Interview Date: Saturday October 03, 1992
Interview Location: Springfield, MA
Interviewer: Lawrence Lockwood
Collection: Archer Taylor Technical Collection
Note: Audio Only
LOCKWOOD: This is Lawrence Lockwood on the third day of October, 1992 interviewing Ben Tongue of Blonder-Tongue; in Springfield, Massachusetts. We will go ahead with the general review that I sent to you on the questions that would “kind of go” and the first one was education and employment after high school and before Blonder-Tongue.
TONGUE: After high school, I went on to Northeastern University.
LOCKWOOD: When was that?
TONGUE: I attended Northeastern University between 1942 and 1945.
LOCKWOOD: Oh, here in Springfield?
TONGUE: Northeastern University in Boston. That’s now close to one of the largest private universities in the country. I was going to attend a cooperative work plan, where one would work for thirteen weeks and then go to school for thirteen weeks, etc., but we had World War II.
LOCKWOOD: Yes, unpleasantness.
TONGUE: During which I was 4F, so I went for one full year and then …
LOCKWOOD: At Northeastern, in Boston?
TONGUE: Yes. That was for my first year. The rest of my years were all compressed into two calendar years, where I went to college for thirteen weeks, minus a few days vacation. I went to college again for another thirteen weeks, minus a few days for the vacation … continuously. Then I received my Bachelor of Science and EE degree in 1945, June. I was interviewed by several companies for jobs. One of them was Raytheon.
LOCKWOOD: Up around Boston … Norwood I guess?
TONGUE: Yes. I received an offer there of forty bucks a week.
LOCKWOOD: That was pretty good money then.
TONGUE: RCA offered thirty-five and ITT – Federal Telephone Radio/ITT, offered thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents.
LOCKWOOD: How can you remember all that?
TONGUE: I took the job with ITT, because I wanted to get into radio and they were starting a radio manufacturing division.
LOCKWOOD: Where was the ITT located?
TONGUE: They had many locations, the main one being Clifton, New Jersey. I took my job with ITT in Newark. They asked me after I arrived at the office, where I would sign up and have all the papers taken care of. And they asked me if I would temporarily go into the wire transmission division which was located in Newark on 185 Washington Street … because they had need for a beginning engineer there. They assured me that I could transfer from the wire transmission to the radio division, shortly thereafter.
LOCKWOOD: What year was this?
TONGUE: This was again in 1945. I started in September, after graduating in June. From my meager funds that I had saved from working my way through college … I was a night telephone and elevator operator on duty 111 hours a week in a doctor’s building which means Sundays and Saturdays. With some of the money I had accumulated, I purchased my first car, which was a 1937 Willys, and I drove off to my first job in Newark from Springfield in that car. I worked for about three months and the war ended and Colonel Sosthenes Behn, who was the President of ITT, froze all jobs.
Incidentally, while I was working there, I worked on two projects. One was setting up a transmitter to get a communications link between the New York headquarters at 67 Broad Street in lower Manhattan and the ITT Tower at the ITT labs in Clifton, New Jersey. The well-known tower at that time was a wooden scaffolding. Now, it’s a fancy looking thing which I think has been decommissioned and is not being used anymore. It’s located at a country club that they maintain for their employees. That was one of the things I did. The other thing was to work on a “single tube ringer” for telephone use … in that if a one kilohertz modulated tone came in on a telephone line, it would be detected. This tone was modulated at a low frequency rate of about 18 hertz. So I get a detected 18 hertz signal and then rectified that and feed that back into the tube again, reflexing it, and the DC output of the tube would then operator a relay, connecting the telephone. The circuit also could work in reverse. I don’t know what came of this. When I found I could not get transferred to the radio division, I was pretty unhappy.
LOCKWOOD: Was that because of the end of the war?
TONGUE: Yes, because all positions were frozen. So I said again that I’d like to work in radio and I made a deal, which was very nice for me … that I have always offered to any employees I’ve had. They let me work half-time and look for a job half-time, with no prejudice. I suppose they thought I couldn’t get a job because it was the end of the war … at least a job in electronics. So I did some job prospecting and got a job with a company called Panoramic Radio Corporation. They were at 242 West 55th Street in Manhattan. That company was founded by a Frenchman, Dr. Morcel Wallace. When he was in France, he received some patents on spectrum analyzers which could be used with radio receivers to monitor signal activity on each side of the frequency to which the radio was tuned.
LOCKWOOD: Yes, I remember Panoramic spectrum.
TONGUE: Yes, Panoramic spectrum analyzer. They were going great guns during the war, but when the war ended, their production contracts were canceled. They had a lot of surplus parts left over and decided they were going to make spectrum analyzers for industry. And the theory was that lots of men were coming out of the Army who had experience in electronics and they were going to become radio amateurs, and they were going to buy Pan-adapters to connect to the ham communications receiver, so they could see what signals were on the air, other than the signal to which their communications receiver was tuned. These Pan-adapters had a little two-inch screen, a two-inch CRT, and they provided a plus or minus 100 kilohertz dispersion. They worked pretty well … sold moderately. Hallicrafters of Chicago thought they could sell a lot of them, so they bought some under contract from Panoramic. And when the sale of these fell off, Panoramic was falling into bad straits.
LOCKWOOD: This was all in Manhattan?
TONGUE: This was all in Manhattan. They decided they needed much smaller quarters, and moved on to John Street in lower Manhattan. They compressed down eventually to only seven people. There was the accountant, the salesman, the president, myself and a couple of technicians … from an organization that was maybe 150 people before.
In John Street in Manhattan, the main activity was filling orders that the salesmen obtained for versions of spectrum analyzers which were very, very close to the ones that were sold during the war. The company stayed in business, although probably at a loss. I was the only individual with the technical knowledge needed to keep designing and producing these modified analyzers. This enabled the company to continue and I was named the chief engineer at the age of twenty-seven.
LOCKWOOD: That’s chief engineer at Panoramic?
TONGUE: That is correct. I made modifications to customer’s requirements on spectrum analyzers, which were very similar to ones that were sold during the war. Now the first product I designed in its entirety was a scanning audio spectrum analyzer. And this is a device that had a logarithmic frequency scan, from 40 hertz, at that time we called it cycles … 40 hertz to 20 kilohertz … had a switchable log 40 db vertical scale or a linear vertical scale … had a sensitivity full scale, maximum sensitivity of 100 micro volts … and was housed in a rack housing about two feet tall, including the regulated power supply.
LOCKWOOD: Obviously all vacuum tubes?
TONGUE: All vacuum tubes. In developing this device, with a logarithmic frequency scale I chose a one hertz sweep time. If you use a very narrow resolution in a spectrum analyzer to get some decent resolution on audio signals, the result was really an impossibility, because of ringing in the filters. So what I did, was make an IF amplifier whose bandwidth was swept along with the changing frequency velocity of the scan. The logarithmic scans sweeping from 40 hertz to 20 kilohertz, would sweep very slowly in hertz per second of the very beginning, and very rapidly at the end. So I had my IF amplifier, which was centered at 100 kilohertz very narrow when we were at 40 hertz and much wider when we were up at 20 kilohertz. This was done with a two pole crystal filter using two Bliley KB-3 crystals that were sold for the ham market, and …
LOCKWOOD: You had a patent on that?
