed for cable, we would have upped the … I don’t think we said the words “up the quality” correct, because our quality was always perfect.
TAYLOR: Understood, understood.
BLONDER: We always made things to work forever. By the way, I might throw in a comment, which I never let anybody know, but did you know that we had a no charge repair policy?
TAYLOR: I didn’t know that.
BLONDER: I would repair any of our equipment that came back for service, for free and upgrade it.
TAYLOR: I think that either, it’s in one of the papers you gave me or speeches you gave me, or Ben may have mentioned it.
BLONDER: Ben may have mentioned it, yes.
TAYLOR: Next item is called a Hot Shot amplifier …it’s channel four.
BLONDER: High output.
TAYLOR: High output?
TAYLOR: What kind of output?
BLONDER: I think it’s two volts.
BLONDER: Yes. I have the specifications some place, but it was very high … couple of volts … that’s a horizontal drive, too … it takes a lot of power.
TAYLOR: Horizontal drive …
BLONDER: For television sets. The horizontal output tube is a very heavy duty tube.
TAYLOR: Oh, the tube?
BLONDER: The tube.
TAYLOR: Oh, OK. But you used it in ?
BLONDER: We used it in individual amplifier … just by neutralizing it properly, we could get it to work for an individual channel, and it gave more output than anybody else.
TAYLOR: And of course it’s single channel so you didn’t have the intermod with other channels … intermod with color and sound.
BLONDER: You had a cable system which came from the local area, you had alternate channels, and could get away with it, and then the high power meant, you could just go splitters, and go through a big system, an apartment system, without any additional amplifiers.
TAYLOR: We have a little cylindrical piece here, called a “fixed slope equalizer”.
BLONDER: We had a whole line of laboratory equipment that we designed, which was used in the factory and in our laboratory and which is also for sale, but built to laboratory standards, and that’s just one of them.
TAYLOR: Is this all historic or just an item?
BLONDER: It’s historic … not made any more. But you know we built standards–we had sweep generators and standard generators, which we designed and built for use in our laboratory, which were available to anybody else for sale.
BLONDER: Yes. I also had switches, where you automatically switched. Patent #3,323,042, 5/30/67.
TAYLOR: When did you have available a sweep generator?
BLONDER: I don’t have the date, but it was in the ’70s.
TAYLOR: In the ’70s.
BLONDER: Remember we first made it and, for a long time, because we couldn’t get what we wanted and then we packaged them for sale to anybody else. But it wasn’t heavily advertised, so you really didn’t hear about it.
TAYLOR: Was that transistorized?
BLONDER: Oh yes, all transistorized.
TAYLOR: But you didn’t have a sweep in the tube days?
BLONDER: Yes we did. As a matter of fact, I had a sweep that covered the entire UHF band, which had a vibrating butterfly capacitor and I could cover the whole band, and sweep it. What happened was, it was operated at its resonant frequency. Patent #3,329,909 7/4/67.
TAYLOR: You had to have something like that for these broad band things, or you couldn’t …
BLONDER: Oh yes, otherwise you couldn’t check your UHF equipment without going painfully over the whole spectrum.
TAYLOR: Point by point, yes.
BLONDER: So I actually designed and built a UHF sweep, and this comes from Panoramic days, you know, in a way … because Ben and I were experienced in this field, and I built one with a butterfly which was … if you vibrated at its resonant frequency, set the screens up correctly, the darn thing has a very wide oscillation … very little power needed to make it do so, and you’ve got your sweep.
TAYLOR: We have model 46-61 unregulated power supply, in cast housing … was this to feed power into the cable? Cable insertion?
BLONDER: That was one of our cable amplifiers. Unfortunately, none of our cable equipment is here – it all got thrown out at the clean out. But we had a complete cable system, from one end to the other, at one time. The only difference was that mine were not sealed cases. We had upside down cases. In other words, you had a bell jar basically, and the equipment was mounted on a panel that mounted underneath … and that’s the way I designed all the equipment. Why did I do that? Because I was terribly worried about condensation of moisture inside an enclosure.
TAYLOR: And well you might have been … that’s right.
BLONDER: So the way I had it, so that it could be as wet as could be, and the heat of the product kept it warm enough so that the moisture wouldn’t …
TAYLOR: Vikoa did that … an early line that they had.
BLONDER: Yes. I was very suspicious of the stuff that Jerrold was putting out. The fact that they succeeded, my intuitive feeling about the subject was that you’d condense moisture in any enclosure. But where did that come from? My radar experience. Almost every piece of equipment we had that we tried to enclose in the radar days …
TAYLOR: Somehow, that Jerrold enclosed housing came, in part, from Western Electric. They put out the specs, and you better do it that way!
BLONDER: All right. But I think the real reason they got away with it, is that you had heavy metal which could be clamped really shut … if you tried to do it with sheet metal … you can’t do it, because between the joints, it will open … enough to get moisture … and once it goes in, it doesn’t come out!
TAYLOR: That’s right. We found that in some of our cables.
BLONDER: I never wanted to hermetically seal anything, unless I had a real seal. I would have liked to have soldered them shut if possible.
TAYLOR: This 4661, was that back in the thirty volt days or was that in the sixty volt … ?
BLONDER: No, that was in the thirty volt days. We didn’t do any sixty volts.
TAYLOR: Then we’ve got the 4127 field strength meter.
BLONDER: Yes, we built several different field strength meters.
TAYLOR: I wouldn’t be surprised but what they’ve got that up there. I had one, but I think in one of our moves it got lost.
BLONDER: You know we owned Benco for four years in Canada – 1960 to ’64.
TAYLOR: I wanted to ask you about that.
BLONDER: While we had them, by the way, they made money. We sold them to Rediffusion, they lost money. So, you have to have a small company …
TAYLOR: When did they merge with Cascade and Delta?
BLONDER: After Rediffusion got tired of losing money, they sold it to Triple Crown … I don’t know, they consolidated at one time, so all the companies were consolidated … but they still didn’t make any money.
TAYLOR: I remember, they went by the name of Delta-Benco-Cascade at one time.
BLONDER: Yes, that was after we were out of the picture … about five years by that time.
TAYLOR: Because on the Standards Committee, we were trying to find something to replace DBJ … since the “J” served Jerrold pretty effectively. We came up with the idea of DBC, and had to drop it because it was Delta-Benco-Cascade at the time … but now they are using DBC again, except they are using it as the ratio of interference to carrier, which is the backward way of doing it. It ought to be carrier to interference. But DBC didn’t last very long under those names.
BLONDER: I have a way of finding all these dates accurately but I don’t have it in front of me … so if I depend on my memory, I apologize … but it’s approximate dates.
TAYLOR: OK, well if I get to the point where I need a more accurate date, I will give you a call.
