An internal Spilsbury paper entitled "Spilsbury Equipment Development and Sales"
providing an historical overview of the Spilsbury company's development and sales efforts,
written in 1982 by Jim Spilsbury.
The original paper is available, scanned, in PDF format (see the bottom of the page).
Pre-SSB Company History
Spilsbury & Hepburn Ltd.
Spilsbury & Tindall Ltd.
Spilsbury Communications Systems Ltd.
Spilsbury Communications Ltd.
April, 1941. Spilsbury & Hepburn Ltd., incorporated. Address was
570 Cardero St. Operated from our own building (30' x 30') built on
skids occupying C.P.R. trackage property, land rental $10.00 per month.
Hepburn looked after the office, did local service work, opened the
mail and maintained radio communication with me on our service vessel,
"Five B.R." in which I covered the coastline from Vancouver to Alert
We immediately landed a service contract with Edward Lipsett to
install, maintain and repair all Kaar Engineering radio telephones for
which Lipsett was the Canadian distributor. This was the first serious
threat to the virtual monopoly enjoyed by Canadian Marconi up to that
time. Lipsett sold a great many of these simple units to the fishing
fleet. We hired several service men to handle the work. We were not
authorized to sell; just install, service and repair.
1943. Lipsett set up their own service department and terminated
their contract with us. This first looked like total disaster but we
got busy and within two weeks we designed and built our first marine
radio - the "MRT-75". It proved immediately successful and we
subsequently built a considerable quantity. (I have seen some still in
service as recently as five years ago). This was followed by other
models, the "MRT-25" marine, "LRT-25" land, "MBL-50" mobile and the
"MRT-80" designed specifically for the B.C. Forest Service but used
Our largest single order to that date was for over 100 special
LRT-25 radios for the Bell Telephone Co., for use on the "Mid Canada
Line" during the construction project (Dew Line).
Our manufacturing efforts required adding more people -- metal
workers, and female assembly workers. Our 30' x 30' space became
untenable, particularly as it contained no plumbing. We rented a 25' x
100' ex-hair dresser's establishment on Robson Street to take care of
expansion. It had one toilet in the basement -- unisexual! The sales
and service group at 570 Cardero St. were still referred to as "the
Within about a year Edward Lipsett went completely out of the radio
business. I made up my mind that never again would I allow the company
to get into a position where "all our eggs are in one basket".
Diversification became our objective and its attainment has saved us
from disaster on more than one occasion.
Then came the need for a lower power, low cost, foolproof radio
which would fill a need for communication up and down the coast, for
stores, Post Offices, logging camps, airline agents, etc. etc. The
AD-10 was the answer -- a little larger than a lunchbox, a telephone
handset on the top -- vibrator powered from a 6 Volt storage battery or
115 AC. Price $275.00 as I remember. It had two channels, 2292 KHz for
handling radio messages to the government coast stations and 4495 KHz
for semi-duplex to B.C. Telephone Co. A two frequency, off centre-fed,
half wave antenna was part of the kit. Many hundreds were sold. They
were rated at 10 Watts input. About 5 out.
Our largest unit was a 500 Watt linear amplifier, the LT-4000. Our
smallest was the PRT-2, our first truly portable, designed especially
for the engineering parties working back in the mountains on the
original Kitimat hydro power surveys. This still used vacuum tubes and
dry "A" and "B" batteries. It was supplied in a genuine leather case.
Hundreds were sold all over Canada and particularly in the North. One
was taken up Mount Everest with the first Canadian team.
This was later superseded by the PRT-20 -- similar in appearance and
performance but "all solid state". Our first all transistor radio -- it
even employed a printed circuit board! With the PRT-20 the sale of our
portable radios continued to climb, and we became the acknowledged
experts in the portable field -- world wide.
All of the above was in the pre-DOT era. No mandatory specifications
to complicate life and inflate equipment costs. No need to involve the
services of a professional engineer with the all important seal. We did
not have one of course, and very few were around in those days.
About 1953 the DOT came out with R.S.S. 110 for compulsorily
equipped vessels and R.S.S. 112 for non-compulsory. This gave us one
year to dispose of all existing models and come up with totally new
designs, costing on the average 40% more than the old ones.
The designs which followed were the MRT-400, MRT-700, etc. They
plugged the hole but were plagued with much greater failure rates than
the older, simpler units. They were not too well received in the
domestic market and were seriously overpriced for most export markets.
