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Undercover Peavey

Last Sunday an episode of Undercover Boss featured Peavey Electronics. I love manufacturing plants and Peavey has been around forever. I actually looked forward to seeing this show.

I would like to unsee it. That was a sad show from a number of viewpoints.

It is very telling that the COO felt the need to get into disguise so he can see what his own plant is doing ON TV. I would like to point out that the opportunity to go in to the plant and speak to real people exists every day. And by that I mean EVERY DAY! You have to have an audience? (more…)

Just a Phase?

Phase Linear Employees 1973. Courtesy Nissen Collection

Phase Linear Employees 1973. Courtesy Nissen Collection

I received a charming letter from Gene, admin for theCarversite.com. This site is basically an equipment resource for all things Phase Linear/ Carver Corp/ Sunfire.  They also do the Carverfest. They truly celebrate Bob Carver and the equipment produced by companies he started.

At first I thought – some of my friends have pristine samples and unusual prototypes and this might be a good way for them to find someone to truly love and appreciate their old equipment. (more…)

Pressing Details – CBS Records

First RecordMy best early tour of the CBS Records plant was conducted by my friend Brad Pirch. He took me into every department and described what the engineering issues were in each place, how the process used to work and what was currently being done to improve.  He conveyed the same attitude as the Engineers from HQ: the plant is a wonderland of problems waiting to be solved. They shaved off minutes and pennies, which led to the high productivity and lower labor required in each successive plant. Brad had both scope and detail in his explanations. I begged Brad for memories about his 40 years as an engineer with CBS Records and he responded brilliantly. Enjoy!
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“My time started in the late 60’s in Terre Haute.  I will just describe the days of the glory of LP’s when (I think) about 5 companies were going strong:  Columbia, Warner Bros, RCA, Capitol, and MCA.  And I am just talking manufacturing of records, not the recording studio, acoustics, mastering, and marketing stuff.

(more…)

History of Muzak

Muzak equip Nissen Collection

Muzak early subscription box courtesy Nissen Collection

My first experience with Muzak was in an elevator in Seattle. My mother had just remarked, “Now this is music!” while we listened to an instrumental of a Beatles song I was yelled at for listening to 2 days earlier. I didn’t appreciate Muzak until I started calling on them as a commercial rep in Seattle, and even then I had no idea of the accomplishments of the founder, George Owen Squier. In the course of researching audio history I was turned on to a well-researched history of Muzak (Thanks, Dean!) History of Muzak by Peter Blecha with excellent exhibits from the Nissen Collection.  Peter wrote “Sonic Boom” which I gave a rave review. The Muzak article intrigued me and I delved into old articles to learn more.

The story begins with George Owen Squier (1865-1934.) Mr. Squier was a Major-General and Chief Signal Officer in the US Army.  The July 14, 1919 issue of Scientific America introduces Mr. Squier and shows details of his patent to use living trees as antennae. All the details can be seen at Rex Research. To use a tree for an antenna, simply drive a nail 2/3 of the way up the tree, attach wire, and connect wire to receiver. Check this out, it is charming. British Patent Specification # 149,917 Improvements in & Relating to Radio Communication Systems.   (more…)

A Record Record Plant: CBS Records History

First RecordIn 1983 I had the honor of working in what was then the largest record plant in the world.

The actual claim is that the CBS Records plant in Carrollton, GA was  “the largest recorded-music manufacturing plant in the world.” This plant was awesome. We did everything – mastering, record pressing, printing, tape coating, injection molding, high-speed tape duplication, cassette assembly, packing, shipping, and record club fulfillment. (We also pressed video discs with injection-molded carriers, and no, I don’t want to talk about it. Yet.) Train cars of chemicals and vinyl pellets pulled up to what I was told were sixteen acres under one roof, although I haven’t verified that 700,000-square- ft estimate. People in the industry called us the Death Star. 

Before the CBS record plant in Carrollton, GA was built four years before, (more…)

William Shatner in Audio History?

Shatner photo 72dpiThe closest I have ever gotten to William Shatner was at a trade show.  Someone who worked for him bought me a cab ride and promised to put it on his expense account so I could truthfully say “William Shatner bought me a cab ride.” (And yes, I have a communicator pin.)

Doesn’t hold a candle to the awesome personal thank you from William Shatner to Dan Kiefer from the Phase Linear Service Department. Color me impressed (and maybe a teeny bit jealous.) My latest connection to Shatner? We both owned the same preamp. Thank you to Dean Nissen for picture and info.

 

Audio History and Memorial Day

Hamlin Audio from Patrick Roush Collection 2In exploring old audio history I often talk to guys that could reach into their pocket right that minute and retrieve a part from a 30-year-old product, as well as random parts from their current project.  This pre-Memorial Day lunch was different.

