Interview Date: Thursday November 09, 2000
Interview Location: Greenwich, CT
Interviewer: Rex Porter
Collection: Hauser Collection
PORTER: I’m Rex Porter. I’m from The National Cable Center and Museum, the Barco Library. I’m here at the Greenwich home of Mr. Hub Schlafly. Hub, you have quite a background in broadcast and cable television, both as an owner and an engineer and an inventor, and I’d for you to just start by giving us a little background, early life, even before television and cable television became known in the industry.
SCHLAFLY: Well, Rex, it’s an honor and a pleasure for you to come here to do this taping. I’m certainly honored to be number among those great historic figures that have been in the cable business. But I wasn’t always in the cable business. You asked me to give a little background on where I started. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but lived in a little town called Carlyle about 50 miles east of St. Louis until I got into grade school. My father was in the oil business and we moved around a great deal. In the early ’30s during the Depression we particularly moved around a great deal because he had a hard time making a living. But we finally ended up in St. Louis again, and he benefited from the oil boom in southern Illinois when oil came back in that area. So I graduated from St. Louis University high school in 1937 and went to Notre Dame University. I remember my father saying, “Now what are you going to study in school?” And I said, “Well, I think I’d like to be an electrical engineer because I don’t like chemical engineer – it smells too bad.” And he said, “What will you do as an electrical engineer?” I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
PORTER: Was he a chemical engineer?
SCHLAFLY: No, he was an oil wildcatter, and I would go out with him as a little lad to see some of those early oil wells come in in the country. I graduated from Notre Dame in 1941, and was recruited by General Electric Company into their test course in Schenectady, New York. I was there for a time and in fact met my wife there. She was a nurse at Ellis Hospital, had graduated in a psychiatric hospital in northern New York. That may explain, Rex, why she’s been able to live with me so long, 55 years now, I think it is. She affiliated here in New York City, in Belleview, which gave her a great deal of prestige. In 1943, General Electric Company sent me over to Boston to the Radiation Laboratory at MIT. A group of engineers, young engineers, like myself, were working on the Mark 35 radar, a companion piece to the Mark 56 gunfire control system, which was in Division 8 under – I’ll think of his name in a minute. It was Dr. Ivan Getting, who later became chairman of the board of Raytheon where a fellow named Sid Topol was also working at that time. This gunfire control system was supposed to be a counter measure for the Kamikaze. We were there not to design it but to convert the design into production drawings so they could get it out of the factory faster. Well, they did get out of the factory faster but fortunately the war had ended by that time. Lee and I married in 1944, out at Notre Dame, in the Bernini Chapel, and later moved from Schenectady to Syracuse when Electronics Park was being built. But in Boston I had met a gentleman named Earl Sponable, who was director of Research and Development for 20th Century Fox. My crew did a little job for him on an experimental television station that Fox had bought in Boston. So, two years after we got to Syracuse, I got a call one morning from Mr. Sponable and he said, “I’d like to have your wife and you come up to Lake Placid to have lunch with me.” Well, we did and he offered me a job in New York City as director of television research for 20th Century Fox at twice my salary at GE, so who could refuse that? I went down and worked for Fox in the Movietone News building. One of the first things that happened when we got there – now this was in the late ’40s, about 1947 we moved to New York – one of the first things that happened was, with Mr. Sponable’s blessing, to apply for five television broadcast stations. Now none of the broadcast stations were making any money at that time, Rex, so we were able to apply for five stations: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and I think the fifth one was Kansas City. In fact we went through a hearing in San Francisco. But we’d done all the corporate work, all of the technical work on every one of these, but only spent about a million dollars or so, when one day, the board of directors of Fox got together for a meeting and I was sitting in the back row, like a dummy, I guess. Some guy on the board – and they all lived in New York in apartments – got up and said, “We don’t think television is going anywhere. Who in the world would sit in a hot apartment looking at a small screen, black and white, the performers have no talent, when they can go to the Roxy Theater and see a movie on the big screen, in color, with air conditioning and a soft seat? Why would they stay in their apartment to do that?” And they canceled every one of those five applications. Well, of course Fox got into television many years later, but they spent a few billion dollars on it rather