Interview Date: Wednesday August 11, 1999
Interview Location: Burnsville, NC
Interviewer: Liz Burke
Collection: Hauser Collection
BURKE: This is an oral history interview for The National Cable Television Center and Museum. This is the Hauser Foundation for Oral and Video History Project. We’re meeting on August 11, 1999 with Mr. Ray Miller, who hails from Burnsville, North Carolina. I want to add a congratulations that as of yesterday, he has become the new chairman of The National Cable Television Cooperative and along with that, his history with cable television goes back as far as, I think, to about 1955. So it’s good to see you Ray.
MILLER: ’54, actually ’54.
BURKE: So, why don’t you tell us a few things about the early years of cable television as you remember it.
MILLER: Well, I guess as far as I’m concerned, the first thing that happened to me in cable TV, I had an opportunity to go to Cumberland, Maryland to do a little work when I was working for RCA in Washington D.C. and just basically carried tools around for a fellow who was doing some work up there. In any event, I got enough exposure to it to know that it looked like it had a future to me. In 1955, I moved to North Carolina and started dating my future wife and my grandparents lived in this community in Burnsville, so I knew it was a good prospect for cable TV. I ended up buying the top of a mountain above Burnsville and putting a cable down into the community. I put in a three channel head end and could not get money from anyone. Everybody thought I was crazy and didn’t think it would work. I couldn’t get money from banks, couldn’t get money from anyone to put in the distribution system around the area. In any event, I tried for about a year to get things going. I got married in January of 1956, and finally gave up on the idea. I just could not get money for anything and left and went to California. In California, I found out there were cable systems, which really surprised me, around the LA area. I might back up and say I’d really decided to go to Alaska and wanted to see what the LA area looked like. I ended up never getting to Alaska at that time; I’ve been there since then. But, in any event, I did a little exploration and found out that there were cable systems filling in the canyons and some of the area surrounding Los Angeles. I had an occasion to talk to the operator of one of the cable systems and he wanted to know how I knew anything about cable. Actually, I was out doing a TV service call, I’d taken a job at a TV repair shop, was doing a TV service call and found out the lady didn’t have problems with her TV, she had no signal off the antenna. I told her this, told her we’d have to check the antenna. She said, “Oh no, that can’t be it. We’re on the cable.” I told her I thought she had trouble with the cable. In any event, I had to lug a big table model TV that I had in the truck, lugged it in to show her that there was no signal and I said, “You need to call your cable company, if you’re on cable.” I looked out on the poles when I went outside to get the TV. There was no cable on poles and I wasn’t aware of how it was coming in. I thought maybe underground, or I just didn’t know how they were getting it, but in any event, she said, “How about you call the cable company for me.” This was in 1956, the latter part of ’56, and I said, “Well, I’d be glad to.” So I called the fellow that owned the company and he was very upset. He said he didn’t think that they had trouble with the cable and wanted to know what I based that on and I told him I’d checked with another TV to prove to her that it was out. I said there was just no signal coming in. As a matter of fact, I said, I followed your wire out, I was curious and saw that it went up on top of the roof of the house and so I took a look at it and I said, you’ve lost a resister on your inductive take-off to an open wire line, which I’d never seen before, but I knew the principle it was working on after I took a look at it, and so I explained to him what the problem was. Well, in any event, he started quizzing me, wanting to know where I knew about cable from. I told him from North Carolina and my background, and one thing led to another and he ended up hiring me. I worked for him for, I guess, two years and then the company was sold. I worked for the successor for, gee I don’t remember, maybe six months and then he made me the manager and I managed the company until 1962. We had cable systems, the first one in Beverly Hills, California. We had the first one in the Hollywood area, the first franchise for the Los Angeles City and County. There were a number of areas that we served. Just a little aside, we served the area where O.J. Simpson lived, the Bundy Drive area, in any event, we had a large portion of Southern California and I stayed with him from 1962 when I went in partnership with George Acker, who later owned Cable TV Supply, later sold to, I believe, Anixter. In any event, we acquired a franchise to wire the Thousand Oaks area, Caneyo Valley area of California and the same day they granted us a franchise, they granted a franchise to another party, Vic Sharar, who’s still a friend, and we both started wiring in the area. It was a large area. We started wiring in one area, he started wiring another and we got to thinking after a couple of weeks that maybe this wasn’t the best thing to do because sooner or later we were going to meet and have a conflict. We talked to Vic and asked him, would he be interested in selling out to us, or if not, would he be buying us? We already had other places that we planned to wire. He said, “What do you have in mind?” We told him, “Well, we’ll give you “X” number of dollars plus every dime you have in receipts, from either construction receipts to the contractors, or receipts for equipment.” Or in term, we will take the same deal if he wants to buy us out. That was on a Friday and he said, “Let me talk over the weekend and think about it.” He had some partners he needed to talk to. He came back on Monday and said, “I’m just not too sure what I want to do,” and he pulled a quarter out of his pocket and flipped it up in the air and let it hurt the dirt. He looked down and said, “Well, I’ll buy you.” That’s kind of how that went down with our first system we got involved in. Next we got a franchise for Los Angeles County that was in Ventura County, California, we got a franchise for Los Angeles County for the area in Sawgus-Newhall and made a contractor with the developers, two or three of the developers there, it was a fast growing area and we built that area. Next we got a franchise in LA County for the city of Palmdale, California and the surrounding area. We built Palmdale and Courts Hill and a little section of Lancaster then next we went into Fallon and Yerington, Nevada. At that time, George Acker and I owned the Sawgus-Newhall operation together, 50-50, but we needed extra investors for Palmdale. So we got together with David McKay, who was the first president of the California Cable Association and George and I both knew him through our association with the California Cable TV