Sid Topol

Sid Topol

Interview Date: Tuesday July 24, 1990
Interview Location: Cambridge, MA
Interviewer: E. Stratford Smith
Collection: Penn State Collection
Note: Audio Only

SMITH: This is Tape 1, Side A of an oral history interview with Mr. Sidney Topol, Chairman of the Board of Scientific‑Atlanta. It is July 24, 1990. We are located in the offices of Mr. Topol on Harvard Square where Mr. Topol is a Harvard fellow. The interview is being conducted as part of a continuing series of oral history interviews of pioneers and leaders in the cable television industry. It is under the auspices of The National Cable Television Center and Museum at The Pennsylvania State University. Mr. Topol I’m going to call you Sidney from here on out, if I may.

TOPOL: Good, please. You go with Strat?

SMITH: Yes, I go with Strat. At the beginning I will mention that I have a sheet here furnished by your office, detailing a good deal of your industry background and experience. I’m going to ask your permission to copy it into the record rather than read it in. (See Attachment A) Later in the interview I inquire about some of the specific items and expand upon them.

TOPOL: Yes, sir.

SMITH: At the beginning we usually elicit some background information. As Frank Thompson would say, “You were born at an early date.” Would you tell us where you were born and when?

TOPOL: I was born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 28, 1924. As the story goes, I think I was born at home. My parents lived in a part of Boston called Dorchester ‑ historic, going back to the colonial days. Of course the neighborhoods have changed over the years. At that time my father owned three houses as I remember on the street, and I was born in one of those houses that we lived in, in 1924.

SMITH: What was your father’s ethnic background?

TOPOL: I’m a first generation American. My mother and father were born in eastern Europe, in Poland, which pre‑World War I, was a part of Russia. It became a separate country after World War II but then got incorporated back again. There was a very large emigration from eastern Europe around the turn of the century and both my father and mother left around 1905.

SMITH: Were they married when they came over?

TOPOL: No, my father took a rather long route. He stopped in Amsterdam where he had a cousin. He also stopped off in London where he had a brother, and he stopped off in New York, where he had relatives. He met my mother in New York in a factory. He didn’t like factory work. So he came to Boston and got into the food and produce business which he was in for fifty or sixty years. He brought my mother, as a young teenager, from New York to Boston. They were married in 1911 when she was 19, in 1911. I know that because I just found her invitation. They were married in New York in 1911. My mother is still alive at around 98. My father passed away about eleven or twelve years ago at 92.

SMITH: What work did your father engage in when he moved to Boston since he didn’t like factory work?

TOPOL: He had cousins in the food and produce business. So he got into the food and produce business where he had steady customers for forty or fifty years. My brothers and I, I have two brothers, had a tradition of working with my father summers and on Saturdays all year round. That was my first introduction to the work ethic.

SMITH: What was the nature of the work you did with your father?

TOPOL: Well, we had steady customers. That was the days before supermarkets. That was in the early days even before good refrigeration. As you know, food and produce had to be purchased almost every day. My father had a tradition of going to the market. If he were alive today he’d be absolutely amazed at what happened to the market district because it’s now the Faneuil Hall, Rouse development at Faneuil Market. All through downtown Boston was the area where the farmers came in the morning. Like three, four or five in the morning. They came in with fresh fruit and produce ‑ corn, strawberries, and so forth. My father came to the market. Then we had a series of steady customers that we called on, a route. That was when people bought fruit and produce, not at supermarkets, but at home.

My father had very good times in the 1920’s, that was before I was born. As a result of that, he could afford to buy some real estate in the neighborhood. Then, of course, the 30’s came and those were tough times. People were out of work and I remember he gave people credit and some paid and some didn’t. In the residential buildings, which we owned in the 30’s, people couldn’t afford to pay rent. There were many people who stayed two, three, four, six, months who couldn’t pay. Those were tough times, but we came through that.

The war years came along and all three of us went in the service ‑ my two brothers and I. My father went into civil defense, he had a white helmet, you know. They had the three stars in the window, I remember, and every time the front doorbell rang, my mother’s heart sank. Those were the times, but we all came through the war. My father retired not long after the war.

We always had a nice life as kids. We always had an automobile, I remember. Even in the 30’s. Of course, we lived okay. We were not well off in any way. My older sister and older brother didn’t go to college, except for part time. My other brother went to night school at Boston College and got his law degree at night, except for the last year, when he went days. He finished at Boston College Law School in 1941 and went right into the service as an ensign at Notre Dame.

SMITH: Is he practicing law now?

TOPOL: No, he’s retired. While you were at the FCC, he was at the National Labor Relations Board in Washington and spent time in the economic labor law field all his career.

SMITH: Would you identify your brother and sister by name?

TOPOL: My oldest brother, Cyrus, is 13 years older than I am, so he’s 78 years old; sort of semi‑retired, very active. Unfortunately, lost his wife a couple of years ago. He went into the Navy, as I mentioned earlier. He was on the U.S.S. Missouri all the way from beginning to the end during the signing. He goes back every year for a U.S.S. Missouri reunion.

My sister is a year younger. She has a couple of children and lots of grandchildren. She lives in Boston. My other brother Cyrus lives in Worcester, Massachusetts. My other brother Julie, as I mentioned, was an attorney and an ensign on the U.S.S. Ralph Talbot. He went through some rough times in the war. He retired some years ago. He lives half‑time in Puerto Rico and the other half‑time in Connecticut. That’s my brothers and sister.

As I mentioned, we all worked with my father, right through high school and even through college. It was kind of a tradition that the succeeding son took over. My father was a very hard worker. Always got up early. Always was an hour ahead of time for any appointment. Some of the memories I have as a youngster…we had relatives in New York…was that drive from Boston to New York in an old Nash and then piling up on the running boards. You piled up your baggage on top. There was like an eight hour drive.

SMITH: The Nash was one of those automobiles that you could recognize before you saw it by the sound of the engine. Do you remember that?

TOPOL: Yeah. I learned how to drive long before I was 16 years old. I used to bootleg drive. Another very youthful memory was a trip just before World War II. My two brothers and I took a long trip. We bought a new car then, an Oldsmobile. I think we paid six or seven hundred dollars in those days for a pretty good car.

SMITH: Brand new.

TOPOL: Pretty good car. This was about ’39, ’40. We took a great trip up through New York state, Niagara Falls, over to Cleveland, down through the skyline drive, and up through Washington. Then the war came. I was a student at Boston Latin School at the time.

SMITH: I want to get into that specifically, but I was going to ask first, as a youngster did you have any hobbies or sports that you particularly enjoyed?

TOPOL: Like a lot of kids in the Boston area, we all were members of clubs. We had these clubs. They mainly revolved around sports. We played basketball‑‑not so much in those days. Mostly football and baseball, a little basketball and a little hockey. Baseball was the big sport when I was a kid. Out club had a pretty good team. I was fair, played right field. I remember one year, I was trying to remember exactly, it was either ’39 or ’40, you had to be 16 or younger in this league. We just made that. We made the finals and I got to play at what was at that time, Brave’s Field.

The Atlanta Braves started here in Boston as the Boston Braves, and then went to Milwaukee and then Atlanta. They were never really a great team. The Red Sox always overshadowed the Braves here. But we got to play in Brave’s Field. I remember playing right field in Brave’s Field. I have a picture of me there playing baseball. I lived not far from a baseball field and we used to take our gloves and our bat and a ball. A bunch of kids would go over and play baseball. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the kind of direction you get today with Little League. No one really taught us anything. We were all self‑taught in those days.

SMITH: How old were you at the time that you played at the Brave’s Field?

TOPOL: Either 15 or 16.

SMITH: That was a local club league, was it?

TOPOL: Local park league. The city of Boston had a park league. You had a whole schedule in the summer. You played at various parks and we had a good enough team to get to the finals.

SMITH: You mentioned earlier, going from your baseball career back to your educational background, that you were in the Boston Latin School. Would you tell us something about that? I understand it’s not just an ordinary run‑of‑the‑mill school.

TOPOL: Yes. Actually anybody who has attended the Boston Latin School never forgets it. He may have gone on to Princeton or Yale or Harvard or Oxford, through PhD. programs but he always remembers his four or six years at Latin School. It’s the oldest public school in America. It started in 1635 on School Street right across the street from the Parker House in Boston. It has moved around. Right now it is in the Back Bay, not far from where I am living now. You could enter it in either the seventh grade or in the ninth grade. I joined it in the ninth grade. I only went four years, nine, ten, eleven and twelve. It was very difficult to enter. It was entrance by examination. Most students knew it was very difficult to get in. It was also very difficult to stay in. Less than half of those who entered, graduated. Less than half. Grading was very difficult. There were no ifs, ands or buts. There were certain rules that if you didn’t pass certain grades, certain months in a row, you were out. You were sent back to your local regional high school.

SMITH: This was a public school.

TOPOL: This was a public school. Probably the first magnet school in America. It was in the early days a preparatory school for Harvard. For many, many years nearly one‑third of the class would go to Harvard. Classical education; French, German, Latin, English of course, and a lot of math, physics, chemistry. Everybody carried big, heavy bags of books home every night. It was a commuting school, in that generally, people went by public transportation. Rain, cold, shine, snow, heat, you went by public transportation. And you couldn’t be late. They were very strict on tardiness and absence and had a program of misdemeanor marks. If you got censured, that was really bad. It was almost like the Senate. In class, in order to talk you had to raise your hand. The principal was known as the headmaster and the teachers were masters. Very much on the British private school model. I graduated in the class of June of ’41. I am about to chair the 50th Reunion of this class of ’41 next spring. We plan to have a little symposium as well as having a social reunion.