BLONDER: Give me a call, and I will look it up and make sure … I have diaries all over the place and I have letters that have been saved from that time … so I know exactly when I spoke to who.
TAYLOR: Now, the model 1232 chain amplifier. This one was one of a limited production, shown in 1968 catalog.
BLONDER: Yes, I bet we didn’t make more than two hundred. It was made at the end of the time for a demand for that type of product.
TAYLOR: Was this in the fifties … sixties?
BLONDER: Let’s see what it says on it … does it say Westfield or does it say Newark?
TAYLOR: I think you said it says Newark.
BLONDER: If it said Newark … yes, it’s in Newark … I would say that we are talking about the early sixties.
TAYLOR: Early fifties?
BLONDER: Sixties. Yes, because it was right at the end of … in fact, it was just before we got started with the 1960 to ’64, like early sixties …
TAYLOR: Yes. And this was intended for cable TV at the time?
BLONDER: Yes. But you see the bandwidth is limited to VHF and as soon as the bandwidth started expanding that was end of it. It would have been a fantastic monster to turn it into one that covered a couple of hundred megahertz … you know, three hundred.
TAYLOR: How would the mid band work on those chain amplifiers?
BLONDER: It covered everything from the mid band.
TAYLOR: It didn’t have a second order problem?
BLONDER: You are using the word “second order.” Everything is second order, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what you’ve got … you are going to have a second order. The question is, is it something that’s deleterious to the signal or not? FM signals behave differently than TV. And of course, unfortunately they’re not synchronously located. It would be nice if every carrier could sit on top of every other carrier … you wouldn’t have any problem.
TAYLOR: That is why they went to HRC to try and …
BLONDER: That’s right, that’s right. And the FM channels were a pain in the neck for another reason … very often they were extremely strong. You could be located near a FM tower, and that thing would come barreling through and you really had to have a filter trap … to trap out the FM. We made a lot of amplifiers with FM traps … so you’d trapped out the FM band. Anyway, even though it supposedly did not have a signal in between the two … the high band low band, we put a FM trap in anyway.
TAYLOR: Some of the manufactures, and I remember particularly AEL and Sylvania attempted to go into the wide band, including mid band, on a single ended basis. They found that by properly phasing each amplifier, they could get the second order distortion to come around and cancel itself about every third or fourth amplifier. They tried to make it work. It got to the point where …
BLONDER: I hate to design anything that’s dependent upon another piece of equipment which is dependent upon the ability of individuals to level control and measure the problem.
TAYLOR: Yes, but it depended on phase cancellation … but when you get right down to it, the push-pull amplifier depended on phase cancellation also. It just turned out to be a lot easier to get the phase cancelled in a push-pull amplifier, than it was in the single ended.
BLONDER: I am a great believer in independent piece of equipment working well by themselves instead of having to be matched to something else.
TAYLOR: Yes, I agree.
BLONDER: I have a low estimate of the level of technical maintenance and quality in the field and you have to try and make your stuff “immune” to the incorrect handling which … I mean, nobody reads any instructions, let’s face it. I don’t read it myself … I pick up a piece of equipment and plug it in first and then I look for the instructions!
TAYLOR: We have an MLA here, and that I think I’ve heard you quote it as a “workhorse.”
BLONDER: Oh yes. That was the best seller we had of all our amplifiers, by far.
TAYLOR: I suspect that got into a lot of CATV systems.
BLONDER: Oh yes.
TAYLOR: I know we used the low band part of it to get us into business. It was reliable. It performed well.
BLONDER: You have to understand one thing: we never over drove any item in our line, no tube would work at its full rating … no part would work at its full voltage rating … no transformer was operated at full power … everyone had a margin built in, because I didn’t trust the manufacturer. It wasn’t me. When you buy the part, you are buying an average. So we always designed to the low end of the average. And all the specs that we put out were always not typical, they were minimum. People didn’t know that when they bought our stuff, that if they show a certain gain, that was a minimum gain … it was not the typical gain.
TAYLOR: You didn’t get caught with the stud transistor that RCA got caught with on the Starline One.
BLONDER: No. We wouldn’t use it. The interesting part is, that when a person makes a layout on the paper … and he shows the losses in the line…and he does this and he does that … and the whole system could become inoperative if any of the equipment along the way, is not up to snuff. And rather than deal with people whose educational level is low, whose equipment measurement levels are low, we went to conservative ratings on everything we built.
TAYLOR: You have quite a reputation for reliability as well … it’s because of that … that’s right.
BLONDER: It came from that, because we didn’t overload it. You take a tube, you know … it’s like a light bulb … you operate a light bulb at ten volts below its rating and you’ve got a thousand percent increase in life time. It’s not linear, it’s exponential.
TAYLOR: This MLA, how long was that produced?
BLONDER: Well, of course, it got produced until it was killed by transistors. I don’t know the date.
TAYLOR: Probably somewhere in the ’70s that you could …
BLONDER: Oh yes … right into the ’70s. This one was built in Newark, and we left Newark in ’69. So I would bet it was built right through to 1970. By the way, you’ll notice the connectors in this one …
TAYLOR: This is a UHF?
BLONDER: Yes, these are UHF connectors,… at one time, UHF connectors were the only thing we used in cable, because it was the only one that it could connect.
TAYLOR: All the way around in all this equipment.
BLONDER: The only way you could use RG-11, was to use a connector of this size.
TAYLOR: Somebody, I don’t know who it was at Ameco attempted to modify the UHF, and made another type of connector, but it never took hold … never was accepted. The commercial Antensifier, I think you’ve already discussed. The home version of that was the your first product.
BLONDER: HA1-L. It was in a leatherette covered case which I made up. It was a side project, which we were trying to make a living by building test equipment and master … and high priced home systems and when this amplifier came along I said, “Well, I’ll take a few minutes off …” I’ll put it in a box, design this thing … the relay, because I didn’t want to put a power switch on it, can’t trust a customer to turn on a power switch on and off … you didn’t want to leave it on, because the tubes would go, you know they were like …
TAYLOR: Oh, I see, even on the set-top unit you had the …
BLONDER: I wouldn’t trust it. You had to have a switch.
TAYLOR: I got from Ben, that in order to put it up on the mast, you had to do something like this, but even in the home?
BLONDER: Even in the home, I wouldn’t take any chance on the customer’s ability to turn the switch on and off. Remember, if you left it on and it was in the back, out of sight it would stay on night and day … guess what? The tubes eventually would have to go. Power relay Patent #2,609,466, 9/2/52,9/2/52.