During this period we out-grew our rented quarters on Robson Street
and moved the whole company into a larger two-story rented building at
144 Water Street. We converted the original 30' x 30' building into a
mobile radio service station operating 24 hours per day, trying to keep
several fleets of taxis on the air. We were importing and selling the
Comco VHF mobile sets. Later we started assembling Comco sets under
license. It was a special kind of headache, but did represent
It was in 1957 that we moved to our present building at 120 East
Cordova St. We seemed to have so much space that our voices echoed and
we seriously considered sub-letting one floor!
Introduction To The SSB Era
The changeover from AM to SSB did not come suddenly. In fact it was
not until May, 1965, that DOT issued their circular establishing dates
on which it would become compulsory to change to SSB. The international
agreement had established December 31, 1981, as the Final. (See
Why then did we get involved in designing, building and selling SSB
nearly five years ahead of time? I asked the question and before I
could answer it I had to do some digging. My findings are worth passing
Prior to 1960 the use of SSB was practically unknown in our type of
industry. It was used in trans-oceanic telephone communications, and by
the military to a degree. Ham radio operators had used it for years and
most available technical information was to be found in the Ham
periodicals - QST - 73, etc.
The advantages offered by SSB have always existed but the extra costs were difficult to justify.
SSB is much more effective than AM
- Because of its narrow band width
- the signal to voice ratio is improved.
- the total number of channel allocations can be doubled.
- Because the carrier and one side band are removed -
- only 25% of the power is required.
- multipathing and phase distortion are eliminated.
- Heterodyning of interfering signals is avoided.
All in all it is calculated that SSB for a given input power is at least eight times more effective than AM.
So even if the equipment cost per Watt is four times that of AM, the
cost per mile of effective communication is only half that of AM.
The early SSB sets were difficult to tune and operate -- required
considerable skill on the part of the operator -- no problem for
licensed commercial operators, or for Hams, but a serious handicap for
general commercial use. Improved methods of frequency stability and the
introduction of automatic level and sensitivity controls finally
produced equipment that could be used by the non-technical operator.
About 1960-61 we began to receive the occasional enquiry for SSB
equipment. Mostly from firms like oil companies wanting long haul
communication in the Canadian North.
RCA International were active in leading the movement. RCA Montreal
bid on and received an order to design and build 150 units. This was
the RCA-SSB-100, 4 channel simplex radio. The R.C.M.P. became
interested and installed RCA sets in Ottawa, Regina, Winnipeg and
Edmonton. They were dramatically successful and they expanded this
network to all parts of Canada. The Hudson Bay Co. became interested --
also the oil companies already mentioned. Our supplier of VHF mobile
equipment, Comco in Florida, listed a single channel, 100 Watt SSB. We
brought some in. Our oil customers liked them and wanted more. Canadian
Marconi were aroused and brought out a Japanese copy of the 4 channel
We then copied the Cornea set but made it 6 channel , simplex and
semi-duplex, thus leap-frogging both RCA and Canadian Marconi. This was
our first SB-100 and we sold 32 the first year, 1963.
In the meantime RCA Canada built aver 3000 of their SSB-100 units in
Montreal, which were sold world wide through RCA International.
This initial plunge into commercial SSB by RCA was under the
direction of their Industrial Sales Manager, none other than Rick
Bergson, who later joined S&T after RCA closed their Marine
Division in Canada.
SSB Radiotelephone Equipment, Development And Sale
1963 The SB-100 Series
Basic design (borrowed) from Cameo. Modified to provide six channels
simplex and semi-duplex. Was used almost exclusively for land stations.
Separate single channel transmitters, SBT-l00 and single channel
receivers, SBR-100 were also made and used in remote controlled land
stations. This series enjoyed a sales life of four years and 156 units
were built. The cost of development was minimal since we had only one
engineer and we did not give him very long to complete his task. It is
unfortunately about the only time we swallowed our pride sufficiently
to copy an existing design.
1965 The SB-60
The four channel mobile SSB was produced in response to our Sales
Manager's (Louis Potvin) insistence that if we could build an SSB small
enough to install under the dash of a vehicle and operate on 12 Volts,
we would sell hundreds of them. No one else had such a product -- in
No one knows what it cost to develop - all "engineering" was lumped
together in those days. However, only Thorkelson and a junior
technician were involved and they did many other things; but the
undertaking was completed within a year of its start. The product
itself was a real breakthrough.