The war came along right at that time. This was June of ’41, and of course, Pearl Harbor was in December of ’41. All of us have great memories of Latin School, highly disciplined. For example, Sumner Redstone, who as you know, is Chairman of Viacom now and was a Latin School graduate, class of ’40. He was one year ahead of me. He and I both had the distinction and honor of being selected as the man of the year or the graduate of the year. His was last year, mine was in ’82. That’s a thrilling experience. Everybody who goes back and makes a speech, makes almost the same speech. I mean the school had a tremendous impact on all of us. Life sort of began at Boston Latin, the work ethic, teaching, education, excellence, discipline, hard work, thinking through problems.

SMITH: Students who were there, I assume, were there because they wanted to be there. I imagine it was pretty traumatic to be thrown out?

TOPOL: Well, yeah. I have to tell you this. Either you are thrown out or you take an extra year. One of my colleagues, Bill Ward, who was a football player, took an extra year. He subsequently became President of Amherst College. He became a scholar afterwards. But it took him an extra year to get through Latin School. That was not uncommon. I had my first meeting last week, as a matter of fact, on this 50th Reunion, and the reminiscing are very interesting.

SMITH: How is the man of the year selected for this honor?

TOPOL: I think there is something called the Boston Latin School Association or Boston Latin School Foundation. There’s a group of trustees and each year I suppose they solicit. I was selected in 1982. Of course Scientific‑Atlanta had just come off a ten year great string of annual improvements in sales and earnings; and so, based on that record, I think, somebody from Harvard Business School who was a trustee had come across my work at Scientific‑Atlanta. I remember the phone call I got asking me if I would agree. It was quite a thrilling moment.

SMITH: I can imagine it was. When you finished in 1941, did you go directly then to college?

TOPOL: I did. As a youngster I had decided I wanted to go away to college. I wanted to have some campus life. I had been commuting here and I didn’t want to go through another commute. The college that my family could afford was the state university, at the time. It was called Massachusetts State College, which subsequently became the University of Massachusetts. I went there for a year and a half, actually a little less. I volunteered for induction in March of ’43. I had just turned 18.

SMITH: Was this while you were in school?

TOPOL: While I was in school. I was thinking of being a chemistry major, then I heard about a program where the Army Air Corps wanted meteorologists. The idea was you would volunteer for induction and then go to Atlantic City, I think Fort Devens, first year in Atlantic City. You sort of waited and you applied for this meteorology school at the University of Michigan. A little anecdote, I think you had a very difficult time getting in. It was selective. I think the fact that I went to Boston Latin School was very critical because somebody on the reviewing board went to Latin School. I was accepted and somewhere around the summer of ’43, June or so, I wound up in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a six month program to become a meteorologist, a weather officer in the Army Air Corps. About two‑thirds of the way through the program it became clear to them that there were too many meteorologists in the Army Air Corps. They asked all of us what other activity we would be willing to apply for. I chose communications and was accepted to become a communications officer in the Army Air Corps.

SMITH: You were a Private at that time, were you?

TOPOL: Still a Private, a Cadet. I was called an Aviation Cadet. I was a Private at Michigan. I become an Aviation Cadet when I was accepted to become a communications officer and I went to an airfield called Seymour Johnson Field in Goldsboro, North Carolina. There I went through some Aviation Cadet training, marches every day. We studied some basic military courses. From there I went to Yale University, where I studied for four months or so and became a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps as a Communications Officer.

SMITH: Can you recall for the record some of the courses of instruction that you took at Yale? I guess I ask you because my own career in the Navy somewhat parallels yours and I’m just curious.

TOPOL: Somewhere along the line, it was either there or Seymour Johnson Field, we studied code. We had to take a certain number of words per minute of Morse Code. We studied certain basic officer courses, I remember. It was a long time ago. I remember certain courses on geography and determining directions and so forth with compasses. I forget all that. We had some basic communications courses at Yale in radio, and studied a little bit about the transmitters and receivers that the Army Air Corps had at the time. I remember an airborne radio, SCR 522, VHF and UHF radios of various types, Signal Corps radios. They were all Signal Corps radios. I did pretty well at Michigan. My grades were good and somewhere along the line I was advised that I was accepted at the Harvard MIT radar school.

SMITH: You say that you started with the Morse Code, you couldn’t get much more primitive in communications unless you went to smoke signals.

TOPOL: I think we had to do twelve words a minute. What did you get up to?

SMITH: Twelve or fifteen. Something like that. We also had to be able to do it with blinker lights.

TOPOL: We had to tap it out. I had a reasonably good technical background at the time in math and physics and chemistry, so at Yale my grades were pretty good and I was amongst a small group that was asked to go to Cambridge and Harvard and MIT.

SMITH: How long were you at the Harvard and MIT?

TOPOL: We started at Harvard first and went to Cruft Laboratory. Chaffee and Ronald W.P. King and the Antennas[???] and Professor La Corbeire, a fantastic professor. It was a very condensed four month course. We went to school from eight in the morning to five at night and studied every night. That was four months. Then we moved over to MIT in a building called the Harbor Building right on the wharf where there were a bunch of MIT professors, and we started to study radar. The word radar in those days was classified. We couldn’t take any of the books out of the MIT so we had to study there. I studied every airborne radar there was at the time. The bombing radars that they use on the B‑17s and the B‑24s, I think it was APS, APQ, various code names. I finished up four months at Harvard and three at MIT, in seven months. I think by that time it was early 1945 and we were sent to Boca Raton to fly various airborne radars. I spent two months in Boca Raton.

SMITH: You say to fly them, would you elaborate on that?

TOPOL: We became radar observers and we flew B‑17s and B‑24s and got training on operations of airborne radars. Watching the scope, we used to fly down the Keys. You could see the whole outline of all the Keys on the radar scopes. That was as a radar observer. We didn’t do any radar bombing, but there was a radar observer.

SMITH: By this time were you technically conversant with how radar worked? Could you repair one of the devices if it went bad on you?

TOPOL: Yeah. We went through the radars in exquisite detail. The schematics, every resistor and capacitor, as I remember, and the scopes. I guess I could have repaired it at the time.

SMITH: The first time I ever heard the word radar was when I was in Communications School here at Harvard for the Navy, at the same time that you were in the radar school.

TOPOL: Just as an aside, Cambridge was really the center with the MIT Radiation Lab where radar was being developed. Some of the great scientists were here working. Harvard had the radio research lab which was doing all the original work on counter measures. Between Harvard and MIT are radar and counter measures and so forth and of course, the Manhattan Project. In the short period of two or three years, the development that took place in ’43‑’45 is just unbelievable, the inventions and the concentration of brain power.

SMITH: I didn’t realize all of what was going on when I was up here. Of course things were highly secretive. But I interrupted you at Boca Raton and I must tell you that I almost got thrown out of a City Council meeting in Boca Raton for calling it Boca Raton. I noticed that you pronounced it Boca Raton.

TOPOL: Oh. Thank you for correcting me.

SMITH: It was probably Boca Raton in those days. It developed to rhyme with tone later on. Not only did I get admonished by the Mayor, and this was a cable television matter in which I represented the city, that I was working on, he handed me a copy of an official resolution of the city of Boca Raton saying that they were henceforth, the City of Boca Raton, pronounced Ratone. I thought you might be interested in updating your pronunciation.

TOPOL: Boca Raton.

SMITH: Boca Raton it is today. Would you pursue your career from the Boca Raton days…

TOPOL: Ok, Boca Raton. When I finished up at Boca Raton they, sent me to Warner Robbins Field, Macon, Georgia. It was hot; it was red clay. No air conditioning in 1945. I point that out because as you know, twenty five years later, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, but I always had those early memories of Macon, Georgia. It took me a long time to make the decision to move to Atlanta because of those memories. Those were really memories, but the South had changed with air conditioning. And Atlanta is not Macon. Atlanta is a lovely city. It has very green, very lush rolling hills. We spent a couple of, maybe a month, in Macon and I got word that I was going to be sent to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio to do research on electronics, communications and radar. Once again, my grades caught up with me and somebody wanted me. Like yourself, like we mentioned at breakfast this morning, I said, “Wait a minute. I’ve had enough. I’ve been to every school. I’ve been going to school all my life, right up to this point, either as a civilian or in the military and I’ve had it. I want to go overseas.” My brothers who were overseas thought I was crazy. I had a reunion with them someplace. So they agreed and I was sent to Salt Lake City.

SMITH: Our paths were in a sense parallel.

TOPOL: There was a staging area in Salt Lake City during World War II. Does that ring a bell with you?

SMITH: Yes, it does.

TOPOL: I stayed in Salt Lake City and then I shipped out from either Seattle or Portland‑‑I forget which, on the Great Circle Route to Japan.

SMITH: What kind of a ship were you on?

TOPOL: A small troop ship. God, I was seasick that whole trip. That was a tough trip. Got to Japan and we went to two places, Tachikawa Air Force Base and Irumagawa Air Force Base. I didn’t stay at either very long. I ran into a lot of military personnel who had come through the whole war in Asia, fought through the whole war in Asia, and they were on their way back home. I went off to Tokyo, to the Far East Air Force Headquarters. Either the Far East Air Force or the Fifth Air Force which was attached to it.

SMITH: Still as a radar observer or a specialist?

