Interview Date: Monday May 18, 1998
Interview Location: Syracuse, NY
Interviewer: Archer Taylor
Collection: Archer Taylor Technical Collection
Note: Audio Only
TAYLOR: This is May 18, 1998, recording the Oral History of Daniel Mezzalingua for the project on the Technological History of Cable Television. Archer Taylor is the interviewer. We are sitting in his office in East Syracuse, and I have been handed a book entitled “Mezzalingua — Memoirs of an Italian American Family” by R. Harrison Huston. Looking at the picture of Huston on the back cover makes me wonder if there is some relationship between Bob Huston…
MEZZALINGUA: That is Bob Huston
TAYLOR: It is Bob Huston! I thought that looked so much like Bob Huston. All right. That settles that question. This book will make it unnecessary to go into a lot of the things that I had in mind to do because I am sure that they are all explained there, but I would like to start further along. I guess your education is outlined in here — your family background obviously, I’ve seen that. So I guess I’ll start with — and some of this will be duplicated in the book which I have not read. So we’ll……
MEZZALINGUA: One of the technical aspects I highlighted is probably as carefully — but you and I may want to talk about…..
TAYLOR: That’s right. I’m interested for the recording how you got into cable television in the first place — whatever you can tell in your own words how that came about.
MEZZALINGUA: Well the book will highlight the fact that we got into it because we were making parts of the old C-52 connector for Jerrold Electronics. And there was a fellow down there by the name of Katona, I don’t know if you remember
TAYLOR: Yes. Tony Katona
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, and Tony then later went to work for Bill Calsam and he transferred a lot of his interest to Bill Calsam; he wanted, really, for Bill Calsam to really be a manufacturer as well as a cable operator. And I think they did it for a few months and we were making parts for Tony and Tony abruptly left and Bill Calsam and Al Ferone who owned the cable systems in Oneonta and surrounding communities and said to us: “Look we really don’t want to be manufacturers. We’re really cable operators. Why don’t you guys make all the stuff.” And we said: “We know how to make the connectors but we don’t know how to make passives and all the splitters and all that stuff.” And he said: “Oh don’t worry about that. We’ll help you do that.” And they did that
TAYLOR: What year was it that you started making the C-52, was it?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes it was C-52. It was late, like — my father actually started in the late fifties and I got involved with Craftsman Electronics when Tony Katona moved up there — maybe 61/62.
TAYLOR: So, your father’s company, the….
MEZZALINGUA: …..the original Production Products Company which……
TAYLOR: …..was making C-52s for Jerrold. I see.
TAYLOR: Was the C connector designed in Jerrold?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. I have one right here. Do you want to see it?
TAYLOR: Well yes. We’ll just turn this off for a minute. Oh yes indeed!
MEZZALINGUA: These are some of the products that were made in Oneonta by Bill Calsam, and we brought that to Manlius and we started manufacturing that same splitter. Today you wouldn’t have a splitter with a rivet in the center section of it!
TAYLOR: So you started in – was it 1960?
MEZZALINGUA: It was 1962/1963 — somewhere in that period. I can’t recall exactly. I think it’s more definitive in the book
TAYLOR: But Calsam had been manufacturing……
MEZZALINGUA: Oh he had been manufacturing those at Oneonta for seven or eight years.
TAYLOR: Oh I see, and so…….
MEZZALINGUA: And the reason why he was manufacturing is because in those days there was Entron down in your area, there was Spencer Kennedy Labs, and there was Jerrold, and Jerrold could never deliver splitters and all the other stuff. So he decided he was going to make them himself, and he started to build up a good little business. He was selling some products — I remember he dragged me out after we took it over. Originally Bill Calsam wanted to be a partner in Craftsman and they decided they just can’t stay in the cable system, and he ultimately sold the cable system to the Newhouse family, which formed the nucleus of Newhouse broadcasting. But what was funny, he brought me out and introduced me to Tubby Flinn and to Frank Thompson and all his old buddies in Seattle and Bill Daniels and they bought all the stuff. He actually was responsible for me to meet all these people. We sold them stuff. We had a nice relationship
TAYLOR: The parent company really got started about the fifties, you say?
MEZZALINGUA: The first company here?
MEZZALINGUA: ….this company here?
TAYLOR: Well, your father’s company.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. The original company, Production Products, got started — I think it was in the war years 1943 1944
TAYLOR: That makes sense
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. They made parts for the war and all sorts of stuff. It was a regular machine shop. It was a job shop machine shop, and that’s how it started. And then…..
TAYLOR: And so they were asked to prepare to make the…..
MEZZALINGUA: They were asked to make some connectors.
TAYLOR: It was Tony Katona who…..?
MEZZALINGUA: Tony Katona. They were all designed……….
TAYLOR: He was with Jerrold at the time?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, they were all designed by the Jerrold labs. He came up….so he…….
TAYLOR: When Ken Simons came aboard in 1950, he was very disparaging on the connectors. Its impedance match was very poor, and he was so……….It was then, I guess, that Eric Winston got started on the F.
TAYLOR: Were you involved? You made those also?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. We started making F’s right after that. We had had a lot of conversation with Eric Winston. He came up with a lot of good ideas
TAYLOR: He was one of the really remarkable people
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, he was!
TAYLOR: So originally, then, it was splitters and C connectors?
MEZZALINGUA: It was splitters, and it was C connectors. We attempted to start to make some aluminum connectors. The aluminum connectors……….
TAYLOR: These are brass?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, these are brass. The aluminum connectors, as you may recall, long before Gilbert really was organized, Ameco was making aluminum connectors for the trunk line. Up until that point, I think, they had, like, big brass heavy connectors that were being manufactured. I think Jerrold made them. Jerrold did make some aluminum connectors, but Ameco really had the best aluminum connectors, and they, I think, patterned their connectors after the Canon plug, up in Canada. So the Canon line of connectors were, I think, the original format. So they designed them. Bruce Murrell designed them and he had Earl Gilbert make them — a job shop, just like us. And, of course, that’s how Earl Gilbert got going
TAYLOR: Milford Richey, when I interviewed him…
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes, Milford…
TAYLOR: He told me that Earl Gilbert, by trade, was a butcher. He had a little machine shop of his own and the connector was concocted initially with brass fittings that were used for copper tubing, because — I can’t remember the name of the guy who was their purchasing agent was also a race car buff and he worked on race cars and he knew………. He was killed in an accident.
MEZZALINGUA: Yeah, I knew him. He was a good guy
TAYLOR: He used those fittings to fit the……… It just fits the half inch aluminum on the cable. So that is how the Gilbert connector got started.
MEZZALINGUA: I always thought it was patt…….. I thought Ameco designed them around the………… They always talked about the Canon plug they designed them on. And maybe that was used in race cars.
TAYLOR: All I know is what Milford told me and — although I did mention it to Bob Spann and he pretty much confirmed it. As a matter of fact, I wrote that up for the Literature Library that the gals are publishing down in Colorado Springs and sent it to Milford and Bob Spann because I wanted to make sure that what I was saying would hold together. And both of them said “OK, that’s about the way it was”.
MEZZALINGUA: That’s funny
TAYLOR: Interesting. So it was splitters and connectors, and then….?
MEZZALINGUA: ……splitters, connectors and then……..
TAYLOR: Did you have engineers to work on these splitters?
MEZZALINGUA: What we did is: when we were working with Bill Calsam, we were using the technicians there [at Oneonta] and we were using……….
TAYLOR: ………his system technicians?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, his system technicians. And then we used Shorty Coryell — remember Shorty?
TAYLOR: Oh yes! I remember Shorty!
MEZZALINGUA: Shorty, oh yes. Shorty — is he still active? Isn’t he at ATC? Or is he retired?
TAYLOR: I think he is retired.
MEZZALINGUA: Shorty was very active and he was working for TelePrompTer, down in Elmira. So what he said is: “Look, you’ve got to make a tap.” And I said “I don’t have the first idea on how to make a tap.” So he pulls out a Spencer Kennedy tap which had the original “wire rope type cord” in the inside. He said “These are good taps, but they’re too expensive”. I think Spencer Kennedy was selling them for $22 or something. Well we need a good tap, so I hired a fellow by the name of Pie, a little engineer, a Chinese engineer, who did not understand a thing about cable.
TAYLOR: How do you spell the name Pie?
MEZZALINGUA: P-I-E, it’s that easy. But he went and he spent more time on the road between here and Elmira working with Shorty Coryell, and really Shorty was really very, very responsible to design the tap. And what we did was, we made it into printed circuit boards. It was like a……….It was a parallel line I guess with printed circuit boards. It was so simple to make. So we just did the printed circuit boards, we attached them, and we were shipping them, in tens of thousands
TAYLOR: That’s fascinating.
MEZZALINGUA: In those days it was just unbelievable. So it really worked out very well, I got Syracuse university research corporation to help us design the board
TAYLOR: This was a tap that you break the line and……. like a directional tap
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, it was a directional tap. It was not a tap-off. It was not a pin puncturing the cable. There were two connectors and a housing. So it….. there was no problem with the ………..
TAYLOR: That would have been in the early 60’s that you…
MEZZALINGUA: Yes it would have definitely been in the early 60’s. Yes, we sold that for probably half the price that the Spencer Kennedy products were being sold.
TAYLOR: The parent company now is still making the C or…….?
MEZZALINGUA: The original company, the Production Products Company……then …… Once we bought Craftsmen, then we had Production Products, then we had Craftsman and there was a wall separating us so Production Products would make the products and Craftsmen would assemble it.
TAYLOR: I see.
MEZZALINGUA: Then we would do design and assembly and everything else so that’s how we worked. I would run Craftsmen, my father was running Production Products, and that was fine. That worked out very nicely.
TAYLOR: Then you moved on from ……..
MEZZALINGUA: So then we started trying to make some line extenders. You know, everybody would come to us and say: “Why don’t you try and make some line extenders as Craftsmen, and we put together a couple of line extenders. They wanted a tubular line extender – remember the Ameco tubular line extender? It was hermetically sealed it was all black.
TAYLOR: Black, yes. They called it the “cylindrical” amplifier
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, and he said: “Yeah, that is really what we need.” But Bruce Merrill’s got the market on this and they were selling it by the tens of thousands. By the way, we were selling connectors to Ameco while Gilbert was selling connectors to Ameco.
TAYLOR: That was after Gilbert had left Ameco and was………
MEZZALINGUA: Well this was after…….. Well Gilbert never really worked there. He was making parts, but we were also making parts and shipping them down there and …….. I forget the guy, purchasing guy……… he was a good guy…. he died …..he was a tall guy ….he looked like Milford Richey too. They’re all tall Arizonan’s, yes they were big tall guys. But as soon as we came out with that, I tell you and for reason…… as soon as we came out with that cylindrical amplifier, Bruce Merrill got so damn mad he cut us off in terms of making any more connectors. And we never went anywhere with that damn amplifier. We played around with it, we tested it, we made a few pieces, sent it around, and it pretty much died
TAYLOR: How did you get the engineering for the amplifier?