A guy walks into SpeakerLab (How many good stories could start like that? So many.) One thing led to another (Thanks, Ann!) and suddenly I was at lunch with a vintage-audio-component super collector named Patrick Roush. This guy can, right now, set up a dream audio stack with era-appropriate speakers and media. He has stacks of gear, carefully maintained and in working order.  He has tubes, of course, and he has a tube tester. For a while I was happy just listening to his component/loudspeaker/media combinations. It was like he was painting a picture of the preferred audio stacks of my older brother and his frat brothers, each one different but choice.

Because we are completing a database of influential audio Retailers in the PNW post 1948, my ears perked up when Patrick described a stereo component built by H.H.Scott and sold under the brand name Hamlins Audio Workshop.

The owner of Hamlin’s was Philip Deming Hamlin (1917-2014). Mr. Hamlin’s electronic expertise bloomed during his five years of WWII where he excelled in Radio and Radar Research, rising from private to Major.  He installed one of the the first cable TV systems in the world on Alki in 1949. He is also famous for inventing the cable converter box. He owned a factory named Hamlin International Corp and manufactured cable boxes and accessories.  In the mid-fifties to mid sixties Mr. Hamlin sold stereo audio components, as well as manufacturing his own speakers and amplifiers.  And that brings me back to the lunch with Patrick.

After introducing me to Hamlin’s equipment (some of it made by H.H. Scott), the conversation took a meditative turn when Patrick commented about the huge societal effect of the return of the soldiers of WWII. We also touched on Vietnam; which was a factor at the start of many of the audio industry careers we have been documenting. In addition, audio components came back to the states in great numbers as the Vietnam vets returned (Sansui, anyone?) Vets from both wars came back and changed the landscape with their new technical skills and interests,  war-related advances in communication technologies, and the G.I. Bill.

IMAG0140As we made our way out of Salmon Bay Cafe Patrick showed me where the cafe had added on during the 1990s. We turned to find the exit and bam! in front of us on the wall hung a 16″ disc labelled US War and Navy Departments. It was a WWII-era,old format record. I was suddenly appreciating Memorial Day in a new way. We celebrate veterans for their service, but we can also appreciate the many good things and opportunities they created when they got back.  And audio industry history is everywhere.

 

For more about Philip D Hamlin   The Old CATV Equipment Museum 

Christmas Past

Audio Control Christmas 1980

Audio Control Christmas 1980

I can’t even attempt to name everyone here, for obvious reasons, but clearly Audio Control was a fun place to be in 1980. This is the Christmas card I received from them in December of that year. I’m not positive whose idea it was;  I always suspected  Ron Koliha (far right, kneeling)

Thanks to mutual friends and the urging of the parts reps (Was it Arrow, Radar Electric, Mouser? It’s a little foggy)  I started buying line cords from Greg Mackie/Audio Control during the late 1970s.  He and his associates were energetic, musical, and fun. And they sold me the cords at their price, even though they were buying thousands and I only needed hundreds.

So – are you in this photo?

Christmas Past

Audio Control Christmas 1980

I can’t even attempt to name everyone here, for obvious reasons, but clearly Audio Control was a fun place to be in 1980. This is the Christmas card I received from them in December of that year. I’m not positive whose idea it was;  I always suspected the born-to-be-famous Ron Koliha (far right, kneeling.)

Thanks to mutual friends and the urging of the parts reps (Was it Arrow, Radar Electric, Mouser? It’s a little foggy)  I started buying line cords from Greg Mackie/Audio Control during the late 1970s.  He and his associates were energetic, musical, and fun. And they sold me the cords at their price, even though they were buying thousands and I only needed hundreds.

So – are you in this photo?

Who’s running the show?

Carver Management Meeting 2

In about 1986 Bob Carver wanted to go on vacation, but he was worried about decisions made in his absence. In our last management meeting before his departure we tried to calm his mind.  Or blow it.

Top row from left: Heather Hawley, Cory Rivers, Hugh Goring, Clyde, Ron Havercamp
Bottom row from left:  Colleen McNaur, Sue McCauley, Eileen Rutledge, Bob Carver, Marian Lundberg

 

 

First Contact

Popular Electronics Sep 1976On a dark night in October of 1976, my mother came up from Yakima to Seattle to sit with me while I packed up and left my husband. She was disappointed and nervous, and even more so when I convinced her to take one hit from the joint I was enjoying as I packed. After her hit she began looking around with paranoia, certain the cops would be knocking on the door any minute. The panic was not alleviated when a large pounding actually began on my front door. She was convinced it was the police. I opened the door to find a 6’4”, shaggy-headed stranger who asked “Did you order 12 EQ kits with no chassis from Popular Electronics?”  (more…)