Sunday, October 26, 2014

Post 17

Welcome to the new visitors!

For those unfamiliar with this weblog,  it tells the story of the triumphs and failures of Zenith Radio Corporation through the years, and how and why it finally failed, and fell into bankruptcy. This weblog will explain the circumstances that led to its fall, and tell the disturbing story of the role three administrations of the U.S. Government played in Zenith's fall.  The destruction was not only of Zenith, but the entire consumer products industry that produced radios and televisions, with the loss of 800,000 American jobs--and your job may  have been one of those  lost!

Sixteen "Posts" have been published so far. If you are curious about previous posts, you will be shown how to access them in the forthcoming  Post 18.  Also, you must be told that this weblog is being written by Ralph Clarke (although he has tried to suppress the fact, being naturally modest.  He . . . (OK, I!) . . . I worked for Zenith for nearly 40 years, and being a writer, I kept copious notes about what I observed.  I am also helped in the writing by you, the readers, for no single person can know it all.


Now that that has been "gotten off the chest," let's tell some history.

(Note:  the following story is what the author of this weblog learned second-hand, so some inaccuracies may have occurred.)

Zenith is famous for its “firsts --first in radio, first in television, first in hearing aids, etc.   Here is another first:  producing the richest patent attorney in history, one with a fortune thought to be $400 million, and with three private aircraft and a giant mansion, was a “product” of Zenith!
Perhaps some  of you remember Gerald Hosier. He worked as a Zenith engineer.  He wanted to be a patent lawyer.  And Zenith sponsored his education.  He succeeded!   He passed the law bar exam and the patent bar exam, both of which are extremely difficult.  But Hosier was brilliant, for he accomplished these feats while employed full time by Zenith.  It was said that Hosier  would dictate patent applications while driving to and from work—and patent applications are the most difficult form of writing, except perhaps for the drafting of treaties in International Law.   

Well, Jerry left Zenith for greener pastures, and  the pasture he found turned out to be incredibly green. He found another Jerry--an inventor named Jerome  “Jerry” Lemelson.  This Jerry was a bit eccentric, for he created  numerous  patents on filling pot-holes in streets.  Others of the  patents he submitted to the U.S. Patent Office were so obtuse and impossible to understand that he merited the  title of “Black Box Jerry” in the patent department—this opinion from some of the most astute technologists in American that work in the United States Patent and trademark Office.
Gerald Lemelson
However,  Jerry Lemelson  was also amazingly far-seeing, and an  inventor who has been compared to Edison. He has more than 600 patents to his credit—a rate of about one patent a week for 50 years.  Many of his patents disclosed  technologies of the future. In short, he was a “futurist.”  He conceived the concept of “machine-reading” and the bar code technology away ahead of its time, and wrote many patents on them.   An example of machine reading of bar codes is seen in a grocery store, where a bar-coded product  is passed over a reader in a platen, and the transaction is recorded to become your grocery bill.  In patenting  a concept far ahead of its time, and waiting until the technology has caught up and has appeared in products, Lemelson’s patents would be there, waiting!  Such patents were called “submarine patents” because they took so many by surprise. And it often was far less expensive to pay the royalties than to fight an infringement suit.   

Lemelson had set up a  foundation to hold his patent portfolio and to prosecute his claims of infringement. Then Gerald Hosier joined Gerald Lemelson and his foundation, and became a lead attorney.    Hosier  saw immense possibilities in Lemelson’s submarine patents.   The machine-reading technique  and coding applied to almost every aspect of the  manufacturing art.   Well,  the pair sued the big three auto manufacturers for infringement of the Lemelson patents, and won.  Won really big! Then other companies were sued and the Lemelson patents held by the Lemelson Foundation became a licensing gold mine, one yielding about $1.5 billion a year.

The payout was so good that the principals tried to keep the  Lemelson patents  in force  as long as possible. They were on questionable ground, for many of the patents  had expired or were about to expire.   Keeping the  patents alive was accomplished by  filing continuation applications  and amendments to the original patents. 

