Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Post 26

As was  noted in Post 25, after the  loss of Zenith’s Second War, the first priority was to supplement Zenith’s  television product with another winning product--perhaps two or three such  products.  Zenith  had several possibilities in the works in an attempt to diversify. The Zenith Watch Company was one.   Not much is known about this acquisition, except that it was believed that Zenith engineers could contribute to the “electrification” of the mechanical clock movement.  That the company  already had the name Zenith was a welcome coincidence.

(If you want to view the original Post 24, click on this date:  March 2015 (2). It will be  the second of the two posts listed)

It was requested in Post 24 that if one of our dear, devoted readers had more information on the Zenith Watch Company, to please let me know.  And sure enough, a reader did—a former Zenith employee whom I refer to as The Zenith Novelist as he is a very successful author of detective fiction. His name is Russell Miller, and he was the Senior Vice President  of the Zenith International Marketing  Division.
Russell R. Miller
 Here is what Russ  wrote:

“In your blog post No.24, you discuss the purchase of the Zenith Watch Company. I am very familiar with that issue, somewhat by accident rather than by design.

“Joe Wright had hired Jim Collier to be VP of strategic planning with the hope that Zenith would become a more “diversified” company--in response to the increased competitive pressure of the Japanese.  The purchase of the Swiss-owned Zenith Watch Company was the first attempt at diversification. The Swiss company had recently become a single entity as a result of the consolidation between the Movado Watch Company—very “high-end watches”--and the Mondia Company, which was a private label producer of inexpensive watches, and the Zenith Watch Company, which, as you say, held the ownership of the Zenith brand in Europe.

“In addition, there was a widely held belief in the Swiss watch industry that they would eventually go to the electronic watch and Zenith would have a contribution to make in this area. The watches were previously analog and the expectation was that they would eventually all become digital. 

“Shortly after the purchase, the president of the consolidated company died unexpectedly. Jim Collier was the only one at Zenith who had any knowledge of the company (although slight) resulting from the acquisition process. He was sent over to oversee the company. He was a talented individual but had very little operating experience. In addition the Swiss are a race among themselves, and resented an outsider to be put in charge of them.

“Colier had difficulty running the complex business with a unique product and a difficult market. In addition, one of the company's principal market areas was the Mideast. Once Zenith bought the company it was prohibited from selling in Arab countries because of its association with Israel. (The “Arab blacklist” is referred to in my book Death of a Spymaster.*)

“By this time, Joe Wright had hired John Nevin from Ford to be president of Zenith Electronics. John's philosophy was different from Joe's. He was diametrically opposed to diversification, and instead was in favor of “consolidation.” Wright had sold the FM station Zenith had owned for years. He also disliked the watch company which was, admittedly, a pain in the ass. The company had, with our technical assistance, designed an analog and a digital watch that was introduced to the market. (I still have one.)

“Nevin replaced Collier with the president of Ford's European truck division (whom I believe had recently lost his job at Ford). He was one rough cookie who was like sandpaper to the sophisticated Swiss. The company eventually came close to rioting and it was  necessary to replace "Mr. Truck," as he was known as in La Locle.* 

That was when Bowen, who then was overseer of the watch company as part of his Marketing Department, put in Chuck Sindelar to head up the watch company, and I took over the international department.”

*Le Locle is a municipality in the Le Locle district in the Canton of Nujchatel  in Switzerland, and a center of watch development and manufacture since the 16th Century. 

Now, does anyone else have more  information about the Zenith Watch Company?  I will try to track down Charles “Chuck” Sindelar, whom I used to car pool with, and see what he has to say. 
* To read a review of, and to buy a copy of Russ Miller's latest novel Death of a Spymaster, click on Amazon.com.
I have a copy, and it’s a real “good read” and unlike the sex-soaked stuff so common in today’s popular fiction.

* * * * * * *

The Zenith Paging System.  Installment 1.

One of the most promising of the products that could have helped Zenith survive is  the Zenith Paging System.  

A  paging system comprises little devices called “pagers” that carried in the pocket, and which  notify the carrier that a return call is required.  They may “beep” to notify the carrier, and so they are also called “beepers.” And they may also vibrate in the pocket*.  They are obviously predecessors to the cell phone, and you may even have carried one yourself.    