MEZZALINGUA: Well that’s where we contracted really with Syracuse University Research. They were trying to help us develop that amplifier and they were using……. Syracuse University Research during that period was moving from a military kind of design effort into more commercial products so they were fairly sizable up here. They were going right along and making a lot of different thrusts. They designed a fairly good amplifier for us, but it was way too expensive — typical military applications.
TAYLOR: You had other amplifiers too, didn’t you, or was that the only…….?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, we had some……. we made some little indoor amplifiers and we had…….. But again, they all were designed by them [Syracuse University Research] and we sold them fairly well. But that was not the thrust of the business. Our real thrust was that we wanted to get into the big trunk line amplifiers, and we wanted to get into line extenders. Well, we recognized we really didn’t have the resources for it, so at that point in time, in the late 60s, Spencer Kennedy had been sold to Scientific Atlanta; GTE was coming aboard; there were threats that all these major companies were going to start to enter the amplifier business……
TAYLOR: ………GE was trying, and RCA….
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, they were all coming in. So we said: “Boy, we better find ourselves a partner.” So we combined both the machine shop and Craftsmen Electronics and we sold the kit and caboodle to Magnavox.
TAYLOR: Including the machine shop?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, yes, everything sold and that’s when we really started developing the amplifiers and that’s where we brought in Caywood Cooley, and we brought in….. well originally, before we even did that, we acquired a company by the name of HTV. It was the first two way amplifier — up in Rochester.
TAYLOR: I remember that they went out of ………
MEZZALINGUA: ….Dr. Hahnel, remember? It was a spin off from Stromberg Carlson.
TAYLOR: They had operated it themselves, then you acquired them?
MEZZALINGUA: Right. Actually that was our first acquisition
TAYLOR: I knew that it became Magnavox but later on……..
TAYLOR: But Craftsmen bought it first
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, yes
TAYLOR: They weren’t doing very well. I knew David Coe quite well
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes, Dave Coe, yes
TAYLOR: He was their sales manager
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right. Well Dave was also in the operations end of the business too.
TAYLOR: Right. Yes, he had systems down on the Hudson somewhere. I just can’t remember exactly where it was. So how did you run into Magnavox?
MEZZALINGUA: So what we did is: we acquired Hahnel’s company. Stromberg Carlson really did not want to be in the cable TV business. And Magnavox then ……. after we were acquired by Magnavox, we had the amplifiers and they wanted to make the amplifiers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, using military engineers. Which we did. We started making them there, and everything else, but soon recognized the cost was too great. So we moved the whole thing to Manlius and we started manufacturing the amplifiers. The design of the amplifiers………..
TAYLOR: Was PPC in Manlius initially?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, yes
TAYLOR: The original?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. So at that point in time, Craftsmen and Production Products became the Magnavox company — Magnavox CATV — and everything that we had acquired from Hahnel, the two-way capability and everything else, literally was scrapped because as soon as we brought in the Jerrold guys — Caywood Cooley and we brought in Maqbool (“Mac”) Karachi — there were a whole bunch of guys that came up here. This is about the time that the old Jerrold was leaving — the Lee Zemnicks. Of course Bob Beisswenger had passed away. But Jerrold was changing. John Malone had come in, and he was trying to do certain things that were a little different with Jerrold — like waking them up, which he did, and making them much more competitive than they were. So we had an opportunity to hire these guys and a matter of fact, we really wanted Dieter Brauer who’s currently now with Magnavox. We wanted him to join us at that time but he opted to stay back. But under Caywood Cooley, Caywood really led the effort to really improve what was then the Jerrold amplifier. We made it at Magnavox, and until this day, Magnavox is nothing more than a repackaged Jerrold amplifier with all the mistakes out. Everything that the operators were complaining about, Magnavox just simply repaired. Well, Jerrold couldn’t do it because the volume was so low at that time, and the castings were so expensive that they had to kind of band-aid certain things. Some of the module aspects, putting in the mother board and all the various plates, they broke it all down so you had the AGC section and you had the trunk and you had the bridger and everything else. It was all laid out so…………
TAYLOR: So that was, was that the Jerrold……..?
MEZZALINGUA: Jerrold had it partially done. What the operators wanted was more modularity so you can literally empty the whole case, and that’s really what we did at Magnavox. And we took off all the “handles”, as they call them, so that the cable operators couldn’t get in there and just kind of juice up the signal when things were down and flat. So it was the beginning really of some very good stable systematic system design and ……….
TAYLOR: How did you get together with Magnavox? What was the………..
MEZZALINGUA: That’s a good question. Once we decided we were going to sell ……
TAYLOR: Ed Chalmers was from Magnavox and was quite active in the industry at one time. He was from the receiver division and……….
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes, the receiver division………
TAYLOR: …..and I was wondering if there was any connection with……..
MEZZALINGUA: No. Actually we never came through the receiver division because the receiver division, really were tied very closely to the broadcasters. They really didn’t like cable so it was always that element of “between us and the receiver people”.
TAYLOR: They still don’t!
MEZZALINGUA: Really, the receivers still don’t, eh?. But we were approached first by Westinghouse and then Magnavox came in and Magnavox said: “Now we’re really committed to it, and Bob Platt flew in — at that time he was the President. He really wanted to take Magnavox in a different direction. He really wanted to get into cable TV equipment
TAYLOR: Now that acquisition or that merger was what year?
MEZZALINGUA: That acquisition was 1970; November of 1970.
TAYLOR: Uh huh.
MEZZALINGUA: So, he had great thoughts. He really saw the TV set business starting to lose profitability, because the Japanese were now starting to ship color table models and he felt it was just a matter of time before they were going to get into the full range of floor models and everything else. So he didn’t want the whole to be totally dependent on the receiver business and the military business was way off and it was starting to decline in the late 60’s early 70’s so he was looking for new opportunities. I believe really if he had remained as president, if they did not have so much trouble with the receiver division, I think that Magnavox would have made a major impact in the industry because they were really dedicated to the business very, very much. They had the resources. You know at that time Magnavox was doing 5 hundred million dollars a year Hewlett Packard was doing 160 million dollars a year.
MEZZALINGUA: That would give you an idea 28 years ago. Now you see Hewlett Packard is — what about 30 billion dollars a year or something like that. It’s just incredible but Magnavox had all the resources. They were well positioned. I think GI at that time was like — maybe a 90 million dollar — maybe a 100 million business, totally. It wasn’t that huge of a business
TAYLOR: Let me go back to another item that I know Craftsmen made, was a converter: set top.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes, the original converter. We did the …….
TAYLOR: Let’s have a little of the history of that.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, ok. That was a lot of fun we – Irving Kahn…
TAYLOR: This was Craftsman?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, this was Craftsman. Irving Kahn said to us: You’ve got to make a converter.” And I said: “We don’t have the foggiest idea.” He says: “That all I know is that you’ve got to have something with buttons on it so I can sit at my set in my chair and I don’t want to move from my chair.” And I said — because at that time Phil Hamlin had something that looked like a — it looked like a telephone index opener. Remember that?
TAYLOR: Right. I remember that.
MEZZALINGUA: ……..with the sliding thing. He said: “I want something with buttons on it.” He said: “You’ve got to make something that you put…….” So we put buttons on a unit and we had a cord and Hub Schlafly said the box has got to be large enough so it can handle a two-way module for pay per view and everything else. So he was – I don’t have to tell you about the vision that they had way back. You know!
TAYLOR: That’s right!
MEZZALINGUA: 30 years ago and they were saying all this stuff about how it was going to be pay movies and they wanted to have a pay button and all this stuff and then. But we built — I think we built like — oh gosh, we must have built about 50 thousand of those converters. We shipped them to TelePrompTer. We shipped them to Annapolis, Maryland
TAYLOR: Yes, at that time I had a little summer place at Annapolis and I got to use it.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh boy, we had a lot of fun. That was truly a two-way device, because everything we shipped out we got back!
TAYLOR: I was going to say it drifted like mad
MEZZALINGUA: Oh they were all over the place!
TAYLOR: I remember the drifting.
MEZZALINGUA: Well Irving insisted they had to be — what do you want to pay for those things? I think you want to pay like $35 dollars. I said: “Irving that is going to be tough to do.” He said: “All I’m paying is $35 bucks.” So he had…
TAYLOR: Sounds like Irving.
MEZZALINGUA: We had to struggle with those. But that was our first foray into the converter business. Poor — I forget the name of the company — Tom — I still see him today. He’s a pioneer I’m sure.
TAYLOR: Tom Polis?
MEZZALINGUA: Not Tom Polis. His name is — he and a fellow from Jerrold formed a company after he left the company and — oh gosh, what was it down in, — was it down in Maryland? I forget the name of the company but it was — they also had — the company was big in the business of poisons, I think for disinfectants and that sort of stuff. Anyhow they got into the cable business and we sold them a lot of products as well. So, but oh boy! That was our first debacle with converters, that continued, as I understand it, through Scientific Atlanta and Jerrold. They all went through everything. Heavy baptism under fire!
TAYLOR: And then Magnavox had a ………..
MEZZALINGUA: We had a converter under Magnavox
TAYLOR: A converter-descrambler?
MEZZALINGUA: Right. Oh we had — oh that was a great little device. That thing sold for about 12 bucks and that was a great little device. Test killed that product. Remember Test?
TAYLOR: Yes I remember. Tanner.
MEZZALINGUA: Tanner Electronics. He came out with that little five-dollar device.
TAYLOR: The trap.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh boy! That was a honey of a device. He was selling thousands, and our device was twice the price. So we started to fade on that, and then of course the trap came in and the trap killed everything. So yeah, Tanner Electronics Instrumentation. Paul Rebelas I think worked for them. Paul……
MEZZALINGUA: Paul Rebelas. Do you remember Paul?
TAYLOR: The name is familiar, but……….
MEZZALINGUA: He worked for Tony Cerrache …………
MEZZALINGUA: Did a lot of the development. There was a point in time when Tony and I were talking about doing something, because Tony was very — Tony made very good amplifiers. But I think Tony later sold his amplifier group to AEL I think he was…..
TAYLOR: Oh that’s…
MEZZALINGUA: I think AEL got going with amplifiers through that…….
TAYLOR: For the transcribers Cerrache is spelled CER….
MEZZALINGUA: C-E-R-R-A-C-H-E, I think it is.
TAYLOR: Ok, that’s what I remembered.
MEZZALINGUA: So the amplifiers were really the thrust. In order to get into the amplifier business we had to be a household name. Because in 1970, when they really started to construct — when they were seriously considering constructing or building systems — they wanted to make sure the amplifier manufacturer was — if you were a new player — Jimmy Palmer got away with it because he was an old timer in the business. But if you were truly a new player in the business, you had to be — at least in my mind I thought you had to be a credible name. So we felt great. We go in under the Magnavox name.
TAYLOR: Magnavox name.