TONGUE: Yes. My patent for the complete spectrum analyzer dated December 1, 1953, filed April 18, 1949, is patent number 2,661,419.
LOCKWOOD: Is that issued to you or to Panoramic?
TONGUE: This is issued to Panoramic in my name. Issued to Marcel Wallace, doing business at Panoramic Laboratories, East Port Chester, Connecticut … that was home. With the success of that product and the income generated, the company was able to move. This time we moved to Mount Vernon, New York, on South Second Avenue.
LOCKWOOD: In roughly what year was this?
TONGUE: This move was between 1947 and 1948, I think. In Mount Vernon I continued and designed an ultra sonic analyzer … again with manually controlled selectivity, and resolution … much as we do nowadays … and a number of other special purpose spectrum analyzers. My employment in Panoramic continued up through … near the end of 1949 before I quit.
You might wonder about Ike Blonder. Back in Manhattan, on West 55th Street when I first got my job with Panoramic, I remember when I was working at a bench on a band pass amplifier, that a fellow in an army uniform came around, stood behind me, watching what was going on.
LOCKWOOD: When was that roughly?
TONGUE: This was about October of 1945. I entered into a conversation with him. Turns out he was with the U.S. Army stationed in England in the radar corps and was now, of course, out of the Army and looking a job. And his friend, he met in the Army, Robert Rines, a hugely multi-talented man …
TONGUE: Robert Rines.
LOCKWOOD: That doesn’t ring a bell.
TONGUE: This Robert Rines, who was his friend in the Army, had a notable father. His father was the patent attorney for Pierce, of the Pierce Crystal Oscillator and Ike had been directed to Panoramic because. Bob Rines’ father knew a lawyer in Washington, who was a lawyer for Panoramic Radio Corporation. Anyway, he was up at Panoramic, looking for a job and his name is Ike Blonder. He received an offer, accepted a job …
LOCKWOOD: With Panoramic?
TONGUE: With Panoramic in quality control. And this was during the period when …
LOCKWOOD: This was when you were still in Manhattan?
TONGUE: Still in Manhattan, on West 55th Street … and when we were in production on the Pan-adapters for Hallicrafters and the Pan-adapters for Panoramic itself to sell to the ham radio market. From this point, in late 1945 until the beginning of 1950, Ike Blonder did many things … among which, was occupying the job of Chief of Quality Control at TeleKing Television Corporation in Manhattan.
LOCKWOOD: Wait a minute. The last I remember, you said he was employed by Panoramic.
TONGUE: By Panoramic.
LOCKWOOD: How did he get into this other thing?
TONGUE: Well, he left Panoramic and …
LOCKWOOD: About when, roughly?
TONGUE: Maybe ’46 or ’47. He was sort of at sixes and sevens as to what to do with his life … traveled across the country in his old 1940 Buick and came back again. Started a company–Blonder Manufacturing–to make a test lead, clip lead, for test equipment.
LOCKWOOD: When was that, roughly?
TONGUE: It was in maybe ’47 or ’48.
LOCKWOOD: Yes. He had left then, Panoramic.
TONGUE: He had left Panoramic, yes.
LOCKWOOD: He did all his travelling and came back and made that company–Blonder Manufacturing?
TONGUE: Yes. He left that company and, rather, the company perhaps did not generate sufficient income. As I said before, he got a job in TeleKing Television Corporation–Chief Quality Control Engineer. Did a very fine job.
LOCKWOOD: Where was that?
TONGUE: TeleKing was in the Starett Lehigh Building, I think on West 23rd Street in Manhattan.
LOCKWOOD: I see, and that was about when?
TONGUE: That was around ’48 or ’49.
LOCKWOOD: What was his job with them?
TONGUE: His job was being Chief of Quality Control. We kept up our contact all this time, from the time that I first met him in Panoramic. In fact, for a while we lived together in Brooklyn, on Union Street, in a place that used to be called the area of “Murder Incorporated” (Brownsville). We lived in the basement of a two story building … the kitchen of which had been used to hold coal, anthracite coal, during the war. Of course, the coal was all cleared out at this time. We had a little apartment down there.
LOCKWOOD: What year was this roughly?
TONGUE: Between that period of ’46 and maybe ’48. We had all of our electronic equipment which we had accumulated over the years. In fact, this is the place where I designed and built my first TV set. Used a ten-inch 10BP4 CRT … made my own tuner, and my own IF transformers, and … wish I still had the thing.
LOCKWOOD: Is this before RCA put the kits out on the 648?
TONGUE: This was just as they were starting to come out with TV kits. This was not built from a TV kit at all. It was totally surplus parts that I could get from Panoramic and other parts that I could obtain.
LOCKWOOD: Obviously, then, you were still with Panoramic?
TONGUE: Yes, I was at Panoramic at this time.
LOCKWOOD: What was Ike doing at that time?
TONGUE: I think he was at TeleKing at that time. When you talk to him, you will get more details about where he was and what he was doing. I don’t remember the occasion on which we left the apartment. It might have been when he made his trek across the country. I’m not sure of my memory right now. But we ended up both living in individual apartments in Mount Vernon, New York.
LOCKWOOD: From Brooklyn to Mount Vernon?
TONGUE: Yes. We talked … well, I was still at Panoramic, he was at TeleKing at this point in time.
LOCKWOOD: But you were living in Mount Vernon?
TONGUE: I was living in Mount Vernon.
LOCKWOOD: Did Ike move up there with you?
TONGUE: No, we were not together. He lived in a separate place in Flushing, New York. We both would like to go into business for ourselves and in trying to think of what to do. We thought that maybe since TV was starting to boom, something relating to TV would be something worthwhile getting into. The thing related to TV was to improve the reception because TV reception range was rather poor and pictures were many times pretty snowy. TV sets had poor noise figures … TV tuners had poor noise figures. And for people who lived in New York, the big challenge was to get Channel 13 from across the Hudson River and it was always very snowy. So we conceived the idea of a mass mounted, TV booster, single channel booster with a stepping motor controlling the tuning from the TV set down from the control unit at the TV set, down in the living room. So if you wanted to change the TV station, you would also have to tune the booster and the booster would, of course, give you much better signal to noise ratio than amplifying the signal at the antenna, before the downlead loss.
LOCKWOOD: What year was this done in?
TONGUE: In 1949, but this wasn’t done, this is what we thought we would do. An experimental prototype was made. Never went to production. This was in late 1949. We decided we were going to go into business as Blonder-Tongue Laboratories.
LOCKWOOD: Which was obviously just made up then?