It was, of course, all vacuum tube design in those days yet the four
channel unit was smaller than present day solid state sets of similar
The SB-60 series had an active sales life of nine years and 1133 units were built.
The SB-60 was expanded to eight channels in the SB-60H version. Both
the 60 and 60H models were tested and approved by DOT for use in
aircraft in Canada. A total of 295 were sold for use in aircraft. A DBS
statistics report in 1970 showed that we had 92% of the total Canadian
SSB aircraft market (excluding Class 1 passenger aircraft).
1968 The SB-120
The SB-l20 was developed to meet competition in the marine field.
Over 100 Watts, to play the numbers game, and ten channel, simplex and
semi-duplex. Once again the development costs are not known but I
notice in some of the minutes of the production meetings of the day,
Thorkelson was holding out for a full two months but management was
pressing him to do it sooner. It certainly could not have cost very
Unfortunately it enjoyed a very short active life - five years, with
300 units built. Massive failures of the Croven crystal ovens starting
in 1969 caused a serious and costly interruption of about two years
before we were able to change over to new ovens especially manufactured
by Snelgrove. We were just recovering from this when in 1971 DOC came
out with the new specifications - R.S.S. 181, effective April 1st of
It was not considered advisable to modify the SB-60 and SB-120 to
meet the new specifications since in any event we were facing
increasing consumer demand to convert from vacuum tubes to solid state.
At first it was planned to use the SB-120 tube transmitter in
conjunction with an all solid state receiver which we already had "in
We were precipitated into rushing into a new product before we were
prepared to make the full change to solid state. We succeeded in
securing a P.A.I.T. grant from the Federal Government to help us
through the crisis. William Chester was put in charge of the
accelerated engineering program under P.A.I.T. rules and overseeing.
Thorkelson resigned -- his assistant followed: Chester was obliged to
bring on an entirely new team, including Jim McCluskey and John
Horsack, P. Eng. Neither of these gentlemen had any previous experience
in H.F. design.
The program overran badly in both time and costs and we still had no
products. Chester left the Company at this point and I put Fred Palidor
in charge as Engineering Manager. Palidor managed to pull things
together in a remarkably short time and wind up the project after we
had exceeded an extension of contract.
Out of it all came two products, neither of which could be considered successful.
1973 The SBH-125
A hybrid set (two tubes in the final) 10 channel, 120 Watts. In every respect the SBH-125 was obsolete before it was borne.
- Marconi had produced their CH-25 hybrid set several years before.
- Several manufacturers already had 100% solid state sets on the market.
- Nearly all manufacturers had gone over to broadband tuning in
the receiver input and transmitter output stages. The SBH-125 still
used individually tuned plug-in coils. A fully equipped 12 channel
SBH-125 contained 96 coils! The cost was horrendous.
- Having a vacuum tube final amplifier required a high voltage
power supply for each primary voltage. These were very costly and
unreliable and required re-engineering several times.
The SBH-125 had a four year active life and sold 335 units. Fortunately for us, Cuba bought some.
1967 The SBX-10 Portable SSB
Once the full advantages of SSB were understood, particularly the
greatly increased effectiveness relative to primary power used, it was
realized that the battery powered portable would come into its own,
particularly if suitable devices could be found to permit fully solid
state construction. We started searching.
About this time my friend, Syd Konigsberg, of Konel in California
telephoned me and said he had someone in his office with an all solid
state, 10 Watt, portable SSB and it worked like a damn! Syd was not in
the portable business but knew that we were. The upshot was a visit
from the designer, Clark, who demonstrated the unit to us. We took it
out on the "Blithe Spirit" and talked all over the coast -- hand
carried! It was truly amazing. The set was compact and looked
relatively simple to build. He said he needed money to finish building
his swimming pool so we settled for $5,000 cash for the design and the
We handed the SB/10 (Clark's designator) to Thorkelson and asked him
to get us into production ASAP. Thorkelson spent several months
attempting to repeat the design, but without success. It transpired
that during Clark's previous employment with TRW he had combed through
several thousand of their power transistors to find a single matched
pair that would work at HF frequencies, and these were what he used in
the one and only sample.