than a few million. That may have been one of the reasons why I decided to leave Fox, when a young actor came in one day – his name was Fred Barton – and he was working in Mr. Roberts – remember Henry Fonda as Mr. Roberts on Broadway? Fred had a bit part, but he had work. He went to see Irving Kahn. Irving was vice-president of radio and television promotion for Fox. In fact, he was the one who introduced Kate Smith into radio. The motion picture people weren’t too happy about their people entering the broadcast field. Irving listened to Fred; Fred said, “On Broadway we memorize our lines, and if we’re lucky we give the same lines every night for the next year. But in television it’s going to be a different script every day, if you’re fortunate enough to be on every day and the actors are going to have a hard time remembering their lines, so I think there ought to be a prompting device, but a particular prompting device, one that has multiple units that are synchronized.” So I’m happy to say that Fred is really the conceptual inventor of TelePrompTer, although I’m credited with it because I actually designed it and got the patent on it. Irving and I went to our respective bosses, Spyros Skouras for him, and Earl Sponable for myself, and said we think this is a pretty good idea, we ought to work on it. And they said, “No, we’re in the motion picture business, we’re not going into some little start up business like that.” But we asked if we could proceed with it and they said yes, so we did and designed the first prompter. And Irving Kahn with his – incidentally he was the nephew of Irving Berlin, so he had a lot of motion picture and theater contacts – Irving got us into the first soap opera called The First Hundred Years on CBS and they used the prompter. Well, fortunately it was on-air at noon so Irving and I could go over to the studio and be sure that everything was working right. That started us in business and shortly after that, Irving, Fred, and I left pretty good paying jobs to roll the dice, you know, and start up a new company. Well, it took off pretty well and we got a lot of prominent television performers – Steve Allen, for example on the Tonight Show, and Ed Sullivan and some of the others, Arthur Godfrey, for example – and we got some publicity. One day, we got a phone call and a lady on the phone said, “The chief would like to have you come to the Waldorf tower and show him that gadget.” Well, the chief was Herbert Hoover, and Herbert Hoover was going to deliver the keynote speech in 1952 in Chicago at the Republican convention. He looked at it, and maybe because he was an engineer he was fascinated by it and he said, “I’ll use it for my speech.” So we went out to Chicago for the Hoover speech and the Betty Furness Westinghouse commercials. Irving instructed Hoover how to use the prompter and he told him that the line that he was reading would be on the arrow. Of course, the text was printed on paper. It was electro-mechanical, not electronic like it is today. He said that if you stop to adlib, the operator, who is off-stage, will stop and you can adlib and then pick up your text where you left off. Well, apparently Hoover forgot that and he did adlib and the prompter stopped and he panicked. He said, “Go ahead, TelePrompTer, go ahead.” Well, there were probably 500 members of the press there and they said, “What did he say? What’s that?” We must have gotten 10,000 newspaper clippings from around the world about Hoover using the prompter and that got us into the public speaking business. Then shortly after that, with the public speaking business growing, we developed what was called a Speech View, the two pieces of glass that sit on either side of a public speaker, the President for example, and the audience looks through the glass – it’s in effect a one-way mirror – and the prompter in the base reflects off the front side and can be seen by the speaker.
PORTER: Now you were in New York at this time? You had your own offices in New York as TelePrompTer, Corp.?
SCHLAFLY: We were in New York. During my whole career with TelePrompTer the headquarters were in New York, yes. So we had these two pieces of glass, which a lot of people think are bullet proof glass for protection, actually they’re prompters and you can look over here and talk a little bit, and you can look over there and talk a little bit and not lose a beat. That spawned the next item, which we called the Telens, but is now called Lens Line Prompting System, where we put that piece of glass right in front of the camera lens so you could look directly into the camera and read your text and address the television audience that way, and that indeed is the device that’s so prominently used worldwide now, and for which we received the second Emmy that I’ll speak of later. So, we were in business. We developed a pay television system called Key TV. Very primitive, Rex. It used the cable system to get information back from a subscriber and put it on punch paper tape, not a computer, not a computer thing. We wanted to test it but Irving didn’t want to test it in New York City where we’d have a lot of second guessers with people looking over our shoulder, so he was approached by a cable TV broker in Denver…
PORTER: Bill Daniels?