Association. In any event, we got together. He came in for 20% of the company, George and I took 20% and then we brought in Dick Bookmeyer, who was a fellow I’d worked with in the systems in LA and the Community TV Reception and TV Master Antenna Systems and Teletenna Corporation. That was the original three that were all combined and I managed. Then Dick came to work with us and I invested and owned 20% of the company and George Anthony – I was trying to think of the name – George Anthony at that time owned the Tape-a-thon Corporation. He and his brother owned Tape-a-thon and I guess we kept that system. We built the system – Quartz Hill, Palmdale and a little section near the outskirts of Lancaster. We kept that, I believe, until about 1970 or ’71 when we sold out to the Tribune Corporation, WGN. In any event, Dave McKay, George Acker and I with a third each went into the Nevada area. Dave had previously put in some radio stations. I believe he put the first radio station in both Reno and Las Vegas; he was one of the investors in it and if memory serves me right, I believe he said he had an interest in the first TV station to go into Reno. In any event, we got franchises for Fallon and Yerington, Nevada. We built those and then several years later we built an area around San Francisco. We went in with Bob Lewis, who had some franchises up there and contracts and so forth with developers and I know we built, the company name was Cable TV of Marin, we built the area surrounding San Rafael, Belvedere, part of Fairfax and San Geronimo Valley. It was quite a little area up there that we served and next, I guess, we got a franchise for Ramona, California, down toward San Diego. We never did get it off the ground and actually build it. My wife was about to divorce me; I was doing all the engineering for the seven companies. We also had Century Cable Company. That was serving the Calabasa-Nigura area of the west valley area and I was doing practically all the engineering for all of them and spending almost no time at home. We had three young kids and my wife just said she wanted to get back to North Carolina. If she’s going to be by herself she wanted to be at least near some of her relatives. So in 1965 we sold the Sawgus-Newhall and the area around Fallon and Yerington, Nevada to Monte Rifkin, who had previously been working for Bill Daniels and this was the nucleus that later became ATC and I believe he bought that under the name Narragansett Capital. That was in 1965. I believe we sold WGN in 1970-’71 and the west valley went to Time Warner, well Time Life at that time. It was Time Corporation, I believe, either Time or Time Life. I know they bought our Calabasas-Nigura and I believe that put them in the cable TV business, if I’m not mistaken, that was the first. I believe the Sawgus-Newhall, I’m quite sure it was the first for Monte Rifkin and the WGN Tribune Company, I believe that was either their first or second venture in cable TV when they bought us in the Palmdale operation. I moved back to North Carolina and got a franchise – shortly after we got the franchise for Ramona, I moved back and got a franchise for Burnsville and I’d left ten years before because I couldn’t get the money to build the area. Well, I had some money in my pocket so first I wanted to have an airstrip, so I built me an airport, a little fly in resort operation with a campground and some cabins and so forth and then built the cable TV system and next I built the Spruce-Pine area. I got a franchise from Spruce-Pine and built Spruce-Pine and then a college town, Mars Hill, Marshall and I guess that was all that I built under the name Clearview Cable Company and went in partners with another fellow and we built a little system in Michaelville, that’s a little area outside of Burnsville, also Bakersville. He did the construction and furnished the money for the equipment and cable and later we combined that in with Burnsville and he took a 10% interest in the overall operation in exchange for his 50% of those two. Along the way somewhere, I’m trying to think, I believe it was ’68 or ’69, we built Silsbee, Texas. We bought the franchise from a local fellow down there that had gotten the franchise and couldn’t get financing to build it. We bought Great Western Cable TV Company. I’ve never been a fan of long names and I know that kind of threw me, but we did keep the name. We bought all the assets, which basically was a franchise. That’s the only system I’ve ever had any interest in or anything to do with where I lost money. I should have stayed out of Texas. The economy went to pot. The entire economy of Silsbee was based at that time on the Kirby Lumber Company, which laid off almost every employee they had and people couldn’t pay for food to eat hardly, let alone paying for cable TV and this lasted for I think about three years. In any event, we sold it after about a year of operating at a loss. Next, I guess, would have been the system at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I went into that area in 1971. I had developed a coin operated outlet for cable TV for campgrounds. Being in the campground business, I’d invested in a campground in California in the Soledad Canyon area above Los Angeles and when I got into North Carolina, I decided I wanted to have one there too and was in a valley where without cable TV people wouldn’t show up on weekends. If there was a big game or something going on, the campground attendance went down, so I decided we’d put in cable TV and give it to the people in the campground. Well, you’ve got to get some money out of it in some manner. We started charging a quarter a day and some people would pay and some people wouldn’t, but you’d find out they were hooking up and using it anyhow so I came up with a coin operated outlet for campgrounds for cable TV and where’s the campground capitol of the East Coast? Well, now capitol of the world, I guess, there are over 10,000 campsites in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We’re presently serving, with another company, many years later, we’re still serving the largest in the world – Ocean Lakes Campground with close to 3,500 campsites. In any event, we built the cable system serving the south end of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, part of Ory County, part of Georgetown County, then the city of Surfside, Paulie’s Island, Litchfield Beach, all of that area. Well, after that we bought a small operation in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, that I think was serving about 350 subscribers. We bought that in ’86, excuse me, ’76. I believe we sold it about ’83 to Glenn Jones with Jones Intercable. I’m trying to remember exactly, that was where we put in our first satellite delivered system, an SA system. I remember paying $2,100 for a sperial NA. I remember the adjaw receiver was $7,400, to give a little perspective as to how things have came down to anybody that’s watching this in the future. That’s what SA got at that time.
BURKE: Could you just talk a little bit about the beginning of satellite systems and how that changed your business?