*An aside:  The existence of the "pocket vibrator" was classified TOP SECRET during World War II. The vibrators were radar set detectors carried by spies who searched neighborhoods for concealed radar sets.  When the detector vibrated, it meant a radar set was concealed nearby. The spy notified his spymaster, and an aircraft soon appeared carrying a Shrike missile, which was designed to follow the radar beam to its source. Instantly--no radar set.  Now the pocket vibrator  is no longer a secret--in addition to pagers, cell phones offer this facility.)  

Here is a typical pager, one from Motorola. Note the pocket clip—

And this is the Zenith pager—

At one time, Zenith had a firm contract to manufacture 100,000 of these pagers for the Canadian Bell Telephone company, with additional hundreds of thousands  promised.  What happened to the contract, and the fate of this promising system, will be told in a later one of the three installments of this Zenith Book weblog.  And the fascinating story of  how Zenith had wrested the Bell Canada paging system business from Motorola, will also be told.   

“Paging Systems?” you may ask.  “Aren’t pagers  obsolete-- a part of history.”   The answer is NO!  Pagers are still in use in spite of the universality of the cell phone. As recently  as 2008, the paging  systems were a $2 billion business in the United States, a dollar amount tapering off now  because of the cell phone. However in Canada, there are  more than 150,000 pager users, with more than $18 million in value. 

The primary users of pagers  are the “first responders” who react to emergencies -- volunteer fire fighters and the police, Very simply, pagers  will “work” when other services such as the telephone and the cell phone, and radio and television broadcasts may fail because of call overload or the collapse of the electrical grid. Other users are found in hospitals—especially doctors such as surgeons--who can’t be bothered  to answer a cellphone while they are busy saving a life, yet rely on the pager for message notification.  

You may  have even used a pager recently yourself in a restaurant such a Panera Breads. When your order is placed, you are handed a gizmo that buzzes when your order is ready for pick-up.  That’s a “pager” in its simplest form .

The project engineer for the Zenith paging system was Alfred “Al” Ditthardt, whom many of you will remember—

Al  is shown holding the Zenith pager.  In coming  installments, Al will tell the story of the Zenith paging system, and how Zenith engineers designed a paging system that Motorola engineers had declared to be "impossible.”   

So—look forward to Installment Two of the Zenith Paging System. 
 To read more about Pagers-- Wikipedia of course:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pager
also,Some  of the information in this first installment was derived from the publication  CBC News, Technology and Science. “The Beeper Isn’t Dead Yet.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/telus-may-be-closing-its-pager-network-but-the-beeper-isn-t-dead-yet-1.2929237   
                                                        * * * * * * * * 

Zenith Ventures Into Medical Electronics

As noted previously, Commander McDonald was outraged when he learned of the high cost of hearing aids, which he considered to be  little more than a tiny microphone along with a simple audio amplifier and speaker. He was also sympathetic about people with hearing deficiencies because he himself was deaf in one ear. So he set up a special  division of Zenith devoted to hearing aid research, and to the design and manufacture of hearing aids. The Zenith Hearing Aid Division was set up in a separate building known as “Plant 5.” The first Zenith hearing aids were priced at $40—far below the hundreds of dollars being charged at the time by other manufacturers. Zenith became so successful in the manufacture and sales of hearing aids that it achieved the No. 1 ranking in sales.
With the success of hearing aids as an incentive, Zenith decided to develop other  products classed as “medical electronics.” One was a device called a “defibrillator.” Let’s go to the invaluable Wikipedia for a definition of defibrillation and the defibrillator.

"Defibrillation is a common treatment for life-threatening cardiac dysrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation and pulseless ventricular tachycardia. Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart with a device called a defibrillator. This depolarizes a critical mass of the heart muscle, terminates the dysrhythmia and allows normal sinus rhythm to be reestablished by the body's natural pacemaker, in the sinoatrial node of the heart. Defibrillators can be external, transvenous, or implanted (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), depending on the type of device used or needed. 

"Some external units, known as automated external defibrillators (AEDs), automate the diagnosis of treatable rhythms." Meaning that lay responders or bystanders are able to use them successfully with relatively training.  

(Note: If you click on in of those underlined topics, you will get a detailed explanation of the topic. (Thank you, Wikipedia! You are irreplaceable!)

In short, due to some trauma, the heart “flutters,” or stops completely; either way, it fails to pump blood, and the victim will die unless the heart is started very soon. You may already be familiar with the defibrillator in action if you have watched one of the popular hospital shows on television. Here is the scenario--

The patient’s heart has stopped. Emergency! is blared over the hospital PA system. Cut to a scene where a doctor with two paddles in his hands is hovering over a supine patient.  With a warning to “stand clear,” he applies the paddles to the chest and presses a switch on each paddle.  The patient’s body arches upward, and hopefully, one discharge of electricity is all that is necessary, and the heart rhythm is restored. If not, the doctor tries again . . .  and again. If there is no response, there is no hope for the patient.

