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Order of the Iron Test Pattern

Order of the Iron Test Pattern

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This page updated: 11/15/2003

We were created out of whole cloth just prior to the 1979 National Association of Broadcaster's convention, the Order of Iron The Test Pattern has filled a real need for television's technical slaves --- recognition for their contributions.

The first annual meeting during NAB 1980 honored the longest sufferers of the lot and started a tradition that was scheduled to last 5 years, or forever, whichever came first. The order remains in the hearts and minds of its over 2,400 members in 23 countries who have encouraged us to move into the next century via the internet. Now we've just got to find them once again.

The equipment and operating end of the television industry extends a welcome to join to those who still survive in television. Pioneers, the ones out front with arrows in their tails, now have the chance to share their heroic deeds on the Internet. Every fun experience counts -- including transitions into new and different television related fields.

To become a member of this august body, candidates must complete an application demonstrating that they have toiled in any technical capacity in the television and/or cable industries for at least 15 minutes. Handsome frame ready, imitation parchment certificates, complete with Iron Test Pattern medallion and genuine ribbons are available. Upgrades in membership are not automatic. You must apply for each dignity (rank). With all ranks and years of service come all the rights and privileges of the office … virtually none.

In response to suggestions from members, new rankings have been added to "stimulate" the old Order. Ranks now cover most everyone in the television and/or cable industries.

Page - 15 minutes
Squire - 5 years
Ensign - 10 years
Lieutenant - 15 years
Commander - 20 years
Commodore* - 25 years
Brigadier* - 30 years
General* - 35 years
Admiral* - 40 years
Galactic Tycoon* - 45 years
Monochrome Mogul* - 50 years
Tenacious Electron* - 75 years

The next, still-to-be-titled rank, will be added at 100 and 150 years in the industry.

* Ranks with voting privileges (for what, we don't know).

The Order makes handsome awards to deserving members who have proved that they have done anything longer than anyone else. It is important to note that the association honors tenacity, not technical accomplishment. Other Professional Societies are far better equipped to judge these controversial qualities and are on their own.


September 15, 2002. In a move that barely had any impact on anyone living or dead, except Chuck Pharis, Sagacious Pixel Larry Bloomfield appointed Pharis to the exalted position of Custodian and Keeper of the Trusted Antique Television Cameras and with this appointment, Pharis now has all the rights privilege and honors that go with such a trusted and honored position. Keep checking back here for further appointments, as the need arises.

On September 12, 2002, in a reverse and bloodless coup d'état initiated by Itelco and egged on by Order of the Iron Test Pattern founding father, Bob Vendeland, Itelco forced the Tech-Notes staff, at telephone point, to take over the reins of leadership and government of the Sacred, Ancient, Honored, Respected (and a few other accolades we can't think of right now) Order of the Iron Test Pattern. An unidentified Tech-Notes Spokesperson is reported to have said, "Why not; nothing else has gone right today." In a moment of lapsed sanity, an agreement was reached and immediately a junta was formed to bring about chaos or order, which ever will be the easier to achieve.

To make matters official, a change of command ceremony was held over the phone. To prevent musty and teary-eyed engineers from rusting equipment and fuse relays together from their sobbing, the event was held in a secret Port-a-potty off the coast of Iowa.

Sighs of relief could be heard from the Itelco offices in New Jersey as faraway as the bathroom, while political infighting began in the Tech-Notes offices to see who could think up the highest and most absurd rank to call themselves. Word has it that women and children have been cleared from the streets and religious leaders around the world have called for a day of something, but they can't think of what to call it -- as yet.

The Tech-Notes staff is reportedly looking for additional office space and real estate offices all over the entire west coast have closed so they won't have to deal with it. Rumor has it that they've put a deposit on an new office complex in Greenland, but are trying to figure out mileage and per diem cost for their office help.

Stay tuned for more to come. (and you thought the previous administration was strange)

Where did the TV Engineers come from
(and where did they go)?

