Sunday, September 28, 2014

Zenith Declares War

Post 15

  Let's put a temporary hold on discussing the history of Zenith, fascinating as it is, but "cut to the chase," and tell  why Zenith failed, and the cause of its failure.  To survive , Zenith had to engage in two "wars" the first of which it won, and the second, which  it lost, as did the entire American consumer electronics industry.  
(Note:  The two installments of  "First War" that Zenith fought and won were printed in  Posts 5 and 6. It is repeated in this Post 15, and an ensuing Post 16,  for the benefit of  the many new readers who have found this blog.  A little "refresher" is often helpful, anyway.) 
The First War.  Zenith launched a legal attack on the RCA (Radio Corporation of America) patent cartel that was extorting exorbitant royalties from the American radio industry. The cartel was operating in criminal violation of the Sherman Anti-trust Act. Here is a description of the act:

Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Federal legislation passed in 1890 prohibiting "monopolies or attempts to monopolize," and "contracts, combinations, or conspiracies in restraint of trade" in interstate and foreign commerce. The major purpose of the Sherman Antitrust Act is to prohibit monopolies and sustain competition so as to protect companies from each other, and to protect consumers from unfair business practices. The act was supplemented by the Clayton antitrust act in 1914. Both acts are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Attorney General's office. (Source: answers.com)
    In short, the Sherman Act prohibits any contract, conspiracy, or combination of business interest in restraint of interstate or foreign trade.

Zenith fought the first war single-handed, and won it for benefit not only for the benefit  of Zenith, but also for the entire American consumer electronic industry.

 But it was a short-lived victory, for another and more formidable competitor was in the offing, this one inexplicably supported by the government of the United States. This was the war against another cartel which RCA also instigated--an RCA-Japanese cartel.  Zenith lost this war.  Zenith was not the only loser, for hundreds of thousands of American manufacturing and related  jobs were lost when  production was transferred out of this continent. In the end, the entire American radio and televisions industry was wiped out. Zenith was the last of the American companies to go under and was  declared bankrupt in 1998.  

The story of Zenith's initial victory and eventual defeat is told brilliantly in a book by Philip J. Curtis, a Zenith attorney who was the Zenith "point man" is the two battles. His book is titled  The Fall of the U.S. Consumer  Electronics Industry . . .  An American Trade Tragedy. (The publisher is unreachable and has apparently gone out of  business.) The book is being "remaindered" by Amazon. com at a price of $114.

Philip J. Curtis
In his Foreword to the book, Curtis writes: "Dedicated to the thousands of American workers who lost their jobs as a result of the predatory attack of a foreign cartel described here—an attack made possible by heavily lobbied law enforcement failures.”

The loss of the second war is the reason  why you cannot buy an American-made radio or television set, nor any of the hundreds of other revolutionary electronic devices such as iPhones and iPods. Now they are all manufactured overseas, not here. America has lost it all. The total of the casualties:  800,000 American jobs sent off-shore, and most American companies that produced radio, television, and related products, were forced out of business, or  taken over by the Japanese. 

(. . .  and the loss the second war may be  the reason why you  may have lost your job with Zenith, for Zenith was forced to lay off all its production employees, and sell its factories and production  equipment.  During its banner years, Zenith employed 32,000 Americans; following the Japanese take-over, Zenith employed only a fraction of that number. )   

Curtis casts as the villain in both wars as (to quote)  “ . . . the brilliant and ruthless David Sarnoff who ‘seized control of the RCA patent pool’ . . .  and who controlled the lucrative industry for over forty  years by means of a scurrilous patent-package licensing scheme.”
Defeated in the First War, Sarnoff went on to establish a second scheme in conjunction with the Japanese to literally take over  the American television industry. You can read about Sarnoff in the ever-useful  Wikipedia, but you won't find  there the facts of what he did to destroy an entire American industry.

--and the take-over scheme was made possible by three administrations of the United States Government, beginning with the Nixon Administration, and followed by the Carter and Reagan administrations!  Unbelievable?  Well, wait until you read the proof!

Let's cover the first Zenith War, the war that Zenith won, as related by Philip Curtis in his book,  and adapted for this blog by the author of the blog.    

                                         Zenith Declares War On the RCA Patent Cartel

World War II had ended, and Zenith was converting from wartime products to consumer products. In order to  manufacture and sell  its radio and television products, Zenith was forced by  the  patent laws to accept an RCA package license which required a payment of a 7.5 percent of the sale price of not just the electronic circuits, but the entire product including the cabinet, which in the top line sets were expensive.  So the tribute payable to RCA for a $450 Zenith radio was $33.75.  The extortionate nature of this assessment is pointed up by the fact that a profit on such a radio was normally 10 percent, or $45.00.  Further, the RCA license required that the licensee grant back to RCA any patents it developed!