BLONDER: And then who gets blamed? I get blamed. This thing saved us from having to replace tubes. But anyway, I put it in a little leatherette case, because that was the cheapest thing I could buy … I happen to know somebody from whom I could buy leatherette cases, and it looked better than the other, and I made up the name “Antensifier” … I guess I have a way with language. I handed it to a couple of friends of mine that I knew from TeleKing days who were salesmen for equipment for television manufactures, and they went around to the distributors and I built a few hundred to start with … a thousand, and boy, the orders poured in! Couldn’t make them fast enough.
TAYLOR: Because it didn’t have a tuning knob on it, would be the kind of attraction …
BLONDER: Because it worked and the picture got better. You can’t miss that!
TAYLOR: That’s right!
BLONDER: With those old sets, boy, almost anything would make the picture better.
TAYLOR: But now there were boosters available, but you had to tune them. You had to tune your TV set, then you had to tune the booster.
BLONDER: Everybody had those tuners. I had one here, a Regency booster in my office there, of that period, and you know, I think the best example I have is my mother, with the radio. What happened is that when she’d tune in a radio, she would tune it in, as soon as the sound came on she’d stop turning the knob and turn up the volume control. Never went to the middle of the channel … and I couldn’t show her how to do it. Now if my mother couldn’t learn how to tune a radio, how are you going to get somebody to tune the booster properly.
TAYLOR: I wonder how people tune FM sets today, because I’ve looked at a few of them that you get, like in Radio Shack, and so on. The tuning is … you’ve got to tune it pretty carefully or you have a mess.
BLONDER: Not only that there’s slop in it.
BLONDER: You go over the correct position and then when you try to back … you have to go further back, in order to get the right position. It takes a delicate finger to tune those in.
TAYLOR: An interesting story is that, when I worked with Paul Godley about half way through my tour there, he brought in as a partner, Murray Crosby. Murray was a guy at RCA, in whose name the fundamental FM patents, by RCA were held. But he was recognized by RCA as being such a good inventor, that whenever he needed a little petty cash, he’d sit down and write up a couple of dozen disclosures. He would come and get me to witness them and he would take them over to RCA and pick up a few thousand dollars. But most of the things that he was getting the disclosures on, that I witnessed, were means of tuning an FM set … so that you would get the loudness and softness, instead of going through the distortion.
BLONDER: Very important, because can’t do that sort of thing.
TAYLOR: But they don’t build it into radio sets.
BLONDER: Costs money. I was working at General Electric radio factory, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and they had designed a tuner for short wave receivers, that was absolutely the worst I’ve ever seen … fine tuning control, right? But it was made out of flexible rubber. You pushed it in, to tune and turn … as soon as you let go of the knob, the rubber moved it, and immediately lost the channel! The designer had not recognized the fact the flexibility of the rubber made it impossible to get any friction needed to turn the knob and make it stay. I complained, but it didn’t do any good. It’s one of the reasons I got fired from being Quality Control Inspector.
TAYLOR: You didn’t think that was good quality!
BLONDER: I said that they ought to stop making it.
TAYLOR: Pressure taps … you built pressure taps, I think.
BLONDER: Lots of them. Didn’t like any of them.
TAYLOR: Anything unique about them, except that they weren’t any good?
BLONDER: I designed the pressure taps, and mechanically, I think they were all right, but the fact of the matter is, that you put a tap on the line, you’ve got a mismatch.
TAYLOR: It’s inherent.
BLONDER: It’s inherent. So we did it temporarily. You see, our customers were drilling holes in the RG-11 coaxial cable, putting the resistor with a cut off, with a short bit of wire in there, shoving it in, putting tape on it, and that was their tap off.
TAYLOR: Legal or illegal.
BLONDER: Legal or illegal … well, it was legal enough … that was the way they made systems … and that’s terrible. So, in an attempt to improve the quality, I made a pressure tap … because the pressure tap that I made would be shielded and properly made, but it’s still was not a good match. We never recommend them.
TAYLOR: Then what did you do … directional couplers?
BLONDER: Made all kinds of directional couplers, yes. Two set, four set, various kinds of directional couplers … we had Ben Tongue, remember … he could do anything. Ben is a super engineer. I am not. I have been able to do things, but I think more from desperation than from the skill that he has. Oh, by the way, do you know the kind of engineering I did? When somebody else couldn’t do something, and it was sitting there, and it was sitting there, then I would go in. What other choice do you have? And the way I got it done was to eliminate the approach they were using, which I didn’t understand either … and go to an approach which I was capable of doing … which approached it in a different way, and got the job done … that’s about the only way you could survive as an engineer. If you tried to match somebody else’s skill, and you don’t have it, it’s not going to work. I had skill in certain areas, and I used it. I could design a tuner, which they couldn’t. And more or less, I could design the electronics to go with it, but there were certain fundamentals in here, which they couldn’t do … this tuner saved our life.
TAYLOR: Where did you use this now?
BLONDER: This is the UHF converter. We were the biggest manufacturer of UHF converters in the United States. Patent #2,778,943, 1/22/57.
TAYLOR: And when did you start making converters?
BLONDER: When did they come in? … about ’53 … ’54. That’s when the …
TAYLOR: When the UHF stations began, yes.
BLONDER: We decided to get into that field.
TAYLOR: This then, is a one knob, set top?
BLONDER: One knob set top, yes. I have some of them over here, I can show you.
TAYLOR: This is a Ben Tongue design with the tunnel diode converter.
BLONDER: No, it’s not the tunnel diode one. Oh no, the tunnel diode one is a simple son of a bitch. Let me just see if I can find …
TAYLOR: We are looking at two converters, one of which is the tube converter. Was this your work horse then, after UHF got started?
BLONDER: Yes, right.
TAYLOR: And you sold large quantities of these?
BLONDER: Up to a million.
TAYLOR: Up to a million?
BLONDER: I don’t know, in that neighborhood … a very large number.
TAYLOR: And it has a continuous tuner. Is that patented by …?
BLONDER: Oh yes, I have a patent on it. You have the patent in there. #2,778,943, 1/22/57.
TAYLOR: And we are also looking at a smaller, much smaller convertor, with one battery in it, using a tunnel diode, that Ben Tongue designed. Did this then, become also very popular as the work horse?
TAYLOR: No, it never became popular.
BLONDER: Well, it isn’t as good as the first one without gain. You see, it had an amplifier in there, and if you had any length of lines, you know, whatever, between the television set and the tuner, the performance of this is better.
TAYLOR: Now this is made with the slotted feet on it to attach to something, I guess.
BLONDER: I think the slotted feet were to slid into rubber bumpers … I never put them in, just rubber bumpers, so it wouldn’t slide.
TAYLOR: And with one battery, that lasted …
BLONDER: Indefinitely. They used practically no power.
TAYLOR: The other problem was that it didn’t have gain.
BLONDER: No … and no amplifier.
TAYLOR: … unless the TV set it was used with had a pretty good noise figure.
BLONDER: Also, the noise figure was not as good.