By Pat Gallagher, Brigadier, Order of The Iron Test Pattern

As a general observation, I feel most of the engineers who staffed the post-war TV broadcast expansion received their training in the military during WWII. More specifically, I can cite my own path from the Navy via DuMont to the TV industry. Dr. Allen B. DuMont was one of the great television pioneers. In the early 1930's Dr. DuMont noticed that electromagnetic radiation of the TV frequencies produced a return signal or "echo". DuMont alerted the U.S. government who told him to keep quiet about it. He also set up an infrared microwave link and predicted infrared would be the future carrier frequency.

When U.S. involvement in the war became imminent, some of the prewar Navy personnel were sent to Canada for training on English Radar. As goes the line in the song "When the Saints Go Marching In", John Klindworth was "in that number". Johnny was later attached to the Naval Office of Research and Inventions. (More about that later.) Those of us who joined the Navy somewhat later became involved in U.S.-based electronic programs at various colleges and military tech schools. Guys like Charlie Spicer and Jim Tharpe who had completed college engineering degrees were assigned to post graduate familiarization with electronic warfare technology. I was scooped up by the "Eddy Test", and after a one month math and science refresher was billeted at the Navy Armory on Lake Michigan, and attended "Radio Technician" school on the twelfth floor of the State-Lake Building in downtown Chicago. This was the studio and transmitter site for W9XBK, which was operated by Commander (Ret) Bill Eddy and his staff that included Lt. Jacobson, Bill Kudlic, and Ensign Jim Lahey (who was the first officer, but not the last, to send me up the Captains Mast). (At this school I had my first contact with DuMont when I saw their 24- inch display tube in an oscilloscope.) The students had nothing to do with operating W9XBK, and we all wondered how merely attending class sitting in a TV studio had anything to do with being a Radio Tech. Of course we found out in Radio Materials School (RMS), fenced in behind barbwire, on Treasure Island, where we were introduced to Radar, Sonar, Loran and various radio communication devices. Lyle O. Keys, a future member of the DuMont / Navy group, was the top student in RMS Company 25.

After service in the Pacific Minecraft Fleet, first on a converted WWI Destroyer (which was the prototype for the "Cane Mutiny" story) and later on a wooden Minesweeper, my skipper sent me back to the states for officer school. After the war ended I left the V-12 unit at Cornell rather than sign up as a career officer. I went to the U.S. Naval Hospital at St. Albans for some pre-discharge medical repairs. While recuperating at St. Albans, I looked up Bob Myers, another Cornell V-12 escapee, who was stationed at a Navy publicity exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry at 6th Avenue and 50th Street, Manhattan. Although my "jacket" was on the way to a discharge center, the skipper at the museum, Commander Cruzan, talked me into signing over for six months to maintain the display equipment.

The Navy Office of Research and Inventions provided many of the technical gadgets which were on display, such as an ultrasonic flight trainer and a TV camera which had been developed to guide an unmanned flying bomb. Myers and I promptly used the camera to make a very popular "see yourself on TV" display. We became acquainted with all the TV engineers from the then-existing New York City stations. Most of them had studio Iconoscope camera tubes and they came to see our wonderful new Orthicon (which was so infrared sensitive you could use a heat lamp for illumination). This is where I came in contact with Jim Tharpe and Johnny Klindworth who were attached to the ONRI, which supplied the equipment and supervised its maintenance at the museum. Later, Myers and Tharpe were involved in setting up a TV studio at the ONRI base at Sands Point, which used DuMont cameras, which led to their migrating to DuMont Labs in its newly activated Transmitter Division.