TOPOL: No, no, that’s the thing. After all the radar training I had, I actually became a telephone officer. However, it was the very early days of microwave and I was involved in a VHF four channel microwave system which fed our transmitters out on an island for a radio telephone and a radio telex, a radio teletype system. That was my first introduction to point‑to‑point microwave. That was critical, in that it had changed my life from a chemistry major to an engineering/physics major. We installed these microwave links all around Tokyo and built a communication system for the Far East Air Force and the Fifth Air Force. MacArthur was there. He was in the Dieichi Building.

Tokyo had burned to the ground. Maybe three or four brick buildings were standing, one of which was the Tokyo electric building where we were housed in the Dieichi building. The Imperial Hotel was left, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Imperial Palace was untouched, amazingly. Tokyo was leveled to the ground. I spent almost a year, maybe ten months in Japan, first in Tokyo, then we moved to Nagoya. Japan was primitive then. It was a very interesting experience and I got involved in telephone voice and teletype. When I returned and was discharged in the summer of ’46, I went back just for a semester to the University of Massachusetts because I had credits from Harvard and MIT and Michigan. I got my bachelor of science in physics.

SMITH: Those credits were allowed towards your degree?

TOPOL: Yes. They were excellent courses. My first job after college I applied as a Physicist P‑1 at the Naval Research Laboratory, I don’t know if that’s what you want to call it.

SMITH: That’s just fine. Chronologically we’re right where I’d like it to be.

TOPOL: Just an anecdote of the war years. I told you a couple of very significant things that happened to me that changed my life. One was switching from chemistry to engineering as the result of communications and radar. The second was that while I was at the University of Michigan, I signed up with another friend of mine for a USO dance in Detroit. In signing up we were asked, “Would you like to stay at somebody’s house?” And I did. We signed up to stay at the home of Dolf and Trudel Widman. They have both since passed away. He was a brilliant automotive engineer. He was a pilot in World War I in Europe and was a wonderful influence on my life. They had a young high school aged daughter. When we stayed at their house she went to stay with some friend and we stayed in her room, I remember.

He was a man who travelled a lot. A Renaissance Man. A man of the world. When he was younger he made enough money‑‑he had some patents‑‑and he just quit his job and he and his wife travelled. He had been to most countries in the world. He had a very big impact on me. I tell you that because that was my first introduction to the world outside the U.S. and a desire to see and travel around the world. That led to the first trip I took to Europe and it led to my actually working in Europe at a later date. That was an experience I had in Michigan with the Widman’s. We became lifelong friends, I often visited them. They retired in Arizona and I visited them there. They came to visit me in Atlanta and in Boston several times. One of those rare friendships that you make. I’m still friendly with their daughter, who lives in Wyoming.

SMITH: Sounds almost like a father‑son relationship. We had you back to Massachusetts State College was it?

TOPOL: It was the University of Massachusetts when I got back for a semester and then graduated. My first job I took an examination and I became a Physicist P1, at $2000 a year, at the Naval Research Laboratory, working on antenna research.

SMITH: Was that a civil service exam?

TOPOL: Civil service exam and I got a veteran’s preference if you remember.

SMITH: Yes, I do.

TOPOL: Five points or something like that. I worked at Naval Research Laboratory for a year and did some pioneering work there in helical antennas.

SMITH: Just for the record, what is a helical antenna?

TOPOL: Well, a helical antenna is made up by taking a wire and forming it in the shape of a helix with a certain number of turns. It’s distinguished by the fact that it gives you circular polarization. As you know, circular polarization has certain advantages. We did some research on circular polarization for radar applications and it gives you better reflections, for example, and as it turns out, satellite communications uses circular polarization. It’s technical. There are three kinds of polarization; vertical which is used by AM stations, horizontal which are used by TV antennas now, and then there’s circular, where basically the radio waves rotate. You have to have the right kind of right hand and left hand circular polarization antennas to receive one or the other.

SMITH: Were these antennas intended for shipboard use?

TOPOL: Yes, they were intended for military applications and were actually the basis for making certain decisions on airborne weather radars that became commercial weather radars. I remember working on some testing of that at the Naval Research Lab. It was 1947 and 1948 in Washington, D.C. Very hot, as you know, in the summer.

SMITH: Miserable.

TOPOL: No air conditioning in those days. I took one year of that.

SMITH: I was living in Washington, D.C. by then.

End of Tape 1, Side A

SMITH: This is Tape 1, Side B of the oral interview with Sidney Topol. We were up to the miserably hot summers in Washington, D.C., and the Naval Research Laboratory.

TOPOL: The group I was with was the antenna research branch which was out of radiation laboratory. Dr. Van Atta and a large group of scientists under him, and a consultant at that time was a Dr. Chu from MIT, who I subsequently took some courses with when I came to Raytheon Company, but I’m getting ahead of myself. At the Naval Research Laboratory, I had done reasonably well and I decided I would go back to school and do graduate work. One of the original leaders of the antenna research branch at MIT was a Dr. Samuel Silver, Sam Silver, who wrote the classic book on antennas. He was at the University of California at Berkeley along with John Winnery, a classic professor who wrote the famous book with Simon Renault called Fields and Waves in Modern Radio, one of the classic books on understanding radio propagation. I applied for my master’s degree at the University of California. I was accepted and I spent a year doing graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. I came back the following summer and I got a summer job at Raytheon Company.

SMITH: Before we go into Raytheon, did you get a degree in Electrical Engineering?

TOPOL: No, that’s the thing. I came back. I got a summer job and I liked working so much. Once again, I really enjoyed real‑live projects. So I took a leave of absence from the University of California and said I’d like to stay here for another year and work and come back. As a matter of fact I never went back. I spent 22 years at Raytheon. I have pretty close to enough credits for a master’s degree, but I didn’t do that.

As you know, many years later I got an honorary Doctor of Science degree from my original alma mater. I spent 22 years at Raytheon Company, first, once again, back in antennas.

SMITH: Your radar training is kicking in.

TOPOL: Radar training and the antenna training at Naval Research Laboratory helped me. At that time it was not a good year. It was 1949, the summer of ’49, and they weren’t really hiring many people. I remember once again agreeing to work for $2000 a year as a student engineer.

SMITH: What specifically did you do in that summer job and in those early jobs?

TOPOL: I worked on a radar antenna design. Designing shaped beam antennas for shipboard and airborne radars.

SMITH: This was laboratory work?

TOPOL: Laboratory work. Raytheon had a few Navy contracts in those days. So I worked on designing what was known as horn‑feeds. I don’t know if you remember. They had those shaped cantaloupe pears. Then there was what was known as a hog horn(???) which came out in front of it. I had a few patents in those days. I remember designing a radar, the TPS1D. That was very famous because it became a standard NATO transportable radar in Europe. It had two antennas. One for radar and another one for IFF in identification for friend or foe. I said, “Why can’t we use the same antenna?” One was horizontally polarized and one was vertically polarized. I had a patent on a particular antenna which would allow the same reflector to be used for both radar and IFF. Those were some of the things I did. At a certain moment, I switched from antenna design to point to point microwave design.

SMITH: What caused that switch?

TOPOL: I think I got bored with antenna design. I had been at it quite a while and I wanted to do systems work and project engineer work. I transferred from one department to another. This is another very significant career turning point. I became the Project Engineer for a portable television relay link. We are now around 1950. The big battle for color between Paley and Sarnoff was on. The second NTSC committee headed by Dr. W.R.G. Baker, does that ring a bell?

SMITH: Yes, it does. The Television Allocation Table, Sixth Report and Order of the FCC, is history by that time. And yes, it does.

TOPOL: Dr. W.R.G. Baker. By that time the famous microwave system which you talked about earlier that the AT&T, Bell System put in called the TD2 had already been built coast to coast. We are now 1950. There was TV transmitted from coast to coast. But it was black and white. That first system was developed for black and white television.

SMITH: The microwave was? That did have a limited band width.

TOPOL: It had a limited band width and there was frequency modulation and it was developed for black and white. No one in the early days of building microwave links worried about color TV. It was too early. We were busy on black and white. Whereas AT&T had a monopoly on the fixed long‑distance microwave links. There was a need for what has become ENG equipment, called Electronic News Gathering. Portable links were needed where you could go to a sports event or a news event and pick up a signal with equipment within a truck that carried cameras, and beam that signal back to the transmitter or the studio to be broadcast. There was one portable microwave link in existence at that time that was built by RCA. At that time RCA was the giant of everything television. Sarnoff was in his prime.

The labs were doing well. At Camden, if you remember, they had television manufacturing, they had a big broadcast division making studio cameras, transmitters, antennas, big bat wing antennas, if you remember. They had developed the first portable link. It was heavy. It consisted of five suitcase type carriers. I think three on the transmit side and two on the receive side. It did not have an audio channel incorporated in it. It would only send video and you had to use a separate line for audio, either the telephone line or a separate radio link.

SMITH: That took some synchronization, didn’t it?

TOPOL: Yes. I don’t know whose idea it was at Raytheon because we were always playing around with point‑to‑point microwave. We had built a microwave link between Boston and New York; Raytheon had at that time a construction permit to build Channel 2 here in Boston.

SMITH: Channel 2, the Television Broadcast Channel 2.

TOPOL: Yes. Raytheon, by that time, had bought Belmont Radio in Chicago. They were making TV sets. They were also an erstwhile broadcast equipment manufacturer in terms of transmitters and some studio equipment. That was the reason for going into the studio‑to‑transmiter link. As an aside for a moment, Raytheon had the permit to build Channel 2, which today would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars as a commercial station. They kept postponing it because they wanted to build their own transmitter. The FCC finally took it away from them because they dilatory. And it got lost in the shuffle of public broadcast. It subsequently became a public broadcast station.

SMITH: Fascinating.