TAYLOR: Noise figure itself was not as good.
BLONDER: No, because without having additional amplifier like this, in there, you were working directly from the tunnel diode mixer and there were no transistors remember in those days, so this was a single tunnel diode and that’s all. Same tuner … tuner didn’t change. Except I think on this one, I think I only put in one section instead of two. Yes. A one section tuner … one RF instead of two. The additional one is usually RF amplifier.
TAYLOR: We did some talking at lunch that I’d like to hear your comments on HDTV, for the tape.
BLONDER: I think it’s exemplified in an article that I wrote, which may get published, called “Standards Should be Humanized.”
TAYLOR: You say it has been published?
BLONDER: No, it’s in for publication. Supposedly it is going to get published, but I don’t know yet. But the article was an article called “Standards Should Be Humanized.” What I am referring to is that engineers can run ahead of the human body, in quality, and as a matter of fact, film people are ahead of the human eyes only because if you take the 35 millimeter, which is more than adequate for the home, but the professional would use a 120 or even larger film base and get a better quality picture and its function for the home use just isn’t there. You are over designed so far as the human beings ability to appreciate something. Course, if you go to extremely large screens and other presentations, but if you stay within the pocketbook of the average human being, and his needs for entertainment, and his needs for knowledge and enlightenment, whatever, we can easily over engineer all our products. I think High Definition TV is a perfect example of excessive engineering for the home. I just don’t think that the average human being is exemplified by VHS. VHS has a resolution 1/3 less than NTSC, and I don’t think it’s cost a single sale. Not one person I’ve ever talked to has ever mentioned the lack of quality in a taped presentation as compared to regular television.
TAYLOR: What is your view about the large flat panel?
BLONDER: The large flat panel has a enemy, called “housewife,” and I think that enemy is bound to win. You cannot go into the average house and find any space that isn’t occupied, and if you tried to isolate even for the purpose of entertainment, a wall or a portion of the floor area for a large screen television set, you are going to find a considerable amount of resistance on the part of the household, the dictator, she is going to say, “No” and that’s the end of it. What I’m really saying is that it’s beyond the desire of the average household for quality. So far, the big sets have only sold at the most, 5 percent to the total households and remember that’s 5 percent in the homes. If you count the total number of television sets, it’s less than 5 percent. So I think it’s a science beyond the need of the marketplace.
TAYLOR: What’s your thought about wide screen … assuming that the transmission is wide screen, and not…
BLONDER: OK, how wide is wide, is the question. If you remember Cinerama …
TAYLOR: 16 by 9.
BLONDER: I know, “16 by 9” is a definition. If you remember Cinerama, it was three times the width of an ordinary motion picture. I have been to Cinerama presentations, and they’re stultifying and expensive … extremely expensive. And you’ll notice they disappeared out-of-sight. As a matter of fact, you go to the miniature presentations given in the film theaters today, and you’ll find those screens are less wide than they use to be. I don’t know what the ratio is … probably down to 16 by 9. Certainly not 2 to 1, which is the old presentation. And if you look at what is going on in the screen, you’ll discover that the director has concentrated his action in an area less than 4 by 3, and that all action, outside that area … just look, the next time you look at a presentation on film, and see what’s happening outside that minimum center area … it’s got nothing important. They don’t have that two protagonists off to one side … they are always centered … always centered. You don’t see any important action off to one side … it’s always centered … and you could clip any movie to 4 by 3 and you’ll practically never notice the difference. And there again is the human ability … the eye can only comprehend a certain circle of resolution or attention, and it’s certainly no more than 4 by 3. By the way, the 4 by 3 is sensible, because the eyes are horizontal, so your vertical span of attention is less than the horizontal anyway. And 4 by 3 is not quite the ratio of vertical to horizontal, that the eyes normally have … but when you are talking about the center of attention … it’s much closer to that … center of comprehension … whatever you want to call it.
TAYLOR: What do you think is going to happen with the FCC’s rules on HDTV for broadcasting?
BLONDER: Oh, I think that’s pretty simple. Man disposes and nature … pardon me … man proposes and nature disposes … I think is the correct thing. We have a bunch of men making stories on High Definition TV that I think are completely out of the real world … as far as people are concerned, and that they’ll have to backtrack. The business of having all broadcasting going to High Definition TV and NTSC to be eliminated, is again, engineering beyond the human ability to appreciate. I think it will just die a natural death. Besides, it costs too much. And price determines a lot of things that people don’t understand who are in the regulatory business.
TAYLOR: How much influence will come from the dealers who want something new to sell?
BLONDER: The interesting part of it is, that the dealers have always have tried to have an influence. I remember being on the West Coast, and talking to Packard Bell. I was out there … right after the war, looking for a job. The chief engineer of Packard Bell said he had sixty engineers during the war … he was down to six engineers now … that it was peace time … building radios … and that all the other engineers were sitting around waiting for a job, so he was not about to offer me one, but he wanted to tell me what was wrong with the West Coast. Out there, the only thing that sold were tan colored or white radios. Those did not sell in the East, you see. So that he was able to make a limited number of white radios for sale, because he couldn’t compete with the Eastern producers on any of the dark colors.
TAYLOR: Talking about the housing?
BLONDER: Yes, the housing, the cabinet and the styling … whatever. If it was a California styling … that they wanted California styling, he could sell them, but otherwise, he couldn’t. The difference was cost. They were able to make it cheaper in the East than he could make it. So this drove the marketplace. Not what he wanted to do … they would have tried to sell everybody. They set the pattern in the East. But the costumers were not buying it … now some did.
TAYLOR: Are you saying then that even though the dealers would like to have a replacement for today’s TV sets, that that still won’t motivate HDTV.
BLONDER: Not in the least. The customer is going to go for the lower price set which meets his needs, and it’s not going to be HDTV. HDTV, at the very best lowest estimate that I’ve ever heard of … it’s going to be at least 50 percent more in cost than the basic NTSC set. I don’t know how valid those prices are, because right now it’s five times as much!
TAYLOR: I was going to say, it’s certainly starting out a lot more than that.
BLONDER: $27,000 for a Sony in Japan and I’ve heard $6,000, but I certainly haven’t seen anything anywhere near 500 bucks.
TAYLOR: The broadcaster’s problem of course, is that you have to sell advertising to do broadcasting and advertising can’t be sold until there’s an audience out there.
BLONDER: Not only that, the broadcasters never have seen that improved picture quality got them anymore advertising. He could deliver a poor quality picture and it wouldn’t get any complaints. The entertainment value was down, all right, that’s one thing, but …
TAYLOR: But even that, it’s just a matter of Nielsen ratings, which means how many people watch it, if you say the ratings are accurate … and that’s another issue.
