A look at who I consider the best consumer audio innovator of his (post-1960) generation, after the jump ..........
But first: Top Comments appears nightly, as a round-up of the best comments on Daily Kos. Surely you come across comments daily that are perceptive, apropos and .. well, perhaps even humorous. But they are more meaningful if they're well-known ... which is where you come in (especially in diaries/stories receiving little attention).Although not a tech-gear fanatic myself – my TV/audio equipment is not luxurious – I have long been interested in the whole phenomena, having played in bands through high school and college and first reading Stereo Review back in our high school library.
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In earlier diaries, I have profiled Edgar Villchur (the founder of Acoustic Research, or AR) and James B. Lansing (the founder of JBL). They are part of what I refer to as the first wave of audio pioneers in the US: along with Rudy Bozak and Paul Klipsch (whose firms are named after them), plus Vincent Salmon of Jensen, Henry Kloss (of AR, KLH and Advent) and others who came to fame before the end of the 1950’s.
This profile is of someone who was among (if not the) best of his generation, Amar Bose – who died just a few months ago – and whose Bose Corporation began in 1964, among a new generation of audio pioneers. Unlike Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who were noted college dropouts: "The Doctor" - as he was known in his firm – had been a professor at MIT, his alma mater.
And thus he was ideally situated to become a purveyor of stereo equipment, with all of the college students that descend upon Massachusetts each year as avid customers – although as the sportswriter, best-selling author (and Brandeis graduate) Mitch Albom noted, lugging stereo speakers into dorms is becoming a thing of the past.
Amar Bose was born in Philadelphia in 1929, whose father Noni Gopal Bose emigrated from Calcutta during the 1920’s to avoid further imprisonment by the British colonial police for his anti-colonial activities. His mother was an American schoolteacher of European ancestry, but whom Bose described as being "more Indian than I was" ....... being an avid vegetarian/Hindu philosopher.
The young Bose repaired both model trains and radios during World War II, before earning a degree in electrical engineering from MIT. He spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in New Delhi and also a year at the electronics firm Philips in the Netherlands. After earning his PhD in electrical engineering from MIT, he began teaching there.
It was his 1956 purchase of (what was then) a high-end stereo system (to listen to the classical music he loved so much) that led to his career: the technical specifications sounded impressive .... but not what actually came out of the speakers. After years of research and testing he obtained two patents and attempted to license them to major audio firms. Finding no takers, he borrowed $10k to start his own company in 1964 … which he ran until his death this past July. Here are some of his products, in case the name does not ring a bell:
(Home audio speakers) - as noted, the reason he got involved in the business. His 901 speakers - first made in 1968 - are his high end line (photo left). A more modest product are his 301 bookshelf speakers that you may see in more homes.
(Professional PA systems) - time was that - for small venues - PA systems for musicians were bulky and lacked clarity. But you've probably gone into a bar, studio or other small room and heard quite clearly a folksinger, band or the like using equipment like this since the 1980's.
In your Sunday newspaper, you can hardly pick-up a copy of Parade or USA Weekend magazine without seeing an ad for the Bose Wave Radio.
And for automobile sound systems, a writer for the Hartford Courant wrote:
Bose was the first company to design and mass-market upscale automotive audio systems that were installed while the car was being assembled at the factory. Up until then, people who wanted something more than the sound offered by the incredibly cheap, factory-installed 6-by-9-inch speakers ... had to go to an aftermarket installation specialist.As with Acoustic Research’s Edgar Villchur, Bose was an iconoclastic CEO who did things differently: he had a policy of "no eating lunch alone" – believing that researchers would share ideas more readily while having lunch together. Ever the academic – he remained on the MIT faculty until 2001 – his office whiteboard was covered with diagrams and equations (not sales figures). Nor was he a shrinking violet: filing lawsuits over a competitor’s ad and even one against Consumers Union (over what he felt was an unfair review) that was unsuccessful.
But his refusal to go public - directing all profits back into research and development - meant he could invest in decade-long projects (without immediate pay-back) and he believed that firms not answerable to Wall Street enjoyed an R&D advantage. His firm now employs about 10,000 and his products can be found in places like the Sistine Chapel.
He also funded what he called the Bose Endowment – which was dedicated to non-commercial scientific research. This had one public note of fame: in 1989, after scientists at the University of Utah proclaimed that they had sparked and sustained a nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature — so-called cold fusion — the foundation's research into cold fusion ultimately found that the scientists’ claims were erroneous.
In 2011 (at age eighty-one) he donated a majority of his firm’s non-voting shares to MIT (stipulating that they never be sold). Although he was sometimes in the Forbes 400 richest people, he insisted that his great motivator was innovation. "I have one car, and that’s enough. These things don’t give me pleasure, but thinking about great little ideas gives me real pleasure." Looking back at his career, he told Popular Science in 2004 that:
"I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBA’s. But I never went into business to make money: (I did so) to do interesting things that hadn’t been done before".Amar Bose died this past July, and would have celebrated his 84th birthday last weekend. Besides his own legacy, later audio start-ups in the region (such as Fulcrum) are following in his footsteps. It was said that Amar Bose’s best invention was not a specific product but his company – which really refers to his business model, methinks. Current employees at Bose say that they don’t try to imagine "What would the Doctor do?" – a version of WWJD? – but rather, "What new things can we do ... that would make him proud?"
(None from the field this evening ..... this is where you come in, ladies and gentlemen).
From Ed Tracey, your faithful correspondent this evening ........
In the diary by natewire, wondering why so many still support the man that Charlie Pierce calls the "One-man Spring Break", Toronto mayor Rob Ford - both Tim D M - recalling a different former mayor - as well as DrTerwilliker - on general behavior - try to shed some light on the subject.
And in the fascinating diary by MugWumpBlues about the political movement known as The Mugwumps - an interesting parenthetical note is made by BOHICA about Senator James Blaine - one of the movement's best-known names.
And lastly: yesterday's Top Mojo - mega-mojo to the intrepid mik ...... who rescued this feature from oblivion:
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