TONGUE: Made up in the beginning of 1950, but I got pneumonia. And at that time, I was smoking two packages of cigarettes a day. I noted one day that I couldn’t inhale anymore. I tried to inhale, and my breath would just stop. I went to the doctor and it turned out that I had pneumonia and was put in the hospital for a month. I took this opportunity to stop smoking … since I stopped smoking for a month, it was easy to stay stopped. I have stayed smoke-free ever since. Well, about a month later, we joined and took the money that …
LOCKWOOD: What year was this then?
TONGUE: This was in about January or February 1950. Took the money we had, about $5,000 I remember … all our electronic parts, our two cars, and we rented a former dance hall at 20 Gunther Avenue in Yonkers, New York–that’s a town right next to Mount Vernon. This had 800 square feet in the cellar and 1,200 square feet on ground level. We rented the ground level, brought in all our old stuff, and started to implement an invention I made. Turned out I got a patent on it eventually, for a “coupling circuit”–a wide “gain-bandwidth product” coupling circuit, to enable one to make a broadband TV booster which would amplify all 12 channels – 2 to 6 and 7 to 13 (76 MHz total) and have enough gain, so that with four tubes, you could end up with 20 db overall gain and a much better noise figure than a conventional TV tuner would have. (U.S. Pat. #2,710,314) This circuit ended up with a band pass response that looked like a three pole bandpass response in the low band and a three pole bandpass response in a high band and a big hollow in between. The product worked quite well.
Ike did all the mechanical design … I did all the electrical design. He designed a thermo relay so that the booster would be truly automatic. The TV set was plugged into an AC receptacle on the booster and the booster plugged into the wall outlet. So when the TV set was turned on, its line current would heat the thermo relay, which would then, since it had a piece of bi-metal in it– temperature compensated bi-metal, it would make contact with the power circuits of the booster and the booster would turn on … which would turn off when the TV got turned off!
LOCKWOOD: What year was this?
TONGUE: This was 1950.
LOCKWOOD: Is that when you started making those things then?
LOCKWOOD: In this plant that you had… ?
TONGUE: This was in this former dance hall. Before we got into any production, we were raided by the police. And the reason for that was that some bookies had used the place in doing their bookie work for Yonker’s Race Track years before. They had a bunch of telephones connected into a concrete volt in the cellar and it was thought we were the bookies opening up shop again … which we were not!
LOCKWOOD: Might have made more money!
TONGUE: Maybe. So they went away and we were able, through Ike’s contacts with vendors from his work experience at the TeleKing Television Corporation, to get some chassis made on credit. And we were able to get some ceramic capacitors from Centralab, because of some reps of Centralab Company–Harold Baker and Dave Gellaso–and we built a few boosters and these fellows helped us get some sales reps.
LOCKWOOD: About how many did you …
TONGUE: Well, we built … first run was 500 … slowly, slowly.
LOCKWOOD: What was it made to sell for?
TONGUE: It was made to sell for $50 list … our price to a distributor was $20.
LOCKWOOD: Well, we lost some tape on the recorder here.
TONGUE: Mutual. Well, this booster was the start of our company’s business. We must have made well over 10,000 of them over a long … over a period of its life before it was supplanted by improved versions.
LOCKWOOD: And that was at that plant in Yonkers?
TONGUE: That was that plant in Yonkers. We started just on the first floor and expanded to the 800 square feet on the lower floor … employing maybe a total of fifty people. I have some financial numbers. The first year’s production from May 24, 1950, when we first registered our partnership, until December 31, 1950, we had a net sales of $32,785.23 … giving a net profit of $5,420.21. We changed to corporate form in 1951.
LOCKWOOD: That was when you called it Blonder-Tongue?
TONGUE: … Laboratories, Incorporated, instead of just plain Blonder-Tongue Laboratories. And for the first four months of the calendar year, ending April 30, 1951, just before we moved from our Yonkers Gunther Avenue location, to a Mount Vernon location on North Second Ave – in this four month period we did a net sales of $161,508.06 giving a net profit of $40,232.38.
The product was sold through sales representatives to parts distributors. These sales representatives were introduced to the line by the help of two sales representatives that Ike Blonder got to know when he worked at the TeleKing Television Corporation. These were Dave Gelasso and Harold Baker. They were representatives of the Centralab Corporation and took a prototype of our booster to the Chicago Parts Show as a favor.
LOCKWOOD: This is the ’51 show?
TONGUE: No, May, 1950 show. They showed the booster to a few people, other reps who were interested in cashing in on the growth of TV with a TV related product. And since there was a lot of trouble getting TV reception in the fringe area, and many times, in not such a fringe area … decided to take a chance on an automatic booster, that did not have to be tuned. There were tuned boosters on the market at this time from Astatic, Regency, Anchor and other people. This booster was totally automatic because it utilized a patented, double band circuit, an invention of mine, which operated to give up to about 20 db gain, in a four tube configuration, with the four tubes in cascade and double band coupling circuits between the tubes. So, the overall response looked like a 3-pole bandpass in the low band, a 3-pole bandpass in the high band, with a big suckout in the middle. That is, we amplify 76 megahertz of bandwidth.
LOCKWOOD: What year was this product first offered?
TONGUE: It was first offered in 1950 by the sales reps that were introduced to us by the sales reps of Centralab, that were friends of Ike Blonder’s from TeleKing Television Corporation.
LOCKWOOD: And that price was?
TONGUE: The list price was $49.50 initially and our price out of the house was $20.
LOCKWOOD: Was that the very first preamp on the market?
TONGUE: No. It was the first broadband preamp that amplified all channels simultaneously. In addition, it was automatic in that Ike had designed and patented a thermo relay, a very low cost thermo relay, which could turn the booster on automatically. The TV set would plug into a receptacle in the booster and the booster, in turn, was plugged into the wall. So when the TV set was turned on, the booster would go on automatically, and go off similarly. My patent enabled the design and manufacturing of the fixed timed broadband amp.
LOCKWOOD: But up to that time, any stuff that had been on the market, preamps that had been on the market, were channel preamps?
TONGUE: They were individual channel preamps that had a band switch on them and continuous tuning for the low band and continuous tuning for the high band.
LOCKWOOD: And yours was the first broadband?
TONGUE: Broadband, simultaneously amplifying all those channels. I found ready acceptance for the product in the field. Some customers were so interested in getting the products from our limited production, that they would keep standing orders with us. One of them, Lima Radio in Lima, Ohio, would send us an order for a gross as we shipped twelve at a time against it. When the order got almost filled, they would give us another order. Similarly, Radio Equipment, in South Bend Indiana, would give us a two-hundred price order. You know, when we shipped down the order, we would replenish it. We expanded to the point where we needed more space, so we moved to Mount Vernon after only about a year in Yonkers. And we moved to North Avenue, a 5,000 square foot garage.
LOCKWOOD: What year was that?
