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Donald Kirk

Interview Date: Thursday March 19, 1992
Interview Location: Newberry, FL USA
Interviewer: Archer Taylor
Collection: Archer Taylor Technical Collection
Note: Audio Only

 
 
 
 

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TAYLOR: We are recording an interview with Don Kirk at his lovely home out in the country outside of Gainesville, near Newberry, Florida. This is Archer Taylor as the interviewer and this is for the Richard Schneider Memorial Project on the technological history of cable TV. I want to get your voice on here, Don. How long have you been in this house here in Newberry?

KIRK: About ten years now.

TAYLOR: About ten years. Let's try that to make sure that it's playing. Okay. We are on the air, Don. I would like to know a little about your background. Where did you come from originally?

KIRK: Mobile, Alabama. I went to school at Murphy High School, and we had a very fine radio club. That's what got me started out there.

TAYLOR: You were an amateur operator then?

KIRK: I built amateur equipment, but I seldom operated. I didn't have much to say, except if it worked.

TAYLOR: I see. Did you go to a university somewhere?

KIRK: I went to Auburn. They were just starting a co‑op course, and I worked for a power company, cut limbs and dug holes for three months, then went to school for three months.

TAYLOR: You learned how to climb poles. Well, what were you doing before you met Milt Shapp?

KIRK: Well, when the war came along, that's World War II, I joined the Navy. I got some flight time at school--instructor's license--before I joined the Navy. After we had been offshore for about a year, I got a chance to apply for a radio post‑graduate course at Annapolis. It was three years to get your Master's degree, hopefully. At least everybody had to do some sort of project for his thesis work. I chose to build a better "gutless wonder" TV set, eliminating any parts that weren't vital. There were kits available then, but I found a lot of things that I could change about the kit it make it better.

One of my instructors at school mentioned this to Ben Freeland, who was a radio parts dealer in Baltimore, and Milt Shapp heard about it from him. Shapp decided he liked the idea, and wanted to see if we could work up a kit for another of his customers.

TAYLOR: Do you remember when that was that you built the "gutless wonder," as you call it?

KIRK: About 1947, I guess. We got involved with Jerrold about '48. I built a set when we were living in Annapolis. We only had four stations--two in Washington, two in Baltimore. So, you needed all the gain you could get. The little TV set did not cut the mustard on gain. So, I built a gain stage to put ahead of it. And, when I was showing this kit to Milt Shapp, it wouldn't play for us. I went out to the car and got a little gain box and put it in, and we had a good picture. Milt immediately dropped all interest in the TV set and wanted to build a booster.

TAYLOR: Oh! Milt was interested in building TV sets prior to that?

KIRK: Well, he had a customer who was looking for a TV kit--an outfit called Meissner. You may remember Meissner. They built transformers and coils, one thing and another. We varied the design, trying to make a 7‑inch electrostatic TV set with nine tubes, without the multiple tubes we have nowadays. So, we came out a little shy on every turn. But the thing worked.

TAYLOR: Was Milt working for Meissner at that time?

KIRK: Yes, as a "rep." He was on the road; he was on the road for a half dozen companies.

TAYLOR: I see. Milt is trained as an engineer?

KIRK: From Ohio State, I believe. I think that's right.

TAYLOR: Ohio State. But he was working in marketing on the road?

KIRK: He was always marketing. I mean he didn't let his engineer's license stand in the way of anything.

TAYLOR: Milt was working on the road in marketing then as a "rep" for Meissner?

KIRK: Yeah, had a fairly complete line, I think, to go around for about two weeks--to go through the cycle. So, that every time he hit Baltimore, we had something to show him and we were a little further along on a TV set or whatnot.

TAYLOR: Now, you were working with ...

KIRK: No, I was in school at that point. Working for Milt was a night time activity. My wife will tell you that she has 400 gallons of coffee invested in this.

TAYLOR: You were in school. I know what you mean. So, you were in school in Baltimore?

KIRK: In Annapolis. Post-graduate school at the Naval Academy.

TAYLOR: Oh, in Annapolis at the Naval Academy. Okay. So, Milt Shapp would come to Annapolis.

KIRK: Right, or we would meet somewhere.

TAYLOR: Okay. And who was it that called you to his attention?

KIRK: A professor at the college where I was studying--Gene Cooper. Gene knew Ben Freeland, and he met Milt there.

TAYLOR: And, Ben Freeland was with Meissner then?

KIRK: No. He was a parts store owner in Baltimore.

TAYLOR: In Baltimore. So, when you came in with a booster box--gain box--Milt saw it. He decided then he wanted to go into that business to get away from Meissner? Was that ...

KIRK: Well, he thought he could sell something to get a start on something that would grow because everybody was buying TV sets at that point.

TAYLOR: Was he going to manufacture it himself or have Meissner do it?

KIRK: No. He was going to manufacture it himself. In fact, he started a factory on 13th Street in Philadelphia. Had about ten or twenty people, and I was working nights for him. I built a rack where you can shove a booster in and check it. They sold somewhere between a quarter and a half million of those boosters [by the time they stopped making them in about 1952]. Those boosters were ...

TAYLOR: And, this was in about 1947?

KIRK: Oh yeah, 1948.

TAYLOR: And, how did you move then from Annapolis to the Philadelphia area?

KIRK: They kept me in Annapolis for another year, working on a thesis project.

TAYLOR: You were still going to school? Were you?

KIRK: Yes. I was studying mainly theory of functions of a complex variable.

TAYLOR: Great, which you use every day of your life. I went through that course myself and I don't know that I ever really used it, but it was worth doing.

KIRK: We had a good arrangement there. They would let me take all the tools--all the equipment--I could find home, and put it in my basement, and work from there. So, I had a good shop there and we had enough left over to do the lab work.

TAYLOR: This was at Annapolis? Where was that? I have a house in Annapolis that I use weekends.

KIRK: Yes, at the school. Well, you know where the Naval Academy is? Well, it was just inside the gate of the Naval Academy on the west side.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes. I know very well. On St. George Street or somewhere in there? Maryland Avenue?

KIRK: I don't remember that.

TAYLOR: Okay. So, Milt got started. Did he call it Jerrold Company at that time?

KIRK: Yes, it was Jerrold, always.

TAYLOR: All the time. Right from the beginning.

KIRK: He talked about having started with $500--some number like that.

TAYLOR: Is that so? But, when you got to him, you say, he had ten or twenty employees?

KIRK: Well, this booster was the only thing they made. So, if anything didn't run right on the production line, I would go up to Philadelphia, and we would work out some way to get it to work. And, Hank Arbeiter, who was the man on the line there (who ran the line) came down to my house occasionally. We would work a couple nights on this or that or the other thing.

TAYLOR: Your house in Annapolis?

KIRK: Yes.

TAYLOR: So, Milt left Meissner. He was a "rep" for Meissner. Was this a kind of independent business?

KIRK: Yes. He kept on, until it was actually phased out; it wasn't a case he quit or anything like that. They were still on very good terms and he used him ...

TAYLOR: Did he have employees as a "rep" of Meissner then?

KIRK: No. They were Jerrold employees.

TAYLOR: They became Jerrold employees. But, Jerrold got started only after he saw your booster?

KIRK: Yeah. He needed the products. If he was going to make them, he had to make them and put them in inventory and get rid of them, get them in circulation. So, he needed the whole shebang.

TAYLOR: Sure, interesting. So, how many of these did he sell?

KIRK: To my recollection, somewhere between a quarter and one‑half million of those things. They were in a plastic clock case. There was just a single knob on the front, and you turned the knob until the picture got good. You may remember how RCA TV tuners worked. They had a bunch of coils and switches--selective coils. Well, they were a reasonably cheap copy of that. But, little things like being able to measure input impedance or a good measure on the gain were in the future at that point.

Of course, once he had one, the question was, can you make a box that's better? Can you run a piece of cable further? And the people who wanted it were the people who had a store with twenty TV sets on the line, all interfering with each other. So, we wanted to be able to put a line out there.

TAYLOR: Now, that was before you met Bob Tarlton. Tarlton had an apartment type unit.

KIRK: I don't remember when I met Bob Tarlton. His name is very familiar, and we saw each other fairly often, but I don't recall.

TAYLOR: You were still in school, working with Milt part‑time. But, was Hank Arbeiter full‑time?

KIRK: I was still in school. Hank was full‑time.

TAYLOR: Well, Hank was the really the first one then who was full‑time.

KIRK: Right. Hank was number one--the settler of all arguments--and was pretty high up in that line. He did all the buying, and book work, and that sort of thing. And Milt spent his weekends seeing that both of them were right.

And, as I got time--when things started running reasonably with the booster--you wanted a better one to run a sales floor of TV sets at reasonably good levels to have good pictures. And we built one that had, I think, two or three tubes in it. The thing that made all this possible was the 6AK5 for twenty-five cents.

TAYLOR: For twenty-five cents. It was more than that when we got started in 1953. That 6AK5 was certainly a popular item.

KIRK: Yes. It was one that was built right. When you wanted to know about an amplifier at that time, you tried to get a copy of Volume 18 of the MIT series by Valley and Wallman. It became sort of the Bible on how you do this--and we didn't realize until we got way further in that it was just skimming the surface. I mean it told you a little about how to design for a certain shaping of response. Well, it was good to find out through experience what it would really look like.

TAYLOR: Were you working full‑time for Milt when Ken Simons got into the picture?

KIRK: No. That was after I got out of the Navy?

TAYLOR: Oh, after you got out of the Academy?

KIRK: No, I was in the Navy. When I left the Academy, I owed four years of work because I had four years of college, and the deal was you couldn't resign unless you met the requirements. So, I went, was transferred down to Alexandria--what's the name--the Naval Research Lab across the river from Alexandria? And, at first I did just chores of one kind or another, a short program also for chemistry and a short one for the electricity division. So, I served there for a while and did a few things that were in the administrative arrangement. If they needed a compressor from somebody and somebody had it, I would arrange to get it transferred, something like that.

Eventually, I got around to where they were doing some interesting work. There was one whole division that was testing A‑bombs, and they needed some work. In fact, there were some 100 or so people with similar high‑class talent, and I got a chance to build some stuff. It was good to have equipment to measure with, and good parts and that sort of thing.

TAYLOR: That was at the Naval Research Lab?

KIRK: Yeah. So, for a couple of years, I went out to Nevada on fourteen shots, and they were the shots for which I had designed and built equipment. They were doing some very fast wave shape monitoring, and I did some of that.

TAYLOR: Well then, you worked with--when did you go with Milt full‑time then?

KIRK: Well, toward the end, I went for a while. Well, I stopped for a while when one of the Navy requirements was no outside work, so I just cut out working for Milt. For about a year or so, I didn't do much. Because I had to put the Navy first.

TAYLOR: I see. Sure. Then you came to the point where you could leave the Navy.

KIRK: I left. The day I left, I moved to Pennsylvania.

TAYLOR: Then went full‑time with Milt?

KIRK: Yes. I went full‑time with him.

TAYLOR: Do you remember when that was?

KIRK: 1953.

TAYLOR: '53. I see.

KIRK: Yeah. We had done a hell of a lot of work before that.

TAYLOR: Yes. But, it was what you call moonlighting.

KIRK: Yes, I was trying to go in on Saturdays and Sundays and work evenings.

TAYLOR: So, Ken Simons was with him then before that. I think it was in 1951 or about then that Ken ...

KIRK: The first change that came was when I moved to Bethesda from Annapolis. Gene Cooper, who was supposedly working with me long ago, quit doing any work simply to collect his royalty.

TAYLOR: Quit from Jerrold, or quit from the Navy?

KIRK: No. Let's see. Cooper stopped working for Milt about a year after Jerrold was formed because there was nobody to worry him about getting busy. He tended to slack off pretty bad. When we needed things like test equipment, I hired two other professors from the school to do part‑time work for me in the basement.

It was a funny thing--I was supposed to be learning from them, and I did learn a lot from them, but I watched them. I remember one guy struggling and struggling to get a hole punched in a chassis to build a power supply for something or other that we were doing. He was trying to pull the plug in backwards. You know how that is, you are trying to go through steel with the Greenlee punch.

TAYLOR: Yeah! I know what you mean. These were professors from the Academy?

KIRK: They were professors from the post‑graduate school. The post‑graduate school and the Academy were together, but they operated separately. They did at that time; the whole post‑graduate school is on the West Coast now.

I had one interesting experience with another chap from NRL school who did some arithmetic calculations for me. We didn't have calculators then, and you tended to do as little computation as you could get by with. What I wanted was information to plot the response of a distributed amplifier as a function of the input impedance of the tubes used in it. And he worked on and on, and finally brought it back to me. He had a very fine solution that worked really well.

The computer group at NRL was very good in analog computers. About this time, they were shifting the emphasis to digital computers, and they had a device that they wanted to try. So they put out a notice that they wanted problems that could be put on the digital computer. In about three days, they called me back and told me that they were able to use that problem, and they gave me the data I wanted for the work I was doing. They told me, however, that they hadn't used the computers to get it. They actually had one of the girls who was very fast work it out on a desk‑type calculator. So, the digital computer didn't lose, but it just made a tie against a lady with fast fingers.

TAYLOR: So, this work on the distributed amplifier, this would have been in '50, '51, or earlier than that?

KIRK: It was probably '52, because we needed some big distributed amplifiers for the A‑bomb test. We had ones that had 1500 volts on the plate, 4X150s, or something like that, and a string of them with big blowers that kept the whole place hot. We did whatever we had to do.

Most of the work I did was distributed amplifiers, and it had to do with measuring fast pulses, plotting the actual pulse shape, rather than amplification of radio frequency signals. At one point, I got interested in Tektronix oscilloscopes that we had purchased. They didn't produce enough output current for the project we were working on in pulse measurement. We modified the oscilloscopes to put more voltage on the screen grid of the amplifier tubes. This allowed us to increase the output current. But with the screen voltage high, it burned up the tubes.

The signal we were interested in existed for only a couple of microseconds, and we knew about when it was going to arrive. So, we made the oscilloscope turn off until one second before the signal arrived. Then we turned the screen voltage up until we got the current we wanted through the tubes. At one second after the recording of the signal, we turned the oscilloscope back off, and this kept the scope from burning up.

[The equations for the exponential pulses are included in paper #2 of the set sent to you after the interview: "Pulse Synthesis Network ...," equations 9 and 10. That paper was mis‑labeled Jerrold, when it was actually written for the Navy work completed in 1953, just before I left the Navy.]

My first experience with the distributed amplifier was the product of a long series of coincidences-- and it's probably the reason I got transferred to the Naval Academy. I was a Patrol Plane Commander at that time, and experienced PTC's were in short supply. But my communications officer still recommended me for post‑graduate school because of my electronics experience.

The series of coincidences began when the squadron to which I was sent first went overseas in 1943. We went from Norfolk to San Juan on an aircraft tender, and I didn't have much to do, so I hunted up the ship's library in the officers' mess. I found a book called Secret and Urgent, by Fletcher Pratt. The squadron's communications officer saw me reading the book, and he had needed someone to explain the encoder apparatus that was used for seaplanes. So, he asked me to take the job of making a presentation to the other pilots about how to operate the encoder.

Our squadron was deployed around the island of Trinidad, from Dutch Guiana on the southeast and Antigua on the north. We did quite a lot of flying, but there was also time to waste, and I began to wonder about certain possible electronic projects that I could do something with.

One time, on a trip to Norfolk, we stopped overnight in Miami, and I got to go through a bookstore while I was there. I picked up a book by Shannon and Weaver on the mathematics of communication, and another one by John Pierce on electron beams. When I read these, I became even more interested in the possibility of making a tube that would amplify an electric signal by deflecting the electron beam, rather than turning the beam off and on. I drew up a diagram showing the use of beam deflection technique in an amplifier tube and in a frequency multiplier tube.

I spent a lot of time flying during this period, and also some time in helping with the squadron radar sets. I couldn't find anyone to read the paper I had written, but the communications officer suggested that I submit it to the Navy Department's Bureau of Inventions and see what they thought about it. I did this, and it was duly forwarded. After several months, I got a nice letter from the Navy Department thanking me for that paper and pointing out that my idea was old and well known to the art. They requested I keep it in the CONFIDENTIAL status that I had used for the original submission. It's hard to promote an idea that is deemed old hat, but which you are denied the opportunity to discuss.

The squadron received orders to go back to Norfolk to pick up new planes, and was deployed to Hawaii. This kept me busy for a while. My handwritten paper on the deflection tubes remained in the communication department of the squadron, and retained its confidential status. After a while in Hawaii, the squadron was deployed further forward to Saipan.

The Naval Academy put out a notice that applications were being taken for a three‑year course in electronics in Annapolis. I applied for this post, and was lucky enough to get accepted. The recommendation of our communications officer helped, along with the fact that I had already exhibited some interest in electronics.

I was busy with other things. I flew "war wearies" back to the states for repairs, and flew new planes out to Leyte, where the squadron was stationed. When I got back to Saipan, to go stateside for the position at the Academy, and checked out of the squadron, they didn't know what to do with the handwritten confidential paper that I had left there. All the regular Navy correspondence related to the letter had been destroyed in the burn basket. But the handwritten thing didn't fall under any nice rules. Finally, they simply turned the paper over to me, and I put it with my other gear and got ready for the trip.

To get to San Francisco from Saipan at that time, one had to go through customs in Hawaii, and I did that. When my gear was inspected, the paper marked CONFIDENTIAL came to the top of the pile, and the customs inspector wanted to know what it was all about. He noticed that I had quite a flight bag with me, and asked me what was in it. I said, "Oh, I have some rounds of 38 caliber pistol ammunition, some clips of 45s, a bunch of maps and "Pointy‑Talky" books, things that you normally take on a flight." Also, I had some ampoules of morphine which had been checked out to me. When I mentioned morphine, he immediately wanted to know all the details about everything.

So, he went through my flight kit and he didn't know what to do with me--put me in jail, or what. Finally, he took a bunch of stuff out of my flight bag and told me I would receive it at my new station in the states. My wife was waiting for me in San Francisco, and I was so excited about that and the school I was going to that it didn't make much difference what he did, as long as I could get out of the customs office.

The customs man had me sign a receipt for the morphine, and he took my paper, which he later forwarded to my commanding officer.

TAYLOR: Oh, I see. There was a patent on the distributed amplifiers?

KIRK: The design was later patented. What it was, was a bunch of plates along the line, with the velocity of the propagation at the plate set to be the same as the velocity of the electron beam down the tube. Then there was a single plate output where the effect of the lumps of charge coming down the tube were all summed up to give the output signal.

TAYLOR: I see. And one vacuum bottle.

KIRK: Yes. The input signals to the amplifier caused the electron beam to be deflected up and down as it traveled down the tube. The further down the tube it went, the greater the up and down oscillations. If the beam was sent over the edge of the electrode, only part of the beam would get down to be collected, and this part would vary in intensity, depending on whether the beam was up or down at the time. Thus, the signal on all of the deflecting plates could be added to contribute to the output current.

I didn't know it, but at that time, RCA was working on a single deflection electron amplifying tube. I believe Zworykin had applied for a patent on a multiple deflection tube that used an output structure something like a multi‑cavity magnetron to give frequency multiplication with the beam deflection tube.

TAYLOR: Did you know Fitz Kennedy, Fitzroy Kennedy? He was the Kennedy of Spencer‑Kennedy Labs. He was with Don Spencer. He had a patent on the distributed amplifier with a transmission line between 6AK5's.

KIRK: Oh, yeah. They came out with one--there was one with a helix between the plates. It was only marginally like the one I'm talking about.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. He had a patent and SKL was doing that before cable TV came along.

KIRK: Yes. They had a 20 dB amplifier, and we copied it. I believe that before CATV came along they were using that amplifier for instrumentation work in places where you needed a wide band amplifier for testing.

To return to my tale about the amplifier paper I wrote in the Navy. I reached Annapolis about a month before classes started, and forgot about the paper for a while. I was working for Harold Bishop (a Navy Lieutenant, or something like that, on the faculty). At that time, I was supposed to be his Man Friday until classes started.

He had me teaching a group of ten or twelve officers how to use the radar jamming transmitter on some YP boats in the Severn there. Later, he had me build a 100‑watt final amplifier for an FM station.

When my commanding officer received the amplifier paper that had been forwarded by customs, he knew I was working for Harold Bishop. So, he sent the paper to Bishop because you had to log it in and officially charge it out to someone.

Bishop told me he would take it to a friend of his in the Patent Bureau in the Navy Department. A few months later, he told me that a patent had been granted on my device, and showed me a certificate granting the patent to "Harold Bishop, et al." My name was given as et al. I don't know who Bishop got to sign the patent application (going in) because I never saw it.

[An added comment, not mentioned in the original interview: I wasn't the only person who did some design work while otherwise employed. The brothers R. H. and S. F. Varian were both pilots who found time to design the klystron while they were still flying in the late 1930s.]

TAYLOR: All of this took place before the late '40s, I take it?

KIRK: I started post‑graduate school in '45, because I got out in '48. In '53 I was out of the Navy entirely. Yeah, that would be about it.

I enjoyed post‑graduate school. I got a heck of a lot out of it. If you wanted to work, they let you try almost anything that looked like it could be good.

TAYLOR: That patent was this distributed plate tube. Was that the patent you were talking about?

KIRK: Yeah.

TAYLOR: And, you did that for that 100‑watt amplifier?

KIRK: No. I used a conventional ARRL HAM Handbook approach. That's all the experience I really had was ARRL (American Radio Relay League).