BLONDER: And you can compare that with the fact that the pictures in the European community are higher quality for various reasons, than they are in the United States. That doesn’t make them most successful … financially, anyway. Besides, remember, I ran a television station with the lowest possible quality, because I didn’t have any money … and believe you me, we were putting out bad stuff. But when we went into an ethnic programming mode, that was Spanish, you know, channel 47, our business just went sky high, because we were delivering what people wanted which was programs in Spanish and the quality and the fact that it was UHF, and hard to get … didn’t make a bit of difference. The supposedly uneducated Spanish population in New York, very quickly found out how to receive a Spanish program … and they did it with dispatch and skill. And they were downrated in every direction, as not being able to receive a program … they found the station when nobody else could … they wanted a program. The program did the selling, not the quality of the picture.
TAYLOR: How many television stations have you been involved with?
BLONDER: I have been involved with 8. Do you want me to give you the names?
TAYLOR: Yes … I’ve got a little tape left here.
BLONDER: All right. I started Channel 47 in New York … I was a 25 percent owner.
TAYLOR: When did you start that?
BLONDER: That was on the air in ’64, I think … ’64, ’65.
TAYLOR: Did you have Spanish language to begin with?
BLONDER: Everything to begin with. We couldn’t figure out what in the devil we could put on that anybody would want to pay us money for. It turned out nothing. We had programming in German, Italian, Polish … whatever, and it wasn’t until we went over to Spanish that we discovered that it was an untapped market. So the station became Spanish … and has done so, very successfully, until today. And then I started Channel 68, of which I was the principal owner and Channel 60, which is the translator on the World Trade Center.
TAYLOR: When did 68 start?
TAYLOR: And 60?
BLONDER: About three years later.
TAYLOR: Let’s change the tape … I think we are fine.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
START TAPE 2, SIDE A
TAYLOR: All right, we are back on the air now. Now, you said Channel 60 started when?
BLONDER: 60 started about three years after ’74 … about ’77, ’78, something like that.
TAYLOR: And then you sold all three of those?
BLONDER: I sold all three to Womeco, and you know it turned into the first, over-the-air subscription TV system in the United States, which is an invention of mine. Patent #3,813,482, 5/28/74
TAYLOR: You even beat the Los Angeles …
BLONDER: Yes, I was ahead of Los Angeles by one month. We would have been on the air two years before that, but would you believe I couldn’t find a place to locate the television tower? It took me two years to get the location in West Orange. One community, after another, along First Mountain, in New Jersey, where I could locate the antenna, told me the same thing, “Could you make it look like a pine tree … or something?” because they didn’t want a tower a couple hundred feet high in their backyard. I got a tower by absolute accident … very fascinating story, but too long to tell you. Anyway, I got on the air with that and on the Empire State Building, and I did the installation on the Empire State Building … RCA did it, but I supervised it. And then I got involved with Channel 68 in Boston … I was a small owner of that … and then 12.50 percent owner in Channel 54.
TAYLOR: 68 was the one in …?
BLONDER: In Boston.
TAYLOR: In what time period was that … ’64?
TAYLOR: You had a 68 in New York, didn’t you?
BLONDER: I know, the 68 maybe eight years later, or something like that, in Boston … and I was an investor in that. That was going to go pay TV and it didn’t … one of the other things. We had a half dozen pay TV stations across the country you know … Boston, under Jerry Perenchio.
TAYLOR: What’s his name?
BLONDER: Jerry Perenchio … Gerald Perenchio. P-E-R-E-N-C-H-I-O. He was the owner of Embassy, and he now just bought a big chunk of Motion Picture Operation … he’s an entrepreneur … he’s a real nice guy … he’s an entrepreneur type. Then I bought 12.50 percent of the Channel 54 in Baltimore, which was sold three years ago. I helped get several low powered licenses for my friend in New Hampshire, Concord … there are two other cities … Mansfield, and another city, in New Hampshire. Now, I personally have two low powered TV stations on top of Steven’s Institute of Technology, for the purpose of testing high definition TV and/or any other experimental television.
TAYLOR: Those are fairly recent then?
BLONDER: Those I’ve had three years. I applied for them, it took me two years to get the license, by the way, because to clear your license in New York area, is almost impossible. But I finally managed with a skull shaped pattern, away from Wilkes-Barre towards New York, to get the two frequencies. And remember, this was at the time, three years ago when they were talking augmentation. So I had to go to 12 megahertz instead of 6, in order to be able to test augmentation. Now that we don’t have augmentation, I have two channels. But what I wanted to do with the two channels of testing is to run one NTSC and the other one digital … same program, same time. And at that point you can go to any location and get an eyeball instant comparison between digital …
TAYLOR: Same propagation.
BLONDER: Same propagation, absolutely. Same power.
TAYLOR: What channels were these?
BLONDER: 27/28. They are there, and they available for free to anybody who wants to use them. It’s all out of my pocket … it’s part of my return back to the United States anything I can.
TAYLOR: Tell the tape something about your 3-D investigation. Where do you stand on it?
BLONDER: I have been doing 3-D now, as an individual photographer, since ’53, I think. I’ve got thousands of 3-D slides and I’m capable of doing 3-D in projection … the usual forms, including news reel you know, and that sort of thing. Every investigation, on the psychophysics basis on the human being showed, that people would prefer the 3-D picture to high definition TV. 3-D gives you a much better image … the trouble is that 3-D has always been portrayed as a field that has the cost and inconvenience of glasses. So the field should go into lenticular. Lenticular is on the way.
TAYLOR: I didn’t know about that.
BLONDER: I saw one. 1990, I was at the NHK Laboratories in Japan, and they had a giant 50″ presentation, regular cathode ray tube, properly aligned, a 3-D picture. It was absolutely gorgeous. The only trouble was that it had a viewing angle of about one-half of 1 degree … you couldn’t move your head at all, it would go out of range then. But as a picture, it was super. Now a set like that may cost a million dollars apiece or something … I’m not really sure, but to the Japanese money is nothing. They’re now in the process of coming out with a picture phone with lenticular in which they have the a head sensors mounted on the picture phone. As you move your head, the lenticular, the picture moves behind the vertical lenses and you get a 60 degree angle of viewing. And they are supposedly coming out with that in a year or two.
TAYLOR: And who is doing this?
BLONDER: The Japanese. One of the Japanese companies has done this … it wasn’t Toshiba, it was one of the other companies…NTT. They claim that they are going to come out with this as a picture phone, and the price will be under a couple of hundred dollars … way under anything AT&T has announced. I have seen this in a technical magazine as an announcement of a product. They showed their picture of somebody looking at it … and as far as I know, it’s legitimate. The concept is legitimate. I have contact with quite a few people in the 3-D field, because I’m interested in the field, and one of the gentleman is a fellow who has a company called Raveo in Hawthorne, New York, with a technique that is absolutely fantastic. I saw a demonstration of it last week, and it’s just superb. He’s able to build giant liquid crystal screens that can be operated in 2-D or 3-D with the flick of switch.