After the war many of the teachers and students from the "Radio Material School" immediately became involved in the rapid post war expansion of TV broadcast. I first went to Lafayette College on the GI Bill and earned a BS in Engineering / Physics and a minor in Geology, intending to work in geophysical exploration. In addition to joining new stations as they were built in the 50's many of the Navy electronics veterans were employed at major city stations or worked for the TV equipment suppliers. For instance, Art Hungerford and Nat Marshall were at GPL, Lou Page and Charlie Spicer were at GE.

Johnny Klindworth and I graduated from different colleges in June 1950. While John was a student at the University of Iowa he helped build WOI-TV using DuMont equipment and was hired to join DuMont upon graduation. I was hired by Sinclair Oil Company, but before I joined the geophysical exploration crew Bob Myers talked me into a farewell visit with the old Navy gang at DuMont. Because of my Navy experience in electronics plus my new degree in physics I was "Shanghaied" by old Navy buddies and "impressed" into working for DuMont Labs, which was deeply involved with CBS in developing color TV standards. When I sobered up, I found that I had been "pressed" into acquiring a DuMont badge number. As I traveled around the country as a DuMont field engineer building TV stations I began to notice that the "new man who has been hired to be their TV engineer" was usually an ex-Navy Radar Technician. When being introduced I began to ask them, "which Radio Material School class were you in?"

Although I was hired for my physics degree, it did not contribute much to DuMont's Field Sequential color TV development. The Dichroic filters had been researched by a scientist at RCA's Princeton Lab, and DuMont's Research Department had finished the physical layout of the color wheel. For those engineers under the age of 70 a brief explanation of field sequential color may be required. Instead of 60 scanning fields the sweep rate was increased to 180 fields, 60 each for red, green and blue. When the red field was being scanned the red Dichroic was in front of the camera tube, and also in front of the display CRT, all magically accomplished by phasing the spinning wheel with its Dichroic segments.

I remember that when the head of DuMont's Research Division, Dr. Tom Goldsmith was demonstrating the system for the FCC, using a big screen monitor with a large motor driven color wheel, the current drain of the motor blew out all the fuses in the FCC demo area. Later when Bob Myers and I were assigned to demonstrating the prototype color systems, we learned to get the color wheel up to speed before turning on the other equipment. Also, low line voltage would cause the wheel to slow down and slip out of phase with the power line, causing the picture to "sequentially" drift through red, green, and blue phases. At an IRE show in Manhattan it was noted that the magnetic field of subway trains displaced the deflection of the raster causing field sequential color pictures to look like a poorly printed comic strip. This was remedied by putting a mu- metal cone around the glass CRT.

Of course DuMont Labs knew that having a 72-inch diameter color wheel rotating in front of a black and white TV receiver was a joke. The main thrust of Dr. DuMont's whole life had been making bigger and better CRT's. Accordingly, DuMont Labs had already obtained the rights to a color tube developed by Professor Lawrence (Lawrence - Livermore Lab?) which had the color phosphor laid on the face of the tube in parallel stripes. As Jack Shearer and I hazily remember, DuMont tried to develop a one-gun color tube by deflecting the single beam from one color phosphor to another at a high rate. Switching the stiff beam of a 21- inch tube at a megahertz rate required too much power to be practical. When Dr. DuMont failed to produce a large tube which could dominate the TV picture tube market, the RCA 3 dot screen became the industry standard. I believe increasing financial problems at DuMont Labs curtailed further research. Too bad they gave up so soon, DuMont already had a 2-gun oscilloscope tube, it was only one more step to a 3-gun color tube --- The Trinitron. For successor companies the further development was not quick and easy. CBS and later Sony worked on a single gun tube called the Chromatron, which never worked and finally Sony adopted a 3 gun General Electric tube and came out with the Trinitron.