Cognex Corporation, which specializes in machine vision systems, had been fighting the Lemelson Foundation patents for five years, spending millions in doing so. It filed a suit in a U.S. District Court, which ruled that the  Lemelson Foundation's 14 patents relating to machine vision could not be enforced because the foundation "had waited too long to pursue the alleged violators." In a final crushing blow, the also  judge ruled that the Lemelson patents were invalid , and that the machine vision and bar code technologies protected by other patents did not infringe upon them.  The primary finding was based on a little known precept in patent law known as "laches"--lapse of time bars relief. In short, the Lemelson Foundation had waited too long. Hosier appealed to "SCOTUS"--the Supreme court of the United States, which declined to review the case. (Note well:  When the Supreme Court has denied a case, that is usually the "last chance" in law.  This fact applies to a later situation that,later on, affected Zenith profoundly, so please keep in mind.)

The licensing gold mine had run out of gold.

Hosier used his fortune as noted. Lemelson, however,  had set up the  charitable foundation described previously, and  made worthy use of his fortune. The mission of the foundation is as described in the Lemelson Foundation website . (Just click on the underscored words to view the website. A url (address) will  appear. click on it.)
The Lemelson Foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives, by inspiring and enabling the next generation of inventors and invention-based enterprises to promote economic growth in the US, and social and economic progress for the poor in developing countries. Established by prolific US inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in the early 1990's, and led by the Lemelson family,  the Foundation to date has provided or committed to more than $185 million in grants and program-related Investments in support of its mission.

In fulfilling this worthy mission, the Lemelson Foundation  helps inventors worldwide to bring their inventions  to fruition by financial aid and help in patenting. And it awards a yearly prize of $50,000 to the inventor whose  achievement has contributed the most to humanity.
And so a good part of Lemelson's success is attributed to an ambitious engineer at Zenith who was able to fulfill his  dream  to become a patent attorney--with the help of Zenith. 
(Note:  Some of the foregoing content has been derived from an article by Bill Roberts published March 2004 in Electronic Business magazine.  The title of the article is Judge scuttles patent attacks.)

                                                                  * * * * * * * *
Now!  Meet the Commander's granddaughter-- Bridget Brigitte McDonald!


Award-winning Composer, Writer, Women's and Sustainability Advocacy
Bridget Brigitte McDonald, Ph.D., is an award-winning composer, writer, and sustainability advocate who is currently Executive Director and President of theWomen's International Center and runs her own record label and online marketing company Bionic Sisters Productions. With a symphony-composer-grandmother and a radio-technology-pioneer-grandfather, she was destined for music, writing, and non-profit advocacy. With a world-renowned-author/educator mother and attorney father, it is no surprise that Bridget received a BA from UC Berkeley (Chinese History & Comparative Literature English/French/German) and MA (French) and Ph.D. (Comparative Humanities) from Johns Hopkins University. She has written 2 novels, a translation of French philosophy (Stanford), and has poems in journals across the country. She has taught at the University of Orléans, France, and returned to California with her husband Jean-Pierre, a graphic and website designer, online marketing specialist, and manager who also has a diploma in gourmet cooking.

(For additional information about Bridget and her life and work, , open her website:   http://www.wic.org/bio/bbrigitte.htmBridget

Note by the Author of this blog:  Bridget often appears on Facebook as an advocate, for example, for the preservation of the African elephant and all African wildlife. Elephants need it:  it is said that 22,000 are killed yearly for their ivory tusks and as "jungle meat."

Commander McDonald would be proud of her! Let's evoke intimations of immortality and write "He is proud of her!"

                                                                     * * * * * * * *

Wayne Bretl has retrieved the photos taken during the 10th and final  breakfast reunion!  Just click on the URL below (or copy and paste it into your internet address bar) and if you were at the reunion, you may find a photo of yourself, in all your glory! 


Thanks, Wayne! And farewell to those beautiful  breakfast meetings. They will remain long in memory 

                                                                                         * * * * * * * *

Hereis a photo of the entrance one of Zenith's finest facilties--the Rauland television picture tube plant  in Melrose Park, Illinois. It is  a horrible  picture (nothingelse was available!) because it is a copy of a photo printed in a newspaper, The Chicago Tribune. (Copies of newspaper photos printed as "dots" do not print well in printers which also use dots (pixels) for copying--you get the moire effect .  [That is sure a bad description of a printing process, but let it go because we have a very interesting subject to discuss--"Rauland," as it was called.]