MEZZALINGUA: It was great. I mean they have the resources and everything else
TAYLOR: Well it did made sense. When did North American Philips get involved?
MEZZALINGUA: They acquired Magnavox in 1974 and Philips — and then of course we became Philips, which is now Philips Broadband, and………
TAYLOR: Well that change was after, because I remember your guy Duffy — Jim ……
MEZZALINGUA: Jim Duffy, yes.
TAYLOR: Jim Duffy had me come — I don’t know where it was: Philadelphia I guess, or somewhere. We talked just kind of brainstorming. I made the comment at the time that I didn’t see any evidence of North American Philips in the products that were coming out of Magnavox
TAYLOR: And it was not long after that North American Philips did, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.
TAYLOR: It happened that they did begin to have a real part in the action of course. They did come out with the Amperex power doubling device. That was North American.
MEZZALINGUA: Doubling — that was definitely North American.
TAYLOR: Definitely, yes.
MEZZALINGUA: They added a lot. Philips – I think they want to be very active even today and…
TAYLOR: Well Magnavox is quite active and seems to be doing good work. It seems to have abandoned the set-top business
MEZZALINGUA: Well they never had a desire to go into the set top business. I address it in the book a little bit. There was always the feeling that the box would always go within the set — within the receiver. And I argued that I thought that may be true, but there is going to be a lot of converters sold, until that day really come about — because they were constantly trying to drive the cost of the television set down to offset……..
MEZZALINGUA: …..you know……..
TAYLOR: ….a penny at a time…….
MEZZALINGUA: ………the thrust against the Japanese and the Koreans and everybody else. So to add a box like that, I thought it’s not going to happen — you know — right away. Here we sit, all these years later, and we’re still talking about that box going into the set.
TAYLOR: It’s gotten too complicated to go into the set, actually.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh now, it’s very complicated.
TAYLOR: Ad so consequently, it’s going to have to be separate. But it’s a whole different animal than the old box we were talking about originally
MEZZALINGUA: Oh boy! What I saw at the show! I’m sure you saw that too: Bill Gates’ box.
TAYLOR: That’s right
MEZZALINGUA: My gosh! I’m amazed they can make that thing for $350 bucks or sell it for $350 bucks. So that’s a very complicated piece.
TAYLOR: Well there are reasons to do that, probably, other than the cost of materials.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes.
TAYLOR: It’s the games you play
MEZZALINGUA: I think they gladly give away the razor for……….
TAYLOR: Exactly. Yes, yes. When did Philips directly get involved in the business?
MEZZALINGUA: I would say late 70’s they really got after……. They acquired us and pretty much didn’t know……….. Because when they acquired Magnavox they really wanted to have the presence in the United States for television sets. I mean that was the whole idea of [—–?——].
TAYLOR: Oh, so they didn’t really understand the cable business?
MEZZALINGUA: No, and then they kind of backed into it, although Philips was very active in Europe in the cable business. Philips was such a huge company that the North American Philips people really didn’t know what they were doing in Europe with regard to cable so their whole thrust was shavers and television sets and all that sort of good stuff. So then, once we were a cable entity they found out they kind of link us together with the Philips cable people there and they were doing a lot of things including running cable systems. I mean they owned a system in Brussels. I think it had
140 thousand subscribers which was a lot of subscribers in those days. Yes, so it’s probably sizable even today
TAYLOR: Did you and your father ever get into operations at all?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. It’s funny you ask that. We had — before Newhouse really got going — we had franchises in all these little towns surrounding the cities and Newhouse came to us and said: “You’d better chose up which side you want to be on. Do you want to be a manufacturer, or do you want to be in the cable operations business.” So we opted to go into manufacturing business
TAYLOR: The justice department told Milt Shapp the same thing, in a rather painful way.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, that’s right I didn’t realize justice department caused that break-up, because that later became Sammons, right?
TAYLOR: Well there were two break-ups: one became H and B American, which then became TelePrompTer; but the second time they had to divest is what produced Sammons.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, right.
TAYLOR: The first one — you will be interested in this background, probably. My partner Norm Penwell — you know Norm, don’t you?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh sure.
TAYLOR: We built the first system in Montana in Kalispell, and then after I was injured I was pretty much in the hospital and Norm and other partners went over to Bozeman. They built the system in Bozeman and then moved to Livingston and got in a tangle with Paul McAdam in Livingston who was a radio broadcaster. Phil Hamlin was — Paul was using Jerrold and we couldn’t use Jerrold because of the service agreement. And so Phil Hamlin was Jerrold-Northwest representative and was working with Paul McAdam in Livingston. Our guys were working in the cable race to see who could build first. They were in a coffee shop one day around noon shouting obscenities at each other across the shop and Hamlin, at one point, said: “We’re going to run you guys right straight out of business.” So Norm went home and got out a little do-it-yourself legal book and wrote letters to the Attorney General, to the President, to Congressmen and Senators, the Chairman of the Commerce Committee — you know, all the key people. He was one of the key witnesses then in the anti-trust suit that — well the antitrust involved in part the service agreement which was already dropped by that time. But one of the issues was operating and selling at the same time, and Norm’s testimony about the way they were trying to run people out of business was also an issue.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh boy!
TAYLOR: So they were forced to divest and Leon Papernow — remember Leon?
TAYLOR: Leon had a TV station in Santa Barbara California and Milt hired him for marketing or something – I’ve forgotten what it was. So when they had to divest these properties Papernow said: “Let me see if I can get the backing to take them.” And he went to a little auto parts company called H and B American and persuaded them — they had just sold most of their parts business and had a bundle of cash – a “bundle” in those days was 10 million you know! It was an awful a lot of money! And so they bought the divested properties and operated H and B American, out of the west coast for a long time, and had properties all over. And that then became one of the acquisitions that — no I guess it was Jack Kent Cooke first got in by taking H and B American, and then Cooke merged with TelePrompTer. And Cooke was going to take over TelePrompTer, but it never quite worked that way
MEZZALINGUA: Well, he did for awhile didn’t he? He moved to New York and he put Bill Bresnan in as president
TAYLOR: Yes, but this was after Irving went to jail and…….
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, that was after……….
TAYLOR: …….after Irving had to sell out all his TelePrompTer shares so he had……
MEZZALINGUA: ………at a very high price may I add!
TAYLOR: Well, he once said: “Here I sit in jail with me don’t know many millions of dollars I can’t spend!” He sold it at the peak of the market
MEZZALINGUA: …..peak of the market — oh boy!
TAYLOR: It was terrific. Irving was really quite a guy, but…….
MEZZALINGUA: You did a lot of work for him, didn’t you? You and Marty?
TAYLOR: Oh I wouldn’t say we did a lot. We did some but not a whole lot.
MEZZALINGUA: Your biggest customer – who? ——– Schneiders?
TAYLOR: I don’t remember that we had……… We did some work for Schneider. We’ve done a lot of work for Jones International — not engineering, but — I’ve done a few engineering jobs with Jones — but financial, due diligence and a lot of other fair market evaluations and so on. Did you ever run into Malarkey in any of his systems in……..
MEZZALINGUA: Not his systems, but when Marty — when the First Report and Order came about — this had to be about 1964 — just before that, 1964-1965, he had a big pow wow down there and I was in Irving Kahn’s office and Irving says: “What are you going to do this afternoon?” I says: “I’m going back.” He says: “Nah, come with me. We’re going to go down to Washington and sit in on this meeting.” So I went to Marty’s house in Georgetown. I had seen Marty since that time. But he was quite a guy in terms of organizing it and the whole process
TAYLOR: ….. he was the head of it……
MEZZALINGUA: I guess he was the initial founder of the NCTA
TAYLOR: Yes he was.
MEZZALINGUA: But he — but we did not have a lobbying effort as the NCTA group. It was more of convention gathering and I think it was at his house that the lobbying group really was formed and a……….
TAYLOR: Well they did get — Strat Smith came aboard and he was their lobbyist really.
TAYLOR: And then it was added to later on.
MEZZALINGUA: They used a series — they had a couple of law firms that really did the lobbying for them. They didn’t have a formal group.
TAYLOR: Strat, of course, was General Counsel and started from the very early days.
MEZZALINGUA: He was with what Law firm at the time?
TAYLOR: Well he started at the FCC, then went with Welsh Mott & Morgan, and one of Welsh Mott and Morgan’s clients was Milt Shapp. So Welsh Mott & Morgan assigned Strat to work with Shapp. And the FCC had sent Strat to Pottsville when the story came out on cable in Pottsville. And Strat went up there and found out what it was all about. Funny thing is that Strat initially wrote an opinion for the FCC that cable television should be regulated as a public utility. [Laughter] He spent most of his life trying to live that one down! But he was very effective.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, he certainly was. We got going in the amplifier business – I’d say pretty good. Not only — the power doubling, I think, came at the tail end of my career, and It really mushroomed for them, I think, in the early 80’s.
TAYLOR: What was it that mushroomed?
MEZZALINGUA: The power doubling.
TAYLOR: Oh, power doubling, yes.
MEZZALINGUA: That really mushroomed. That was a little after my time. But during the period that we were active, Jerrold was having difficulty with their amplifier because they had — they had a quad type of arrangement that was not working as well as it later worked in the 1970’s. But we had — we put chips in that were manufactured by TRW at that time. I don’t know if TRW is still in that chip business.
TAYLOR: Oh I think so.
MEZZALINGUA: Are they?
TAYLOR: TRW and Motorola I think are the primary manufacturers.
MEZZALINGUA: They were the primary……. And Philips, in their group, had a semi conductor group and they started making chips, and we started using the Philips chips, which really helped the amplifier tremendously, and it was really good performance, and we got them at a very decent price.
TAYLOR: When did you leave Magnavox?
MEZZALINGUA: 1980. And then — and then we set up Regency Electronics. Let me show you that — remember that converter we had at Regency?
TAYLOR: Oh yes.
MEZZALINGUA: The Octagon Scientific converter.
TAYLOR: Peter Warburton.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, Peter.
TAYLOR: I saw him at the — I saw him at Atlanta.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, you saw Peter? [Pause while they examine the converter] What we tried to do with this was essentially be compatible with the Jerrold — if Jerrold — you know everybody talks about open cable platforms today? We were trying to do that because the cable operators really felt very comfortable about being with Jerrold but they also wanted an alternate. Because it felt that if Jerrold couldn’t deliver, or whatever. So this unit was really designed to be interchangeable with the Jerrold unit. And I went down and asked Jerrold — at the time, Jack Forde was heading it up. John Malone had already left. John Malone was long gone. But I went down to see Jack and Jack said: “No, we’re not going to share codes. It’s not going to happen.” So what we did is: we broke the code. And we broke the code by putting a group of engineers in Buffalo, New York – remember, that was the first pay system, the first addressable system that Jerrold had put in. Gilbert he was there — remember Gilbert? He came from the island of Jersey [in the English Channel]. He was the one who put the system in. It wasn’t in Buffalo. Anyhow, we broke — we spent about three or four days there with a group of engineers. We rented an apartment. We had moved in all this electronic equipment, and we just kind of took the code off of the cable system, broke it, and then we started making some circuits
TAYLOR: This was the addressability code?