The successful use of Dichroic filters in generating separate RGB video signals led DuMont to design the Vita Scan system. This system was used to televise small set, single camera shows such as News. The entire set was enclosed in a box and the camera projected the light from a high-resolution white phosphor raster through the camera lens onto the subject. Large reflector scoops, similar to those used for floodlights, housed multiple phototubes, which were equipped with R, G, and B Dichroic filters. The photo tubes picked up a continuous stream of R, G, and B video signals in perfect sync with the scanning system, which could be displayed line by line rather than field sequentially. To aid in walking around inside the enclosed set strobe lights were pulsed during vertical blanking interval, which produced a ghostly sort of moonlight effect. The Vita Scan system was very simple using only a single camera tube, which eliminated multiple tube camera registration problems. It would have worked great outdoors if we could have figured out a way to pulse the sun to shine only during vertical blanking. At a trade show RCA posted a sign on their new camera "Works In The Sunlight" and Bob Bollen's sign on the Vita Scan camera countered with "Works In The Dark."

DuMont had only engaged in manufacturing transmitting equipment and operating TV stations to stimulate the consumer market for large screen CRT's. When he didn't become the market leader, he stopped building TV station equipment and shut down the transmitter division. Jim Tharpe, who was division sales manager, and the Navy gang, plus a few recruits, started a new company, Visual Electronics, to design, supply and install AM, FM, and TV station equipment. This was the turning point for our group.

2001 Iron Test Pattern Meeting in Las Vegas

The 2001 Annual Meeting of the Order of The Iron Test Pattern was held Tuesday evening, April 24th, in the Itelco USA Booth.

Refreshments were served. Assembling again in Las Vegas, the Order of The Iron Test Pattern will honor "technical survivors" in the television industry. Details of the party, to be held Tuesday night, April 24th in the Itelco-USA booth after the NAB exhibits close, can be found by clicking the NAB EXHIBITS tab of the home page. Be sure to read the details, RSVP as requested, and get your late pass for admission to the hall.

Iron Test Pattern Awards for 2001

Several honorees have already been selected for awards, but other nominees can be considered until as late as April 1 (maybe). Remember, we do not make awards for engineering excellence since none of us is qualified to know good engineering when we see it. However, we do award survival while performing some specific technical deed longer than anyone else.

One of this year's awards, the Rusty Remote, will go to Gene Polley, the engineer who developed the first wireless television remote control for Zenith. His Flash-Matic device used light directed at the corners of the TV set where light sensitive areas relayed the commands to the control circuits.

Iron Moth Ball Award

The second major award this year is the Iron Moth Ball, which will be presented to John (Pat) Gallagher and others in the old DuMont Moth Ball Brigade (i.e. Jim Tharpe, Lyle Keys, Garry Gramman, Charlie Spicer, etc.). To give you some idea of how some of these ancients earned their Moth Balls, the following story by Pat Gallagher follows:

1999 Survivors of the Year Awards

Las Vegas, Nevada--- April 11, 2000 ----The Order of the Iron Test Pattern, an organization formed to recognize technical survivor's in the television industry, announced winners for 1999 in an awards ceremony this evening in the Itelco booth at NAB 2000.

it is important to note that the Order of the Iron Test Pattern honors tenacity, not technical advancement, I stated Howard McClure, Chairman of The Order of the Iron Test Pattern. Admittedly, in some cases ñ like keeping a VTR running for a million hours ñ tenacity and technical achievement sort of go hand in hand. But our focus is really on endurance and longevity

Members of this august body consist of veterans who have toiled in any technical capacity in the television industry for at least 15 years. At 15 years the Officer rank is achieved; candidates with 25 years of service become "Commanders" with all rights and privileges of the office (virtually none); at 32 years, Commanders become eligible for promotion to "Brigadier." The next, still to be titled rank, will be added at 64 and 128 years in the industry.

For being the oldest engineer (85) still earning a living in the television industry and having done so for the longest time (55 years), Brigadier John H. Battison, PE was presented the Crusty Engineer Award. Starting in experimental television with KMBC (1945) and development work with Dr. Peter Goldmark, John has worn most of the engineer hats in the industry. After several years with ABC, he built the first TV station in Calgary Canada; purchased KAVE AM in Carlsbad NM and built KAVE TV 6; went to UK as director of engineering, Associated REdiffusion, first UK commercial station; returned to US to found the Society of Broadcast Engineers; retired as director of Engineering, Ohio State University TV and radio stations. John continues his career as a consulting engineer based in Ohio.