Sadly, an incidence of a heart fluttering, or actually stopping, is all too common, and is usually the result of a heart attack. Time is of the essence here—after deprivation of oxygenated blood for three minutes, brain cells begin to die. That is why defibrillators and their use--not just by doctors, but also everyone on with just a little training—has become common. Emergency ambulances usually have defibrillator equipment. In fact, you can buy your own defibrillator if someone in your family in imminent danger of a heart attack and fibrillation.  The portable units are termed the automated external defibrillator, or "AED."  Here is such a unit, the  Lifepak 12  (Click on the underlined  name to learn more about the Lifepak.) 

In fact, heart stoppages is so frequent, defibrillators are being made available, in areas where large crowds gather, such as  such as at sport stadia, corporate and government offices, shopping centers,airports, hotels school,  and community centers, and especially, fitness centers and health clubs. Training in the use of defibrillators is becoming almost as common as training in artificial respiration.

[Author's note:  Some fine day, I may learn how to make type in the Google blog all the same size. It varies from 9 point to 12 point at will, but not my will.

Below is a Japanese free-standing defibrillator unit , an "AED"--automatic external  defibrillator--made available in railway terminals, with railway personnel trained in its use. Because of their high-pressure life style, and the endless dedication to their professions, the Japanese in general experience a higher incidence of heart-related medical problems.
Based on its success of the hearing aid product line, Zenith management decided to enter the growing and lucrative field of medical electronics. The first such product was a Zenith Defibrillator, complete with power supply and paddles. I witnessed the prototype Zenith Defibrillator being demonstrated  by the defibrillator project engineer. (I forget his name--about which he is no doubt happy!) He placed the two paddles on his abdomen while explaining how the electrical charge would enter the chest, and either revive the heart that had stopped beating, or would stop its fluttering, and restore its normal rhythm.

After the demonstration, the engineer went a "little green around the gills" with the realization that he had noticed (almost too late!) that the defibrillator was fully charged, and if he had pressed those paddle switches, he could have been toast.

It may, or may not have been, this incident that caused it, but very soon after, Zenith cancelled not only the defibrillator project but all medical electronics activity. It must have been the realization that if there ever was a field loaded with legal liability, it was medical electronics. For example, if it worked too well (an over-voltage) and electrocuted the patient—product liability suit. And, if it failed to work at all—product liability suit! And there was that unforgettable Zenith logo plastered on the machine! 

The upshot was that  Zenith cancelled the medical electronics product line, and sold even the hearing aid line, although it is unlikely that a hearing aid would have killed anyone.  
                                                                       * * * * * * *        
Now, a bit of good news about a Zenith executive who, after leaving Zenith, became a Professor of Marketing and Management at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and has been teaching  there for 13 years!    .                                
LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill., Nov. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Legendary consumer electronics sales executive Gerald M. McCarthy has been inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.
Gerald M. McCarthy
This honor recognizes McCarthy's major industry contributions during his 30-plus-year career with Zenith Electronics Corporation – from leading the transformation of consumer electronics distribution to introducing some of the industry's most innovative products and his noteworthy role as an industry statesman. McCarthy, now a management professor at Dominican University, was the long-time President of the Zenith Sales Company.
Bestowed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame was created in 2000 to honor the leaders in the consumer technology industry who have shaped and advanced innovation. With McCarthy's induction, individuals associated with Zenith and its parent company LG Electronics represent more industry pioneers in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame than any other company. 
"Jerry McCarthy is being recognized for his steadfast leadership and commitment to innovation. He's among a select group of legendary consumer electronics sales executives who helped build the industry into what it is today," said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. "Jerry's induction into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame recognizes his many contributions during a particularly tumultuous period in the history of consumer electronics, as retailing evolved and innovations like home video recording and TV closed captioning came to the forefront."
McCarthy was instrumental in bringing to market some of the most impactful products at that time. As Zenith's head of sales and marketing, he played a key role in introducing innovations including the first stereo TVs, the first closed caption TVs, the first teletext TVs, the first TVs with electronic program guides and the first TVs with premium sound systems (Zenith with Sound by Bose). When VHS camcorders were big and bulky, he led the introduction of the compact VHS-C format and, to the surprise of many in the industry, brought it to market under the Zenith brand well before its inventor JVC.
McCarthy cut his teeth in the consumer electronics industry starting in 1965 in the order department at the Zenith Radio Corporation. Over the next several years, while moonlighting at the famous Chicago retailer Polk Bros (selling Zenith radios and TVs, and perhaps a few RCAs), he started to climb the corporate ladder, rung by rung.
He is the last of three generations of legendary Zenith sales executives, following in the footsteps of the late Len Truesdale and the late Walter Fisher, himself a CE Hall of Fame inductee. When he retired from Zenith in June 1996, McCarthy was Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. A former member of Zenith's Board of Directors, he served as President of the Zenith Sales Company for nearly half of his three-decade Zenith career. Today, he's a Marketing and  Management Professor at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and a consumer electronics management consultant.
                   (From PR Newswire   https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/ )