This outrageous levy had the effect of making the licensee a subsidiary of RCA. The penalty for refusing the license was to be tied up in court in prolonged and devastating litigation.  Few independent radio manufacturers could afford this, so they had no option but to go out of business.  Once there were 500 small, independent radio manufacturers in the 1920’s.  All were wiped out by RCA’s predatory licensing.

 This scheme had gone on for 30 years until it was challenged by Zenith.  Zenith refused to be a licensee.  Rather than waiting for a legal attack by RCA, Zenith filed an action in the Delaware federal court for a judgment against RCA and the other pool participants:  AT&T, Western Electric, General Electric, and Westinghouse.  [Little Zenith picking a fight with this mob!– a David-and-Goliath confrontation if there ever was one!]  The suit was based on a declaration that all the patents in the RCA patent license were unenforceable because they were pooled by an unlawful conspiracy with the intent to monopolize the American electronics industry.  Further, Zenith was barred from doing business in Canada and in foreign countries by the far-reaching tentacles of the monopoly.

Such a monopoly was a clear violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which came into being to break up the monopolies in the last century:  the Steel Trust, the Sugar Trust, the railroad trust, and the notorious Rockefeller Oil Trust, all of which had mutually agreed among their co-conspirators to fix prices, to divide up world domestic and foreign markets amongst themselves, and to use their combined power to crush competitors.

 The Sherman Act is beautifully simple.  It is summed up in the first section which states that “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. . . ”  To put some needed teeth into the law, an offense against the act was later upgraded from the mild misdemeanor to criminal).  It was on this basis that Zenith filed suit against the RCA patent cartel in the Delaware Federal Trial Court, Chief Judge Leahy presiding.

Judge Leahy
Zenith Loses the First Round
 The RCA conspirators counter-attacked by alleging infringement of 40 patents in the RCA pool consisting of 24 patents by RCA, 10 by Western Electric, and six by General Electric.  There  began a “legal war of attrition” against Zenith which entailed the filing of numerous motions and pretrial “discoveries” designed to make it too expensive for Zenith to carry on.  And basically, it was designed to obscure Zenith’s original antitrust claim.

Then came what was looked upon as Zenith’s “death sentence”.  It was imposed at the defendant’s behest by Judge Leahy of the Delaware federal trial court.  Before Zenith’s antitrust claim could even be considered, said the judge, the afore-described forty patents that Zenith had supposedly infringed must each be tried in court.  Also, any newly issued patents could be asserted against Zenith, and each in turn must be tried.  The cost of the full-scale trials would be enormous, and most pertinent, RCA could continue for years to impose its criminal conspiracy on the industry and reap the benefits thereof. [Judge Leahy’s opinion in favor of RCA is set forth in Appendix II in the Curtis book.]

 In a master-stroke, RCA’s lawyers thus persuaded a sympathetic judge to impose on Zenith this course of legal obfuscation and delay.  Zenith had failed miserably in its first attempt to break RCA’s monopoly.  Maybe it would be better to apply for a license, and pay the royalties . . . .

I Attack!

Eugene F. McDonald

 Not so, said Commander McDonald.  Perhaps, as a Naval officer, he was inspired by the French commander, Marshall Petain.  During the First World War, when his forces were driven in on all fronts, Petain said:  “The situation is excellent.  I attack.”
To lead his attack team, McDonald enlisted Joe Wright, who later became president of Zenith.                                                                  

Joseph S. Wright
Joseph S. Wright came to Zenith from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington, D.C., where he was in charge of ensuring compliance with the Commission’s order to cease and desist from unfair competition.  Wright in turn brought in Philip J. Curtis, who had worked with  Wright in his antitrust section of the FTC.  Curtis characterized Wright as “the government’s bulldog, and Zenith needed a man with bite.”

 And bite he did.  He got together with Curtis and Zenith’s long-time counsel Irving Herriot to decide strategy.  They had two chances. The first chance was to petition the Delaware Third Circuit Court of Appeals to force Judge Leahy to put Zenith’s antitrust claim ahead of the trial of 40-plus patents.  This was considered a hundred-to-one chance, and so it eventually proved.

 The second was to springboard Zenith’s antitrust claim on a patent infringement suit against Zenith that RCA had filed in Chicago.  Phil Curtis had dug up evidence that the RCA patent cartel was behind the barring of Zenith from the lucrative Canadian market and other foreign markets in clear violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  This evidence made it possible to show that the Chicago case was different from the Delaware case, and that the antitrust issues could be tried separately in Chicago.

Another bulldog was brought on board, this one in the form of Thomas C. O’Connell, described by Curtis as “a fearless, brilliant trial lawyer.”  And so he proved.  Cross-claims were filed on the antitrust issue against the RCA cartel, including GE and Western Electric.

The case was under the jurisdiction of Chicago’s Judge Michael Igoe, who allowed Zenith’s case to proceed independently of the Delaware trial and Judge Leahy’s ruinous decision.