TAYLOR: So, this distributed amplifier was for the bomb testing?

KIRK: Yes, that is the amplifier with variable screen voltage and the pulse generator for positive exponential pulsing for bomb testing use. We had two ways; one was the Rossi display. They would put a sine wave on one axis and put the unknown voltage from the detector on the other axis. With the unknown being a positive exponential, it started out with just a thin line and then the line got more like a sine wave --about two waves and it was gone, but you could put this slide on a projector and get really good accuracy down to fractions of milli‑microseconds.

The thing we needed was some way of testing the tester. Nobody believed your data when you took it through a vacuum tube amplifier. Of course a vacuum tube amplifier doesn't behave quite like you expect it to with a positive exponential input. I needed a device that could generate a pulse of desired shape in a range that could be shown on the oscilloscope with the fairly sensitive distributed deflection plate system. We could display this wave on an oscilloscope that had no amplifier. We could, at the same time, take the signal through an attenuator and then an amplifier under test before comparing it with the amplified signal.

The circuit which I built up depended upon a charged line and a mercury wetted relay to generate the components from which the pulse could be synthesized. The mercury wetted relay assembly is used frequently in comparison switchers for measuring the RF response of circuits.

Our switcher was a group of ten 50 ohm delay lines, parallel at one end, and charged to 4000 volts on the other end. This gave us ten output signals which could be individually attenuated to a pulse with the proper size to add up and give us the wave shape we wanted. This wave shape was of sufficient amplitude so it could be displayed on an oscilloscope that had no amplifier.

We were using vacuum tubes for CRTs that had a distributed deflection plate system on the signal axis. This gave us greater sensitivity over the tubes with just simple deflection plates. For really low level signals, we needed sensitivity that could not be achieved with the deflection plate system we had available, and we couldn't trust amplifiers unless we could somehow measure their performance. So, we looked at it and decided maybe we could do it by comparing an attenuated version of a known pulse with the same pulse after attenuation and amplification.

[The following diagram was inserted when the typed transcript of the interview was reviewed.]

+-------+ +------+ +---------+

¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦Sensitive¦ +----------+

Split ¦Attenu-¦ ¦Ampli-¦ ¦Traveling¦ ¦ ¦ +------+ +--¦ ator +--¦fier +--¦ Wave +--¦ ¦

¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ Scope ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ +-------+ +------+ +---------+ ¦ ¦

¦ ¦ +-+-+ ¦ ¦

¦Source+--+-¦ ¦ Equal time-delay paths ¦Comparison¦ ¦ ¦ +-+-+ ¦ ¦

+------+ ¦ +-------+ ¦ ¦

+--¦Attenu-+-------------------------¦ ¦

¦ ator ¦ ¦ ¦

+-------+ +----------+

So, if I could get enough wave to start with, the attenuation I could count on. Attenuation is the same as time delay for positive exponential. So, I built a mercury wetted relay like you have seen in comparison switches sometimes called flicker dickers.

We made those with 4000 volts on the cable system, with a 5 ohm drive impedance. We took ten 50 ohm cables whose outputs were all tied together so that the output of the whole thing was the sum of the outputs of the ten cables. This became a real monster ...

About the time I got the thing tested and written up, I left the Navy and went to work for Jerrold.

TAYLOR: That, you think, was about 1953?

KIRK: Yes. It took me about a year and a half or so to get out. They didn't want to set a bad example of letting people go when they needed them, with the Korean War in progress.

TAYLOR: And, Arbeiter was working with Milt at that time on production?

KIRK: I think Hank got in right at the start. I think the start was a dinner meeting at an IEEE show. We had gone up and spent the day to look at all the wonderful new components and whatnot, and we got together with Hank and Milt at dinner. Milt hammered out what he was going to do and what could he count on from us. He needed Hank to run the thing day‑by‑day, and he needed me to try to feed him some knowhow.

TAYLOR: Feeding in part‑time.

KIRK: Yes, until I could get on full‑time.

TAYLOR: But, Ken came in about '51 or thereabouts?

KIRK: Yes. He came in about a year afterwards. And we both, I think, were contract employees. Both of us had--I don't know what the arrangement was with Ken's employment--but mine was quite satisfactory, and dollars were worth something then.

TAYLOR: Well, Ken was telling me that he was hurting at that time. He would take almost anything he could get.

KIRK: Well, Ken designed a very nice oscilloscope. He got low input drift by using 6AK5 tubes, a very desirable characteristic. He was always thinking of better ways to measure things--high precision was the thing to be sought. He did a really good job on that. He used the scope himself for a couple of years working for Jerrold, but he never sold it because he and I both were sorry salesmen, I think.

TAYLOR: Most of us engineers are poor salesmen. It just goes with the trade, I guess. Somehow, I have been intrigued by ... see Bob Tarlton got started up in Lansford with .... He bought apartment house amplifiers that Milt had made and used them in his cable TV system. He had a problem with cascading them. Were you involved in cleaning that up, or was it Ken?

KIRK: Ken did the actual work on that. He had a shop above a stained‑glass window shop. He developed a 2‑pole interstage circuit which could give a flat response instead of a peaked response. This made it possible to cascade stages without losing picture or sound quality.

TAYLOR: Yes, I have some pictures of that.

KIRK: The thing I recall about the apartment house amplifier was the first one that was ever built. Milt wanted to introduce this at a parts show in Chicago. I had the only version of the amplifier in Annapolis. I drove down to Washington, and Milt came through on a train. The train stopped in the station for a few minutes, and Milt came off, picked up the apartment house amplifier, and was off to Chicago to introduce it as if it was a steady production item.

TAYLOR: We are going to stop this a minute and I'll show you some pictures he showed me.

KIRK: Ken made a gadget that had a sweep generator down in the 100 kilocycle range. It used different impedance and different LC values, and had a multiplier so he could design a 60 megacycle amplifiers where shielding was not a problem. Component values were right, so that with one shielded piece of gear you could measure the sweep of it and know that if you built the circuit with C 10 times bigger and L 10 times smaller, or whatever, then the frequency was multiplied by 100, you could get a result that could be reproduced at that TV frequency. We did not have a production model of this; for a while, we all used one that Ken had made.

TAYLOR: Well, now you mentioned Frank Ragone while we were off the air? Was Frank there when you came full‑time with Milt, or was Frank already there?

KIRK: He was already there. He and Mike Jeffers, I think. They stick together in my mind, although they worked separately. I don't remember what projects they worked together on. Each one of them was a competent engineer. If there was a problem, they would tear into it.

TAYLOR: Now, did you, or any of the people with Milt in those early days, realize what was going to happen ... this community‑wide cable television?

KIRK: We didn't understand it really. Ken said he never knew how Milt got enough money coming in to make up for what had gone out. We just trusted Milt. He would do something to make it possible for Jerrold to hire us, and we worked on electronic problems.

TAYLOR: But you didn't know where he was getting his money from?

KIRK: No. And, no need for us to, because he treated us pretty well. I recall I figured one time that they were spending about 7 percent of income on engineering work. I said, "That's a nice big figure for a little outfit like us." If we did a bad unit (a bad component) the thing could go sour pretty quick. But, we didn't have trouble with people. When you needed overtime work, they stayed until they finished it, and we very seldom had enough man hours left over to do anything--other projects, I mean. A project not on CATV took quite a lot of doing to get it approved.

TAYLOR: Well, Bob Tarlton, in that Lansford thing, apparently was the first time that Milt, anyway, realized that there was a community thing that you could tie several buildings together and make something out of it.

KIRK: Yeah. It was discovery. We didn't know that there was that kind of market then. Realize that when Jerrold started, we were in the consumer market. Mike Jeffers used to joke that if you had a good consumer product, you could tell it because the engineers would steal it.

KIRK: We should note that there was a piece of equipment inserted between the single channel amplifier and the first amplifier system which tied apartment house systems together. It was an amplifier designed for use on the dealer's floor to allow a large number of TV sets to be operated simultaneously on different channels. The first one of these that we put in for any size system was in Baltimore, for the Montgomery Ward's store. I believe we put a four channel system in there, picking up two channels from Baltimore and two channels from Washington. Milt was particularly interested in this because if he could get accepted by Montgomery Ward or Sears, it would mean a large number of small systems, which would be good business for Jerrold at that point.

TAYLOR: Yeah, that's right. Other people like Martin Malarkey, my partner up in Pottsville, had a friend in RCA who had their apartment amplifier, and they did for Martin what Jerrold did for Tarlton. And, really almost at the same time. But, Martin says it was about two weeks after Bob Tarlton was operating that Martin was operating in Pottsville.

KIRK: Martin Malarkey was slowed down by ketchup.

TAYLOR: Slowed down by ketchup?

KIRK: Didn't you know he was very fond of ketchup, or had the reputation for being?

TAYLOR: No, I never heard that.

KIRK: I didn't know Martin very well, but we were up there a couple of times, and some of the guys were kidding him about that. A group of us went up there to measure radiation from the system, because the FCC was starting out to smooth everything over. I don't know why that ketchup thing stuck in my mind.

Anyway, the first thing of importance was, don't let the radiated pattern interfere with the guy who is legitimately receiving the signal off the air. The guy who was legitimately receiving was probably getting 10 microvolts or something like that. And, the output end of a strip amplifier with a 1‑volt output tended to be a piece of a volt.

TAYLOR: Exactly. It sure did.

KIRK: We did a thing there ... when I realized what it was going to be like. We had to know what the cable was doing. Ken got busy on the thing and made a piece of equipment that could measure the radiation power from the cable--a piece of cable about 30 inches long, or something like that. He put it in a casket and tuned the thing so the length that filled the casket was a quarter wave‑length, about. Then he measured the power that was being dissipated there with a field strength meter. It was one of several things he did that made is possible to tell what the radiated field would look like with various power leakages. I put a row of short power poles around my farm there at Holland Station, Pennsylvania.

TAYLOR: So, that's where that was? I knew he had had such a thing.

KIRK: Yeah. We had wasted some time on open wire line, and the biggest complaint about the open wire was told to me by Don Rogers. He said, "It makes what is called a 'consensus' picture. The consensus is that the nose on that picture is about 'There!' "

With reflecting points and actual RF pickup points distributed around a half‑mile of cable or so, you get a fine looking picture, completely unusable.

TAYLOR: So, this was after you were with Jerrold permanently? You had moved up to the Philadelphia area? When did Dalck Feith get involved in things. He was the one, as I understand it, who did sheet metal work to make chassis and so on.

KIRK: From day one.

TAYLOR: From day one. I see. Was he a friend of Milt's beforehand? How did that come about?

KIRK: Yeah. He acted like Milt's money was good no matter what, and literally supported a piece of the operation for quite a while.

TAYLOR: Dalck Feith, later started a microwave business?

KIRK: That's right. That later company was called K&F Electronics.

If Milt needed some material at Jerrold--this was after the war, but we still had war production restrictions--you had to get a permit to buy brass, or whatever. Dalck would get a permit for what we needed, and run tap‑off units with boxes, or chassis, or whatever. And, he would make small runs for us without making a special die. He would use his general purpose tools. These were things we could not have done without.

TAYLOR: He did all the metal work then, like the little tap--the aluminum block.

KIRK: The metal work that Dalck did was mostly sheet metal, but he made some bulk metal parts. The "C" connectors were no good; they were too fragile. So Eric Winston designed a little skirt that screwed on the "C" connector and made an "F" connector. Things like that had to happen.

TAYLOR: When did Winston come in? Was he there about the time you were there? When you started, I mean?

KIRK: Yeah. About the time I started, you're right. He was downtown; he was not working at the lab.

TAYLOR: Well, did Eric work with Milt when he was selling boosters?

KIRK: No, Eric worked for Hank Arbeiter on all sorts of mechanical problems. I think the first thing I recall Eric Winston working on--we needed a little pole‑top converter for UHF to bring it down to VHF, and I made one of the things with little pipes and a piece of wave guide, so the wave guide became a cavity. There were three cavities side by each, and the weakest part about it was the tuning capacitor. I had one that you could screw that could move a slug up and down to change the capacity, because the slug was copper, I believe.

We made some of those, but they were not satisfactory because of the change in temperature; they didn't work right. Hank Arbeiter took this complaint at that point, and made a tuning capacitor that was rugged like you wouldn't believe. It was about a half‑inch in diameter, and it slid down into a Teflon sleeve. Teflon was little known at that time because it was close to $15 or $20 a pound, and it was heavy. But, this little capacitor Hank made became an "Arbeiter Trimmer," and you saw them used in all sorts of filters and traps, and that sort of thing, for a good while. I don't know whether they still make them or not, but they were made up until a few years ago.

TAYLOR: Is that so?

KIRK: Yes. It was a simple little thing. It was just a piece of Teflon that had step sizes, so that the last step was about a quarter inch rod shoved in it. The capacity from there to ground would vary when you screwed the thing in and out. That was a typical Hank Arbeiter design. Looked like it was over‑designed in every direction, except that it worked, and the others didn't.

TAYLOR: So, Arbeiter was the production man?

KIRK: He did a manufacturing engineer type of thing.

TAYLOR: And Dalck Feith was the one who produced the metal working components.

KIRK: Yes. Especially the sheet metal parts. One thing, I talked Dalck into building that lab out there, and he built it with his money and rented it to Shapp. That's what got us out of the second‑story kindergarten place when Milt built the lab.

TAYLOR: Oh, I see. That's the one at Hatboro then.

KIRK: Yeah. It wasn't as big as it is now.

TAYLOR: No. It's been enlarged. That's right.

KIRK: But, we didn't have the money to build the thing. It's a good building.

TAYLOR: The one I couldn't believe was the one over at Horsham. Now that was an enormous plant. Then they had a plant up in Springfield or near--no it wasn't Springfield--a little place in Massachusetts, Chicopee, or Chicopee Falls, I guess it was. And, then they had a plant down in Mexico.

KIRK: I never saw any of those.

TAYLOR: This was after you were out. Well, Dalck Feith became financially involved with Milt at some point.

KIRK: Dalck and I started up K&F Electronics, eventually.

TAYLOR: You had just said that Dalck Feith and you formed K&F to build microwave equipment, and that K&F was since sold to Jerrold.

KIRK: Right. When I left Jerrold, I went to Philco. I was chief engineer for industrial communications, the division that did civilian work. We had some contracts for satellite stuff, but it was minor. They were trying to get started in microwave, scatter communications, line‑of‑sight communications, TV cameras, and things of that nature. Their theory was that, because they were doing military contracts, they would have technology available that other companies wouldn't have. And, they wanted to put this technology into their new industrial products.

TAYLOR: Into consumer electronics?

KIRK: Into consumer electronics, but not things like TV sets. They had a bad thing that they didn't understand--that if you have part government contracts and part work for your own subsequent inventory, you do a funny thing. When the government project gets behind, you put your best men on it, and when the civilian one gets into trouble, you don't have the best men to put there--you already used them up. And, this is putting your money in the wrong place, because, if there is any slack off anywhere, the thing you financed takes it. I don't know how to do it any differently. I never worked where it was all government (except with the Navy). But I've seen some people who worked that way. They had a heck of a time. They were always busy worrying about their schedule, and never, "How do I get the project designed?"

But, I learned a lot about microwave while working for Philco, and after a while I decided, hell, I could make microwave. And, sure enough, we came up with a piece that I could sell to Jerrold to use on a video link to a CATV system, and could sell to Philco for a communication link to a multi‑channel telephone. We got Philco to buy microwave transmitters and receivers for a project in Vietnam for voice transmission. We got Jerrold to take some inventory of the same piece for video links.

TAYLOR: So, you left Jerrold and went to Philco. And, then the K&F started after that?

KIRK: Yeah, you're right. K&F was the company out of which I was selling gear to Philco. I was on very good terms with Philco. I told them, "Look, you guys tried, and you are going to make some more further trials. But, I don't believe you are going to succeed the way you do, because I know, in general, if it's something I want, I'll go buy one. But you don't do that in Philco, you have to give the contract to somebody to engineer it before you can buy it, if you don't have anything on the shelf, and you have no plans for putting anything on the shelf. You're not going to make any money that way." So, I told Philco I was going to make some microwave equipment and I would sell it to them. And, it worked out that way. Jerrold and Philco were the only two customers that K&F had for any volume of stuff.

TAYLOR: Well, how did you finance K&F? How did you get the money to do that?

KIRK: Dalck Feith had it. We got it up to where it was running about a million dollars a year, and he had a pretty good size coat pocket in which he carried all the current invoices. He pulled them out once a day and looked at them. If it was the right time to pay it off, he paid it off. He had about fifteen people working for him; he knew what everyone was doing, down to when he was last in jail. Because Dalck probably got him out of jail.

We had one funny thing happen. Ernie was a great big chap. The strange thing about Ernie was the rhythm with which he could go through a stack of steel. He could move it from over here to a carrier over there and make maybe ten holes in it in just the right places--beautiful work that just flowed across like that. But, he couldn't last through Saturday night to save his soul. One day a call came for Mr. Feith, and it's a bailiff down at the courthouse, and he said, "Ernie had been fined for $75 or something like that for whatever he'd done Saturday night and bail." Dalck said, "Who's the judge?" and the guy answered. Dalck said, "Tell the judge I'll see him at the Pinochle game at the club and pay him back, if he'll pay the $75." Dalck was that way with his people; he took care of all the details, or fixed it so they could.

TAYLOR: Well, he made money on this metal business that he was in--metal fabricating.

KIRK: The thing there was that Dalck knew how to run a shop the size it was. He didn't have to have a big room with two secretaries and a purchasing agent, and all that kind of thing. He watched the small things and let the big ones take care of themselves. He had habits that I didn't like, but as long as he and I were on the same team, pulling for the same thing, there was no question of trust entirely. If you two are on opposite sides, then you both have to watch each other. He had been offered about four or five opportunities to get himself killed during the war. Dalck was of German extraction, and things had been rough. You can see the imprint of a bottle or something on the back of his head. But, it was a new experience for me to work with him.

TAYLOR: When did you go to Philco? Do you recall a date for that? When you left Jerrold?

KIRK: No, I don't. It was in the fall; I had been there about a year. [Note: The date I went to work with Philco was December 1, 1958.]

TAYLOR: With Philco?

KIRK: With Philco. We had a couple of experiences. Philco sold some microwave to a lady in Rapid City, South Dakota. They stalled around, stalled around, getting it working. Finally, they were able to let her put in some program hours. She was picking up some Denver station, bringing it up five hops to Rapid City. Philco wanted to finish the installation in daylight working hours. "No," she said, "you can finish when you want to, but I've got to have some programming." Then they started giving her programming with the microwave, and then you couldn't turn it off, because you had popular demand for the programming from the people in Rapid City.

TAYLOR: These were Philco microwaves?

KIRK: Yes. They were sorry microwaves. They were designed, and a few had been produced, when I got there. So, I went into the field with a co‑op student, Bill Lambert. Bill and I ran up and down the system, and we rebuilt the receivers by turning them off from midnight 'til morning.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. Was Bill with Philco?

KIRK: Yeah. He left Philco and came with me to K&F later.

TAYLOR: Yeah, at K&F. So, K&F started when, probably the early '60s--'61 or '62? Or, was it earlier than that?

KIRK: Earlier than that, I thought. No, I was with Jerrold--I saw some little stuff here when we did the experiment on a program‑by‑program billing system Jerrold tried in about 1955. [It was actually in 1958.]

TAYLOR: I see. Then, I heard Ken Simons talking about the Dubuque, Iowa system.

KIRK: Was this the one with the ...

TAYLOR: That was not quite video.

KIRK: Yeah! That was a real experience, and I enjoyed working with Ken on that. What happened there, we got this contract to wire Dubuque, and they had four channels that they could receive about twelve miles away. That was a lot of money to put up a good size coaxial. So, we did some figures indicating that you can use RG59 at low frequency. I think we wound up using four amplifiers, each one carrying one channel.

TAYLOR: Probably eleven, though--RG11.

KIRK: No, fifty-nine. It turns out that there is a funny thing that you used about the same amount of copper and polyethylene and stuff like that if you used individual cables for work or one cable big enough to support ...

TAYLOR: You did that in a paper, the IEEE, I think, explained that situation.

KIRK: Well, we argued back and for about this and then the railroad company (I think it was the railroad) would give us rights to plow cable into the embankment. And, that looked like a good deal to me. Ken did the converters. They were a real pain. I did the amplifiers for him. We had never built an amplifier with 20 dB of tilt across the 1.0 ‑ 7.0 MHz band. But, that's about what it came to. Hank did something like 60 dB of gain per line amplifier. We got pretty good pictures on the thing.

The thing that scared me was when we got a call--from Caywood Cooley, I think--one day, and we were talking about how things were going. I told him we had done some measurements on the cross‑talk between cables and equipment in dirt, and it looks like everything was all right. He said, "Well, you don't have to worry about that anymore. We won't have to put the cable underground anymore. We changed our franchise. We put the cable up on cross‑arms and tied them in together." Nobody had measured the cross‑talk in this configuration, and here we had four carriers all the same frequency, 2.25 MHz.

What we were doing, we had an AM signal that was a carrier below the frequency of the first major side band. It doesn't look like the classic picture anymore. We tried this thing in my backyard; we dug up trenches, put same cables in, and measured it. And the place where you could get in trouble was where you had an amplifier--it has low signal voltage here at the input, and pretty high voltage over at the output. The signal leaks back around the amplifier. So, you wanted to spread things out a bit there. You begin to use some high loss dirt in the path between output and input cable.

TAYLOR: Ken told about the HLD--high loss dirt.