MILLER: Well, we sold the operation in Myrtle Beach because frankly, without satellite, we didn’t have anything much to sell. We had two NBC, two CBS, two ABC channels out of Charleston and Wilmington, North Carolina. We had the PBS out of South Carolina and we put up a 500 foot tower in order to get channel ten from Columbia and hopefully, channel 36 out of Charlotte, North Carolina, which was our closest independent. The reality of it was some days we’d get a perfect picture, other days we’d get a snowy picture, other days we didn’t even see a picture. So in any event, we got into local origination at that point, because we had to have something to sell to people other than the networks. They could get the network off of an antenna so-so. It would be a snowy picture, but a lot of people wouldn’t pay when they could get a snowy picture. So anyhow, we got into originating 19 ½ hours of programming per day. We did bicycling tapes with some of the other systems. I remember we bought all of the Little Rascals, I think probably 200-300 of the old western movies, we bought everything that 20th Century Fox had, all of the movies in their library. I know we had all the Elvis movies, or most of them. We also carried the roller derby, the roller games or some kind of roller things, cow town rodeo, I’m just thinking of some of the names. There were a number of programmers that were interested in getting their programs out there and it was very inexpensive to do it. 20th Century Fox movie package I think cost us quite a bit. Also we got the Viacom package. We got, gee I think we had Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke, Whirlybird, some of the names out of the past that I haven’t thought of in twenty years. We carried a pretty good lineup and that was the turning point for our system. We made money from almost the first day that we put it on with advertising because there was a big void of outlets for advertising. There was no local TV in Myrtle Beach. The main thing though, was it allowed us to get more subscribers. We really increased the number of people that were watching the channel. Satellite came along within a year after we sold the company or just about the time we sold the company I guess, I know they put a dish in very shortly after the sale of the company. I guess at that time the main reason we sold, I had investors, I controlled about a third of the company, I had investors with me that were scared to death we were going to have a hurricane come in and wipe out the area, which I believe Jones Intercable told me they had over a million dollars damage when the hurricane came in ’89, Hugo came in. So it does happen. I think the satellite probably was the best thing to ever happen. After we bought the system at Carolina Beach, we completed the installation that had been started of a 600 foot TV tower. Well, actually it hadn’t been started, the construction hadn’t started on it but they had the contract I guess was ready to be signed. In any event, we bought the system from Total TV out of Jamesville, Wisconsin and immediately put in a 600 foot tower in order to pick up reliable service. There was very poor reception on anything other than the local channels. We kept that for several years and I could see the potential from the satellite. There were a lot of areas that wouldn’t support a system without it, but with it it opened up almost anything, almost the entire country. I might back up and say I’ve always felt that, I think even from the days in California, from the early days, I’ve felt that cable TV had a wonderful future and eventually the entire country would be wired just like telephone. There are too many places that you need mobile communications and the only way you can get it is over the air, but cable TV, the homes don’t change, the location is always there, so it makes sense for the communications to come over a wire. I’ve always felt like eventually the entire country would be wired, which is just now happening, a little later than I’d anticipated. In any event, getting back to the others, after the satellite came in we got involved in other systems. We built around Ashville, North Carolina. The city was owned by Tom’s Cablevision but had never wired the outlying areas. We wired that and then I got into Florida and we built 19 systems around Florida, satellite systems. It’s hard to remember all the details on it. I’ve made a note here – I did count up and I’ve been involved in over 60 cable systems, I’ve acquired over 50 franchises and over 30 companies through the years. I guess you’d asked about putting down some of the significant things I feel like I’ve done in the industry, things that I’ve helped to acquire and helped to do. I guess the most important thing, looking back at it, was I had the deciding vote on hiring Walter Kaitz. It came around the table, we had a board meeting, and we needed someone to represent us in Sacramento, there were so many bills being introduced in the state legislature that effected our business and without someone being there looking out for us, we didn’t even hear about it until sometimes it was too late. Walter at that time was representing broadcasters, a broadcast group, and there was a little hesitancy on, well, I guess we all were a little hesitant about hiring him, wondering if his interest would be in cable or in broadcasting. We didn’t have the money to hire him; the association was fairly poor. Nobody wanted to really pay much in the way of dues. It was kind of an association – well, it came together because of sales tax on cable. California passed a tax on cable and we had to fight it, which they did and won, I should say, and we just came around the table at the meeting. One would say they were in favor of Walter, one would say they were against it, we couldn’t afford it. It got around to me and there were three and three. There were seven of us at the table. You’d look over at three of them and they kind of got a frown on their face and three of them got a smile, hoping you’ll go their way and I just remember my comment was I didn’t think it was a matter of being able to afford him, I didn’t think we could afford not to hire him and I still feel that way today. I feel like it’s one of the most important votes I ever cast and probably he has done more for the industry as a whole as well as the California Cable Association as just about anyone that’s ever been associated with it. I was on the board for several years; I went on and as a matter of fact, when I moved to North Carolina, I was vice-president of the California Association and I don’t know, looking back at things, I still think that was probably the most important vote I’ve ever cast. I did a few things that I probably shouldn’t have done at the time this took place, but we got into local origination in 1963 in Sawgus, California. In fact I guess I was the first person to ever have regularly scheduled sponsored, fully sponsored, newscasts and local news, etc. but the Sawgus-Newhall area is north of Los Angeles between LA and Palmdale and you get the TV stations barely, without cable. You had no radio station whatsoever there at that time and one weekly newspaper – in a very fast growing area. Another fellow started a second newspaper; he came to me and wanted to know would I be interested in him doing a newscast. Art Evans. The only thing wrong with Art, I think the world of him, or I did, he’s gone now, but in any event he was very political. He was a Democrat and a very strong Democrat. I know we were carrying the election returns when Goldwater, I believe, was running against Johnson, it must have been 1964. In any event, he said, at one point we were posting all the results from the various precincts up on the board…
BREAK IN VIDEO TAPE
BURKE: Well, we’re here with Ray Miller and we were just talking about 1964 as being a very interesting year both in telecommunications and in politics.
MILLER: Well, we were posting the returns from the election and I was talking about Art Evans and he was doing the announcing on camera and we were carrying everything live. He said, being a Democrat and a strong Democrat as he was, and the Republicans were leading it. The trend in our area, anyhow, was really strong. Ed Reinke, who later became part of Nixon’s cabinet, I guess, in Washington, he was running for Senator in our district in California, for California State Senator. Well, he came in and we had interviewed him maybe six or eight weeks before the election. Everybody we asked to come in, practically all of them came in. This was a system with 3,000 subscribers, which really surprised me. I had no idea that they would give us much attention, but they did come in and Newt Russell, who may still be serving in Sacramento, he served for years in Sacramento, he came in and we interviewed him. He was a Republican. Both of them got elected that night in ’64 and Art said, “Gee, I hope this trend doesn’t hold out. We’re going to be hurting.” And he caught himself and he says, “For you Republicans, it’s time to shout.” In any event, the only person that was running in that election out there that night that we were posting results for that got beat, the only one was Goldwater. Every single other person that we had on the board got elected, the Republicans got elected that night. In any event, just a little side thing too on Art Evans, his wife was injured the night they shot Bobby Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan shot Bobby Kennedy, they were at the dinner, the get together that night. His son too, his stepson, by the way works for the HFU cable TV at Topaz Lake, California. I ran into him, just happened to be talking to him and talking to another fellow, and he said, “Ray Miller, Ray Miller, didn’t you used to own the system at Sawgus, California?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Do you remember somebody knocking down a camera one time?” I said, “Yes, they tripped over the cabling or something and knocked it down.” He said, “That was me. My dad was Art Evans.” Well, it turned out it was his stepdad, but in any event it was kind of interesting. This was 22 years after that, or 25. In any event, I guess it rubbed off on him enough because he stayed in the cable industry. He’s in it right now and he was just a small kid then. Getting back to the things here – we started building the system in Sawgus-Newhall in ’62 and in ’63 we started the local origination. After we got into it we had more advertisers than we had programming. Back then there was no such thing as an inexpensive tape recorder. The only thing, I guess, that was out then were the large quad decks and they were $100,000 and more for a tape machine. So, that was out. All we had to rely on was some film; you could get film from the modern talking pictures, I think they would send you film and you would send it back. So we improvised an old film chain and we shoed a few films and mostly it was strictly the news and interviews. But we did have it on and we did have it sponsored and the California Association, when they found out about it, oh, Lord, they were really upset. They said, “Ray, what on Earth are you trying to do? Get us into trouble? You know you’re competing with the broadcasters and the TV people and they’re going to use this against us to get cable under the FCC’s control.” Finally I turned it off. I was making a few bucks, not much, but it was really helping our penetration in the area, but we did turn it off at the request of the rest of the board on the California Association, we shut down our operation but to the best of my knowledge, we were the first one in the state of California and possibly all over. Now, Cedar City, Utah, I’d gone up and looked at their operation, I guess it was 1956, ’57, ’56 I came to California, 1957 to pick up a little extra money, I went to work selling a little on the side for a Mr. Frank Erb, who owned Vision Wire Company. Vision Wire made a teleplex open wire and I made a trip across the country to North Carolina. He said any orders you take, I’ll give you the commission on them and he wanted me to stop in and he paid the fuel bill and so forth for my trip, essentially, but he gave me places he wanted me to stop. I got acquainted with the folks in Cedar City, Utah and they were doing local originations on one channel. That was all. They built an entire cable system for one channel of local origination. Well, that was an open wire system. Paramount, when they first built Palm Springs, that was built as a pay TV, not pay-per-view, but pay TV, premium TV system and they built part of the area around Glendale, California and Burbank, California, because we ended up eventually buying it and they built it with, gosh, I think it was 7/8 inch spiroflex, Phelps-Dodge spiroflex cable, some of the best cable that you could buy, but it just never worked out. The people wouldn’t buy it, I guess for one channel, for some reason. This was in 1949 they built Palmdale, or started out. I gave the Museum some of the equipment, the original equipment that was used in the systems in Palmdale and Glendale-Burbank area.