MEZZALINGUA: The addressability code.
TAYLOR: ……and the scrambling?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, so we could use it, and it was not very hard to do. But we were very unsure as to whether or not it would work in mass production. And at the time, Bud Hostetter, as he was called then they were building the Quincy market (Massachusetts) and they had ordered Jerrold, and Jerrold could not deliver. So they came to us and said: “Do you really have something that’s compatible?” And we said: “Yep I think we do.” So, again, we were fearful about this product really making it. So we rented — called a real estate guy in Quincy. I said: “We’ve got to get this into a living room that has Jerrold equipment. They said: “Ah, no problem.” Paid the homeowner $50 or $100 dollars. Half a dozen people went in there. We brought this stuff in. We had all the electronic equipment with us. They thought we were CIA and we took — we unplugged the Jerrold and we plugged this in. All the pictures came up, and so we said: “Ship them!”
TAYLOR: Well, that’s interesting.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, we had a lot of fun with this. But we sold — this was pretty good. It had a little of a drift problem. The fluorescent caused this thing to dance a little bit. So………
TAYLOR: But this was after Magnavox?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes!
TAYLOR: And then you had engineering staff by this time?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. We had 5 or 6 guys Marty Zilanslovitt (Sp?) and a couple of digital guys who were a part of this group
TAYLOR: I think I met some of them
MEZZALINGUA: They were a good group. But we — in concert with Regency, and Regency was manufacturing this in Indianapolis, Indiana. So — but again, it became a cost competitive situation and this had to move over to Taiwan – so………
TAYLOR: Well, this has been fascinating
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A
START TAPE 1, SIDE B
MEZZALINGUA: Are you familiar with the Diva product that……….?
TAYLOR: The name is familiar.
MEZZALINGUA: The fellow who was formerly the founder of Raychem set up a company. I think they had a big splash at the show in Atlanta.
TAYLOR: I didn’t see that.
MEZZALINGUA: What they can do now is that they can — with a remote control — bring up a variety of movies like a thousand different movies.
TAYLOR: Oh yes, I have read this.
MEZZALINGUA: And you can stop and start it — and I mean it’s just ……..
TAYLOR: ……real video-on-demand.
MEZZALINGUA: Really. Not near-video — but true video………
TAYLOR: …….but real video……..
MEZZALINGUA: ……..and stop it, pause it, — it’s fantastic. It’s a terrific system. But they had the same problem. The reason they couldn’t get it going is because they had to share codes from the headend from Jerrold. But I see where Jerrold now signed an agreement. I saw it in a recent trade journal. That’s going to be a real boon………
TAYLOR: I guess that’s the news story I saw.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, that’s going to be a real boon for, I think, the cable operators. I think that’s going to be terrific. It’s going to — I think it’s really going to hurt these cable — video stores.
TAYLOR: Well Huisenga, the Blockbuster guy, figured a long time ago that cable was going to do him under, so he began to diversify and get into all kinds of things including buying the Miami baseball team ……….
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, I see that
MEZZALINGUA: …….he’s selling that too, now
TAYLOR: ……yes — and he was into Viacom way back and sold out of that. He was just constantly trying to get into something that would survive the failure of the video store business
MEZZALINGUA: It’s still active, but it’s coming down. It’ll come way down now with Diva
TAYLOR: The video store ………..yes
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. I think that’s…………
TAYLOR: Yes. Then I saw that there had been an agreement recently on copy protection. This has been one of the things that’s held up getting first run product for the pay service. So once they get that ironed out and then this video-on-demand can really wipe out the stores. Well I wish I’d read your book before I got up here because ……
TAYLOR: It probably has………..
MEZZALINGUA: The book really deals with — a lot of it was really designed for my father — to have a little bit of a legacy for his great grand children, just to find out where we all came from, how we got into business, and it was really published just for the family. So we really don’t give it out to too many people
TAYLOR: A lot of it has got just the background that we’re looking for, so that’s excellent
MEZZALINGUA: We acquired — we reacquired this business because Philips did not want to be in the original equipment business. They wanted to be in the design and fabrication business. And the machine business is kind of like a dirty, heavy business. That wasn’t their style to be in that. So we reacquired this in 1981 and the original 25 people who were with my father way back in the early — some were from the 40’s. Most of them were probably 60s, 1960s.
TAYLOR: Had it been running under Magnavox?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. Yes we were running the machine shop. We were making connectors, but it wasn’t really being paid too much attention to, because by the time Gilbert and ……..
TAYLOR: ……..LRC was…….
MEZZALINGUA: ……..and LRC really got going in the late 70s, they really got going. Under Bob Spann………..
TAYLOR: There were two or three others: Cambridge and……..
MEZZALINGUA: Yes it was Cambridge.
TAYLOR: And there were a couple of others that came in.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes they were really………
TAYLOR: They haven’t survived but……..
MEZZALINGUA: There was a company up in Detroit too that came out with a connector. I forget — it was a really attractive connector.
TAYLOR: I take it that you are active overseas with……
MEZZALINGUA: Yes we have 7 locations throughout the world. So we have an office — I’ll show you — we have an office in Australia; we have an office in UK; we have a small manufacturing facility in Denmark now, to compete with our good friends in Cablecot (?Sp)
TAYLOR: [Looking at a document] This is where?
MEZZALINGUA: That’s in Australia.
TAYLOR: This is Australia that you’re showing me. Ah yes, Australia PTY. Where in Australia?
MEZZALINGUA: In Sidney.
TAYLOR: In Sidney.
MEZZALINGUA: So it’s — then we have a fellow in India, but I don’t know what’s going to happen there, in view of the fact that they’re sending out all sorts of bombs.
TAYLOR: We’ve got people in India today.
MEZZALINGUA: Do you?
TAYLOR: Went over two days ago.
MEZZALINGUA: For planning for cable television systems?
TAYLOR: I think it’s primarily Sam Book and his market surveys. I’m not sure what they’re doing. Since we sold the company, I’m not always very familiar with what the company is doing.
MEZZALINGUA: Do you go in to the office?
TAYLOR: I go in to the office. Yes, they have been very kind to us. They have no obligation since they paid us off completely, but they provided both Martin and myself with office space, and I use the facilities and they even pay me to go to conventions.
TAYLOR: So it’s really a very very nice arrangement I do some — really very little — billable business for them, but not very much; answer questions now and then. So it’s been a nice arrangement
MEZZALINGUA: Is it primarily cable that they’re into?
TAYLOR: Oh no. They’re into — well it’s marketing — market analysis is their big forte. But they’re moving into paging and all of the mobile telephone services pretty heavily. We acquired — oh must have been over 10 or more years ago — that we merged with a little company called Economic Management Consulting International — EMCI. It was a good acquisition and really the head of that, Andy Roscoe, has taken over as CEO. But when we sold, we sold to our principal employee and they’re doing great – booming. And they have now merged with a company in Connecticut – EDR, which I guess is Economic Development Resources or something of that sort — that’s a big company — got 200 people in that company and the one we are in in Washington – we’re about 60 now so ………
MEZZALINGUA: That’s a good size office.
TAYLOR: That’s larger than Martin and I ever had. We got up to maybe 40 or 45 at one time. But they broadened — we knew we had to get broader, but we didn’t quite know how to do it, and we were both getting to the point where we were ready to bail out
MEZZALINGUA: You never got into the brokerage business though?
TAYLOR: Martin tried hard to get into it. Did a few deals but it didn’t work very well, so he finally dropped it
MEZZALINGUA: Nowhere near what Daniels did. Cause I mean Martin, being in Washington like that ……..
TAYLOR: Yes, but Martin had different personality than Daniels and Martin — I never talked with him about this, but he just didn’t like to go at it like Daniels did. Daniels was pretty aggressive.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. Very aggressive.
TAYLOR: He’s done a great job though. Of course Martin and Bill were very close friends and in fact Martin was one of the few people that could talk to him in recent years because he’s so deaf. Bill is so deaf that ………
MEZZALINGUA: Oh is he?
TAYLOR: He wouldn’t — doesn’t want to go anywhere or doesn’t want to be where he has to talk with people.
MEZZALINGUA: Where is Bill living now?
TAYLOR: Oh it’s in the Denver area.
MEZZALINGUA: But he got out of his home. I saw were he donated his home to — Cable Land — he donated it to the city of Denver as a historic site for cable.
TAYLOR: I missed that somewhere, I have no knowledge of anything other than just the Denver area but — he didn’t come to the Pioneers meeting — but it didn’t surprise me at all. Are you a Pioneer?
TAYLOR: I thought you were.
MEZZALINGUA: Frank is ok? Frank Thompson? He just missed it right? But he’s ok? He’s physically all right?
TAYLOR: As far as I know. I haven’t heard anything about what the reason was. That group has certainly changed from what it was. They’re now trying to do something real. For a while I was pretty disgusted with it, because ………
[The recorder was turned off, and after a brief discussion it was restarted]
TAYLOR: Say your question again?
MEZZALINGUA: Well do you feel as though that there’ll be fiber to the back of the set within the next 5 to 7 years? Do you think it will be a complete digital kind of distribution platform?
TAYLOR: Well those are two questions. Digital platform, yes. I think that’s going to be pretty universal.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh there’s no question — digital platform.
TAYLOR: As to whether it’s fiber is another matter. I guess I’m inclined to think that the fiber will come to some POE (point of entry) at the residence at the point of operation, but not all the way to the set. At least that seems like too big a jump.
MEZZALINGUA: Do you think this ADSL is going to be a competitive set to the current system?
TAYLOR: Well, it seems to have so much limitation. I was reading the article in Multichannel News just yesterday and it’s all excited about — it’s worldwide. There seems to be a pretty strong development, but when they talked about their bit rate capability one and a half megabit is the outside, and you wonder — you can’t do all the things that you’d like to do within that limitation.
MEZZALINGUA: But they talk about four video channels. I think that’s — isn’t that ……..?
TAYLOR: Well, oh yes, that can be done. But they’re not HDTV. In fact they’re not much better than one of the (—-?—-) VCR’s, but it is a means to enable the telephone companies’ to utilize their existing copper plant, and that’s the one thing that will enable them to go fast. But when we start talking about all the things that Bill Gates is talking about and that our industry is talking about, and the capability we have of doing it, I can’t see ADSL as anything but an interim. It could be a tough thing to deal with if ………I’ve never thought that the public is interested in high fidelity — high definition. They want to see a program that they want to see — a particular sitcom or something. So I used to argue that the aspect ratio the wide screen perhaps has more to do with what’s going to happen even in high definition.