TOPOL: Raytheon had these ideas of TV sets, TV broadcast transmitters, and TV microwave. One of the point‑to‑point TV microwaves used a magnetron. Crazy idea of frequency modulating a magnetron.

SMITH: What is a magnetron, for the record?

TOPOL: A magnetron is a high power, basically pulse tube, that was the breakthrough on radar in the war. It was invented by the British and put into mass production by Raytheon in World War II. It was the basis of us being a leader in shipboard and airborne radar.

SMITH: Physically wasn’t that a very large tube?

TOPOL: Large tube, big magnet, heavy. Raytheon tried to do everything with it. Communicate with it, cook with it. Cooking with it worked out fine. Raytheon invented the microwave oven called the “Radar Range.”

SMITH: Magnetron was the heart of that?

TOPOL: Magnetron was the heart of it. They built those magnetrons for years until the Far East people took it over. Raytheon, as a result of that, went into the range business and they own Amana and some other range company, I forget. But that’s an aside. Coming back to this portable television relay link. As a young engineer, I became Project Engineer.

SMITH: How old were you then?

TOPOL: Well, let’s figure out. This was around 1950. I was born in ’24, so I was around 26 then, I guess.

SMITH: And you were not yet married?

TOPOL: Not yet married. I really immersed myself into this. I was excited about doing this project. So this was another turning point in my career. Instead of sitting in the lab and figuring out how I could come up with the best gadgetry, I went out into the field. I went to my first NAB show.

SMITH: National Association of Broadcasters. Where was that?

TOPOL: I think it was in Chicago.

SMITH: They often were there in those days.

TOPOL: That would have been ’50 or ’51. I went around and I talked to all the broadcasters. “I know you’re happy with your portable link, but if you were to do it all over again, what would you like to see?” I remember writing these down in a little black book. One of them says we’d like to have an audio channel inside, because as you mention, it’s very difficult to synchronize and coordinate that. Two, we need it lighter. It has to be lighter.

SMITH: It had to be really portable, no luggable.

TOPOL: Really portable. Forty pounds maximum per box. And preferably, not five boxes, but four boxes. It had to have certain controls and so forth. You have to have a certain length between the antenna and the control unit. We would like to be able to have a situation where we could put it on a tripod, put the antenna on a tripod, and pull one of the boxes away from it and leave the tripod set up with the antenna and come back and simply slide the unit back in again. That became the basis for all ENG equipment in the future.

I still see certain tripod mounted equipment with the same concept of what I called an L bracket which sat on the tripod. The other thing was you had to be able to mount the antenna from the rear because sometimes it was (the entrance???) so you had to be able to bring the antenna over and hook it, and then tighten it up from the rear and bring the feed for the antenna in from the rear.

Those are the sort of things that I spent several months talking about to our sales people and to customers. Long before the books were written about “stay close to your customer” in 1950, forty years ago, I designed this portable television relay link. The total budget was $200,000 to develop this whole thing. I had to build four models for that, field test models. I remember we field‑tested with the old Dumont Network. My boss, Fritz Gross, had a friend, I forget his name now from old Navy days.

SMITH: That was the old Dumont Television Network?

TOPOL: The old Dumont Television Network. Right. One of my first customers was KTLA in Los Angeles. Klaus something or other, I forget his name. We thought that we would break even on this project if we sold one or two hundred units. We subsequently, sold thousands. It had a very high margin, very high margin. We built it, I forget what the prices were in those days.

SMITH: You mentioned that you developed four field models and then you mentioned KTLA. Did they get one of the field models for testing?

TOPOL: No. We didn’t sell the field models. We let people use them. They got one of the original units. It became the standard portable link in the industry. But it was black and white. During this period, was the big battle between Sarnoff and Paley. After the color wheel short‑term burst, we went to NTSC color, which was compatible with the sub carrier. All the work that was done by the various groups under Baker, there was a famous Art Loughren, Hazletein. Hazletein did a lot of great work on color.

SMITH: Sorry to interrupt you. You mentioned the color wheel. That was the system that the FCC authorized for a while. Promoted by CBS.

TOPOL: Exactly. CBS Labs.

SMITH: And Dr. Peter Goldmark too.

TOPOL: And Bill Paley. And it was accepted. And Sarnoff, I don’t know how he did it, but he said, “Hold up. We don’t think we want to go this way. That will make all the existing black and white sets obsolete. We’ve got to have a system that when we transmit color, the black and white sets can receive it in black and white.”

SMITH: I just must interpose here. Interviewers are not supposed to, but I will. I was at the FCC during that battle and I remember a demonstration that was put on at the Willard Hotel for the FCC Commissioners and staff in which the CBS color wheel systems were lined up on one side of the large room and RCA’s totally electronic system was being demonstrated on the other side. And the color wheel pictures were sharp and brilliant and clean, and every television set that had the RCA pictures on had different color hues. But they were color. Some of my colleagues at the Commission said, “Well RCA just set color television back by fifteen years.” But what they meant was, obviously, that the FCC had to go to the electronic system and it needed a lot of work.

TOPOL: A lot of work. I didn’t buy a color TV set for years and years. I mean, I couldn’t stand…. The big problem came when they worked on color. They really worked on color being transmitted over AM transmitters. And they worried about certain technical parameters relative to amplitude modulation, which is the way the transmitter is modulating or the vestidual sideband modulation, which is all worked out between the transmitter and the receiver. They had a lot of questions about delays and color quality and so forth. When we went to microwave links, we had frequency modulation. We had a whole new array of problems, which were not originally thought of. So everybody in the microwave link business, AT&T, Bell companies, and all the microwave manufacturers, had to understand how you send NTSC color through a frequency modulated microwave link. It was a big problem. We had to go in and modify all the equipment. So did AT&T. We had to go in and put in group delay equalizers in the intermediate frequency amplifiers and the RF amplifiers. Phase distortion became a big issue in FM systems. I started a big project then.

SMITH: This was still at Raytheon?

TOPOL: Still at Raytheon. Incidentally, as a matter of interest, we had included an audio sub‑carrier along with the video. Under certain conditions, we would get buzz in the audio. That was the same problem as putting the NTSC color sub‑carrier on. I’m getting a little too technical.

SMITH: Not really. Researchers will go find out what those terms mean.

TOPOL: Okay. When we put this audio sub‑carrier on, we were really pioneering the color problem on frequency modulated microwave. We had the same problem with audio. When we put the color sub‑carrier on which is a part of the NTSC compatible system, it got compounded because the two sub‑carriers interfered with each other. We had a big project to “phase linearize” the whole system. So did AT&T have this big project. So everybody in the FM business had to go back and modify all their equipment to make it capable of transmitting NTSC color. It was then that I joined the Electronic Industries Association. I became chairman of a committee called TR 4.2, which was under the transmitters. At that time, we had to allocate between the studio and the studio‑to‑ transmitter link and the transmitter allocations of the NTSC specifications‑‑things like differential phase, differential gain, etc. So that was the beginning of industry standardization. Industry, itself, took the FCC spec and decided how the specs would be divided up.

SMITH: Then your contacts began to branch out into the telephone company industry and other manufacturers?

TOPOL: Right. That’s when I started to meet people from General Electric and RCA and CBS. I first met Joe Stern. Do you know Joe?

SMITH: No. I don’t think I do.

TOPOL: Joe was with CBS then. Another fellow by the name of Auggie Presthold. And the Chief Engineer of CBS was Howard Chin.

SMITH: That name sounds familiar. Chin, that is.

TOPOL: How are we doing?

SMITH: We’re doing fine. I keep checking the vu meter to make certain that it’s going back and forth. That tells me we’re both recording.

TOPOL: We’re both modulating.

SMITH: I watch for the flashing light to tell me we’re at the end of the tape.

TOPOL: So we went through a period of a year or so of modifying all the microwave links for color. Now, in those days, I went to almost every NAB show from 1953 to the present. Actually before that, the first NAB show was in Chicago a year or two earlier. So, from about 1950, I’ve been through about forty years of NAB shows. We introduced this portable link in 1953 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The keynote luncheon speaker was David Sarnoff. My wife came with me that year. We had our first child and we left her with her grandmother and we did the California bit.

SMITH: This was the modified system to transmit color that you’re talking about? That you introduced.

TOPOL: We were starting to. I think some of the units got out with black and white, but they had to go back and we put a fix in it. In those days, the broadcasters were not that solvent. They were not that well financed. They did not pay their bills very well. People weren’t sure of television in the early 50’s. A few live shows, as you remember. The first color sets were pretty bad. BAD. Remember the Zenith round.

SMITH: I remember those.

TOPOL: My first personal color TV set was a homemade set that I bought from a colleague at the Naval Research Laboratory. I had one in Washington D.C. in ’47.

SMITH: In ’47?

TOPOL: Yeah. It was a homemade set. You had to darken the room. You almost had to put a sheet over your head to watch the thing.

SMITH: Where would you get a color program?

TOPOL: No, No, No. That was black and white. That was my first TV set in general. Of course, Sarnoff was very wise in that he put color programs on long before there were color TV sets. So he solved the chicken and egg question himself.

SMITH: He took on the burden when he insisted the FCC wait. Didn’t he? He really took on for his company the burden of making it work.

TOPOL: Yeah. The other very significant thing that happened in that period, which impacts us all today, was David Sarnoff had this theory that he did not want to be a global manufacturer. He was a U.S. company with U.S. manufacturing and he licensed the world first on black and white, then on color. That led to universal licensing of the whole TV industry. Particularly, the receivers. That includes the tuners, mechanical tuners, made by Sickles. That was all licensed in those days. In the ’50’s. Sickles was later on a part of General Instruments. In any event, this was all licensed, particularly to the Japanese.