Thorkelson had to start over from scratch and find new transistors,
but eventually came up with the SBX-10, a single channel 1 Watt
portable that appeared to work satisfactorily. We built and sold a
total of 342 of these little sets and this got us established as
pioneers in the portable SSB market.
In 1970 Thorkelson came out with the improved SBX-11 which was expanded to provide four channels, simplex or semi-duplex.
The present SBX-11A is basically the same unit but slightly modified
to use more up-to-date devices when the original types became no longer
The SBX-10/11/11A series has now enjoyed a 15 year active life with
annual sales still climbing -- surely an all-time record in this
Total sales over the 15 year period are now over 6,000 units. Our
only Canadian competition has been Canadian Marconi who came on the
market with their CP-24 and then their CP-34. Neither were popular and
both have now been withdrawn from the market.
While the SBX-11A has been successful in capturing 100% of the
market in Canada, we have had by comparison only moderate success in
selling the SBX-11A in the export market where we are faced with very
low priced competition from some U.S. made units. Wherever the SBX-11A
has been sold, however, it has established an excellent reputation for
performance and reliability, and it may not yet be too late to greatly
expand its sale in the export market.
It has been suggested that because of its great age, the SBX-11A
leaves us very vulnerable unless we do something to up-date it. This
sounds reasonable but on the other hand no one has been able to come up
with any really worthwhile improvements to warrant a redesign. Nice
kind of dilemma for a change!
Any redesign undertaken today would probably cost a fortune. No one
really knows the initial engineering cost of the SBX-11 but I seem to
recall estimating Thorkelson's time at $16,000. Adding Clark's initial
$5,000 gives us a figure of around $21,000. Amortized over 6,000 units,
using the regular 5% engineering write-off, the SBX-11 must have
recovered over $120,000 to date, and still going strong.
The only thing that occurs to me is IF the Enhancement program
produces an efficient synthesizer unit -- with low battery drain -- at
low cost, we could contemplate designing a new portable around it. With
broad band tuning it could accommodate many more channels and might
qualify in the military or quasi-military markets of the world. But it
wouldn't be an SBX-11A anymore.
Improved antennas, new type batteries and solar charging should be part of the package.
1974 The SBX-40
A five channel, 40 Watt set originally intended as a mobile and
secondly as an aircraft radio. It was all solid state, but still
employed individually tuned plug-in coils in both transmitter and
receiver. This set was plagued with technical problems from the start
and was too costly for the intended market. Once again Cuba came to our
aid and bought some, but from what I understand have not yet got them
all into service. We built a total of only 114 units during its three
year active life.
1974 The SBX-42
This was the same as the SBX-40 but was supplied with an aircraft
type miniature control head. When we attempted to market this we found
that it was less than acceptable.
- Its dimensions were unsuitable for aircraft mounting.
- It used coils instead of broad band tuning.
- It had insufficient power. The competition were offering 100 Watts or over.
In spite of all this, some customers liked the set when used with our AC-31 or STA-300 antennas.
During the development of the SBX-42 we learned another very costly lesson. That is, how NOT to get aircraft approval!
We were informed that Canadian DOT and U.S. FAA had a "reciprocal
agreement" whereby radios approved in one country are automatically
approved in the other. Certainly we knew that many sets approved by FAA
in the U.S. came right into Canada and were approved without question.
We decided to go about it the other way and put the type approval
procedure into the hands of Saperstein and Associates in Vancouver to
obtain Canadian approval. This process took over 14 months with the set
shuttling back and forth between Vancouver and Ottawa for environmental
testing in the DOC labs in Ottawa. The total cost was over $12,000 but
we finally did it. Ottawa was very pleased as they told us we were the
first to do it this way under the new specs.
Then we applied for automatic approval in the U.S. and were turned down flat. Reciprocity is a one way street in this case!
A total of 53 SBX-42 were built and we gracefully bowed out of the
aircraft market of which we had previously enjoyed a 92% share.
The exact numbers are not available, but over a period of years Cuba
bought many hundreds of SB-60H and SBX-40 partially built kits, thus
substantially improving our production picture.