BURKE: You might mention that there were some challenges in the early open wire systems and building them, especially in California.
MILLER: Many challenges! We had at one time, when I was with the Community TV Reception, well it was a combination Community TV Reception, which was bought out, well, Community TV Reception bought out TV Master Antenna Systems, Inc., and then they were in turn bought out by the Teletenna Corporation, which was a fellow by the name of Guy Cooper. At one time, we had close to 2,000 customers, mostly on open wire, and a lot of that were systems that we had bought from other people. A lot of it ran rooftop to rooftop. In fact, that’s the way the system was put in in Sun Valley; the first system where I was doing TV repair work when I found it and it was run from the top of the roof from one house to the top of the roof of the next one and it was open wire. I’d never seen it before; I’d read about it, heard about it, but I’d never actually seen it and I immediately upon being hired by them, they had cable on 16 poles, that’s all the company had on power poles and that was around the Sun Valley area above Burbank and I think when the company was sold five years later, whatever, from ’56 to ’62, they sold out in ’62, about six years later, I think we had gotten probably 75% of it had been changed out to coax and was most of it on poles. But it was a mishmash of just a little bit of everything when I first got out there. I couldn’t believe it. Malibu, California was all wired on 4 x 4 posts that were sticking out of the ground seven to eight feet. You could reach up with your hands and work on the wiring and it was all the RG 11 cable, ran on what we now call clothesline, it’s just antenna guide wire for antennas, very small and being in the ocean atmosphere down there it rusted in no time. Cable was falling down and the corrosion was horrible. We had very little protection against the elements. The old Jerrold pressure taps and Entron pressure taps – Entron not as bad as Jerrold because I think it probably had more zinc in it; the Jerrold was basically an aluminum tap and aluminum falls apart in the salt air. I mean down there it just turned to powder after awhile. Most all of the Malibu area was wired with all the amplifiers taking power out of the person’s home. They would go to the person that owned the home and give them a free hookup to the cable and give them free service in exchange for getting power to run the amplifiers, so consequently, every time somebody moved out of a house or if somebody sold a house, or if somebody just closed the house up for the winter or when they left on vacation, sometimes we’d have no power and the system goes off and you have to travel 35-40 miles from Burbank in order to just turn the power back on. There were a lot of challenges. The open wire radiated like crazy. We were carrying seven channels on it. They found out that the spacing of the insulators on the open wire created a peridisty effect on the loss and it would actually form a trap at channel 9’s audio. So you put several amplifiers in cascade on open wire, the last people were getting virtually no audio because every insulator was at the space so it just fell right at channel 9’s audio. So we were out busting out insulators with a long pole. We’d bust two and then skip one then bust one, bust two, skip one, bust one and that would bring channel 9’s audio right back up. This is just a few of the things with open wire. I hope I never see any more of it. There’s some still hanging above the Sunset Strip up in the Hollywood Hills. There’s still some of the open wire up there that we installed back in those days, back in the late ’50’s and I did install quite a bit of it. That was part of my job.
BURKE: Well, revisiting some of the issues that crop up over and over, you early on avoided a problem with the FCC and later on you had to deal with them. You started in a system that only had 16 poles and you later had to deal with a lot of poles and a lot of easements and you had systems in California that faced corrosion but you later had systems in Florida and North and South Carolina, so you had some recurring issues.
MILLER: That was all a good experience. I served on the pole line committee with the California Association and I feel like I was probably instrumental in getting the, certainly helped, in getting the California pole line committee to put pressure on the power and telephone companies to get together and allow cable to get on the poles. They went through at one point and I don’t remember the exact date, but I think it was in the late ’60’s that they just said we’re not going to allow you on the poles. GTE came out with Southern California Edison, Edison would lease us space on the poles as long as GTE wasn’t on it, but if they were on the poles, we had to deal with GTE. GTE said we are not going to allow anyone else on the poles, so we were building the Palmdale and the Quartz Hill area and building part of the Sawgus, we ended up setting over 600 of our poles. Of course, they had people from the state public service commission were out looking. People from Southern California Edison were looking and people from GTE, but there are provisions under the GO95, General Order 95, which controls all overhead construction in California, they had provisions for collinear line and if you can’t get on the opposite side of the street from the existing pole, that’s preferable, if you can’t you have to have so much clearance where your cable clears the other pole, passes the other pole. I believe it was 15 inches at that time, 15 or 18 inches from the surface of the other pole. We maintained everything and they couldn’t find anything wrong with what we were doing. We were setting poles like crazy. We had found the source of army surplus poles, which cost me $2 a pole at that time, which is kind of ridiculous. I think it would’ve been $30 otherwise, but we bought hundreds of them, army surplus poles, which were brand new and never been used. They were all stacked up on a yard and I really feel like this is probably what triggered the settlement of the pole issue. They saw they were just not going to stop some of the cable operators. Some of them went underground. Some of them did the same as me, but I think I was the only one to set probably over 50 poles, but we set over 600 poles. To the best of my memory, it was over 600 poles. I think that probably helped the industry, so there’ve been a few things back through the years that I feel like we, at the time I wasn’t thinking of anyone other than our company, but we had cable on the yard, we had strand on the yard, what do you do? Do you just pay for it and let that money lay there or do you put it up in some manner? We put it up.
