Interview Date:Wednesday January 12, 1994
Interview Location: Flourtown, PA USA
Interviewer: Archer Taylor
Program: Penn State Collection
Note: Audio Only. Mike Jeffers passed away at age 90 on May 7, 2012.
TAYLOR: This is the 12th of January at about 9:00 in the morning in Mike Jeffers’ lovely home in Flourtown. I sent you a letter on some of the things I wanted to touch on. Having done one of these yourself, you have an idea on what we’re after. I like to start on your personal background. Have you always lived in this area; something about your family.
JEFFERS: Yes, it’s interesting. Except for military service, I’ve never been more than 15 minutes away the house. I was born and raised here.
TAYLOR: What about your family, your parents?
JEFFERS: I had an unusually situation. My father died one week before I was born so I didn’t have the benefit of a father. My mother was the old strong stock that raised the family of four on her own. She lived to be 85 so; she had a tough life, but as we grew older, she had a very nice life.
TAYLOR: Where did you get your schooling, particularly engineering?
JEFFERS: Well, right before World War II, I started to take chemical engineering at night school at Drexel University, then I served in the military service. When I came back, I decided to switch to more electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where I did get my degree.
TAYLOR: Were you doing electronic work in the military?
JEFFERS: In the military, I was a naval aviator. Then I flew off a carrier — I was carrier based, fighter type aircraft. But they made me the squadron radio/radar officer and I didn’t know zilch, but I got interested in it at that time, and that motivated me to switch courses. I also had several graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania. You know, I have four children. And about that time — between going to college full time, with some of the children born and eventually trying to get graduate courses… And at the same time, I remained flying in the naval reserve for about 10 years after. And between all that, I finally pooped out and got about 2/3 of the way to a Masters in Engineering.
TAYLOR: What triggered your interest in chemical engineering to begin with.
JEFFERS: I guess I was young and didn’t know what I was doing.
TAYLOR: Weren’t most of us.
JEFFERS: Yeah, you don’t really know when you’re right out of high school exactly what you want to do. I knew I wanted to be in engineering, but a particular field of engineering I hadn’t decided at that point.
TAYLOR: Like me, I thought I always wanted to be an engineer because we built bridges, built from one side and then to the other side, and put a bolt in it, it was great. Then I discovered that it was a 12″ long hole.
TAYLOR: You have four children. Where are they now?
JEFFERS: Four children…five children…I lost track. I was still thinking of my mother’s family. I have five children, three boys and 2 girls. Two of them live in the Washington area. My oldest son graduated as a physicist and then decided that he wanted to get more into business. So he also has a degree in Economics and a Masters in Economics and he has all his classes for his PhD. So he’s what they call ABD – still trying to work on his dissertation. The daughter that lives in Washington does have a Doctorate in Economics. The smart daughter #3 never went to college. She always disliked school, but she’s come around. She was smart enough to marry a guy that’s very successful in his own construction business. Then my two younger sons, one works for Bell Atlantic and he has his degree in Accounting, an MBA in Financial, and he also went and got his CPA. My youngest son works with software. He works for several companies more as a…you know, these job shops that bring in these software people. Then he worked for Intel, the group that bought out a technology from RCA in digital video. He was asked to go out — when they moved that facility out to Portland, OR, but he decided that it wasn’t worth moving his family, etc. He works for a company still doing software, called Tseng Labs right now. So I have 3 that live in this area, rather close to me, and two that live in the Washington, DC area. In addition, I have 14 grandchildren, and that pretty well completes the family.
TAYLOR: Well, you have quite a family.
TAYLOR: What were you doing before you got into CATV? Did you go right out of college?
JEFFERS: No, I didn’t. I graduated from college from undergraduate school in 1949. A lot of people forget that jobs were very tough to get. I worked for the government for the Naval Air Development Center in Johnsville, PA for about 2 1/2 years.
TAYLOR: Where is Johnsville?
JEFFERS: It’s just north of here.
TAYLOR: OK, in this general area.
JEFFERS: Yes, in this area. About 20 miles north of here. It was a commute, it wasn’t a move. I guess that about completes that general background.
TAYLOR: How did you get into CATV?
JEFFERS: Well, its interesting. Two very close friends, one well known in the industry is Frank Ragone, and another fellow — who really got us both into Jerrold — was a fellow named Bud Greene, and he was the first one to land a job. He had some kind of a contact with Milt Shapp, and became an employee of Jerrold at the time. Then he got Frank Ragone to come with him, and then they got me to come to Jerrold. Then they both left.
TAYLOR: Can you put a date on when Bud Greene went with Milt?
JEFFERS: Yeah, I’d say about 1950.
JEFFERS: Yes. He became — even though he was a graduate electrical engineer — he became production manager. Of course, we were very small at the time.
TAYLOR: Yes. Well Frank Ragone was…Greene brought Ragone in?
JEFFERS: Greene brought Ragone in, and then the two brought me in. I stated in 1951. Ragone started — probably early 1951. Then I came in about 9 months later in September.
TAYLOR: Oh, I see. When did Ken come in? Ken Simons? I think it was earlier than that.
JEFFERS: Ken Simons. Yes, he was, but he wasn’t an employee at that time. He was just doing some engineering work. The same way with Don Kirk. Don Kirk was really the first top engineer associated with Jerrold, but Don — who happened also to be a Navy pilot and a graduate of the Naval Academy, and as a matter of fact got his Master’s at the Naval Academy. He’d do work for Shapp down in his basement…
TAYLOR: From Annapolis. I’ve interviewed Don. And incidentally, you know he has Parkinson’s Disease and he was just tickled to death to have an opportunity to relive past history, and…
JEFFERS: He was quite a guy, really a genius as an engineer.
TAYLOR: He must have been, must be. He was very helpful in the interviews. He was probably working with Milt before 1950.
JEFFERS: Yes, he and Milt, as I recall — of course, you know better than I. He and Milt met at one of these electronics shows I believe.
TAYLOR: I think it was in Baltimore. Don had built a TV set for himself and it wasn’t sensitive enough in Annapolis so he built a booster for it. And it was the booster that caught Milt’s eye. When you joined Shapp, were they building boosters, or had they gone beyond that?
JEFFERS: They had gone beyond that. They had just about finished…We weren’t building them at that time, we were still servicing them. And, of course, I’m quite familiar with the booster from just looking at it afterwards as a curiosity. What they were building at that time is what we all refer to as MATV, the single strip for an apartment house, from an antenna — mostly for the New York area.
TAYLOR: He had started building those…even before he met Don Kirk you think?
JEFFERS: I would guess at about the same time. I don’t know that precisely.
TAYLOR: I interviewed…you know Martin Malarkey started Pottsville, and he used the RCA Antennaplex equipment. And I’ve been trying to run down the Antennaplex…I interviewed a guy named Mark Solomon, I believe it was, and he said the fellow I should really talk to is Andrew Wall and I haven’t got up with him yet. He’s up in the Boston area. Wall apparently is the guy who developed the Antennaplex. Larry Lockwood tells me that they used Antennaplex in the NBC house distribution system in New York.
TAYLOR: So, that was in late 1940’s. I’m trying to get some dates on that, is what I’m working on. But what’s interesting is that Martin learned about it because he had a music store in Pottsville and he was at a show or something, and living at the Waldorf Astoria. He saw television in the rooms there and began asking questions and found out about the Antennplex amplifiers and said, “That’s what I want in Pottsville.” So that’s how it got started there.
JEFFERS: You know I mentioned earlier that as I was brought into the company I was no sooner there than Frank Ragone left, for about 9 months, and then he came back. He worked for an outfit building the same equipment for Philco.
TAYLOR: Oh, really?
JEFFERS: Yes. In this general area, he was up above Willow Grove and his name was Ginslinger. So they attempted the same type of apartment house and eventually they started getting more into CATV.
TAYLOR: That was for Philco.
TAYLOR: Don Kirk left Jerrold at some time (I’ve got the date somewhere) and went with Philco, and he didn’t like the way they were building their microwaves. So he went off on his own, with Dalck Feith.
JEFFERS: By the way, its through that means that Bill Lambert came into the cable television industry, because he was hired by Don to work on the microwave…
TAYLOR: On the K&F?
TAYLOR: I didn’t know that.
JEFFERS: So, that’s how he came. And then, of course, Jerrold ended up absorbing K&F. Then Don got mad and left again. And at that time, then Lambert stayed with the Jerrold organization.
TAYLOR: Don had quite a story about how Dalck Feith took him for a fare-you-well. It was a pretty sad story he had to tell me.
JEFFERS: Dalck Feith is quite a character.
TAYLOR: I gather. Was he functioning with the company at the time that you joined.
JEFFERS: Well, at that time, as you well remember, everything was in vacuum tubes. Dalck and Milt got together because Dalck’s business was sheet metal and he did all the sheet metal. I mean, he didn’t even go out for another quote. He was a crafty guy. To take an example, may be we would order 500 sets of parts, he would run 1500 and stick them off, and if we wanted to change something, he couldn’t charge it all over again. And we couldn’t change it… Because he talked to Milt and he had already done it. He was one smart cookie. If you heard his whole story, he became the major stock holder in Jerrold and eventually when absorbed by General Instrument, was a major stockholder in GI, with the single most number of shares.
TAYLOR: He was working with Jerrold at the time you joined.
JEFFERS: Yes, he was.
TAYLOR: I think he was putting financial resources into the company.
JEFFERS: Yes, he helped Milt a lot.
TAYLOR: Probably enabled Jerrold to move ahead.
JEFFERS: Many is the time he met the Jerrold payroll, and then I don’t know when he began to pick up shares, I guess, at that time, but he worked his way up. He was on the Board of Directors for a while. I think. I think he was. He certainly, in effect, had major control over one or two of the people there.
TAYLOR: Probably, just as I put things together, he was a pretty important element in getting Milt going to where he ended up. The company though is still the biggest company in the business. I find it very intriguing that here this company is still going and it’s the one that developed the digital television idea, that really began to put it to use with the HDTV…
JEFFERS: Yes, the videocipher division.
TAYLOR: Yes, the videocipher.
JEFFERS: They’re a very smart group of people.
TAYLOR: They must be. As I interviewed Ike Blonder and asked him why he didn’t get into cable TV more deeply. He said, “Milton had always funded his customers and he didn’t have the money to do that.” So that’s probably one of the things that Feith was able to do for him. Of course, that got him into trouble too with the antitrust things…
JEFFERS: Yes, that’s right. That was the service charge business.
TAYLOR: But, looking back that’s the kind of trouble you don’t mind. You’re still getting ahead.
JEFFERS: He got in trouble, but it was kind of a slap on the wrist.
TAYLOR: That’ right. Sort of trouble.
JEFFERS: Because way before the court case came up he had stopped that practice for several years.
TAYLOR: They made him divest of his operating companies and then he went back and built another set of operating companies and had to divest them later on.
JEFFERS: Well, he didn’t have to divest them.
TAYLOR: Is that right?
JEFFERS: No. Once the final sale of the operating companies…We were under General Instrument at the time…I remember this quite well.
TAYLOR: This is the one that Sammons took over.
JEFFERS: That’s right. For 3 or 4 years under the ownership of General Instrument and still operating those, we had to agree to not compete. We continued to operate the systems that we owned but we would not go up against our own customers. That was a very big asset and we held on to it, and it was profitable and all but then General Instrument got in need of cash and they made decisions to divest them, so…
TAYLOR: When was that? Do you recall a date?