SCHLAFLY: Bill Daniels, yes. Bill knew of a system in Silver City, New Mexico that was up for sale. It was up for sale because Silver City is a mining town, copper mining town, and the owner knew that there was going to be a strike and if there was a strike they wouldn’t have the money to pay for their cable subscription, but we bought it to test Key TV, primarily. But the strike happened and everybody was sitting at home and didn’t have anything to do so the subscriber rate went up instead of down. That got us into the cable business. Monty Rifkin, who is now a prominent cable entrepreneur, was our financial officer at TelePrompTer, was sent out when we were contemplating buying the system. I remember he called back to Irving and Monty said, “Irv, we ought to get out of the prompting business because the cash flow in this cable business is phenomenal and we ought to get full bore into cable.” And Irving believed him and we did and became, I guess, by the end of the ’70s the largest MSO – multiple system operator – in the country. That included Irving’s negotiation with Jack Kent Cooke on the west coast. TelePrompTer bought the American H&B systems and Jack Kent Cooke became a member of the board of directors and brought along with him Bill Bresnan, who also has done pretty well in the cable business, and Tom Ritter, his chief engineer. Tom reported to me. We continued with some of my R & D projects. Among those was a thing called satellite transmission. At Fox, in the earlier days when Spyros Skouras wanted to connect theaters for television. In fact at that time I was sent over to Zurich to work with the Swiss Technical Institute of Zurich to develop a thing called the Eidophor, GE and others have developed this wonderful large screen projector for use in auditoriums and for visual amplification for speakers. You can hardly go to a convention now but what 1 or 2 screens are up there with the television being projected on the large screens so that even if you’re sitting at the back of the hall you can see all of the facial expressions of the speaker.
PORTER: About what year did you go over to Zurich to study this?
SCHLAFLY: In 1949 and ’50. There was a professor named Fisher, and he had a brilliant young graduate student with him called Tieman, Hugo Tieman, I think it was. I was sent over to work with them to develop this into something that would be small enough to fit into a projection booth ultimately in color although the first ones were black and white. Well, when I got there the device worked well but it took two floors of equipment to do it, and we worked hard to cut it down into something that could go into a projection booth. But Skouras wanted to interconnect theaters by microwave for television projection. Because the microwave spectrum was rather limited at that time, I started working on a thing called cross-polarization and actually got an experimental license from the commission to do that and it worked very well and successfully. Well, that was fortunate because when HBO began to get interested in transmitting their programming by satellite rather than by terrestrial microwave. This was a program that Jerry Levin was most interested in. He called me over – by that time I had left TelePrompTer, and I’ll come back to that shortly – he called me over to assure him that RCA was able to use cross-polarization to double the number of channels from 12 to 24, and so I held his hand a little bit on that and of course it worked very well. But that gave him the courage, perhaps, among other things, to get into the satellite transmission business which really boomed HBO into a national and even international system. But getting back to satellites, in the late ’70s, TelePrompTer had joined forces with Hughes Aircraft Company, primarily because my group at TelePrompTer was developing a microwave system for multi-directional, multi-channel transmission so that we could go over rivers or mountains or down city streets without laying cable. We developed a single side band suppressed carrier system similar to what’s used in the cable so that it was bandwidth conservative. We could carry multiple channels on the same transmitter. Well, Hughes became interested in that and actually did the final engineering on it, and that turned into the AML microwave that’s used really all over the world now. I was convinced and Irving was convinced and Fred Ford (former chairman of the FCC) was convinced that satellite would be the savior of the “mom and dad” type of cable system industry that we were in in the ’60s. When we associated with Hughes I got to