BURKE: It seems to me you dealt with that issue again in Florida and had some pole issues down in that state as well.
MILLER: We did. While we were in Florida, the problem down there was just the rate they wanted to charge and rearrangements were high. We decided to go underground, so everything we built in Florida was underground other than, I believe there were three places that we had to place our own poles. One was in Everglade City, going across where we couldn’t get underground going across from one area to another and I can’t remember the name, but it was going into another little area we were serving and there was a large canal and they didn’t want us putting anything underground there because it wasn’t too practical. We set a couple of poles and got across. I believe there were two different places in the city of Largo where we placed poles. I know one we bored under a wide four land road down there; we bored under it about three times and we never could get across. We could get almost across but they had filled in with a lot of old iron and so forth and they would not let us tunnel back under the highway and they would not let us abandon the pipe we were putting in. We had to push pipe across with a jack bore and they made us fill it with concrete, so it cost us a fortune. I don’t remember what it was, but we never could get across. Finally we were able to secure and easement from a bank on one side and a private party on another and we put up a couple of poles there but we just said we were not going to pay the exorbitant prices that they wanted to get on their poles. That may or may not have helped out the other operators in the Florida area.
BURKE: And certainly that issue still exists today.
MILLER: Yes, it does. It does in many locations and hopefully at some point in the future we’ll see the city, county, state and co-ops all come under the federal regulation. I don’t know if it will ever happen but it certainly needs to.
BURKE: Another challenge is just keeping up with technology. For example, as you were building, you went from open wire to the poles then there was a lot of underground wire and then there was the migration from coax to fiber. How did you deal with all those transitions?
MILLER: Well, our first fiber was in the Burnsville, North Carolina system, well, in Yancy County, I should say Yancy County, North Carolina. We were a little slow at getting into fiber because of the cost of the equipment. I knew it had to come down. We now have, I know there’s over a hundred miles of fiber in a four hundred mile system in western North Carolina. We have fiber from one end to the other of the Grand Strand area in South Carolina. I feel that fiber is probably one of the greatest things to come down the pike. It certainly changed the face of cable; it’s changed the ability that you have. It’s changed the amount of maintenance you have to perform and I really feel that probably digital is going to have as much if not more of a profound effect on cable.
BURKE: Are you preparing now for digital launches?
MILLER: We have just, in the past two weeks, got our system up and operating, our digital system in South Carolina. We’re running tests on it right now. We had delivery of our equipment for the North Carolina operation the day before I came to this meeting and we expect to be on there within the next two weeks.
BURKE: You as a small operator would know this, how feasible is it for small operators to keep up with the new digital technology like HITS?
MILLER: It’s hard. It’s hard for a lot of operators. I sold several systems through the years and I’ve been very fortunate in the investments, otherwise we could not have built the system that we built in either South Carolina or North Carolina. We’ve probably got more money per subscriber than most systems, I know we have, but I take pride in giving the people the best that we feel like is available. We are reducing our cascade of amplifiers down to five trunk amps at any location. That’s what we ultimately will be at, hopefully by the end of this year, everywhere. We’re turning around amps, putting in new nodes all the time. I just feel that if you don’t do it, somebody else is going to and if you don’t give the people good service you can’t blame them for going to the satellite, to the dish and if you give them good service you shouldn’t have a problem with it. We charge a fair price for our service. We’ve had less than twenty-five dishes out of the system in western North Carolina, less than twenty-five we’re aware of, most of which were put in to get the NFL games and most of which the customer still stays on the cable. I doubt very seriously if we’ve got twenty-five people that have left us for a dish and have left our service and we do not have a basic service, a mini-basic service, our basic service up there is fifty-five channels. So I don’t believe in tiers; I believe in giving the people a fat basic. I don’t know, I may change my view on that down the road but right now I feel like you should do the best you can and not worry about the next man. If you take care of the people and give good service, and I’ve watched this with companies we’ve sold and other companies near us, how can they complain when they lose a customer when it takes ten minutes to get through to them on the phone and then you wait another ten minutes and then they transfer you to somebody else? I absolutely detest the voice mail systems that some companies have got where they route you from one to the other to the other. I will not have a voice mail system in any company that I have. I don’t want a voice mail system even where you can transfer and leave a message for them. I will have a voice there. I will pay somebody to take that message. Now, if you do that I think the people will pay for that person’s salary, to hear a warm body answer the phone. Nothing’s more frustrating – call GTE right now, for instance, and I don’t mean to be calling names, but this is the honest to goodness truth, you call from Burnsville, North Carolina, we lose a T-1 line up to our head end, we have the Internet on, we lose a T-1 line, they could not care less. That’s the attitude we get. You call, the call goes to either Charlotte, North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Tennessee, it goes anyplace except to the local people. The local people might find out about that call three, four, five, six hours later. In the meantime we’ve got people out of the Internet service. Now this happened once to us where an underground cable was cut. This is ridiculous. There is positively no excuse for giving service like that. Someone, if they’re going to take your money, the kind of money they get, someone should be available to do repairs. We give repair, we go out – a lot of companies and ours included, years ago, did not go out for one customer. We go out for a single customer’s call. If we get calls, we respond to them. A lot of people, unless they have three or four calls in the same area, they leave it until the next day. Our people at least call the people back and try to walk them through. If we have a problem in the system that’s obvious, we roll on it right then. We might not make the same return that some of the other companies make, but we’ve got satisfied customers and we keep our customers. In the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina market right now, for instance, there’s areas where the people down there have their choice of three cable companies, our company, Time Warner’s and Ory Telephone Cooperative. We’re not out to overwire them in the entire area, but if we have to pass through their area to get to another development, what we do down there, there’s a lot of new development going one. If Time Warner gets a contract with a development or the developers or the homeowner’s association fine, if we get it fine, and if Ory Co-op gets it fine. So far, none of us has been cutting each other’s throat trying to go out there and make the other one look bad. So far we have never had anyone leave our service to go to either one of the others. We have had others leave the other company, at least one of them, a number of people have left one of them to come to our company. We don’t go out and solicit their customers, we try not to get involved in that kind of a thing, but I don’t turn down servicing an account.