Judge Igoe
 It was a great victory for Zenith; however, Zenith had absolutely no evidence admissible in court that a conspiracy actually existed.  But Zenith now had the court behind it, and therefore the power to examine files, ask questions and examine witnesses under oath, a legal procedure known as “pretrial discovery.”  Failure of RCA to produce the documents would be considered contempt of court and an obstruction of justice.

Not that this much bothered RCA and its raft of attorneys.  It took Zenith’s attorneys no less than three years to discover that evidence, but find it they did.  RCA’s counsel drew upon every possible expedient, including what Curtis called “sandbagging” and “the wallpaper treatment.”  The wallpaper strategy was to “swamp them” (the Zenith attorneys) with plenty of nothing until they gave up in exhaustion and despair.”  Documents detailing communications relative to the conspiracy, and between RCA’s executive officers were withheld, and attempts made to actually hide them!

An example of the RCA’s tactic in making it as difficult as possible to examine its files is shown what might be called the “fleabag’ incident.  Rather than offering space at RCA’s luxurious New York City headquarters for Zenith’s examination of the files, the files were piled into the worst possible room of a New York hotel that RCA could find.  Phil Curtis’s description is vivid:  “The hotel itself was a third avenue fleabag . . . that had not been cleaned or decorated for human habitation for many, many years.  There was a small window covered with years of New York grime and jammed shut so that we could not open it.  Hanging from the center of the ceiling on a black, twisted cord was the original light fixture.  The ‘document” room’ had the sepulchral stench of many decades of living and, possibly, dying.  The ‘air conditioning’ was a contradiction of terms.  Counsel for RCA must have thoroughly searched New York City and could find none worse for our accommodation.”

 Along with Zenith patent attorney Frank Crotty, Curtis spent many miserable weeks sorting through this “wallpaper.”  It was obvious that RCA was deliberately withholding  from Zenith the documents needed to proceed with its case.

Frank Crotty
(Note:  Several years had passed since Frank was in that fleabag room with Curtis.)

                                                                        * * * * * * * *

End of First Installment of the two installments that describe Zenith’s first war and victory against the RCA cartel.

  In the second installment, one  that will appear in Post 16, we'll see how McDonald's crew of fighters defeated  RCAs'  criminal conspiracy to the benefit of not only Zenith, but also of the entire American consumer electronics industry. 

                                                                       * * * * * * * *
A more recent case in  which an American company created a patent monopoly--a "conspiracy in restraint of trade"-- was by the Xerox Corporation, the first manufacturer of a practical copy machine.  The copying process was rather simple in description--set type on a substrate (paper)  with an electromagnetic charge, dust some carbon powder on it  which sticks to the charged area (the type), shake the dust off , then heat the paper  to fuse the typed area. Although simple in description, but exceedingly difficult to put into practice.

But Xerox did it, to their credit. Do you recall the first Xerox copier?--a large, table-like device which accepted the item to copy under a  platen, press a button, and copy came out of  the  end.

But Xerox erred in accumulating all the patents and becoming the exclusive vendor by forbidden others from using the patents; in short, acting in "restraint of trade"  in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Xerox was sued by the government and forced to relinquish exclusive use of the patents.  Immediately, other manufacturers produced a variety of copy machines of great versatility, and even a desktop laser printer.  (This statement points up  the value of the Sherman Act in encouraging innovation.)  

                                                                   * * * * * * * *
Back to Zenith History again!  Can't help it!--it is so fascinating.  Let's look at this Zenith radio that dates from 1925-1927 era--The Zenith Stratosphere 1000!

This was the first radio ever capable of tuning to stations world-wide, and a predecessor to the  portable Zenith Transoceanic.  And it cost $750, and this when you could buy an automobile for $300--the Ford Model T, for example.

(An aside:  Some of you may be old enough to know how much fun the Model T was  to drive! Three pedals on the floor and a throttle lever beside the steering wheel  was all that was needed.  And you could whiz along at the breath-taking speed of 45 miles per hour! Lowering  the windshield would increase the thrill. Then you had to wear goggles.)
That  1925 $750 cost of the Stratosphere 1000 in today's money would be close to $10,000-- enough to buy a pretty good used car. And if you could find a Stratosphere  today, one in good condition, it would be worth $50,000!
SO!--if you are probing around in an old barn and find a moldy  old Zenith Statosphere 1000,  buy it!   
Here is another ahead of its time development by Zenith--the Robot Dial.   
The Zenith "Robot Dial"
The trouble with an old radio that you may find is  that it probably won't  play very well.  If it is a Zenith, it is not that the quality didn't go in, but due to the  fact that the springs that hold the vacuum tubes suffer from old age and lose their grip  on the socket pins, so the electrical connections are bad. But that can be fixed, and there are lots of places that  repair old radios, and make them sound as good as new.   Here are three  that do repair old radios, as found on the internet--
(Note:  The information in the foregoing  article is derived from information in an article by  Steve Johnson titled  "What It's Worth: Zenith Radio" published in the Hearst Electronics Products Magazine. The article also covers the Zenith Wincharger and the Trans-Oceanic radio set.  Johnson also deals in antique radios and other antique items. See
And for lagniappe, here is a fascinating old radio-telephone--
Antique style novel dial radio from the collection of Jim's Antique Radios, www.antiqueradiosmusem.org
                                                                    * * * * * * * *
 (Note: The following was lifted from Post 4, as it is worth repeating.)
NOW--BOOKS ABOUT ZENITH! Those who love the old Zenith will delight in adding such books to their libraries. Four such books are described below. They are primarily the work of two college professors, Harold N. Cones and John H. Bryant, who earned the name “The Radio Professors” because of their dedication to writing the history of Zenith and its products.  (Please note that this account was lifted from Post 9, but it is worth a repeat.)

