Tuesday, June 24, 2014


WELCOME ONCE AGAIN to the Zenith Book blog.  As always, your participation is encouraged in telling the story of the lost Zenith Radio Corporation.  (It hasn't been renamed Zenith Electronics Corporation, yet, but we're coming to it.) We've picked up a few more viewers, but not enough!  We want the world to know about Zenith and how and why it failed, and why it should never have happened.  As promised, this blog and the book that will follow, will tell the whole story.


Unhappy Announcement!  It seems that there will be no more of those wonderful breakfast meetings started and carried on through the years by Richard and Barbara Alfano. It was rumored that other volunteers  would take over, but it has not happened. The meetings gave great pleasure to so many former employees, as indicated by a  photo taken of  a happy five who attended  the next-to-last meeting--meeting 8.
   Three months of intensive work were required to plan and set up each meeting. It got to be too  much for Dick and Barbara. The Alfanos deserve a tribute for preserving the memory of Zenith for so many years.  And all us of wish them a happy retirement that finally is fully theirs to enjoy.
    In that vein, perhaps this Zenith Book blog can compensate in a small way  for the loss of the breakfast meetings. It can summon up memories of Zenith from not only the writer but the memories of all Zenithites (Is it OK to use that word?) Memories can be preserved by this blog in, addition to the  Zenith Facebook pages which have the address--

 --and join in the conversation and discussion about that great company Zenith, which is, sadly, no more, yet warm in the memories of so many. Please note that there is not much “on” the Zenith Facebook as yet, but there will be much more as we all learn how to interact on Facebook.   Note:  About 300 million do use Facebook, worldwide. So can we!


   Joseph S. Wright was president of Zenith from 1959 to 1983.  John Taylor, then  Zenith vice-president of public affairs and communications, wrote that Wright  ran Zenith during the golden years of television, and had built Zenith into the leading television brand and one of America's most respected corporations.
    Wright was also know as being fiercely competitive in the courtroom, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Eugene F. McDonald  founder and president of Zenith,  enlisted  Wright to be the leader of his attack team in Zenith's First War against the RCA patent cartel, which was in egregious violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
 Wright came to Zenith from the Federal Trade Commission where he was in charge of ensuring compliance with the Commission's order to cease and desist from unfair competition.  Philip Curtis, who was Zenith's "point man" in the War,  characterized Wright as "the government's bulldog, and Zenith needed a man with a bite."
   Wright who was the company president from 1981 to 1992, ran Zenith during the golden age, according to Taylor, and was involved with it well into the digital age. He was also part of the group that organized the Electronics Industry Committee for Fair International Trade in 1972.
  For relaxation, Wright sailed his sail boat the "Siren Song" in many of the  Chicago-Mackinac races.
  Joseph Wright--another Zenith "man to remember."

                                                                           * * * * * * * *
Zenith apologizes!  So began a Zenith advertisement that appeared in the magazine The Talking Machine World, in January 1926--nearly 90 years ago!   And why should Zenith apologize?-- it asks. The answer:  "Simply because of its inability to make all deliveries of Zenith radio sets that were ordered! The demand was too great!" 
        (What a wonderful marketplace 90,years ago in that  Zenith had to apologize for   not  making deliveries because of over-demand!  And note that odd Zenith logo: Zenith had not yet decided how the final logo should appear. )
  The advertisement goes on to say in a succession of paragraphs--
   "We regret exceedingly  that anyone should have to wait for his Zenith. We could, indeed, have forced production, slighted inspection, and sent out a larger number of sets bearing the Zenith name. But Zenith's  reputation has been built on outstanding merit. Anything less that the best within Zenith's  power to produce would have been a betrayal of confidence.
   "It is impossible to make  a radio instrument possessing Zenith's Zenith and sell it at a lower price!  If anything, Zenith prices in the future will be higher. For our unswerving aim  is to make the finest radio set that can be built; and then, and only then, set the price.
   "Not every dealer handles Zenith. Many we will not permit to do so, because of their exaggerated representations, false promises, and lack of service. Zenith dealers are carefully selected. They are prepared to render service and to keep their customers satisfied as long as a Zenith remains in their possession."
That advertisement, posted three years after its founding,  in effect recites Zenith's basic philosophy and its mantra, a credo that was carried through from the its inception to its end. And most remarkable--the writing to its customers as intelligent human beings!
(And note those prices!--from $100 to $2,000! In today's near-worthless money, that $100 would buy $1,856 worth of today's goods, and that $2,000  would buy $27,712 worth of today's goods. Does anyone remember the five-cent  ice cream cone?  Not if you are under 60 you won't!)
Robert Adler, more often called “Bob” Adler, was interviewed in ServiceWorld magazine 1974 by your humble, self-effacing  author of this blog on the subject “Does Servicing Have a Future?” Here is the lead photo for the article—