The Rauland picture  tube plant was a wonder.  At present, there is a lack of photos of the plant, which, hopefully will be remedied by you, the readers. Also, there is a lack of written descriptions of the plant. To make up for the lack, let's reprint the Post 12 description of the ill-fated Lansdale plant--for they were very much alike.
(Writer's note: for some strange rason, there is a big gap here which I can't close. When I try, and push "backspace,: the whole story disappears--completely gone--which, as you can imagine, leads to instant panic. --RC)  

Description of the Lansdale Television Picture Tube Plant

A facility for manufacturing picture tubes is a sheer marvel that encompasses all the arts of manufacturing.  The photos that follow give some idea of the scope and extent of the Lansdale (and the Rauland) picture tube plant.

The photo shows a line of pumps used for circulating the fluids required for the manufacture of television tubes. And there are many fluids: water, of course (deionized, too), acids, alkalis, hydrogen trioxide, etc.  And there are separate tanks for all of them, connected and interconnected by myriad pipes, conduits, conductors, valves, and unions--a wilderness of plumbing activated by myriad electrical controls and circuits.

Add to all the tools and equipment, hundreds of technicians and engineers, all highly skilled  and specialists in what they do to maintain and operate and the  factory.


--and of course, there are long assembly lines with the many attendants required as the tube travels a path from raw glass tube to its final testing stage, ready for sending to an assembly plant where it is fitted into a cabinet and becomes a salable product.

Looks pretty  expensive, doesn't it?  It was.  The cost was $65 million which, in today's money, is close to a third of a  billion dollar$.
                                                 --End of Lansdale Description--

Now let's talk about the Rauland Picture Tube Plant:  The total evaluation was much more than $65 million--more like $100 million because Zenith had expanded Rauland  to make all of its  picture tubes.  Employees totaled more than 2,000, and many of those had irreplaceable experience  in designing and manufacturing picture tubes. The demand was there, as Zenith was ramping up production to meet the production rate of television sets from Mexico. 

. . . production rate from Mexico? 

Yes, for all Zenith production of television sets was  relocated in Mexico.*  Why Mexico? Because Zenith had been forced to move all of its production of television sets out of the U.S. Why,  again?  Because of the grossly unfair competition from a criminal  RCA-Japanese  cartel.    Which leads to this sad headline--


  Yes, it had come to that!  And 2,000 employees of the Rauland were eventually let go, and the plant sold  All that experience was gone!  For the moving of production to Mexico, and other measures that Zenith had to take, had failed to halt the decline in Zenith' sales, for Zenith was soon to go bankrupt.   
But Rauland was the last to go.  When Zenith was forced to move "offshore" to Mexico, all American production employees were laid off, and the plants were sold.  Rauland was retained because it would have been impossible to transfer such a huge plant  to Mexico. 

Again, why did all this happen?  Because Zenith had lost the  Second War, the war with that criminal cartel.  The story of the Zenith's Second War will be told in a future Post of this weblog.  
[*Footnote:  . . .forced to move offshore to Mexico and Taiwan! But primarily to Mexico.]

(Sorry, Raulanders! . . . this is the first exposure to this weblog for many of you, and  unhappily, you are greeted by a sad story like this!)

                                                               * * * * * * * * 
ERRATA (1)   In Post 10, Zenith's top-of -the -line Stratosphere 1000 was  listed erroneously as coming on the market in 1925.  It actually  appeared in 1938, and at the then-phenomenal  cost of $750. (That $750 in today's money is  $12,138!) Yet people bought them because it was a Zenith product, and Zenith was the best. If you had held onto that set, you could sell it today for $30,000 to $50,000, so it wouldn't have been a bad purchase.  (Let's line up and kick ourselves for not buying one and storing it away in Grandma's attic! And, thanks t0 Bill Cohn for spotting the error in the date.)  

ERRATA (2) In Post 15, it was written that Tom Argy had invented and patented the Zenith Space Phone.  In reality, Tom invented, not the space phone, but  a TV raster expansion system, one of his five patents.  (I lost the name of the former employee who told me of this error.. Thank you anyway, whoever you are!)
    Tom was a real nice guy, but he was outspoken, and often tangled with higher ups.  One morning I found him fuming:  his office had been relocated overnight next to the loading dock!  I know who he tangled with, but I won't tell.
There will be more "errata," in this weblog, for sure. If you catch an error, please let me know.  (RC)
                                                                 * * * * * * * * *
Zenith seems to be immortal!
Not the company itself, sad to say, but its products--its radios, for example.  Especially the TransOceanic, of which working models today are hot items.  Go to eBay, for example:  www.ebay.com , and enter the search term  Transoceanic.