JEFFERS: I’d say early seventies.
TAYLOR: That late?
JEFFERS: Yes, that late. See they we weren’t acquired by General Instrument till late 1968 and so that was early 1970’s. But of course, Milt was out of the company June 1966. I think it was because of his political…
TAYLOR: That’s right.
JEFFERS: And at that time he was going first for US Senator from Pennsylvania and he was unsuccessful but it was at that time that he was ruled out…
TAYLOR: Well, he had been very active in the Kennedy Campaign in 1960, I guess that was, and it was somewhere in that time that he sold to Harmon Kardon, wasn’t it?…And then Pilot was in…
JEFFERS: Pilot, yes. And then was in Benrus also…
TAYLOR: Oh really.
JEFFERS: I remember going to the Benrus factory in New York where they were stamping out the watch…but they had started…there was another outfit that made oscilloscopes that he acquired. He did a beautiful job of acquiring…that was really right after the U.S. suit against him that they decided to expand and they bought Pilot Radio, Harmon Kardon, Benrus and what was the other…I can’t think of…an outfit making oscilloscopes. And then about that time…the biggest problem with Milt at that time was that he was so busy paying attention to everything else that he didn’t have any active day to day control. And then, by the way, here is where Dalck came in. Apparently Milt had signed with Sid Harmon an agreement that if they got to a point, and I guess either could exercise it, they could in effect buy the other one out. Harmon brought it to a point. And Bob Beisswenger was there at the time and they started to press the Jerrold end of it and really getting Milt back into the thing and say, “Hey, we can’t let this guy run this thing. We go to go after it.” The crucial day came up. It was like one of these deals at 4:30 in the afternoon on such or such a day, you either put up or shut up. So through Milt they came to the decision, but it was Dalck Feith’s money. As a matter of fact I think that’s where he got his money…
TAYLOR: He bought out Harmon Kardon?
JEFFERS: Yes, it was his money that was put into Jerrold that allowed Milt to meet the commitment and the other guy couldn’t. I think Loeb Rhodes was involved there and they were the ones that made the decision. It was a very, very close decision. Loeb Rhodes decided that they were safer to support the Jerrold side of the…
TAYLOR: There was another investment firm. I think Beisswenger came from an investment firm, didn’t he?
JEFFERS: He came through a support company to the telephone industry. I don’t know exactly.
TAYLOR: I can almost say the name of the company he was involved…. It wasn’t Loeb Rhodes. It was another company…I can’t quite get it off my tongue. What was the year when the buyout took place.
JEFFERS: Well, I can tell you this. Beisswenger was there, so it had to be early 1960’s. I’m going by the fact that Milt was out. I know this distinctly because I learned about it at the 1966 Miami CATV show. It was just about then, with a week of whenever that show was that Milt was no longer a power. So you got to bracket it between…I’d say it was 1963 or 1964. To the best of…it was right at that time period.
TAYLOR: Now Milt went out of power…this is what…the sale to GI?
JEFFERS: No, just the Board of Directors at Jerrold.
TAYLOR: I guess I’ve lost some of this, now the buyout of Harmon Kardon…Milt was still…
JEFFERS: Milt was still active in the company. I had to be around… let’s say 1964.
TAYLOR: Then he was in power for a time… then he lost his power by the action of the Board.
JEFFERS: Oh, I’m sorry. He hadn’t lost his power at all during this. He was just not doing his job.
TAYLOR: When Harmon was running it.
JEFFERS: Yes, when Harmon was in. So he had no loss of power during that time. They just goosed him to pay more attention to him. He was really letting Beisswenger and others run the company…
TAYLOR: He was having more fun with his politics.
JEFFERS: Yes, he was having more fun…but he still had the full authority. So they kind of goosed him to get back into it for that… So when that came about he was fully Chairman of the Board…
TAYLOR: And when he came back into activity was about the time that they did the buyout?
JEFFERS: They…the buyout of…?
TAYLOR: Harmon Kardon?
JEFFERS: Yes, he came back because of the buyout.
TAYLOR: Oh, because of the buyout. Then taking the power away from him was just by vote.
JEFFERS: It was a just a vote of Board of Directors and that I know precisely as June 1966.
TAYLOR: Why did they take him out of control?
JEFFERS: I think they took him out of control because, again, as soon as that buyout was done, he got back into politics and they just thought he wasn’t running the company. It was at a meeting and a vote of the Board of Directors of Jerrold that took him out.
TAYLOR: When did he become governor?
JEFFERS: He became governor, I think in 1970. Because, it’s interesting.
TAYLOR: That’s about right.
Mike He did two things, in early 1960 – let’s say 1962 — well it had to be 1962 – no it had to be 1960 if he was running for …He announced back then that he was going to run for Senator. However, that lasted like…here is the announcement and that was the end of it! He was very serious in – I guess it had to be 1965 or 1966 — that he was going back in for a second shot a Senator. And it was at that time the concern that Jerrold had that it would be impacting the corporation. Because he was a testy kind of a guy. He was a great, great guy, but…the Board of Directors just thought that it would hurt the company and they came to an agreement of selling his stocks and everything else like that. But it was more that he wasn’t paying attention to the store and they got him out then. So, then of course, he lost the Senatorial, and then he ran for Governor and won; and won it twice.
TAYLOR: He didn’t lose the Governor once? It was the Senator that he lost.
JEFFERS: Yes, the Senate.
TAYLOR: And that was probably 1966 or 1968?
JEFFERS: I think it was 1970. I forget.
TAYLOR: That was for Governor. It was Senate that he lost, may have been 1968.
JEFFERS: Yes, he got fairly far for Senate. I’d say about that time. I’d have to back. When you talk to Len Ecker, he might know that more than I.
TAYLOR: When was Bob Beisswenger killed? Do you remember that date?
TAYLOR: 1974. That was a sad thing.
JEFFERS: Such a shame. Bob had the heart attack in 1968 and he no longer ran Jerrold at that time but he was an officer for…shortly after GI acquired us, I guess it was more 1969. He was Vice President of GI and did special duties for Monty Shapiro and he was kind of hidden away and then about that time, he became Chairman of NCTA.
TAYLOR: That’s right.
JEFFERS: So those duties kept him away from Jerrold and really Zemnick almost ran the company. I took care of engineering at that time because it was about the time I was made VP of engineering and there were others in that 1968 though 1970 period. Of course, that’s when they bought John Malone in too.
TAYLOR: I’ll never forget that John Malone and his introduction to me.
TAYLOR: I was working with Jack McGeehan who was handling Ed Sullivan’s properties and he was going to make a contract to buy equipment for Glenns Falls and asked me to sit in on the conference. So I went down to Jerrold and sat in with Jack McGeehan and some others. And somebody from Jerrold said they’ve got a new young fellow that they’ve just bought in and are trying to teach him the ropes and so on. And would I mind that if he sat in on the meeting? Then in came this tall skinny guy in shirt sleeves. This is John Malone, and I thought he was just a green beginner. Within about 6 months, he was President of Jerrold.
JEFFERS: Well he first came in, John’s….I can’t pin the very day at all, but he came into General Instrument as a consultant for…Who’s the big outfit up in….
TAYLOR: Booze Allen, Arthur D. Little?
JEFFERS: No. Begins with a Mac or Mc…Well known up in the New England area. He was working for them at the time. He came in on a contract with GI to look over all of their companies, one of which was Jerrold and that’s of course where I met him. But, Monty Shapiro liked him so much that he then got him away from…I can’t remember the name…And made him Vice President of GI. So he was really on the NY corporate staff for awhile, maybe 5 or 6 months. The next thing you know he was assigned to help Jerrold out and then eventually became CEO/President of Jerrold. At that time, we were still a wholly owned subsidiary. Because later in the 1970’s (I can’t remember dates), we gave up that corporate identity as Jerrold Electronics Corp. to become a division. But we were still then a wholly owned subsidiary.
TAYLOR: Is Jerrold the biggest part of GI now? Of their business?
JEFFERS: Oh, yes. Of course, in business. I’d say they are in everything. Although, the videocipher division does very well.
TAYLOR: They’ve got so many different divisions, but they’re all in the cable business.
JEFFERS: Fundamentally, there is Jerrold, the Videocipher and CommScope. Drendel does very well.
TAYLOR: Between those three, is there any other GI…
JEFFERS: No, eventually, they gotten rid of all the others, or merged them in. They sold off everything else. Really, it was Loeb Rhodes that did a lot of that. You know, at the time they took over, any remaining businesses, they got rid of. An interesting thing — this is very current — I was very surprised myself. Apparently, Hal Krisburg is over Videocipher and Jerrold.
TAYLOR: Oh, really.
JEFFERS: That’s got to be very current.
TAYLOR: Well, Jerrold has also made working agreement with other companies giving them additional capabilities.
Mike Oh yes.
TAYLOR: Going back to engineering, when you started with Jerrold? What was your job?
JEFFERS: When I started with Jerrold, we were so…cable was so new, particularly in the eastern Pennsylvania area. And of course at that time the local stations here in Philadelphia, channels 3, 6 and 10, were really the prime stations. Of course it had all three networks too. But back then, the idea — because of the attenuation of the cable – was, “Hey, let’s get everything in the low band.” So I made more channel 3 to 2, 10 to 4 — and channel 6 we didn’t have to convert — I made more of those damn converters for about the first 9 months to a year. There were other guys there. That’s all we were doing.
TAYLOR: Actually producing them?
JEFFERS: Actually producing these converters. We really didn’t have time to do much else. Ah, we’d work on…
TAYLOR: This was primarily the MATV business, the apartment…?
JEFFERS: No, no. This was CATV.
TAYLOR: Well, let’s go to that question I raised in my letter about Bob Tarlton, who claims Jerrold was one of his first CATV…
JEFFERS: A very nice story about Bob. It was one of those things that I learned the day I walked in the door, yet apparently it’s very accurate. This will be kind of romantic. Of course, all of this happened before I joined Jerrold. Bob had a store in Lansford, PA, selling all kinds of appliances, and of course, one of the things he was trying to sell was television. They didn’t have much television up there. So that bothers him and he started to look up and…. And what he did was, he ran across Jerrold equipment just in one of the catalogs for feeding MATV systems. He went up the mountains, so to speak. He claims to be the first guy to use coax cable. Others, I think Marty…Walsonavich…? What’s his name?
JEFFERS: Johnny Walson. Has been recognized by NCTA actually, if you remember about 6 or 7 years ago, or something at one of the shows, they featured him. Not many people know his name as Walsonavich.
TAYLOR: That’s right. I knew him as Walsonavich.
JEFFERS: He was a character, but apparently he started his with twin lead.
TAYLOR: That’s what I heard.
JEFFERS: But Bob went up the mountain and put up antennas and laid the coax down and he bought the Jerrold MATV equipment. And he got into town and, while he had pictures they were so washed out. And then he called in to Jerrold and said, “Could you come up and help.” So I think Don Kirk was one of them that went up there and…
TAYLOR: Was Ken involved at that time?
JEFFERS: I don’t think Ken was involved.
TAYLOR: I don’t think he was either.