BURKE: I think that ties into a question on how do you feel the future is for small cable operators?
MILLER: Well, personally, I feel it’s coming to a close for a lot of the small cable operators. The ones that don’t have the money or don’t have the foresight to go ahead and upgrade their systems are hurting very badly right now. I know of a couple that have lost a lot of their customers. If you have a system that you built twenty years ago or fifteen years ago, and you haven’t put any money back into that system to upgrade it, let’s say it’s a system that has twenty-one channels on it. If you can only give the customer twenty-one channels, you’re leaving out half of the good programming that’s on cable TV. If you’ve only got twenty-one you can offer him, how can you blame that man for going to a satellite dish? You can’t. I feel like we need to be upgrading the quickest minute we can every small system and I will personally help anybody I can. I’ve had a number of people call me, I’ve never charged them a dime and if I’ve got any equipment that I’ve taken out someplace, I’ve given equipment to different people, don’t mind one bit in the world if they can get some use out of it and it’s something I can’t use. Maybe that would help their customers, it will help preserve their business. I think one of the things we can do at the Co-op and one of the things we were talking about here that I think is good is to have the listing of this used equipment that’s available and get it on the net. Maybe that would help them to add some channels at a minimum of cost. I just feel that the small operator – he’s got a tough enough road to hoe, so to speak, without all the government regulations. We went through a phase here a few years ago where they came in and had no idea what they were doing to the small operator. They regulate all the rates, the small operators in many cases had not had a rate increase in awhile and then they just freeze it, which is absolutely one of the worst things they could ever do to a small operator who was trying to keep his rates in line but they did it. The people in Washington, they have no conception of what the small operator’s going through. They have rules up there, they pass them, the FCC has the rules, you have to do this, you have to do that. They have no idea what it costs to do some of these things. Even just test equipment to make some of the tests, a lot of the cable operators don’t have that. A lot of the small operators can’t afford it. Just like CNBC and MSNBC on the contract they’re presenting to us right now. They’re telling us that we should, in order to get the Olympics, we should furnish the two digi-ciphers and they talk like everybody has a couple of spare digi-ciphers sitting around. Well, small operators don’t have a couple of spare digi-ciphers sitting around. I mean, you’re talking about a couple of thousand dollars. It’s just not there for a small operator that has three or four hundred accounts. I don’t know, I think the future, to me, looks pretty bleak unless you can tie into several small operations, tie together with fiber. That’s one solution, that’s one thing that would help. If you could microwave between some systems and have one nice head end with a larger channel capacity, put in the digital service. This digital to home, it looks very promising to me. That might be the salvation of the small operator. But the small systems can only do so much. If you have three hundred homes, four hundred or even five hundred homes, you’re limited in the amount of money you can put out there to put this new technology on. You can’t justify the Internet. Internet you have to have, I think the smallest I’ve seen is about 2,500 customers. If you can go in with another small operator near you and put the Internet service on, I think that’s great. We have the Internet on both of our systems, North and South Carolina right now and I don’t know. I think anybody that doesn’t have the Internet on, that’s going go hurt them in the future a lot more than it will right now, within the next two years they’re going to be hurting. I think that’s where a lot of your future is is in the Internet.
BREAK IN VIDEO
BURKE: Ray, where we left off we were talking about the Internet and I understand that you are already in the Internet business. Why don’t you tell us about that.
MILLER: Well, we elected to go with HSA. We felt like the Internet was the way to go. I talked with the HSA people shortly after they got started and I guess it was a cable tech expo in Denver last year. We just decided to go with HSA, they did everything they said they would do. It’s worked out very good. We’ve had no complaints with them whatsoever. They had a little problem, I guess, with UUNet was carrying some of their signal at first, but that was cleared up very promptly and I think they’re doing a wonderful job.
BURKE: As a cable provider providing Internet, how does that enhance your business? It is a good fit for you?
MILLER: Well, we think it is. We think that in the future a lot of the cable revenue will be coming from both the regular Internet as well as, I think the IP telephony is going to be a big thing. I think that’s one of the big things that’s driving the increase in prices in cable systems. I think that’s what probably got AT&T with TCI. I think that’s what led to that taking place, and then buying TCI. They certainly can’t – a price is being paid out there – they can’t justify it just on cable. It’s on data, it’s on the internet telephony, the regular internet, and I think it’s just a very short period of time before we’ll see the internet full motion video over the internet. I think it’s coming just as sure as we’re sitting here; I know there’s a number of people working on it. I think this multi-casting, rather than uni-casting, is going to allow a lot more usage of the net. If everybody in the country got on the net at the same time it would overload the system. I think things would come kind of to a standstill, it would be overloaded all over, but with the new multi-casting technology I think you’re going to see more and more revenue coming from the internet, I think in various ways.
BURKE:: And so you would recommend that’s a good business for cable operators to get into?
MILLER:: Oh, I think they’re making a horrible mistake if they don’t get into the internet. I think it’s going to be a mistake that may cost them their – well, it could cost them their business, and the reason I say this, first of all the dish network, they’ve got the web TV built into their units and they are delivering those right now as we speak. I think the first ones were delivered two weeks ago. I have a web TV unit in my office. I don’t have to go in the other room to get on the net, I can punch it up on the web TV set that I monitor our system on. I’ve got one at home, my granddaughter uses one, I think it’s a great little unit. My understand is they’re supposed to be coming out with one that will support a cable modem. I think it’s Web Surfer that I saw at the consumer electronics show in Vegas – they had the Web Surfer several months ago – and it supports a cable modem. I’m trying to think – it seems like there’s another one, but it’s just a matter of a very short period of time before you’re going to be able to use your TV and your monitor for your computer system, I think are going to be pretty much interchangeable. It’s going to be one and the same. You can throw a card in right now in order to get TV on your computer. You can throw a card in in order to get the video out of your computer over to your TV, your projection TV. Then once full motion video is here – and I don’t know, that might be two years, it might be 6 months, it might be ten years – but one it gets here you’re going to be able to watch that and if you’re able to watch the full motion video with the full NTSC standards and so forth, you’re going to be able to watch that on every TV in your house and you’re going to be able to watch it through your entertainment center where you have your projection TV and so forth. You know, this is just one of the changes I see and I think it’s coming just as sure as we’re sitting here. I think a lot of the revenue we’ll get off of a cable system we’ll get in the future will not come from higher prices of the basic cable service, I think it will come from a peripheral services. The internet is going to punch in some, the digital is going to put some in, there’s any number of things. You know, you may get a piece of the action off of the home shopping right now – you may get that off of the internet, they may be paying some kind of a commission to the cable operator in order to pass through. You have to pass through the modem in order to get there and I can’t see any way that you’re going to get the full motion video over the limited bandwidth of a telephone connection, but the cable pipe is so large I don’t think there’s any question but that you’re going to have this type of service and it’s not going to be too long.