I asked Jerry whether he would mind if I published news of his award, and here is his response--


Feel free to use the notice but please acknowledge that the induction was made possible because of the efforts of great engineers, the Mel Boldt organization, an operations team that was excellent, sales and marketing colleagues that were truly professional and a distributor organization that was the best in the business.  

Best to you as well.

Jerry McCarthy"

It is just like Jerry to acknowledge the contribution of others to his accomplishments! 

You may have seen Jerry  at the Zenith Reunion where he often addressed the meetings. Here is Jerry as shown in the Carl Campisi video of the Tenth Reunion of the Zenith pioneers:   

--and here is a photo of the late Walter Fisher,  the President of Zenith Sales Company, as mentioned in the Hall of Fame Award to McCarthy--
Walter fisher
The role of marketing through distributors is described by Fisher in Post 3  of this weblog.  

(Sorry, I don’t have a photo of Len Truesdale; perhaps a reader can supply one.  Just email it to me at ducord@gmail.com.)
                                                              * * * * * * * * 
LG and Zenith Radio Corporation has carried on the Zenith tradition of research and development of new products.  Open--

                                                                 * * * * * * * 
 Two  Great Mysteries  

Mystery One:  Production engineers have a kind of a fellowship wherein  they visit each other’s factories and share production ideas.  Japanese production engineers visited Zenith factory one day and shared more than just ideas –they left  with a complete set of production plans for the Zenith Chromacolor picture tube.  Having these plans enabled the Japanese get into production of the Chromacolor tube a year and a half sooner, and thus to become competitive with Zenith that much sooner.  The cost to Zenith?—several million dollar$ in lost profit.  

Who was it at Zenith that was so generous?  No one knows—at least no one admitted to doing it. 

Mystery Two:  Zenith arranged with a Brazilian firm—Denison Electronic Company--to manufacture its radio and television sets. Under Joe Wright’s watch, Zenith made available to Denisonall its engineering, design and production facilities, and the know-how  to manufacture Zenith products.  Also,  a half-million square foot production factory was built.   Zenith must have invested a lot of money in this endeavor. And it all failed. No one knows why, and the author hopes to find out. 

Zenith is rumored to have lost a packet. And there is no sign today of a “Denison Electronic Company” in Brazil.  (Although there are sure a lot of Chinese manufacturers listed.) 

The Brazil experience t appears to be yet another Zenith “debacle.”  Another such  debacle  was the purchase of the Ford plant at Lansdale, Pennsylvania, and the converting of it to  a  picture tube manufacturing plant, with the loss of $64 million. (That  economic escapade  is  described in Post 12.) 

* * * * * * * 

 And there ends this Post 26.  In the next Post--Post 27--the Second Installment  of Al  Ditthardt's paging system story will appear,  and with more information about the Zenith Watch Company.  Also, more information about other products that Zenith management hoped would become sellers equal to that of television . . .  and the story of how Commander McDonald first promoted Zenith by becoming an arctic  explorer.  Of special note is the first installment of the story  "Zenith and the Information Age" as told by Walt Ciccora.                                                           

It will be necessary to skip the scheduled date of April 15 for  Post 27!
 The writer needs time to prepared his income tax, and to write some promotional material for the weblog and to lay plans for  the forthcoming book  about Zenith which is titled: 

A Requiem for Zenith:  The Rise and Fall of a Great American Company, and the Lessons To Be Learned From Its Fall.   

SO. . .  watch for the next Post--Post 27-- to arrive in your in-box on April 30!


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