1976 The SBX-61/SBX-121 Production
This was actually the SBH-125 in which the vacuum tubes were
replaced by power transistors in the final stage. In our first attempt
we could get only 60 Watts (the SBX-61), but in a short time we found
suitable devices to produce over 100 Watts (the SBX-121). With this we
managed to hold the fort until the new SBX-100 series appeared. In fact
the SBX-121 is still being sold because it offers a greater frequency
range than the SBX-100/151. During its five year active life, 205 units
have been sold.
The SBX-121 has earned a good name in the field for reliability and
general performance, but still has the disadvantage of plug-in coils
and high cost.
1973 The "Trail Radio" Contract
While we were still suffering the consequences of the SBH-125/SBX-40
debacle, a minor miracle occurred. We responded to a requirement of the
Research Department of the DOC with an "unsolicited proposal" to design
and develop a new concept of SSB radio aimed at supplying the
requirements of the Northern Peoples (Inuit) of Canada.
This of course is where the SBX-11 had been used for years and where
it is still used. The "Trail Radio" concept was to include many novel
and advanced ideas in "frequency netting", "speech processing", etc.,
and was really right up our alley. The total contract involved about
$180,000 nearly all paid by the Government. It took us about two years
to complete, at which time we delivered two working models to the DOC
where they still reside. None were ever manufactured. It did, however,
provide us with a springboard from which to produce a whole new product
1978 We obtained an EDC "Inovative Grant" to develop a new series of
SSB radios for land, marine and possible aircraft applications, based
on using the "Trail Radio" design and modifying and repackaging it for
commercial markets. Federal Government support amounted to $125,736.
The program ran for two years.
1980 The SBX-100/101 and the SBX-151 radios went into production for
land, mobile and marine applications. Plans to develop an aircraft
model were dropped early in the program in view of what we considered
to be a small and shrinking market. In the first two years a total of
240 units have been sold. Apart from the usual growing pains, the new
product has met with moderate market acceptance.
It is unfortunate, however, that its introduction to the market
coincided with a serious recession in both the fishing and commercial
sectors, resulting in a very slow start.
1980 A further Federal Government grant was obtained from the EDP to
update or "enhance" the SBX-100/151 series. This was mainly to add
synthesized frequency control and to extend the operating frequency
range to cater to the export market. At this date (1982) all Government
funding for the project has been used but the program is being carried
on with an anticipated completion date early in 1982.
The full sales potential of the "Enhanced" product is not yet known.
A great deal has happened in this market since the development was
undertaken, including new imported synthesized equipment selling at
very low prices. A great deal will depend on the final cost of our new
product (not presently known to me).
As an assistance in evaluating sales potential and production
planning for the new SBX-152 series, the Bergson report of November 5,
1980, should be carefully read and understood. This report together
with his 1978 five year forward summary of Canadian Marine SSB usage is
attached to this section for reference.
Reading this rather prophetic report raises some doubt in my mind as
to whether or not we may have allowed ourselves to stray from the
initial objectives during the execution of this program.
On the other hand it should be recognized that at the very inception
of the "Enhancement" program we were well aware that this was less of a
plan to initiate new features, but more a means of "cleaning up" a less
than satisfactory product design, and involving further Government
financing to do it.
The original SBX-100 series contemplated future requirements for
extended frequency range, and also for introduction of synthesization,
both of which would be "dropped in" on a retrofit basis at some later
date. This was to enable us to come onto the market with the basic
Canadian set with the least possible delay.
When we review our decision to undertake the "Enhancement" program,
I now wonder why we turned down the alternative approach, which would
have been to buy or build under license, some other manufacturer's
synthesizer design. Did we think we could improve over the others? Even
Canadian Marconi didn't try to do it themselves but bought their design
from someone else. We had already contacted Stephens in Seattle and he
was prepared to discuss it. According to Jack Manon, the Stephens
synthesizer design was one of the best on the market to that date.
How will ours compare, if and when we get it?
I repeat, please read the Bergson report very carefully and check it
in detail against today's known market conditions before undertaking
any substantial production of the product.
Non-Directional Beacon Transmitters (NDB)
Away back in history, probably in the early 1950's we built and sold
the first of our own NDB's -- the LW-500 designed by Thorkelson -- all
vacuum tube, single frequency, 50 Watt AM using a motor driven coding
wheel as an identifier it quickly took over a major place in the
Canadian market for such devices. Factory production books for that era
are not available to me but I am sure we built several hundred. These
units were used all over Canada by both Government and private users.