SMITH: In your opinion, was that a good thing or a bad thing. Meaning, Mr. Sarnoff’s philosophy?

TOPOL: At that time, he was sort of magnanimous, saying, “I want the world to have television. I’m not afraid of competition. The more people that manufacture, the better.” I guess he had thirty, forty percent market share, which he probably had then. RCA, even just a few years ago, had twenty one percent market share in the U.S. He probably never thought very much of the European market or the Asian market, but the U.S. market was the big thing. So, why not license it. As a matter of fact, he got millions and millions and millions of dollars of royalties. But, he created the Japanese consumer electronics industry. They started to make tuners for us, and components and then complete black and white sets.

SMITH: This was post World War II, in the 1950’s. Is that right?

TOPOL: Right. That was one very significant, in my opinion, business policy decision that had major world‑wide impact. Social impact, political impact, economical impact. At the same time, another observation that I would like to make, Western Electric and the Bell System, Western Electric was then the supplier for the Bell System. AT&T and the operating companies bought ninety‑eight percent of their product from Western Electric.

SMITH: Which was fully owned by AT&T.

TOPOL: Fully owned by AT&T. Western Electric, at that time, did not export. I have to look up, at some point, whether they were barred from export by some decree when they split off from ITT, but I don’t think they were. It’s just that they didn’t have the capacity or the desire to export, and they had a huge captive market and they did very well.

SMITH: I don’t recall from my FCC background that goes back into those days, common carrier background, that they were barred from it.

TOPOL: They were just not interested in it. So, around the world there developed other major microwave, switching and instruments manufacturers, the largest in the world by far. And an extraordinarily high productivity. They did the pioneering work on productivity of workers and motivation and such. Around the world there developed other companies, like Siemans, L.M. Ericsson. ITT had some manufacturing in Europe. To make a long story short, these companies had the world market outside the U. S. They started to nibble at the U.S. market. But when the U.S. market opened up as a result of the MCI decision and the breakup of AT&T, these foreign companies became major suppliers here in the U. S., whereas Western Electric was not a major supplier outside. It has a major impact on the balance of trade in the telecommunications era. I think, what Western Electric should have done, was to allow other companies in the U.S. like Raytheon and Collins, to become suppliers to the Bell system and for Western Electric to supply a little less to the Bell system but used that capacity to export. We could have built up some stronger companies around Western Electric that would both supply to the Bell system and be suppliers to the world. I think we lost that advantage. Now you have Northern TeleCom here, you have Siemans here, you have Ericsson here, you have Western Electric. We could have encouraged other companies in the U.S. to be suppliers to the Bell system and together with Western Electric, those companies could have been suppliers to the world. We could have had a stronger position in the telecommunications equipment field than we have today.

SMITH: AT&T had that “no foreign attachment” policy that they hung on to with telephones. As with answering devices, it did not make any difference what it was, if it wasn’t Western Electric; you didn’t attach it to the telephone or use it in connection with any of their services. I helped break that policy down when I was at the FCC. The Carterphone Decision.

TOPOL: The Carterphone and then the MCI decision Chicago, St. Louis. Those two things, the fact that Sarnoff did very vigorous licensing around the world, in which he’s still getting royalties, and the fact that AT&T wouldn’t allow anybody to attach to their network and Western Electric at the same time wouldn’t export, changed the face of the consumer and telecommunication industry around the world.

SMITH: I love to reminisce about those things. As I can see, you do too, but a few minutes ago when you were talking about introducing the television relay equipment at the Ambassador Hotel, you mentioned that your wife was there and you got a babysitter for your first child. Our interview doesn’t yet show that you were married. This might be a good time to get some of the vital information about that onto the record.

TOPOL: We’re talking about the period now where I came back for the summer job at Raytheon, in ’49, and stayed in Boston. I was sort of out of touch with Boston, and through my friends, I said, “Hey, look. I’m back in Boston again, and single. Do you have any ideas or suggestions?” One of my good friends suggested Libby Friedman, who was a student at Simmons College. I just called her on the phone and said, “You don’ know me, but so and so recommended that I call you.” We went out. We dated for about a year. I dated other young ladies at the time. If you remember I told you earlier about my friends the Widmans.

SMITH: Yes I do.

TOPOL: Well, it was around this time that I had the urge to go abroad, 1950, ’51. While at Raytheon as a young engineer, I saved money for a whole year, and with another friend, we took a six‑week trip in the summer of ’51 to Europe. Two weeks vacation and four weeks leave‑of‑absence. We planned this trip for a year. We did it very modestly in those days. We went over on the Queen Mary and came back on the Queen Mary. We rented a car.

SMITH: That doesn’t sound very modest.

TOPOL: No, we were tourist class though. It was cheap in those days. A few hundred dollars. It was very cheap, round trip. Rented a car, an old French car. We went to London first, then Paris, Switzerland and Italy and back again. When I came home, I sort of had everything out of my system and I proposed marriage and we got married that year, 1951, December of ’51. We moved to a suburb of Boston. In those days people were building slab homes, if you remember. I bought my first home for $13,500.

SMITH: What was your wife’s background?

TOPOL: My wife’s father had passed away at an early age. She was brought up by her mother and an uncle. She had several famous uncles who were doctors here who went to Harvard Medical School. One of her uncles was a well‑known pediatrician in Boston. She went to Simmons College as a Library Science major. She graduated in the summer of ’51. We got married in December of ’51. She worked for about six or eight months.

Our first child came in our first year. Debbie was born in November of ’52. Then we had two other daughters spaced two and a half years apart. We had three daughters, Deborah Jane, Joanne, and Martha Grace. Our daughters grew up outside Boston and then… Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. I was telling you about this trip I took and then I decided to come back and get married. I told Libby then, “Some day, we’re going to live in Europe.” I really enjoyed that trip and when I came back and got married. I said someday we’re going to live in Europe. So, I lived in this suburban community where we had three young girls in five or six years. Libby was busy in those days with taking care of children and the house. It was heavy duty stuff. After eight or nine years, Libby and I took a trip to Europe ourselves one summer. It was kind of a quasi‑business trip setting up some radar manufacturing for Raytheon and a licensee that they had in Italy. Raytheon decided to establish European operations. It was the very beginning of the European Common Market now called the European Community. In 1959, they created something called Raytheon Europe.

SMITH: Is this a good place to turn the tape over?

TOPOL: It sure is. And probably, to take a little breather here.

End of Tape 1, Side B

SMITH: This is Tape 2, Side A of the Oral Histories interview with Sidney Topol in his offices at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Before we turned the tape over, you had been talking about having returned from a trip with a friend to Europe, and this was apparently the beginning of your interest in international business. At the end of your conversation, you also mentioned the fact that you and your wife had taken a trip to Europe after your trip with your friend.

TOPOL: Right. So the sequence of events, once again….As I joined Raytheon in 1949, I took my first trip to Europe with a friend in 1951, two weeks vacation and four weeks leave of absence, so we had sufficient time to really get the flavor of Europe. I got married after that trip to Europe, in December of that year. Our three daughters were born two and one half years apart. During that period I moved from developing antennas to the communication division where I started to work on microwave communications. Raytheon formed a commercial equipment division and I became the Assistant Manager of Engineering around 1956 or ’57. I became the Assistant Manager of Commercial Equipment Engineering where we had a broad array of products, commercial marine radar, commercial microwave communications, and other commercial products. It was at that time that Raytheon asked me to go over to Europe and develop a licensee to build marine radar and I brought my wife with me. We traveled through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. Somewhere toward the late ’50’s, Raytheon hired McKenzie and Company to study the global strategy in international business.

SMITH: Is that a consulting firm?

TOPOL: A consulting firm, McKenzie and Company. I don’t think the word global was used in those days. That’s a more recent term. But they’re international strategists. It was McKenzie who determined for Raytheon that they ought to establish an area management concept. That is, that you should divide the world up into areas and put a General Manager in that area who is very familiar with the culture, the technology and the political process in that area. The first area they wanted to establish was Europe. That was in the days of the common market. They chose a gentleman called Carlo Calosi, Dr. Carlo Calosi. Just an aside, Calosi was a character. He’s written up in all the OSS books.

SMITH: The Office of Strategic Service book?

TOPOL: Yes, right. Calosi was a famous Italian scientist, who supported Italy in the war, reluctantly, in the early days of the war. He developed, for the Italians, acoustic torpedo. He was a brilliant scientist. When the war ended, the Italians were out of the war, but part of Italy was still occupied by the Germans and another part by the Americans. He was taken out of Italy by a submarine, by the OSS, and brought to Sardinia and then brought to the United States as a scientist for a submarine signal company in Rhode Island. The submarine signal company was acquired during the war, at the end of the war, by Raytheon Company, and became their submarine acoustic sonar division. But, he actually came during the war, and he developed a counter measure to his own torpedo. The story goes, that he was so sure of his counter measure that he went out on a rowboat with his counter measure and said, “Shoot this torpedo at me and I’ll defuse it.” And he did.

SMITH: That’s confidence.

TOPOL: Yes. He became the first Research Director for Raytheon Company, head of the Research Division. He was a very close friend of Charles Francis Adams, who was, at that time Chairman and President of the company. He was a direct descendant of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who when he was a young fellow, lived on the same street I now live on, Commonwealth Avenue in one of these big homes, very distinguished Yankee American family.

SMITH: You’re speaking of Adams, right?