know some of the satellite engineers out there – Hal Rosen, for example, who is known as the father of geostationary satellites. I had lunch with Hal, Dr. Rosen, one day and he was telling me about the government geostationary satellites that they had built. I said, “How many channels do you have?” And he said, “Three.” I said, “Why three? Why can’t you have more than that?” And he said, “Well, you know, those government regulations and they put in all sorts of requirements and you just don’t have space in the satellite to put in more than three channels.” I said, “Well, if you didn’t have those limitations, how many channels could you get?” He thought a while and just there at the lunch he said, “Well, I think we could get eight.” I said, “Well, that’s an improvement.” A few days later he called me and he said, “We’ve been working on this and we can get twelve.” Well, that caused Hughes to get the contract from the Canadian government to build and fly ANEC 1. Canada had a particular problem because there was no way in the world they could wire or use terrestrial microwave to get their broadcasting out to the Artic Circle, for example. So they flew ANEC 1 in November of 1972, and I said, “This is it. Now we can go ahead and get the cable industry interested in satellite distribution.” So I put out an RFQ – a request for quotation – to the biggies: Raytheon and GE and Varian and Hughes and several others, and told them I wanted to build a receiver, preferably one that was transportable, to bring down programming from the Canadian bird. Well, we got back answers. Most of the answers were “Go away kid, you’re bothering us. We do work for the government and we do work for AT&T and we don’t want to get into something as risky as commercial use.” Besides, the FCC and the government had not developed the open sky policy by that time. Later they did, and I’m happy to say that I did have a little bit to do with persuading them on that. But when I got turned down by all the biggies, I didn’t know where to go. One day Howard Crispin and Jay Levergood had been instructed by Sid Topol to come see me. They asked why they hadn’t gotten a request to make a proposal on this portable satellite station. I said, “Who are you?” Crispin said, “We’re from Scientific Atlanta.” I said, “Scientific who?” I’d never heard of them. But we got to know them well and with Sid’s support and real enthusiasm they undertook the job. We signed the contract in January. I said, “We’ve got to have it by the first of July so that I can demonstrate it at the Anaheim cable convention for NCTA.” So they undertook the job. Now, Sid Topol says that they only charged us $100,000 for it (that was all I had in my budget) and that he put in another $100,000. I said, “That’s the best investment you ever made Sid.” But they did, they built it even though the amplifiers, the low temperature amplifiers were not very good in those days, and they did it in time to get it out to California. Fairchild had a transmitter in Arlington, I think it was, near Washington, and we put on a show with the public television station there with Carl…
PORTER: Carl…? I remember that; I was at that show.
SCHLAFLY: And Governor Schaffer, former Governor Schaffer. Carl…? It’s hell to get old, Rex!
PORTER: I can’t remember the last name either, but I was at that show and saw the program.
SCHLAFLY: Oh, I remember it. It was Carl Albert, Speaker of the House. So we put it up on the Canadian satellite and that took a little doing to convince them that we should be able to use their transponder, and down to Anaheim. HBO got into the act there because they had a heavyweight fight going on and they said that after the show at the convention they’d like to use it to put this fight into some of the cable systems around Los Angeles, and they did. The trouble was that the fight only lasted about 30 seconds and not very many people saw it. But that was the first time that satellite transmission had been used for cable TV programming. Then we took the transportable system around to about 28 other towns because I wanted to make tests on interference problems with the AT&T terrestrial microwave. The tests were all quite successful. I wrote a rather detailed report for the FCC indicating the results of our tests. Well, PBS became very interested in it and they asked to rent our receiver and make tests of their own, and that’s what really convinced them into going into satellite transmission for the broadcast stations that they had.
PORTER: Now these dishes, the dish that you used originally, was a pretty humongous sized dish, right?