The Iron Desk Award went to Brigadier Joseph Barath for keeping the same position as television engineer for the Johnson Space Center Television Systems for over 34 years while being employed successively by 5 different organizations. Every time NASA changed prime contractors for management of systems which included television, Joe and his desk were hired by the new contractor. He is still working in the same job ----proving that survival has become an art form.

When Dr. Byron St. Clair earned his PHD in Physics he must have calculated how many gigawatts of power one would need to blanket the world with the maximum number of television signals carrying the maximum number of commercials. He must have concluded that low power transmitters make the most sense and after 43 years of a colorful career in low power television, he survives ---- grinning. The Rusty Doc Award went to Brigadier Byron St. Clair!

For collecting 70 ancient, broadcast television cameras, repairing, operating and storing them in his personal museum, Brigadier Chuck Pharis received the Rust Collector Award. Although it may appear that his secret to surviving 33 years in the television industry may be his hobby, Chuck has led a serene life as a Senior Video Engineer with ABC TV Network in Hollywood. He has worked on every type of show and spent many years with Wide World of Sports. He currently works on a Soap Opera called Port Charles and was involved with Monday night Football as Senior Video Engineer on the Panasonic 720P HDTV Truck. No pressure. That's what does it.

Created just prior to the 1979 NAB convention the Order of the Iron Test Pattern has filled a real need for television's technical slaves --- recognition for their contributions.

The first annual meeting during NAB 1980 honored the longest suffers of the lot and started a tradition that was scheduled to last 5 years, or forever, whichever came first. For some reason, this is the 20th anniversary of the first NAB meeting and it is presently sponsored by Itelco-USA, Inc.

Historical Awards and Records

Note: All affiliations shown below were true at the time the awards were presented. We haven't the slightest idea of where most of winners are today, but would certainly like to find out!

Survival Award 1980: Bill Kelley was with WNEW-TV, New York for 33 years and held the record for the longest time with a single TV station.

Survival Award 1980: Adron Miller was with RCA Burbank for 33 years and held the record for the longest time with a single television industry manufacturer.

Oldest Working Engineer 1981: Bill McCord, Ohio Educational Broadcasting Network Commission, won a 3 foot high hour glass for being the oldest engineer at the party who was still working full time. He was 66 then.

Iron Frog Award 1981: John Boor of EON, Seattle, got the award for job hopping. He had been with 90 stations, 77 of which went on the air (many outside the US) under his direction. Most were in the Armed Forces Network, so he really didn't have that many different paycheck writers. He won , but in today's world it'll be the number of employers that counts.

Iron Bailing Wire Trophy 1981: Given to OptiMedia Systems of Clifton, N.J. for the oldest piece of equipment still in use. Their entry was a Foto-Video Laboratories vacuum tube waveform monitor. It was purchased in 1957 from an advertising agency so they didn't really know its true age. It was serial number 111 if anyone can supply more accurate information.

Iron Tower Award (Senior Division) 1982: E. Dennis White, retired at the time, from KYTV, Springfield MO, had climbed a 290 footer when he was 72 years of age. His old team-mates at the station paid his way to Dallas to receive this award. We multiplied the height of the tower times his age squared so the existing record for the senior division is 914.9 K foot years squared.

Iron Tower Award (Jr. Division) 1982: Jack A. Olson, WWUP-TV, Cadillac, MI, when age 46 climbed an 1126 foot tower for a record of 1.23 Mega-foot years squared. We considered changing the rules to allow for cubing the age ( to make certain that Dennis won) but decided against it. This is the reason for two different awards. Age 55 is the cut-over date in case you can challenge either division..