TOPOL: Adams, right. He and Calosi became very good friends. When McKenzie came up with this area management concept, Raytheon chose Dr. Carlo Calosi to be their first Vice President of Raytheon and to go to Europe and establish an industrial operation for Raytheon in Europe. Calosi asked me to join him as Director of Marketing and Planning for Raytheon, Europe. I commuted back and forth and was away for a long time. When I reflect on that, I don’t know why I did that, but in any event, in May of 1960, it was determined that we would establish operations in Europe and that I was to move to Europe. I came back and told my wife and she, being the very good partner with me, sold the house and she sold two cars and took three little babies and flew over. The girls were two, five, and seven. I met her at the Rome airport and we started a life in Rome, Italy. We lived there for six years and had a marvelous experience. The girls loved it, she loved it. She sort of cried when I told her we were going and she cried even more when I told her we were going home.

SMITH: The girls went to school there?

TOPOL: The girls went to school there. It was an overseas school, an international school, with a lot of non‑Italians. For example, the Italian teacher couldn’t speak English and the French teacher couldn’t speak English, so they really got immersed in the languages.

SMITH: They learned Italian, did they?

TOPOL: Oh, yes. My wife learned Italian. We had an Italian girl that lived with us for six years. The interesting story is she wanted to come back to America when we came back. I thought, no we had enough. She prevailed. She came back to America and lived with us for five years when I came back to Raytheon. She lived with us for eleven years. She now is married here in Boston, and has a son. She has a very successful business of her own. She makes draperies, and she has been a friend of the family all these years.

We had six wonderful years. We formed a joint venture in Italy called Salina, which still exists.

SMITH: Who did you form that with?

TOPOL: With the Fin Meccanica Group. Italy is one of the few basically capitalist countries in Europe that has state holding companies, still. Fin Meccanica is part of what is called the IRI Group. The IRI Group. It stands for Institute for Reconstruction, something like that. It was part of the idea of reconstructing Italy after the war. These state holding companies are still in existence. They’re gradually privatizing. But we formed a joint venture with them. In addition, Raytheon had other joint ventures in the tube area. I worked there for six years. My long suit being communications. I formed a communications division there in microwave. We had a very, very big victory early on with an order for two hundred plus microwave links from Sweden to build a microwave radar network to tie the radars together in Sweden. They had a very extensive air defense system.

SMITH: Did you travel around Europe in marketing activities as part of that job.

TOPOL: Right. I traveled all through Scandinavia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, all through Europe. Actually, through Africa and the Middle East. We formed an operation in Beirut, in those days, in the Middle East. We created a telecommunications division and I became the Division Manager of that division and held both jobs for a while. We formed what became a successful telecommunications division, and I built there one of the very earliest all solid state microwave links at two gigahertz, two thousand megacycles per second.

SMITH: Right. And this was what year? Roughly.

TOPOL: Sixty three, sixty four.

SMITH: You said you built it. But now you’re out of the development work and this was equipment that had been developed and you sold it and designed and set up the system, or….

TOPOL: I first sold to Sweden two hundred microwave links, which were a derivative of that early portable television relay link I talked to you about, eight years ago. It became the basis for a broad line of microwave links. Fixed microwave links.

SMITH: What did Sweden use them for?

TOPOL: Sweden used them for radar relay. To take broad band radar information from a radar and transport it to a central command post. They had to build a complete network which involved hundreds of microwave links and I came in out of nowhere and met a very nice, young ‑ not so young ‑ manager, engineer. His name was Hans Franzen. We developed a rapport. We talked technically, he was always a customer of Siemens or Telefunken and here comes this young, brash American going to set up manufacturing in Europe. I broke the cycle. He was fascinated with the product we had and the fact that we were willing to modify the product for his application.

SMITH: Did you manufacture the product there?

TOPOL: We manufactured it in Italy.

SMITH: In Italy.

TOPOL: We brought some of the early units over from the States and then put it into manufacture in Italy. I took that whole line of microwave equipment and put it into production in Italy. I managed it myself.

SMITH: You chose Italy because of Calosi?

TOPOL: Exactly. Calosi was an Italian and he loved Italy and he chose that as his headquarters. We probably should have been London, or Paris or Brussels, but we were in Rome. I’ll tell you the end of that story in a little while.

Just as an aside, while I was in Europe, or just before I went to Europe, the concept of other common carriers developed in the U.S. OCC’s, other common carriers. It became legal for other common carriers and private microwave systems. CATV got a microwave band. This portable television relay link, which I developed to be used on tripods for remote pickups, was stood on its head, if you will, and pointed up to passive reflectors. Do you remember passive reflectors?

SMITH: Yes, I do. I do remember them. I often wondered how they could possibly work.

TOPOL: I remember writing a paper on how they worked. What happened was that remote broadcast stations, AT&T would not come in and deliver to these remote broadcast stations in the upper peninsula, Michigan and Wisconsin, and various places. People decided to build their own microwave links to bring in video, and they used this portable link in a fixed application for which it was never designed. First, to bring television to remote broadcast stations connecting on to the AT&T network. We built those. As a result of that, companies started. I remember Midwest Relay. People went into business to deliver that video to broadcast stations for a fee. It was around this time that Bob Magness and a few others began to get the idea of distant signal importation for cable systems. Bob Magness and a few others. Bob Magness was a very early customer for my microwave link. That’s how I met Bob Magness.

SMITH: Western Microwave?

TOPOL: Western Microwave. Western Microwave and United Video and CPI in Texas and a few others formed common carriers and they started to bring in distant signals via microwave. Our microwave series was a real pioneer in that area. We set up an office at Raytheon in Denver some years later. Then, I left the United States starting in the late ’50’s. I left the United States and in the ’60’s I was in Europe. That work continued on at Raytheon while I was gone. When I came back and headed up the division, I might still have been in Europe, but I was a young engineer developing this portable link, and Raytheon asked me to come back to be the General Manager of that division in Norwood, Massachusetts. It was called the Communications and Data Processing Division, but basically was the Communications Division. We were doing FM microwave fixed and portable work, and then we got into pulse code modulation (PCM Modulation). Early digital communications for the military came out of that division. When I got back, that whole distant importation signal, this is now ’65 and ’66, was very big out in the West and all over the country. In the late ’60’s, the way cable systems in remote areas survived was to bring in programming from hundreds of miles away of either networks or independents that were not available on the local scene.

SMITH: I’m going to have to interpose again just because in the sense our careers crossed so often. As an attorney, I filed the first application with the FCC for the use of common carrier microwave to serve the cable system. The application was filed by a company called J. E. Belknap & Associates in Poplar Bluffs, Missouri. They never built the system. It was one that was opposed by a broadcaster and finally approved by the Commission.

TOPOL: What year was that?

SMITH: I would have to check the record to be certain.

TOPOL: Mid‑’50’s?

SMITH: Yes. It would have been. For a long time, we had applications on file and the FCC had control of them. They wouldn’t grant them. That’s another story. But, it’s interesting that those microwave systems were adaptations of the television relay facility that you developed for Raytheon.

TOPOL: There is a lot of technology that goes with that. I’m drawing a picture now on a piece of paper, which I will maybe give to you.

SMITH: We’ll see if we can’t reproduce it with the transcript.

TOPOL: This is what the portable link looked like. It had a long camera cable down to a control unit. This control unit connected to the camera. This would go up to another unit on the tower of the transmitter.

SMITH: Mr. TOPOL: has drawn a sketch of the television transmitter mounted on a tripod. (See Attachment B)

TOPOL: That was called the KTR‑100, which stood for 100 milliwatts. Then we had the KTR‑1000, which stood for 1000 milliwatts. That was my first work.

One day, we get a call from somebody out in the Midwest and quite unknown to us, they bought a whole bunch of these and they built a whole series of repeaters. These were towers separated by thirty or forty miles. They put passive reflectors on this tower and took this unit and stood it on its head and pointed it up to another passive reflector to another unit and kept it outdoors. These were capable of being operated outdoors and they put the control unit in a building.

SMITH: How much distance could they cover with that?

TOPOL: About thirty miles, typically.

SMITH: Reflect the signal thirty miles?

TOPOL: Yeah. They could go thirty miles if they aligned the sight. You have to have line of sight. That was the beginning of broadcasters first bringing network signals into remote areas. Bob Magness bought a whole bunch of these.

SMITH: For the record, Bob Magness is now the Chairman of TCI and is its president and founder going back many, many years. We have an oral history of Bob.

TOPOL: Oh, you do?


TOPOL: This unit, this portable link, became the basis of a wide range of activities. We eventually took it out of the portable units and put it in rack mounts and then designed future equipment. It eventually became all semi‑conductors and so forth and so on. It became the basis of distant signal importation and other common carriers for broadcasters and cable operators. When I went to Europe, it became the basis of a very extensive radar remoting system in Sweden and the reason for me setting up the telecommunications division in Italy which branched from there.

I was asked after six years in Italy to come back and head up the Communications Division as a General Manager. In the Division, I started out as a young engineer.

SMITH: We want to pursue that, but before I let you come back from Europe, I’d like to ask another question or two about your activities over there.

By this time, was there any satellite communications being developed?

TOPOL: Just in the early ’60’s the space program was starting. If you remember, Sputnik was in ’57. In the late ’50’s we started certain space programs. Back in the States, Raytheon started to work on satellite communications in the early ’60’s. But I didn’t personally work on satellite communications until I got back in ’65.

SMITH: You didn’t install any ground stations or anything like that in Europe?

TOPOL: No. You see, IntelSat was formed around ’62 or ’63 and they were still evaluating whether to go to synchronous satellites or whether to go low‑flying satellites, multi‑satellites.