JEFFERS: But anyway, they went up, the engineering staff. I wasn’t there at the time. They looked at his pictures, and a big light bulb in the sky went off. All the MATV gear was, was a synchronously aligned amplifier, right around the carrier. And if you take only one shot down, that’s pretty good. Of course, it was black and white at the time so you didn’t need a helluva lot of bandwidth. …but the cascade…..running back and modified their amplifiers to be flat across 6 MHz… and went up…and Eureka… very good improvement of the picture. But at the same idea they saw this tremendous market there and also at the time there weren’t such things as converters and he was losing somewhat so… Ken did the converters. Ken Simons designed the converters. And that’s what I say, I was in the midst of all this burgeoning out, and the key was…you know we could build the amplifiers, we just learned to aligned them wide band and you need these converters to change a 3, 6 and 10 to 2, 4, 6.
TAYLOR: Or 2, 4, 5.
JEFFERS: Either one, we built them all. Bill Felcher, another guy who was there at the time…
TAYLOR: Bill F-E-L-C-H-E-R?
TAYLOR: I don’t know him.
JEFFERS: Well, he had a long history with Jerrold but he never rose to be that good a technical man. He did his job well, and all that kind of stuff, but he wasn’t a shining star. But he and I sat there and we built those converters till we were going out of our minds.
TAYLOR: Interesting. I had heard that Ed Parsons had used twin lead initially and I hadn’t realized that. I thought it was coax from the beginning and I talked to Dick Old. He confirmed. He said it was twin lead all right that they started with.
JEFFERS: Who was the outfit in the state of Washington?
TAYLOR: Well, this is in Astoria, Oregon. They for a long time were accredited for being the first. And there’s still an argument I guess as to whether John Walsonavich was in there ahead of him. Because Strat Smith tells this story in Mahoney City, John had painted on his vehicles “established 1950.” And when he heard about Parsons claiming 1949, he painted out all that stuff and said, “established 1948.” So there is a little bit of…and knowing John, you wonder a little bit.
JEFFERS: It’s funny. The thing I liked about John was, that he would come to an NCTA show and he looked around. If he saw something new that he could use, man, there is a purchase order right in your hand. He was always the first one to buy something. One particular thing was when the first channel commanders came out, boy, he looked at it with no hesitancy.
TAYLOR: He usually modified things.
JEFFERS: He didn’t modify them too much, not the basic CATV.
TAYLOR: That’s probably true. I remember the Starline One. He bought the chassis and put then in sheet metal housing, and not the cast housing.
TAYLOR: Do you have any idea; it was before your time, but how long had Milt been building MATV strips? Was he doing it when he met Don Kirk, I wonder?
JEFFERS: I don’t know.
TAYLOR: Kirk’s introduction was the booster, I know that from what Don told me. I feel pretty sure though, I will find out when I interview Andrew Wall. I think that the Antennaplex was in use at least for the NBC house operation and for some of the New York hotels earlier on.
JEFFERS: It could be. I don’t think Jerrold ever claimed to be first in MATV and secondly, I remember – coming out of the fog there — there was a patent by a guy on basic MATV systems. We always had to look cross-eyed ….
TAYLOR: I see, it was not Jerrold patent. RCA?
JEFFERS: I don’t know.
TAYLOR: That’s another interesting thing. I have a friend who asked me one time, “Do you know Louis Crook? He invented coaxial cable TV you know.” I said, I had never heard about that. So I began investigating and I found a patent that was issued in 1941, I think, or something like that. And it described coaxial cable, although not quite in those terms. But it had an outer conductor and a wire down the middle, it was insulated, and he described it as distributing television to homes or other business. Very crude thing, but then it turns out…I was taking this up with Strat Smith…
End of Tape 1 – Side A
Start Tape 2, Side B
TAYLOR: I will talk again about the FCC document that Strat Smith found dated, I think, 1937, in which the FCC — because, at that time there wasn’t any commercial television. Sarnoff and some others had some experimental licenses but nothing commercial. The FCC was writing about, “How are we going to distribute television once we get it going. There are two ways to do it you can do it by radio or you can do it by this new Bell patent on coaxial cable. 1937. So its interesting the idea was alive even before television itself.
TAYLOR: The MATV business probably got started in New York.
JEFFERS: I believe so.
TAYLOR: When you came in, Ken had been working as kind of a contractor, but not an employee.
JEFFERS: Not an employee.
TAYLOR: Yes, he told me about that. The money he got was pitiful but, he did all right, and Milt took care of him at least for awhile. When they changed from MATV to CATV, did they do anymore than just put the “W” on the front end of the designation?
JEFFERS: Well, yes, they redesigned the strips slightly and of course as I told you before, they had to broaden the response and all, so that was the change. Those amplifiers, and I worked on them. They were beautiful for a single channel strip. We’d go up and cover the 6 MHz and of course when we had the non-adjacent channel, you had a space between 2 and 4 and even between 4 and 5 because of that 4 MHz and certainly between 4 and 6. You could broaden it and they were actually beautiful. Typically they would be flat with about 2/10 dB even then.
TAYLOR: How did they get to going into adjacent channels, broadband operations?
JEFFERS: That was a little company called Entron.
TAYLOR: Yes, I interviewed Hank Diambra.
JEFFERS: Good old Hank. Entron came out with this broadband from channel 2 to channel 6 and, we opened our eyes and decided, we better design one.
TAYLOR: That was actually distributed transmission line…
JEFFERS: No, not at that time.
TAYLOR: Just broad stagger tuned?
JEFFERS: Just broad stagger tuned across the band. And its very interesting. On that project we learned…its funny some of the things you learn, and there was a particular learning experience. We had a thing called a Univamp and we designed that…and it didn’t take us long to learn that too much gain can be your enemy. Because that damn thing must have had about 40 dB of gain. Well it was a nice amplifier and you know, you cascade many of them… What was Ken Simons expression at one time? I’ll never forget. He was not involved in it. He says, “Your cross-mod-ed signals had noise in them.”
TAYLOR: Outside of that, no problems!
JEFFERS: That’s right. So that was the first shot. But we quickly learned that you can’t stay in that kind of game. Then we switched to a thing we called the UBC, which was a unit that had about 24-26 dB of gain. The number of those we sold were unbelievable because it was the right gain. We started to pay a little better attention to the noise figure, and of course output capability. We, at that time learned, and this is true… Incidentally, if any thing, I think the amplifiers today have too much gain, between you and me. But, what we learned is, when you have that — and it was a 3 stage amplifier. And the best kind of amplifier is one that is around that kind of gain, where the input stage is devoted to noise figure with some signal handling capability, and the middle stage is the one that kind of fits the two, and the output stage is aimed at high output capability. Really that’s the essence of what should be in a cascaded amplifier. Not to get off the track, but you can pretty well prove that technically. Because, if you do a theoretical study and you want what you consider to be the best amplifier you can get, it would run around 16-17 dB. Because the input stage dedicated to noise figure, and the output stage to output capability — each in themselves not being a contributor to…distortion in the output of the preamp, or noise only in the input of the post amp. You can sit there and prove that, if you pick the best device for noise figure and the best device for output capability, that you ought to be somewhere between 17 and 20 dB. Then you come in with the practical fact that you need AGC, and therefore you have some movement, which you want in the interstage. That’s what really takes it up to around 24 or 26 dB gain. Getting above that, you’re kidding yourself.
TAYLOR: I had an interesting experience. John Walson got me up to Allentown, one time, for the bank, and I went out. We did some checking. We had one line that was 56 amplifiers deep, then went out there and looked at pictures (I didn’t have any means to make a quantitative measurement) but we looked at pictures, and my gosh, they were good. 56 amplifiers deep and all this home made stuff that John and Jack Warner were putting out…I couldn’t believe it. I asked if I could take one of his amplifiers and do some testing on it, which I did, and discovered that the gain was about 11 dB. No wonder they could cascade them, because they got good results out of it.
JEFFERS: Well, of course, we all know that the theoretical best for longest cascade was supposed to be 8.7, but the point is that in cable that’s about one device, and you can’t get one device that meets the specs for noise figure and output.
TAYLOR: That’s right, noise figure and output.
JEFFERS: That’s what’s got you beat. What stretches it up a little better, the fact that you can favor it. And you can show definitely that they’re longer cascades.
TAYLOR: The other thing that John did is that his feeders were all passive, he didn’t have any amplifiers in his feeders.
JEFFERS: Who was the oriental fellow up there?
TAYLOR: Bark Lee Yee
JEFFERS: Bark Lee Yee. Boy, there is a guy that had a homemade system.
TAYLOR: That’s right. I never did get a chance to look at it, but I know that’s right.
JEFFERS: He did the damnest things with it, but he really customized it and of course I’m sure he’s been tremendously, financially successful.
TAYLOR: Oh, yes.
JEFFERS: But getting back. There’s no question Entron coming in with their broadband amplifier and now they have 5 channels. That was a major step, no question. Many times Jerrold has led the industry and many times we followed on. But generally we followed it better than the guy that led it.
TAYLOR: That I remember.
JEFFERS: That was one case. There’s no question we…To get five channels in a simple amplifier like that, and then it probably was the simplest amplifier we ever made, the UBC, the Uniband.
TAYLOR: Do you have a date on that?
JEFFERS: 1956. Frank Ragone designed that. He designed both of them.. Another interesting thing we learned. It’s funny, right in that period we probably learned more about the technology of cable systems than the other times. I think it was the Uniband, which had AGC — an oscillating AGC system! You’d like to have quick response on this, which is stupid. Actually that’s fine for a headend amplifier or anything like one of the commanders or processor or something like that. But my God, the only thing that changes in cable systems must be such minor dB’s due to temperature and all. But, boy, you get out there and you lose a signal temporarily in one place, the AGC would respond, the next one would….
TAYLOR: Fighting each other all along the line!
JEFFERS: So we learned that. We learned all about lower gain units, AGC and eventually we put good technology in to that. I’d say the late ’50 and early ’60 we learned quite a bit more.
TAYLOR: I’ve been interested in the distributed amplifier type design as you know from talking to Jake. SKL was building before CATV got started anyway. In fact, they may have been building during the War, at least shortly after the war, I’m not quite sure. I’ve it from your interview. That was a patent and as I understand it, there was a British by the name of Percival I think, who had a patent on distributed amplifiers and Fitz Kennedy was operating under that patent. He realized that that was a patent. But when Amplivision, they guys out in Los Angeles, started building Amplivision devices, Fitz got real excited. He didn’t like the idea that they weren’t honoring the patent and Fitz was. Fitz told me a couple of times that he was just furious over Amplivision. But then I was talking to Jim Palmer and this goes to about 1951. He said he never built anything but distributed amplifiers, and he didn’t even know about the patent. So, Jerrold never did go in to distributed amplifiers.
JEFFERS: Oh, sure we did. As a matter of fact….
TAYLOR: Oh, well the transistor…No, no.
JEFFERS: No, I was the guy at Jerrold who did all the distributed amplifiers. The first distributed amplifier we did, we did a sub-low. As a matter of fact, in the first distributed amplifier we did, which was 1957, we were in push-pull. We introduced push-pull there. In effect, even though it was a distributed amplifier with vacuum tubes, we had, in effect, an input stage…by the way they are a very good noise figure, excellent noise figure. OK. And we had…call it a two stage amplifer. But it was this way, a non push-pull…. The first stage was called the preamp stage. Then we went into push-pull from the output stage so we could cover that whole band without second order of distortion. Then we elaborated on that. As a matter of fact, the biggest customer of ours on that amplifier was the Bell Systems. And Southern Bell in South Carolina had them all over the place.
TAYLOR: What amplifier was that?