Robert Adler is highly qualified! He received the PhD in physics from the University of Vienna in 1937. His inventions and developments in electronics are many.  For television, he invented the ultrasonic remote control system (described in more detail in previous the Zenith Book Posts 4 and 5); the gated-beam tube for sound and color demodulation; a widely used synchronizing circuit that improves color reception, and a projection television system that utilizes a laser beam modulated by ultrasonic diffraction. For the communications and radar fields, he developed a high-frequency magneto-restrictive  oscillator, an electromagnetic filter, and a low-noise beam-type amplifier known as the Adler tube (about which more will be described.) One could go on and describe the gist of each of his more than 160 patents, but let’s just say that "he was an inventive genius." 
Another thing that can be said:  He wasn’t a “suit.” You’d never find him at the 19th hole after 18 holes of golf. And he was seldom called Robert, but most always Bob.  To sum him up, he was a kind, gentle man who was always happy to take the time to teach you electronics stuff.
In review of the article, we’ll summarize a few of the highlights of his career, with especial note of his predictions, and his inimitable way of putting things. For example—
Adler: “Making predictions is a risky business. If you are correct, nobody notices.  If you turn out to be wrong, somebody will take great pains to point it out. Logical arguments which show  that something cannot possibly happen, have a particularly poor track record. "                                         
Now let’s go into the interview and its highlights. “SW” is the interviewer for Zenith ServiceWorld magazine—
SW: Take a chance (about predictions).  What about three-dimensional TV done with holography?
Adler:  The difficulties are enormous—too great even for the most optimistic.   Perhaps sometime the millennium that begins in that magic year 2001.
(SW Note: In 2008 Hyundai debuted the first customer 3D TV set, the 46-inch the E64s,  in Japan, and at a cost of $5,000. Researchers are still working on it to get the price down and get rid of those goggles.)   
SW:  And flat-panel TV?
Adler: There we can be a little more optimistic.  Many ideas for flat panel displays are being worked on. Yet there is no device so far that produces a bright, snappy picture in color, even in the laboratory. When that device is perfected—call it “time t°—add a few years to learn how to manufacture it, and a few more to make it competitive. (Note: The time should be T sub-zero, not T superscript zero, but  Microsoft Word has no symbol like that.)
SW:  Which adds up to—?
Adler: T (sub-zero)  hasn’t arrived yet, so lets say 1983 for the flat panel.

 (SW Note:  Bob missed that prediction by a few years. In 1994, Fujitsu offered a 21-inch flat-panel display. AUO Optronics, based in Taiwan, mass-manufactures TFT-LCD panels  in 2009. AUO now manufactures TFT panels "with a bright snappy picture" for Samsung, LG and Apple, among others.)

Adler: I think it will be quite a revolution when the panel takes over. Also, don’t forget that the flat screen will be wider than the picture tube.  More detail, more information can be placed on it. A lot of people will want to use it that way. Also, don’t forget that the flat screen will be wider than the picture tube. But to make the panel workable, new transmission facilities with higher resolution  capabilities will have to be set up.

(SW Note:  It is believed that Bob was predicting the eventual  transition from the analog television signal to the digital signal, with its advantages of a much narrower bandwidth and higher resolution. The transition in the U.S. occurred in 2009.) )

SW: Projection TV gets talked up in the news occasionally. What are its possibilities?

Adler: The perennial difficulty is getting enough light for daylight viewing. We demonstrated a laser system some years ago, but it was impractical because of low laser efficiency. Other systems are now trying to make the grade. I don’t know whether or not the public would accept a projection system.

Author’s Note:  The whole thrust of the interview was addressing the concern of service people that they were being “designed out of the picture” because of the goal of 100 per cent reliability by the manufacturers.
Bob’s response to that concern was—
Adler: Perhaps in a hundred years everything will work so reliably that we’ll no longer need service people. Of course, at that time we won’t need engineers, either, or scientists like myself. Computers linked to production machines will do everything, including having babies, I suppose.
In Summary—Little did Bob know that in a few years there would be no  need for service people as we knew them—the servicing dealers of Zenith and their thousands of employees, and the mom and pop radio and television service shops, and other service shops located in nearly every town and city in the country—all would be gone because the entire Consumer Products Industry went overseas.
The story America’s loss of the  Consumer Electronics Industry will be told in a forthcoming Post!
In the previous article, Bob Adler’s invention of a low noise beam-type amplifier is mentioned in the summary of his inventions.  Its full title is:  electron-beam parametric amplifier, or EBPA.

PARAMETRIC (definition in electronics).  Relating to or denoting a process in which amplification or frequency conversion is obtained using a device modulated by a pumping frequency, which enables power to be transferred from the pumping frequency to the signal.

