Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, October 1999

other meeting reports 10/12/99 Meeting Highlights
by A.J. Bautista

The Chicago Section of the Audio Engineering Society held its first meeting of the 1999-2000 season at the Motorola Museum of Electronics on October 12, 1999, at the company's headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Following short introductory film, the group of 29 was divided into three groups for a personal tour of the Museum. The tour guides focused on the largest group of displays in the museum - a series of exhibits on Motorola's history.
Our tour began at a timeline wall summarizing Motorola's growth, and then moved onto the exhibits showing Motorola's developments over the years.
The first major exhibit focused on Motorola's start in 1928, when Paul Galvin and his brother, Joseph, bought a "battery eliminator" company. That company started as the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, on what is now the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
By 1930, Gavin Manufacturing designed it's first product, the first practical car radio. Radios were sold through independent automotive parts distributors, such as B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear, and installed after-market.
Because of their new product, Paul Gavin decided to give the company a new name. By combining the word motor with the popular -ola suffixes found in company names like Victrola, Paul created the new company's name, Motorola.
The company also began designing home radios in the early 1930s. The early radios were made of wood, as plastic was relatively new. But by the late 1930s, Motorola began using the plastic "Bake-a-Light" to create trendy, colorful home radios, and many of those radios are worth up to $5,000 today.
Plastic also allowed Motorola to design the first portable radios. The "Sporter" weighed five pounds, contained the antenna within the shoulder strap. A farmer's version was encased in metal.
In the early 1930s, the police saw the advantages that wireless communication could have in their work. One-way communication had already been helpful, but two-way radios would be far more effective. So law enforcement officials contracted Motorola to develop such a system. Because of this project, the company hired it's first degreed engineer, University of Connecticut professor Dan Noble. He would go on to develop products which define the essence of Motorola growth into electronic communications.
During World War II, the Galvin brothers felt the need to contribute to their country. So, without any financial backing from the U.S. government, Motorola developed a portable two-way communication system for use by the U.S. forces. The "Handie-Talkie" was introduced in 1941, providing up to three miles of wireless communication. Despite the lack of an interconnecting cable, the "Handie-Talkie" did not compete with existing wired device which could go up to 15 miles. So Motorola developed an FM-based, multi-channel wireless system which could traverse up to 30 miles. The only trouble with the new "Walkie-Talkie" was that to achieve maximum coverage, the antenna had to be extended to its full length of 12 feet.
During this time, quartz was in short supply, forcing Motorola to develop its own synthetic quartz for its own use and for other manufacturers. Also, because all new manufacturing was directed to the war effort, Motorola saved itself thousands of dollars by retrofitting its existing car radio inventory into home cabinetry.
After the war, auto manufacturers began building their own factory radio, so Motorola shifted its production for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
In the 1950s, Motorola was asked to develop a system to assist hospitals to contact physicians when they were away from their assigned wards. While the existing overhead speaker system was effective, patients found it irritating when the speakers would sound in the middle of the night. In 1956, Motorola introduced its pager, or "beeper," where selective signalling would only contact the needed doctor.
It was during this time that the government asked Motorola to develop a terrestrial telecommunications system via microwave. That system became part of the foundation for advanced long-distance telephony, and remained part of Motorola's business until 12 years ago when it was sold to MCI.
Motorola played a substantial part in the golden age of television. It produced its first TV in 1947, and became one of the top 4 of 26 companies manufacturing TVs by the late 1950s. From 1947 to 1954, Motorola grew from 7-inch black-and-white TVs, to 19-inch color TVs. That period represents the largest dollar contributor in the company's history.
Motorola most significant contribution to television came in 1964, when Motorola introduced the rectangular tube. The new tube allowed for a sharper picture than its spherical predecessor, and remains a standard to this day.
In 1965, Motorola worked with Ford and RCA to develop a tape player for use in the car. The 8-track tape allowed travellers to listen for the first time to high-fidelity audio while in transit. Even though the 8-track tape died by the 1980, the tour guide still uses his 8-track player, and says it's the best thing he's ever heard!
In 1949, Motorola created a facility in Phoenix to research possibilities with the new transistor, and by 1956, it had developed its own transistor for use in car radio. This lead to miniaturization for many of its products, and the development of new technologies, including microprocessors.
Much of Motorola's consumer electronics have left the company as it concentrates on new communications technologies. The television division, Quasar, was sold the Matsushita (Panasonic) in 1974. The radio division closed shop in 1987, with the last radio ever manufactured at Motorola on exhibit at the museum.