They proved to be extremely reliable and in fact many are still
No DOT technical specifications covering this type of apparatus
existed. Through the W.C.T.C. the DOC invited us to draft a copy of a
proposed specification. This resulted in R.S.S.-117, which became
effective in March, 1974. Our transmitters passed with flying colours.
A specialized off-shoot of the LW-500 is worthy of mention. A Dr.
Rootes, of the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys spent a number
of years drifting around on ice-flows in the Canadian Arctic, and used
our equipment on most or all of his expeditions. He badly needed a
radio beacon so that aircraft could locate his camp in the fog. (They
drifted many miles a day).
Our LW-500 served the purpose, but was too difficult to supply with
the necessary power. For Dr. Rootes' specific requirements we designed
a semi portable NDB. It produced 25-50 Watts output, using a pair of
2E24 quick-heat (filament type) tubes, and a transistorized power
supply running off a 12 Volt storage battery. The NDB would be turned
on only after being interrogated by the aircraft on radio -- to
conserve batteries. The transmitter was housed in a plywood box --
fibreglass covered in bright orange. The antenna loading coil occupied
another plywood box of the same dimensions. Dr. Rootes was extremely
pleased with the performance and used them from year to year.
Unfortunately he was, I believe, the only customer because of the very
high cost of the "LWX-50". Would you believe the fibreglass covered
boxes built for us by a boat builder were what put us out of the
market? They cost more than the transmitter!
But the experience convinced us that we should design and produce
the first solid state, portable NDB on the market. This should have
been a pushover for us but we fell flat on our faces doing it.
1970. The Portable NDB requirement was defined, and a search for
devices and components commenced. Our present engineering staff seemed
reluctant to get involved. Our Chief Engineer at the time, John Hu,
PhD., estimated $25,000 and 10 months would be required to design it. I
was suitably shocked and consulted our Scientific Director, Dr. John
McDonald, PhD., in fact asked him if his firm, McDonald Detweiler
Assoc. would undertake it. He declined on the grounds that they had no
one with H.F./LF experience on staff, but recommended a contemporary of
his, Garth Shearing, P.Eng., as having the required experience and
capability. I approached "Shearing and Associates" and they agreed that
the requirement was a very simple one and they undertook to produce a
working model in 3 weeks at a maximum cost to us of $2,500, including
materials and $300 extra for conducting DOC approval tests.
About a year later we had a prototype ready for production. We by
this time had so many unfilled orders on hand for this long awaited
product that we decided to build a run of 45 units to start!
1971. The LWX-25 arrived - 45 of them. These were shipped out to
eager customers all over the world. Almost without exception they
failed in the field -- mostly from overheating and general instability.
They only produced 25 Watts but consumed extraordinary amounts of input
power. I calculated the overall efficiency at less than 12%. The small
heat-sink would not dissipate it and no air circulation was provided
Within a few weeks we had all 45 units back on our hands, burned
out, and a lot of irate customers. I could look for no sympathy from
our engineering people, but enlisted the able and practical assistance
of our Chief Inspector, Tom Gilbert. I promised all customers to have
replacement units back in their hands in a matter of a few weeks at
We scrapped all 45 transmitters and threw the cabinets, chassis and
heat-sinks in the garbage, but salvaged the major boards which we
modified and reused.
After procuring a quantity of the largest "off the shelf" heat-sinks
on the market we had the metal shop build new chassis, rack mount
panels and cabinets, installed three low cost meters to dress them up,
and in 1973 the "LWX-100" was born. This was all done in a period of
two weeks and our customers were retained. With subsequent changes and
improvements the LWX-100A is still with us after nine years. To date
590 have been sold and the annual sales seem to be on the increase. The
product shows a good profit margin.
1978. Dick Huisjman undertook a thorough investigation of the
LWX-100, pin-pointing its many weaknesses and proposing practical
solutions to all of them. The question was, should we try to improve
the existing product, or design an entirely new transmitter employing
state of the art devices to improve performance and reduce costs.
For reference purposes the proposed new beacon was dubbed the LWX-101. It would offer the following advantages:
- By using Power Moss-fets in a switching mode for the output stage
the overall power efficiency would increase to 35-40% instead of the
- Instead of using two low frequency crystals which are slow
delivery and costly items, the transmitter would use the normal A3H
mode but use an inexpensive frequency divider and an off-the-shelf type
of HF crystal.