Zenith Trans-Oceanic: The Royalty of Radios. (2008) $22.95.
Zenith Radio: The Glory Years, 1936-1945. (2003) Illustrated Catalog and Database. (With Martin Blankenship.) $23.46 
Zenith Radio: The Glory Years, 1936-1945: History and Products. (With Martin Blankenship.) $27.05.
dangerous crossings  (sic) 1925.  $2.85 (Actual price asquoted!)
The book dangerous crossings  describes the exploration of an area of the  far north by Donald MacMillan, Richard Byrd, and Eugene McDonald. McDonald played an extraordinary and heroic part in the expedition. It is there that he introduced the Zenith short-wave radio system that revolutionized world-wide communication. The radio system was perhaps the first of the many “firsts” that Zenith was notable for.
All books are available from Amazon.com. Prices are effective as of March 12, 2014. Bookseller Barnes and Noble and your local bookseller may also have them, or can get them for you.  
                                                            * * * * * * * *
 Thomas Argy was a Zenith electronic engineer. He invented as system for adapting  a telephone circuit into a television set, so if you were sitting in front of the set, you could receive telephone calls and make calls by way of the set. The feature was called "the Space Phone." Some   Zenith models  from the 1970's to the 1990's offered this special feature. 
 Tom Argy got a patent for it, and then, sadly, passed away.  Later, the patent issued in his name.  Zenith made a special ceremony in presenting a copy of the patent to Argy's son--a kindly act typical of Zenith.
Welcome to the Raulanders! The Raulanders are a group of former employees who worked for Rauland, and who get together and reminisce,  socialize, and exchange information. 
Let's look back!   Sixteen (16) posts have been published so far in this blog.  If you want to catch up, or review what has been published, here is how to do it.  Go to the front of this blog where you can review this little diagram, which leads you to the Posts of the blog from the first to the most recent: 
First, here is a reproduction of the diagram at the front of every Post . Here is what it looks like-- 

 (This diagram doesn't work here, but it will when you access it at its location,  which is  on the front of all posts, right side.)
Here is how to retrieve a  Post for viewing--
To view a Post, just click on the date of its publication. For example, if you want to view Post 1, just  click on the  date February 2014, and an address in blue will appear. Click on it. Post 2 will appear first.  Then scroll  down to the post you want to view--Post 1.  (The latest post is on top of the earlier post.)
And here is a summary of all the Posts to date-- 

Post 1:  The story of Zenith . . . its early success and eventual failure . . .  help in writing blog needed from the Zenith Pioneers . . . the two principals: McDonald and Nevin . . . named “the Zenith Book” . . . tentative title: A Requiem for Zenith:  The Story of the Rise and Fall of a Great American Company, and the Lessons to be Learned from its Fall . . . please tell your friends and former fellow employees. 

Post 2.  The birth of Zenith . . . on “a rainy night” . . . McDonald and Karl Hassel . . . McDonald gets it going . . . the first "Znith" radio sets.

Post 3. Reference to the Zenith Book Facebook page . . . McDonald and the Porthole Television set . . . ServiceWorld Magazine . . . the story of the Zenith Distributors . . . the question:  What destroyed the Zenith we all  knew? . . . the Philip Curtis book described . . .  four  other books about Zenith . . . meet Professor Marianne McDonald . . . a request for comments. 

Post 4. Zenith Declares War! . . .  the two cartels explained  . . .  Party Time! . . .  Gene Polley: how he got started with Zenith . . . Polley's memories of McDonald . . . Pulley’s major contribution and his reward . . . Robert Adler’s contribution . . . Zenith gets into television  . . . McDonald’s profit sharing system . . . the Mizpah . . . preparations for next Post  . . .  Help! Help! Comments needed!