TONGUE: That was around the middle of 1951. We there expanded our production. We added other products to the line. I invented a quadruple tuned coupling interstage to get more gain-bandwidth (U.S. Pat. # 2,710,315), so that we could get more than 20 db gain over the full 76 megahertz bandwidth and we put that in the improved Antensifier. And there were also other products that were introduced at the 1951 Chicago Parts Show, the first one the company ever attended. We introduced the improved HA-1 Antensifier and other products. One, which we called the commercial Intensifier, had a metal case instead of a leatherette covered wooden case. It had 75 or 300 ohm input and output and gain control. And for another thing, it was the first one that some of the fledgling, very, very small cable people used, putting it in a housing that they made themselves.
LOCKWOOD: Was this a broadband 12 channels?
TONGUE: Broadband 12 channels. We also brought out a two distribution.
LOCKWOOD: What year?
TONGUE: 1951 introduced at the Chicago Parts Show. We also brought out a two output and an eight output distribution amplifier, for feeding many outputs from a common location. These products were shown at the trade show. The new ones went into production shortly after the trade show and became very, very successful. We also designed passives at this time. We designed two-way and four-way 300 ohm splitters that became very important.
LOCKWOOD: I think the first time I came across the four-way splitters was when I was involved in designing an Antennaplex system for Radio City and RCA. Well, RCA left … did most of the designing ??? , because we needed to distribute them. That was in ’48, I believe, and the principle of the thing was that you used four-way splitters.
TONGUE: When we ran out of space in Mount Vernon, we looked around for a place to expand and since the business climate in New Jersey seemed to be superior as far as taxes and other things of concern, we located a building in Westfield, New Jersey. And we moved to Westfield, New Jersey, at 526 North Avenue about the middle of 1952.
LOCKWOOD: I’ve got the photo you’ve just given me of the Blonder-Tongue Labs in Westfield, New Jersey, where you were, as it says here, from ’52 to ’56. It looks pretty fancy.
TONGUE: The building shown in the picture is a front office building which was put up maybe ten or twenty years prior. Nice office building, fronting an old ice house, which backed up against the New Jersey Railroad, the Jersey Central Railroad, in our back. The ice house had very strong steel rod reinforced concrete walls, for holding the ice … and we wanted to put production lines through these concrete tanks. By “tank,” I am talking about something maybe ten feet wide, ten deep, and very, very tall, with concrete reinforcing bars. So the workers had to use jackhammers to break away the concrete and then a torch to cut away the reinforcing rods so we could have, in the factory area which was in back of that building and down below, production lines running through these concrete tanks. The facility in …
LOCKWOOD: We are recording now from the three pages of the history from 1950 to 1961.
TONGUE: The facility in Westfield had about 6,000 square feet of space and there we manufactured products for our low cost master antenna systems. The DA-8 mentioned before; the DA-2, which were the eight-way and two-way distribution amplifiers; and the CA-1, the commercial Antensifier, which was an improved version of our first product. We brought out further versions–one in a metal housing, a lower cost three tube home booster as competition increased in the market. And then we designed our first channelized product. We made a product called MA-4, which means master amplifier power supply and combiner for four strip amplifiers. And four strip amplifiers could be plugged into it. Later on, we designed a UHF converter, so a UHF converter could be plugged into it. So this was the first Blonder-Tongue channelized amplifier system.
LOCKWOOD: What was the market for that?
TONGUE: The market for that were places where you wanted a larger signal level per channel, because if you had multi-channels you can get a greater signal level out of the individual single channel amplifiers than out of the broadband. Plus, if you have a fringe area and you wanted to use a Yagi antenna and aim that at one particular station you’d want to amplify, you’d only have one channel on that antenna, and you would feed that into a channel amplifier.
LOCKWOOD: This sounds suspiciously like what the RCA Antennaplex system was.
TONGUE: A very, very dreary version of the Antennaplex, yes indeed. This MA-4 was used with a CS-1 strip amplifier, plug-in strip amplifier, UC-1, plug-in converter (U.S. Pat. #2,761,135). I should have mentioned in the beginning, when we started in Yonkers, we had only about $5,000 between us to start the company. I may have mentioned it, I’m not sure … along with our electronic stuff and cars. We introduced our first broadband mast mounted amplifier in Westfield. This turned out to be very popular among the very rural CATV systems, in preamping a signal from the antenna, located far, far away from the headend building, to the headend building. This goes back to the time when people, for lower loss, would use ladder line. The signal could be transported more than a mile this way. We gave facility in this amplifier for powering at low voltage or powering at a higher voltage from a power transformer, a fused power transformer, so the power could go very, very far. And since ladder line, 450 ohm transmission line had low loss, the long transmission line would not attenuate the TV signal very much.
LOCKWOOD: When was this introduced?
TONGUE: This was introduced in Westfield probably at the end of ’52, or sometime in ’53. We designed our first UHF convertor when we were in Westfield. UHF convertors turned out to be a very, very successful and popular money maker for Blonder-Tongue. The first ones made and sold in Westfield were in a metal cabinet in ’52 or ’53 … probably ’53. And the last ones were assembled and sold, on a final transistorized design probably in 1973 or so. Well, after the FCC mandated that all TV sets sold had to have a UHF tuner included, then the stage was set for a boom. When the TV tuner in the TV set went “bad” people said, “So what? I’m not going to spend money for a service man to come in and fix it. I’ll buy a UHF converter and put it on top of the TV set.” And that is what extended that business. We sold substantial amounts under the Sears Roebuck name, also. Also to some Radio Shacks. Our top of the line converter, the BTU-2, had a much better noise figure than the TV tuners then used. They were often used to enable UHF fringe reception.
LOCKWOOD: In other words you supplied the stuff for Radio Shack and Sears under their names, I guess?
TONGUE: Yes, that’s right. Back to Westfield, we made weatherproof housings for mounting our equipment outside. I designed a field strength meter, that used vacuum tubes, that used Raytheon hearing aid tubes for the mixer and oscillator and conventional, miniature 1.4 volt filament tubes for the rest. We also started the design of and completed the design of our TC-1, which is our first closed circuit TV camera, the vacuum tube camera. Also, video monitors.
LOCKWOOD: This is a Vidicon camera?
TONGUE: A Vidicon camera. About a year or so after we had introduced that, we started exhibiting at the IRE Show in Manhattan.
LOCKWOOD: I saw you at one of those. I remember, way back … it was at Grand Central Palace. I have forgotten the details, but I remember that we ran into each other there, in Manhattan.