(MEZZALINGUA: takes a telephone call)
The tape is near the end, and the interview is brought to a close.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
A follow-up interview was conducted by telephone and recorded in the following transcript:
TAYLOR: What I’ll want to do, I’ll record a little bit and then check it out and make sure it is working. A lot of things happened in the first two or three years of the 1960’s and I’m not sure I got dates or even the sequence of what happened in there. So I thought I’d like to tie some of that down.
TAYLOR: For example, when did you graduate from Syracuse?
MEZZALINGUA: 1960, to be exact.
TAYLOR: 1960. And then you enlisted in the army, is that right?
MEZZALINGUA: Actually, I was part of the ROTC group.
TAYLOR: Oh I see.
MEZZALINGUA: And I went to Fort Dix on a reserve program, six months active duty, and then after that I spent 71/2 years in the reserves. Once I got out of the active — that six months active duty, I went to New York.
TAYLOR: When did you get out of the active duty?
MEZZALINGUA: Let me see. I think it was around… I think I got out in March of… March or April of ’61.
TAYLOR: And then when did you go to New York Law School? When did you do that?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh that’s right. Wait a minute. Let me back up.
MEZZALINGUA: I graduated in June of 1960. Then I went to NYU. Wait a minute. Ah that’s what I did. I started at NYU…
TAYLOR: Oh I see, that fall?
MEZZALINGUA: In the fall. Then I left NYU in the second semester, joined the reserves and then I went from… that’s what I did… I went from about March until around September on active duty… or maybe it was October of 60… 61 that’s what it was… and then I came into this business in November – in just a job shop screw machine business — in November of 61. And then we got together, I think, with Bill Calsam, either 62… it may have been around 1962 or early 1963. I forget exactly when it was.
TAYLOR: Okay. Let me back up a minute. What degree did you get from Syracuse?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, I graduated in Political Science.
TAYLOR: Political Science. Bachelor of Arts?
MEZZALINGUA: BA, yes.
TAYLOR: And did you get a degree from the law school?
MEZZALINGUA: No I didn’t. I left law school after one semester.
TAYLOR: Okay. Now, you started, then, with PPC as a salesman, is that right?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. What we did was, you know, we had a very modest screw machine business and I was out, you know, just trying to get work. And that’s when I came across Bill Calsam and Al Farone.
TAYLOR: Now, Bob Huston said you spent a little time in New York — that your father wanted you to come, but you decided to stay in New York for a while.
MEZZALINGUA: Well, after… yes… in between, I think I had I had a job with Olivetti — just to stay in New York before I went active duty.
TAYLOR: Oh I see.
MEZZALINGUA: It wasn’t too long.
TAYLOR: Oh I see. The sequence was a little different than I had read. Okay. Now, PPC was building C-52s for Jerrold.
MEZZALINGUA: Right. We were making them for… we started making them for Jerrold and then Bill Calsam and Al Farone said, “Why don’t you make them for us as well.” And they seemed to have — believe it or not — a stronger base of support on reselling things like passives and connectors.
TAYLOR: Oh I see.
MEZZALINGUA: Jerrold obviously was just putting in the total system. And a lot of the add-ons… in those days, they would build, you know, certain sections. And they didn’t build the dedicated plant the way it became very popular, I think, in the late 60s. You know that better certainly than I would.
TAYLOR: Yes. Tony Katona was with Jerrold when PPC started selling down there – or rather making connectors for them, and then he moved to Oneonta.
MEZZALINGUA: Right that’s it
TAYLOR: And that was how you got the connection down in Oneonta.
TAYLOR: And then he left Oneonta.
TAYLOR: Was that before or after you bought Craftsman?
MEZZALINGUA: He left before, and then we bought Craftsman, because Bill Calsam and Al Farone really wanted to concentrate on the system business. So, when the FCC was starting to really make a lot of noise, they got so frightened, as you know, they sold out to the Newhouse Broadcasting Company. And they sold all those systems for… you know, in those days a lot of money — 4-1/2 million bucks.
TAYLOR: I’ll be darned.
MEZZALINGUA: I mean they sold them — I don’t know how many thousands of subscribers. I think Tony Cerrache sold to ATC shortly thereafter for 10 million. Which was a lot of money.
TAYLOR: Oh boy!
MEZZALINGUA: Imagine, if you can buy for 10 million bucks today,
TAYLOR: Let me check to be sure I’m getting this. (Pause). I’m having cockpit trouble here, Oh boy!
MEZZALINGUA: Archer, I have another call coming in. Can we pick up on this… let’s see…
TAYLOR: Yes, that would be fine. How soon do you want to do that? Do you what to call me? Well no, that won’t work, because I’m at a different phone.
MEZZALINGUA: Do you want to do something…let me see…do something Thursday morning?
TAYLOR: Oh I see. Not… yes, all right.
MEZZALINGUA: We can do something Thursday morning, maybe around… 9:30 or so?
TAYLOR: All right… 9:30 Thursday. All right, we’ll do that then.
TAYLOR: OK. Talk to you later.
Resumes November 3
Tape 2 – Side A (continued)
TAYLOR: Now we’re off and running. This is a continuation of the recording that we did the other day. It is a follow-up to the interview we had last spring. One thing I would like to ask before we get on to where we catch up. Craftsmen, before you bought it, was Calsam and Ferone…did they manufacture amplifiers, or just passive devices?
MEZZALINGUA: It was primarily passive devices — connectors, splitters…
TAYLOR: And they didn’t do amplifiers at all?
MEZZALINGUA: They didn’t do any amplifiers.
TAYLOR: Okay, I kind of wondered about that. One of the things we missed when I goofed up on the recording was the comments about Tony Cerrache. I think you told that he had the system in Ithaca, and manufactured some equipment. Why don’t you tell us what you know about Tony Cerrache?
MEZZALINGUA: Bill Calsam introduced me to Tony And Tony had a fellow down there by the name of Paul Rubellus. Remember Paul?
TAYLOR: I remember I talked to you about him. But I don’t really remember him.
MEZZALINGUA: Well anyhow. Tony was very anxious to get into the manufacturing of amplifiers. He started making a lot of stuff for himself because he couldn’t get delivery, and the kind of delivery he was getting — they felt that they could put better components in and make better amplifiers.
TAYLOR: So he wanted to make amplifiers.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. So he started making…I think he started making tube amplifiers and then he started making solid state amplifiers. He really made a very good solid state amplifier. Because it… I don’t know if you recall, back in the early days when Ameco was blowing up and the Jerrold Starline strip amplifier that they had… that was not performing that well either. Although I guess the Jerrold Starline amplifier came after Ameco, and I guess they improved it somewhat. But Anthony made one that was really… or Tony… made one that was really excellent. It was very good. Of course, I mean, he was making it in a model shop kind of environment, so everything works out fairly well in that arrangement. But anyhow, Bill brought me together with Tony and said why don’t we make amplifiers, you know, at Craftsmen. Tony talked about wanting to do something together. Bill didn’t want anything to do with manufacturing anymore. He was in the throes of selling all his systems to Newhouse, and the FCC First Report and Order…
TAYLOR: Now this, was this after you got to talking with…?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, this was after we bought Craftsman Electronics…
TAYLOR: Oh I see.
MEZZALINGUA: …and he wanted… he wanted Tony… he introduced me to Tony. He said, you know, Tony could be… Tony wants to own a part of it and all this other stuff. And we talked for awhile. We actually made a line extender that made Bruce Merrill very mad. It was a circular device, remember their hermetic…
TAYLOR: Yes, I remember, in your earlier interview you talked about that, and that it was… Was Cerrache involved in that with you?
MEZZALINGUA: Well, we were making it. We made a few of them and we had him test it and do all sorts of things. That’s how we were working together. But then later… I guess it was our desire not to really get into the amplifier business. I didn’t have the sales force and I didn’t have the set-up to really support it. And he went and made the deal with AEL.
TAYLOR: I see.
MEZZALINGUA: So that’s really the Tony Cerrache story, kind of in a nutshell.
TAYLOR: For a time you thought you might even work together… same company?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, he wanted to get involved with it and be an equity participant. So, it was very good. He brought a lot to the table. I mean he really helped. I mean Paul Rubellus did so much work with solid state components that he literally put TRW into the hybrid chip business. At that point in time, the only people who were making them was Motorola. TRW was coming around but they had no manufacturing status in the cable TV business, until he got them going. And then they ultimately hired him and he became a project manager.
TAYLOR: Oh I see, for TRW?
MEZZALINGUA: For TRW, yes. And they were very big. And matter of fact, when we sold out to Magnavox, TRW was our principal supplier, and they were far and away superior price wise to Motorola. I think a chip in those days went for about… I think it was like around 40 bucks but… Which was cheap! I mean everything was done on the chip. I think Motorola… or rather TRW came in around 28 bucks and just… better quality, on time delivery, and just, I mean, much more nurturing attitude towards wanting to get into business from bullheaded… like “Who’re you guys at cable?” …kind of like doing us a favor.
TAYLOR: Well Motorola worked with Ameco too, quite a bit.
MEZZALINGUA: Well, that’s right.
TAYLOR: That was before the chip days. That was in the discrete transistors.
MEZZALINGUA: They did, they did. But then, of course, Philips came out afterwards. They were around 16 or 17 dollars, and that’s the last I remember of the chip market. So, I really don’t even know where that whole thing is today. I guess it’s probably down to around 2 to 4 bucks now.
TAYLOR: I don’t know. While you mentioned Philips, let me ask another question I’ve been interested in. Philips came up with the power doubling.
MEZZALINGUA: Power doubling.
TAYLOR: Yes, that was the chip that Amperex did, I think.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, right, right. Amperex is part of Philips.
TAYLOR: Yes, that’s right. But my question is, I remember seeing a paper on this power doubling and the Amperex chip, but I can’t find any reference to it. Do you have any suggestions as to whom I might contact to…?
MEZZALINGUA: The guy to talk to is Larry Richards.
TAYLOR: I know Larry.
MEZZALINGUA: You know Larry?
TAYLOR: You bet I do.
MEZZALINGUA: Larry would have all the answers, because actually, I think Larry pushed power doubling. I think it was his…
TAYLOR: Oh really?
MEZZALINGUA: I think he kept coming back to the engineers there, you know. Can we do this? Can we do that? They came up with power doubling, based on Larry…
TAYLOR: Yes, Larry is about the only guy I still know there. I talk to him every once in a while. Okay. Now, one of the things that we missed when I goofed up the recording was the story about HTV.
MEZZALINGUA: Right, HTV.
TAYLOR: I asked you at the time… I talked to Dave Coe who had been their marketing manager, I believe.
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right.
TAYLOR: And he told me quite a bit about it. But he was under the impression that Hahnel hung onto the corporate structure which he used later on for franchises.
MEZZALINGUA: I think he did.
TAYLOR: …and that he…
MEZZALINGUA: It was an asset buy.
TAYLOR: Okay, that clarifies that on the record, at least um. Let’s see, now. On Magnavox, you brought in Caywood Cooley?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, well…right…go ahead…do you want me to…you want me to…?
TAYLOR: Well, I was going to ask, did you bring him in as a consultant, or was he an employee, or…?