KIRK: The thing is, they had put the cable up on poles. They had cross‑talk, and we could measure cross talk. We put an input cable on one channel and an output cable on the other three channels, and the cross talk was what came out of the number one channel, which had a cable on its input. So, I knew we had to do something. We needed a real quick, good idea. We made a panel and put a couple of emitter followers for each channel on it, and we took the signal from that channel, cut it down to the right amount, and injected it into each of the other channels. We inverted it by putting a piece of cable the right length to get the delay right. So, you could get the delay size adjusted for Channel 1, and then do the same thing for Channel 2, Channel 3, and Channel 4. You go to 2 and do the same thing. This added up to a hatful of cable. It reminds me of the mobile passive unit with the flicker‑dicker arrangement.

TAYLOR: The ghost eliminator.

KIRK: Yeah. It was a real problem. I got another excited call from Caywood, as soon as it started raining. The delay was wrong.

TAYLOR: When did Caywood come into the picture? Was he with the company when you came full‑time, when you moved to Pennsylvania?

KIRK: The only thing I remember, Caywood was in the company at the time Hank got married. I don't know; he was pretty much a fixture in field engineering problems at the time I knew him.

TAYLOR: Now, he was more in the marketing side, wasn't he?

KIRK: Well, he was sort of a bridge between marketing and field engineer. He dragged in some wild ones. Somebody came in and wanted an amplifier, a low noise preamp for Channel 22, or something like that, way up in high frequency. You really needed it because the sale hung on that. Somebody found out that if you backed down the back of a sharp ridge that you lost the pickup from the corona discharge on the power line that ran parallel on the other side of the ridge. When you did that, you needed a really low noise amplifier because the antenna can only be so big.

So, I think we got a ... I think it was a tube called a 416, if I remember right. It was a planer triode, for use at 4 GHz, and the noise figure was about 2 db or something like that. When we got the contract, I ordered the tubes and got a box made out of quarter inch brass plates bolted together as cavities. We threaded the plates where the grid plane screwed in with some outlandish thread count. But, that was the way you put that thing in, and sure enough we got it to work.

The only thing I remember long‑term out of it was that we worked on this thing for about six weeks; we didn't have a signal generator that was any good in that frequency band. So we used local UHF stations. They were not on all of the time. They came on by about three o'clock in the afternoon with the kids programs. We learned all about the man in the white mask and that sort of stuff. It came to the end of our time, and we were just about to get the thing going. The last reel of the movie was going to show--they had been running this about six weeks, looking at the same movie!! And everybody gathered around, and we turned it on. Hey! We got a good picture, but it was the wrong station. They were giving us the cowboy movie we had seen before.

It was a very congenial setup there, in Jerrold lab. Everybody either liked each other, or at least got along with each other. I don't know which, but it was peaceful and hard working.

TAYLOR: When you went to Philco, how big was the Jerrold organization at that time?

KIRK: They had about fifteen people in the lab.

TAYLOR: Were they in downtown Philadelphia, or were they up in north Philadelphia?

KIRK: Most of them in north Philadelphia. Yeah, we had a pretty fair sized model shop eventually out there. We could handle building ten or twenty units at a time. Sometimes the lab-built units would look pretty much the same as factory-built units. We could not do large press work, but we had two fellows--George Burrell is one of them who was with us for a time. George did molds for plastic, and he knew how to create fairly complex molds that were still relatively inexpensive.

TAYLOR: It is intriguing to me how Milt could keep this financial thing going. That takes a lot of money to have those people and have all the equipment and the engineering, and so on.

KIRK: Yeah. Actually, he never stalled us on anything we really needed. If we needed it, we just made our case, and it seemed like he got it for us.

TAYLOR: He, himself, didn't have money; he didn't have means. He had to raise it somehow.

KIRK: There's a story about he and Zal Garfield when they finally went public. They went to New York for the closing. And, when they came back on the train, they got a seat in the club car early because they were tired from the day on Wall Street. So, they were sitting there talking about where to put $100,000 into this, put some money into that, and finally the waiter brought their meal and stood around for a bit. They looked at each other and said, "You got some money?" The waiter explained about credit ratings.

SHORT BREAK

TAYLOR: We have just returned from having a nice lunch. We were talking at lunch, I believe, about Zal Garfield, and I'd like to ask when did Zal come into the picture and what was his position in the company?

KIRK: That caused some minor trouble between Milt and me. Zal came in, I guess, about '54, something like that. And, his position was executive vice president. But, they had him down as president's assistant, or something like that--a subordinate position. The problem with this was, as far as I was concerned, it didn't really describe what the man did. Essentially, Garfield was running the day‑to‑day operations of the company.

This would have been no problem, except that I had tried to get some contract work on cryptographic equipment. Jerrold, it seemed to me, should know about straightforward communications and should know about secured communications also. I thought I could see a need for scrambled communications or cryptographic communication for pay television in our future. The same kind of people ought to be able to design it here and do it. But, for example, we had a case where Max Kraus had something to do; he needed a signature of an official, and he was complaining about this to me. He had to meet the train and get Milt to step off and sign the thing. Milt was always coming through on a train. So, I said, "Why don't you get Zal to do it." Max said, "Zal isn't authorized to sign the thing." That surprised me because he behaved as though he would be--the signing of an authorization would be something that fell in his category. I don't know.

The more I thought about it, the more worried I became because it seemed to me that the only thing that would be bad if Max or Zal had high power would be a conflict between us and an official outfit that can handle military classification--high security risk. In other words, if Zal could do what he was doing every day, he should have been high enough on the management totem pole.

TAYLOR: Where did the military security come in?

KIRK: Well, I was trying to get a contract by going down to NSA, trying to convince them that we knew enough about video that we could make a thing that would work in the field for video encryption. They were real nice and, well, noncommunicative.

TAYLOR: But, you felt that Zal Garfield didn't have a lofty enough title to ...

KIRK: Well, it was not a question of being lofty enough to get the clearance. This was during the years of--what's the guy's name--the guy that caused all the ruckus. I can't think of his name ... during the early cold war years.

TAYLOR: Oh, I see. To get the clearance. In the Jerrold outfit?

KIRK: No, nationwide. The congressman that had everybody up there.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah! From Wisconsin. You scared it out of me at the moment, but I know who you mean.

KIRK: Well, see this was his day in the sun. Everybody was trying their case by what's‑his‑name. And, it looked like to me that--suppose somebody did some serious searching. I had a security clearance before I could work on the A‑bomb.

TAYLOR: You're talking about McCarthy. Joe McCarthy.

KIRK: Yeah, right! And, I would pay hell trying to convince a judge and jury that I worked in the same company on the same level with the guy and didn't know anything about him. But, as a matter of fact, that was the truth; I didn't know anything about Garfield.

TAYLOR: Did he have something in his background that could have caused trouble with Joe McCarthy?

KIRK: There were a lot of rumors around, but I have no absolute proof. Anyway, I went to Milt and told him that I didn't want to get hung up; I didn't want to be calling on NSA. He said, "Well, don't do it then," or something to that effect. It went on, and I told him if Zal is behaving like the executive vice president, all I want is for him to be vice president in title also. Then I've got no complaint, because I defend myself against Joe Blow, but I couldn't argue against somebody who essentially ran the company. What cured me was that Milt had no comment.

TAYLOR: Now, who was Max Kraus? I know that name.

KIRK: Max Kraus was a man who had--he was a young chap, I guess twenty-five or thirty, pretty bright, and had a number of jobs before he finally got the job that put you out the window, which was project planning. That's what you do with the guy who is too good to fire and not quite good enough to promote.

TAYLOR: He was not an engineer, right?

KIRK: No, he was not. Max knew a cursory amount about engineering. He had various positions and did reasonably well. At one point, I wound up working for Max. Because of some dealing on the stock, I was in such a position he could not give me a raise without changing his budget for his division because it was salary in return for company stock, not for working.

TAYLOR: Well, now, Kraus and Garfield got in the picture what, late in the 1950s?

KIRK: Yeah. Zal Garfield came in. He was the hatchet man for a number of things that needed to be taken care of. Some people left.

TAYLOR: Toward the end of the '50s. Is that after you came in permanently?

KIRK: Oh, yeah! Well, just before I left. Because what happened was Milt wouldn't do what I suggested about changing Garfield's title, or tell me why.

TAYLOR: It was Garfield then that really triggered your deciding you should leave?

KIRK: Well, not really him, but his connection with Milt in the whole story. I could put up with what he did. I wasn't hurt at all by it. He had fairly high regard for my engineering ability. None at all for my business. He was probably right on that. But, all I wanted was assurances--I wanted assurances as far as they knew they were all loyal American citizens in anything to do in this government project I was trying to get. So, I resigned. I think Milt was very disappointed. I heard some things said about it, but we didn't part company with any real malice toward each other. And, when I started out persuading Dalck Feith to get K&F started in microwaves, the first thing we did was to go see Milt and ask him if it was okay with him. And, he was gracious.

TAYLOR: They sold the K&F microwave through Jerrold?

KIRK: Yes, after I started it. Well, they were helpful. I guess what we really did, Dalck sold it to Milt. It was a funny situation. A lot of what Dalck Feith did was because he wanted to be like Milt. He wanted to start a company, have it going and have people recognize that he was the moving factor in it. All of which is true. But, he didn't fuss at me or anything really because there was no point in it. He knew it.

TAYLOR: Another name very familiar to me is Lee Zemnick.

KIRK: He was a good salesman. He did a good job of figuring out why you should buy Jerrold this or that.

TAYLOR: He was in charge of marketing and sales. He later became really an executive assistant to Milt and actually took many of the jobs Milt had.

KIRK: Well, Milt didn't want to be a tyrant.

TAYLOR: Oh, he let Lee be the tyrant.

KIRK: Yeah! Let Garfield by the tyrant. Not Zemnick.

TAYLOR: Oh, it was Garfield. I see.

KIRK: Not terribly so. There was a case where I think the evidence was convincing, but it didn't spill over around the edges. I think that Zemnick figured what he was doing; that everybody loved him, and maybe they did, I don't know.

TAYLOR: We talked at lunch about the pressure tap, which I gather you had a considerable amount to do with.

KIRK: I only made the first one.

TAYLOR: Made the first one? Conceived the idea, I presume.

KIRK: I'll tell you this. I would say, yes, but no. When two of you are working on a thing and finally get it to work--maybe one of you chased the cat out so that the other could have some peace to work in.

TAYLOR: With whom were you working?

KIRK: George Edlund would come over to my house.

TAYLOR: Oh, Edlund. You were working together?

KIRK: Yes. Let me see if I can explain the whole situation. I got a call from Milt Shapp, and he told me that George Edlund would be working with Jerrold as a salesman in the Baltimore area. George got some jobs where we put in systems for sales purposes on department stores where we hooked up fifteen or twenty TV sets at a time. They wanted something to run them all, so they wouldn't have to have an antenna on each one. For each set, we had a cathode follower tapped on the line to give signal to the individual set. The cathode follower bit was because we all had a background in radar, where you use cathode followers anytime you want to get a low impedance outputs.

Pretty soon, we recognized that we had a problem because the system would oscillate through many configurations because of the many different lengths of cable from the tap off to the individual TV set. We called the little box that had the tubes in it ADO, and the first one was ADO‑2; later there were ADO‑4 and ADO‑8. I had a set‑up in my basement in Bethesda so we could try to cure the oscillation trouble with a small system there, just cables scattered around the laboratory. We tried to get it so we would have no trouble when we put it in ... it wouldn't oscillate.

George Edlund would come over at night, and we would work together in the basement. It got to be recognized that when you turned the power off to the ADO, it wouldn't oscillate, and effectively you had just a capacity tap on the line. We made some little boxes out of sheet metal that were about an inch cubed and had fittings on two sides with a single fitting on one side where the tap‑off entered and would go to the TV set. I don't know how many of these we made. I believe at least several installations were made with these little cubed sheet metal boxes for TV dealers.

George Edlund had a contract with some apartment building to put a TV distribution system in, and it rapidly became apparent that the little sheet metal box wasn't the best solution in the world, because it wouldn't go into the standard AC outlet box that they wanted to put on the apartment wall. That was when we designed the little metal block with the fittings on two sides and one end. I don't know when we started using both resistors and capacitors as tap‑off impedance. The first one I clearly remember was one that had a small capacitor; the capacitor was a small cylinder with leads coming out of each end and they would just fit between the tap‑off fitting and the two through fittings in the line. The tap‑off (which was made in one brass block originally, and later aluminum) was available at the time Bob Tarlton first put in a system outside one building which looked like a community antenna system.

The little metal block was handy because it could easily be weather‑proofed to some extent by just wrapping tape around the outside. In that respect, it was better than the little sheet metal cube because it didn't have cracks in it where radiation problems could arise. My recollection is that George Edlund and I were working one evening in my basement, and we made some blocks and made tap‑off units in them with probably resistors and capacitors with the size picked to give the right amount of signal at the tap‑off. It became apparent that if you wanted to put the system in an open‑air situation--that is, on a power line--that it would be nice not to have to make so many coax fitting joints. We made a clamp‑type block and through the mounting hole for one fitting, we drilled a hole through the insulation and the braid of the cable. The braid was contacted by some pins in the split block, and the center pin of the connector was driven into the center wire of the coax cable.

At that point, things really began to get complicated. I had a local machine shop make some parts for me, and George Edlund offered to be a go‑between to work with the metal working shop. At that time, I was working for the Navy in the daytime, but with overtime most of the time. So, I took George up on his offer.

Later, we discovered that Edlund had gotten Dalck Feith to get an allocation of brass from one of the armed forces agencies that controlled the sale of metal at that point. Dalck had a permit to buy brass. Edlund got the shop to take the brass and make the little blocks for the tap‑off units which we sold to people who wanted to put in apartment house distribution systems.

At some time during this period, I met Hank Diambra, who was an associate of Edlund's. I don't recall the date, and I didn't see him very often (but it must have been in 1953‑1954, because by this time, I had moved up to Clinton, Maryland). Edlund and Diambra came to visit one Sunday afternoon, and as they were getting ready to go--after about a five‑hour visit--George told me that they were working with another company, and he would be leaving Jerrold. This was the first time I'd ever talked with him about what his relationship with Jerrold was.

That afternoon, we had talked over all the things we had planned, and what I was working on at the moment. I called Milt Shapp and asked him what the situation was. He had just found out that Edlund had been making trips into the eastern Pennsylvania area and selling equipment under the name of Entron. Edlund had told people up there that he was working with me, and that he had the latest information on what the new products would be, and of course he would be able to get them stuff through Entron the same as he could from Jerrold. I told Milt that I had never given George any information that I understood to be proprietary to Jerrold.

Milt understood that I would not double cross him, and our relationship stayed just as it had been. We didn't see George Edlund or Hank Diambra again until we met in the courtroom where there was a patent suit on the pressure tap‑off unit, probably two or three years later. We were able to show that the idea of pushing the contact pin through insulation was old and well known to the art, and the patent was nullified.

KIRK: There are a couple things I should mention. Just about the time we got our situation cleared up and stopped making the ADO‑2, which would oscillate, another company in the Philadelphia area came out with a copy of the ADO‑2. We never did hear what they did with the unit that they made, because they obviously wouldn't sell very well when people knew that there was trouble with them. The second point--we found that there was a valid use for the ADO concept. It was in apartment houses where you would have a source of signal at the elevator penthouse on top of the apartment building, and you wanted to feed lines that ran down the side of the building.

Ken Simons made an ADO done right. He designed a matching network between the plate of a 6AK5 and the 75 ohm output cable. And with this knowhow, he designed an ADO‑8 that could be placed on top of an apartment building with the lines draped down over the sides. I guess this was the first work on antenna distribution outlet box that was any good.

That whole thing has been carried on many stages beyond what we are talking about now. What I just described was done in the first few days. It went on until they recognized that you have to take part of the energy out in series and part in parallel to make a matched tap. If it acts like a resistive load, you have to do ...

TAYLOR: That's when you got the directional tap.

KIRK: Yes. The directional tap is the same kind of thing.

TAYLOR: Is that one of your patents, the directional tap?

KIRK: No, I don't believe so. I may have put an application in, but killed it later. But, while we were working on it, somebody else had it. But, I don't recall.

TAYLOR: Well, then, there was the one they called the back matched tap, which was a transformer coupling.

KIRK: Yeah. And the back matched tap matched the TV set out to the line. If energy came out of that, it meant that the TV set was mismatched. When the energy came back, it had to be dissipated, not reflected.

Oh! I have to tell you. All this sounds like we have been quibbling about small things. Let me show you something; I can't find it now. Matched cable, when you get a reel of cable, the reason the ends are both available while it's still wound up on the reel is because Ken wanted to be able to measure the continuity and measure the impedance match. That was an important improvement. Here's a piece of cable--this piece you could put a signal in here, and if it was TV band here, it will show on the TV set here. But, this one had an attenuator notch which was so sharp, and so well spaced, that it took--what was it, 40 to 70 MHz, or something like that?

TAYLOR: Eighty, almost; 86 dB down.

KIRK: Yes. You put that on, and the sound would not play through it, as I recall. So, everybody wanted to know what was wrong with this piece of cable, and we chopped it up very carefully.

TAYLOR: Now, I have seen that curve before, and we actually had one like that up in Montana where the signal just simply would not go through on one channel. But, I think it was the picture that wouldn't go through, but then you didn't have your inter‑carrier, so you didn't get the sound either.

KIRK: Well, what happened is there's a lump capacity about every two feet--very accurately two feet--and what was needed to make an attenuator was exactly that. You wonder how the center conductor did this strange and wonderful thing. Well, the center conductor is made out of six strands of copper, and one center strand all wrapped up. Something had gone wrong with the feed machine, and the center conductor was too long. So, every time it got about four or five turns too long, the machine made it spin tight like a little knot. If you took just the polyethylene and looked at it, it looked like a snake swallowing a light bulb.

TAYLOR: You can even see it on the outside.

KIRK: Yeah, once you get it through the braid, but you could put it on a sweep and show it. You see, that was a terrible example, but the same thing happened to a lesser extent any time you had a uniform irregularity.

TAYLOR: Yes, that's interesting. That picture has been published. I've seen that in other publications. Very interesting. [There is a comment in the published article--Simons, KIRK:, Arbeiter, 1954--by Lester Smith of Spencer Kennedy.]

KIRK: Oh, yes, that's back to the distributed amplifiers. There was another man who was a real mover in this market, Ike Blonder.

TAYLOR: Oh, indeed.

KIRK: He would have a totally different picture of the thing. He was selling hardware. He was not selling systems. He sold a bunch of hardware and a lot of it worked. I never met Ben Tongue.

TAYLOR: Ike is garrulous and outspoken, and Ben Tongue is absolutely silent. He is a total introvert. Ben Tongue is the one who has the engineering genius. And it was Ike Blonder who had the marketing push and the business skills and so on to make it work.

KIRK: The last time I saw Ike was about ten years ago. He and I passed each other in the hall outside of a meeting on scrambling, and he said, "KIRK:, why don't you get in there and tell them how it really works."

TAYLOR: Sounds like Ike.

KIRK: It's nice when you know it came from somebody who had been there.

TAYLOR: Among any of these papers, do you have a list of patents in your name?

KIRK: No, I don't.

TAYLOR: You don't?

KIRK: As I recall, there are about ten or a dozen actually issued. I left some applications because the prosecution for patent was dropped when I left the company for a different job. Some of my patents are on things like how to weld a plastic button to a shirt. I didn't know it needed to be sewed. Ike Blonder and I had an interference on one application for a tap‑off for a line for pay television. I think I won that one. I also had one for a multiple spark system for automobile ignition. That one belonged to my oldest son and me. There were several on microwave systems, and several on pay television problems.

TAYLOR: I'm going to, as a part of this study, use one of these big data bases that has all the patent information, and search it for the names of these key people like Simons, KIRK:, Winston, Ragone, and all these people who were involved. Shekel ... I haven't been to Entron yet, but probably they got some from Diambra and some others. I'm also going to be talking to Jim Palmer and C‑COR. And I'm trying to find Earl Hickman from Ameco, Bruce Merrill, you know.

KIRK: I know the name.

TAYLOR: Well, I knew Earl quite well. But he had disappeared from sight, and I still haven't been able to find out how to reach him.

KIRK: For some of them, you may need a shovel.

TAYLOR: Well, I hope not. Because Earl is younger than I am and he should still be going strong. Sometime along here you left K&F, and you were at American Satellite Company, weren't you?

KIRK: No. But, it could be that Digital Communications changed to that name after I left it.

TAYLOR: No? Oh, I thought I talked to you one time when you were with ...

KIRK: Oh, hold everything. If that was the year the NCTA show was in New Orleans and the city got flooded, Paolini and Frank Merklein were trying to start a joint effort with Western Union, and they used a Western Union satellite channel turned on by some celebrity at the show. The effort never amounted to anything.

TAYLOR: Well, it must be that maybe you were working as a consultant to the Satellite Company or American Satellite Company.

KIRK: Oh, that could be.

TAYLOR: As I seem to remember, seeing you at some show, you were with the company, in their booth. Yeah, and you were probably a consultant to it. This, I think, was before you went into the St. Petersburg Communications company.

KIRK: Well, I did that fairly soon after I left Jerrold [1968].

TAYLOR: Or left K&F.

KIRK: Yeah. I just don't recall it. We sold K&F to Jerrold. I worked for Jerrold for about two years. I left Jerrold in 1967 and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida.