TONGUE: Yes. In Westfield, we also designed the “mixer separator” where you could take many signal, different channel paths, and combine them into one broadband, and vice versa. I designed the MLA – our split band, broadband, MATV amplifier which became very, popular.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A
TONGUE: The tape is going again. Let’s see, where were we? We were talking about the MLA. MLA broadband amplifier, supplied about 40 db amplification. The high band used four tubes and the low band used three tubes. It was a low noise amplifier and used a broadband neutralizing circuit I invented, and got a patent (U.S. Pat. #2,761,023) for neutralizing a common cathode triode amplifier, in each one of the bands – neutralized the grid-plate capacitance. The interesting innovation was used in the output stage. To get a high output, I introduced use of the 12BY7 tube which is a high level, base band video output tube in its original intention. I think we were the first to use it in RF, and it gave us a very high output capability. We also designed our first MATV and CATV AGC controlled strip amplifiers, model MCS. This device had four tubes, a cascade input stage, with two following pentode amplifiers, an AGC amplifier and an AGC detector. In order to get high stable gain in an AGC controlled single channel amplifier, I invented a “suppressor grid” pentode neutralizing circuit (U.S. Pat. #2,790,036). It had a bridging output so you could combine the output to many strip amplifiers together. The design was sold in Westfield and also from our later location in Newark. Its transistorized successors, to this day, are still sold in good quantity in our location in Old Bridge, New Jersey. The MCS amplifier had a 20 db AGC range and we had provision for connecting two amplifiers in cascade for amplifying very weak signals and consequently, getting a 40 db AGC control range.
These amplifiers were used, we understand, in about a third of the Nation’s cable systems at one time. Now this includes all the very small systems–Mom and Pop systems. This survey was made by looking at the brand of headend in all the cable systems as shown in the CATV Factbook, back around 1976 – it said about one-third of the cable systems used a Blonder-Tongue headend.
LOCKWOOD: The way I understand what you are saying here, you really didn’t go for cable per se, you kind of slid into it with the stuff that you were building for other …
TONGUE: That is correct.
LOCKWOOD: There was no time that you said, “Hey, we are going to go for cable.”
TONGUE: Well, as you will see, subsequently there were a number of places where we went for cable, where we did not go for cable as strongly, you might say as Jerrold, or as some of the other people did.
LOCKWOOD: At the time of strip amplifiers and so on, was Jerrold making stuff?
TONGUE: Jerrold started, I think, a little before we did, with a tuneable TV booster amplifier. I remember seeing a plastic-housed product advertised before we went into business.
LOCKWOOD: They weren’t really directing … Milt was not really directing towards the cable business then either, right?
TONGUE: In the beginning, I don’t think he did.
LOCKWOOD: Neither of you really did.
TONGUE: That’s correct. I would like to give you a sheet on our … I mentioned UHF convertors being very, very important to us before. UHF convertors … we had many models. We had ones with IF stages, ones without IF stages. We started out with metal housing, went to plastic housing, went to another plastic housing. The last design we made utilized a tunnel diode oscillating mixer, powered by a single D cell, which we estimated to have a life of about a year. The tunnel diode operated at one milliamp current. When initially designed, it worked very well, although its input signal handling capability was rather limited, worked very well except if a breeze blew the antenna twin lead around, the oscillator frequency would be modulated a little bit, because it was an oscillating mixer. I made another invention, which I got patented (U.S. Pat. #3,332,022), which put a null at the oscillator frequency on the antenna terminals, so any impedance variation on the antenna terminals, at the oscillator frequency, would not be coupled to the oscillator. That solved that problem. And that convertor continued very successfully as our price leader until GE stopped making the tunnel diodes when they finally figured out that the tunnel diode business was not going to be a big business.
LOCKWOOD: When was that introduced?
TONGUE: Oh my goodness, it was before 1970 and after 1955, and maybe ’64.
LOCKWOOD: Yes. And then when did you stop it when GE …
TONGUE: I think it was just after 1970.
LOCKWOOD: In other words, it was around ’64 to ’70? That’s when you sold it.
TONGUE: Yes. The first UHF convertor, the BTU-2, designed in Westfield, utilized a variable inductance tuner designed and patented by Ike Blonder. The masterline line amplifier, MLA, when it was designed, was designed to work with an automatic gain control unit. This gave composite AGC to the low band and a separate composite AGC for the high band to prevent overload, in case of variations of input signals. In the Westfield period, we also brought to market a number of passives–splitters, couplers, etc.
And as I mentioned before, our closed circuit TV camera, Model TVC-1 was called the Observer. In addition to our vacuum tube closed circuit TV camera, we also made 14, 17, and 21 inch direct view monitors. We didn’t make them for a very long period of time. Later on in Newark, we made a projection monitor. Things went well in Westfield until a strike occurred. Seems members of the UE were organizing our workers. UE, as you may recall, was a Communist dominated union that was kicked out of the CIO. After that, the CI0 formed the IUE. The fellow who was organizer for the UE turned out to be an infiltrator from the FBI, gathering information on the UE. So he was sort of a two-faced fellow, being a union organizer at the same time. Anyway, all we did was, one night, had many large trucks come up to the plant. We loaded all the factory equipment into the trucks and drove it away.
LOCKWOOD: What year was this?
TONGUE: This was … we moved our equipment to a location in Newark and had our …
LOCKWOOD: This move occurred in ’55?
TONGUE: ’55. We had our equipment up and running before the union found out what had happened … where we relocated. Another union organized us at this time, but it was the union that represents the company at the present time.
LOCKWOOD: Is that IBEW?
TONGUE: Yes, IBEW. We continued our operations in Newark. When the operations at this location I’ve mentioned, McCarter highway, became crowed, we had to expand and obtained a lease on Alling Street in Newark, for our headquarters … the former parcel post, post office building … a rigid concrete structure. There we continued our closed circuit TV line, designed a solid state camera model– TTVC, and then a low cost version called TC-1. We designed and manufactured a projection monitor called PV-1. I gave you the sheet on that, didn’t I?
LOCKWOOD: Yes, that’s right.
TONGUE: The city of Newark had a large hall called Symphony Hall, which was rebuilt and refurbished sometime, I believe, in the ’60s near the beginning of the ’60s. Arthur Rubinstein, the pianist, was one of the guest performers with the Newark Symphony at the reopening. At that time we were requested to supply vision of the opening concert in the lobby, if there was an overflow, and especially if people could not squeeze into the hall. So Blonder-Tongue supplied closed circuit TV cameras and monitors in the lobby.
LOCKWOOD: What year was this?
TONGUE: It must have been around ’65 … or maybe ’63, I am guessing now. Ike may know more completely. Here is a picture of Rubinstein and Ben and Ike.
LOCKWOOD: He certainly looks surprised, doesn’t he?
TONGUE: We moved to Newark in 1955 and then … McCarter highway, and a couple years later went to Alling Street, where we established our headquarters. We expanded our strip amplifier line by adding low to highband converters and VHF to UHF converters, and high-low converters, and a converter to change one low frequency channel to another … in the same family as the MCS strip amplifier. These convertors were used mainly by CATV operators, but also by some MATV operators. We brought out a very high powered output, high output power strip amplifier, called Power Drive. I think we had 5 or 6 volts, RMS output, and that used a TV horizontal output tube, for the output amplifier. We exited the camera business when the Japanese started flooding in, and kept flooding in, more and more with low cost videocom cameras. With our costs, we couldn’t … we weren’t able to compete.