The beauty pictured is the Zenith Solid State TransOceanic Royal 7000-1 short Wave 11 Band radio. You can buy it for $269.95 (or join the bidding on Ebay and perhaps get it for a lower price). 
If you can't manage the price, try for this one--another  from eBay.
To view all the sellers of TransOceanics,, and there are a great many, go to  Google Search and enter Trans-Oceanic.  This step will produce  217,000 "hits."

The Trans-Oceanic was perhaps the most popular radio of all time. It was a special love  of Commander McDonald, who supervised its design to the end of his life.

                                                               * * * * * * * *

And here is a request for a donation for a worthy cause, from Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia--

     Wikipedia is the #5 site on the web and serves 500 million different people every month – with billions of page views.
     Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia.
     Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others.

     When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different. We’ve worked hard over the years to keep it lean and tight. We fulfill our mission efficiently.
      If everyone reading this donated, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. But not everyone can or will donate. And that's fine. Each year just enough people decide to give.

     This year, please consider making a donation of $5, $20, $50 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales
Wikipedia Founder

To donate, go to any Wikipedia site. For example,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Oceanic  In  the column on  the left side, you will seen an entry DONATE. Just click on it and the instructions for donating will appear.  Even $5 or $10 will help.  (No,  I don't get a "cut.")
                                                                    * * * * * * * *

Who is this engineer and what is he holding?  He is Zenith electrical engineer Alfred Ditthardt (better known as "Al" Ditthardt!)  and he is holding the Zenith Pocket Pager.  With a group of his fellow engineers, who will be named, the group developed a pager and paging system that the Morotorola engineering staff said "was impossible."  Just like Zenith engineers to do that!  The whole inspiring story will be told in a later post, when the writer has had the time to do  the story justice.
                                                                * * * * * * * *  

Just in!  Hold the Presses!
Russell Miller
Below  is a copy of an  email message just received from a former Zenith-ite, Russell Miller!  It is amazing what experience with Zenith can lead to, and  Russ is an example. Russ was Senior Vice President of  Zenith, and head of  a "giant" International Marketing Department at Zenith consisting of himself of two other people.  Like all Zenith-ites,  he eventually got the axe, and  I told him it was because "he was over-staffed." (Let's of laughs followed, followed by a quick escape for the writer.)

Hi Ralph,


You had asked me to let you know when my next book becomes available. It is now at  www.amazon.com/books  in both print and kindle format. The title is "Death of a Spymaster" and the fictional central character is a retired international marketing executive, with ties to the CIA,  who worked for a consumer products company named Apex Electronics. The narrative is quite contemporary since it is centered, for a  large part, in Ukraine at the start of their problem  with Putin's Russia.


This is my sixth book since leaving Zenith, and my third spy novel. The publisher's promotional sheet is attached (I hope) describing the book in more detail There are some incidents involved (such as dealings  with the licensee in Israel)  that may be familiar to some of the Zenith people; and I think that everyone will find it to be an interesting as well as an entertaining read.


If you need any more information or have any questions about the book please contact me, and good luck on your blog.

-- Russ Miller
Books by Russ are a good read, really gripping, and without the sex-soaked action you will find in other spy novels. In his years with Zenith, Russ traveled to more than 100 different companies, which gave him the worldwide experience that led him to be a writer of spy novels.   

                                                                      * * * * * * * *

In the next post, Post 18,  of this Zenith weblog, we'll complete Al Ditthardt's story of the Zenith pager; also, and for the benefit of newcomers, we'll offer a recap of what's been published in past Posts of this Zenith weblog , along with instructions how to easily access any post you may wish to read.  

An apology:  I have an awful time with hyperlinks--those Url's and other indicators which are supposed to take you to other websites. Google seems to be fighting me when I use its system for inserting hyperlinks. So please do the best you can in accessing the other sites; they're worth visiting. You may have to copy and paste the address into your internet address bar. 

SO!--Mizpah! until next time.

An  explanation of the word "Mizpah" for those who have recently joined:  It is a Hebrew term which means (very roughly)  ". . .  may all be well with you and I until  we meet again  "Mizpah"  was also the name of McDonald's yacht.


No comments:

Post a Comment