TAYLOR: Do you remember when you started that St. Petersburg company?

KIRK: Would '68 do it?

TAYLOR: It's not too far off. Because you had .... Who was the fellow with you? Paolini?

KIRK: Mike Paolini. He moved down from Philadelphia, and we started Digital Communications.

TAYLOR: You and Paolini, I think, had an article in that special CATV issue of the Proceedings of the IEEE in 1970. So, it was probably 1968 when you started.

KIRK: Could be. I did some satellite work, and I did get a patent on a gadget for putting two channels on one FM microwave channel. I did another, and I'm really proud of it, but nobody else liked it.

What we did was improving signal‑to‑noise ratio for any signal where you can tolerate delay. It turns out that if you have a signal in a channel through a satellite up here, and if, at this point, you can establish a delay between the signal you're going to use and a copy of itself, you can take advantage of the time delay to change the parameters of the system at the time the signal which is going to be used is present. In other words, the signal comes in and you put both signals in RAM. Now, one of them you pull out of RAM, and you measure how much the peak‑to‑peak amplitude is for this signal. Maybe it's black here and white over here, and maybe you need only half of the dynamic range of the channel.

Well, you can up the gain of the channel at that instant so that it would take the signal that was low and make it big, but it won't do that to the nose. That way, you can eventually recover the information with a gadget that takes the signal back down where it ought to be. It's just like a pre‑emphasis network. If you know that you're not going to put a big, dynamic signal in, look at the low frequency signal at the input and find the peak‑to‑peak value. Boost the gain by an amount that uses all of the dynamic range of the channel, and look at the other end as though you had boosted the signal, but didn't boost the gain.

The interesting thing about it is that it need not be a satellite. You can do the same thing with a tape player. You can look, hold one in memory while you decide what to do about it, do it, and your results are more noise‑free than if you hadn't done this. You can take a signal and look at it to see how it would be if you did this enhancement stuff. You can do it with a graphical presentation.

While I was at Jerrold before I left to go to St. Petersburg, I did a school transmitter for Jerrold. It was a 10‑watt piece at 2500 MHz band, and we took it through to get type acceptance on it. Don Rogers did the receiver for the network.

While I was with Digital Communications, we were doing hotel video, and having a bad time with the tape recorders and receivers used in the hotel systems. One thing was a bad skew situation where the tape players at that point had a knob which you turned to adjust the tension of the magnetic tape to get the skew reduced to an acceptable value. We made a power supply and skew detector for use with the tape players, we bolted a small 10 rpm motor on the tape player, with coupling to the skew correction knob. The circuitry looked at the skew in the picture, and it turned the knob the way it had to go to reduce the skew to an acceptable value. In the hotel television business, we were using up a good many reels of tape, and we wanted to be able to refill the reels with a different picture.

This wouldn't be worthwhile if the tape was used so much that the coating was starting to go. So, we had to find some way of measuring quality of the tape without having to have someone sit and look at the picture all the way through. My oldest son and I tried various schemes, but finally, we found that you took a counter and put it on the dropout network of the tape player, and counted the number of times the signal dropped out. You could take the logarithm of this number, and that was indicative of whether or not the tape was in bad shape. We could set a value that would work most of the time. The basic trouble was that the dropouts on a magnetic tape tend to come in clusters, and a small cluster doesn't do much. But, beyond a certain size, it becomes quite visible in the recovered picture. I don't know what you do with this kind of information when the price of the tape reels goes down to where it doesn't pay to reuse it at all.

TAYLOR: We will proceed here. I'm not sure if I remember where we were.

KIRK: We were talking about Mike Paolini.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes. We were talking about Mike Paolini and what his background was, and how you met him, and how you got into that business.

KIRK: I think Paolini had worked at Philco before I met him. I met him at Jerrold. He came to Jerrold as a co‑op, and I met him when they decided they were going to give us more help in engineering. He worked, I think, as a co‑op under Mike Jeffers. I needed someone to help me with a wide band multiplex channel for our microwave. Paolini came to us essentially to do that. He was smart. There's no two ways about it. He was fast at grasping things.

TAYLOR: This is Mike Paolini?

KIRK: Yes. And he can work hard if he has to. But he's no gentleman. After a while, that grinds on you.

TAYLOR: Yes, but he was with Jerrold then?

KIRK: Yes, he was with Jerrold. I know what it was. We got two engineers who were working for Mike Jeffers under some circumstances at the Lab. And they gave us both of them. I've forgotten who the other one was. I don't know anything to tie it to. Paolini came there, and for some reason or other he liked working for me. And he pushed in pretty much if he wanted your time.

TAYLOR: What brought you to St. Petersburg from Philadelphia?

KIRK: I wasn't going to work for Jerrold anymore, and we just chose a general area to look at.

TAYLOR: How did you choose St. Petersburg?

KIRK: My wife, Alice, and I both came from south Alabama, but we didn't see much chance for a job in electronics there. We didn't want to be right there, anyway. Sometimes it's easier to live a little way away from the rest of the family. But we wanted to be near enough so if anybody needed anything, we could help. St. Pete fulfilled that.

TAYLOR: I see.

KIRK: And we went out and looked around, and the old people looked like pretty clean citizens to me, and we thought we would be happy there.

TAYLOR: Now, did you have from selling K&F, you had some funds that enabled you to finance this operation, I take it.

KIRK: Yeah. It was a funny sort of thing. Dalck and I had this K&F going, but he had never split it off from DALCO, which was his basic company. DALCO was a little money maker for him.

TAYLOR: That was his primary business initially?

KIRK: Yeah. He simply paid for stuff out of DALCO. I mean the rent was DALCO's building. The electricity was DALCO's, and I didn't realize, tax‑wise, it was pretty raw.

Eventually, we got some pretty good orders moving through, for receivers and transmitters and 14 GHz stuff. Dalck was afraid that we would mess up and not be able to get Milt to continue buying from us. The Vietnam thing was still going, and we shipped a dozen or so hops over there, and Ralph Douglas went and installed them for K&F. Dalck decided that this would be a good time to clean out. So Dalck made up a set of books the way he wanted them, and he showed the manufacturing done for K&F by DALCO went into the pot, and the rent went into the pot, and the whole thing was a pretty good sized chunk of money that could be expensed out, because it obviously wasn't much use anymore. Well, I objected because he was charging K&F a real small amount for the metal work, and the rent, and the rest of the stuff. This made K&F look like it had made a pretty good amount of money for the year, and I considered it unrealistic.

TAYLOR: Well, this amounts to the fact then that when the business was sold, he got most of the money, and you didn't get very much?

KIRK: No. I had set aside two 5 percent blocks of what I had. One was to go to Frank Stiano, and the other was to go to Bill Lambert and to Johnny Nardontonia. Have you heard of him?

TAYLOR: No.

KIRK: Johnny Nardontonia was a young kid about eighteen years old when he came to work for Jerrold about 1949. He would come down to our house in Bethesda (while I was still in the Navy and working part‑time), and stay for a week at a time, building things he needed for Jerrold. Nardontonia wanted to learn. He worked hard, no matter what you wanted. Nardontonia was with me at Jerrold in the early days; he followed me to Philco when I went there, and he came to K&F after we formed that company. By that time, he was a very capable engineer.

Anyway, Dalck created a pretty good size fight involving all of us. I knew that the fight would be over as soon as the business transaction was done and once the papers were signed. Then Feith and I would be on the same side of the table again, trying to maximize Jerrold's profit, because we owed some to Milt. And, that's what happened.

Johnny Nardontonia came to me, as things settled down, to apologize for having gone against me at one point in the fight. There were no hard feelings on my part by then. But, Johnny had been very worried that I would hold it against him personally. I told him no, I hoped I could help him out, and so on. And he said, "Really, do you forgive me?" I said, "Yes, no point in holding any grudge." He went back and told Feith "KIRK: forgives me." Feith came through with a classic, "Since he forgives you, why aren't you at your bench working?"

TAYLOR: Well, how did you finance the St. Petersburg operation?

KIRK: Well, if you want to do it by yourself, and you're really careful, you don't spend as much money. It was a funny thing there. I got paid a certain amount as a down payment from the sale of K&F, and I got my pay in Jerrold shares. Because that's what was going to Jerrold, Jerrold paid me in shares. And this didn't help me any, cash‑wise. But, I just sat still until the end of the primary payment coverage came. I didn't do anything for a year. And then I called up Bob Beisswenger and told him that I was glad we hadn't either one of us canceled the extension, but that I'd appreciate the stock that goes with the second helping, as well as the cash. The contract had been written out so that what it looked like was an acceptance of a bill, that you renegotiate the thing and double the length of time, in other words. Garfield looked at it, I'm told, and he was pleased that they had it typed there, and that I got so much, I think 22,000 shares of stock, or something like that. I wasn't hungry anyhow, so I could use that fairly slowly. Bob Beisswenger figured I wouldn't be able to put my kids through school, or anything like that, because I wouldn't have the money. And they (Jerrold) could hold on to the thing as long as need be.

What he didn't know was that there was a little thing called a swap mutual fund at that time. I don't know if you ever saw one or not. It's where guys that have money, shares that they picked up as bonuses, could take them and throw them in the pot and pay it back in shares of mutual fund.

TAYLOR: I see.

KIRK: And, pretty soon I found a swap mutual fund that would take restricted stock. I kept their stock all through the time here, except that if I took $100,000 worth of stock and then swapped it, I could get them to pay off in cash. So, I could use the cash I had.

TAYLOR: Was the Jerrold stock restricted then?

KIRK: Yes. The stock used to buy K&F was restricted for about four or five years. What happened was, when Feith finally realized I was still working for Jerrold, there was no use still being mad at me, because he wasn't going to do anything about it anyway. Dalck went and told the financial officer, the fellow who ran the money end of Jerrold--I want to say Sel Kremer, but not Sel Kremer. But about his same size and shape. [It was Pomerantz.]

TAYLOR: I guess I don't know them well enough to know. If you mention a name, I probably would remember.

KIRK: Yes, you would. Because he's the one you went to about stuff on credit from Jerrold.

TAYLOR: No.

KIRK: He did pretty much what Feith told him. Si Pomerantz--you knew him. They were both trading favors back and forth.

TAYLOR: Was Feith in the Jerrold organization?

KIRK: No. He was good friends and a big stockholder.

TAYLOR: Just friendly.

KIRK: But that didn't keep him from calling up the receiving officer with Jerrold to get Jerrold's truck to go out and pick up some paint and stuff and take it somewhere else. Not to Jerrold.

TAYLOR: Did you go back into Jerrold then after you sold K&F? Did you go into Jerrold's employ?

KIRK: Yes. Milt said he would not buy K&F unless I would agree to accept an employment contract with Jerrold. The head of Jerrold Lab was a new man; I forget his name. Beisswenger told him to keep me away from Jerrold employees, and he didn't know what he should do. He asked me what to do, and I told him I could rent a space out in Southampton and put a small lab there where I could work. He let me do that.

He sent me to a digital seminar, and I learned something about digital electronics. Meantime, I also could do some studying. It was lonesome in the lab with no one but me, but I got a good chance to do some studying. I was also outside where the Philadelphia city wage tax was levied, and I had some good friends who arranged for me to give a seminar on a weekly basis on microwave systems such as Jerrold was making.

I went in there after I sent them a letter asking them to send me the stock as well as the cash. See, what I really wanted to do was prevent the IRS coming down on me, wanting cash as if the stock was traded. Because that would wreck me. The Jerrold stock was still restricted, and I didn't have that kind of cash. But, what I did, was I turned in the receipts for the tax year for the value displayed in the market that year. But, since there was no actual market, I showed it as "no known market" to see if they would accept it. That way, I had a couple hundred thousand dollars I could spend if I needed it. So, we settled down and took $1,500 a month out of the pot, and sold Jerrold stock, and kept our bills reasonably small. The thing was made complicated by Si Pomerantz' testimony. Jerrold returned the stock paid as a capital exchange for them, and an expense item for me.

TAYLOR: How did the St. Petersburg operation go? I know you had quite a few pieces of equipment. It was very interesting equipment.

KIRK: It went slow. I didn't have money to put much of it on the shelf, and you can't have a real sales organization with an empty cart. You have ...

TAYLOR: You have to build it to order.

KIRK: Yes. So, I wasn't daring enough to back it. I could have. I could have gotten the money to do better than what we did, but it would be a case where you go up to a wall and either you jump over, or ...

TAYLOR: That was about the time that Ken was telling me they took the instrumentation away from Jerrold and gave it to Texscan.

KIRK: That hurt Ken.

TAYLOR: That just killed Ken's interest at all and hurt him, besides killing his interest. It just hurt him. But you were building the St. Petersburg stuff. Was that after Jerrold sold the instruments to Texscan? Were you competing with Texscan, or were you competing with Jerrold?

KIRK: No. Competing with Jerrold, I would say. But not really competing with anybody, because I didn't have enough of a line.

TAYLOR: But it was at the time when Jerrold was still selling the instrumentation.

KIRK: You have to have a certain size of operation, or you can't afford a draftsman only, or a machinist only.

TAYLOR: Did you lose money on the business?

KIRK: It was about break‑even. I took my salary out, and it would change it from one to another. But we did some stuff that didn't show up on the market. We sold, you know, the guy up in Corning, New York.

TAYLOR: An operator, a cable operator?

KIRK: Yeah, a cable operator. He sold his stuff to somebody, I can't remember now who. But, anyway, we did some little amplifiers, and we did a family of plastic boxes for apartment house use. They guy that owns the airplane ... he wrecked it.

TAYLOR: Is his name Bill Calsom?

KIRK: No. [It was Warren Fribly.] He wanted to try his hand for a bit as a salesman. His wife wanted him to do something instead of sitting around the house, which is a chronic complaint with people who were used to doing a lot and stopped. For about a year he looked pretty bad because of the wreck. He got all beat up. The last time I saw Warren, he had recovered to an amazing extent, and I was very glad to see him so improved.

TAYLOR: You got a batch of papers out on the table here. The center and museum at State College is interested in collecting documentation of this sort. I'm wondering if there is any of that I can take and make available to the center. Or, is there some of it I could copy and send back to you?

KIRK: You could copy and send back some. I would have to go through some of the details. I don't mind you knowing, but I think some other people involved might not like a public discussion of everything. So many people have contributed to the progress and growth of CATV, it is hard to be sure that you have included all of the individuals and their relationships.

TAYLOR: I see. I see.

KIRK: There were a couple of deals I really wanted to do. One was the possibility of somebody making a thing to hunt bootleggers (people who are stealing signals), and I can't get anybody interested. It might be too big a thing to try before the FCC's new regulator role becomes firmly established. The scheme depends on the fact that when you hook a TV onto a cable, the horizontal sweep frequency of the set gets on the cable too.

TAYLOR: How well I know.

KIRK: It turns out that, if you're pretty good at it, you could measure the phase of the sweep and find out what it is. If you get something that lasts through a cycle of a phase shift, you can tell what channel you have. Suppose you wanted to ...

TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, you know, there was an outfit that developed an audience rating scheme on just that principle. They rigged up a van with a receiving facility, and they would travel around the area. They would match up the 15,000 Hz phase angle, and they could tell what each house was reading. They would log that, and they would give the broadcaster an indication of how many people were watching each channel.

KIRK: Let me extend it just a little further. If you do this, you can change the phase of the signal as it goes through the head end by using a synch restorer and frame grabber, and increase it a half cycle or reduce it half a cycle, until it matches a prescribed unit that you selected.

You can get a basic high accuracy marker on the system by looking at the phase of the color signal of the network program. The network people do a very good job of keeping 3.58 where it ought to be. And, you can get a look at it with a clamp‑on ammeter on a fishpole‑like thing over the cable. But you can't do it very fast. If you rolled up to a spot where you suspected somebody of having stolen signal, you could measure what is going on and know whether he's receiving a chosen channel, because his TV set would rat on him every time. So, you know now that he's looking at this high price channel and isn't paying for it. So, now you can get a court order or a search warrant to go into his house.

TAYLOR: Now this is something that you have written up, and some of this is on the table here?

KIRK: I didn't check that particular one, but I think I have. I think I have something that you could use.

TAYLOR: What arrangements can we make about this documentation?

KIRK: Let me review a bunch of it. There's stuff .... Let me see. Here is one. It's what we call a credit card system. What you're trying to do is have the effect of a two‑way system without the operation of a true two‑way system weighing it down. So, these are the signals that you need to do business with the person who owns the thing, the CATV part of it. And these are the signals that he must send to a customer, and the customer signal or the feedback signal from the customer to the operator is this part. And this thing stands a chance of making a different kind of subscription television. Because you can know how much a fellow has used, and therefore, how much he owes you because you ... all I say is, let me give you a copy of that [paper 31 in the set of Don Kirk papers later supplied, and it must be recopied, because a large section has been added to it].

TAYLOR: Okay. I can have copies made and send things back, and you probably don't have an easy facility to have copies made. It's pretty expensive anyway.

KIRK: Well, it's a nickel a page, or something like that, near the school. So, I don't worry about that.

TAYLOR: If you do that, let me know how much you put in it, and we will take care of it.

KIRK: I will send you the description of that coding message, because I think sooner or later somebody might want to use that. And I would love to see that happen. [Note: the coding message referred to here is not among the papers sent. We'll do something about that later.]

TAYLOR: Well, you got my letter, so I'll give you a card.

KIRK: Oh, you didn't ask what happened those times when we reached our engineering goal. I have memos that reflect the urgency of getting this thing on, and Zal Garfield worked trying to run the thing. He got it pretty near right. We actually had what we called program‑by‑program billing (PBPB), and we did an actual demonstration of how you can make a pay television system upstairs at Jerrold. We did it three or four times. We invited our own salespeople and customers in for a demonstration. It was crude and ugly, because we didn't have computer chips or digital logic chips. We were using analog circuits at that point, so we did the thing as if the four channels were off the air and on the cable coming to you. To receive one of them, you pushed a button, and what that did was latch up a relay that gave you program totally until the end of the program day, or however you chose to do it. Then you'd send a signal from the main, central office to unlatch the relay, and this operation is what caused you to be billed.

We had all this working up in this upstairs room where there were half a dozen TV sets on it. We had a pretty good size box with a ten‑pin recorder. You know, the kind that burn the paper. Because this was a time, about 1955, when we didn't have the nice digital recording techniques that we have now. But we had to have something so I could show a sheet of paper, and I could read off the customer's number. What we had there was the customer sent back a tone that showed his operation going on. In a format, it could be a row of dots. You read it off in binary. Nowadays, you wouldn't do it. You put one floppy disk and that would be all.

We had that much of it going. People would come and look at it and see it operate, and say "ain't that great," and go back and fight their own problems in their own little world. Anyway, I guess it was a hindrance. What happened was the bottom of those things fell apart. The system they were trying to get. Not because of the system, but because of the lack of programs. So, nobody ever said "thank you," or anything; we just closed it down. After the first few shows, I left the company for entirely different reasons. There was nobody enthusiastic, and I can't say that I blame them. But, what it does for me, it says that if you want to know when somebody got into the PBPB business early on, here it is.

TAYLOR: I'm going to leave this with you. It's the prospective I worked up for a study that we're doing and a book that we hope to get out. You might be interested in what I put together.

Would you contact me then about the documentation and what I can copy?

KIRK: Yes. I'll make a decision on it.

TAYLOR: Okay. Either send me the batch, and I'll copy it and send it back to you, or .... That probably is the simplest way.

KIRK: Well, I'll be happy to do that.

TAYLOR: Well, I think that I covered the history that I was interested in and it's been fascinating talking about the early days of cable. I want to ask one more question though. What do you think CATV is going to do now? What do you think it ought to do? Any thoughts on the future of this industry?

KIRK: [I'd like to send you a letter later with some of my thoughts on this.] Right now, I think that whatever status it needs to make its next big jump, we have probably reached it. It's probably time for some well‑though‑out improvements, I think. And you can't do that with hardware alone. You have to make a measurement of what you think the entertainment pre‑viewers are going to do. What you have here is library. The reason library books aren't thrown away when you read them is that other people want to read them too, and the same thing happens with this stuff. They're going to want to be able to read it, too. There are some pretty crummy books on the market, and there are some pretty crummy TV pictures.

TAYLOR: Isn't that the truth.

KIRK: But, it hasn't stopped libraries, and it need not stop CATV. I think that using it as a sales tool sounds nice. It sounds like you're on to a big thing. I don't think it will pan out. I don't know what it will do, but I would have to say we didn't need it in the past. That doesn't prove we either need it or don't need it now. So, the marketing thing is not proving it to me. Because I remember my mom could call up and get groceries delivered, and what we needed was a grocery boy, not a communication system. So, it's funny that nobody ever tumbles to the fact that you really don't need a satellite for a lot of things. Satellite is fighting with time.

TAYLOR: It's been a fascinating industry, and I've certainly enjoyed growing up with it.

KIRK: Oh, yes, it was the right thing to do if you were an electronics engineer.

TAYLOR: I was a little later than you getting into it, but not a whole lot ... 1953 was when I started. So, I started on the operating side, and you started on the manufacturing side.

KIRK: Well, I did it for personal reasons, because I didn't know any better. Because I could have been where some systems were going in, and wind up with 2 percent of the system, and that's where a lot of millionaires came from. My interest in this is how do I steer my boys around the same sort of thing, not to make the same old mistakes. Make some different ones.

TAYLOR: Yes, they will make different ones.

Well, I think I'd better close this off and pick up, and I certainly thank you very much. There is no question that you and some of the people at Jerrold are the real grandfathers of this industry, and I thank you very much for giving me the time to make this recording.