MEZZALINGUA: Well, ok. Let me answer the whole question. When Magnavox acquired us in November of 1970, obviously they were very desirous of getting in the amplifier business. So I pointed them toward… If they were going to get into the amplifier business, they shouldn’t just start from scratch. Maybe they can pick up something, and maybe leap frog… because you want a little bit of a different twist. And I said, “Let’s go up and talk to HTV, at Hahnel’s place up in Rochester.” I said, “He’s a small company, I think. I think they’re struggling, I don’t think they have a wide market vision and — or presence I should say. And while David Coe’s been in the business, he was just one guy” I said, “I think that they are undercapitalized and I think Hahnel would be a perfect spokesman for the business.” We really tried to recruit Hahnel to really run it as a separate business. In retrospect, I’m sorry we didn’t buy it and leave it right there. quite frankly. Because I think we could have made it into a good sized business. Anyhow, the point… I said, “The most important thing is that he is the only one during true two-way on the trunk line. At least, he has demonstrated that to a number of various MSOs, and they seem to have been excited about it. But again, he did not make a lot of amplifiers. So what we did is, we went ahead and we acquired the assets of HTV, brought them — unfortunately — to Manlius. And with that, I think… You know, I learned a lot from that little acquisition. And that is, when you buy a company, you really buy the people. You should leave it right where it is and leave it in its present culture and everything else. It’s not just technology and equipment that you can just simply duplicate. Because, when we started manufacturing it, it was just like starting from scratch. You know, we didn’t have the proper chef, you know, that really understood the mix. And so we really struggled with it, and we came out with an amplifier that, quite frankly, was not performing too well. And under, you know under… Under really a microscope, it really didn’t look that great, and when people started looking carefully at it…
TAYLOR: Was that the one that was called the 303?
MEZZALINGUA: Gee, I don’t know.
TAYLOR: Because you mentioned it one time in the other interview, that you… nobody was very happy with the 303, the Magnavox, and I was going to…
MEZZALINGUA: That could have been, that could have been the 303. Because what we did was, we put… We felt the Magnavox name would push acceptance quickly. And I think the amplifier really blew up. I mean, it was not a good amplifier. It did not have good noise figure. It did not… It just didn’t do the job. It had too much handles on it. It had all the problems of the existing amplifiers. So we brought Caywood in. Caywood, at the point in time, was either going to become a consultant or he was going to leave Jerrold, or whatever. And Caywood brought in a whole bunch of guys with him from Jerrold, and Caywood really did a major… He turned the whole thing around, quite frankly.
TAYLOR: But, was he an employee, or was he a consultant?
MEZZALINGUA: No, he was an employee. He was Vice-President of engineering. No, no. He was brought in and he brought in… But he brought in…
TAYLOR: I was wondering if you can name a few of them?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, let me see. There was… gee, I forget his name. He is a Pakistani, or an Indian. He was the number two in the mechanical design department at Jerrold. Oh gosh, I know. I can see his face. Maqbool Karachi, and he brought in — let me see — Tresness, who was a project manager for the amplifier. He brought in — oh dear — he brought in about two or three different people. He tried to bring in Dieter Brauer, but at the time, Dieter didn’t want to… didn’t want to leave the Philadelphia…But it’s funny how ironic that is. Anyhow, what he did with his little team is, he brought that experience. And, quite frankly, what he did was to simply make a better Jerrold amplifier when he made the Magnavox amplifier. He corrected all of the ills. You know, when you tool up an amplifier like Jerrold did in those days, it was very difficult to just kind of throw everything away and tool up a whole new amplifier…
MEZZALINGUA: …as it is today, I’m sure. You go through a major undertaking. What he did is, they knew all the problems associated with the Jerrold amplifier. And he just simply corrected them all and made a good base plate, and made it modular. He really… Everything that the customers were saying out in the field, “Take the handles off of it so a technician wouldn’t get up there and kind of twist it around.” You needed extra signal and all this other stuff. He did it all, and…
TAYLOR: This kind of started the modular concept?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. I think it did.
TAYLOR: Everybody picked up. I think.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, it really did. And, quite frankly, the amplifier just took off. Because the TRW chip was so rock solid it was unbelievable. And we had a mix of Jerrold people with the existing people that we had hired from GE. And the Syracuse University research that we had on staff, who didn’t know anything about cable. But you mix them with the Gerald people and it worked beautifully. So, I think, we enjoyed quick success with that amplifier. I mean we just… At the time, of course, we had to finance cable systems and do all sorts of other things, and that put us at a little bit of a disadvantage, but… And they didn’t want to build them, they wanted turnkeys. That was always hard. But the amplifier really took off, like crazy.
TAYLOR: Well, did Magnavox help you to get into to the turnkey side of it?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. Magnavox, they… When I say they helped, what they did was, they waited for their money. They did. They had the financial resources to kind of back it all. They were reluctant to take — as you may recall — financing from the standpoint of what I think GTE did. And that is to truly finance a cable system over a seven or ten year period. They did not want to do it. As a matter of fact, we took an equity position in Tulsa, I think. I think we put up like… I forget. I don’t think it was too much, I think it was 5 million bucks. I think we put up 5 million bucks, and I think we had first rights of ownership on this…
TAYLOR: That was Gene Schneider, wasn’t it?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, Gene. Gene flew to New York. We brought Gene to New York and Gene said, “I’ll pay 3 million bucks for that.” So, that 5 million dollar equity interest, he bought it and then he… Of course, the system… I was trying to tell him that the system was probably worth, even at that time, about 20 or 25 million. But they could not evaluate it. You know non cable people just had a difficult time.
TAYLOR: Yes, that was LVO?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. They were going through all kinds of things down there. I think that system today is worth probably about 200 million or something… So anyhow, Gene Schneider, I think, got the whole thing — a hundred percent – for, I think, 3 ½ million bucks. It was pretty unique. But anyhow, Caywood played… I think he played a very major role in that, and all of his team, mixing with some of the people from GE and Syracuse University Research Corporation that we had hired.
TAYLOR: I uncovered the paper that he delivered at NCTA about a Pay-TV addressable device that he had. It was a kind of a beginning to a the addressable era. He did it without a full two-way return. He did it with two-way within the feeder itself, where it had no amplifiers. Do you remember that?
MEZZALINGUA: Was it in the amplifier? Or was it in the…
TAYLOR: No, it was a little box that you add on.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, was it the little… It looked like a cigarette box?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. We came out with that. That was a very unique device. That was really a knock off of… When I say “knock off”… At the time if you didn’t want to use traps, but you wanted to use something of a positive nature, you had to use a… I forget the name of the company.
TAYLOR: Oh yeah, Tanner, the T.E.S.T.
MEZZALINGUA: Tanner. The T.E.S.T. was just taking off like crazy. But, as you may recall, the T.E.S.T. units were exploding in the truck before they were even installed. Because, I guess, they were glass encased — or something — and they were supposed to be such that, if anyone tampered with them, they would just simply go into a dysfunctional mode.
TAYLOR: Oh yes, that’s right.
MEZZALINGUA: But the dysfunctional mode occurred right before they were even installed.
TAYLOR: Before they got there.
MEZZALINGUA: It was something. So anyway, we came up with this device which… It was kind of conventional, at least as you look back. But it really took off like crazy. And I think Tanner was offering their device for 8 or 9 bucks. I think we came out around 15 bucks.
TAYLOR: Well, actually, this device that Cooley wrote up was more than just a descrambler or, you know, like the Tanner device, because it actually enabled. And it was a store and forward type Pay-TV thing. It had a device at the amplifier that could be read out later for billing purposes.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, that’s right. That was… Oh yes, we were working with people at Fort Wayne on that for hotel and motel…
TAYLOR: Yes, that’s it, yes.
MEZZALINGUA: That was a very, very… Yes, I think the people at Fort Wayne were developing that, in the Magnavox research lab.
TAYLOR: Okay, and so that’s a different device than the one…
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, that’s different from the one I was talking about.
TAYLOR: You were talking about an addressable tap, I guess it was.
MEZZALINGUA: It was… It was not… It was more of a… it was like a small cigarette pack that would go on top of the television set right next to the convert… Well, there were no converters in those days, a nominal amount I should say. But, yes, I think what… Yes, what you’re talking about is that Pay-TV device that was very extensive. We showed it to Steve Ross down in San Bernardino. They were very excited about that. That was truly the beginning of Pay-TV.
TAYLOR: Yes, it was. That’s right.
MEZZALINGUA: We had to bicycle the tapes as I recall. We had to go from…
TAYLOR: Yes, that’s right. It was ahead of its time, because you didn’t have the satellite.
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right. That was the problem.
TAYLOR: But now, the device is… I’m still not quite clear on the device that competed with Tanner.
MEZZALINGUA: That device was like a cigarette box, that went on top of the TV set, and that was…
TAYLOR: And what did it do?
MEZZALINGUA: Well, what it does…what it… what it… How it performs is that it simply decoded the signal. And so, if you had a scrambled signal coming down… And it was simply just a descrambler.
TAYLOR: It was just one channel then?
MEZZALINGUA: It was one channel… which all… I think that’s all Tanner’s was as well.
TAYLOR: That’s right.
MEZZALINGUA: And, as you may recall, the positive trap was… I guess they were having difficulty with the positive trap, that it was…
TAYLOR: Well now, there were difficulties, there are still some of them out there, as a matter of fact. Getting the level set properly was very critical. If you had too much, you would interfere with the adjacent channel. If you didn’t have enough, it didn’t block it out
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right.
TAYLOR: So this was… You had to have a different box, then, for each channel. This was the days, I guess, when you had only one pay channel anyway.
MEZZALINGUA: Well if you only had one, so what? What’s the big deal?
TAYLOR: Yes, it didn’t matter.
MEZZALINGUA: If they wanted to…
TAYLOR: It did not work at IF. It worked on the channel itself.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, right. It worked… It had a use channel. But boy, we sold a ton of those things. They were going like crazy. You know… people… engineers that we were trying to see for months on other products were coming out of the woodwork calling us if they could get samples of this thing. Because it was so important to, to have some sort of device for the Pay-Per-View events, nominal as it might be. In those days, just to have something…
TAYLOR: Well, those were the days when we thought that the premium was the answer, because we didn’t have anything else. You could get everything else on the air.
MEZZALINGUA: That’s right.
TAYLOR: Okay. There is a mention in the book, in Bob Huston’s book, about an addressable tap that went well. Is this the same thing that you’re talking about?
MEZZALINGUA: No. The addressable tap — I think the one I’m speaking about… The addressable converter, I think, went very well for us. After we left Magnavox we set up Octagon Scientific. I think…
TAYLOR: Oh yes, right.
MEZZALINGUA: That’s what I’m referring to.
TAYLOR: No. I think Huston was referring to what he called an addressable tap and it was tied into a…
MEZZALINGUA: …regular housing…
TAYLOR: …mini-computer that sold for 500 dollars or something like that, where everybody else was… I’m not sure I can put my fingers on it in the book now, but… Here it is, addressable taps.