TAYLOR: How giant?
BLONDER: 25 – 30 inches. He claims he can build bigger ones, but that is the one he is scheduled for. He is working under a government contract, for military purposes.
TAYLOR: Is the active matrix cell 3-D?
BLONDER: Yes, and the interesting part of it is that 4 micro poles to each dot. So each pixel has 4 bits to it. And two of the bits are vertical, polarized, and the other two are horizontally polarized. So when you wear glasses, if you energize the correct poles, you can put in a polarized picture, or you can make it 2-D by simply putting in the same poles. Or you can change the picture by having one pole cross another. Anyway, what you can have is a picture that you can watch in 3-D with glasses, or regular 2-D without glasses. And the price supposedly, is going to be right. I saw a demonstration. Also he did a projection, that was absolutely super. He took an overhead projector, laid his screen, about yea big, on top of it, and at that point, he turned the overhead projector into a perfectly synchronized 3-D picture. You know, you don’t have to spend the whole afternoon with the ordinary two individual projectors trying to get them to be synchronized so that the picture doesn’t blur, which you normally do in 3-D. Here because the cells are all individually screened, they’re perfect. So that you get perfect registration, and you get a perfect picture, and you look at that thing, boy, and it’s as clear as can be.
TAYLOR: Are you are looking through glasses?
BLONDER: You are looking through glasses, and live video.
TAYLOR: And you are looking at an ordinary screen on the wall?
BLONDER: Ordinary screen on the wall, from the overhead projector. The difference being that the screen is laid on top of the overhead projector and it converts the light. The light of course, is simply a crystal, or a liquid crystal projector, but they are all polarized. So they come out, go on to the screen polarized and, or unpolarized as you please, and the price is right.
TAYLOR: And when you are watching a demonstration like this, with the glasses on, what do you see if you take the glasses off?
BLONDER: You’ll see 3-D. You will see a blurred picture. You know, the typical 3-D, but distant objects are pretty close together, and the close objects are far apart, in terms of what you see as …
TAYLOR: It looks like a bad ghost.
BLONDER: It looks like a bad ghost. But you put on the glasses and it’s perfect. Then you turn that into an ordinary normal projection picture, with the flip of a switch. Now that’s something nobody else can do. And the quality is better than anything I have seen because the registration is perfect. See everybody else who puts two projectors and tries to get those darn things to be correct … it’s almost impossible deal. The lenses have to be right … how many corrections can you put into sweeps in order to get them linear, matching one another. It’s almost impossible … it takes an afternoon for a crew to make one of them work.
TAYLOR: And then it doesn’t stay.
BLONDER: And then it doesn’t stay. With time, it starts drifting. This thing doesn’t have that problem. There is a thing that makes it more popular … not perfect, but popular. However, my feeling is, that as time goes on, we’re going to get the ability to do that kind of thing on a television set at a reasonable price, at reasonable brightness. And at that point, you get 3-D for maybe not much more money than a regular television set, and at that point, 3-D is here.
TAYLOR: Then you’ve got your new TV set, and that’s yours!
BLONDER: Exactly. As I say, I saw it. I just came back from a 3-D meeting in Montreal, in which a lot of people were showing a lot of 3-D … mostly with the old techniques.
TAYLOR: What do the market studies show you about wearing the glasses.
BLONDER: Terrible. Nobody wants to. People don’t want to wear glasses, no. So that’s killed it. Matter of fact, I can’t get anybody to watch my slide 3-D. I set up a projector and I call on friends, and I say, “Do you want to see it?” They all have other things to do. And if I trap them when they are home …
TAYLOR: And how do they look at it, now … through …?
BLONDER: Well, you have to look at it with … these are slides … but I have the Toshiba camera with the ultimate switch. That’s on my television station for 24 hours a day now. I’m broadcasting on 27, night and day, 3-D … which was made by a professional photographer in New York for me, with the liquid crystal switch glasses. The liquid crystal switch glasses are not only expensive … the price will come down, but they’re inconvenient. I don’t know what will happen. It’s perfectly possible, however, to make a television set in which you throw a switch and one scene is doubled, and you eliminate instantly the 3-D effect, and you still get a usable picture. So it’s perfectly possible for that whole liquid crystal thing to come down in price … I was told that the glasses could come down to as little as $25.00, battery operated, remotely, by infrared and you could easily build a television set which you took one of the frames, the interlaced frames, and doubled it. Then you get a perfectly good 2D picture. So the whole thing is doable over a period of time. I think the … I’m prejudiced, because I like it, but I think the additional advantage is that 3-D is there … I have with me a 3-D picture.
TAYLOR: Now the particular thing you are talking about … although you said, “about a degree” …
BLONDER: Let me just interrupt for just one second … I will be right back and I’ll show you one picture that will blow your eyeballs!
TAYLOR: Ike has just brought in a 3-D monticular lenticular sample. It’s really quite amazing … it’s got boats, and one group of boats well behind the other … you can tip it through several degrees …
BLONDER: There’s about 20 degrees before you lose the 3-D and it goes into pseudo. But the fact is, as far as I can see, that the this kind of thing is easily done with liquid crystal. It’s just a matter of time before it becomes practical and useable and I think the price will be right. You look at a 3-D presentation … remember them in the ’50s?
TAYLOR: Oh, I remember them back in the ’20s.
BLONDER: And every showplace, every theme park in the world, has one of the Canadian I-Max 3-D presentations which are fantastic. They have a chunk of film, yea big, for each frame, about ten times the amount of thirty-five millimeter and you get a picture that blows you eyeballs … and by the way, it’s Canadian financed.
TAYLOR: I didn’t realize that.
BLONDER: Yes, the Canadian government has supported that particular effort, and they are the leaders in the world on it. All it takes is money.
TAYLOR: They have one in Baltimore, I-MAX … I’ve seen that.
BLONDER: Oh, it’s just great. And that’s the most popular single item in the fairs. I’ve noticed that. The most popular item in the fairs, where any amount of money was spent by anybody, for their attractions, the one attraction that gets the greatest attention … the greatest amount is I-MAX.
TAYLOR: You don’t use glasses for that.
BLONDER: Yes, you do. But you use liquid crystal. You weren’t talking about Omni-Max.
TAYLOR: It’s called I-MAX.
BLONDER: But was it 3-D?
BLONDER: What you get is either the big screen without 3-D, or you get a globe.
TAYLOR: This was a huge screen.
BLONDER: Was there a globe over your head too? Was a screen over your head as well?
TAYLOR: That was not showing there, no.