TAYLOR: We are recording an interview with Don Kirk at his lovely home out in the country outside of Gainesville, near Newberry, Florida. This is Archer Taylor as the interviewer and this is for the Richard Schneider Memorial Project on the technological history of cable TV. I want to get your voice on here, Don. How long have you been in this house here in Newberry?

KIRK: About ten years now.

TAYLOR: About ten years. Let's try that to make sure that it's playing. Okay. We are on the air, Don. I would like to know a little about your background. Where did you come from originally?

KIRK: Mobile, Alabama. I went to school at Murphy High School, and we had a very fine radio club. That's what got me started out there.

TAYLOR: You were an amateur operator then?

KIRK: I built amateur equipment, but I seldom operated. I didn't have much to say, except if it worked.

TAYLOR: I see. Did you go to a university somewhere?

KIRK: I went to Auburn. They were just starting a co‑op course, and I worked for a power company, cut limbs and dug holes for three months, then went to school for three months.

TAYLOR: You learned how to climb poles. Well, what were you doing before you met Milt Shapp?

KIRK: Well, when the war came along, that's World War II, I joined the Navy. I got some flight time at school--instructor's license--before I joined the Navy. After we had been offshore for about a year, I got a chance to apply for a radio post‑graduate course at Annapolis. It was three years to get your Master's degree, hopefully. At least everybody had to do some sort of project for his thesis work. I chose to build a better "gutless wonder" TV set, eliminating any parts that weren't vital. There were kits available then, but I found a lot of things that I could change about the kit it make it better.

One of my instructors at school mentioned this to Ben Freeland, who was a radio parts dealer in Baltimore, and Milt Shapp heard about it from him. Shapp decided he liked the idea, and wanted to see if we could work up a kit for another of his customers.

TAYLOR: Do you remember when that was that you built the "gutless wonder," as you call it?

KIRK: About 1947, I guess. We got involved with Jerrold about '48. I built a set when we were living in Annapolis. We only had four stations--two in Washington, two in Baltimore. So, you needed all the gain you could get. The little TV set did not cut the mustard on gain. So, I built a gain stage to put ahead of it. And, when I was showing this kit to Milt Shapp, it wouldn't play for us. I went out to the car and got a little gain box and put it in, and we had a good picture. Milt immediately dropped all interest in the TV set and wanted to build a booster.

TAYLOR: Oh! Milt was interested in building TV sets prior to that?

KIRK: Well, he had a customer who was looking for a TV kit--an outfit called Meissner. You may remember Meissner. They built transformers and coils, one thing and another. We varied the design, trying to make a 7‑inch electrostatic TV set with nine tubes, without the multiple tubes we have nowadays. So, we came out a little shy on every turn. But the thing worked.

TAYLOR: Was Milt working for Meissner at that time?

KIRK: Yes, as a "rep." He was on the road; he was on the road for a half dozen companies.

TAYLOR: I see. Milt is trained as an engineer?

KIRK: From Ohio State, I believe. I think that's right.

TAYLOR: Ohio State. But he was working in marketing on the road?

KIRK: He was always marketing. I mean he didn't let his engineer's license stand in the way of anything.

TAYLOR: Milt was working on the road in marketing then as a "rep" for Meissner?

KIRK: Yeah, had a fairly complete line, I think, to go around for about two weeks--to go through the cycle. So, that every time he hit Baltimore, we had something to show him and we were a little further along on a TV set or whatnot.

TAYLOR: Now, you were working with ...

KIRK: No, I was in school at that point. Working for Milt was a night time activity. My wife will tell you that she has 400 gallons of coffee invested in this.

TAYLOR: You were in school. I know what you mean. So, you were in school in Baltimore?

KIRK: In Annapolis. Post-graduate school at the Naval Academy.

TAYLOR: Oh, in Annapolis at the Naval Academy. Okay. So, Milt Shapp would come to Annapolis.

KIRK: Right, or we would meet somewhere.

TAYLOR: Okay. And who was it that called you to his attention?

KIRK: A professor at the college where I was studying--Gene Cooper. Gene knew Ben Freeland, and he met Milt there.

TAYLOR: And, Ben Freeland was with Meissner then?

KIRK: No. He was a parts store owner in Baltimore.

TAYLOR: In Baltimore. So, when you came in with a booster box--gain box--Milt saw it. He decided then he wanted to go into that business to get away from Meissner? Was that ...

KIRK: Well, he thought he could sell something to get a start on something that would grow because everybody was buying TV sets at that point.

TAYLOR: Was he going to manufacture it himself or have Meissner do it?

KIRK: No. He was going to manufacture it himself. In fact, he started a factory on 13th Street in Philadelphia. Had about ten or twenty people, and I was working nights for him. I built a rack where you can shove a booster in and check it. They sold somewhere between a quarter and a half million of those boosters [by the time they stopped making them in about 1952]. Those boosters were ...

TAYLOR: And, this was in about 1947?

KIRK: Oh yeah, 1948.

TAYLOR: And, how did you move then from Annapolis to the Philadelphia area?

KIRK: They kept me in Annapolis for another year, working on a thesis project.

TAYLOR: You were still going to school? Were you?

KIRK: Yes. I was studying mainly theory of functions of a complex variable.

TAYLOR: Great, which you use every day of your life. I went through that course myself and I don't know that I ever really used it, but it was worth doing.

KIRK: We had a good arrangement there. They would let me take all the tools--all the equipment--I could find home, and put it in my basement, and work from there. So, I had a good shop there and we had enough left over to do the lab work.

TAYLOR: This was at Annapolis? Where was that? I have a house in Annapolis that I use weekends.

KIRK: Yes, at the school. Well, you know where the Naval Academy is? Well, it was just inside the gate of the Naval Academy on the west side.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes. I know very well. On St. George Street or somewhere in there? Maryland Avenue?

KIRK: I don't remember that.

TAYLOR: Okay. So, Milt got started. Did he call it Jerrold Company at that time?

KIRK: Yes, it was Jerrold, always.

TAYLOR: All the time. Right from the beginning.

KIRK: He talked about having started with $500--some number like that.

TAYLOR: Is that so? But, when you got to him, you say, he had ten or twenty employees?

KIRK: Well, this booster was the only thing they made. So, if anything didn't run right on the production line, I would go up to Philadelphia, and we would work out some way to get it to work. And, Hank Arbeiter, who was the man on the line there (who ran the line) came down to my house occasionally. We would work a couple nights on this or that or the other thing.

TAYLOR: Your house in Annapolis?

KIRK: Yes.

TAYLOR: So, Milt left Meissner. He was a "rep" for Meissner. Was this a kind of independent business?

KIRK: Yes. He kept on, until it was actually phased out; it wasn't a case he quit or anything like that. They were still on very good terms and he used him ...

TAYLOR: Did he have employees as a "rep" of Meissner then?

KIRK: No. They were Jerrold employees.

TAYLOR: They became Jerrold employees. But, Jerrold got started only after he saw your booster?

KIRK: Yeah. He needed the products. If he was going to make them, he had to make them and put them in inventory and get rid of them, get them in circulation. So, he needed the whole shebang.

TAYLOR: Sure, interesting. So, how many of these did he sell?

KIRK: To my recollection, somewhere between a quarter and one‑half million of those things. They were in a plastic clock case. There was just a single knob on the front, and you turned the knob until the picture got good. You may remember how RCA TV tuners worked. They had a bunch of coils and switches--selective coils. Well, they were a reasonably cheap copy of that. But, little things like being able to measure input impedance or a good measure on the gain were in the future at that point.

Of course, once he had one, the question was, can you make a box that's better? Can you run a piece of cable further? And the people who wanted it were the people who had a store with twenty TV sets on the line, all interfering with each other. So, we wanted to be able to put a line out there.

TAYLOR: Now, that was before you met Bob Tarlton. Tarlton had an apartment type unit.

KIRK: I don't remember when I met Bob Tarlton. His name is very familiar, and we saw each other fairly often, but I don't recall.

TAYLOR: You were still in school, working with Milt part‑time. But, was Hank Arbeiter full‑time?

KIRK: I was still in school. Hank was full‑time.

TAYLOR: Well, Hank was the really the first one then who was full‑time.

KIRK: Right. Hank was number one--the settler of all arguments--and was pretty high up in that line. He did all the buying, and book work, and that sort of thing. And Milt spent his weekends seeing that both of them were right.

And, as I got time--when things started running reasonably with the booster--you wanted a better one to run a sales floor of TV sets at reasonably good levels to have good pictures. And we built one that had, I think, two or three tubes in it. The thing that made all this possible was the 6AK5 for twenty-five cents.

TAYLOR: For twenty-five cents. It was more than that when we got started in 1953. That 6AK5 was certainly a popular item.

KIRK: Yes. It was one that was built right. When you wanted to know about an amplifier at that time, you tried to get a copy of Volume 18 of the MIT series by Valley and Wallman. It became sort of the Bible on how you do this--and we didn't realize until we got way further in that it was just skimming the surface. I mean it told you a little about how to design for a certain shaping of response. Well, it was good to find out through experience what it would really look like.

TAYLOR: Were you working full‑time for Milt when Ken Simons got into the picture?

KIRK: No. That was after I got out of the Navy?

TAYLOR: Oh, after you got out of the Academy?

KIRK: No, I was in the Navy. When I left the Academy, I owed four years of work because I had four years of college, and the deal was you couldn't resign unless you met the requirements. So, I went, was transferred down to Alexandria--what's the name--the Naval Research Lab across the river from Alexandria? And, at first I did just chores of one kind or another, a short program also for chemistry and a short one for the electricity division. So, I served there for a while and did a few things that were in the administrative arrangement. If they needed a compressor from somebody and somebody had it, I would arrange to get it transferred, something like that.

Eventually, I got around to where they were doing some interesting work. There was one whole division that was testing A‑bombs, and they needed some work. In fact, there were some 100 or so people with similar high‑class talent, and I got a chance to build some stuff. It was good to have equipment to measure with, and good parts and that sort of thing.

TAYLOR: That was at the Naval Research Lab?

KIRK: Yeah. So, for a couple of years, I went out to Nevada on fourteen shots, and they were the shots for which I had designed and built equipment. They were doing some very fast wave shape monitoring, and I did some of that.

TAYLOR: Well then, you worked with--when did you go with Milt full‑time then?

KIRK: Well, toward the end, I went for a while. Well, I stopped for a while when one of the Navy requirements was no outside work, so I just cut out working for Milt. For about a year or so, I didn't do much. Because I had to put the Navy first.

TAYLOR: I see. Sure. Then you came to the point where you could leave the Navy.

KIRK: I left. The day I left, I moved to Pennsylvania.

TAYLOR: Then went full‑time with Milt?

KIRK: Yes. I went full‑time with him.

TAYLOR: Do you remember when that was?

KIRK: 1953.

TAYLOR: '53. I see.

KIRK: Yeah. We had done a hell of a lot of work before that.

TAYLOR: Yes. But, it was what you call moonlighting.

KIRK: Yes, I was trying to go in on Saturdays and Sundays and work evenings.

TAYLOR: So, Ken Simons was with him then before that. I think it was in 1951 or about then that Ken ...

KIRK: The first change that came was when I moved to Bethesda from Annapolis. Gene Cooper, who was supposedly working with me long ago, quit doing any work simply to collect his royalty.

TAYLOR: Quit from Jerrold, or quit from the Navy?

KIRK: No. Let's see. Cooper stopped working for Milt about a year after Jerrold was formed because there was nobody to worry him about getting busy. He tended to slack off pretty bad. When we needed things like test equipment, I hired two other professors from the school to do part‑time work for me in the basement.

It was a funny thing--I was supposed to be learning from them, and I did learn a lot from them, but I watched them. I remember one guy struggling and struggling to get a hole punched in a chassis to build a power supply for something or other that we were doing. He was trying to pull the plug in backwards. You know how that is, you are trying to go through steel with the Greenlee punch.

TAYLOR: Yeah! I know what you mean. These were professors from the Academy?

KIRK: They were professors from the post‑graduate school. The post‑graduate school and the Academy were together, but they operated separately. They did at that time; the whole post‑graduate school is on the West Coast now.

I had one interesting experience with another chap from NRL school who did some arithmetic calculations for me. We didn't have calculators then, and you tended to do as little computation as you could get by with. What I wanted was information to plot the response of a distributed amplifier as a function of the input impedance of the tubes used in it. And he worked on and on, and finally brought it back to me. He had a very fine solution that worked really well.

The computer group at NRL was very good in analog computers. About this time, they were shifting the emphasis to digital computers, and they had a device that they wanted to try. So they put out a notice that they wanted problems that could be put on the digital computer. In about three days, they called me back and told me that they were able to use that problem, and they gave me the data I wanted for the work I was doing. They told me, however, that they hadn't used the computers to get it. They actually had one of the girls who was very fast work it out on a desk‑type calculator. So, the digital computer didn't lose, but it just made a tie against a lady with fast fingers.

TAYLOR: So, this work on the distributed amplifier, this would have been in '50, '51, or earlier than that?

KIRK: It was probably '52, because we needed some big distributed amplifiers for the A‑bomb test. We had ones that had 1500 volts on the plate, 4X150s, or something like that, and a string of them with big blowers that kept the whole place hot. We did whatever we had to do.

Most of the work I did was distributed amplifiers, and it had to do with measuring fast pulses, plotting the actual pulse shape, rather than amplification of radio frequency signals. At one point, I got interested in Tektronix oscilloscopes that we had purchased. They didn't produce enough output current for the project we were working on in pulse measurement. We modified the oscilloscopes to put more voltage on the screen grid of the amplifier tubes. This allowed us to increase the output current. But with the screen voltage high, it burned up the tubes.

The signal we were interested in existed for only a couple of microseconds, and we knew about when it was going to arrive. So, we made the oscilloscope turn off until one second before the signal arrived. Then we turned the screen voltage up until we got the current we wanted through the tubes. At one second after the recording of the signal, we turned the oscilloscope back off, and this kept the scope from burning up.

[The equations for the exponential pulses are included in paper #2 of the set sent to you after the interview: "Pulse Synthesis Network ...," equations 9 and 10. That paper was mis‑labeled Jerrold, when it was actually written for the Navy work completed in 1953, just before I left the Navy.]

My first experience with the distributed amplifier was the product of a long series of coincidences-- and it's probably the reason I got transferred to the Naval Academy. I was a Patrol Plane Commander at that time, and experienced PTC's were in short supply. But my communications officer still recommended me for post‑graduate school because of my electronics experience.

The series of coincidences began when the squadron to which I was sent first went overseas in 1943. We went from Norfolk to San Juan on an aircraft tender, and I didn't have much to do, so I hunted up the ship's library in the officers' mess. I found a book called Secret and Urgent, by Fletcher Pratt. The squadron's communications officer saw me reading the book, and he had needed someone to explain the encoder apparatus that was used for seaplanes. So, he asked me to take the job of making a presentation to the other pilots about how to operate the encoder.

Our squadron was deployed around the island of Trinidad, from Dutch Guiana on the southeast and Antigua on the north. We did quite a lot of flying, but there was also time to waste, and I began to wonder about certain possible electronic projects that I could do something with.

One time, on a trip to Norfolk, we stopped overnight in Miami, and I got to go through a bookstore while I was there. I picked up a book by Shannon and Weaver on the mathematics of communication, and another one by John Pierce on electron beams. When I read these, I became even more interested in the possibility of making a tube that would amplify an electric signal by deflecting the electron beam, rather than turning the beam off and on. I drew up a diagram showing the use of beam deflection technique in an amplifier tube and in a frequency multiplier tube.

I spent a lot of time flying during this period, and also some time in helping with the squadron radar sets. I couldn't find anyone to read the paper I had written, but the communications officer suggested that I submit it to the Navy Department's Bureau of Inventions and see what they thought about it. I did this, and it was duly forwarded. After several months, I got a nice letter from the Navy Department thanking me for that paper and pointing out that my idea was old and well known to the art. They requested I keep it in the CONFIDENTIAL status that I had used for the original submission. It's hard to promote an idea that is deemed old hat, but which you are denied the opportunity to discuss.

The squadron received orders to go back to Norfolk to pick up new planes, and was deployed to Hawaii. This kept me busy for a while. My handwritten paper on the deflection tubes remained in the communication department of the squadron, and retained its confidential status. After a while in Hawaii, the squadron was deployed further forward to Saipan.

The Naval Academy put out a notice that applications were being taken for a three‑year course in electronics in Annapolis. I applied for this post, and was lucky enough to get accepted. The recommendation of our communications officer helped, along with the fact that I had already exhibited some interest in electronics.

I was busy with other things. I flew "war wearies" back to the states for repairs, and flew new planes out to Leyte, where the squadron was stationed. When I got back to Saipan, to go stateside for the position at the Academy, and checked out of the squadron, they didn't know what to do with the handwritten confidential paper that I had left there. All the regular Navy correspondence related to the letter had been destroyed in the burn basket. But the handwritten thing didn't fall under any nice rules. Finally, they simply turned the paper over to me, and I put it with my other gear and got ready for the trip.

To get to San Francisco from Saipan at that time, one had to go through customs in Hawaii, and I did that. When my gear was inspected, the paper marked CONFIDENTIAL came to the top of the pile, and the customs inspector wanted to know what it was all about. He noticed that I had quite a flight bag with me, and asked me what was in it. I said, "Oh, I have some rounds of 38 caliber pistol ammunition, some clips of 45s, a bunch of maps and "Pointy‑Talky" books, things that you normally take on a flight." Also, I had some ampoules of morphine which had been checked out to me. When I mentioned morphine, he immediately wanted to know all the details about everything.

So, he went through my flight kit and he didn't know what to do with me--put me in jail, or what. Finally, he took a bunch of stuff out of my flight bag and told me I would receive it at my new station in the states. My wife was waiting for me in San Francisco, and I was so excited about that and the school I was going to that it didn't make much difference what he did, as long as I could get out of the customs office.

The customs man had me sign a receipt for the morphine, and he took my paper, which he later forwarded to my commanding officer.

TAYLOR: Oh, I see. There was a patent on the distributed amplifiers?

KIRK: The design was later patented. What it was, was a bunch of plates along the line, with the velocity of the propagation at the plate set to be the same as the velocity of the electron beam down the tube. Then there was a single plate output where the effect of the lumps of charge coming down the tube were all summed up to give the output signal.

TAYLOR: I see. And one vacuum bottle.

KIRK: Yes. The input signals to the amplifier caused the electron beam to be deflected up and down as it traveled down the tube. The further down the tube it went, the greater the up and down oscillations. If the beam was sent over the edge of the electrode, only part of the beam would get down to be collected, and this part would vary in intensity, depending on whether the beam was up or down at the time. Thus, the signal on all of the deflecting plates could be added to contribute to the output current.

I didn't know it, but at that time, RCA was working on a single deflection electron amplifying tube. I believe Zworykin had applied for a patent on a multiple deflection tube that used an output structure something like a multi‑cavity magnetron to give frequency multiplication with the beam deflection tube.

TAYLOR: Did you know Fitz Kennedy, Fitzroy Kennedy? He was the Kennedy of Spencer‑Kennedy Labs. He was with Don Spencer. He had a patent on the distributed amplifier with a transmission line between 6AK5's.

KIRK: Oh, yeah. They came out with one--there was one with a helix between the plates. It was only marginally like the one I'm talking about.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. He had a patent and SKL was doing that before cable TV came along.

KIRK: Yes. They had a 20 dB amplifier, and we copied it. I believe that before CATV came along they were using that amplifier for instrumentation work in places where you needed a wide band amplifier for testing.

To return to my tale about the amplifier paper I wrote in the Navy. I reached Annapolis about a month before classes started, and forgot about the paper for a while. I was working for Harold Bishop (a Navy Lieutenant, or something like that, on the faculty). At that time, I was supposed to be his Man Friday until classes started.

He had me teaching a group of ten or twelve officers how to use the radar jamming transmitter on some YP boats in the Severn there. Later, he had me build a 100‑watt final amplifier for an FM station.

When my commanding officer received the amplifier paper that had been forwarded by customs, he knew I was working for Harold Bishop. So, he sent the paper to Bishop because you had to log it in and officially charge it out to someone.

Bishop told me he would take it to a friend of his in the Patent Bureau in the Navy Department. A few months later, he told me that a patent had been granted on my device, and showed me a certificate granting the patent to "Harold Bishop, et al." My name was given as et al. I don't know who Bishop got to sign the patent application (going in) because I never saw it.

[An added comment, not mentioned in the original interview: I wasn't the only person who did some design work while otherwise employed. The brothers R. H. and S. F. Varian were both pilots who found time to design the klystron while they were still flying in the late 1930s.]

TAYLOR: All of this took place before the late '40s, I take it?

KIRK: I started post‑graduate school in '45, because I got out in '48. In '53 I was out of the Navy entirely. Yeah, that would be about it.

I enjoyed post‑graduate school. I got a heck of a lot out of it. If you wanted to work, they let you try almost anything that looked like it could be good.

TAYLOR: That patent was this distributed plate tube. Was that the patent you were talking about?

KIRK: Yeah.

TAYLOR: And, you did that for that 100‑watt amplifier?

KIRK: No. I used a conventional ARRL HAM Handbook approach. That's all the experience I really had was ARRL (American Radio Relay League).

TAYLOR: So, this distributed amplifier was for the bomb testing?