MEZZALINGUA: Addressable tap, eh?
TAYLOR: (Reading from the book) “In the mean time Dan was staying enthused in the late 70’s, thanks to an addressable tap his R&D people had come up with, in a 500 dollar word processor that Magnavox had developed.”
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, right, right. We had a lot of interest in that. We never really went to market with that, though. I mean, there was a lot… There were a lot more problems with that than met the eye. But it was inexpensive. We were trying to get something off the ground. They’re still talking addressable, taps even today. Twenty years later, they’re still…
TAYLOR: You had one, but you never really put it on the market, eh?
MEZZALINGUA: Well, there were so many problems associated with it. I mean, we didn’t read all of the various needs right. I don’t think the cable operator knew exactly what it was that he really wanted. We were trying to fit to his needs, and yet we were trying to… We were… I guess we were providing a solution without really a problem. So we never did define essentially what it was. Some wanted… They wanted to turn off 2 or 3 channels Some wanted one. It was just… It was a very confusing kind of situation. Plus, we had some problems with that little Bradford-Haller (sp?) inexpensive, headend computer piece too. The Magnavox…
TAYLOR: What did you call it?
MEZZALINGUA: Well, it was mostly a head in piece, wasn’t it. You could control it at the system office. It was very inexpensive, but it was not… It wasn’t performing the way they would like. You know, I mean, obviously you can’t do for 500 bucks what you can do for something significantly more.
TAYLOR: I thought you put a brand name on it or something.
MEZZALINGUA: I forget what we called it.
TAYLOR: “Heller”, or something?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes.
TAYLOR: I thought I heard it when you said it… when you said it a minute ago. Well anyway, okay. Let’s see what else do I have (flipping through pages). Oh, you and your father had some franchises?
TAYLOR: Tell me something about those. How many did you have? Did you operate them?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, we never built them.
TAYLOR: …never built them?
MEZZALINGUA: No. When GE pulled out of the franchising business,… GE got out of the franchising business in the early 60’s. Later, of course, they came back to own a whole bunch of cable systems down in Schenectady. But GE had franchises in the surrounding communities here. They had Solvay, New York. They had the town of Manlius. They had a number of different applications that they were ready to act on. And then at the last minute, they started pulling out. So we put our application in. And we were going up against Newhouse. And Newhouse came to us and said, “Look, do you want to be in the cable TV business? Or do you want to be in the equipment manufacturing business?” And at the time, Jerrold — before they sold it all out to Sammons — was in both sides of the business. And I said, “Why can’t we be in both?” You know. And it was… Of course, you know Bruce Merrill, of course, was always in both sides of the business. And they said, “No, we don’t want you to compete with us. If you are going to be in the franchising business, if you are going to go for these cable systems, we are not going to buy anything from you.” So we just… We opted to back out of that business. We opted to stay with what we felt we knew better.
TAYLOR: Did you actually get franchises?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, we actually had the franchise for Solvay, and we were… We had the franchise for the town of Manlius.
TAYLOR: And then you just simply dropped them?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, we just didn’t act on them. The franchise period… We had to begin construction at a certain date, We went back and turned the applications back.
TAYLOR: Now, you had said, yesterday — or Tuesday — that Farone and Calsam got scared and sold their systems. Was that the same kind of reasoning? What was the cause of that?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh no. Oh no, no, no.
TAYLOR: They were just afraid of the industry?
MEZZALINGUA: Well, you know the business back in the 50’s, when they could go anywhere and do whatever they want, and everything else. And of course… I mean, and literally, up until 1962, they were unbelievable cash machines. Just terrific. Yes, I mean it was… And it was… Customer service was something that you either took what they had or else forget about it. It was the best of all… It was like running a post office, you know. So when the First Report and Order came about, and they started really talking about government regulations and everything else, I talked with Bill Calsam, you know. And, of course, I was a kid in those days, and he said, “This whole industry is going to change. It is going to be really more the big guys. It’s not for guys like us. I don’t think I’m going to be happy in this type of environment. So the hell with it.” He sold his part for about 4 ½ million bucks, and he thought… And it was. I mean, there’s no question that that was a lot of money back in the early 60s, you know. But that never really bothered us. We were going ahead. We were going to comply with the various rules, and they were tough, as you may recall. I remember the First Report said…Oh, my God, the A signals, B signals, what you could and could not carry, oh God. Of course, it’s probably nothing compared to what it is today.
TAYLOR: Yes. Well let’s…Yes it’s different. But his prediction that it was going to be the big guys is largely true.
MEZZALINGUA: Well I’ll tell you, though, the big guys… You know we always worried — you may recall too, Archer — we always worried about the phone company way back in 1968.
TAYLOR: Yes, we sure did.
MEZZALINGUA: 20 years ago, I mean when we kept them out of the business, and they couldn’t participate. And I thought that was a major victory in 1968. So, it was just a matter of time They’ve entered it.
TAYLOR: Bob Huston told a story about how you came to your Dad and said you were going to need a million bucks and he thought it was a salary you were looking for. It’s kind of a funny story, but I’d like to hear, on the recording, some idea of what went on there. Because he said that within 30 days you will build a new plant and get it all started and everything. He kind of glossed over the result of that expansion. You might discuss that a little bit.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. I think what we said… what I said to him was that if we really want to get in this thing, we are going to have to really spend some money. And my father — God bless him — is the kind of guy – like, you know, not too unlike some of the early cable pioneers… Some of the metal rod that was sent into the machine shop was boxed, and it came in boxes. And he used to take the wood from the box and he had a guy take the wood from the boxes, and from that he would build… use those as two-by-fours to build offices from, you know. So I mean, he used everything. He even straightened out the nails, so…
TAYLOR: Well that’s how the industry got started.
MEZZALINGUA: Right. So it was not unusual for him to do that. So when I said, “Look, we’re really going to have to spend some money. We are going to need a million dollars. He thought that I wanted the million dollars because I was going to… I needed personally a million dollars to make him suffer. I said, “No no,” and we explained. So we went ahead and we built a building. We brought in some equipment. We brought in… At that time, HP was just starting out to be, you know, the top equipment… It was still, I think Tektronics had the better TDRs and, you know, some of the other stuff. And they were expensive for those days — probably very inexpensive today. But we bought a lot of Tektronics type of equipment.
TAYLOR: Well how big a plant did you build?
MEZZALINGUA: Well we had… It wasn’t that big. I mean, you know, for you couldn’t go that far, even in those days, for a million bucks, but we had it so we could outfit at least 50 people. So, we really needed to do something, because, you know, Calsam’s operation was really a seller operation. He needed to buy guys, and to make fixtures, you know, get a lot of things built things on the outside in order to get set up. So…
TAYLOR: The screw machine shop that you had before that was really a pretty small operation, is that right?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes, it was a separate operation, too. So what we were talking about is really an assembly operation and testing and design testing and manufacturing assembly operation.
TAYLOR: Well, now, when you bought Craftsmen and moved it up to Manlius, was this mostly an office operation? Or did you have some sort of a shop
MEZZALINGUA: Well, down in Bill’s cellar, you know, he used to have the technicians on rainy days go down there and make splitters and transformers wind coils and all sorts of stuff. So I mean, in effect, that’s really what the shop was down there. And they used to use their signal strength meters that they would pull out of the trucks, and bring them down stairs and set up. That’s really what we bought. Really what we bought was just a little know how. We paid next to nothing for it. We bought some cable, some inventory and that sort of stuff. But fundamentally, they were just knock-offs from Jerrold, everything that was being made.
TAYLOR: And you had… Did you have a little building then? Or…
MEZZALINGUA: Well, that’s what we had to do, you know, with the million bucks We kind of built a small addition. It wasn’t very much probably about 2500 square feet.
TAYLOR: Do you have any idea when that building was built?
MEZZALINGUA: That was built probably around 60… I would say about a year or two after we moved it up. Let me see. (Thinking out loud) We bought it in 62…61 or 62… or maybe early 63…64… Maybe around 65 it was built.
TAYLOR: And in the mean time, you were doing pretty much what Craftsmen had done down in Oneonta?
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right. We were finding a lot of stuff out. We were bringing in,… Although we weren’t doing it as well as what Bill was doing, because he had, you know, he had his installers, his techs that something I really knew…
TAYLOR: You didn’t have that.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, they really knew what they wanted. Yes, I mean those transformers… when they wound those… I remember those bi-filer coils that they would wind… I mean they made them nice and tight and even, so they could get a nice perfect impedance match.
TAYLOR: Now, were you, then, doing that now?
MEZZALINGUA: We were trying to do that up in Syracuse, and without the benefit of really understanding what it was that we were really trying to shoot for. See, what they would do is, they would make this stuff, then they would put it right — really on the back of the set. And then they would take them out in homes and they would see how well they were performing. And they would continue doing a wind the way the way the unit would perform. And of course, there was no documentation. Everything was in their heads.
MEZZALINGUA: It was very difficult to try to get that down on paper. So we had to document all that stuff.
TAYLOR: Did you then have some staff that worked on these things?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. We had a company that helped called Sage Craft down in Norwich. And they were doing a lot of, they were doing a lot of the prewinding for us and everything else.
TAYLOR: Oh I see. (pause) And the first amplifier you got involved in was that cylindrical…
MEZZALINGUA: That was the first. That was before Magnavox. It was the knock off of the Ameco hermetically sealed one that was really hot. I think they were selling it — the line extender — for 90 bucks, or something like that. And I think Jerrold had a comparable tube amplifier that was like 220 bucks. And they were selling that solid state amplifier all over the place. I think that’s really what made Ameco, that and their potted tap. I think that was really… their epoxy-filled tap… that was…
TAYLOR: Then they began to break the wires.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. Then potting was the problem. Yes, that’s right.
TAYLOR: I understood from your interview earlier that Bruce Merrill went ballistic over that competition.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh he was so mad that we went into that tap business and were trying to make some stuff that was equal to his — or the “amplifier” [not the “tap”]
TAYLOR: …amplifier, yes.
MEZZALINGUA: That amplifier was… We were going to… He had it made with metal, like a metal tube, and we were going to make it with a die cast. Actually, it was the sand cast that we started out with, not the dot cast. But I think that was the beginning… although Jerrold had die cast a lot of the Starline equipment in the early 60s. But it was… Ameco had a hot amplifier. They were a hot company.
TAYLOR: Yes, they were really on a roll for a time.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh boy, oh boy.
TAYLOR: And they lost it.
TAYLOR: Now, one of the things I missed when I didn’t get the recording, was about the tap that Shorty Coryell helped you get started on. Would you repeat that story?