SCHLAFLY: They were 8 meter dishes, big ones. HBO and Bobby Rosencrans in Vero Beach and Monty Rifkin, who had a cable system in Jackson, Mississippi, combined efforts to bring the “Thrilla from Manila” into those two cable systems, and this was in 1975, two years after we did the first transmission trying to persuade cable people that this was possible, economic, and was going to greatly broaden the opportunity for the cable system. In Anaheim, I gave a little walk around lecture on what cable systems were and how they worked and wrote the script for it – I’ve got it here somewhere, I’m not going to read it all – and Lee, my wife, was the script girl for that particular session.
PORTER: May I point out that we look off-camera at your lovely wife when you call that name?
SCHLAFLY: She’s monitoring me over here (pointing to his wife who, with their cleaning lady was watching this taping) to see that I’m not going too far off-line. Lee came around and I sat on the steps of the little control cabin that we had. The tagline was “We now have a new means for distributing signal of national importance or specific viewer importance” – not mass interest, but minority interest – “from anywhere in the country to everywhere in the country. That means we have something going here that will allow us to deliver to cable systems in local communities, national programming, and to distribute data, communications, entertainment to individuals within that community over the cable system.” So I was really an enthusiast for it and fortunately we got many supporters from the cable industry. TelePrompTer expanded from just the prompting system. In fact, after Monty Rifkin’s quotable quote about cable being so great we sold the prompting business but kept the name TelePrompTer and got both feet into cable. We got franchises – I think by the end of the ’70s we had 140 franchises around the country – and we had a few million dollars in revenue which is peanuts by today’s standards. We were in the cable business. But we also got into other things with Irving Kahn’s genius. Really he was a genius. His enthusiasm turned against him eventually because he got into some trouble as everybody seems to know.
PORTER: But he rebounded fairly quickly and fairly successfully too. You can’t keep a good man down.
SCHLAFLY: He did, indeed. In fact, on that item, shortly after he got out of being a guest of the government he appeared in an NCTA convention program and there was Ted Turner and Al Stern and some of the broadcasters sitting there, and Irving was sitting there, and they all made a little speech because the subject was “If I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently?” Irving got on, his turn, and he said, “I’d have paid the mayor in cash instead of a check.” Well, I don’t think there were more than a dozen people in that audience who knew what he was talking about, but those who did know it got a big laugh. We got into other things at TelePrompTer. We got into theater television and ran heavyweight fights in theaters. We got into command and control systems for the military. In fact, we established a system at the Ordinance Guided Missile School in Huntsville, AL to assist in their teaching process. They used the prompter, which speeded up their training system for young soldiers. It also was the first time that General de Maderas, in his office, could entertain Congressmen and other people without having to take them out into the field to see what they were doing on the Ordinance there. They could see it on a screen in his office. It was really a closed circuit that had cable television available throughout the entire Huntsville arsenal.
PORTER: And you owned the cable system there also, in Huntsville.
SCHLAFLY: Ultimately we did, yes, that’s correct. We had a lot of good men attracted to TelePrompTer at that time. Rifkin and Bobby Rosencrans and Len Tow, all of whom did pretty well in the cable business, and Bill Bresnan, were all graduates from the TelePrompTer school. I like to think of them in that light. So, we built the company up, borrowed a lot of money to do it. When Irving got into his trouble and Jack Kent Cooke took over, I had an R & D department, run by Tom Ritter, that was working on things like facsimile and two-way cable communication and satellite work, and things like that. In order to cut down some of the operating expenses the new management, under Cooke, decided that there was no need for an R & D department in the company, and so that was closed down completely. I continued on, not as president, I had been the interim president between Irving and the Cooke group, and Bill Bresnan became president at that time and Governor Schaffer became chairman of the board, good men, both of them good people. But I was disappointed in the cutting out of the R & D department because I felt that we were on the track of many of the things that have now proved to be so profitable in the communication and internet field. So I resigned from the company, or retired, I guess is the word, in 1975, together with Bob Button, who we had hired from ComSat to work on the satellite program that was well underway by then. Incidentally after the Thrilla from Manila, with Bill Bresnan as president, Bill became a convert to the extent of placing an order for 50 satellite receivers for TelePrompTer cable systems around the country. That gave a big boost to the popularity of cable and satellite combinations. So we had a lot of fun. I’ve had a terrific career. The first TelePrompTer was very primitive, like this (demonstrating), a suitcase with an opening and you could read about nine lines there.