JEFFERS: The LSA-795. Then we built another one for the Bell System. We actually used their tubes. We used the 403B tube, which was a…There were several tubes that came in. On our own, we used a 6CB6 which had a higher gain and all, but the reliability of the 403B made by Western Electric was so good that they asked us to build it. There it was just a substitute. But, god, we had a lot of them…more in the Bell Education System in SC, all over the place. There was an interesting thing. The first leg installed — and it was interesting working with Bell. I had worked with Bell an awful lot, more than anybody else at Jerrold at that time. But we had another amplifier that was fully push-pull, all distributed. And so, for the same reason, they were using the low-sub system, they were using with the Bell coaxial cable and all that. Southern Bell had a contract with the State – the educational part — of SC to deliver signals to the schools. We built (because I was so intimately involved, I remember every detail); Orangeburg, SC, where there was a headend, We went 45 amplifiers in cascade and we had Bell Labs people down there, Southern Bell people there. I remember working under a pole where there were 14 Bell people and me. We did the cascade and they did mop up equalizers as we went along, designed right under the pole, and it was very successful. An interesting thing that I like to say, here are these guys, like everybody else, saying, “We’re building this, but losing our shirt.” Of course it was very rural. They’re losing their shirts. They trenched in the cable, they put… Here’s the coax, but the number of Bell pairs…. Yes, they lost it, if they just considered that. But they updated their system as they went along. They were big. And I designed another one, which was really our top amplifier from about 1960 till we got into transistors with a product called the SCA213. It went from 2 to 13, it was not push-pull, but a fully distributed amplifier. We did very well with it. It had excellent specs because distributed amplifiers by nature have low noise figure and a very good output handling capability. So we were very heavily into distributed amplifiers. The best thing that happened, and I remember this well because it was kind of a triumph. We had just flat AGC on these low-sub LSA410 — 4 to 100, I guess is where the number came from. This is the one that was really trenched in and built in large measure down in SC. We were going along this long cascade, we’re at the end of it 44 amplifiers long, and the guys from Bell Labs say, “While we’re out here and we have the alignment, why don’t you go along.” And these guys said, “We’re going back. We just want to measure how good the second order distortion canceling is.” And they joined us for lunch and this guy at the Lab says, “Mike, we got a problem.” He says, “After the 10th amplifier we measured and that second order distortion is not that good.” I’m sitting there. And I start to think, “God, I’ve gotten better results than that, what the hell happened?” Suddenly it hit me. At the 10th amplifier location they dropped in an SKL amplifier that gave gain and tilt. And that’s single ended. I said, “You know what, why don’t you guys go back and measure at the output of the 10th amplifier and then at the output of the SKL tube control.” Well, they came back and they were absolutely sick because they had never thought of the effects on second order of that amplifier, and this particular guy was scared to death of the boss at Bell Labs. He thought they were going to catch hell. He says, you are absolutely right. We can hardly measure second order. So, I felt like a million.
TAYLOR: I bet you did.
JEFFERS: It was all through those amplifiers that we got into push-pull and of course we’ve been push pull ever since. Our first transistor amplifiers were at least the push pull output stage. The first line extender, and if you remember the first IC’s were from TRW, and they had an interesting way of trying to build their devices to hold down distortion. It was something that I had dealt with before that and I knew that method. That method really wasn’t reliable because it only cancelled distortion at one particular level. If we had enough work with push-pull to know how successful it was. We would not buy their devices for our line extenders and we were in transistorized line extenders almost before anybody else. We weren’t in to trunk amplifiers at that time but we were buying IC’s from TRW like you wouldn’t believe, to fill the line extender orders. And we insisted they go back and do it in push-pull. And I’ll tell you the truth, it was a big help for us but I’m sure it made TRW in the beginning because they were going through single ended device compensated in some way, feed-back distortion and all.
TAYLOR: Now, how back the Hewlett-Packard IC that Anaconda used in their first transistor amplifier. Ken tells an interesting story about that one.
JEFFERS: Well, the Hewlett Packard IC was pretty good that Anaconda used. We built an amplifier. I know this inside and out but I can’t think of the product name. Well really, its Starline 300 is what it started out. That was our big amplifier and we still sell them to this day. We contracted with Hewlett Packard, and fortunately we also contracted with TRW to build amplifiers that were actually better than the ones they used with Anaconda.
TAYLOR: You were building them with lumped components?
JEFFERS: No, not at that time. We were talking in the vicinity for us… Anaconda was ahead of us. I think they were like 70 or 71. We’re talking in the period of… Well the design effort to work with them was 1972 and we introduced the amplifier in 1973 at the NCTA show. So it was a different amplifier than the one that Anaconda used. Of course ours was full push-pull.
TAYLOR: Your amplifier, you said, was better than the HP IC?
JEFFERS: I’m sorry. I talking amplifier as the full stage, using the Hewlett Packard or TRW IC.
TAYLOR: Oh, I see, better than the Anaconda.
JEFFERS: I’m talking about the integrated circuits by Hewlett Packard and TRW. It ended up… We had a contract with Hewlett Packard. I was out there many a time. They built a beautiful unit, they had a new transistor that they developed. It was a wagon wheel transistor. Its performance was excellent. A good way of saying it… I’ll try to get to the bottom line. They had a marvelous reliable device, but very poor ruggedness. In other words as long as you didn’t jolt the voltages up and down or do anything to it, it would last for ever. As soon as you went “pffft” with a surge and all, they were gone. We went on a long development with them, went on a development with TRW as a backup, a second source, and Hewlett-Packard got to the point where it cost them a fortune and they had to back out of the contract. They honored the first purchase orders, but they raised their price so much, we couldn’t begin to stay with it. So they completely misjudged their costs and all and to honorably back out. But we did build some and I’ll bet you they’re still working. Canada was a big user of amplifiers with Hewlett-Packard devices. We worked on our circuitry, particularly the circuitry around the B+ voltage coming in so that we dampened any possibility….
TAYLOR: …to get rid of any spikes, yes.
JEFFERS: It was all protected, so as long as we had them protected… TRW didn’t need anything like that. But as long as we had that circuitry with proper time constants so a surge wouldn’t come through, Hewlett Packard were excellent devices. But they got to be so pricey, that they backed out of it. Its interesting I’ll tell you; this is my philosophy — I’m sure I’m right — discussing Hewlett Packard’s technique and TRW’s. Hewlett Packard would design theirs on a sapphire substrate. All their resistive elements they would hold within — just at the development stage on the sapphire substrate — they would hold accurately within, I’d say, 1/2 a percent. That cost them an arm a leg. TRW would build theirs deliberately — all their resistive elements and that kind of stuff — they built them at maybe 10 or 12 percent high and come in and do a laser trim. They got their laser trimmer working so fast. You would go blind looking. They would trim about 25 elements within 20 seconds.
TAYLOR: I’ll be darned.
JEFFERS: And there is the difference in manufacturing techniques where TRW was – hell — so much more cost effective in their work compared to Hewlett Packard, that Hewlett Packard couldn’t stand it. Plus that fact that sapphire substrate isn’t cheap.
TAYLOR: That’s right.
JEFFERS: That was a great amplifier. It’s a shame it didn’t work out with them. Our amplifier was very expensive. I’ll tell you another system that has those, Suburban in New Jersey. They had reliability like you wouldn’t believe.
TAYLOR: That’s with the Hewlett Packard unit?
JEFFERS: No, with either TRW or Hewlett Packard. Most of the Hewlett Packards were used in Canada because one of the things we had to do, we had to go in and do test on all the spares. HP had a supplier for spares and most of the ones we had we shipped to our Canadian facility, Jerrold Canada, just to sit their but it was strictly they couldn’t compete.
TAYLOR: The TML series, was it your first transistor amplifier?
JEFFERS: Yes, they were the transistor amplifier.
TAYLOR: It was just a transistor, not an IC unit?
JEFFERS: Yes that’s right. Even our first, we used to call it Starline 20 at the beginning, the TML line just was transistors, in sheet metal, just big…copper…the copper, as you know, is an overall heat sink. They didn’t last too long and they were designed to just drop into those big sheet metal housings they had out on the poles. By the time we got to Starline 1 and then on to Starline 20, the difference… Starline 1 was not push-pull. It was really a fancy housing etc. designed just on a circuit board with the transistors in there and some heat sinking capability.
TAYLOR: That was the one that had the RCA stud that caused so much trouble?
JEFFERS: No. Let me think. Yes, I’m sorry. It wasn’t a stud, a regular transistor, 2N3866, was just enough… typical TO housing. And then you’d get these things that clamped over it that had fins out for cooling and all. But we had a helluva time with them.
TAYLOR: There was a lawsuit against RCA on this. Was that settled?
JEFFERS: Yes, it was. We got about a million dollars. But it certainly wasn’t worth all the pain. By the way, every cloud has a silver lining. That’s when we learned about transistors. A guy who did an awful lot a work for us was Eric Winston. I think he has about 20 patents with Jerrold on all kinds of things, mostly on coaxial fittings. A lot of people don’t realize that all the coaxial fittings today are off-shoots of his design which came about when we went to the Starline 1, the way we coupled it, and that’s become a standard in the industry. He did a lot of work on the special studies on coaxial cable. He was just a superb mechanical engineer.
TAYLOR: The real old one, C-fitting, was that his?
JEFFERS: No. F-fitting was his. All the F-fittings.
TAYLOR: Where did the C-fittings come from? I asked Ken and he couldn’t answer.
JEFFERS: C-fitting were coaxial fittings used for a small coaxial line.
TAYLOR: This was in existence and you could buy them?
JEFFERS: But C-fitting and D-fitting were there.
TAYLOR: I’ve never heard of the D.
JEFFERS: Yeah, the D is really a special version of the C-fitting. E I’ve never heard of.
TAYLOR: They used E in Europe.
JEFFERS: Do they? But the F-fittings, most of those were different versions of what were really his designs — Jerrold designs. Then all the BSF line and its splices and everything… We have patents coming out the gazoo on those, but they’ve all run out.
TAYLOR: Somewhere in the design for a period of a couple of years maybe, Jerrold was pushing the idea a quad transistor rather than an IC. I’ve heard some stories about that. What was the story?
JEFFERS: Well, the quad was a good idea. First of all, it was inexpensive and the outfit that build it for us, Power Hybrids…
TAYLOR: Jerrold acquired the company?