Iron Heart Award 1982: Charlie Wilson, KDFW-TV, Dallas won it for suffering the most embarrassing physical damage in the line of duty. Broken bones or being killed did not count unless everyone laughed while it happened. He was knocked end-over-end by Drew Pearson during a Dallas Cowboy game. Charlie was working the parabolic mike on the sidelines and didn't see the play coming.

Iron Lady Award 1983: Barbara McKenna Ramaley, KOMO-TV, Seattle. Barbara won the award for being the lady engineer with the longest time in the industry. She started in television in 1953, but had been chief engineer in radio before that. Her first-class radio telephone license is dated 1946.

Iron Center Conductor Award 1983: This award was given to Caywood Cooley, consultant, for his time in the CATV industry. Caywood was the first field engineer sent to the first Jerrold CATV system in Lansford, PA. They used individual channel, apartment house amplifiers mounted on telephone poles to re-amplify the signals on their way into town.

Iron Vidicon Award 1983: F. Dan Meadows, Sierra Scientific, Mountain View, CA was given this award for being the longest user of the Vidicon tube in the closed circuit television industry.

Iron Fist Award 1983: This went to Isaac S. Blonder, Chairman of the Board, Blonder Tongue Labs, Old Bridge, NJ for being the rustiest executive officer in the industry having helmed BT since 1950.

Iron Wombat Award and the Iron Kangaroo Award 1983: These were given to engineers in the Australian chapter of the Order. I am still not sure what a Wombat might be, but it was given to the person who was farthest from his job. The Iron Kangaroo was for the engineer who was the best job hopper. It was quite a party in the 729 Club (television) in Sidney where your Marshal was feted with enough Australian beer to make it difficult to remember one's own name. If any of you 125 members in Australia can remember their names, please send them to me for the official record book.

Gold Plated Commander's Awards 1982: Pete Wood, past president of the Society of Television Engineers, accepted this award for 50 years in the industry for Harry Lubke, who started with Philo T. Farnsworth in 1929. That's a Pioneer!

Another award was given to Loyd Sigmon who started with the Boston Short Wave and Television Laboratories in 1932. He served as Executive V.P., Golden West Broadcasters, and in spite of his technical contribution is most remembered for his "SigAlerts," since Los Angeles traffic jams are named for his radio advisory innovation.

In 1986 Ed Dervishian was also made a Gold Plated Commander just before he retired from Motorola Communication and Electronics. He celebrated his 70th birthday that same year and totaled 51 years of active employment (started with scanning discs in 1935). He was Dr. Lee de Forest's personal assistant and de Forest's patent #2,452,203 was Ed's construction project with him.

And the award of awards, Albert Leon's Print Communicator award was presented in April 1988 at our ninth annual meeting during NAB. This unique statue of Sisyphus rolling a rock to the top of the hill, only to have it roll down again so that he could role it back up for eternity was a suitable award for the print media who support our industry. Al actually won the award in 1987, but had to wait until 1988 to collect it because he went so far as to have a heart transplant in order to stay in the industry. He just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his new heart, has been appointed to the esteemed rank of Sage and serves as a member of the Order of The Iron Test Pattern's Council of Sages. We'll take nominations for this award, but how do you top a heart transplant?

The Rusty VTR Award 1997: Jim Therrell and the video engineers at the National Geographic Society for keeping video tape players alive and operating for over one million hours.

Special Survivor Award  1997: Ike Blonder and Ben Tongue for 100 years of service in Television (50 years each).

Iron Anchor Award  1997: After his over 50 years of survival in television, John Klindworth sailed  his 104 foot yacht, the SeaQuell around the world. (See the story on the Rogue's Gallery page.)

Ironmaster Award 1997: An award for the most "Firsts" in Television was presented to Paul Yacich, for claiming more "Firsts" than any other engineer in the industry.

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