PORTER: And it was scrolled paper?
SCHLAFLY: It was scrolled paper, it was a motorized Roman scroll. Underwood developed a typewriter for us that would print in 3/8 inch and ultimately ½ inch size letters. People like Arthur Godfrey, for example, who was farsighted, could read that darn thing 40 feet away, and he loved it, he love it. But one of my projects at TelePrompTer before we sold the business was trying to convert it from an electro-mechanical device into an electronic device with a television monitor mounted on the camera looking at the performer, and to use it also with the Tel Lens, the Lens Line Prompting System, so that we could superimpose the text right on the camera lens. TelePrompTer was a service business we would go to a show producer and he would give us a script and we would type it and provide the equipment and the operator in the studio and operate it for him. Now, with the electronic device, you use a word processor and a TV monitor. That was good for the Tel Lens because with the paper device we had to use two mirrors in order to reverse the text from right to left. Now you can reverse it electronically right to left so you only need one mirror. But I get a thrill, Rex, every time I see an anchor or a news show when the camera operator pulls back from the desk and you see two or three camera there with this hood – hood was necessary to keep the studio lights out of the mirror – when I see how useful it has been. Indeed it was the thing that the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized when they gave me an Emmy in 1999, October of 1999, for the development of that through the lens prompting system, which was indeed our system.
PORTER: I read a speech that you had given back in the, I guess it was back in the ’60s, ’60s or ’70s, and in this speech you said that the amount of data that is flowing is at such a rapid rate and exploding so quickly that there has to be another method for transmission and control of all this data. And you said certainly there has to be something additional to the telephone transmission and our dependency on that. I’m just wondering, with the internet that we see today, and you had mentioned in that speech that there has got to be some kind of help from the government with this transmission, and ultimately I think if you look at the internet, that’s a transfer from the government.
SCHLAFLY: The government started it. I don’t know about the Vice-President (Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet), but the government did it.
PORTER: You must feel awful good to see that come about and your prophecy…
SCHLAFLY: Well, I brought along a prop for this interview that I’d like to refer to now.
SCHLAFLY: This is Amazing Stories. This particular edition was published in April of 1956 was an anniversary issue for the magazine and so they put in a feature called “Predictions of the year 2001”. They had a number of people who were prominent at that time – Sid Caesar, Leo Cherne, Lily Dache, John Cameron Swayze, General Romulo, several others, Salvador Dali – and then for comic relief they had a prediction by Oliver J. Dragon. Do you remember…?
SCHLAFLY: You don’t remember that? Oh, well you were too young. Kukla, Fran and Ollie was the program.
PORTER: I remember that.
SCHLAFLY: And they had another comic relief contributor by the name of Hubert Schlafly. At that time I was a Director of Television Research at Fox, and let’s see… I wanted to read a portion of my prediction for the year 2001. Let’s see, I say, “All repetitive and routine functions in industry, commerce, and the home can be and in many instances will be completely automatic. Systematic information storage will be in a form instantly available for response to remote inquiries. The refinements of solid state electronics will permit devices of considerable complication to be packaged in amazingly small volumes having low power requirements and exhibiting great resistance to mechanical damage. Communications, both personal and group communications will be highly refined without the encumbrance of any wires to or between terminal devices. In fact, this advanced state of communications will substantially reduce the needs for transportation.”
PORTER: Well, you hit that next 50 right on the dot.
SCHLAFLY: And this was 1956.
PORTER: Would you like to project the year 2051?
SCHLAFLY: Nope. No, the whole business has gone so far beyond me now I can’t keep up with it and don’t intend to try. I’m 81 now and I’m not going to become a student, although I know that some of our people in the cable industry continue to be students of everything that’s new.