KIRK: Yes, that is the amplifier with variable screen voltage and the pulse generator for positive exponential pulsing for bomb testing use. We had two ways; one was the Rossi display. They would put a sine wave on one axis and put the unknown voltage from the detector on the other axis. With the unknown being a positive exponential, it started out with just a thin line and then the line got more like a sine wave --about two waves and it was gone, but you could put this slide on a projector and get really good accuracy down to fractions of milli‑microseconds.

The thing we needed was some way of testing the tester. Nobody believed your data when you took it through a vacuum tube amplifier. Of course a vacuum tube amplifier doesn't behave quite like you expect it to with a positive exponential input. I needed a device that could generate a pulse of desired shape in a range that could be shown on the oscilloscope with the fairly sensitive distributed deflection plate system. We could display this wave on an oscilloscope that had no amplifier. We could, at the same time, take the signal through an attenuator and then an amplifier under test before comparing it with the amplified signal.

The circuit which I built up depended upon a charged line and a mercury wetted relay to generate the components from which the pulse could be synthesized. The mercury wetted relay assembly is used frequently in comparison switchers for measuring the RF response of circuits.

Our switcher was a group of ten 50 ohm delay lines, parallel at one end, and charged to 4000 volts on the other end. This gave us ten output signals which could be individually attenuated to a pulse with the proper size to add up and give us the wave shape we wanted. This wave shape was of sufficient amplitude so it could be displayed on an oscilloscope that had no amplifier.

We were using vacuum tubes for CRTs that had a distributed deflection plate system on the signal axis. This gave us greater sensitivity over the tubes with just simple deflection plates. For really low level signals, we needed sensitivity that could not be achieved with the deflection plate system we had available, and we couldn't trust amplifiers unless we could somehow measure their performance. So, we looked at it and decided maybe we could do it by comparing an attenuated version of a known pulse with the same pulse after attenuation and amplification.

[The following diagram was inserted when the typed transcript of the interview was reviewed.]

+-------+ +------+ +---------+

¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦Sensitive¦ +----------+

Split ¦Attenu-¦ ¦Ampli-¦ ¦Traveling¦ ¦ ¦ +------+ +--¦ ator +--¦fier +--¦ Wave +--¦ ¦

¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ Scope ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ +-------+ +------+ +---------+ ¦ ¦

¦ ¦ +-+-+ ¦ ¦

¦Source+--+-¦ ¦ Equal time-delay paths ¦Comparison¦ ¦ ¦ +-+-+ ¦ ¦

+------+ ¦ +-------+ ¦ ¦

+--¦Attenu-+-------------------------¦ ¦

¦ ator ¦ ¦ ¦

+-------+ +----------+

So, if I could get enough wave to start with, the attenuation I could count on. Attenuation is the same as time delay for positive exponential. So, I built a mercury wetted relay like you have seen in comparison switches sometimes called flicker dickers.

We made those with 4000 volts on the cable system, with a 5 ohm drive impedance. We took ten 50 ohm cables whose outputs were all tied together so that the output of the whole thing was the sum of the outputs of the ten cables. This became a real monster ...

About the time I got the thing tested and written up, I left the Navy and went to work for Jerrold.

TAYLOR: That, you think, was about 1953?

KIRK: Yes. It took me about a year and a half or so to get out. They didn't want to set a bad example of letting people go when they needed them, with the Korean War in progress.

TAYLOR: And, Arbeiter was working with Milt at that time on production?

KIRK: I think Hank got in right at the start. I think the start was a dinner meeting at an IEEE show. We had gone up and spent the day to look at all the wonderful new components and whatnot, and we got together with Hank and Milt at dinner. Milt hammered out what he was going to do and what could he count on from us. He needed Hank to run the thing day‑by‑day, and he needed me to try to feed him some knowhow.

TAYLOR: Feeding in part‑time.

KIRK: Yes, until I could get on full‑time.

TAYLOR: But, Ken came in about '51 or thereabouts?

KIRK: Yes. He came in about a year afterwards. And we both, I think, were contract employees. Both of us had--I don't know what the arrangement was with Ken's employment--but mine was quite satisfactory, and dollars were worth something then.

TAYLOR: Well, Ken was telling me that he was hurting at that time. He would take almost anything he could get.

KIRK: Well, Ken designed a very nice oscilloscope. He got low input drift by using 6AK5 tubes, a very desirable characteristic. He was always thinking of better ways to measure things--high precision was the thing to be sought. He did a really good job on that. He used the scope himself for a couple of years working for Jerrold, but he never sold it because he and I both were sorry salesmen, I think.

TAYLOR: Most of us engineers are poor salesmen. It just goes with the trade, I guess. Somehow, I have been intrigued by ... see Bob Tarlton got started up in Lansford with .... He bought apartment house amplifiers that Milt had made and used them in his cable TV system. He had a problem with cascading them. Were you involved in cleaning that up, or was it Ken?

KIRK: Ken did the actual work on that. He had a shop above a stained‑glass window shop. He developed a 2‑pole interstage circuit which could give a flat response instead of a peaked response. This made it possible to cascade stages without losing picture or sound quality.

TAYLOR: Yes, I have some pictures of that.

KIRK: The thing I recall about the apartment house amplifier was the first one that was ever built. Milt wanted to introduce this at a parts show in Chicago. I had the only version of the amplifier in Annapolis. I drove down to Washington, and Milt came through on a train. The train stopped in the station for a few minutes, and Milt came off, picked up the apartment house amplifier, and was off to Chicago to introduce it as if it was a steady production item.

TAYLOR: We are going to stop this a minute and I'll show you some pictures he showed me.

KIRK: Ken made a gadget that had a sweep generator down in the 100 kilocycle range. It used different impedance and different LC values, and had a multiplier so he could design a 60 megacycle amplifiers where shielding was not a problem. Component values were right, so that with one shielded piece of gear you could measure the sweep of it and know that if you built the circuit with C 10 times bigger and L 10 times smaller, or whatever, then the frequency was multiplied by 100, you could get a result that could be reproduced at that TV frequency. We did not have a production model of this; for a while, we all used one that Ken had made.

TAYLOR: Well, now you mentioned Frank Ragone while we were off the air? Was Frank there when you came full‑time with Milt, or was Frank already there?

KIRK: He was already there. He and Mike Jeffers, I think. They stick together in my mind, although they worked separately. I don't remember what projects they worked together on. Each one of them was a competent engineer. If there was a problem, they would tear into it.

TAYLOR: Now, did you, or any of the people with Milt in those early days, realize what was going to happen ... this community‑wide cable television?

KIRK: We didn't understand it really. Ken said he never knew how Milt got enough money coming in to make up for what had gone out. We just trusted Milt. He would do something to make it possible for Jerrold to hire us, and we worked on electronic problems.

TAYLOR: But you didn't know where he was getting his money from?

KIRK: No. And, no need for us to, because he treated us pretty well. I recall I figured one time that they were spending about 7 percent of income on engineering work. I said, "That's a nice big figure for a little outfit like us." If we did a bad unit (a bad component) the thing could go sour pretty quick. But, we didn't have trouble with people. When you needed overtime work, they stayed until they finished it, and we very seldom had enough man hours left over to do anything--other projects, I mean. A project not on CATV took quite a lot of doing to get it approved.

TAYLOR: Well, Bob Tarlton, in that Lansford thing, apparently was the first time that Milt, anyway, realized that there was a community thing that you could tie several buildings together and make something out of it.

KIRK: Yeah. It was discovery. We didn't know that there was that kind of market then. Realize that when Jerrold started, we were in the consumer market. Mike Jeffers used to joke that if you had a good consumer product, you could tell it because the engineers would steal it.

KIRK: We should note that there was a piece of equipment inserted between the single channel amplifier and the first amplifier system which tied apartment house systems together. It was an amplifier designed for use on the dealer's floor to allow a large number of TV sets to be operated simultaneously on different channels. The first one of these that we put in for any size system was in Baltimore, for the Montgomery Ward's store. I believe we put a four channel system in there, picking up two channels from Baltimore and two channels from Washington. Milt was particularly interested in this because if he could get accepted by Montgomery Ward or Sears, it would mean a large number of small systems, which would be good business for Jerrold at that point.

TAYLOR: Yeah, that's right. Other people like Martin Malarkey, my partner up in Pottsville, had a friend in RCA who had their apartment amplifier, and they did for Martin what Jerrold did for Tarlton. And, really almost at the same time. But, Martin says it was about two weeks after Bob Tarlton was operating that Martin was operating in Pottsville.

KIRK: Martin Malarkey was slowed down by ketchup.

TAYLOR: Slowed down by ketchup?

KIRK: Didn't you know he was very fond of ketchup, or had the reputation for being?

TAYLOR: No, I never heard that.

KIRK: I didn't know Martin very well, but we were up there a couple of times, and some of the guys were kidding him about that. A group of us went up there to measure radiation from the system, because the FCC was starting out to smooth everything over. I don't know why that ketchup thing stuck in my mind.

Anyway, the first thing of importance was, don't let the radiated pattern interfere with the guy who is legitimately receiving the signal off the air. The guy who was legitimately receiving was probably getting 10 microvolts or something like that. And, the output end of a strip amplifier with a 1‑volt output tended to be a piece of a volt.

TAYLOR: Exactly. It sure did.

KIRK: We did a thing there ... when I realized what it was going to be like. We had to know what the cable was doing. Ken got busy on the thing and made a piece of equipment that could measure the radiation power from the cable--a piece of cable about 30 inches long, or something like that. He put it in a casket and tuned the thing so the length that filled the casket was a quarter wave‑length, about. Then he measured the power that was being dissipated there with a field strength meter. It was one of several things he did that made is possible to tell what the radiated field would look like with various power leakages. I put a row of short power poles around my farm there at Holland Station, Pennsylvania.

TAYLOR: So, that's where that was? I knew he had had such a thing.

KIRK: Yeah. We had wasted some time on open wire line, and the biggest complaint about the open wire was told to me by Don Rogers. He said, "It makes what is called a 'consensus' picture. The consensus is that the nose on that picture is about 'There!' "

With reflecting points and actual RF pickup points distributed around a half‑mile of cable or so, you get a fine looking picture, completely unusable.

TAYLOR: So, this was after you were with Jerrold permanently? You had moved up to the Philadelphia area? When did Dalck Feith get involved in things. He was the one, as I understand it, who did sheet metal work to make chassis and so on.

KIRK: From day one.

TAYLOR: From day one. I see. Was he a friend of Milt's beforehand? How did that come about?

KIRK: Yeah. He acted like Milt's money was good no matter what, and literally supported a piece of the operation for quite a while.

TAYLOR: Dalck Feith, later started a microwave business?

KIRK: That's right. That later company was called K&F Electronics.

If Milt needed some material at Jerrold--this was after the war, but we still had war production restrictions--you had to get a permit to buy brass, or whatever. Dalck would get a permit for what we needed, and run tap‑off units with boxes, or chassis, or whatever. And, he would make small runs for us without making a special die. He would use his general purpose tools. These were things we could not have done without.

TAYLOR: He did all the metal work then, like the little tap--the aluminum block.

KIRK: The metal work that Dalck did was mostly sheet metal, but he made some bulk metal parts. The "C" connectors were no good; they were too fragile. So Eric Winston designed a little skirt that screwed on the "C" connector and made an "F" connector. Things like that had to happen.

TAYLOR: When did Winston come in? Was he there about the time you were there? When you started, I mean?

KIRK: Yeah. About the time I started, you're right. He was downtown; he was not working at the lab.

TAYLOR: Well, did Eric work with Milt when he was selling boosters?

KIRK: No, Eric worked for Hank Arbeiter on all sorts of mechanical problems. I think the first thing I recall Eric Winston working on--we needed a little pole‑top converter for UHF to bring it down to VHF, and I made one of the things with little pipes and a piece of wave guide, so the wave guide became a cavity. There were three cavities side by each, and the weakest part about it was the tuning capacitor. I had one that you could screw that could move a slug up and down to change the capacity, because the slug was copper, I believe.

We made some of those, but they were not satisfactory because of the change in temperature; they didn't work right. Hank Arbeiter took this complaint at that point, and made a tuning capacitor that was rugged like you wouldn't believe. It was about a half‑inch in diameter, and it slid down into a Teflon sleeve. Teflon was little known at that time because it was close to $15 or $20 a pound, and it was heavy. But, this little capacitor Hank made became an "Arbeiter Trimmer," and you saw them used in all sorts of filters and traps, and that sort of thing, for a good while. I don't know whether they still make them or not, but they were made up until a few years ago.

TAYLOR: Is that so?

KIRK: Yes. It was a simple little thing. It was just a piece of Teflon that had step sizes, so that the last step was about a quarter inch rod shoved in it. The capacity from there to ground would vary when you screwed the thing in and out. That was a typical Hank Arbeiter design. Looked like it was over‑designed in every direction, except that it worked, and the others didn't.

TAYLOR: So, Arbeiter was the production man?

KIRK: He did a manufacturing engineer type of thing.

TAYLOR: And Dalck Feith was the one who produced the metal working components.

KIRK: Yes. Especially the sheet metal parts. One thing, I talked Dalck into building that lab out there, and he built it with his money and rented it to Shapp. That's what got us out of the second‑story kindergarten place when Milt built the lab.

TAYLOR: Oh, I see. That's the one at Hatboro then.

KIRK: Yeah. It wasn't as big as it is now.

TAYLOR: No. It's been enlarged. That's right.

KIRK: But, we didn't have the money to build the thing. It's a good building.

TAYLOR: The one I couldn't believe was the one over at Horsham. Now that was an enormous plant. Then they had a plant up in Springfield or near--no it wasn't Springfield--a little place in Massachusetts, Chicopee, or Chicopee Falls, I guess it was. And, then they had a plant down in Mexico.

KIRK: I never saw any of those.

TAYLOR: This was after you were out. Well, Dalck Feith became financially involved with Milt at some point.

KIRK: Dalck and I started up K&F Electronics, eventually.

TAYLOR: You had just said that Dalck Feith and you formed K&F to build microwave equipment, and that K&F was since sold to Jerrold.

KIRK: Right. When I left Jerrold, I went to Philco. I was chief engineer for industrial communications, the division that did civilian work. We had some contracts for satellite stuff, but it was minor. They were trying to get started in microwave, scatter communications, line‑of‑sight communications, TV cameras, and things of that nature. Their theory was that, because they were doing military contracts, they would have technology available that other companies wouldn't have. And, they wanted to put this technology into their new industrial products.

TAYLOR: Into consumer electronics?

KIRK: Into consumer electronics, but not things like TV sets. They had a bad thing that they didn't understand--that if you have part government contracts and part work for your own subsequent inventory, you do a funny thing. When the government project gets behind, you put your best men on it, and when the civilian one gets into trouble, you don't have the best men to put there--you already used them up. And, this is putting your money in the wrong place, because, if there is any slack off anywhere, the thing you financed takes it. I don't know how to do it any differently. I never worked where it was all government (except with the Navy). But I've seen some people who worked that way. They had a heck of a time. They were always busy worrying about their schedule, and never, "How do I get the project designed?"

But, I learned a lot about microwave while working for Philco, and after a while I decided, hell, I could make microwave. And, sure enough, we came up with a piece that I could sell to Jerrold to use on a video link to a CATV system, and could sell to Philco for a communication link to a multi‑channel telephone. We got Philco to buy microwave transmitters and receivers for a project in Vietnam for voice transmission. We got Jerrold to take some inventory of the same piece for video links.

TAYLOR: So, you left Jerrold and went to Philco. And, then the K&F started after that?

KIRK: Yeah, you're right. K&F was the company out of which I was selling gear to Philco. I was on very good terms with Philco. I told them, "Look, you guys tried, and you are going to make some more further trials. But, I don't believe you are going to succeed the way you do, because I know, in general, if it's something I want, I'll go buy one. But you don't do that in Philco, you have to give the contract to somebody to engineer it before you can buy it, if you don't have anything on the shelf, and you have no plans for putting anything on the shelf. You're not going to make any money that way." So, I told Philco I was going to make some microwave equipment and I would sell it to them. And, it worked out that way. Jerrold and Philco were the only two customers that K&F had for any volume of stuff.

TAYLOR: Well, how did you finance K&F? How did you get the money to do that?

KIRK: Dalck Feith had it. We got it up to where it was running about a million dollars a year, and he had a pretty good size coat pocket in which he carried all the current invoices. He pulled them out once a day and looked at them. If it was the right time to pay it off, he paid it off. He had about fifteen people working for him; he knew what everyone was doing, down to when he was last in jail. Because Dalck probably got him out of jail.

We had one funny thing happen. Ernie was a great big chap. The strange thing about Ernie was the rhythm with which he could go through a stack of steel. He could move it from over here to a carrier over there and make maybe ten holes in it in just the right places--beautiful work that just flowed across like that. But, he couldn't last through Saturday night to save his soul. One day a call came for Mr. Feith, and it's a bailiff down at the courthouse, and he said, "Ernie had been fined for $75 or something like that for whatever he'd done Saturday night and bail." Dalck said, "Who's the judge?" and the guy answered. Dalck said, "Tell the judge I'll see him at the Pinochle game at the club and pay him back, if he'll pay the $75." Dalck was that way with his people; he took care of all the details, or fixed it so they could.

TAYLOR: Well, he made money on this metal business that he was in--metal fabricating.

KIRK: The thing there was that Dalck knew how to run a shop the size it was. He didn't have to have a big room with two secretaries and a purchasing agent, and all that kind of thing. He watched the small things and let the big ones take care of themselves. He had habits that I didn't like, but as long as he and I were on the same team, pulling for the same thing, there was no question of trust entirely. If you two are on opposite sides, then you both have to watch each other. He had been offered about four or five opportunities to get himself killed during the war. Dalck was of German extraction, and things had been rough. You can see the imprint of a bottle or something on the back of his head. But, it was a new experience for me to work with him.

TAYLOR: When did you go to Philco? Do you recall a date for that? When you left Jerrold?

KIRK: No, I don't. It was in the fall; I had been there about a year. [Note: The date I went to work with Philco was December 1, 1958.]

TAYLOR: With Philco?

KIRK: With Philco. We had a couple of experiences. Philco sold some microwave to a lady in Rapid City, South Dakota. They stalled around, stalled around, getting it working. Finally, they were able to let her put in some program hours. She was picking up some Denver station, bringing it up five hops to Rapid City. Philco wanted to finish the installation in daylight working hours. "No," she said, "you can finish when you want to, but I've got to have some programming." Then they started giving her programming with the microwave, and then you couldn't turn it off, because you had popular demand for the programming from the people in Rapid City.

TAYLOR: These were Philco microwaves?

KIRK: Yes. They were sorry microwaves. They were designed, and a few had been produced, when I got there. So, I went into the field with a co‑op student, Bill Lambert. Bill and I ran up and down the system, and we rebuilt the receivers by turning them off from midnight 'til morning.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. Was Bill with Philco?

KIRK: Yeah. He left Philco and came with me to K&F later.

TAYLOR: Yeah, at K&F. So, K&F started when, probably the early '60s--'61 or '62? Or, was it earlier than that?

KIRK: Earlier than that, I thought. No, I was with Jerrold--I saw some little stuff here when we did the experiment on a program‑by‑program billing system Jerrold tried in about 1955. [It was actually in 1958.]

TAYLOR: I see. Then, I heard Ken Simons talking about the Dubuque, Iowa system.

KIRK: Was this the one with the ...

TAYLOR: That was not quite video.

KIRK: Yeah! That was a real experience, and I enjoyed working with Ken on that. What happened there, we got this contract to wire Dubuque, and they had four channels that they could receive about twelve miles away. That was a lot of money to put up a good size coaxial. So, we did some figures indicating that you can use RG59 at low frequency. I think we wound up using four amplifiers, each one carrying one channel.

TAYLOR: Probably eleven, though--RG11.

KIRK: No, fifty-nine. It turns out that there is a funny thing that you used about the same amount of copper and polyethylene and stuff like that if you used individual cables for work or one cable big enough to support ...

TAYLOR: You did that in a paper, the IEEE, I think, explained that situation.

KIRK: Well, we argued back and for about this and then the railroad company (I think it was the railroad) would give us rights to plow cable into the embankment. And, that looked like a good deal to me. Ken did the converters. They were a real pain. I did the amplifiers for him. We had never built an amplifier with 20 dB of tilt across the 1.0 ‑ 7.0 MHz band. But, that's about what it came to. Hank did something like 60 dB of gain per line amplifier. We got pretty good pictures on the thing.

The thing that scared me was when we got a call--from Caywood Cooley, I think--one day, and we were talking about how things were going. I told him we had done some measurements on the cross‑talk between cables and equipment in dirt, and it looks like everything was all right. He said, "Well, you don't have to worry about that anymore. We won't have to put the cable underground anymore. We changed our franchise. We put the cable up on cross‑arms and tied them in together." Nobody had measured the cross‑talk in this configuration, and here we had four carriers all the same frequency, 2.25 MHz.

What we were doing, we had an AM signal that was a carrier below the frequency of the first major side band. It doesn't look like the classic picture anymore. We tried this thing in my backyard; we dug up trenches, put same cables in, and measured it. And the place where you could get in trouble was where you had an amplifier--it has low signal voltage here at the input, and pretty high voltage over at the output. The signal leaks back around the amplifier. So, you wanted to spread things out a bit there. You begin to use some high loss dirt in the path between output and input cable.

TAYLOR: Ken told about the HLD--high loss dirt.