JEFFERS: No, we didn’t. I was saying all the things we learned in the RCA case and… Let me get back to that, because it’s important in terms of the quad. We were able to look in on the transistors and see defects… and you know, the bonding of the leads from the transistor to the post was bad. You get in there with the electron microscopes and all that and you could see that that RCA was poorly designed and poorly built. But it was then that we got into those studies and the outfit called Barnes — and we bought it — had infrared scopes. You could go in on a transistor and measure the temperature patterns across, and you could measure the bonding of the transistor to that, and all those things. By the way, another outfit that had already gotten into that was TRW. You’d get from TRW the different blow ups of the metalization tab and they really did a good job. And that’s when we got into the stud transistors, which is what we used in the first Starline 20 amplifier — the one that went out to about 220 MHz. And we literally in that one — this is all the follow-on of TML which is in the metal housing. Then, Starline 1, in which we’re floating typical transistors with heat sink attachment to the case to keep the heat down… Then we went directly to the first stud type which was called Starline 20, and that was really tied up with the second housing. The first housing where we went to the coaxes right in, and the thing was pole mounted Starline One. We almost immediately went into a Starline 20. Now we’re using the stud transistors and almost immediately within the same housing and all, went to Starline 20 push-pull, where it was still devices, but they were all stud transistors from TRW. And all the studs were heat sunk to the housing. The housing became almost an infinite heat sink. So it was all during that period that we were really learning about transistors. Now to get back to your question, where did the quad come from? The quad came from the fact that all our amplifiers at that time were powered with a minus 27 volts DC, and there weren’t any ICs out at that time with a minus 20; they were all +12, full +24, which of course was the industry’s standard then, +24. All the ICs that have been built since then have been +24 — plus the fact that we had to move fast, because this is now going into the ICs. And we got hold of PHI [Power Hybrids Inc.] and PHI was building a beautiful transistor. And PHI started to be a supplier of the stud transistors as well as TRW. Well we got together with them and talked it over and they said, “Hey, can you build…both mechanically we were up against it, and also electrically we were up against it because we used a negative supply. It was easier to go and do a quad where we could determine how the supply went, and also could fit it in our mechanical package, and upgrade to be somewhat equivalent to our competitors who were now all in the… TRW and others, that made the 24 volt DC integrated circuits. The only difference is that the quad was all the circuitry except the push-pull transformers in an amp — there were four devices. The thing that was very good about them was ,they were probably more reliable because they would build this — I’ll call it a quasi-integrated circuit — they would build this on a beryllium-oxide substrate. Literally, the substrate they built them on was beryllium-oxide, which is the best heat sink material for the transistor. They had a completely gold circuit pad in there. They had all the resistors, very much like any IC manufacturer would make. And out came two input leads, and two output leads, and you just build on our circuit board the little RF transformers that would couple into it. Then as you measure the temperature right on the transistors, we were running 20 or 30 degrees lower for the same power as any of the other guys were. It was cheaper. Everything was fine. No problem for Jerrold. The problem was if the device ever went on in the field, they were a beast to change, compared to the little ICs. Of all the things that hurt us… and the reliability was excellent, but the big thing was the technicians in the field — if there was a problem — they had trouble getting in there and replacing it, and still maintaining balance and all. But it was a very good escape from the Starline 20 push-pull type design. To get up and have performance equal to or better — and our performance was actually better with them — but they were clumsy to handle. Then that’s when we switched to… First of all, at that time, the big amplifier, the Starline 300, came out using the Hewlett-Packard and TRW IC as we discussed earlier. One interesting thing that I think is good for the history is… At the time we did the Starline 300, that was an expensive amplifier. The people that bought it and used it felt it was money well invested. But there were a lot of guys that couldn’t pay the price. But that Starline 300 — and its…they called it JN and all that continued past that as we went higher and higher in bandwidth — that was really designed much more to fit the requirement of TelePrompTer.
TAYLOR: Oh, really?
JEFFERS: Yes. A little lapse on a good friend.
TAYLOR: Hub Schlafly?
JEFFERS: It was practically designed to Hub’s specifications because we thought he had great ideas. I mean that could carry two cables. It could carry an institutional cable. It was a bunch of building blocks that could do damn near anything. The problem was, most systems didn’t want the full capability. It was right at the time the FCC stuck their nose into it, and people were worried about whether cable would ever be successful. It was in 1973-1974. It was a magnificent design but too expensive for the people. But we sold quite a few of them and almost everybody that used them liked them very much. It was also one that everything was push-pull — click-click. As new models, new expansion and frequency, came in, you could just plug them in there.
TAYLOR: Was the balancing in the push-pull taken care of in production? Was that ever a problem in the field?
JEFFERS: No, not really. You’d have to look at it, but we pretest all the IC’s. There was some balance in effect, but push-pull as you well know, as along as you get the second order distortion out of the way so that they are not limiting the degree of that. I’ll tell you can’t really, in a practical sense, achieve more than about 20 dB of balance cancellation. Another thing… and I refer to Jake Shekel on this, and its very, very true. He was a very clever man, and had a great sense of humor. He used to say that the best way to get rid of second order distortion is have more channels. Because the third order is going up much faster, as you add channels, than the second order, the spread is more. And therefore, just by the nature of the additional number of channels, and a quicker build up of composite triple beat and all, it eliminates or reduces the distortion of second order.
TAYLOR: Yes. Very interesting concept.
JEFFERS: Yes, a very interesting way of looking at it.
TAYLOR: Going back in time a bit, there’s a couple of questions I wanted to explore. Larry DeGeorge and Milt Shapp had some kind of working agreement I think in the early days. I think it was just a working agreement, I don’t know if there was any formal contractual situation, but…
TAYLOR: That’s the best way to say it.
JEFFERS: At that time we became the national sales representative of Times Cable.
End of Tape 1, Side B
Start Tape 2, Side A
TAYLOR: We were talking about Times Wire and the relationship between Milt and Larry DeGeorge, the two companies. Larry told me that he’d agreed to stay out of the electronics business and Milt agreed to stay out of the cable business which both of them did, until Larry kind of broke that when he went into the mini-hub business. He started doing electronics and I guess found out that it was more to it than he thought. At any rate, he didn’t succeed with it. Then Jerrold went into CommScope.
JEFFERS: Well I think our association was over by the time the CommScope deal was…
TAYLOR: I’m sure it was. Milt was long since out of business at that time.
JEFFERS: CommScope was, I’m sure you know… I’m kind of talking to my self to refresh my memory. CommScope came as part of the deal when we acquired Videocipher. They were with Videocipher.
TAYLOR: Yes, I never thought of that but was so. And I guess it was Frank Drendel that put all that together. I’m trying to get Frank for an interview and he keeps promising but I don’t get it.
JEFFERS: Oh, he’s an interesting fellow.
TAYLOR: What’s interesting – Strat interviewed Robert Brooks and it was Bob Brooks that bought Frank into the business. I didn’t realize that. I remember Frank was the head of a little cable outfit called Superior Electric, I think, and all of a sudden one day, he had a whole big outfit, Macom and the whole business, it was incredible that he put all that together.
JEFFERS: Jerrold was very interested in CommScope at the time that they got into fiber optics with that company they merged with. I cant’ think of it…
TAYLOR: I’m trying; I think it began with a V.
JEFFERS: I think it was Valtec.
TAYLOR: Valtec, that’s the one.
JEFFERS: I went up and met with Frank and I kept following Frank’s career.
TAYLOR: Oh, really?
JEFFERS: He’s one of the smartest guys in terms of maneuvering business…
TAYLOR: Got to be.
JEFFERS: I’d be talking to him, and he’d be telling me something, and I could almost see him, “Hey, boy, you’re on the move!”… Such a clever guy…tremendous respect for him. But as I say at that time I think our association with Times — as being specifically a sales agency for Times Cable as we sold our equipment — I think that had broken up way before we were doing anything, you know, any type of merger with….
TAYLOR: Well, I suspect it goes back to when Milt himself kind of got out of the business. I think after that just by habit, people would go to Times. I don’t think there was any…
JEFFERS: We were dealing with CommScope at the engineering department, well before we were on the verge of a merge with Videocipher.
TAYLOR: The first time I ever met Don Spencer was at the factory there in Cambridge. He kept talking about Superior Wire, “We’re using Superior Wire.” I thought he was saying, “We’re using the best there is. I discovered that was the name of a company, and they were using the Bell 375 or Western Electric 375. And he was telling me how cleanly it would sweep, and all the beautiful parts about it. They were just great. They were in Hickory at the time, and eventually became CommScope, who was still in Hickory. PAUSE. Oh, I know, I was going to talk about the channel commander that…Was Frank Ragone primarily responsible for that.
JEFFERS: Yes, that’s another interesting story as far as I’m concerned. In another learning step for Jerrold because the channel commander, first Channel Commander I, which was tremendously successful, used a commercial tuner so you just bough a tuner…
TAYLOR: That’s right.
JEFFERS: Built our own IF strip and our own converter and packaged them in the rack panel equipment. But they were just different modules all with vacuum tubes. AGC controls fed back to the tuner, just as in a television set. I’ll tell you it was good product
TAYLOR: It was.
JEFFERS: Of course, that came out just about 1960. We had, before that — a lot of people forget — a modulator-demodulator system. Teletrol it was called.
TAYLOR: I remember that.
JEFFERS: …of course, thank God for black and white. If you ever came down through a demod and then remodulated — you know, an equivalency to the processor — that picture was terrible. But fortunately we got into the commander and it was very, very good and held up pretty well, even through the color fringe. But then…
TAYLOR: When was it introduced?
JEFFERS: I almost swear it was 1960. I know it was at a cable show at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington.
TAYLOR: …in Washington.
JEFFERS: Again, a very successful product. But as you know the age of transistors, as you well know, started around 1963/64/65, and we’d pretty well gotten out of vacuum tubes, totally. So we had the Commander II product. And lo and behold, we got into a problem with signal and noise ratio. It was one that drove us crazy. Fortunately, when we woke up to what we were doing, we realized we had a very simple correction that we could implement in the field, and then redesign around it. We had always looked at noise figure, but never paid much to signal-to-noise. And really, what you’re talking about is signal-to-noise. Noise figure is a big help as a device for handling. But, the reason we didn’t run into it with the Commander I, was simply that we were using the television tuner and the IF fed back to the AGC control and it had delayed AGC. What happened in the Commander II was, we started to lower the gain too soon. By the way, this is an interesting thing in television sets today. Some of the manufacturers, where they use the signal-to-noise ratio… In other words, if you’re in a real weak area, a long distance thing, you have no AGC control and your signal-to-noise ratio is getting better and better as the signal increases. But then there is a certain point where you are going into overload and you’ve got to trigger your AGC — particularly a delayed AGC — to start now lowering the gain eventually hitting the video detector, and we didn’t do it right. And it took a lot of thought behind it. It was new to us. As a matter of fact, I had never had anything else at that time to…any experience whatever with headend equipment. And I guess that got me to get in and understand what the hell was going on. And after I did the analysis, we quickly learned that what we were doing was applying the AGC entirely too soon. And therefore, the signal-to-noise ratio wouldn’t improve past a certain point. But then we learned. And since then, we’ve had pretty good luck with Commanders. Of course, our friends at Scientific Atlanta built very good equipment too. And there’s no question, because of Jerrold’s lack of concentration on the headend compared to the distribution, we really lost market share. There are two things — one thing I’m sure Ken told you about this, but I’ll just add too it. Under Ken Simons’ direction, another product line, our test equipment, was really outstanding for that time. But you just don’t build test equipment on the same damn line as you build broadband equipment. And it was that lack of concentrating on the test equipment line that cost us a good business after excellent work down by Ken Simons and Eric Winston and some other guys. We could have been big in test equipment if we knew how to produce it. A similar thing, not as bad, happened with the Commander product line, that we lowered the priority on having what I call top level headend gear and producing it with quality and all that kind of thing. We had a lot of reliability problems with it…and it’s all because the concentration was on the higher volume business with the trunk amplifiers and line extenders…
TAYLOR: It was that volume problem that kept people like C-COR and Magnavox (Craftsman) out of the headend…their volume wasn’t big enough. SA started the other way around, they started with the headend…
JEFFERS: Right. Therefore, we lost a lot of market share to that, somehow or other. Over the years, Jerrold production in all the basic things in cable systems other than headend has been pretty good. But you almost have to make two different models, and two different standards. We also got into mechanical design. It was a nightmare. We started our so-called Commander III in a way where it would be a basket holding six commanders, but we decided, “Hey, that’s the wrong way to go!” We still have to make them as individuals, and we didn’t want to back track enough to Day One. We wanted to use some of the engineering that we had already done which came out with the Commander III, and therefore Commander IV, which was really an upgrade of Commander III.