TAYLOR: This was about 1966, you thought.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. the tap market…We’re making splitters and mostly indoor devices, and I think Bill Bresnan came and said, “What are you guys doing about taps?” And I said, “Well everybody is using pressure taps.” He said, “No, the market is really going to switch. They don’t want to puncture the cable. They want to cut it.” I said, “I don’t know. I’m hearing mixed reports on that. People don’t want to spend the money for the tap.” He said, “Well, they don’t spend 16, 18 or 20 bucks.” He says, “You know, the way SKL makes it is the best tap.” But Jerrold is coming out with their tap. I think Jerrold was ready at that time, they were around 16 bucks. He says, “Why don’t you take a look at that SKL tap?” And so I said, “OK.” We’ve got a few SKL’s…
TAYLOR: This is Shorty who said that?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. And then we went down and we talked with Shorty, and Shorty said, “Yes, what you really want to do is follow the SKL type of construction.” He said, “Because all it is, is a cable on the inside.” It looked like a rope to me. It was the cable that was…
TAYLOR: I know what it is, yes.
MEZZALINGUA: …it was stripped down. I mean it was wound, and the way they did it was just perfect. I guess later somebody made a trap that was a piece of cable. It was like a tuned stub. It was the same principle.
TAYLOR: Well, actually, Entron patented a tap just like that SKL.
MEZZALINGUA: Is that right?
TAYLOR: Yes, they called it the AccuraTap, or something like that.
MEZZALINGUA: Did they sell a lot of those as well?
TAYLOR: I really don’t know Diambra told me about it and gave me a copy of the patent.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. I knew Hank Diambra. He’s a hell of a guy.
TAYLOR: Who was it that suggested that you look at the SKL? It wasn’t Shorty?
MEZZALINGUA: It was Shorty.
TAYLOR: Oh, it was Shorty.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. Bill had mentioned it but, then I didn’t know about Spencer Kennedy. But I went down to see Shorty, because at that point in time we were trying to sell him stuff, and we were going back and forth. And he was terrific the way he would check things.
TAYLOR: And he was at Oneonta at the time?
MEZZALINGUA: No, he was down in — I want to say down in Binghamton – somewhere.
TAYLOR: That would be…
MEZZALINGUA: He was working for TelePrompTer. He was working for Irving Kahn, and Jack Gault was system manager. Anyhow Shorty… I go down and I see Shorty, and I said, “Shorty what do you think?” And he says, “You’ve got to make a SKL type tap and that’s all there is to it.” So we start making samples, running to and fro, visiting Shorty and he was testing it. At that time, Shorty had a lab that was…
END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B
TAYLOR: Okay. I think we’re going now.
MEZZALINGUA: So, going back and forth, visiting with Shorty, we finally perfected… Because the guys that I had… I had a couple of guys from Syracuse University Research Corporation, and they said, “Instead of making it with cable, why don’t you put the lines on a printed circuit board, and therefore it’s a lot easier, and you could make them very efficient, and you can make a lot of them. So we did just that. And it was true, the printed circuit boards… Although the tolerances and the lines were like plus-or- minus one, or half, thousandths or something like that. Very difficult to make. Mostly these guys were used to military kind of specs. They understood it could be done militarily, but commercially to get the price…you know it was just going out of whack But it was good enough, and the industry in those days was forgiving. It was far superior to the cable. So we went ahead and started making these things. And as long as you had a splitter underneath it — under the tap port, or under the two printed circuit boards put together — it was working just fine. There was a… and I think it was very… The weakness to that was that it was working very well up to — I want to say 220 megahertz. I think anything in excess of 220 — or maybe it was 240, I forget — no it was around 220 — anything higher than that you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t do it with the SKL type of construction. You couldn’t do it with the printed circuit boards. You had to start getting into a regular circuitry in order to flatten out the line.
TAYLOR: Well, and both of them were hollow in the mid band…
TAYLOR: …because they were a quarter-wave at the low band and three quarter-wave at the high band.
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right. So, as soon as the industry started pushing the frequencies up, that’s when we started losing the market. But boy, we just… that tap took off. Bresnan bought… I don’t know how many thousands. It was just fantastic. And Cook, at the time, was out there building the Forum. Bresnan was chief engineer, and we were just selling stuff like crazy to him, and to others, you know.
TAYLOR: Now, did you get into manufacturing connectors other than C-52? Because, the C-52 had to get dropped, it was too small.
MEZZALINGUA: Right, right. We started making the F-connector, of course. And then we started… We were so anxious… We were so hot on making taps and splitters and transformers that the hard-line connectors – as you call them today — was really kind of put… I mean we made it, but it wasn’t really very good. It was… We were trying to emulate what I think Ameco was making at the time. I think they were the first ones.
TAYLOR: Yes. That ended up as a Gilbert.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. Actually Gilbert was making it for Ameco…
TAYLOR: Oh, that’s right.
MEZZALINGUA: …and that was probably the best connector. The Jerrold connector… I forget… the VSXs or whatever they called them at the time. Those connectors were not as good as the Ameco connectors which ultimately became Gilbert.
TAYLOR: That’s right.
MEZZALINGUA: And you know that story, about how Gilbert got started?
TAYLOR: Oh that’s funny!
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, that’s funny. The point is that they definitely had the best connector. And then, when they hired Bob Spann, then, I think, they really took off with a very good connector. They really showed an industry standard.
TAYLOR: But it was early on that the C-52 got to be too small. They were going to use RG 11, and had to have connectors. How did you make your taps?
MEZZALINGUA: We made… We made all of the F-61-A connectors.
TAYLOR: But they were all, F-…
MEZZALINGUA: They were all F-ports, threaded. We made all the connectors for that. We made the…
TAYLOR: But that wouldn’t… That wouldn’t work with the RG-11, would it?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. The…
TAYLOR: Did it?
MEZZALINGUA: Oh yes. The F-ports, were… Because what we had in the pin — we call it the collect inside of the pin of the F-connector — The f-connector…The F-61-A was the connector. What we found out is that… To use the collet, where it was kind of a fixed drilled hole… So if you were only using RG 59, you’re right, you couldn’t use that same center conductor to get into the 11. But what we found was a… GTE Sylvania made a bunch of generic parts — and don’t ask me why they made this particular part — but they made this part that had a… When you inserted the wire into it, it would rise up and clamp down. It was kind of like a… like a set of jaws.
TAYLOR: Oh, I understand what you mean.
MEZZALINGUA: It was like a set of jaws, and it worked perfectly. So we went down there, and without any kind of tooling we started buying that part. Tony Cerrache actually put us… made us aware of that thing. And we started buying that, and now you had a universal entry level. I mean, it wasn’t very good in terms of match. The way it is today, it just wouldn’t work. But in those days it was fine, because it would accept the smaller center conductor of the RG59, and then it would go all the way up to the 11. So, it was perfect.
TAYLOR: So, that was the…
MEZZALINGUA: That was the F-6l-A.
TAYLOR: Oh I see. That’s what that was. That would be the…
MEZZALINGUA: That was a female.
TAYLOR: That was a female on the tap?
MEZZALINGUA: The female. Yes. Of course, we had to make a standard male type connector to go on the… on the jacket and the braid for the… you know, for the male type.
TAYLOR: Oh I see. And you still call that an F…?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. That was an F-1l. We had F-1l. We had F-59.
TAYLOR: Yes, I remember that.
MEZZALINGUA: We had F-RG-6s. Yes, we had to make a whole different variety of those. But that’s where the… You know, in the later years, that’s where the universal connector… You know, the braid coverage is starting with 40% braid coverage all the way up to, I think, trishield now…
TAYLOR: Yes, quadshield…
MEZZALINGUA: …quadshield, yes.
TAYLOR: …two tapes and two braids.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. Very… I mean you need two different connectors today.
TAYLOR: Oh yes. You need a lot of… yes.
MEZZALINGUA: But if we… No one really uses 40% coverage — braid coverage.
TAYLOR: Oh no. Only the cheap stuff that you sell in the…
MEZZALINGUA: I think everybody starts at 60, and even higher… it goes 60 to 70. You can go… You can go 60 to 70, all the way up to quad. But it’s a little bit of a snug fit. But it can be done. So…
TAYLOR: Okay. Well now let me just look over my notes here and see if I… (pause) Before you went to Magnavox, you had an R&D department. You hired some engineers, did you to…?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, we had a couple of guys from Syracuse University of Research and we had one guy from General Electric. So, we were trying all sorts of things. We were making the amplifier — the line extender amplifier — which was, as I mentioned earlier, the knock off from Ameco. We were trying to make a converter, working with… oh gosh I forget his name, he was Irving Kahn’s partner…
TAYLOR: Hub Schlafly?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes, Hub. We kept going down to deal with Roger Wilson, and they kept wanting to make a converter. And we made models of a converter and… actually, we made the first push button type converter.
TAYLOR: Yes, I had one of those.
MEZZALINGUA: (Chuckling) Those were really disastrous. We made some of those. And then, of course, I think Jerrold really perfected that — or certainly perfected it better than we did. And Hub, in his vision, kept saying, “Leave a space open for a Pay-Per-View module, and all this other stuff.”
TAYLOR: You know, that was Hub’s big pitch.
TAYLOR: Back when you were talking about Bill Bresnan, I wanted to get on the record here that Bill, at that time, was working for Cooke, Jack Kent Cooke.
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. But I knew Bill way back when he worked for… up in Minnesota… I forget the two men he worked for… oh geez what’s his name… he’s a character… oh gosh…
TAYLOR: Well, Kroon was one of them, wasn’t he?
MEZZALINGUA: Yes. Well Cliff Kroon… he did work for Cliff Kroon, didn’t he?
TAYLOR: Oh I can’t… I don’t know that.
MEZZALINGUA: I don’t know if he worked for Cliff Kroon. But I remember Kroon. He was really a character. He was funny. He’s a guy… Frank…
TAYLOR: Oh. Frank Thompson.
MEZZALINGUA: Frank Thompson.
TAYLOR: Frank Thompson, oh yes.
MEZZALINGUA: Right down there with Paul Schmidt.
TAYLOR: Right. Okay. Now, I
MEZZALINGUA: Then, when Cooke bought their systems, Bill moved to Southern California, working for Jack Kent Cooke.
TAYLOR: Yes. That’s where I first met Bill.
MEZZALINGUA: I knew him up in Minnesota. He was a big SKL fan. That was SKL country, that whole Midwest. They absolutely loved Spencer Kennedy type of equipment That was good equipment.
TAYLOR: Okay. I think…
MEZZALINGUA: You were going to ask me about Bill?
TAYLOR: No, I just wanted to get on the record that, at the time he was talking with you, he was with Cooke. — (Pause) — Okay I think that straightens me out on all of the things that I had.
TAYLOR: And I appreciate the opportunity… I apologize for messing things up Tuesday.
MEZZALINGUA: Oh, that’s quite all right. I look forward to seeing you soon.
TAYLOR: Well okay. We’ll look for you at one of the shows.
MEZZALINGUA: Okay, great.
MEZZALINGUA: Okay, thanks.
TAYLOR: Thanks a lot.
MEZZALINGUA: You bet.
TAYLOR: Bye bye.