LOCKWOOD: So when did you really turn that off?
TONGUE: Let me say I don’t remember. How about asking Ike Blonder during his interview. He might remember better than I can.
TONGUE: We decided to enter the hi-fi market. We designed and brought out an FM/AM radio, an FM radio, an FM/AM tuner, an FM tuner, a ten watt audio amplifier, and a loud speaker.
LOCKWOOD: And when did you do that?
TONGUE: Let’s ask Ike again. But if he can’t remember, it might have been ’63. These sold in good quantity, and then sales started slacking off somewhat. stereo came in. We decided we were not going to invest in stereo, so we exited that field.
LOCKWOOD: It was from ’63 to about when?
TONGUE: I would guess about three years.
LOCKWOOD: ’63 to ’69 roughly.
TONGUE: Yes. In the audio field, we looked around for other audio product designs, and decided a graphic equalizer would be good. In attempting to design it, I found the cost to be too high, because of the iron core inductors necessary for making the individual band filters. So I invented a circuit for which I received U.S. Patent #2,933,876. They used a single triode, half of a double triode, that is, to give the frequency response of a single tuned circuit with a Q of about one. And the result of that was the design of the audio baton, a nine controlled … or a nine band graphic equalizer … which sold very well, until again, stereo came in.
With stereo coming in, the market for this sort of dried up. The people didn’t grasp the idea of the complications of the two graphic equalizers at the same time. It was also adopted at WMTA radio station in the New York area, as the “listening man’s filter”, and was used on the air. Ike designed and patented a broadband TV antenna, which we dubbed the “Prisametric.” We launched into production on that in maybe ’66 or ’67 in a new location on McCarter highway, since we didn’t have adequate space where we were. He also invented a broadband UHF antenna, we called the UHF Guard, which complemented our UHF convertors, which we sold for many years.
Well, transistors started coming in and I designed and got a patent on what maybe was the first broadband MATV solid state amplifier. It used transistors that, in those days, were really too low power to be really practically used. We could only run 30 milliwatts in each transistor. I invented (U.S. Pat. #3,156,872) a push-pull broadband amplifier (54-216 MHz) circuit for using two transistors in push-pull. However, with the low ft of the transistors at that time, gain was too low on the high band, so that I had to use a separate, single transistor neutralized preamp.
LOCKWOOD: The market for this then would have been strictly CATV.
TONGUE: Well, this would be more MATV, because the levels were so low, single level.
LOCKWOOD: I see. This is model BT-3.
LOCKWOOD: This was your first solid state amp that you built?
TONGUE: My mind is not clear now. It was either the first solid state amp we built or our broadband mast mounted UHF amplifier may have been the first.
LOCKWOOD: When was this one, the BT-3, the broadband solid state?
TONGUE: It was … let’s see if there is a date on the sheet … it says March 5, 1960.
LOCKWOOD: Okay, I’ll take the words printed … it’s got to be right.
TONGUE: To expand our business, in the translator market, we purchased a company, a Canadian company called Benco. It was run by a fellow named Phil Freen. They had bandpass filters, we got a bandpass filter for CATV.
LOCKWOOD: Who was the guy it was run by?
TONGUE: Philip Freen. They had strip amplifiers, we had strip amplifiers. But hey had a TV translator. You may recall, in the ’60s, TV translators were getting important. Where cable could not go to a small town, one would mount a receiving antenna on a mountain, pick up the signal and retransmit it down into the valley, either on the same frequency or a different frequency. We marketed their translators, as well as the rest of their line, for a period of time. I think you should ask Ike what that period was, I’m not sure. It was while we were in Newark.
We concluded that when the translator business started drying up to sell the Benco operation to an entity in Canada. Ike can probably tell you what the entity in Canada was and when we sold that. [Ed. Note: Was it Delta, or Cascade?]
So other products designed and developed in Newark were a TV antenna rotator which was brought out around ’68, I believe, and continued while we were in Old Bridge. We moved to Old Bridge in 1970. Still in Newark, some of the other developments in Newark, we had a contract from the FAA, for designing a voice intelligibility enhancing equipment to be used in conjunction with the preliminary development of the aviation “black box” that was used for recording conversations coming out of the cockpit. We did that in an advanced development lab that we established, where we were also making closed circuit TV cameras … designing a electrostatically deflected vidicon. We hired an individual who retired from the Navy Research Labs, who was convinced he could design an electrostatically deflected vidicon and that interested us very much, because the vidicons were the high cost part of TV cameras, costing around $600 at that time. We designed and equipped a clean room, with the capability of high vacuum, cesium deposition and other fancy things. Only trouble is, we started running out of money and vidicons didn’t work, so that operation had to be closed.
LOCKWOOD: This is parenthetical, but did you ever look at Curt Schlesinger’s design of the electrostatically deflected vidicon?
LOCKWOOD: He … in fact, I used it in a 2000 line camera, that I built, we built for …
TONGUE: This isn’t a five-inch CRT deflection plates initially?
LOCKWOOD: Oh, I see. Well, no this one, the patent he got on it had kind of rotating around the inside of the two plates.
TONGUE: No, this is not like that.
LOCKWOOD: It used magnetic focus. That was the only coil left.
TONGUE: This had no coil. This was electrostatic throughout.
LOCKWOOD: Because he got such damn good deflection on this thing, you get better focus with magnetic than you do with electric.
TONGUE: Yes, I know, I know.
LOCKWOOD: So that is what he used … that’s what I used, for the 2000 line cameras. Interesting.
TONGUE: In Newark, another development we had was called Bi-Tran. This was pushed strongly by Ike … conceived by him. There was an invention involved (U.S. Pat. #306,9492). It was to put two TV pictures on one channel. And what we did was to have one TV picture of a constant polarity the other picture simultaneously superimposed on it, was alternating polarity, every other field … so the whites canceled the blacks. Now, of course, you could recognize that would cut the dynamic range in half. Observing it, it worked pretty well.
LOCKWOOD: How about flicker?
TONGUE: The field rate … I didn’t say frame rate … so the flicker was not bad. It really worked quite well. Now, of course, if you manipulated the brilliance control, you could effectively rectify the … cancel the alternating signal.
LOCKWOOD: What did you call this thing?
TONGUE: Bi-Tran. All this activity, up to the period of … maybe ’64 or ’65, in Newark, cost a lot of money. Perhaps we weren’t keeping an adequate eye on the expenditures versus the income, but we got a terrible shock when the accountant said we had a very large loss for one of those years around ’64 or ’65. It looked as though the cash was going out so fast that we were going to have to close our doors. But at this time we took a change in operation … management. I changed from just overseeing engineering to becoming the CEO of the company. Ike, who had engaged himself mainly in sales and forward looking new product concepts and had delegated the main day-to-day running of the company to another individual … he and I agreed that the other individual would have to leave and that we would have to have very sharp contraction. So I changed my hat from being chief engineer to being CEO … made a survey of our then six locations in Newark … six different locations …
LOCKWOOD: What year was this roughly?