TAYLOR: You never put out one with a basket of these things did you?
TAYLOR: That was left for Arie Zimmerman to deal with!
JEFFERS: Yeah, but we backed out of that. So, its unfortunate that while we were very successful in the sense of starting the process, but we didn’t carry it through in the production. The Commander VI that we have right now, which was made for us by ALPS Electric who we were in heavy association with during the converter area. They once really did an…
TAYLOR: What’s the name of that company? Would you spell it?
TAYLOR: ALPS. I don’t know them.
JEFFERS: They’re a great company. Great Japanese company. Of course now all of our converters are made in our own Taiwan plant. But if you go back to the early stage of converters, I’d say for 10 years, it was all ALPS Electric building for us. Really a class, class outfit.
TAYLOR: They’re in Japan?
JEFFERS: They’re in Japan.
JEFFERS: Yes. You might know them if your a car radio bum, because they are Alpine.
TAYLOR: Oh, I’ve heard that name. Oh, I see.
JEFFERS: That’s one of their U.S. components. Another thing they are. They are the biggest producer of television tuners in the world. Its astounding the things they do. Tell you another thing that’s absolutely surprising, they are the biggest producer of potentiometers.
TAYLOR: You don’t say.
JEFFERS: They build them for somebody else. They’re a fascinating company. Typical Japanese, but great to work with. But, we got them to produce Commander VI for us. The Commander VI I’m telling you is an excellent product. Those guys have a manufacturing technique for that type of product. Jerrold did not, and I would guess to this day, does not. Because it’s more psychological up here of management, who say, “OK, its just another product along the same line, just like test equipment.” And all that really should be separate entities.
TAYLOR: I guess cutting out all the test equipment was the thing that really upset Ken.
JEFFERS: Well, of course Sid Fluck from Calan was part of that too.
JEFFERS: Sid Fluck, who heads Calan, which is…
TAYLOR: Oh, yeah, FLUCK, CALAN.
JEFFERS: That’s it, they’d done excellent work but Sid was out of that group. They had another guy down there, who retired to come to that group.
TAYLOR: Well, of course the product line was sold to Jim Luksch of Texscan, that little Indianapolis Company.
JEFFERS: Yes, we came to that agreement. But it was a smoke screen. The only big product that went to them that was important to us was the Field Strength Meter, the 727 Field Strength Meter. Nate Dolan sold it and we got a commission. I’m sorry, we sold it also, you know. It was in our product line, but they handled that. They were a pretty good outfit. I got to deal with that part of it and closing our contractual arrangements.
TAYLOR: That was another surprise when Jim Luksch and Carl Pelke stepped out and set up the whole Texscan amplifier line and expanded the instrumentation enormously. Then they bought GTE Sylvania CATV.
JEFFERS: Yes, and they are still producing. That’s where Bill Lambert is these days.
TAYLOR: That’s right. He came in after the bankruptcy and part of the reorganization.
JEFFERS: Probably the guy who had a hand was Bill Firestone who was also president at Jerrold.
TAYLOR: Speaking of Sylvania, did you know Dan Lieberman…
TAYLOR: …who worked with Sylvania when they first started? Dan had me come up to his place Syracuse I think it was. He was the first one I’d seen that was so gung-ho on the single ended amplifier and felt that he could adjust the bias properly and get phase-out of the second order. He pushed it, and pushed it, and pushed it. Then I got a call to AEL, because they were pushing the same idea and…
JEFFERS: ….and by the way we used it in some equipment I designed, but strictly for apartment houses where they were single channel amplifiers. And, first of all, apartment houses where you have a framework and we just plug in…
TAYLOR: Oh, yeah, I remember that.
JEFFERS: I used that technique but that was strictly… The big problem you have with single ended amplifier is sync compression. And you can’t build a feed back system to… as the sync goes down, you boost it again. But when you get into broadband amplifiers… We first used that technique… I’ll tell you where we used it. We used it on my Univamp amplifier that I said was a high gain amplifier. There’s another quick story too. The negative… Doing this across the range and we’re checking cross modulation and say, “Hey, that’s holding up good.” Then we decided to look at pictures. Frank Ragone and I learned one lesson. Do all the testing you have to, but…
TAYLOR: …look at the pictures!
JEFFERS: Of course it was just for handling the sync compression part of it, but not the overall distortion. You learn these lessons by your mistakes that you never forget. I was talking to Frank the other day. He’s still working for Comcast, although he asked to go into retirement but they couldn’t pick up a guy. [???] announced that internal person and Frank’s just staying on while they train him, a couple of months anyway. But, he still comes into Jerrold. And of course, Jerrold has finally, after a lot of my insistence, have gotten to the point where we have something like 80 channels of headend, all headends, with subjective testing. We’ve always had all the instruments for testing, and we have all those fans to raise the temperature, all that kind of stuff. But they’re just new. When I was at Jerrold, I’m talking the last couple of years, I had a headend of my own. Then we tied in with the headend, which was Commmander Vs, to do a lot of subjective testing. But now, they completely put in something like an 80 channel — 85 channel — headend of all Commander VIs. They’re really getting up to really good subjective testing. And I’ve heard they have… I used to be up to about 20-22 sources of video. You know, off-the-air, satellite and other sources. They’re probably even higher, but quite different number of sources. I was in there just as they got the headend coming on, and working. They’re going through all the testing, the band, and all the cross-mod, second order and composite triple beat, and [???] says, “Now lets look at the pictures! I ain’t doing anything till I look at the pictures.”
TAYLOR: That’s kind of the reverse of the experiences I had in the early days when I’d go around and want to look at the video waveform. “What’s that?” is what I’d get. “How do you do that?” So then they’d give me a vertical wave from, and say, “There it is.” And that didn’t tell me a thing. I think we’re getting more sophisticated in the industry now. A bit. Still got a way to go.
JEFFERS: You know we were talking about Times. Of course, this event goes back to Eric Winston and Ken. Ken and Eric used to work very, very well together. We did a tremendous amount of testing on cable… tremendous amount… and work with temperature…
TAYLOR: I knew that Ken had done a great deal on that.
JEFFERS: Ken built a special chamber to measure radiation from the different types of cables and the effect of solid sheath aluminum, all that kind of stuff. But we did plots, all the temperature plots on the attenuation of cable with temperature, across the frequency. But it’s interesting, one of the things… It’s not a major thing to worry about, but there’s no question that as you go through freezing, there’s a slightly different tilt…
TAYLOR: Oh, really?
JEFFERS: Because of moisture in the cable. You know the old rules are certainly good enough but when you really get down to it…and then Times had this pentene gas…did you ever hear of that? Its part of their injection system of putting the stuff in there using the gas. Oh gosh, don’t let it be a little leakage in the gas. And what guys were doing, you know a man servicing would open the housing, and there would be times he would have a cigarette and….or he’d be working there and “Ker-Pow!!”
TAYLOR: I’ll be darned!
JEFFERS: There was a thing called the black center conductor.
TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. Oh, Lord.
JEFFERS: We did an awful lot. I’m only emphasizing the work Jerrold Labs did in analyzing the cable even though weren’t producers of it…only to have our knowledge and protect the overall system.
TAYLOR: Yeah, we had a… Sammons — I guess, in Kansas City, Kansas, somewhere down in there, one of the little suburbs of Kansas City — had put in Dynafoam cable and they had black center conductor all over the place. It was fierce. So, then there was a three-way battle, because some of the cable was Times and some was CommScope, and Gardner had done the construction…Who else was involved? I’d forgotten. Anyway, big battle over who was responsible for all this trouble.
JEFFERS: (Couldn’t hear beginning of this)…and of course, we both know that the worst thing that can happen out there is bad cable… They try to change or modify amplifiers…
TAYLOR: Oh yeah, the cable. We ran into one in Montana, which is back in the days when you were using RG-11, and the signal just simply would not go down on one channel in one of the alleys. It just would not go. Finally, after a great deal of study and effort and what not, we found one of these suck-out things in the cable that you wouldn’t believe.
JEFFERS: Another statement I often make when talking to people, knowledgeably about CATV is… As you go through, starting in the 1950’s right up to now, when you look at 3 channels, then 5, then 12, then 20, then 27, then we’re learning all these things, and the products and all… Sometimes we forget the great, great progress that helped coaxial cable manufactures. I don’t think they get really enough credit for…
TAYLOR: I think that’s right.
JEFFERS: They have done marvelous things with that coaxial cable in terms of shielding and in terms of match across the band, all that kind of stuff. They deserve one hell of a lot more credit than the people take the time to give….
TAYLOR: The big battle that we’ve run into internationally is copper versus aluminum. Almost every body in the rest of the world is prejudiced against aluminum for corrosion reasons. We were in Singapore recently and the telco there, Singapore Telecom had simply made a flat rule there would never be any aluminum in our system. They had some aluminum and they took it out. I’m not sure what it was, whether it was wire, instead of copper, or whether it was a coax, but we had a terrible time trying to persuade them. I’m not sure we ever persuaded them. We had the same thing in Israel, although the Bezeq there finally accepted aluminum. It’s been that way everywhere. They are just dead set against aluminum. But you look at the cable they produce in Europe, my gosh, they fall far short of what our people produce. And as a matter of fact, I had a call — this is about maybe 8 or 10 years ago — from Nokia in Finland. They had just developed this new aluminum cable and said, “Performance is excellent.” They wanted me to review their specs. I said, well send them to me and I’ll take a look. I reviewed them and got Times catalog out, side by side. So when I called them back I said, you’re not as good as what Times is selling here, in a few respects. Mostly OK, but Times has got you beat on 2 or 3 points. You could hear the lead falling on the other end. He was really disappointed because they thought they had a major breakthrough. The breakthrough was that they were willing to talk aluminum, which they hadn’t been. (Long pause). Fiber. We haven’t talked much about fiber. Jerrold hasn’t been a big factor in fiber optic development.
JEFFERS: Well, in fiber itself?
TAYLOR: Well, fiber systems.
JEFFERS: I think you’re wrong here.
JEFFERS: I’m not 100% up on where we stand right now. We certainly built very good fiber transmitters and we…
TAYLOR: You’re right. I’m forgetting about that.
JEFFERS: And, was it Ortel we had an agreement with?
TAYLOR: They’re probably one of them. You probably have others.
JEFFERS: And generally speaking…I’ll tell you TAYLOR:, I think we got off the ground a little slower.
TAYLOR: That’s probably what’s created my feeling, yes.
JEFFERS: But I think if you ask now, they are doing very, very well.
TAYLOR: Yeah, I think I was wrong.
JEFFERS: Now, before I left Jerrold, the lab I was heading…Well let me add a little something to my own background because it bears on this. I was made Vice President at Jerrold in 1968 and I held that directly till 1981. At that time Jerrold was getting so big that Jerrold broke into two divisions. One was distribution, which is all outside the home. And the other was really an effective converter division, anything inside the home. But at that time, something I pushed for a long time was a little more emphasis on R&D. So in 1981 I became Vice President of the Research and Development, just a small group. We built up to about 25 people, mostly engineers. It was in that group that we started to do all the modern development.
TAYLOR: Oh, I see.