Post 5. Brief summary of the Curtis Book . . . author’s role in relation to the Curtis book . . . Zenith declares war! (the first installment)   . . . I Attack! (McDonald) . . . the “fleabag” incident . . . now for something completely different:  the Big Bang! (a nearby factory explodes) . . . the author apologizes (for calling Adler’s remote control a “gizmo.”) . . .  references again to the Zenith Book Facebook page.

Post 6.  Zenith’s First War, Second Installment . . . Curtis describes the high court proceedings (in London--hilarious! ). . . Zenith wins!--so did the entire American consumer electronics industry . . .  a tribute to Chicago’s Judge Michael Igoe . . . two questions:  How many of the readers know the story of Zenith’s First War? . . .  how many have actually read the Curtis book?

Post 7. Zenith’s first television set plays again! . . (Photo: Brian Mahronic and Zenith Model 1939) . . .old Zenith TV set is shown . . . Antique Radio club of Illinois is described . . . Sam Kaplan, inventor of the ChromaColor television tube, is introduced . . . Robert Podowski writes and account of the early development of the Adlers ultrasonic-based remote control.

Post 8. Post 8 features engineers, executives and others . . . the Hall of Fame in electronics . . . Robert Adler and Carl Eilers are among those listed . . . Eiler’s achievements . . . odd Zenith products:  the Jack-in-the-box television set;  the batwing lock radio;the roach motel cable box . . . Zenith’s early radio station in Mt. Prospect, Illinois . . . Museum of Broadcast Communications . . . McDonald’s philanthropies . . . photo of Marianne, McDonald’s daughter . . . Help!  Request for comments from readers of the blog.

Post 9.  Unhappy announcement: the Zenith breakfast meetings are no more . . . photos of the Medinah banquet meeting hall and five of the attendees  . . . a tribute to Richard and Barbara Alfano who produced the breakfast meetings for nine  years . . . remembering Joseph Wright . . . a review of the book “dangerous crossings”--the adventures of Commander McDonald in the Arctic . . .a plea to encourage readership of the blog, and a request for comments.

Post 10. Call this Post “Nostalgia” . . . awful pun . . . the Zenith Distributors . . . What does a distributor do? . . . J.S. Williams Company . . . George. H. Lehleitner & Co. . . . name of McDonald’s wife . . . the radios and televisions of Zenith have not been forgotten . . .  Radio Attic . . .  Antique Radios Club . . .. . Grunow Mansion . . . Lost Chicago . . . Florsheim . . . American Flyer . . . Zenith logo . . . Zenith Stratosphere radio model . . . Commander McDonald and the book “dangerous crossings” . . . please encourage readership . . . an apology . . .  Mizpah!
Post 11. The “epitome”  issue . . . first epitome: a servicing dealer-- Porter Barnes of Evansville, Indiana   . . . a  dealer who sells to Zenith customers . . . a  “mon and pop” operation . . . the largest servicing dealer in Evansville . . . running a small business . . . the importance of advertising . . . the need for support . . . the role of management . . . the importance of the proper location . . . in retrospect . . . a tribute to long-time Zenith engineer Joseph Graziano . . . announcement of  RadioFest . . . the managers of Zenith:  McDonald, Kaplan, Wright, Nevin . . .  technical lightweights . . . Phil Curtis  . . .  Nevin’s career at Zenith . . . Radio Station WEFM . . . profit-sharing  changed . .  . intro to Lansdale debacle. 

Post 12.    Readers express doubt -- is a "Zenith Book" possible? . . . dual betrayal . . .  the Requiem for Zenith and the Curtis book . . . two authors to the book-- Curtis and Clarke . . . Lansdale! . . . the brochure . . . the “pitch” for Lansdale.  . . Gene Kinney pitches it world-wide . . . “Let’s turn off the heat” . . . Lansdale now junk . . . What would the Commander have done?

Post 13. The special products of Zenith . . . the special products division . . . description of facilities . . the prime  purpose of the division . . . special products catalog . . . radio set PRR-15(z) . . . used in the Cuban missile crisis . . . Bell Boy Paging Receiver . . .  more special products . . . the Uniscope . . . Zenithcon 1 . . .all gone now . . .  ChromaColor! . . . the patent suit . . . description of the ChromaColor patent . . . a page from the magazine ServiceWorld . . . the banner of a Zenith publication--"ZTAC News."

Post 14.   Reviewing the cable box . .  . typical cable box .  . . latest remote control . . . coaxial cable . . . the caricatures again . . . Vito Brugliera . . . ZTAC News . . . example of circuit  . . . Andy Bellavia teaching . . . Dick Kemp . . . Bill Cohn . . .  the Quality had gone in, but-- . . . sold to Motorola . . . Let’s lighten the mood . . . Zenith in Mt. Prospect in 1925 . . . TV antennas . . . the quarter horse case . . . suspicious television sets . . .  cut to the chase . . .  hold your hats for Post 15!