KIRK: The thing is, they had put the cable up on poles. They had cross‑talk, and we could measure cross talk. We put an input cable on one channel and an output cable on the other three channels, and the cross talk was what came out of the number one channel, which had a cable on its input. So, I knew we had to do something. We needed a real quick, good idea. We made a panel and put a couple of emitter followers for each channel on it, and we took the signal from that channel, cut it down to the right amount, and injected it into each of the other channels. We inverted it by putting a piece of cable the right length to get the delay right. So, you could get the delay size adjusted for Channel 1, and then do the same thing for Channel 2, Channel 3, and Channel 4. You go to 2 and do the same thing. This added up to a hatful of cable. It reminds me of the mobile passive unit with the flicker‑dicker arrangement.

TAYLOR: The ghost eliminator.

KIRK: Yeah. It was a real problem. I got another excited call from Caywood, as soon as it started raining. The delay was wrong.

TAYLOR: When did Caywood come into the picture? Was he with the company when you came full‑time, when you moved to Pennsylvania?

KIRK: The only thing I remember, Caywood was in the company at the time Hank got married. I don't know; he was pretty much a fixture in field engineering problems at the time I knew him.

TAYLOR: Now, he was more in the marketing side, wasn't he?

KIRK: Well, he was sort of a bridge between marketing and field engineer. He dragged in some wild ones. Somebody came in and wanted an amplifier, a low noise preamp for Channel 22, or something like that, way up in high frequency. You really needed it because the sale hung on that. Somebody found out that if you backed down the back of a sharp ridge that you lost the pickup from the corona discharge on the power line that ran parallel on the other side of the ridge. When you did that, you needed a really low noise amplifier because the antenna can only be so big.

So, I think we got a ... I think it was a tube called a 416, if I remember right. It was a planer triode, for use at 4 GHz, and the noise figure was about 2 db or something like that. When we got the contract, I ordered the tubes and got a box made out of quarter inch brass plates bolted together as cavities. We threaded the plates where the grid plane screwed in with some outlandish thread count. But, that was the way you put that thing in, and sure enough we got it to work.

The only thing I remember long‑term out of it was that we worked on this thing for about six weeks; we didn't have a signal generator that was any good in that frequency band. So we used local UHF stations. They were not on all of the time. They came on by about three o'clock in the afternoon with the kids programs. We learned all about the man in the white mask and that sort of stuff. It came to the end of our time, and we were just about to get the thing going. The last reel of the movie was going to show--they had been running this about six weeks, looking at the same movie!! And everybody gathered around, and we turned it on. Hey! We got a good picture, but it was the wrong station. They were giving us the cowboy movie we had seen before.

It was a very congenial setup there, in Jerrold lab. Everybody either liked each other, or at least got along with each other. I don't know which, but it was peaceful and hard working.

TAYLOR: When you went to Philco, how big was the Jerrold organization at that time?

KIRK: They had about fifteen people in the lab.

TAYLOR: Were they in downtown Philadelphia, or were they up in north Philadelphia?

KIRK: Most of them in north Philadelphia. Yeah, we had a pretty fair sized model shop eventually out there. We could handle building ten or twenty units at a time. Sometimes the lab-built units would look pretty much the same as factory-built units. We could not do large press work, but we had two fellows--George Burrell is one of them who was with us for a time. George did molds for plastic, and he knew how to create fairly complex molds that were still relatively inexpensive.

TAYLOR: It is intriguing to me how Milt could keep this financial thing going. That takes a lot of money to have those people and have all the equipment and the engineering, and so on.

KIRK: Yeah. Actually, he never stalled us on anything we really needed. If we needed it, we just made our case, and it seemed like he got it for us.

TAYLOR: He, himself, didn't have money; he didn't have means. He had to raise it somehow.

KIRK: There's a story about he and Zal Garfield when they finally went public. They went to New York for the closing. And, when they came back on the train, they got a seat in the club car early because they were tired from the day on Wall Street. So, they were sitting there talking about where to put $100,000 into this, put some money into that, and finally the waiter brought their meal and stood around for a bit. They looked at each other and said, "You got some money?" The waiter explained about credit ratings.

SHORT BREAK

TAYLOR: We have just returned from having a nice lunch. We were talking at lunch, I believe, about Zal Garfield, and I'd like to ask when did Zal come into the picture and what was his position in the company?

KIRK: That caused some minor trouble between Milt and me. Zal came in, I guess, about '54, something like that. And, his position was executive vice president. But, they had him down as president's assistant, or something like that--a subordinate position. The problem with this was, as far as I was concerned, it didn't really describe what the man did. Essentially, Garfield was running the day‑to‑day operations of the company.

This would have been no problem, except that I had tried to get some contract work on cryptographic equipment. Jerrold, it seemed to me, should know about straightforward communications and should know about secured communications also. I thought I could see a need for scrambled communications or cryptographic communication for pay television in our future. The same kind of people ought to be able to design it here and do it. But, for example, we had a case where Max Kraus had something to do; he needed a signature of an official, and he was complaining about this to me. He had to meet the train and get Milt to step off and sign the thing. Milt was always coming through on a train. So, I said, "Why don't you get Zal to do it." Max said, "Zal isn't authorized to sign the thing." That surprised me because he behaved as though he would be--the signing of an authorization would be something that fell in his category. I don't know.

The more I thought about it, the more worried I became because it seemed to me that the only thing that would be bad if Max or Zal had high power would be a conflict between us and an official outfit that can handle military classification--high security risk. In other words, if Zal could do what he was doing every day, he should have been high enough on the management totem pole.

TAYLOR: Where did the military security come in?

KIRK: Well, I was trying to get a contract by going down to NSA, trying to convince them that we knew enough about video that we could make a thing that would work in the field for video encryption. They were real nice and, well, noncommunicative.

TAYLOR: But, you felt that Zal Garfield didn't have a lofty enough title to ...

KIRK: Well, it was not a question of being lofty enough to get the clearance. This was during the years of--what's the guy's name--the guy that caused all the ruckus. I can't think of his name ... during the early cold war years.

TAYLOR: Oh, I see. To get the clearance. In the Jerrold outfit?

KIRK: No, nationwide. The congressman that had everybody up there.

TAYLOR: Oh, yeah! From Wisconsin. You scared it out of me at the moment, but I know who you mean.

KIRK: Well, see this was his day in the sun. Everybody was trying their case by what's‑his‑name. And, it looked like to me that--suppose somebody did some serious searching. I had a security clearance before I could work on the A‑bomb.

TAYLOR: You're talking about McCarthy. Joe McCarthy.

KIRK: Yeah, right! And, I would pay hell trying to convince a judge and jury that I worked in the same company on the same level with the guy and didn't know anything about him. But, as a matter of fact, that was the truth; I didn't know anything about Garfield.

TAYLOR: Did he have something in his background that could have caused trouble with Joe McCarthy?

KIRK: There were a lot of rumors around, but I have no absolute proof. Anyway, I went to Milt and told him that I didn't want to get hung up; I didn't want to be calling on NSA. He said, "Well, don't do it then," or something to that effect. It went on, and I told him if Zal is behaving like the executive vice president, all I want is for him to be vice president in title also. Then I've got no complaint, because I defend myself against Joe Blow, but I couldn't argue against somebody who essentially ran the company. What cured me was that Milt had no comment.

TAYLOR: Now, who was Max Kraus? I know that name.

KIRK: Max Kraus was a man who had--he was a young chap, I guess twenty-five or thirty, pretty bright, and had a number of jobs before he finally got the job that put you out the window, which was project planning. That's what you do with the guy who is too good to fire and not quite good enough to promote.

TAYLOR: He was not an engineer, right?

KIRK: No, he was not. Max knew a cursory amount about engineering. He had various positions and did reasonably well. At one point, I wound up working for Max. Because of some dealing on the stock, I was in such a position he could not give me a raise without changing his budget for his division because it was salary in return for company stock, not for working.

TAYLOR: Well, now, Kraus and Garfield got in the picture what, late in the 1950s?

KIRK: Yeah. Zal Garfield came in. He was the hatchet man for a number of things that needed to be taken care of. Some people left.

TAYLOR: Toward the end of the '50s. Is that after you came in permanently?

KIRK: Oh, yeah! Well, just before I left. Because what happened was Milt wouldn't do what I suggested about changing Garfield's title, or tell me why.

TAYLOR: It was Garfield then that really triggered your deciding you should leave?

KIRK: Well, not really him, but his connection with Milt in the whole story. I could put up with what he did. I wasn't hurt at all by it. He had fairly high regard for my engineering ability. None at all for my business. He was probably right on that. But, all I wanted was assurances--I wanted assurances as far as they knew they were all loyal American citizens in anything to do in this government project I was trying to get. So, I resigned. I think Milt was very disappointed. I heard some things said about it, but we didn't part company with any real malice toward each other. And, when I started out persuading Dalck Feith to get K&F started in microwaves, the first thing we did was to go see Milt and ask him if it was okay with him. And, he was gracious.

TAYLOR: They sold the K&F microwave through Jerrold?

KIRK: Yes, after I started it. Well, they were helpful. I guess what we really did, Dalck sold it to Milt. It was a funny situation. A lot of what Dalck Feith did was because he wanted to be like Milt. He wanted to start a company, have it going and have people recognize that he was the moving factor in it. All of which is true. But, he didn't fuss at me or anything really because there was no point in it. He knew it.

TAYLOR: Another name very familiar to me is Lee Zemnick.

KIRK: He was a good salesman. He did a good job of figuring out why you should buy Jerrold this or that.

TAYLOR: He was in charge of marketing and sales. He later became really an executive assistant to Milt and actually took many of the jobs Milt had.

KIRK: Well, Milt didn't want to be a tyrant.

TAYLOR: Oh, he let Lee be the tyrant.

KIRK: Yeah! Let Garfield by the tyrant. Not Zemnick.

TAYLOR: Oh, it was Garfield. I see.

KIRK: Not terribly so. There was a case where I think the evidence was convincing, but it didn't spill over around the edges. I think that Zemnick figured what he was doing; that everybody loved him, and maybe they did, I don't know.

TAYLOR: We talked at lunch about the pressure tap, which I gather you had a considerable amount to do with.

KIRK: I only made the first one.

TAYLOR: Made the first one? Conceived the idea, I presume.

KIRK: I'll tell you this. I would say, yes, but no. When two of you are working on a thing and finally get it to work--maybe one of you chased the cat out so that the other could have some peace to work in.

TAYLOR: With whom were you working?

KIRK: George Edlund would come over to my house.

TAYLOR: Oh, Edlund. You were working together?

KIRK: Yes. Let me see if I can explain the whole situation. I got a call from Milt Shapp, and he told me that George Edlund would be working with Jerrold as a salesman in the Baltimore area. George got some jobs where we put in systems for sales purposes on department stores where we hooked up fifteen or twenty TV sets at a time. They wanted something to run them all, so they wouldn't have to have an antenna on each one. For each set, we had a cathode follower tapped on the line to give signal to the individual set. The cathode follower bit was because we all had a background in radar, where you use cathode followers anytime you want to get a low impedance outputs.

Pretty soon, we recognized that we had a problem because the system would oscillate through many configurations because of the many different lengths of cable from the tap off to the individual TV set. We called the little box that had the tubes in it ADO, and the first one was ADO‑2; later there were ADO‑4 and ADO‑8. I had a set‑up in my basement in Bethesda so we could try to cure the oscillation trouble with a small system there, just cables scattered around the laboratory. We tried to get it so we would have no trouble when we put it in ... it wouldn't oscillate.

George Edlund would come over at night, and we would work together in the basement. It got to be recognized that when you turned the power off to the ADO, it wouldn't oscillate, and effectively you had just a capacity tap on the line. We made some little boxes out of sheet metal that were about an inch cubed and had fittings on two sides with a single fitting on one side where the tap‑off entered and would go to the TV set. I don't know how many of these we made. I believe at least several installations were made with these little cubed sheet metal boxes for TV dealers.

George Edlund had a contract with some apartment building to put a TV distribution system in, and it rapidly became apparent that the little sheet metal box wasn't the best solution in the world, because it wouldn't go into the standard AC outlet box that they wanted to put on the apartment wall. That was when we designed the little metal block with the fittings on two sides and one end. I don't know when we started using both resistors and capacitors as tap‑off impedance. The first one I clearly remember was one that had a small capacitor; the capacitor was a small cylinder with leads coming out of each end and they would just fit between the tap‑off fitting and the two through fittings in the line. The tap‑off (which was made in one brass block originally, and later aluminum) was available at the time Bob Tarlton first put in a system outside one building which looked like a community antenna system.

The little metal block was handy because it could easily be weather‑proofed to some extent by just wrapping tape around the outside. In that respect, it was better than the little sheet metal cube because it didn't have cracks in it where radiation problems could arise. My recollection is that George Edlund and I were working one evening in my basement, and we made some blocks and made tap‑off units in them with probably resistors and capacitors with the size picked to give the right amount of signal at the tap‑off. It became apparent that if you wanted to put the system in an open‑air situation--that is, on a power line--that it would be nice not to have to make so many coax fitting joints. We made a clamp‑type block and through the mounting hole for one fitting, we drilled a hole through the insulation and the braid of the cable. The braid was contacted by some pins in the split block, and the center pin of the connector was driven into the center wire of the coax cable.

At that point, things really began to get complicated. I had a local machine shop make some parts for me, and George Edlund offered to be a go‑between to work with the metal working shop. At that time, I was working for the Navy in the daytime, but with overtime most of the time. So, I took George up on his offer.

Later, we discovered that Edlund had gotten Dalck Feith to get an allocation of brass from one of the armed forces agencies that controlled the sale of metal at that point. Dalck had a permit to buy brass. Edlund got the shop to take the brass and make the little blocks for the tap‑off units which we sold to people who wanted to put in apartment house distribution systems.

At some time during this period, I met Hank Diambra, who was an associate of Edlund's. I don't recall the date, and I didn't see him very often (but it must have been in 1953‑1954, because by this time, I had moved up to Clinton, Maryland). Edlund and Diambra came to visit one Sunday afternoon, and as they were getting ready to go--after about a five‑hour visit--George told me that they were working with another company, and he would be leaving Jerrold. This was the first time I'd ever talked with him about what his relationship with Jerrold was.

That afternoon, we had talked over all the things we had planned, and what I was working on at the moment. I called Milt Shapp and asked him what the situation was. He had just found out that Edlund had been making trips into the eastern Pennsylvania area and selling equipment under the name of Entron. Edlund had told people up there that he was working with me, and that he had the latest information on what the new products would be, and of course he would be able to get them stuff through Entron the same as he could from Jerrold. I told Milt that I had never given George any information that I understood to be proprietary to Jerrold.

Milt understood that I would not double cross him, and our relationship stayed just as it had been. We didn't see George Edlund or Hank Diambra again until we met in the courtroom where there was a patent suit on the pressure tap‑off unit, probably two or three years later. We were able to show that the idea of pushing the contact pin through insulation was old and well known to the art, and the patent was nullified.

KIRK: There are a couple things I should mention. Just about the time we got our situation cleared up and stopped making the ADO‑2, which would oscillate, another company in the Philadelphia area came out with a copy of the ADO‑2. We never did hear what they did with the unit that they made, because they obviously wouldn't sell very well when people knew that there was trouble with them. The second point--we found that there was a valid use for the ADO concept. It was in apartment houses where you would have a source of signal at the elevator penthouse on top of the apartment building, and you wanted to feed lines that ran down the side of the building.

Ken Simons made an ADO done right. He designed a matching network between the plate of a 6AK5 and the 75 ohm output cable. And with this knowhow, he designed an ADO‑8 that could be placed on top of an apartment building with the lines draped down over the sides. I guess this was the first work on antenna distribution outlet box that was any good.

That whole thing has been carried on many stages beyond what we are talking about now. What I just described was done in the first few days. It went on until they recognized that you have to take part of the energy out in series and part in parallel to make a matched tap. If it acts like a resistive load, you have to do ...

TAYLOR: That's when you got the directional tap.

KIRK: Yes. The directional tap is the same kind of thing.

TAYLOR: Is that one of your patents, the directional tap?

KIRK: No, I don't believe so. I may have put an application in, but killed it later. But, while we were working on it, somebody else had it. But, I don't recall.

TAYLOR: Well, then, there was the one they called the back matched tap, which was a transformer coupling.

KIRK: Yeah. And the back matched tap matched the TV set out to the line. If energy came out of that, it meant that the TV set was mismatched. When the energy came back, it had to be dissipated, not reflected.

Oh! I have to tell you. All this sounds like we have been quibbling about small things. Let me show you something; I can't find it now. Matched cable, when you get a reel of cable, the reason the ends are both available while it's still wound up on the reel is because Ken wanted to be able to measure the continuity and measure the impedance match. That was an important improvement. Here's a piece of cable--this piece you could put a signal in here, and if it was TV band here, it will show on the TV set here. But, this one had an attenuator notch which was so sharp, and so well spaced, that it took--what was it, 40 to 70 MHz, or something like that?

TAYLOR: Eighty, almost; 86 dB down.

KIRK: Yes. You put that on, and the sound would not play through it, as I recall. So, everybody wanted to know what was wrong with this piece of cable, and we chopped it up very carefully.

TAYLOR: Now, I have seen that curve before, and we actually had one like that up in Montana where the signal just simply would not go through on one channel. But, I think it was the picture that wouldn't go through, but then you didn't have your inter‑carrier, so you didn't get the sound either.

KIRK: Well, what happened is there's a lump capacity about every two feet--very accurately two feet--and what was needed to make an attenuator was exactly that. You wonder how the center conductor did this strange and wonderful thing. Well, the center conductor is made out of six strands of copper, and one center strand all wrapped up. Something had gone wrong with the feed machine, and the center conductor was too long. So, every time it got about four or five turns too long, the machine made it spin tight like a little knot. If you took just the polyethylene and looked at it, it looked like a snake swallowing a light bulb.

TAYLOR: You can even see it on the outside.

KIRK: Yeah, once you get it through the braid, but you could put it on a sweep and show it. You see, that was a terrible example, but the same thing happened to a lesser extent any time you had a uniform irregularity.

TAYLOR: Yes, that's interesting. That picture has been published. I've seen that in other publications. Very interesting. [There is a comment in the published article--Simons, KIRK:, Arbeiter, 1954--by Lester Smith of Spencer Kennedy.]

KIRK: Oh, yes, that's back to the distributed amplifiers. There was another man who was a real mover in this market, Ike Blonder.

TAYLOR: Oh, indeed.

KIRK: He would have a totally different picture of the thing. He was selling hardware. He was not selling systems. He sold a bunch of hardware and a lot of it worked. I never met Ben Tongue.

TAYLOR: Ike is garrulous and outspoken, and Ben Tongue is absolutely silent. He is a total introvert. Ben Tongue is the one who has the engineering genius. And it was Ike Blonder who had the marketing push and the business skills and so on to make it work.

KIRK: The last time I saw Ike was about ten years ago. He and I passed each other in the hall outside of a meeting on scrambling, and he said, "KIRK:, why don't you get in there and tell them how it really works."

TAYLOR: Sounds like Ike.

KIRK: It's nice when you know it came from somebody who had been there.

TAYLOR: Among any of these papers, do you have a list of patents in your name?

KIRK: No, I don't.

TAYLOR: You don't?

KIRK: As I recall, there are about ten or a dozen actually issued. I left some applications because the prosecution for patent was dropped when I left the company for a different job. Some of my patents are on things like how to weld a plastic button to a shirt. I didn't know it needed to be sewed. Ike Blonder and I had an interference on one application for a tap‑off for a line for pay television. I think I won that one. I also had one for a multiple spark system for automobile ignition. That one belonged to my oldest son and me. There were several on microwave systems, and several on pay television problems.

TAYLOR: I'm going to, as a part of this study, use one of these big data bases that has all the patent information, and search it for the names of these key people like Simons, KIRK:, Winston, Ragone, and all these people who were involved. Shekel ... I haven't been to Entron yet, but probably they got some from Diambra and some others. I'm also going to be talking to Jim Palmer and C‑COR. And I'm trying to find Earl Hickman from Ameco, Bruce Merrill, you know.

KIRK: I know the name.

TAYLOR: Well, I knew Earl quite well. But he had disappeared from sight, and I still haven't been able to find out how to reach him.

KIRK: For some of them, you may need a shovel.

TAYLOR: Well, I hope not. Because Earl is younger than I am and he should still be going strong. Sometime along here you left K&F, and you were at American Satellite Company, weren't you?

KIRK: No. But, it could be that Digital Communications changed to that name after I left it.

TAYLOR: No? Oh, I thought I talked to you one time when you were with ...

KIRK: Oh, hold everything. If that was the year the NCTA show was in New Orleans and the city got flooded, Paolini and Frank Merklein were trying to start a joint effort with Western Union, and they used a Western Union satellite channel turned on by some celebrity at the show. The effort never amounted to anything.

TAYLOR: Well, it must be that maybe you were working as a consultant to the Satellite Company or American Satellite Company.

KIRK: Oh, that could be.

TAYLOR: As I seem to remember, seeing you at some show, you were with the company, in their booth. Yeah, and you were probably a consultant to it. This, I think, was before you went into the St. Petersburg Communications company.

KIRK: Well, I did that fairly soon after I left Jerrold [1968].

TAYLOR: Or left K&F.

KIRK: Yeah. I just don't recall it. We sold K&F to Jerrold. I worked for Jerrold for about two years. I left Jerrold in 1967 and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida.

TAYLOR: Do you remember when you started that St. Petersburg company?

KIRK: Would '68 do it?

TAYLOR: It's not too far off. Because you had .... Who was the fellow with you? Paolini?