JEFFERS: And we had… They’ve really cut it back now in the last 2 or 3 years, and then got… I understand they are starting to build it up again. I think it was mostly because they needed the experienced engineers in that group to come up and go in on the digital television and all the things that eventually got in production. And they thought it wiser to do that, and I would agree with them. But back in my group, a lot of work was done in fiber and investigations. We had one lab back there we put a lot of money into, fiber studies and all different types of fiber transmissions. And we productized some of it with transmitters and some of the receivers and all. We made it very successful. I agree with you. I think we were… Right at the outset, we might have been a little behind. My impression today is that we probably sell more fiber equipment then anybody. And we worked with Vince…
TAYLOR: …Borelli, at Syncronous?
JEFFERS: Yes, at Syncronous. We worked with them quite a bit. Of course, it was not that long ago, only about June or July, I was down at CommScope and certainly they’re in cable, and an awful lot of fiber. I don’t know whether they are drawing their own fiber, I’m not sure. CommScope had an interesting — Frank Drendel himself personally–had a interesting connection with… what was the big European…?
JEFFERS: Alcatel, yes. Big connection with Alcatel that I never knew. I was over there, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s buying his basic fiber from Alcatel. But anyway, their cable down there, beautiful facility. I was very impressed.
TAYLOR: I haven’t seen the facility. I have seen catalog materials and their shows.
JEFFERS: It’s amazing, it’s really astounding. So, but there’s no question that Jerrold, like Scientific Atlanta and the others, are dedicated to fibers for most of the equipment.
TAYLOR: There aren’t many people drawing glass fibers, Corning of course, and Alcatel those are the major one I know of.
JEFFERS: And AT&T.
TAYLOR: That’s right. There are a number of people cabling it.
JEFFERS: Through Drendel, we were getting interested in Alcatel. About 4 years ago, I went over to Paris and we met with them. And we were talking about different things, what one company can do for the other. Then they gave us a tour of some of their facilities. Oh, I know. They took us out to show us their fiberoptic system, where I think they had… This was fiber right into the home, right into their…
TAYLOR: Is this Paris?
JEFFERS: Yes, right out side of Paris. They had a nice converter, all their signs of work in the U.S. and they showed us that. We were out there in this area and they have one of the buildings there dedicated to this demonstration where everybody was coming out of it. And I’m looking around and here comes…déjà vous…this looks very familiar to me. And I said, “Hey, do you have a building back there that draws fiber?” They said, “Yes.” I had been there about 8 or 10 years before… It was Thompson at the time. That’s the first place I ever saw developing the fiber. That’s where I got my education as to the mechanics of how they do the fiber and it was funny, cause I had been their. We didn’t go back to see that facility because I’m pretty sure they expanded it tremendously. But it was very interesting to know how long it had been that those guys had been back their drawing the basic fiber on much or through equipment that you see. The Corning place – my god! That was tremendously so…
TAYLOR: I went to Corning in 1973, but they wouldn’t let me anywhere near their drawing tower. That brings me to another thing. Have you heard about the patent that turned up in the Maxwell estate? Maxwell was the guy that went swimming in the Canary Islands. There was a patent and the effective date I believe is December 1973. That was a year before it was patented in England and a little later in the U.S. But it talks about using optical fiber for CATV for distributing television. The Maxwell estate have suddenly realized that this patent could be applied to people that have used fiber for cable television all over the world. They are talking about trying to bring actions. I had a call from Scott Este at Corning, about a month ago, then they sent me a copy of material describing how all of this came about. So, I said, I had been in Corning in 1973 and looked up the records, and it was in April of 1973 and the reason was that they had asked me to explore with them how could we use fiber in cable television. I told Scott about that, and later a fellow by the name of Bart Bielowski at Corning had delivered a paper at the NCTA Convention in the Spring of 1973. And so they asked me if I could give them a copy of Bart’s paper and I copied it out of Technical Paper transactions, sent it to them and, man they were very excited, because this seems to be prior art to the patent.
JEFFERS: Who’s patent, the U.S. patent?
TAYLOR: It was a U.S. patent, but the one they were concerned about was the earliest date, that anything that can be applied was December of 1973, so…
JEFFERS: But, right now the patent has run out but I guess they could…
TAYLOR: But, they could apply on the people that used it. So, what I was going to ask you really, did your work…did you have anything prior to say December 1973 in which you were talking about fiber for cable? Bart Bielowsk — I think, I can’t remember his name exactly — Also wrote an internal document at Corning in which he proposed the same thing, but the lawyer at Corning says that the internal document is not as useful as the one that was semi-published. Some people don’t call our technical papers published, they don’t have a wide circulation, just for members. A little bit beyond member, but not widely, they don’t go to libraries and things of that sort. It’s interesting that patent is coming to life. (Pause). Were you involved in the compression developments, digital compression?
JEFFERS: Not really. I was pretty much phased out of Jerrold by that time. The best answer is no. I had only minor association…
TAYLOR: How about a gigahertz bandwidth? Where you doing anything in that?
JEFFERS: No, not specifically. But I don’t see that that’s a major challenge.
TAYLOR: No, as a matter of fact it was probably 20 years ago, I was in Europe in the Netherlands and I guess it was Phillips who was just very proud of it. They were able to get 30 channels up to 860 and in fact 860 was their broadcast band, but they had 30 channels and it was done by computer determination of which one they could use without getting into trouble. Band width was easy, but performance was the other problem.
JEFFERS: Right now, I’m working with Jerrold to develop a test system… or the combination of a digital and the analog together. And in effect, the whole idea of it is to do all the measurements on the digital, both as a separate unit, its interaction with all the analog channels, and in effect the distortion of the analog channels falling into the digital to find the limits on.
TAYLOR: It’s a question we’ve asked about a long time.
JEFFERS: So, that’s underway, and we ought to be finished…In the last few years I’ve worked on several of these. One we did at Jerrold for all kinds of subjective tests, which you were kind of involved in. Of course, I was heavily involved in the contract that we had with Cable Labs to build the facility in Arlington down there. Now the construction of those is done by a small company around here called Peca, and who, by the way, is an ex-Jerrold employee.
TAYLOR: That’s P-E-C-A?
JEFFERS: Yes. So we are right at the point where I was heavily involved in the planning and I’ve done some of the basic measurements in the beginning. He is now in the business of assembling this all in cabinets. It’s a simulated cable system and its more for tests coming up that Jerrold had to perform for TCI. But the reason I bring this up is that they wanted a gigahertz transmission system and of course they way we are building it which is generally at their request…
End of Tape 2, Side A
Start Tape 2, Side B
TAYLOR: You were describing the new system that you built for….
JEFFERS: Yes, and while you don’t do fiber optic systems this way, you don’t have long cascades in fiber optic systems, its really a throw back from the old. But I found it very interesting. They wanted to get up to a gigahertz. I checked around the Jerrold equipment and the only one that goes above 550 at the present time is our line extender. It’s a very good line extender so I talked it over with the chief engineer there of the distribution division and asked him about the line extenders. He says all I’m after is the trunk portion and that’s…now preparing to design the trunk, but they will use exactly the same ______ that they used in this line extender. I asked, “Will I have any better performance?” He said, “No, about the same.” So I ordered a total of 12 line extenders, two for a feeder line and ten for a trunk line. I aligned that thing + or – 1dB, so about 2 dB of flatness out to 800 megahertz. So, through 10 amplifiers, I had to throw in one mop-up equalizer. I’ve done basic cross mod and all that, just to see how things are going, before we do the whole proof of it. But, I’m very surprised how good that response was, going from 50 to 750, is what we nominally call…..flat on top through ten amplifiers. So I’m not the least bit worried about a gigahertz.
TAYLOR: You know if you look back over the history of the industry, not so much manufacturing, but in the industry, the change of the converter brought in the change from 12 channels. Suddenly, we had the ability to go to almost an unlimited number of channels. That was about late 1960, ’67 -’68 when that began to happen. Then things began to level off again during the ’70’s until that famous prize fight out in Manila when we demonstrated the ability of transmitting by satellite. That then opened the door to new programming. We didn’t have to depend on distant signals anymore. Those two things really turned the industry up side down. Stirred it for a fare-you-well. Well, we are in the middle of another period right now. There are so many thing going on, you have no idea where its going to end up. We’ve got competition coming in, the telephone company, DBS, those are the principal ones probably, overbuilds, the same sort of thing. We’ve got gigahertz and an infinite number of channels, talked about 500. The whole problem of navigating even 100 channels is a very real problem that I don’t think has been solved yet. There are a lot of efforts, but the real problem is to enable people who don’t know how to do a thing, can’t even tune the TV set, let alone make the VCR work. So trying to navigate through 150 or 500 channels is another deal. Then we’ve got HDTV coming along, the whole digital revolution, compression; you have no idea what’s going to happen in this industry.
JEFFERS: Yes, but boy it’s exciting.
TAYLOR: Oh, is it ever. If you’ve got money invested in it, it’s worrisome because you don’t know which way to turn. If you are big enough, like the MSOs, the TCI’s, the Viacom’s or the Time Warner’s, you’ve got opportunities you can move into. But if you are a little guy, even a small MSO like Adelphia, man that’s rough to decide where you going to sit, which direction you are going to go.
JEFFERS: The… (by the way I don’t know the Adelphia system)… But it’s interesting. They’re obviously rewiring their whole system to get the fiber nodes…They are a good outfit.
TAYLOR: Yes, they are. No question. There are progressive, but also limited because they are small and they can’t do the sort of thing that Time Warner is going to do in Orlando, spending an infinite amount of money to…
JEFFERS: Well, then you add to it; and I’m sure you are far more an expert on this than I…the TCI/Bell Atlantic deal.
TAYLOR: Oh, gosh, that’s explosive.
JEFFERS: It’s unbelievable. I think it’s good…I think it had to come, let’s put it that way. I don’t know whether it’s true or not. I think it had to come, but it’s unbelievable.
TAYLOR: And where it goes from here is a big unknown. A story in the paper this morning about Gore’s speech in California…Some of the things he says are good, but some of the things that aren’t said are worrisome.
JEFFERS: But over the years he hasn’t been too friendly to cable.
TAYLOR: Indeed, he hasn’t. So, it’s awful hard to tell. One thing I find though is that the telephone companies think they know every thing, but they don’t.
JEFFERS: They really don’t.
TAYLOR: They have got a lot to learn. I think one of the classic examples is fiber. For the telephone company, it’s digital. That’s the only way to go on fiber. Everybody knows that a laser is not a linear device, so you’ve got to got digital. So what do the stupid cable people do? They go analog and make it work, and it works so well, that the telephone companies are now using it.
JEFFERS: It’s a fascinating time.
TAYLOR: I remember Raleigh Stelle invited me to one of his dinners when Texscan was still not bankrupt. Raleigh would have a marketing table and he called in a few people and invited me to come. I was a little late getting to the dinner — Las Vegas I think. And when I got there, there were, like 8 seats and 1 vacant chair. Raleigh started introducing. This guy is with Michigan Bell, and every one was with Michigan Bell. I sat down in the middle of all these Michigan Bell people. I started out by telling them, You guys have lived with cost-plus operation for so long that you really don’t know how to do an entrepreneurial job. It shows up over and over again.
JEFFERS: There was another group that meets that fascinates me and I used to attend all the time for Jerrold. Unfortunately, we have a fellow from Jerrold attending regularly now. But I’ve been absolutely astounded at the lack of support by the cable industry for this group, and it worries me. And that’s the joint NCTA/EIA meeting. You go to that, and there are only one or two cable people there, and the rest are TV manufacturers…
TAYLOR: Yes, Walt Ciciora said this at the last engineering meeting I attended…
JEFFERS: But we’ve been saying that for ages. Even when I used to go, I’d come back and report what they’re doing, worried about this, and worried about that. But there was no question that the TV set manufacturers, sure as hell, don’t like converters — they never have. But they are doing everything, in this so called standard setting meeting, to have a major impact on the cable.