- The A3H mode (one side band and modulator) would comply with ICAO requirements world wide.
- Also Voice modulation would be possible (a requirement that recently cost us an order for 120 beacons in Alaska).
- No additional "switch-over" unit would be necessary for dual
installation. The necessary circuitry would be contained on every
- All circuitry would be on one board.
- Physical size of cabinet and heat-sink would be much smaller and lighter than the LWX-100.
- The small size would facilitate provision for weatherproof,
pole mounted units frequently preferred for off-shore rigs and low
power approach beacons.
- The transmitter could be supplied in the 1600-2000 KHz ranges so often requested by some countries.
- A C-Moss Morse code generator costing only $2-$3 would be used
in place of the present one at a considerable saving in power
consumption. The present diode matrix board could still be used.
- The estimated cost per unit would be at least $400 less than the LWX-100 which at that time was costing us $1,100.
It was estimated that 10½ months would be required to develop and
field test and obtain DOC approval, for a total cost of $35,000, to get
to the production stage.
Engineering management recommended against proceeding with the
LWX-101 as being too costly and taking too long; and instead
recommended that a minimum amount of work be done on the LWX-100 to
up-date it. To a certain extent I was influenced in this decision
because the LWX-101 development would have required 100% of Ron
Spilsbury's time and I felt it more important he be held in reserve for
the antenna program.
As a consequence the LWX-100 modification (Project No. 01) was
started in April, 1978, with a total budget allowance of $10,800. It
was finished 18 months later at a cost of $20,891.82 (207% over budget).
To give full credit, the new LWX-100A costs about $140 less to build
than the old beacon and has given very much better performance in the
In retrospect, however, I am sure the wrong decision was taken and
that we would be dollars ahead if we had done a complete redesign
instead of the patch-up. The development cost would have been written
off over fewer sales and the added features would have considerably
widened our field.
B.C. Government Airports Program
In September, 1977, we were made aware of a B.C. Government plan to
update a number of secondary airports in the Province and this would
involve the installation of NDB equipment. Being a B.C. manufacturer,
we were in a preferred position to participate.
We assigned one man (Doug Holmes) to follow up on all aspects of the
program. We made the first sale to Powell River Municipality in 1979,
and several more were then in the preliminary stages.
At this time, MOT intervened, claiming our equipment did not meet
their required specifications if the airport was to be upgraded to
"Public" category. Much discussion and many meetings followed.
Eventually we thought we had defined their requirements and were
prepared to carry out the necessary modifications to the LWX-100A. The
Provincial Government agreed to reimburse us for the cost of
engineering and modifications just so a B.C. manufacturer could enjoy
the business. Before this could be accomplished, however, the MOT
officials changed the ground rules several times. Their latest set of
requirements were received in November, 1981. It was handed to our
Engineering Department for study. January 13, 1982, the B.C. Government
wrote and asked us for a report but we had been unable to assign the
necessary engineering time for study. It was suggested that we would
have a report by February 28, 1982.
In summary the MOT are very biased in favour of our Canadian
competitor, Nautel Ltd. and really prefer that our equipment should
resemble it in every detail. This makes it easier for their inspection
staff who are used to working with Nautel equipment in all Federal
Government owned installations.
Recent reports from the field would indicate that other Provinces
are getting involved in similar programs to upgrade their secondary
airports to "Public" category, and MOT of course will insist on the
same requirements as they have in B.C.
Just how large is the market likely to be? Will it pay us to modify
and conform? Or, do we forget all about the Canadian market from now on
and just sell export?
It seems very doubtful that a beacon modified to MOT specifications
would have any special attraction in the export market. In fact it
probably would be priced out.
In January, 1979, B.C. had 15% of the total NDB's in Canada. If B.C.
is going to upgrade 30 airports, can we assume that other Provinces
will follow pro rata?
If so, the total Canadian market might be in the area of 200 dual
beacons. If our product was competitive with Nautel, could we expect to
get half of this? In addition to the Provinces, the MOT themselves are
large customers and currently reported to be planning a purchase of 200
In any event it is a big chunk of business and should not be thrown away without at least a good hard look.
- The specifications should be studied and a modification plan costed.
- The B.C. Government should be asked if it is still prepared to underwrite all or part of the cost.