Post 15. Let’s “cut to the chase”--Zenith’s First War once more. . .  more history—the Stratosphere 1000 radio . . . cost of the $tratosphere, then, and now . . . four books about Zenith (again)  . . . Tom Argy and the Space Phone . . . welcome to the Raulanders . . . how to view previous posts of this blog . . . a review of the contents of the blog (what you are reading now!) . . .  explanation of "Mizpah."

Post 16. To be published . . .   the second installment of Zenith’s first War . . .  (what will be in the remainder  of Post 16? -- even the author of this blog doesn’t know, but is open to suggestions and contributions.)

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.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Post 14

Post 14. 

Greetings from the author of the Zenith Book blog! For this post, we'll review the work of a group of Zenith engineers engaged in the design and development of a promising product--the television "cable box."  More specifically, the cable box is an electronic tuner that converts multiple channels from a cable television service to a single  channel, usually VHF.  The box is a channel for a  variety of services such a pay-per-view, parental controls, and "on demand."

 Here is a photo of a typical cable box, one from Pace Micro Technology--

The box you see is copied from Wikipedia.  If you want to stuff your head with more information about cable boxes, go to the invaluable Wikipedia (And you might want to make a small contribution to Wikipedia--they need it, for they are not in the business of making money, but to provide a invaluable service.)
(Author's rueful note:  I can't show a photo of Zenith's cable box because one isn't available. At one time, the writer was neck-deep in them, but never took a photo of one.)
And of course, there is a hand-held control for selecting channels, one of which is found in most households in the world. Controls now offer a  selection of  hundreds of channels.      Here is a control from Comcast, now the biggest supplier in the U.S.--

--and for comparison, here is a photo of the original ultrasonic remote created by Bob Adler in 1958--

It offered a selection of four channels, plus "on and off." 

And throughout homes all over America, comes the plaintive cry of "Who's got the remote?"  Also, the "couch potato" came into being.  Not for nothing was the first remote invented by Gene Polley called "the Lazybones." (It is said that  is was named Lazybones by Mcdonald's granddaughter.)

Now, how does that television signal get into the house? No longer through an antenna hanging on the chimney (as described in another part of this blog), but through a single conduit called the coaxial cable, which consists of a single tiny wire  (D) shown below, surrounded by the simple components A, B, and C, as shown --

                                              (Again, copied from the invaluable  Wikipedia)

And, through that slender conduit of copper wire flows the  millions of bits of information that comprise hundreds of television channels.

(Now, a digression:  That slender wire works both ways: It can carry signals the opposite way as well--signals from a camera and a microphone attached to the television set to record what goes on in that  room and its occupants.  In the novel  titled "1984," George Orwell describes such a scenario:  a man is doing his compulsory early-morning exercise as instructed by the television set under the direction  of the dictator "Big Brother" (Big Brother is Watching You!) He slacks off on his exercise, and the commanding voice of Big Brother booms from the television set, calling him by name and reprimanding him. Don't laugh--soon your TV set will be so equipped, if it is not already.) 

Well, now let's "get to the chase", and round up the usual suspects--those Zenith  employees selected to design, develop and promote the Zenith cable box--

The names of most of them have been lost in memory.  But certain ones can still be called out:  Kelly ("Gene")  was the nominal director of the group; Kemp ("Dick") had charge of he field engineers, of whom Cohn ("Bill) and Bellavia ("Andy") were two of them.  Fulton ("Bob") was in charge of computer ops.  The man at the bottom center is Vito Brugliera, an MBA and a brilliant engineer, who was Director of Marketing for Zenith cable products.  He  later assisted Phil Curtis in the two Wars that Zenith fought--the first War against an RCA cartel that Zenith won, and the second War against an RCA-Japanese cartel that Zenith lost, as did the entire American consumer products industry. Here is photo of Vito Brugliera, for what he did for Zenith in fighting the Zenith's Second War is memorable (and you can compare  how well the caricaturist did in depicting him)--


(The cat at the lower left is the humble, self-effacing proprietor of this blog.)

Anyway, let's see what they all did and what progress the cable group  was making.  They were all gathered on the fifth floor of the Glenview plant, before transferring to their own building.  Their activities were reported by the Z-TAC News, as mentioned in the last Post--Post 13. 