SMITH: Then, we can take that up in your post‑Europe activities.

TOPOL: Right. But, I know that there was talk about space communications and space programs and there was talk about building spacecraft to handle satellite communications while I was in Europe. That has a history to it too. I have a nice note from Arthur Clarke.

SMITH: Arthur C. Clarke? Sci‑Fi writer?

TOPOL: Right. Right. Can we stop at this point? It’s close to 12:30 and let me see if I can find that.

(Follow up on the Clarke memo)

SMITH: We are returning to the Sidney TOPOL: interview. Mr. TOPOL: was just talking about putting his contribution to the development of cable satellite in perspective, and we felt that it should go on the record at this point.

TOPOL: Sort of summarizing, my own personal introduction to cable came about just when it was emerging from being a community antenna system where you had a high tower and a whole good bunch of antennas that picked up local signals, basically, from a radius of maybe fifty to one hundred miles. But they were VHF and UHF signals from your own city, or whatever you could pull in from the top of the tower which you built and then distributed to homes in that particular region.

In the late ’50’s and early ’60’s, it became clear to some cable operators that bringing in signals from distant cities via microwave was another source of programming and added additional value to your cable system, and allowed you to get revenue. As I mentioned earlier, the portable microwave link which I developed in the early ’50’s became a fixed microwave link and it was used to bring in signals from two hundred, three hundred miles away. That was another source of programming. So, we had a microwave cable connection, if you will. I have never used that word, but that’s true, a microwave cable connection. That microwave cable connection persisted for ten or fifteen years, but you were always dealing with the broadcaster’s signals, either the ones you picked up off the air or the ones you brought in over the microwave. The programming was programming which was designed and invented and paid for by the broadcasters. That always created a certain amount of resentment on the part of the broadcasters that “you were stealing their signals.”

SMITH: And resentment on the part of the public because they had to pay for it.

TOPOL: And resentment on the part of the public because they had to pay for it.

In the very early ’70’s, the satellite emerged. We haven’t told the story, that’s part of our thing. The satellite emerged and I was fortunate to be involved in that, first at Raytheon and then at Scientific Atlanta. When we created the cable satellite connection and introduced, for the first time, economically viable pay television, either movies or sports or special events, we now had unique programming. When I say we, I mean the industry, now had for the first time unique programming that was not utilized by the broadcasters or anybody else. Once they got unique programming, they could then aspire to increase revenues and increase penetration and increase franchising. The satellite led to the franchising of the top one hundred markets, which led to the franchising of almost all the urban areas in America. We had community antenna television, we had the microwave cable connection, and then the satellite cable connection. That’s sort of where we are today.

I suspect that we haven’t told Congress that story well enough of what this industry has done. Of course, when the Congressman gets a lot of phone calls from his constituents saying, “I can’t get through to my cable company, the quality is bad, the prices were just not…etc., etc.”, he has a tough time listening to our story. That’s where we are.

(Lunch break)

Where did we end up? Do you remember?

SMITH: Yes. I think I can recollect it. At the time we went to lunch, you had gotten back from your six years in Europe and had become the Manager of the…

TOPOL: Communications Division. It wasn’t called that but I think it’s easier to describe. I became General Manager of the Communications Division in Norwood, Massachusetts. This division had both commercial and government microwave communications products, mainly. It was FM microwave equipment for video, voice, and data. It was pulse code modulation microwave equipment for the military, particularly the Army. That led to digital. I was involved in the first digital microwave commercial system called the RDS 80, Raytheon data systems, eighty megabits, I believe it was. This was back in the late ’60’s. This division built up to about $40 or $50 million dollars in revenue. When the Army contracts started to fall off, we were looking for additional contracts and we were able to develop and propose a communications system for what eventually became the Patriot Missile.

Around that time, I was first introduced to a company called Scientific Atlanta. First, because Scientific Atlanta, as a manufacturer, had the idea to become a specialized common carrier like MCI and others. My predecessor, Glen Robinson, had some filings in Florida and Georgia, and continued filings all the way through the Southeast to build a microwave system for video, voice and data. It became a specialized common carrier. At Raytheon, I was a supplier of point‑to‑point microwave communications, so he knew about me.

In 1969, a letter arrived from Scientific Atlanta to the President and Chairman of Raytheon Company, Charles Francis Adams, saying that Scientific Atlanta was interested in talking with Raytheon about a merger, acquisition. A rather little‑known fact.

SMITH: I had never heard that.

TOPOL: Yes. I was sent down by Raytheon in 1969 to take a look at the company. At that time, it was quite a diversified company; into a lot of different products, just a touch of cable and satellite, I mean not really clear ideas. In cable, they were making antennas and headends and had just acquired the Spencer Kennedy line of amplifiers. But, in satellite equipment we did not have clear ideas of what to build. We were thinking about taking a license agreement from Marconi in England.

SMITH: Now, when you’re referring to we, in this context, it’s Scientific Atlanta.

TOPOL: Yes, yes. So when I came down from Raytheon in ’69, I reviewed Scientific Atlanta and had to recommend to Raytheon that it would not fit with my communications division. A week or so later, I got a call saying, would I be interested in being the President of the company. It took me a day or so to figure out who and where it was. I wasn’t ready at that time to leave Boston. My girls were still in high school and I hadn’t quite finished what I wanted to finish at Raytheon. I had to turn them down, but I kept very close touch with Scientific Atlanta and with Glen Robinson, who was then Chairman and one of the founders of the company.

The other founders were six Georgia Tech professors. Back in the early ’50’s, each one of them put $100 in to form this company.

SMITH: I was going to ask you how they got started.

TOPOL: They were going to make antennas in support of Georgia Tech. In actual fact, they determined that there was a lack of antenna measurement equipment and so we eventually became the largest manufacturers in the world of antenna measurement equipment.

SMITH: We’re talking about transmitting antennas or receiving antennas?

TOPOL: Any kind of antennas. All kinds of antennas whose directivity and gain had to be measured. This equipment involved pedestals, rotating, transmitters, recorders and receivers. I’ll come back to that when I come to the businesses of Scientific Atlanta.

But to get the history of how I came, I stayed in touch with Scientific Atlanta from the period of 1969 to 1971, a two year period. I was actually a supplier of microwave equipment to the company which was then building a microwave system in Florida, the subsidiary was called Microwave Relay Services. As an aside, we eventually sold Microwave Relay Services to United Cable and United Video, Gene Schneider and Ed Taylor.

SMITH: I know them both but I lost track of Ed Taylor in recent years.

TOPOL: Sold him our microwave system, first partially and then completely. There was a while when we were joint partners with Ed Taylor and United Video in a microwave system. I used to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma for board meetings with Gene Schneider. But we eventually got out of that microwave business. To come back to it, in 1971, in the Fall, Glen Robinson told me he was coming up to New England, to Boston, for a visit with his office in Burlington, Massachusetts and would I have dinner with him. I did and had a very wonderful evening with a bottle of wine and good conversation up on Route 128 someplace; and I said, “Did you ever find your President?” He said, “No, I’d like you to come down again and take a look at it.”

It was two years later, my kids were a little older, I was kind of ready. I went down with my wife first and then with my kids. To make a long story short, I agreed to come. We sold our house here, bought a house there. Took two girls out of high school. Left one daughter here in college at Brown University. I moved once again like I moved from Boston to Rome, Italy, I moved from Boston to Atlanta, Georgia with my wife and family.

SMITH: How did the kids handle that? I’d say it was a difficult decision to move them.

TOPOL: Yes. Taking two out of high school, one was a freshman and one was a junior. I thought that it was really damaging them, but years later, they told me they were ready to go. They got into a wonderful school, Westminster School, a private school, very high quality, academically. They enjoyed it. As I mentioned, my oldest daughter was already at Brown University. My middle daughter was later accepted at Brown University and my youngest daughter was accepted at Tufts, so they all went to college up here, just around Boston and Providence. When they all left us, we were alone in Atlanta. They did not choose to make Atlanta their home.

In December of ’71, I arrived at Scientific Atlanta which was doing about $3 or $4 million dollars a quarter with no backlog. It was tough times. The government business was falling off rapidly in those days. After about the first month I was wondering what the heck I was doing there.

SMITH: Is it fair then to ask at this point, what was the real motivation to get you to leave Raytheon after twenty‑two years and go down to a relatively small company that sounds like it was in trouble?

TOPOL: I always wanted an opportunity to do my own thing, to run out the string, to make my own plans, and have a certain autonomy. In actual fact, at Raytheon, I was not in the mainstream of Raytheon’s activity. The mainstream of Raytheon was missiles and radar. I mean that’s where fifty to sixty percent of sales are and about seventy to eighty percent of the profits. The top management of Raytheon were two government/military oriented guys, Tom Phillips and Brainard Holmes. They didn’t have the patience or the interest in expanding the communications business at Raytheon. It was not a major part, or in the mainstream. Nor was Scientific Atlanta, to be honest with you. It looked like it was a communications company, but it was really a conglomerate of small businesses.

But one of the things Glen Robinson did was give me a free hand when I went down there. I spent the first year, as it were, at Strategic Planning and became not only President of the company but sort of Senior Vice President of marketing and planning and strategic planning. I started to build a strategic plan and I said, “I think we ought to expand our communications business.” And it was in the first plan that I said, “I think we ought to go in the satellite communications business and I think we ought to go into the television receiving end because I think that’s where we could have some volume.”

SMITH: Now, had you done any television receive‑only at Raytheon?

TOPOL: Yes. I have to go back to that. I missed that other point.