BURKE: Could you kind of explain the current state of modems where you have one-way and two-way cable modems and where the telephone bandwidth is sometimes still used?
MILLER: Well, our system in South Carolina, right now, we are one-way, which means the information – if somebody dials in to get the information it goes over a telephone line from their house to the server, okay? And then it’s routed through to whatever the address is they’re trying to contact and then it comes back over cable. Well, that’s a lot faster than a telephone line and due to the bandwidth of cable it takes very little time to request the information, but if you’re downloading a lot of information it might take minutes or even hours over a telephone line because it’s much slower and the cable modem itself will bring the information to you a lot quicker. We only have one node that’s up right now in two-way. We are putting two-way in, especially where we have commercial accounts, first we’re putting it in to where we have the highest number of users and getting the most money, which is consequently the commercial accounts. We will be fully two-way, hopefully, before the end of this year. In our South Carolina operation it will be a little longer, probably to the end of next year, than our North Carolina operation. We’ve got to go back, and well, obviously put in the return modules on the amplifiers and so forth. Well, there’s always the possibility that you’ve got some ingress into your plant. If you do you’ve got to repair that. Luckily we haven’t had that problem. We run a tight system and so far we haven’t had the problem with ingress that a lot of people are finding once they try to go two-way.
BURKE: In addition to all the new technology that’s out there, including the modems and the internet, there is now a real proliferation of cable programmers, and now even the National Cable Television Co-op has signed over 95 contracts with different programmers. How are customers and operators going to deal with this amount of information?
MILLER: Well, there’s no question you have to have an extremely good electronic program guide. I heard somebody here at the meetings say – I believe it was Mike, I’m not sure if it was Mike Pandzik or not, but I believe he was the one – that the day of the printed TV guide is gone, and it is, because when you 100 programs out there there’s no way you can look up what you want to see and know what’s on all those 100 programs. Star Sight was a good start on it; I think it’s a good unit, I’ve got one and I think it’s a pretty good unit. TV Guide, I think they’re doing a good job. I don’t know why they’re so hard to deal with, but they’re uncooperative. In any event, as of today, we have not got a contract with them and they have been very difficult to deal with. Somebody’s going to come along and in fact, I saw one other here at the show that looks very promising. But you have to have a good program guide. You have to go by categories. If a person wants to see sports then you have to be able to click up on the sports icon on the screen and it comes down and tells you what’s playing in the way of sports. There’s so many different sports channels now that’s the only way you can do it. Same thing with movies: if you want to see a movie you don’t want to scan through a dozen religious channels or a dozen home shopping channels in order to get to the movie you want to see. So, you have to have something that will do it and be able to get you localized to what you’re looking for. I think you will probably see it down to the movies will be broken down to action, comedies and so forth. I can see probably – I don’t know whether there’s a practicality to 500 channels or not, but I can see 500 channels being out there within the next 3-5 years because there are going to be so many, what I would say, well, I don’t know if you want to call it a “boutique” channel or not, but in any event, special interest channels. I know with the Outdoor Channel, and I think it would be very easy to go into several specialized channels from there, just like Discovery has done. You know I’m involved in the Outdoor Channel and I think it’s a wonderful thing. Who would have thought ten years ago there would ever be a need for an Outdoor Channel, something like this. Well, now we’ve got two – there’s of course the Outdoor Life. They’re aiming at a different crowd then we are; I don’t see it personally as a conflict between the two. There’s very little duplicative programming on it. We aim at the traditional sports; they’re aiming at more of the bicycling, rock climbing, and jogging – you know there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s a place for that, but a lot of people see the two of us as competitors where I don’t. We’re with the hunting, fishing, the true outdoor things – four-wheeling, camping, things like that, we concentrate more on that. I don’t think they would have a place in theirs for model airplanes. We have model airplanes on ours. We have – well, I know there’s an experimental aircraft programming on the Outdoor Channel. I don’t know how much. Recreational gold mining, panning and prospecting, it’s a good outdoor activity. I don’t know, I just feel like there’s a number… you could have a channel just strictly for the people that are gold prospecting, the people that are mining, showing a map of all the places that are open where you can go on the weekend. You pull it up and that can be on a web site, but with the web as we know it right now it can’t give you a full motion video and show you the exact… all the features that are in a site. I think that’s going to be changing. It will either change through a full motion video, it will change through the digitizing and being able to offer a number of channels on the same six megahertz bandwidth and on the same transponder of the birds. It’s coming as sure as we’re here. The Collector’s Channel tried to get off the ground here a few years ago. The Collector’s Channel is an ideal channel. There’s a world of collectors in the country; I’m one of them. I’ve been a collector of playing cards for about 44-45 years now. Playing cards seem a little strange, when I first started I thought I was probably kind of crazy and I was the only one collecting them. I found out later there’s playing card collectors clubs and societies all over the world. I have something like 20,000 decks. So there’s a number of us nuts out there, nuts in the fact that we think we’re the only one collecting, but there are a number of people that would support a collector’s channel. My goodness, you could almost have a beanie baby channel right now. I don’t know, there’s just a lot of needs that I think will be identified. Right now there’s no sewing channel – there’s sewing on a few channels but there’s nothing that really concentrates on it. Quilting is big all over the world right now, it’s all over the country. I think there’s a place for things like that. It’s a limited audience, but there is an audience. It’ll cut into the share of the others, but there is a place for it.
BURKE: If you were to give some advice to the next generation coming up, I mean TV is part of our culture, technological skills are coming along, you’re pretty much self-taught, but how are people going to be dealing with this much change?