I had come over from the Patent Department to create a Z-TAC service manual, which entailed writing and  taking of the photos. We can dip into Z-TAC News to follow the progress in the development of the Zenith cable box.
Here's a page from the Z-TAC service manual, also shown in Z-TAC news.  The circuits were complex, which may have been the source of the problems evident in  early versions of the Z-TAC cable boxes.
 Obviously, the cable box was no simple device.  And many of the early versions of it were placed with customers by cable companies, and were returned to Zenith as defective.  Zenith had a whole warehouse near-full of cable boxes returned as defective/inoperative. 
   Zenith's staff of field engineers did their best to teach  the users how make the cable boxes work. Here is a sketch of Field Engineer Andy Bellavia teaching the operation and adjustment of the cable box--
Andy would go t into the field  and teach  maintenance of the cable box.  And the participants would come up after class and say:  "But Andy: we've done all those things, and it still doesn't work!"
What could Andy say?  Hardly--"The design is no good." So he had to keep silent.
Dick Kemp, who was in charge of the Field Engineers was going out of his mind with worry as the warehouse was filling up with rejects. The quality just wasn't going in before the name went on.
Dick Kemp
But finally--Finally!   The tide turned. The nasty design problem was resolved.  Bill Cohn, one of the field engineers, and soon to be the head of the field engineering group upon the untimely passing  of Dick Kemp, tells the story--

"We became one of the bright spots of  Zenith as Zenith became the Number 2 supplier of cable boxes in the United States. We sold to all the major cable TV companies such as ATC,  Group W, Jones Intercable, Telecable, Viacom, Paragon Cable, Continental, Cox, Charter, and many other cable operators.  All those companies are now a part of Comcast or Time-Warner.  We also sold to  many international companies." 
The quality had gone in . . . !

 Bill went on to say-- "A second product was released in 1988 called "PM" for Phase Modulation. The PM product line was created by the same group that gave Zenith the HDTV (High Definition Television), They also developed a product called Z-View. This product led to the development of Cable Modems (almost too early, as we did not have the internet as yet). We also resurrected the Zenith "Phonevision" name for a product that allowed customers  to order pay-per-view movies on the Z-TAC boxes."
A valuable product line was created by Zenith engineers, and it was obviously making money, with a potential for a great deal more money.  But Zenith soon dropped out of the market.  What  happened to this promising business? Very simply, Zenith boxes were based on an analog technology, and  the industry was going digital.  Bill tells the story--

"Zenith ultimately did produce a digital set top box but they were too late to the party. Zenith was approached by the Direct TV people in 1991 but turned them down. This was a Zenith decision.  RCA got the contract and continued to make their boxes for over 15 years.  Had Zenith embarked on this project in 1991,  Zenith  could have been ahead of General Instrument and Scientific Atlanta in digital set top technology. Instead they waited till 1995 to work on a digital product. So Zenith lost the lead. Zenith management embarked on a part of the HDTV system that did return some patent money, but they did not work on a complete system for the CATV industry."

What was left of the Zenith cable business was sold to Motorola.
Motorola played the game smarter.   Made it a huge success . . . . probably No. 2 in sales. Then Google bought Motorola and sold the Motorola Home cable and internet box business to Arris for $2.35 billion.  So if Zenith had only been able to hold  on  to a portion of that cable and internet box business with a viable digital product,  it very likely could have acquired some of that  $2.35 billion.   
Well, as we Zenith people view programs brought to us through a Motorola or other cable box, we can console ourselves  with the thought that within that cable box may lie a  key electronic circuit created by a Zenith engineer. We must take our comfort where we can.
Now let's lighten the mood,  and write about  an incident that occurred in the manufacture of the cable box, wherein there was created The Roach Motel Cable Box.   It seems many of the cable boxes were stored in a warehouse prior to shipping. The warehouse was infested with those insects that have been around since the dinosaurs roamed the earth---the cockroach . . . La Cucaracha! One day, a mother roach decided that a cable box would be an ideal repository for her eggs, and she proceeded to lay a great many within a cable box.
The box was shipped to a lady who kept an immaculate home, one that  had never witnessed  such a thing as a cockroach (horrors!). The box was installed, plugged in, and it warmed to a temperature ideal for the maturation of cockroach eggs.  The baby roaches hatched and poured forth from the box to establish a roach empire. The lady of the house was appalled to discover not one cockroach, but hundreds of them swarming around. 
 Now lets turn to an early achievement by Zenith--  

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 Did You Know . . . that in 1925, Zenith had a large radio transmitting station in the Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect, Illinois?  Mount Prospect was pretty much "out in the country" then, with few buildings visible nearby. The radio station was housed in what appeared to be an old residence flanked by two tall towers, one of which was emblazoned in huge letters with the name of Zenith Radio Corporation.  Here is a view provided by the Mount Prospect Historical Society, (though the Zenith name is not shown  in this photo)--

                                                  (from Mount Prospect Historical Society)

The story is that the "big bands" of the period performed their music  in a studio in the building, and a Zenith station located in Chicago beamed all its programs to Mount Prospect.  Zenith then  transmitted their music and other programs  throughout the Midwest.  The purpose was to build up the audience of radio listeners--and, to stimulate the sales of Zenith radios, of course.

 The sign on the what looks lto be an early Ford "tin lizzy" truck, shown below, reads:  "Zenith . .  . Portable Radio Broadcasting Studio." The radio on the back of the truck, and to the  left,  appears to be  Karl Hassel's Amplifigon radio signal amplifier.   