TAYLOR: However, at the last session that I attended of the engineering committee, I think it was November, maybe…
JEFFERS: …I think it was October.
TAYLOR: Wendell reported that the proposed rules that had come out followed pretty closely what we wanted. Still not very definitive, but there was not too much that we could quarrel with.
JEFFERS: It’s astounding how long they take, because I’m really out of it for just about 2 years now, and the I-6 was just then coming on, and I was heavily involved and had to go back in 6-7 years. And they still refer to one as I-23, when I was heavily involved in some of the stuff in the proposal…
TAYLOR: This is the interim preliminary standard…yeah.
TAYLOR: One of them, the 6 I think was the channelization and the other had to do with…well it was cable ready basically.
JEFFERS: Yes, cable ready. I’m surprised at how long they’ve gone on without the…
TAYLOR: You know both of those things came out of the C-TAC meetings in the mid 70’s, ’74 or ’75
JEFFERS: Yes, I was involved in the C-TAC meetings.
JEFFERS: Oh, I loved it. Not to talk about C-TAC, but I loved those guys from the television sets manufacturers.
TAYLOR: Oh, yeah?
JEFFERS: Ed Chambers…
TAYLOR: Oh, my gosh, I remember Ed Chambers.
JEFFERS: I’ll tell you, he really represented his company.
TAYLOR: Did he ever.
JEFFERS: But it was almost like, “How does cable have the nerve? You know, they are so subservient to our guys there.” Charlie Hewitt…
TAYLOR: I didn’t know him, but I knew Ed Chambers.
JEFFERS: Charlie worked for receivers, too. Charlie was the best guy I ever saw. I thought he was absolutely great. He was right down the line with logic and he was incorporating both of them. I thought very highly of him. Of course, Ed — I don’t know what happened to Ed. But, it was the attitude of them. But there is still some of that attitude there. You go to that meeting, and you’re sitting there and you wonder what’s really going on. There are people from cable. Jim Farmer was always there, but Jim and I and maybe one other guy. And the next thing you know, there is all these other people.
TAYLOR: Well, hasn’t Walt been carrying that ball too?
JEFFERS: They might be.
TAYLOR: Well, did you ever hear Hub Schlafly tried, back in the very earliest of the converter days… You know, the converter really got started because of New York City. If they were going to have to offset channels, there were only 12 VHF channels and 7 VHF stations, so you’re in trouble right off the bat trying to do it that way. So the converter came along and Hub, shortly after that, got concerned that, “Why couldn’t we have, instead of having a whole tuner and the whole bit and up converter and so on, why couldn’t we take the IF out of the TV set do the processing on that and then go back in again.” He kept trying to talk TV manufacturers into it and they kept telling him well there isn’t any place like that. There is no place in the circuit that will do that, and so on. But they wouldn’t give in by trying to design it. Of course, we only had 2 or 3 million subscribers at that time, maybe not even that much, maybe a million. But this battle has been going on a long time. In those days, in a way, I can kind of understand the manufactures position because only a few of the sets were connected to cable, so they couldn’t let the tail wag the dog. But now, its the other way around. At least 60 or 65% of the sets are connected to a cable and now they must have their heads in the sand.
JEFFERS: Anything else we haven’t covered?
TAYLOR: No, I don’t think. I did want to get into thinking about the future a bit, on what your thoughts might be and so on. We’ve been at least touching on that, and if you have any further thoughts as to where we might be going…
JEFFERS: Well, this is the future at a time back in the 1960’s. It was about that time when a lot of the great thinkers in cable were talking about all the blue sky stuff that could be done, you know the telephone, and all kinds of marketing like putting your store order in and doing the banking, and all that kind of stuff…
TAYLOR: Meter reading, home security…
JEFFERS: Yes, I got to admit that… One thing — and I’m sure I’m maybe one of 3 million people trying to say this, not at all original — that I find fascinating that I kept saying, “All that stuff is a bunch of crap.” And I said, “With one exception and that’s marketing, selling goods.” That’s the one thing I can see that makes more sense… when you look at QVC and all that… that people could buy, and it would come up and it wouldn’t really need a two-way system. You could send things in…Another thing, to this day, there are so few two-way systems out there.
TAYLOR: That’s right.
JEFFERS: One of the hopes of fiber I think is…
TAYLOR: … is to make it…
JEFFERS: …is to come to a relatively small area coverage node…
TAYLOR: …then you don’t have the problems.
JEFFERS: That’s right. I got called in the other day. They had a new young man they hired, Dr….in marketing. Pretty nice young man. He was brought in to come up with studies on all this kind of stuff that can be done on two way systems. So they asked, “Who knows the most about two way systems.” “Well, really Mike JEFFERS: knows the most about it.” So I got called in, out of the blue, asked would I please come in and talk to this gentlemen. I did it as a courtesy. It’s unbelievable to sit there and see this young knowledgeable person — with his beard — and he’s going in there to figure out… and this is all with coax systems. I break little tidbits to him, and tell him you know, “There are not many two-way systems out there.” He says, “No, but we know of one, and we are going out to measure that one and I’m going to find the description.” You try to be nice to him because this is his project and I didn’t want to down him. I said, “You know, there is only one thing you are going to learn. It is how good is that two-way system. In a sense it’s going to be meaningless.” “No, no. We’ll get along with that description.” I’m telling him some of my experiences out there, and he didn’t to hear it. He was going to expand on this, and I’m telling him little minor things like, “The systems are changing. You don’t really have a stable position. Maybe when you get to fiber you can talk about principles. I have no question whatsoever that when you take a smaller area around a fiber node that you get back very easily to that node. And, as a matter of fact, if you’re on the ball, you can probably get back to that node without going through any active amplifiers.”
TAYLOR: Very possible.
JEFFERS: I said, “That’s the way you want to look at it. Because you don’t want to have a reliability problem at every line extender that you have going back. You’ve got to be able to bypass these, and if you are going to use a little sub region you can get back.” But telling him about that, I came up with a very good way of expressing two way systems once. And I’ll just put it in the record, because in an easy way, it tells you what you’re up against. You can compare a cable system… “When you’re talking two-way, you can compare it to a water company. Here comes pure water down the road, it goes to the house, gets distributed, everybody has a nice clean bath and all that.” And I said, “Then it goes into a sewer, and that’s the return!”…
TAYLOR: That’s exactly what we’ve got!
JEFFERS: You have every kind of distortion, you have power surges that effect the return system. I said, “You can’t imagine all the things that happen to the return system. It’s just garbage, and you have to work in that area. There’s no kit for that.” We did one test on the Akron, OH system, which was dual cable, each cable 800 miles of cable. And we did a test — not that we wanted to do it. But we were in a big — I wouldn’t call it a contract. But it was really a virtual legal suit type thing where they were holding up for the basic performance of the forward system, but they insisted on adding to it, and had thought — since the contract — they might want to do the return. And I said, “We ran a system out there for them just to get ourselves out of a potential legal suit of many millions of dollars where we sent digital information down….” We had a thing at that time… I don’t know if you remember, we introduced about 1973 called Communicom, which was one of these thing that never got off the ground. A lot of work was done. But we had the essence of that. We were running a 2 megabit rate, pretty advanced at that time for that, and we had a 32-bit word. And what we did was, we got to the headend, we would send this out and put a turnaround system at one of the furthest parts of the system, and it came back in a low frequency… I’m sorry, it was a two-way system at the time, but it had no original specs on the performance. So hear comes this 32-bit word, and if any one bit came in error, that was a fault, and then the return would pulse the next word. We had error counters, and we would sit there at the headend and practically fall asleep, and then BOOM… a surge…one shot…and then it would go again. We could relate it pretty much to power. You could almost tell by the time of day and then you would see all the other crap around it. But it was the perfect example I’m telling you of the problems you’re in on a return system.
TAYLOR: Was Al Stern in that or was it after he sold it?
JEFFERS: No, he was still there…Oh, yes, it was after he sold it.
TAYLOR: It must have been Cypress, was it?
JEFFERS: Well, it wasn’t Al, Gus Hauser. He was at the system at that time.
TAYLOR: Oh, Hauser? Ok. There had been another transaction in between. It was Cypress, or something…I think Bert Harris was involved, but Warner acquired it, Warner-Amex at that time.
JEFFERS: Yes. He had a VP of engineering that I never like very much, English guy. I’m sure he’s still around. But, we happened to beat our specification, but it was pointless, you still couldn’t use it. We had no idea what was going to come back… We had just rebuilt that system. It wasn’t as originally contracted. We spent a fortune on it.
TAYLOR: You had worked with Al Stern on that return system I think, I mean your company did, because Krieger, what’s his name, Dick Krieger had spent a lot of time…I talked to him a lot about that project, he learned a lot of things. One of them I learned from him that I had not known about before was the intermode from the forward channels that intermode at a corrosive spot in the connector and feed back.
JEFFERS: I was with Dick another time, when we learned, but not on that system. We were in Spartanburg, NC and we learned two things. The little cores that you build RF transmitters with…the type of core material that we had, if the insulation of the wire is cut and goes against the ____ point, you can’t believe the amount of distortion you come up with.
JEFFERS: Another thing…sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes…
TAYLOR: …you’re not.
JEFFERS: On that system, it was a full two-way system but also we had a leakage spec, anything leaking out of the system. And we are out there with the receivers to pick up the key tones on the systems, and it’s terrible, it’s terrible. And we’re up here, and the amplifier has gone way out of spec and we… It was right about at multitaps coming down the line. Of course we wanted to be perfect for these systems so we had every one terminated, and we were trying to figure out where it was. Except, what we had designed was a cheap terminator, which was completely enclosed in metal, and the little tip being soldered to the resistor. But all it was, was a push-on, not a screw-on. I had Dick take the terminator off the unused spigot, I mean hanging in mid-air, the whole thing disappeared!…It was a lot better without it! The terminators became radiators and everybody was so clever, you know everybody was proposing, boy, you ought to keep it in there and keep it terminated. I got to a phone and called back to stop the design. We never really got it. That would have been disastrous for us. The screw on terminators are fine but you come off thinking…(Both talking at once). We were very fortunate going back …the use of the cores and all that kind of stuff can give you a hell of a distortion, and that’s talking about any two-way system. You’re always getting distortion that comes from the outgoing channel but fall into the _______. So I’m all for…
TAYLOR: We’re just about through here. Just wanted to ask you one thing. Do you have any material like papers or catalogs that you want to donate to the Center, and if something you want to keep, we can make copies and give you the original.
JEFFERS: I have a lot here, but I’ll to go through it.
TAYLOR: Ok, if you take a look a that and get…
JEFFERS: You did ask about patents while we were sitting down, cause I called into Jerrold and I was supposed to have a packet yesterday or today, but I can got it over to you.
TAYLOR: Ok, fine. Well, I thank you very much, Mike. It’s been fascinating. I really enjoy all the reminiscing we go through and a chance to learn some of what happened that I only suspected in some cases and didn’t suspect in others. It’s a fascinating time. And I thank you for giving us the time on this. I will have this transcribed, and don’t hold your breath because its a very slow process. When I get I transcribed, I’ll send it to you to review and I will also mail a deed of gift, a copyright to the Center, so the Center has the rights; you can define it in various ways; appreciate having that done. Thank you again very much.
JEFFERS: I enjoyed it Archer.