KIRK: Mike Paolini. He moved down from Philadelphia, and we started Digital Communications.

TAYLOR: You and Paolini, I think, had an article in that special CATV issue of the Proceedings of the IEEE in 1970. So, it was probably 1968 when you started.

KIRK: Could be. I did some satellite work, and I did get a patent on a gadget for putting two channels on one FM microwave channel. I did another, and I'm really proud of it, but nobody else liked it.

What we did was improving signal‑to‑noise ratio for any signal where you can tolerate delay. It turns out that if you have a signal in a channel through a satellite up here, and if, at this point, you can establish a delay between the signal you're going to use and a copy of itself, you can take advantage of the time delay to change the parameters of the system at the time the signal which is going to be used is present. In other words, the signal comes in and you put both signals in RAM. Now, one of them you pull out of RAM, and you measure how much the peak‑to‑peak amplitude is for this signal. Maybe it's black here and white over here, and maybe you need only half of the dynamic range of the channel.

Well, you can up the gain of the channel at that instant so that it would take the signal that was low and make it big, but it won't do that to the nose. That way, you can eventually recover the information with a gadget that takes the signal back down where it ought to be. It's just like a pre‑emphasis network. If you know that you're not going to put a big, dynamic signal in, look at the low frequency signal at the input and find the peak‑to‑peak value. Boost the gain by an amount that uses all of the dynamic range of the channel, and look at the other end as though you had boosted the signal, but didn't boost the gain.

The interesting thing about it is that it need not be a satellite. You can do the same thing with a tape player. You can look, hold one in memory while you decide what to do about it, do it, and your results are more noise‑free than if you hadn't done this. You can take a signal and look at it to see how it would be if you did this enhancement stuff. You can do it with a graphical presentation.

While I was at Jerrold before I left to go to St. Petersburg, I did a school transmitter for Jerrold. It was a 10‑watt piece at 2500 MHz band, and we took it through to get type acceptance on it. Don Rogers did the receiver for the network.

While I was with Digital Communications, we were doing hotel video, and having a bad time with the tape recorders and receivers used in the hotel systems. One thing was a bad skew situation where the tape players at that point had a knob which you turned to adjust the tension of the magnetic tape to get the skew reduced to an acceptable value. We made a power supply and skew detector for use with the tape players, we bolted a small 10 rpm motor on the tape player, with coupling to the skew correction knob. The circuitry looked at the skew in the picture, and it turned the knob the way it had to go to reduce the skew to an acceptable value. In the hotel television business, we were using up a good many reels of tape, and we wanted to be able to refill the reels with a different picture.

This wouldn't be worthwhile if the tape was used so much that the coating was starting to go. So, we had to find some way of measuring quality of the tape without having to have someone sit and look at the picture all the way through. My oldest son and I tried various schemes, but finally, we found that you took a counter and put it on the dropout network of the tape player, and counted the number of times the signal dropped out. You could take the logarithm of this number, and that was indicative of whether or not the tape was in bad shape. We could set a value that would work most of the time. The basic trouble was that the dropouts on a magnetic tape tend to come in clusters, and a small cluster doesn't do much. But, beyond a certain size, it becomes quite visible in the recovered picture. I don't know what you do with this kind of information when the price of the tape reels goes down to where it doesn't pay to reuse it at all.

TAYLOR: We will proceed here. I'm not sure if I remember where we were.

KIRK: We were talking about Mike Paolini.

TAYLOR: Oh, yes. We were talking about Mike Paolini and what his background was, and how you met him, and how you got into that business.

KIRK: I think Paolini had worked at Philco before I met him. I met him at Jerrold. He came to Jerrold as a co‑op, and I met him when they decided they were going to give us more help in engineering. He worked, I think, as a co‑op under Mike Jeffers. I needed someone to help me with a wide band multiplex channel for our microwave. Paolini came to us essentially to do that. He was smart. There's no two ways about it. He was fast at grasping things.

TAYLOR: This is Mike Paolini?

KIRK: Yes. And he can work hard if he has to. But he's no gentleman. After a while, that grinds on you.

TAYLOR: Yes, but he was with Jerrold then?

KIRK: Yes, he was with Jerrold. I know what it was. We got two engineers who were working for Mike Jeffers under some circumstances at the Lab. And they gave us both of them. I've forgotten who the other one was. I don't know anything to tie it to. Paolini came there, and for some reason or other he liked working for me. And he pushed in pretty much if he wanted your time.

TAYLOR: What brought you to St. Petersburg from Philadelphia?

KIRK: I wasn't going to work for Jerrold anymore, and we just chose a general area to look at.

TAYLOR: How did you choose St. Petersburg?

KIRK: My wife, Alice, and I both came from south Alabama, but we didn't see much chance for a job in electronics there. We didn't want to be right there, anyway. Sometimes it's easier to live a little way away from the rest of the family. But we wanted to be near enough so if anybody needed anything, we could help. St. Pete fulfilled that.

TAYLOR: I see.

KIRK: And we went out and looked around, and the old people looked like pretty clean citizens to me, and we thought we would be happy there.

TAYLOR: Now, did you have from selling K&F, you had some funds that enabled you to finance this operation, I take it.

KIRK: Yeah. It was a funny sort of thing. Dalck and I had this K&F going, but he had never split it off from DALCO, which was his basic company. DALCO was a little money maker for him.

TAYLOR: That was his primary business initially?

KIRK: Yeah. He simply paid for stuff out of DALCO. I mean the rent was DALCO's building. The electricity was DALCO's, and I didn't realize, tax‑wise, it was pretty raw.

Eventually, we got some pretty good orders moving through, for receivers and transmitters and 14 GHz stuff. Dalck was afraid that we would mess up and not be able to get Milt to continue buying from us. The Vietnam thing was still going, and we shipped a dozen or so hops over there, and Ralph Douglas went and installed them for K&F. Dalck decided that this would be a good time to clean out. So Dalck made up a set of books the way he wanted them, and he showed the manufacturing done for K&F by DALCO went into the pot, and the rent went into the pot, and the whole thing was a pretty good sized chunk of money that could be expensed out, because it obviously wasn't much use anymore. Well, I objected because he was charging K&F a real small amount for the metal work, and the rent, and the rest of the stuff. This made K&F look like it had made a pretty good amount of money for the year, and I considered it unrealistic.

TAYLOR: Well, this amounts to the fact then that when the business was sold, he got most of the money, and you didn't get very much?

KIRK: No. I had set aside two 5 percent blocks of what I had. One was to go to Frank Stiano, and the other was to go to Bill Lambert and to Johnny Nardontonia. Have you heard of him?

TAYLOR: No.

KIRK: Johnny Nardontonia was a young kid about eighteen years old when he came to work for Jerrold about 1949. He would come down to our house in Bethesda (while I was still in the Navy and working part‑time), and stay for a week at a time, building things he needed for Jerrold. Nardontonia wanted to learn. He worked hard, no matter what you wanted. Nardontonia was with me at Jerrold in the early days; he followed me to Philco when I went there, and he came to K&F after we formed that company. By that time, he was a very capable engineer.

Anyway, Dalck created a pretty good size fight involving all of us. I knew that the fight would be over as soon as the business transaction was done and once the papers were signed. Then Feith and I would be on the same side of the table again, trying to maximize Jerrold's profit, because we owed some to Milt. And, that's what happened.

Johnny Nardontonia came to me, as things settled down, to apologize for having gone against me at one point in the fight. There were no hard feelings on my part by then. But, Johnny had been very worried that I would hold it against him personally. I told him no, I hoped I could help him out, and so on. And he said, "Really, do you forgive me?" I said, "Yes, no point in holding any grudge." He went back and told Feith "KIRK: forgives me." Feith came through with a classic, "Since he forgives you, why aren't you at your bench working?"

TAYLOR: Well, how did you finance the St. Petersburg operation?

KIRK: Well, if you want to do it by yourself, and you're really careful, you don't spend as much money. It was a funny thing there. I got paid a certain amount as a down payment from the sale of K&F, and I got my pay in Jerrold shares. Because that's what was going to Jerrold, Jerrold paid me in shares. And this didn't help me any, cash‑wise. But, I just sat still until the end of the primary payment coverage came. I didn't do anything for a year. And then I called up Bob Beisswenger and told him that I was glad we hadn't either one of us canceled the extension, but that I'd appreciate the stock that goes with the second helping, as well as the cash. The contract had been written out so that what it looked like was an acceptance of a bill, that you renegotiate the thing and double the length of time, in other words. Garfield looked at it, I'm told, and he was pleased that they had it typed there, and that I got so much, I think 22,000 shares of stock, or something like that. I wasn't hungry anyhow, so I could use that fairly slowly. Bob Beisswenger figured I wouldn't be able to put my kids through school, or anything like that, because I wouldn't have the money. And they (Jerrold) could hold on to the thing as long as need be.

What he didn't know was that there was a little thing called a swap mutual fund at that time. I don't know if you ever saw one or not. It's where guys that have money, shares that they picked up as bonuses, could take them and throw them in the pot and pay it back in shares of mutual fund.

TAYLOR: I see.

KIRK: And, pretty soon I found a swap mutual fund that would take restricted stock. I kept their stock all through the time here, except that if I took $100,000 worth of stock and then swapped it, I could get them to pay off in cash. So, I could use the cash I had.

TAYLOR: Was the Jerrold stock restricted then?

KIRK: Yes. The stock used to buy K&F was restricted for about four or five years. What happened was, when Feith finally realized I was still working for Jerrold, there was no use still being mad at me, because he wasn't going to do anything about it anyway. Dalck went and told the financial officer, the fellow who ran the money end of Jerrold--I want to say Sel Kremer, but not Sel Kremer. But about his same size and shape. [It was Pomerantz.]

TAYLOR: I guess I don't know them well enough to know. If you mention a name, I probably would remember.

KIRK: Yes, you would. Because he's the one you went to about stuff on credit from Jerrold.

TAYLOR: No.

KIRK: He did pretty much what Feith told him. Si Pomerantz--you knew him. They were both trading favors back and forth.

TAYLOR: Was Feith in the Jerrold organization?

KIRK: No. He was good friends and a big stockholder.

TAYLOR: Just friendly.

KIRK: But that didn't keep him from calling up the receiving officer with Jerrold to get Jerrold's truck to go out and pick up some paint and stuff and take it somewhere else. Not to Jerrold.

TAYLOR: Did you go back into Jerrold then after you sold K&F? Did you go into Jerrold's employ?

KIRK: Yes. Milt said he would not buy K&F unless I would agree to accept an employment contract with Jerrold. The head of Jerrold Lab was a new man; I forget his name. Beisswenger told him to keep me away from Jerrold employees, and he didn't know what he should do. He asked me what to do, and I told him I could rent a space out in Southampton and put a small lab there where I could work. He let me do that.

He sent me to a digital seminar, and I learned something about digital electronics. Meantime, I also could do some studying. It was lonesome in the lab with no one but me, but I got a good chance to do some studying. I was also outside where the Philadelphia city wage tax was levied, and I had some good friends who arranged for me to give a seminar on a weekly basis on microwave systems such as Jerrold was making.

I went in there after I sent them a letter asking them to send me the stock as well as the cash. See, what I really wanted to do was prevent the IRS coming down on me, wanting cash as if the stock was traded. Because that would wreck me. The Jerrold stock was still restricted, and I didn't have that kind of cash. But, what I did, was I turned in the receipts for the tax year for the value displayed in the market that year. But, since there was no actual market, I showed it as "no known market" to see if they would accept it. That way, I had a couple hundred thousand dollars I could spend if I needed it. So, we settled down and took $1,500 a month out of the pot, and sold Jerrold stock, and kept our bills reasonably small. The thing was made complicated by Si Pomerantz' testimony. Jerrold returned the stock paid as a capital exchange for them, and an expense item for me.

TAYLOR: How did the St. Petersburg operation go? I know you had quite a few pieces of equipment. It was very interesting equipment.

KIRK: It went slow. I didn't have money to put much of it on the shelf, and you can't have a real sales organization with an empty cart. You have ...

TAYLOR: You have to build it to order.

KIRK: Yes. So, I wasn't daring enough to back it. I could have. I could have gotten the money to do better than what we did, but it would be a case where you go up to a wall and either you jump over, or ...

TAYLOR: That was about the time that Ken was telling me they took the instrumentation away from Jerrold and gave it to Texscan.

KIRK: That hurt Ken.

TAYLOR: That just killed Ken's interest at all and hurt him, besides killing his interest. It just hurt him. But you were building the St. Petersburg stuff. Was that after Jerrold sold the instruments to Texscan? Were you competing with Texscan, or were you competing with Jerrold?

KIRK: No. Competing with Jerrold, I would say. But not really competing with anybody, because I didn't have enough of a line.

TAYLOR: But it was at the time when Jerrold was still selling the instrumentation.

KIRK: You have to have a certain size of operation, or you can't afford a draftsman only, or a machinist only.

TAYLOR: Did you lose money on the business?

KIRK: It was about break‑even. I took my salary out, and it would change it from one to another. But we did some stuff that didn't show up on the market. We sold, you know, the guy up in Corning, New York.

TAYLOR: An operator, a cable operator?

KIRK: Yeah, a cable operator. He sold his stuff to somebody, I can't remember now who. But, anyway, we did some little amplifiers, and we did a family of plastic boxes for apartment house use. They guy that owns the airplane ... he wrecked it.

TAYLOR: Is his name Bill Calsom?

KIRK: No. [It was Warren Fribly.] He wanted to try his hand for a bit as a salesman. His wife wanted him to do something instead of sitting around the house, which is a chronic complaint with people who were used to doing a lot and stopped. For about a year he looked pretty bad because of the wreck. He got all beat up. The last time I saw Warren, he had recovered to an amazing extent, and I was very glad to see him so improved.

TAYLOR: You got a batch of papers out on the table here. The center and museum at State College is interested in collecting documentation of this sort. I'm wondering if there is any of that I can take and make available to the center. Or, is there some of it I could copy and send back to you?

KIRK: You could copy and send back some. I would have to go through some of the details. I don't mind you knowing, but I think some other people involved might not like a public discussion of everything. So many people have contributed to the progress and growth of CATV, it is hard to be sure that you have included all of the individuals and their relationships.

TAYLOR: I see. I see.

KIRK: There were a couple of deals I really wanted to do. One was the possibility of somebody making a thing to hunt bootleggers (people who are stealing signals), and I can't get anybody interested. It might be too big a thing to try before the FCC's new regulator role becomes firmly established. The scheme depends on the fact that when you hook a TV onto a cable, the horizontal sweep frequency of the set gets on the cable too.

TAYLOR: How well I know.

KIRK: It turns out that, if you're pretty good at it, you could measure the phase of the sweep and find out what it is. If you get something that lasts through a cycle of a phase shift, you can tell what channel you have. Suppose you wanted to ...

TAYLOR: Well, as a matter of fact, you know, there was an outfit that developed an audience rating scheme on just that principle. They rigged up a van with a receiving facility, and they would travel around the area. They would match up the 15,000 Hz phase angle, and they could tell what each house was reading. They would log that, and they would give the broadcaster an indication of how many people were watching each channel.

KIRK: Let me extend it just a little further. If you do this, you can change the phase of the signal as it goes through the head end by using a synch restorer and frame grabber, and increase it a half cycle or reduce it half a cycle, until it matches a prescribed unit that you selected.

You can get a basic high accuracy marker on the system by looking at the phase of the color signal of the network program. The network people do a very good job of keeping 3.58 where it ought to be. And, you can get a look at it with a clamp‑on ammeter on a fishpole‑like thing over the cable. But you can't do it very fast. If you rolled up to a spot where you suspected somebody of having stolen signal, you could measure what is going on and know whether he's receiving a chosen channel, because his TV set would rat on him every time. So, you know now that he's looking at this high price channel and isn't paying for it. So, now you can get a court order or a search warrant to go into his house.

TAYLOR: Now this is something that you have written up, and some of this is on the table here?

KIRK: I didn't check that particular one, but I think I have. I think I have something that you could use.

TAYLOR: What arrangements can we make about this documentation?

KIRK: Let me review a bunch of it. There's stuff .... Let me see. Here is one. It's what we call a credit card system. What you're trying to do is have the effect of a two‑way system without the operation of a true two‑way system weighing it down. So, these are the signals that you need to do business with the person who owns the thing, the CATV part of it. And these are the signals that he must send to a customer, and the customer signal or the feedback signal from the customer to the operator is this part. And this thing stands a chance of making a different kind of subscription television. Because you can know how much a fellow has used, and therefore, how much he owes you because you ... all I say is, let me give you a copy of that [paper 31 in the set of Don Kirk papers later supplied, and it must be recopied, because a large section has been added to it].

TAYLOR: Okay. I can have copies made and send things back, and you probably don't have an easy facility to have copies made. It's pretty expensive anyway.

KIRK: Well, it's a nickel a page, or something like that, near the school. So, I don't worry about that.

TAYLOR: If you do that, let me know how much you put in it, and we will take care of it.

KIRK: I will send you the description of that coding message, because I think sooner or later somebody might want to use that. And I would love to see that happen. [Note: the coding message referred to here is not among the papers sent. We'll do something about that later.]

TAYLOR: Well, you got my letter, so I'll give you a card.

KIRK: Oh, you didn't ask what happened those times when we reached our engineering goal. I have memos that reflect the urgency of getting this thing on, and Zal Garfield worked trying to run the thing. He got it pretty near right. We actually had what we called program‑by‑program billing (PBPB), and we did an actual demonstration of how you can make a pay television system upstairs at Jerrold. We did it three or four times. We invited our own salespeople and customers in for a demonstration. It was crude and ugly, because we didn't have computer chips or digital logic chips. We were using analog circuits at that point, so we did the thing as if the four channels were off the air and on the cable coming to you. To receive one of them, you pushed a button, and what that did was latch up a relay that gave you program totally until the end of the program day, or however you chose to do it. Then you'd send a signal from the main, central office to unlatch the relay, and this operation is what caused you to be billed.

We had all this working up in this upstairs room where there were half a dozen TV sets on it. We had a pretty good size box with a ten‑pin recorder. You know, the kind that burn the paper. Because this was a time, about 1955, when we didn't have the nice digital recording techniques that we have now. But we had to have something so I could show a sheet of paper, and I could read off the customer's number. What we had there was the customer sent back a tone that showed his operation going on. In a format, it could be a row of dots. You read it off in binary. Nowadays, you wouldn't do it. You put one floppy disk and that would be all.

We had that much of it going. People would come and look at it and see it operate, and say "ain't that great," and go back and fight their own problems in their own little world. Anyway, I guess it was a hindrance. What happened was the bottom of those things fell apart. The system they were trying to get. Not because of the system, but because of the lack of programs. So, nobody ever said "thank you," or anything; we just closed it down. After the first few shows, I left the company for entirely different reasons. There was nobody enthusiastic, and I can't say that I blame them. But, what it does for me, it says that if you want to know when somebody got into the PBPB business early on, here it is.

TAYLOR: I'm going to leave this with you. It's the prospective I worked up for a study that we're doing and a book that we hope to get out. You might be interested in what I put together.

Would you contact me then about the documentation and what I can copy?

KIRK: Yes. I'll make a decision on it.

TAYLOR: Okay. Either send me the batch, and I'll copy it and send it back to you, or .... That probably is the simplest way.

KIRK: Well, I'll be happy to do that.

TAYLOR: Well, I think that I covered the history that I was interested in and it's been fascinating talking about the early days of cable. I want to ask one more question though. What do you think CATV is going to do now? What do you think it ought to do? Any thoughts on the future of this industry?

KIRK: [I'd like to send you a letter later with some of my thoughts on this.] Right now, I think that whatever status it needs to make its next big jump, we have probably reached it. It's probably time for some well‑though‑out improvements, I think. And you can't do that with hardware alone. You have to make a measurement of what you think the entertainment pre‑viewers are going to do. What you have here is library. The reason library books aren't thrown away when you read them is that other people want to read them too, and the same thing happens with this stuff. They're going to want to be able to read it, too. There are some pretty crummy books on the market, and there are some pretty crummy TV pictures.

TAYLOR: Isn't that the truth.

KIRK: But, it hasn't stopped libraries, and it need not stop CATV. I think that using it as a sales tool sounds nice. It sounds like you're on to a big thing. I don't think it will pan out. I don't know what it will do, but I would have to say we didn't need it in the past. That doesn't prove we either need it or don't need it now. So, the marketing thing is not proving it to me. Because I remember my mom could call up and get groceries delivered, and what we needed was a grocery boy, not a communication system. So, it's funny that nobody ever tumbles to the fact that you really don't need a satellite for a lot of things. Satellite is fighting with time.

TAYLOR: It's been a fascinating industry, and I've certainly enjoyed growing up with it.

KIRK: Oh, yes, it was the right thing to do if you were an electronics engineer.

TAYLOR: I was a little later than you getting into it, but not a whole lot ... 1953 was when I started. So, I started on the operating side, and you started on the manufacturing side.

KIRK: Well, I did it for personal reasons, because I didn't know any better. Because I could have been where some systems were going in, and wind up with 2 percent of the system, and that's where a lot of millionaires came from. My interest in this is how do I steer my boys around the same sort of thing, not to make the same old mistakes. Make some different ones.

TAYLOR: Yes, they will make different ones.

Well, I think I'd better close this off and pick up, and I certainly thank you very much. There is no question that you and some of the people at Jerrold are the real grandfathers of this industry, and I thank you very much for giving me the time to make this recording.

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