                                                           (from Mount Prospect Historical Society)

Members of the station staff:  Does anyone remember their names?  Probably not. The year 1925 was 89 years ago. 
                                                      (from Mount Prospect Historical Society)
When there was history to be made, Zenith was there!

        (Note:  For the photos and historical information, thanks to Lindsay Rice, Executive Director, Mount Prospect Historical Society)                                                       

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Do you recall when almost every home had a TV antenna on the roof?
Those were the days before cable took over the task of bringing the television signal into the home.  The antenna was normally strapped to the chimney, with the signal conductor dangling over the eaves and into the home through a window sill.   The "experts" would have antenna mounted on a mast which could be rotated by hand to retrieve signals from far-away places such as football games played in Milwaukee, and broadcast from there.  


Lightning was always a  threat to all those antennas that bristled  from houses across the nation. A lightning stroke was supposed to be stopped by a separate conductor between the antenna mast and a ground connection that included a “lightning arrestor.” Most often the arrestor worked, but occasionally did not.
Like the case of the housewife sitting comfortably on a sofa with a coffee table at her feet.  Somehow, the lightning bolt got into her house through the television  set and jumped across the coffee table with a resounding BOOM! The lady telephoned her husband to relate the event, and husband heard no sound from the his receiver—she was so frightened she had lost her voice.

The sad case of the Quarter Horse--struck by lightning
(Note: A Quarter Horse is a horse notable for its speed for short distances such as quarter mile.  They  have been clocked at 55 mph. (Very expensive horses, too!)

See Wikipedia for more information
The horse struck by lightning  wasn’t a Quarter Horse, but a retired milk-wagon horse peacefully munching his way through a pasture in his declining years. Dobbin was standing close to a building with a Zenith  antenna on it, and a lightning bolt sprang from the antenna to the horse, joining horsey to his ancestors.  The owner sued  Zenith for the loss of the horse which, as the suit progressed,  changed from an old plug worth perhaps $25 to a Quarter Horse worth  several thousands.

Television sets were regarded with suspicion not only as attractors of lightning, but as fire starters.  If a unexplained fire originated near a Zenith television set, the set was often fingered as the culprit, and Zenith was sued, often.  To prevent fires, the cabinets were made fire-resistant, and if a fire did occur, it was largely contained.  


                                                                   (From Wikipedia, as usual)

But  indeed, television sets  can be alarming to be around—they hum, and sometimes crackle, signalling the presence of the high voltage of, typically, 30,000 volts.  Occasionally, a short will occur in the electron gun with the sound like a rifle shot. Television panel displays, which have almost completely replaced the television picture tube, don't do that. 

There are other drawbacks to picture tubes.  Foremost is their susceptibility to atmospheric pressure--14.2 pounds per  square inch at sea level.  Multiply that  figure by the surface area of a large picture tube of 27 inches (measured across the diagonal of the faceplate) and you have several tons of pressure on that fragile bulb.  Fortunately, glass has immense strength in compression.  But give the tube a sharp rap, and it will implode with a loud bang, and shards of glass with fly, first inwardly, and then outwardly. The electron gun that projects the electron beams toward the faceplate, will fly out the front like bullet. And that is why the front of the tube is shielded with a heavy glass plate. Incidentally that glass plate is loaded with lead to shield viewers from the x-rays generated by the beams.

On that note:  Let's look at another casualty of the destruction of the consumer electronics industry that will be described in a future post--Corning Glass Company.  Corning made millions of the basic television picture tube for Zenith and other companies.  Each tube consisted of a glass funnel on which was keyed a glass faceplate.  Corning used thousands of tons of glass in doing this.  No more.  All gone for Corning.
--but Corning  now makes Gorilla Glass for cell-phones--a unique glass product that resulted from the research  and development that Corning Glass Company is notable for. Companies that endure have done their homework. 

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Now the author will put on his Be Safe hat!  He also writes books about being safe, like his most recent Be Safe book--one  addressed to teen-age girls.  It is titled Be Safe, Girl  and is available through Amazon.com.  It you have a teen-age grand-daughter (yes, most of us  are  of the age to be grandparents!),  keep her safe with a copy of Be Safe, Girl. [End of advertisement]
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Well, now may be the time to put a hold on  the telling of the history of Zenith, and "cut to the chase"-- that is,  tell why Zenith and entire American consumer electronics industry was forced out of business by a criminal cartel. The story will begin in Post 15, first with  the story of the Zenith triumph over an earlier RCA cartel,--then the later criminal cartel also sponsored by RCA --and supported by three administrations of the U.S. government!

(No more will be written about it now, for the author fears retribution--yes--really!-- and that disturbing statement it will be explained as the story unfolds.)

So hold onto your hats for Post 15. It will be a thriller, and if you have ever loved Zenith and what it as a company stood for, you will exult.  Until then--