BLONDER: Oh, alright, then you were watching it without 3-D. You were just merely enjoying a bigger, better picture. But if you saw it in 3-D, it would blow your eyeballs … you have birds flying right in front of your eyes. Just super!
TAYLOR: I can remember, I put them on no more than 7 or 8 years old. Matter of fact, in Westfield, New Jersey … red and green glasses … ball would come out and hit you right in the face.
BLONDER: That’s Anaglyph. It’s inferior because it doesn’t give you color. But in any case, this is an area, in which I think television is going to go, inevitably, sooner or later … because we all have two eyes, we all live with binocular vision, and it’s only cost that’s ever kept us from having binocular presentations … in the way of moving pictures, or whatever, or something like this. And of course you know we had the Nimslo for quite a while …
TAYLOR: Had … ?
BLONDER: Nimslo pictures. Nimslo gave you the same thing … you could take a photograph and get it made in this presentation … have you ever seen those?
TAYLOR: No. Well, I’ve seen postcards like this … I didn’t know about …
BLONDER: Let me see if I brought my Nimslo … I didn’t unfortunately. Nimslo was the same thing. They went out of business. But they had a camera with four eyes, and you took a picture, and then sent it to them, and they made it in this lenticular presentation. So you could get a perfectly good picture … and I made them … I had the Nimslo camera … and for awhile, I was making pictures that way. It’s better … but there’s limitations. Nothing is perfect … everything has it’s setbacks.
TAYLOR: Problem with the LCD is that they’re making these large ones that they think they need for HDTV, but with that kind of a thing, you can get by with 20-24 inch screens that we’ve got now.
BLONDER: Well, Faroudja, who made the one I looked at, said he could make them bigger … just a matter of money and time.
TAYLOR: And a matter of yield, is my understanding.
BLONDER: Well, of course … yield is always a problem.
TAYLOR: Yield is profit.
BLONDER: They may talk, of course, about the redundant screen, in which you can spare part of it into something to make it work anyway … I don’t know … it’s not my field.
TAYLOR: OK, now the literature you have out here. What can we talk about on that.
BLONDER: I just want to run through it very quickly and see which of it you wanted to keep. …this is something personal. In ’81 I gave a speech in Canada, and instead of talking about the speech, they talked about my comments in engineering … wasn’t that something?
TAYLOR: That’s not surprising.
BLONDER: Well, who knows. This is what I did … I made remarks on the enhanced standard for cable TV. I’m the only one that’s mentioned, besides you. Did you know that? This is the FCC Report and Order. I think you are mentioned once in there, and I am mentioned four or five times. But if it’s worth anything or not, I don’t know. Here’s a profile … so it gives my background … it gives some dates there. This one is “The Design for Analysis for Affordable next Generation TV,” and this is the submission I made to the FCC in which I said the same thing I just repeated to you and this one was part of the comments they picked up last year. Here’s another profile, from a different magazine. You have the “Subscription TV in the United States” … my speech given to the Subscription TV Association. Did you have my “Growing Old Gracefully”?
BLONDER: “The History of Blonder-Tongue” … do you have that?
BLONDER “Blonder-Tongue Engineering Firsts”?
BLONDER Here is one of the old catalogues. And this is the one on the CA-1 Antensifier. Here’s one on the convertor. Let’s see what’s in here … here is the mixed amplifier … that’s the amplifier I showed you, it’s there. There is a distribution amplifier.
TAYLOR: This one here.
BLONDER Yes. It fits into a plug-in … and that’s the amplifier in there … this is the various accessories, as of that time. Here is a later one, with all our individual amplifiers, which could have been used for a headend, for cable … various ones. And here is the power house. No, this is a different one. We had one here, that had a tremendous output, but that was using those big tubes. What was that per channel? 1.50 volts per channel. Let me see what else we have here …filters and traps, splitters, mixers … I don’t see the … this was the date … let me see what the date is … 1965.
TAYLOR: Bless you for dating that!
BLONDER I insisted on dates on the catalogues. It’s hard to do, because most people didn’t want it. This is the one I think I sent you … a whole bunch of pieces of paper … this is a technological history of cable television, I have here. I think this is what I sent you, “Standards for Distribution of TV by Coaxial Cable,” I think I put down … 1964. I was chairman on the Closed Circuit TV Committee … Wow! I’d forgotten that. “UHF TV,” “Satellite TV – Come Down to Earth,” do you have that one? “CATV – Carrying Two Channels,” “Brief History of Blonder-Tongue” … this one gives dates … I think I’ll make a copy of this. You’ve got a bunch of dates in here. Did I give you “Technology Training”?
BLONDER: I think these are all ones that I gave you already. Let’s see what else I have here. So onward and onward! These are things I’ve pulled out of my bushel of notes … “Brief History of Blonder-Tongue.” This is your stuff. Do you have this thing?
TAYLOR: I don’t think so.
BLONDER: I was given an award by this bunch. Oh, this was a good one. I love cost analysis. I gave you “The Future of Low Powered TV” … what do we have here … “Blonder-Tongue Sets a New York Campaign.” This one I went on the air with … over the air pay-TV … that’s not important … FCC approved it, and that was 1971. I got it approved, but couldn’t get on the air until ’74 … that’s a long time, boy! Did you see my … did you know I’m the illegitimate father of Cable Labs?
BLONDER: Here it is. I urged Norman Penwell a long time ago, to start up a cable lab … I said, “You can’t live without it. You got to have one. There’s no way you can succeed, unless you are doing new things.” You’re not interested in my pay-TV boxes … this sort of thing?
TAYLOR: Yes, I think so.
BLONDER: You are? Here is the whole story on it. Oh, here’s me running around the country. That was an experience you’d want to have! Oh boy! I was running around with a wagon, showing antennas … I wrote an article on antennas, by the way … which is going to appear, outside the laboratory. And the thing I used to enjoy, was that I’d drive up to a distributor, put my antenna on the top, and show him how it works … the guy points up to his antenna sitting 30 feet higher, competitor, on top of his building, and he says, “That’s got a better picture. What’s the matter with yours?” So what do you say to the guy? You say, “If you’ll take that antenna down, and put mine up, you can get a comparison.” But you can’t say that! So then it comes down to price. Here is a release … dates? … hey, how about it, no date? What good is it? Here’s a press release, no date. 25 years experience, therefore, it was 1975. Don’t need this. Don’t need that. I’ve got another package here … my goodness. Sorry about this! Did you ever see this thing? This is good stuff. Here is the HA-1. Here is a whole story on how we started, with a balance sheet, and everything. I guess that’s not worth anything. Here is what we had when Blonder-Tongue started, and what our qualifications were. We were manufacturing the Antensifier.
TAYLOR: Is this an appendix sheet?