TONGUE: Around ’65, I think it was. I could find out more accurately when I go back to the office. And decided what could be cut, what couldn’t be cut, and we had a massive layoff. The result was that we got the cost down, so we could continue. I continued in the job of CEO. I had the title of President from the very beginning … Ike had the title of Chairman of the Board from the beginning but didn’t necessarily reflect what our activities were. The company got on an even keel again, became profitable, and we continued.
Our sales were made through sales reps primarily, and sales reps sold to distributors. In fact, our broadband amplifiers were pretty high performance at low cost, plus highly reliable. We designed for reliability, in that if tubes started getting some grid current and getting gassy, we always made sure that the low impedance was in the grid so it didn’t develop a positive bias on the grid, thereby ruining the tube. So our products would last a long time. Our strip amplifiers lasted a long time.
It was in this period in Newark that we got more and more of our product in the CATV field, but it’s in the small “mom and pop” areas, not the large areas that Jerrold was concentrating in. It was the small people that would use our items. Much as I indicated earlier, sometimes a broadband amplifier powered at 110 volts through a fused transformer.
LOCKWOOD: Why this separation of the “mom and pop” for you and the work of Jerrold going into larger systems?
TONGUE: I think Shapp’s different. Shapp was … we were more conservative than Milt. He apparently decided he wanted to build an industry serving cable as he saw cable industry growing. In order to do it, since the cable industry didn’t have money, I believe helped along the financing of the cable companies to buy this equipment … he even went partners with some of the cable people I believe.
LOCKWOOD: Whatever you can say about this is good, because his physical condition, you know.
LOCKWOOD: He’s got Alzheimer’s.
TONGUE: I didn’t know that.
LOCKWOOD: Yes, and so it is going to be very, very tough to get anything out of him. So any recollections from you is interesting.
TONGUE: Sure. So he was pushing for the big hit, as I see it … the large cable companies. In order to help them finance the stuff, he would sometimes buy into them and he would help finance them.
LOCKWOOD: Where did his financing come from, do you know?
TONGUE: I think a lot of savvy salesmanship, it seems. We did not do that. We sold through distributors. We did not sell directly to customers. We did not have a large internal sales force going out to the, say, the large cable companies, trying to sell them. But the word of mouth and the advertising of our products got these small “mom and pop” organizations to see here they could get performance at a low price. Many times we heard, “Well, I have one of your MLA amplifiers up in a room, in a particular house that was part of the transmission system and it keeps running and running and running and running and running!”
In Newark, we did decide at one time to bring out a line of more professional cable products. This was before even midband was used. And we brought out a line of a trunk amplifier … distribution amplifier, of two outputs … a four output distribution amplifier and a line extender amplifier … and electronics designed by myself and mechanics designed by Ike. This got some acceptance. However, when it came time we better redesign so that we could handle midband … as midband was coming out. Our economics were not very good, so we had to let it just continue, and it continued, but on a down slope. But we made one push into the large CATV product industry. One system was set up in the West Coast, using it … plus miscellaneous ones. The main CATV story of Blonder-TONGUE: is with the smaller people who used the products. The obvious cost of six locations in Newark as compared to one central location, along with the growth of the company, caused us to consider that we better get into one location. Also, conditions in Newark were deteriorating.
I said we had six locations, we had seven really. It became dangerous for girls to go home after 5:00 pm … if they worked overtime, they were afraid. Our initial location on Arling Street was very good, because it was near train and bus access. But with the problems that occurred, we decided to move to Old Bridge, New Jersey. We bought a tract of land and we started construction around … I guess, June or July of ’69. The first production moved in around March or April of ’70, from Newark into Old Bridge.
The products that we brought up in Old Bridge were … we just started in the modulator. Modulator turned out to be a big story for Blonder-Tongue … modulator use mainly for CATV operators, for TVRO … and later for even private people with TVRO … but modulators started out with the TVN modulator. And then it expanded to lower cost ones … and a wide range of modulators – video only, audio only … low cost … a universal modular monitor … a modulator. Modulators are still a big part of Blonder-Tongue’s business.
I must not forget mast mounted transistorized preamps for TV or indoor amplified splitters for the home. Those lines were first started in Newark in 1956 and became very good profit makers. Later versions of these products are still made in Old Bridge.
LOCKWOOD: I bought one. I bought a couple of them, as a matter of a fact … on one of the systems that I did some consulting on.
TONGUE: Hope they work all right.
LOCKWOOD: As far as I know, nobody is screaming!
TONGUE: That’s good. Modulators … we designed signal processors. Which they were signal channel, signal processors which, of course, take the signal out of one channel, put it out at another channel possibly, but band shaping it … AGCing it, and so on. I have a catalog here of what we call our earlier product CATV catalog … this goes back to Newark. I can give that to you. We expanded our sales from just selling to distributors, to selling general line distributors … to selling to CATV distributors … such as Anixter, Toner, TV Cable, Cable TV, etcetera … and that became a large part of our business.
LOCKWOOD: When did you do that kind of change?
TONGUE: Oh, ’82 maybe.
LOCKWOOD: And what, roughly, was your dollar volume, do you remember?
TONGUE: Maybe 10 million … 10, I guess.
LOCKWOOD: I see, okay.
TONGUE: I hope I have it on the tape that in the early seventies a survey of the TV Factbook showed that about a third of the CATV headends were Blonder-Tongue.
LOCKWOOD: I think we must be almost through now …
TONGUE: We had subscription TV. Blonder-Tongue had a concept of over the air subscription TV and it’s called BT Vision and a TV station was constructed called WBTV in Newark, New Jersey, called Channel 68. It’s first broadcast was in September ’74. It was actually using our STV system that was approved by the FCC in 1971. The station operated for awhile, funds ran dry … so it went off the air for awhile … but again, a Florida company called Wometco, expressed an interest in investing in STV … over the air, pay TV … and bought a portion of the station … bought the station actually … and contracted with Blonder-Tongue to make STV decoders. Went on the air, first broadcast, in September, 1975. Subsequently, other people went on the air with Blonder-Tongue STV, in Boston, Oregon, Detroit, Long Island and a couple of other locations that are listed on a separate sheet, that I have supplied.
LOCKWOOD: This what you have given me, is really a scrambler? What kind of scrambling is used in this thing?
TONGUE: This used sync suppression scrambling. We’ve got our own method of sync suppression … which was not the same as what other people use.
LOCKWOOD: Sync suppression had actually been out when you …
TONGUE: Oh yes. That had been put out a long time before that, by I think International Telemeter. I don’t think Zenith used it, but I think it was International Telemeter. I am not sure … Ike will know.