PORTER: Well, Hub, you did a lot for our industry and there’s some things that you haven’t even mentioned and I know that TelePrompTer was responsible for so many things it’s hard to keep up with all of the side things, but Roger Wilson, for example, who was the chief engineer for TelePrompTer stepped out and made a decision that saved the cable industry millions of dollars when he decided that copper clad center conductors could be used. He was willing to do that and I’m sure that’s the kind of tutelage that you passed on to people like Roger and so forth. I know that TelePrompTer was the first cable system to ever use fiber optics.
SCHLAFLY: Yes, Irving Kahn was a fan of fiber optics and he and Larry DeGeorge at Time Cable were really pioneers in popularizing that effort. It’s been a wonderful life and I’m happy to say that The Cable Center and Museum now has collected a lot of my presentations and talks, not just to the cable system but to government agencies and to non-technical groups like Rotary and things of that nature, and have collected those in what they call the Hubert Schlafly Archives, and that will be in the Barco Library for anyone who wants to do a little research of the early days. There have been a lot of recent publications and books, like Archer Taylor’s new book. What’s the name of that?
PORTER: History Between Their Ears.
SCHLAFLY: Yes, of course Archer was a real pioneer along with a number of the other men in those early days and very active in trying to persuade the FCC to not only reduce the regulations that prohibited cable from expanding but giving good technical advice to the commission to enable them to make good rulings, and so the CTAC was formed in 19… about 1969 and a steering committee was formed. I had the honor of being chairman of that committee. I also was active in the EIA and the IEEE, NAB in those years, and at CTAC we enlisted 140 prominent cable engineers from around the country, cable and industrial engineers, to work on various projects to report to the commission. In 1973, I think it was, we released our report which, I think, was a useful guide to the commission in subsequent rulings. More recently, Rex, after leaving TelePrompTer I came up here and worked with Bob Button to form a consulting engineering company primarily interested in propagating satellite work and then about 1982 or ’83, I became interested in something that we call Portel. Portel is a handheld, battery operated keyboard with a display. The unit would only cost around $50 in mass production, with an alpha-numeric keyboard, so that you could order goods from a catalog, do banking, get emergency assistance, do brokerage work, in fact do most of the things that are now being done on the internet. While we developed it and demonstrated it in a field test in Pittsburgh in 1984, we never were able to raise the amount of money that would have been necessary to move it out into a national operation. So I’m rather unhappy that we were not smart enough to do that because today most of the things that we talked about doing and actually did do – horseracing incidentally was another thing, betting on the horses was another thing, and the lottery that this could do – we were never smart enough to enlist the financial support to put it into national use. But we did have a patent on the process and the people that are running Portel now, Jack Johanson in particular, are concentrating on licensing those patents to others who are in the e-commerce business. Whether he’ll be successful or not, (and that takes a lot of money, you know) I don’t know. But at least he’s working very hard on it.
PORTER: Just remember how many propositions you started off over the years saying, “I don’t know if it’s going to be successful or not.” However, that’s the story of our industry as you well know.
SCHLAFLY: It is indeed.
PORTER: So what are you doing nowadays? Just relaxing?
SCHLAFLY: Well, I’ve really retired from the cable business. I was on the committee that did the selection for the cable industry for the Hall of Fame for The Cable Center. That continues and they have very excellent selections now. I am not on that committee anymore. But what am I doing now? Well, I’m secretary of a small corporation here in Connecticut called Millbrook Corporation. That takes quite a bit of time. I’m still on the engineering advisory council at the University of Notre Dame. I do some charitable work and church work, and outside of that I’m enjoying being home with my wife.
PORTER: Well, I’d like to remind you of one thing: whatever you’ve got in the way of historical value, don’t throw it away. Whatever it is, if it’s a scrapbook piece of paper we can take it at…
SCHLAFLY: (Laughter) Keep the back of the envelope?
PORTER: That’s right.
SCHLAFLY: Well, I thank you.
PORTER: I want to thank you for the interview. It’s been very interesting and I’m sure everybody’s going to look forward to seeing this tape at The Cable Center and Museum. Thank you very much.
SCHLAFLY: I appreciate you coming.