BLONDER: There’s Blonder-Tongue at that time. I’ve got another catalog here … see what’s on this one. Does this include the broadband amplifier … I don’t see it. Includes the field strength meter. All kinds of stuff … this is loaded with good stuff. Now here is something you don’t want to read … because nobody else did. I wrote a company song! I even composed and played the sax to it. Talk about Clinton … I played the sax to this thing. Made a recording of it, and everybody said, “Go and get the hell away. Don’t bother us!” Oh, what the hell. Here’s a business on how to install master antenna systems … oh, here is the 25th issue, I can’t give this away, but look what’s here … that was devoted to Blonder-Tongue. And here is Mr. Blonder and Mr. Tongue …
TAYLOR: Frank Sinatra, Ed Wynn, Jimmy Durante and Blonder-Tongue.
BLONDER: Yes. Oh, here are my comments on NCTA. Oh boy. Wow … that’s pretty nasty. Is this mine? I’ve wrote a lot of comments. Who wrote it? It could have been one of my … wow! … is this a piece of history? … or is this piece of history? … it was done by Joel Smith, my salesman at the time. See if you want a copy of this. What’s in there, is frank, and it covers everybody in the business. He went to a meeting that I didn’t go, and I asked him to give me his opinion, and he was without… mercy. Here’s 1960. This was 1960 … it’s not anything you want, is it?
TAYLOR: Programs and Conventions?
BLONDER: Here’s another … this stuff … you don’t need this … forget all this stuff.
TAYLOR: And then I got a manual dated only by Lloyd Calhoun President.
BLONDER: There may or may not be a date there.
TAYLOR: Names on it, but no date.
BLONDER: I’m sure a date could be figured out.
TAYLOR: What is there in this publication, that first of all, we might be interested, and secondly, you want back?
BLONDER: Well, the whole trouble is, what might be interesting is, there is a whole bit in there about cable … about master antenna systems someplace along the way.
TAYLOR: Blonder-Tongue Laboratories.
BLONDER: There is just one. But I think there are other comments on cable there … I’m not really sure. Oh, here’s a nice bunch of complementary letters to me … forget that. Here’s the tenth annual NCTA convention … I think we can forget all this stuff. Let’s see what I’ve got here … I’ve got one more box … that’s MATV … marriage … TVRO … Distribution Amplifier … put these back.
TAYLOR: You know what I would like to have is a copy of the pages that are specific to Blonder-Tongue.
BLONDER: I’ll make them up and send them to you, if you leave me your correct address.
BLONDER: You have the “Dinosaur Droppings”? You want to keep a copy?
BLONDER: All right. Let me see what I’ve got here. Oh this is Electronic. You don’t want that part … what I did in the Army. Let’s see what I have here … oh, this is part of that 3-D meeting … forget that … this is the pay-TV box. That by the way, is not the one we put out. Very interesting. Would you believe, that I had made my first model, printed a ticket … and the ticket you had to put in, and then you had to get another piece of paper … and that was my answer to the “Smart Card.” You know the “Smart Card?” … it was used to identify change of identity … that also did the same thing … the card that you put in there … you had to have the right code, or it wouldn’t work. But it was cheatable. Did we give you this signal level … white band single trunking? We got the Master Antenna System manual … this is 1966. Did you get this one?
TAYLOR: But it doesn’t have a date.
BLONDER: There is a date there, someplace. It’s got to be there … bottom, sides, somewhere … I never let anything out without a date, unless they .
TAYLOR: Unless this reference number indicates a date …
BLONDER: Let’s take a look … there’s got to be a date … maybe I wasn’t awake … I hate things like this …
TAYLOR: Oh, me too. I insist, but I find I can’t get people to do it all the time.
BLONDER: Don’t tell me it slipped by me … I do not see a date … gee whiz … oh, maybe he’s fired already! … 3.66 … (At this point, Ike is talking far away for the microphone, finding it difficult to understand his conversation.)
TAYLOR: Well, since it’s all Solid State, it’s probably accurate in the 70’s, somewhere.
BLONDER: And this one, I imagine is also … let me see what’s in here … it’s got the old, no this isn’t the latest …this is one of the old ones … and I’m sure the date is in here … yes, ’66 … there’s the front cover. Test equipment … here’s the test that we wanted … how about that. I don’t know why they put an “X” on it … characteristics of Field Strength meters … do you need that?
TAYLOR: Yes, I need that.
BLONDER: , how about that. Now I’ll have the head of the chief engineer …
TAYLOR: Freddy Schultz.
BLONDER: Oh my goodness … “Two Versus Transistors” … I wonder what that says … application notes …
TAYLOR: Ray St. Louis was with you?
BLONDER: Yes, he was. All right, we’ve got through that bunch … let’s get to this bunch … Oh, by the way, here is the governor of Rhode Island, Sundlun, … one of my partners, in business.
TAYLOR: Oh, really! I did read that somewhere, that he was …
BLONDER: This is the Outlet Co…this is when I had the cable systems … so this has to do with cable operation …
TAYLOR: It’s probably mostly business …
BLONDER: Let’s see what I’ve got here … this is New Jersey broadcasting … channel 47 … all kinds of good stuff …
TAYLOR: I think it’s probably all pretty specific …
BLONDER: Well, Ethnic Marketing … and they give you maps and stuff … I don’t know that there is anything here …
TAYLOR: No, that’s not necessary.
BLONDER: Now, this is an old one… Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer… how about that … here’s a letter from them … “Research and Laboratories Facilities for Blonder-Tongue,” for MGM. That’s I think when I was pushing the pay-TV bit. By the way, did you ever see one? That was the first pay-TV system I designed and it consisted of two pictures on one channel … do you know how I did it? Black and white and used the sound carriers … the second carrier … and it went upward, and the first one went downward … and they were interlaced … so I got away with two good pictures, in black and white on one channel … one was pay and the other was normal. So when you tuned in, you got the first channel, normally, the second one was hidden. So I had a pay-TV system that I designed and built and I was showing it, but it didn’t get any further than that … that was a long time ago. More MGM …
TAYLOR: That two pictures on one channel is interesting. Is that something that you can copy and send me?
BLONDER: I have a copy of one here … I can knock off one immediately. Let me just make a copy quickly. The ones I gave you are all good ones. I left them in the file … let say here, for example, this is the patent I was going to use for paying the home … in the hotel.
TAYLOR: This is 3175033.
BLONDER: That’s the meter one. ’65, and it has a trap right here … and someplace I modulate this trap … where in the hell did I modulate it?
TAYLOR: “Pay TV”, dated March 23, 1965.
BLONDER: Filed 1960. I had it built before then. I tried to sell it, but who wants it? So, what the heck. Let me make you a copy.
TAYLOR: Just a note, as we close this, Ike has agreed to look up dates for me by telephone, if I find I need dates. This will end the interview with Ike Blonder.
END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A