The business went up … expanded very rapidly. We ended up running two and a half shifts and over a thousand employees. Then business started tapering off and the reason was only one channel capability … the decoder could work on one channel … was not able to work on several channels. Of course CATV has the ability to give many programs. So that, in retrospect, was sort of a death knell for a single channel STV, along with the fact that the scrambling did not prove secure enough. Pirates made decoders up in Canada and sold them in this country. They were robbing revenue from STV providers, which gave a lot of difficulty to the business. That was a business that eventually wound down, and was another item in Blonder-TONGUE:’s history.
We designed a pay TV system for the cable industry called Guardsman. Ike Blonder conceived this originally. It operated by putting a mild 6 or 8 db depth trap, on a picture carrier and modulating it … frequency modulating it … which puts a great disturbance in the TV picture, and makes it pretty much unwatchable. The sound was scrambled in the STV descrambler by putting it onto a subcarrier. In the Guardsman, the sound still came through. The picture was scrambled. The Guardsman One, was designed around 1985 and the Guardsman Two, which was designed to be a lower cost, similar item was designed by Ike Blonder in 1987. The wobbulating trap concept Ike patented long, long years before. I developed and applied for a patent on a conventional VHF ??? switchable, low pass filter, which had a sharp cut off, just above channel 13 … or a sharp cut off at about 450 megahertz. So there could be a superband tier turned on or turned off in the decoder as well as up to seven individual channels … scrambled according to the authorization … digital signals sent out by the headend. This system was set up or sold, and operated in several locations … one at Bemidji, Minnesota; one somewhere in Indiana, I can’t remember right now, Ike will remember it. We ended up exiting that business because we were not able to get the cost of the decoder down, sufficiently low, so that it would become viable business. So this off premises system did not work out for Blonder-Tongue.
Ike and I … the company has around maybe sixty patents. It owns all the patents that Ike and I … and all the inventions Ike and I made. We each made, I suppose, roughly the same number of inventions. Many of his were …
LOCKWOOD: Ike contributed technology?
TONGUE: Oh yes. He went to the University of Connecticut for a bachelor’s degree and he got a physics degree from Cornell.
LOCKWOOD: Yes, I remember we talked about that.
TONGUE: His inventions, many of them were of mechanical nature. The company used them and benefited by them. Some of them were of electronic nature, such as the wobbulating trap … and the concept of how the STV system would be … how the pay TV system would be put together.
Another product developed at B-T is the CEF, a Channel Elimination Filter, which is lower cost than the Microwave Filter, Co. Channel Elimination Filters … that takes a one and three-quarter inch rack height. It served for all the VHF channels as well as superband channels but wouldn’t pass Hyperband. Soon, the new version that I happen to be designing now will be available …
LOCKWOOD: Are you designing now?
TONGUE: Designing right now … will be available going up to either 450 or 550 megahertz. Other products that Blonder-Tongue designed, are very high output solid state strip amplifiers … I believe 5 volts output, RMS. We made some single channel one use throw away pay TV traps, for use with this one shot boxing matches (pay-per-view). This particular trap had a little AA cell in it, with a little pull-tab to activate it. And the trap was connected into the TV set and did not operate until one pulled the tab, which activated the battery which put current through a diode, which … now it became low impedance instead of high impedance and the trap was activated. This positive trap system … it worked very well … we sold several hundred thousands on different occasions, to cable companies that wanted to sell one shot pay-per-view programs.
Interesting anecdote … back maybe in 1982, I’m not sure what the date was, the Russians were putting up an apartment house in upper New York City for the employees of the Russian Embassy. The government agency wanted to get some input as to what the Russians were saying. Someone got the idea of having the building’s MATV system transmit to them what was going on. An MATV system was installed. This MATV system involved UHF and VHF strip amplifiers.
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START TAPE 2, SIDE A
TONGUE: The UHF amplifier had a special output amplifier – a miniature solid state amplifier. Remember, this is an amplifier for amplifying the UHF signals picked up for the MATV system. In addition, there was a micro miniaturized transmitter. This could be used to transmit out to the “pick up antenna” any information that was detected. A series of Blonder-Tongue passive wall-taps were modified with special tiny microphones and a delta modulated carrier to take sounds picked up in individual rooms and feed them, via the MATV system, back to the headend amplifier from which they broadcast through the UHF pick up antenna.
I never received any input, any information, whether this worked or not, but here are two newspaper articles that appeared later on, when the Russians discovered it!
LOCKWOOD: Why don’t you go back and see that we got all of that.
TONGUE: You liked that one!
TONGUE: This I should have mentioned earlier. Bob Rines, the fellow I mentioned at the very beginning, who was responsible for Ike and my getting acquainted, has been a continual associate of ours in the company, throughout its whole existence. Bob has been our patent attorney, has been our advisor … and in fact, we valued him sufficiently to make him a part owner of the company, when we first founded it. I think that we would not have gone as far as we have if it hadn’t been for his advice and counsel.
In 1989 Ike Blonder and I sold the company to two individuals … Bob Palle and Jim Luksch. They had prior experience in Texscan, a CATV equipment manufacturer. We sold the company at the end of March, 1989. The company is continuing under the same name, as a Delaware Corporation, instead of the New Jersey Corporation … manufacturing the same products, when appropriate and expanding the line in the same general direction, and the company is doing very well.
LOCKWOOD: Good. Just in case, I think you might have touched on all these questions that we started to … but just in case, I will … you’ve described how you met Ike and how Blonder-Tongue came about, and what you did initially. Your VH booster was your first product, wasn’t it?
TONGUE: Very first product.
LOCKWOOD: Okay, you’ve already got the date on that.
TONGUE: Broadband, automatic, model HAI-L.
LOCKWOOD: … apartment amplifiers, MATV … the question that Archer put down here, “Did you conceive of MATV at the beginning or did the idea just seem to grow out of the market?”
TONGUE: I believe the idea grew out of the market. Then we captured it and pushed on with it.
LOCKWOOD: That was when you really got interested in CATV, shortly thereabouts?
LOCKWOOD: You’ve talked about moving into the STV scrambling. One question that Archer put down here was, “How did Jerrold manage to capture CATV in the fifties?”
TONGUE: Our belief, as I mentioned earlier, that it made financing available,.. cable companies didn’t have much money. Investors didn’t have much confidence in them … but Jerrold convinced the people to invest with the equipment as collateral. I understand they convinced some of the financial suppliers to loan them money and also, I understand that Jerrold, did advance money to the people … gave them exceedingly generous amounts and long terms. In fact, in order to get the product out and having confidence in the CATV field, that the companies would grow and prosper and pay the bills. We were more conservative.
LOCKWOOD: Yes. The follow on question he put down here is, “Could BT have beaten Shapp somehow?”
TONGUE: I think it comes down to the temperament and the natural inclinations of the individuals.
LOCKWOOD: Yes, I see what you are saying. He … one of the things down here, “Any stories about Jerrold versus BT, that might be interesting, or can be repeated?”
TONGUE: I don’t think so. Ike may have some, I don’t know.
LOCKWOOD: Well, maybe Ike will. We’ve got the list of patents and memos and … I think that’s about it.
END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A