My time at Raytheon was 1965 through 1971. Before I arrived back from Europe, the division I was in received a contract from NASA to build the SynCom Ground Station, that was Synchronous Communications Ground Station. That was in the days, as I mentioned earlier, when people were deciding we going to follow Arthur Clarke’s theory, which is to put up geo synchronous satellites or to put up low‑flying satellites. NASA built an experimental system with synchronous satellites.

SMITH: Where was that located?

TOPOL: I think there were some ground stations somewhere in the Southwest. They launched a satellite and they put in some ground stations, a ground station, or maybe several. Raytheon, before my time, won that award. In the group I took over we had some capability in synchronous satellite communications.

During the ’60’s Intelsat and COMSAT were formed. Intelsat was composed of a hundred or so countries around the world that wanted to build a consortium of countries to create an international satellite communications network.

SMITH: How was Intelsat put together?

TOPOL: Well, the prime mover was Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) which was organized in 1962, I believe, by the U.S. Government. So, it was a kind of a public‑private venture, although it was all private money. They raised $200 million on the equity market. Some of it from the existing carriers, and some from the public. So in the early days, AT&T, Western Union, RCA and IT&T and others were stockholders.

SMITH: All in the same basket?

TOPOL: All in the same basket. And the public was in there. But it was chartered by the U.S. Government and the president of the United States had authority to appoint three or four or five directors, which he still does, by the way.

SMITH: Representing this country?

TOPOL: Right, exactly. COMSAT is the designated representative of the U.S. in Intelsat. Being the largest user of Intelsat it became the largest stockholder of Intelsat and the technological leader in the early days. COMSAT Labs was formed and they studied what kind of satellites to put up. They provided the leadership for many years. But not anymore. Now Intelsat in very strong and has its own technical capability. As you know, Dean Burch, former FCC Chairman, is now the Secretary General or the Director of Intelsat in Washington.

At a certain moment the technologist determined that synchronous satellites would indeed work, even though there was a delay, it would indeed work. COMSAT decided to build a synchronous satellite system around three oceans. COMSAT and Intelsat.

End of Tape 2, Side A

SMITH: This is Side B of Tape 2 of the Oral History interview with Sid Topol. We were talking about the decision of COMSAT and Intelsat to build a synchronous satellite system when we had to turn the tape over.

TOPOL: Intelsat was formed with one hundred countries. The U.S. became the lead country through COMSAT and synchronous satellites were chosen as the way to go.

SMITH: Would you describe for the record what you mean by synchronous satellite?

TOPOL: Very simply, if you launch a satellite out 22,300 miles over the equator it will rotate in synchronism with the Earth, that is it will rotate at the same speed as Earth. So from any two places on Earth, looking at that satellite, it looks like it’s standing still. If you launch three of those satellites over the three oceans, Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian, Arthur Clarke pointed out in 1945; you could get communications around the world.

SMITH: We’re referring to Arthur C. Clarke, who is very well known also as a writer of science fiction stories.

TOPOL: Right. He wrote 2001, lives in Sri Lanka. He wrote this classic paper in 1945, which he sent me a copy of, and I was pleased to get.

SMITH: Did I understand you to say the paper was the original proposal that he wrote?

TOPOL: It’s a copy of his original paper in 1945 with a hand written note. He recognized, back in the late ’70’s what a contribution Scientific Atlanta and the cable industry has made to satellite communications. We actually realized his dream, in terms of widespread use of satellite communications. Let me not divert too much.

Synchronous satellites look like they’re standing still. Intelsat and COMSAT moved forward with the synchronous satellite system. Although we had a couple of experimental synchronous satellite systems in the U.S., about 1967 or 1968 COMSAT put out for bids for four major large earth stations called Type A earth stations. These earth stations are one hundred feet in diameter and were to be in West Virginia, Puerto Rico, California, and Hawaii. To make a long story short, Raytheon, the division I managed, bid and won the award for these four stations insofar as the ground electronics goes and the integration of the whole system goes.

SMITH: By integration you mean taking the sub‑contracted components and putting them all together?

TOPOL: No they were sub‑contracted directly by COMSAT but we had the responsibility of integrating it, and doing the systems engineering and making it work. The antenna was built by Philco Ford, the multiplex was built by Nippon Electric, the high power amplifier and low noise receivers were done by two other vendors. But we built most of the ground electronics modulators, de modulators, up and down convertors, and a lot of the microwave components.

We built those four stations on schedule, on time. That was the beginning of the International Satellite Communications commercial operations somewhere in the late ’60’s.

SMITH: Do you recall the dollar value of that contract, just so we can compare it with future costs?

TOPOL: At that time a big earth station went anywhere from two to five million dollars, somewhat more than that. That started off a whole wave of those big earth stations all around the world.

SMITH: Were you active in the installation of those four?

TOPOL: Oh, yes. We did install them and it went off on schedule. That was still in the days of vacuum tubes, many parts were still vacuum tubes.

SMITH: Did NASA design those?

TOPOL: No. NASA was out of the picture by then. Once again, this ground station was an outgrowth of the same KTR portable television relay link equipment. This was still a part of that family twenty years later. It was called the KTR series, Klystron Television Relay series. It started with a portable, then went to fixed, then it went to one watt, then it went to transistors, and then it became the basis for the ground electronics for these big COMSAT‑Intelsat A Stations that went in in the late ’60’s.

Now, the next major thing that happened was COMSAT decided to procure three experimental Television Receive Only stations. There was movement in the late ’60’s looking toward use of satellite communications for television distribution in the domestic U.S. ABC (American Broadcasting Corporation) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System) were asking why couldn’t they build and own one of these.

SMITH: In lieu of AT&T’s network distribution lines.

TOPOL: Exactly. Western Union was saying they wanted to be a domestic carrier. AT&T says we want to be a domestic carrier. COMSAT said “We’re the designated domestic carrier.” In any event, COMSAT said while that battle is going on in Washington, we’re going to build three experimental Television Receive‑Onlys ten meters in diameter. They went out for bid. The major competition for Raytheon then was Motorola. We won those three for $250,000 each. Three for $750,000.

SMITH: Receive‑Only?

TOPOL: Receive‑Only, $250,000 each. Now you can get the same performance, smaller edition, for maybe $3,000 or $5,000 today. First one was for $250,000. We at Raytheon built those three stations using an Andrew antenna at the time, because we were not in the antenna business. They never installed anywhere. They were experimental and never installed. The big battle then took place, who was going to own the domestic system in the United States? This leads to the open‑skies policy discussion which we’ll have the next tape. It leads to customer premises earth stations. It will lead to TelePrompTer’s desire to own and operate its own Receive‑Only earth stations. It led to the cable satellite access entity, which very few people remember, CSAE. It led to TelePrompTer coming out for a transportable earth station. It let to Scientific Atlanta winning that award from TelePrompTer and the demonstration in Anaheim of that television satellite receiving system in 1973. It led to the whole cable/satellite connection which I think is a good starting point for our next interview.

SMITH: Yes, it will be. It’s fascinating to understand that that whole chain started back with the television relay facility that you designed at Raytheon in the very early days, the KTR 100.

TOPOL: 1950. That’s when I got started. It really started for me when, instead of becoming a radar officer, they made me a telephone officer in Tokyo and I got introduced to point‑to‑point VHF microwave.

SMITH: And you were in communications from then on?

TOPOL: With a slight diversion to antenna design at Naval Research Lab and at Raytheon. I always wanted to get into communications systems. That was about 1951. For the last forty years, I have been one way or the other, involved in the design and production, marketing and sale of point‑to‑point microwave, satellite television distribution, cable and now fiber and the whole broadband era. The interesting thing is, the telephone company says, “We want to be in this business.” But we, in the cable industry, were ahead of them in the use of satellite television distribution and we’re certainly up to them today in the use of fiber. We experimented with two‑way interactive systems long before they thought of it. We are the industry that has never done anything that isn’t economically viable.

SMITH: That is true, isn’t it?

TOPOL: The marketplace was determinant. Nothing that we did, did we force on the consumer or force on the government. It was all market driven, market pull, or market introduction. We introduced things to the market and they took to it. We introduced some things to the market that they said no to.

SMITH: This was the industry that actually was not generated or developed by inventors in the first place. It was an industry that simply grew out of the public demand for television and somebody had to find a way to get it to them.

TOPOL: Paul, Paul something or other from New York. The first guy that worked on interactive television says America has a love affair with television. The fact is, the world has a love affair with television. When a major sports event goes on, a billion people watch it. The satellite is what’s done that. There was no way to get real time television across the oceans before the satellite.

SMITH: Today, when major political revolutions take place in Europe, millions, if not billions of people watch it when it’s happening. That’s the exciting thing. That’s what we get into on the next tape.


SMITH: Well, thank you Sidney Topol. We do appreciate it. There is a lot more to be said and we’ll find the time and place to say it.

TOPOL: Right. Well, this will be leading up to that September 16th dinner for Women in Cable. It will be kind of a time for reflection. My paper which I delivered, Post Broadcast Television, says that the VCR, to some extent, but particularly the satellite, changed the whole intrastructure and control of television. When you were with the Common Carrier Bureau, AT&T and the networks had a monopoly on television transmission. Both of them, not overtly, but quietly decided that they would not get into each other’s business. AT&T would not become a broadcaster and the broadcasters would not own microwave or distribution. They would work together. That represented ninety‑nine percent of the broadcast audience. That technique of network television represents sixty percent of the audience in America today. Forty percent are doing different things, mainly as a result of the satellite.

End of Tape 2, Side B

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