?? From the President?s Desk

By M. H.Cox, CEng., FIEE

Your Committee has done me the honour of asking me to be President for the next two years. It is a particular honour to be following in the footsteps of Arthur C. Clarke, although I cannot lay claim to his gifts of prophecy. It is also an honour to be following John Ware, Boris Townsend (my old boss!), Neville Watson and Ivan James (who provided some dichroic mirrors when I was building my colour camera [qv]). I have known all these for many years and they have made a great contribution to our industry.

I understand from Trevor Brown that there are no particular duties for the President to carry out; however I shall probably write the odd article for CQ-TV, and do my best to attend the AGM. If any of you have equipment bearing my name, and you have a problem, get in touch. I may not be able to help straight away, but could well know someone who could. There is a rumour that I may get on e-mail one day - this would please my IBC colleagues, but until then you can always fax me. Some of you might be interested in a bit of history from an old hand in the industry. In which case, read on.

I joined the BATC in 1955 while a student at UCL. First equipment was a flying spot scanner using 5FP7/931A combination, shown at Convention in 1955. Leaving UCL, I went to Marconi in Chelmsford as a graduate apprentice. A group of us used Mike Barlow?s (Editor CQ-TV at the time) garage as a shack.

Mike was a transmitter man, and our ?rent? was to give him some pictures to transmit.

I joined Rediffusion at Wembley Studios in 1959 as a studio maintenance engineer, and built an iconoscope camera (5527) along the way, as well as an early transistor SPG/TSG. (Described in CQ-TV 48)

In 1961 I joined ABC Television at Teddington Studios, initially as planning engineer, then as ITV's only colour development engineer for some years.

I was involved in investigations and demonstrations of NTSC, PAL, SECAM and NIR colour systems on 405, 525 and 625 lines. This was an amazing time. I was working with Howard Steele, who went on to be Director of Engineering at the IBA, and subsequently to start Sony Broadcast in Basingstoke. It was a great loss to the industry and to his family and friends when he died so young in the mid 80s.

While Howard was at ABC, he persuaded the ABC Board in 1961 to invest some money in colour investigation. There was no point in replicating the work that the BBC were doing on NTSC, and the recently proposed SECAM system looked as if it had merit as an alternative system. Howard was then invited to join the EBU Ad Hoc Group on choice of a colour television system for Europe. We gave demonstrations of various aspects of SECAM in the Studio to EBU and CCIR groups. The first ever SECAM vision mixer was demonstrated during this time, as was recording on the monochrome (RCA TR22) VTRs installed at Teddington. Because we were a small team, we all got to meet the great and good of European Television. We also got to make a lot of the equipment because it was not available commercially.

We also used to give colour TV demonstrations to the Post Office to support a series of lectures they were giving around the country. They had to get a SECAM feed because there was no way that NTSC (from the BBC) would have travelled on the video circuits of the time. Our sources were a Cintel polygon 35mm flying spot machine, and a crude colour caption facility consisting of my home built vidicon camera and a colour synthesiser, which was the prototype, of what was later known as the COXBOX. This name was given to it by a German customer (ZDF), who bought one of the first units, and it stuck!

One of the cameramen at Teddington was an excellent cartoonist, and he produced some splendid cartoons to ?wind-up? the GPO during these demos.

In 1966, for the hell of it, and because the frenzied activity of the 62 ? 65 years had eased off a bit, I built a 3 vidicon colour camera (CQ-TV 58, 60), shown at the 1966 Convention, and subsequently used at Teddington on an advertisers demonstration when the Marconi MkVII would not work. The early ones were a bit like that!

Room in my lab at home was a bit cramped, and the first production COXBOX colour synthesiser was assembled on top of the colour camera. If my memory is correct, it was installed in ATV?s first colour OB vehicle at Elstree, along with 3 PC60 cameras. Subsequent COXBOX units were sold to most ITV companies, usually for use with the station clock. In all, some 400 units of all the versions were made between 1967 and 1982.

These started to sell; for some reason, mainly in Germany, and with the imminent change in the ITV Programme Contracts (1968), it seemed a good time to see if I could cut it on my own.

Starting in the upstairs front bedroom of our new house in Twickenham, and with just me to begin with (and the cat!), product was made and delivered, and new products were being designed. Assembly and metal work was contracted out where possible.

Bob Warren from Thames (and an ex-Rediffusion colleague) joined me for a year, and then went back to Thames. 2 former ABC colleagues replaced him, and we had to move out of my house to a small unit in Holly Road, Twickenham.

Over time, the company (Michael Cox Electronics Ltd) grew; we bought our own factory in Hanworth, and built up a good range of coding, switching and mixing products. By 1985, the company was employing 125 staff.

Carlton Communications bought it in that year. I found living with a public company pretty uncongenial, and Carlton and I parted after 3 months.

In the following year, I was asked to help financially with a Management Buy-Out from GEC-McMichael, and this company was set up as Vistek Electronics, to manufacture monitors, coders and standards converters. I became a major shareholder and non-executive director. I also set up Cox Associates Ltd at the same time. This produced Test Signal Generators, Title Assemblers and various other black boxes.

This story may help to explain why I did not have much time for BATC activities from around 1968 to 1998, apart from producing two children during that period.

Invited to join the IBC Management Committee in 1988, I became Deputy Chairman in 1991, and have been associated with it ever since, presently as Vice President.

Now that I have relinquished my association with Vistek, I now have a little more time for interesting activities, often to add to the IBC Message Service facilities. My lab at home carries a fair selection of kit to help design, build and test video units, such as a ?burned-in? stereo audio level indicator, and various units recently described in CQ-TV. It also carries a few computers, the odd DV camera and a pair of Sony DV recorder-players.

One of the great advantages I have had is a supportive and patient wife. Sheila was a make-up artist at Rediffusion until just after the ITV contract change in 1968, when our daughter was born. She acted as Company Secretary and Director of our company until Michael Green got his hands on it in 1985. Her support and encouragement, and when appropriate, warning has been of inestimable value over many years.

My hope is that the club will go from strength to strength during the next two years and beyond, and I will do all I can to help this along. I have noticed over the years the enormous improvement in CQ-TV. This reflects great credit on the editorial team. I am looking forward to my term of office.