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Three Amateurs Inducted into Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame

11/02/2009

Earlier this year, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) named 13 men -- including three radio amateurs -- to the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame. The honorees were inducted last month at CEA's Industry Forum in Phoenix, Arizona. Former ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Director Walt Stinson, W0CP, of Englewood, Colorado; Former ARRL Vice President and Central Division Director R.H.G. Mathews, W9ZN (ex-9ZN) (SK), and Karl Hassel, W9PXW (ex-8AKG) (SK).

Walt Stinson, W0CP

Stinson, president and co-founder of a Denver-based audio/video specialty retail chain, was honored for his leadership as a businessman and as co-founder and president of the Professional Audio Video Retailer's Association (PARA), the trade association for more than 250 professional audio, video, home theater and custom electronics specialty dealers.

In the early '80s, Stinson helped to launch the compact disc (CD) in the US, serving as a delegate to the Compact Disc Group. Returning from Japan in 1983, he was questioned by US Customs about "the shiny discs" in his luggage.

"This is a very rare honor," Stinson told the ARRL, "as the list of inductees includes legends like Armstrong, Edison and DeForest, as well as more current leaders such as Intel co-founders Andrew Grove and Gordon Moore, Amar Bose and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen."

Stinson served on the ARRL Board of Directors from 1998-2004.

Ralph Mathews, W9ZN, and Karl Hassel, W9PXW

Mathews, along with Karl Hassel, W9PXW (ex-8AKG), founded what we know today as Zenith Electronics Corporation. In March 1916, Mathews was appointed Trunk Line Manager for the Central Division in the then-new American Radio Relay League; a year later, he was appointed to the ARRL Board of Directors (back then Directors were appointed, not elected). Known by other Amateur Radio operators as "Matty," Mathews changed his radio call letters from 9IK to 9ZN -- the origin of the famous Zenith trademark.

Mathews and Hassel met while serving in the Navy during World War I. After the War, both men stayed in Chicago and together started Chicago Radio Laboratory (CRL) -- and jointly operated 9ZN. The two focused on manufacturing a more developed version of Mathews' spark gap disk, as well as other Amateur Radio gear. They built these on the kitchen table of Mathew's family's Chicago home.

Since its equipment was built for the radio amateur, CRL placed its earliest advertisements in QST; the first was in June 1919. According to Harold Cones and John Bryant, authors of Zenith Radio -- The Early Years, 1919-1935, it was at the suggestion of an employee that QST advertisements soon began listing the 9ZN call followed by a small "ith," thus providing the famous trade name Z-Nith.

Although literally a tabletop operation, CRL owned a valuable Armstrong regenerative receiver patent license, negotiated by Mathews in 1920. Such a license was necessary to manufacture any radio equipment. CRL had no inventory -- they manufactured product as orders came in. Along with three workmen, they built 12 radios at a time (which took two to three weeks) with oak ply cabinets made by a local cabinet maker.

CRL grew, and the pair moved their operations into a two-car garage located a few blocks away. Half of the garage was devoted to manufacturing, the other half to Mathews' Amateur Radio station, 9ZN. Mathews and Hassel erected a large antenna, and with the big synchronous rotary spark-gap transmitter, 9ZN was soon heard worldwide. Their station was part of the first post-war transcontinental message relay on December 4, 1919 -- 1AW to 9ZN to LF to 6EA. In January 1921, 9ZN was involved in setting the cross country record of 6.5 minutes for a round trip message -- 1AW to 9ZN to 5ZA to 6JD -- and return on the same route with help from 9LR. 9ZN was a featured visitation site during the first National ARRL Convention held August 31-September 3, 1921 in Chicago. Mathews was the Director General (chairman) of the convention and toastmaster of the banquet.

CRL was further expanded in 1923 by an investment by Eugene F. McDonald, Jr, and began producing up to 15 "Z-Nith" brand 2-component regenerative receivers per day -- the Amplifigon detector and amplifier, and the Paragon tuner. By 1921, CRL moved into a 3000-square foot factory in Chicago. Zenith Radio Corporation was officially incorporated on June 30, 1923 -- with capital of $500,000 and with an exclusive sales and marketing agreement with CRL; Mathews and Hassel signed 10-year contracts with CRL. Two years later, Zenith acquired CRL's assets, creating one unified company. In late 1924, the company moved again to a larger factory in Chicago. Along with the size of the company, the volume of radios manufactured also increased. By the mid-1960s, the company had more than 15,000 employees.

Mathews left Zenith in 1928 to establish an advertising agency. He re-joined the Navy during World War II, assisting with recruiting. From 1937-1941, he also rejoined the ARRL Board as its Central Division Director. In 1954, he joined Magnavox and then worked for Westinghouse starting in 1957. After stints at several other companies during the next decade, he retired in 1967 to Mexico. Ralph Mathews died in 1982.

Hassel retired from Zenith in 1966 and served on its board until 1972. He passed away in 1975.

According to the CEA, the CE Hall of Fame "is an opportunity to honor the visionaries who have paved the way for the products and services that are changing the way we live. Individually, and in some cases together, these leaders have made significant contributions to their industry." The inductees for 2009 include Irwin Jacobs, the creator of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA); Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple; and Richard E. Wiley, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).



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