MILLER: Liz, I’ll tell you, if a person got out of the business right now for a year, I don’t know if you’d ever catch back up. It’s hard, especially for the older people. It’s harder for me. I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up with the changes. I don’t know, I feel like you have to look not at just what’s out here today, you have to look at what might be. Don’t ever say “they can’t do that, it won’t happen” because you’re going to be wrong more than you’re right. There’s things that happen every day that three years ago, or five years ago, people said were impossible but it’s happening. I feel like you have to look toward the future and think of anything you can think of, think about it and don’t think, “Well, it’s never going to happen,” think “What if it happens. How is it going to affect me if it does happen.” So, I guess, I knew a fellow in California years and years ago, he said, “You’ve got to have a broad focus. You can’t have a narrow focus. If you just focus on your narrow little world that you live in you’re never going to know about all these people that are going to try and change it for you.” Now I believe it might have been Walter Kaitz that said that, but you have to be aware of everything that’s going on out there. If you don’t and all you do is sit here operating your business, you may be operating the best business in the world, but if the FCC changes the rules next week you may be out of business the following week. Don’t get carried away with the fact that you’ve got to make so much money. Try to give good service; if you give good service the money will come along, people will support you if you do a good job. I don’t know, some of the best advice I guess I had, many years ago, was if you can make a dollar make a dollar, but if you can’t make a dollar make a dime. Ten dimes you’ve got that dollar. That’s right, so don’t try to price yourself so high that you can’t make anything, just work a little harder and it might take you ten times as long to make the dollar but at least you’re not broke. At least you’ve got something. Keep your eye out to the – you know, you’ve got to keep your eye on the government, keep your eye on your competition. You can’t live in a tunnel. If you’ve got tunnel vision you’re going to fail.
BURKE: Sounds like good advice to me.
MILLER: That’s about all I have to say.
BURKE: All right. Well, Ray, I’d just like to go back and talk about some of the special friendships and relationships and the other organizations that you’ve been involved in as well as your companies, and you don’t have to go into too much depth.
MILLER: Well, I’ve always supported Chamber of Commerce. I served as vice-president of a Chamber of Commerce in Canyon Country, California. As a matter of fact, “canyon country” is my name for that area out there. You’ll see it on the map that I actually named the area. It’s kind of a fluke; we had one night to come up with a name for the area and several of us came up with different names, they picked mine. They were putting in a new post office and they were going to call it Sawgus Station Number 2 and we didn’t want to be known as Sawgus Station Number 2 and the Chamber of Commerce came up with – it was the Canyon Chamber of Commerce – and they came up with names for the area, and this was one special meeting and we had to have it to them the next morning, and they picked my name, so Canyon Country, California was my name. Getting back to the other organizations, gosh, I was in the California Association for a number of years as I stated; I was in the North Carolina Cable Association, I served as the vice-president in that one. Oh goodness, I’ve been in an awful lot of them. I was trying to think of some of the others. I’m on the board of the Yancy Community Medical Center, that’s a community medical center in western North Carolina. You kind of caught me off guard – I can’t think.
BURKE: Do you have any future goals you’d like to talk about, for yourself or for the industry?
MILLER: Well, I guess I’d like to have a little more time off. It’s been hectic the last 7 to 10 years. I thought I’d retire at 60 and I didn’t; I thought I’d retire at 65, I didn’t, and here I am at 66 and I’m busier than I’ve ever been. So, I don’t know, maybe at some point I’ll slow down a little. I’ve got a few other organizations. One is Tighar – that’s T-I-G-H-A-R – that’s the international group for historic aircraft recovery. Right now, as we talk, they’re in Nikumaroro in the Pacific Ocean looking for Amelia Earhart’s airplane, something that we can tie a serial number to. We know she went down, I’m as convinced that she went down on Nikumaroro, which is the old Gardner Island during World War II, it was called Gardner, they changed the name back to Nikumaroro. They feel very confident that her bones were discovered in 1939, bones of Noonan, her navigator, were there. We’ve got people right now in Fiji looking through all the old file boxes and boxes – they were sent there – and we hope to prove with DNA from the bones that were found that either Fred Noonan or Amelia Earhart ended up there. If we can’t prove it with DNA then we feel that the only other way to prove it is to find a piece of the aircraft, the engines or wreckage that has a serial number on it. I’m convinced, based on the shoes that we found several years ago, I’m convinced there is no question but what she landed on that island, the plane was not damaged beyond use, the engine was ran, there are logs, Pan Am logs, and some of the Freedom of Information has proved that the Navy has logs on it, that there were transmissions for three days after she disappeared. I’m involved in that. I’d like to be down there now. They told me I was too old.
BURKE: You have been there, though.
MILLER: I have not been to Nikumaroro, but I have been all around that area. I have spent a lot of time in the South Pacific, I love it, and I would love to be down there now. This is about 800 miles from the nearest medical facility and that’s why they would like to have younger people. It’s near the equator, it’s extremely hot and very humid, but I would love to be there when the proof is found.
BURKE: Well, that sounds very exciting.
MILLER: I’ve got a few others like that. 52-plus Jokers is a playing card club that I’m active in. I’m in the European Playing Card Society, I’m in the Chicago Playing Card Club, and a lot of things like that, that I guess it’s kind of a little eccentricity that I have, but I enjoy playing cards and anything related to it and I’m not much of a gambler. I haven’t played a game of cards in probably ten years, but I do enjoy the variations of the different playing cards. It’s something you can do, and a lot of people don’t realize there are several decks of playing cards that have been made out of aluminum back when aluminum first came out. I guess they’ve been made out of just about everything. I’ve got probably 100-150 decks of cards made out of celluloid, and these were made for a very short period of time between the early paper and then the plastic coating and so forth. But it’s interesting, just something else to do. It don’t take up quite as much room as guns; I used to collect guns. I collect a lot of things. I’ve got a lot of old cable TV equipment, some of which I’ve given to the museum, more of which they will get shortly and all of which they’ll probably end up with. I’ve got a lot of telephone, I’ve got old PBX equipment, I’ve got old pay phones, old electronic equipment, old quack medical instruments, electrical medical instruments, and things like that – anything like that that’s related. I’ve got a calculator collection. I don’t know why…
BURKE: You’re a collector.
MILLER: I see something that’s interesting at a flea market or an antique shop I pick it up and I’ve got a lot of that stuff.
BURKE: Well, and we haven’t mentioned that you’re a pilot, you’ve been a deputy sheriff, you’ve had telephone companies, you’ve had campgrounds, you’ve built airports, you’ve led a very interesting, exciting and challenging life, and there are a lot of opportunities.
MILLER: I’ve been lucky enough to do most of what I wanted to do all my life. I’ve enjoyed the cable business, it’s been – well, they say if you enjoy your work it’s not work, and I guess I enjoy my work because most of the cable business has been a pleasure. Working with Washington is not always a pleasure.
BURKE: This is a great opportunity to say it really is a pleasure to do this interview with you and I look forward to getting more information from your archives.
MILLER: Well, thank you very much.
BURKE: Thank you again.