As it was an invention of great importance to radio astronomy. (Especially important now that we have been acutely aware  of the millions of earth-killing satellites whizzing about us earthlings,, and ready to strike anytime!). The EBPA was installed in  the 28-foot radio telescope of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. West Virginia, and in radio telescopes world-wide.  Other applications included most types of radars, radio-telemetry, satellite and deep-space probe tracking and ranging, and communication systems.
The  EBPA is essentially a low-noise microwave amplifier  that offers noise figures in the 1 db range and gains up to 45 db. It provides a high degree of phase and amplitude stability, and is very linear. Also, it acts as an overload signal isolator to protect a system--recovery after an overload is within 30 nanoseconds.

One configuration comprises six of the EBPA tubes enclosed in a round chamber encircled by a magnetic field. A large problem arose in providing a uniform magnetic field within the chamber, a problem that threatened to make the EBPA unusable. Engineer Ed Passow, chief of the Zenith Special Products Division, and Leo Gizynski, head of the special products model shop, got together one evening and worked out a solution. They wound a coil around the cluster of tubes using –not the standard round wire--but square wire.  And it worked superbly  by  providing the uniform magnetic field the cluster of EBPA tubes required for operation. The project was saved!  

In this blog,  the Zenith magazine ServiceWorld has been mentioned.   Few people within the company  had ever viewed it, because its 28,000 copies were circulated  solely to the Zenith Distributors, and to Zenith dealers and service centers. Below  is a photo of the cover of the first edition published in the published in the summer of 1973.                                                               

 --and, continuing  inside the front cover--

The creation of ServiceWorld magazine stems from a decision by Zenith management that Zenith should capitalize on its reputation for service to  its customers, and to reinforce the famous Zenith message The Quality Goes In Before the Name Goes on.

All service-related departments of Zenith were gathered under one roof in Glenview, Illinois, comprising  a "consumer services department"  that  incorporated all service-related activities such as warranty claims, technical writing and training, replacement parts and accessories, and customer communications. The division was under the direction of Albert S. Medica, one of Ross Siragusa's  bright young executives brought over from Zenith's long-time rival, Admiral Corporation.  The magazine ServiceWorld was the concept of Medica, and was carried out by the self-effacing author of this blog, whose puss is pictured beneath Nevin's on the second page of the first issue, shown in the foregoing.
The creation of the customer service department and ServiceWorld magazine was actually a last desperate effort by  Zenith management to stem the losses Zenith that  had suffered as a result of losing the Second War against the RCA-Japanese  cartel, the details of which will be described in a forthcoming Post of this blog. As a result of that loss, Zenith profits had fallen  from the 15 per cent of its "salad" years to a disastrous, money-losing  4 per cent.  

Here is another  page from the first issue showing  Medica's concept of "who we are, and what we do." (Hi, guys! What has become of all of you? It has been 41 years since these photos were taken. --rec)

 So that is ServiceWorld magazine, a magazine which has become an historical document of sorts.  Does anyone really care anymore?  Those shown must be well in their 80's and 90's now, and many  have gone to their rewards.  Yes, we must care,, and we must remember, for theirs are lives well-lived in a company they loved--Zenith.  Requiescat in pace.

ServiceWorld Magazine was a quarterly publication.  Only six issues were published as the act of establishing  the consumer services department had failed in Zenith's effort to overcome the effect the dumping of  television sets on the market  by the RCA-Japanese cartel. (The story of which will be told in a forthcoming Post of this blog.)

 It was all a matter of the "price-point," which is defined as "the suggested retail price of a product determined in such a way as to compete with prices of  other products." (Definition is from Business Directory. com.) Because of the load of carrying the  Zenith distributor system, and Zenith's insistence on the highest quality, the cost of a Zenith television set was inevitably higher than a Japanese set "dumped" on the market at a lower cost ensured by the Japanese government. A customer might buy a Zenith television set that cost 5 percent more than a dumped Japanese set because Zenith would service that set as long as the customer owned it (Do you recall that 1926 "Zenith credo" described earlier in this blog?).  However, if the cost was 8 or 10 percent higher, that American customer  may not buy the Zenith, despite the urging to "buy American."
 (Customer: Hey! If it craps out, I can get it serviced somewhere else, perhaps at a Zenith servicing center, so why should I pay more?)

As a result, and as has been described, Zenith was hemorrhaging money, and would be forced to "go overseas"; that is, transfer all production to Mexico. If it had not done so, it would have been out of business in two years.  Too bad for American production workers who would lose their jobs.

Now let's look forward to Post 4 of this Zenith Book Blog! More interesting stuff is coming. And please--join in!  Contribute! Criticize! Correct  errors!  Moan, if you feel like it. But  Help! Help! Just click on the pencil or box below  and unload yourself. Or even write and article, as Bob Podowski did.







1 comment:

  1. I look forward to the next post in this blog. It's very interesting to me.