- Our "NDB Market Analysis" of January, 1979, should be updated.
- All Provincial Governments should be queried as to their plans for updating to Public status.
The four years of negotiation with the B.C. Government and MOT are
recorded in the general files and marked "B.C. N.D.B. 1-2-3-4 & 5,
but regardless of what transpired and how many times they contradicted
themselves, the MOT seem to be firm in their latest demands.
Quite apart from the special MOT requirements, I feel we should
seriously reconsider the possibilities of designing a new transmitter
along the lines proposed in 1978. I understand that some of our
competitors have already adopted the FET switching mode to good effect
in their NDB transmitters.
While we are at it, we should also consider an add-on linear module
to boost the power to 200 Watts or more to open up the next largest
Reverting back to our present dilemma in being unable to satisfy the
MOT, it now becomes evident that we should have seen this coming and
been prepared to work with them instead of against them. In this
connection I refer back to Page 2 of the "Observations and
Recommendations" of the 1979 NDB Market Analysis, headed (a) Government
We obviously never followed the recommendations or the present dilemma would never have developed.
I attach Pages 1 to 5 to this report for reference.
I also recommend that the entire report be studied.
VHF/FM Marine Mobile & Handy
Back in the early 1950's we imported "COMCO" FM mobile and fixed
radios from Florida. Sold to taxis, private cars and fixed stations.
Some of the latter included full simultaneous duplex by discreetly
spacing the ¼ wave dipoles and inserting wave traps in the receiver.
We eventually entered into a licensing agreement and built the units
in the factory. They were, of course, all vacuum tube, large, heavy,
clumsy and expensive, but worked reliably. Eventually the competition
(G.E. and Motorola) came out with solid state equipment and COMCO did
not, and we were forced out of the FM business.
In the early 1970's we imported a number of solid state mobile units
from a small company in Denmark. They were good, but costly. We visited
their factory in Copenhagen where one girl would build a radio from
start to finish! No production line methods.
Then we were contacted by representatives from "AGA" in Sweden. They
introduced a beautifully compact, cassette mounted little set, the
MRU-16. Very good quality and performance, but expensive. They appealed
to quality customer -- the kind who otherwise would buy Motorola. We
introduced the set to Alberta Government Telephones and other
Government Departments. Things went very well and it looked as though
we had the Alberta Government market sewed up.
Then AGA went bankrupt. The Swedish Government took them over and
the Company name changed to SONAB. Prices went up 160% and our sales
collapsed -- but not until we had suffered severe losses both in
dollars and customer good will, and from a large inventory we had to
unload at sacrifice prices.
Our next venture into VHF was when the marine market started to open
up. Hugh Dollard, who previously had been our Sales Manager, was
running his own business --Dollard Electronics -- selling imported
Japanese made (ICOM) equipment to Hams. He talked them into producing a
commercial (marine) model of their 10 Watt mobile, which he introduced
to the local market. Hugh had his hands full with the Ham business and
arranged for us to take over the importation and sale of the marine set
-- 10 Watt 12 channel -- a nice little unit at a good price. We
labelled it the FMX-12/10 and sold a good many hundred. Then ICOM
produced a large 24 channel marine set and it was a flop -- well made
and nice features, but too pricey. We ceased selling the FMX-1210.
It was then that we were approached by Tommy Ishiyama and he
introduced us to the Cybernet line of VHF marine. They were already
doing big business under the "Hy Gain" and "Unimetrics" labels. We did
one of our first in-depth market surveys and projected the magnitude of
the new marine market across Canada. By plunging and committing
ourselves to 1 ,000 units, we obtained an astoundingly low cost on our
new FMX-12/25. We could just about undersell everybody else -- no one
else in Canada imported direct from Japan.
But along came something new -- the 55 channel synthesized marine
set and it took off like wildfire and we didn't have one. We then
landed a Dealership for the "Key-Com" and we sold a few hundred of
those, but they were coming through too many hands -- imported
initially to the U.S. and then sold to a distributor in Montreal and
then sold to us and then sold to dealers and everyone made $100 on it.
We tried to go direct but they wouldn't play -- just as well since the
units gave a lot of trouble -- high warranty costs.
Then Tommy got Cybernet to make a special 55 channel synthesized
version with our own panel and other features -- the FMX-75. It was an
immediate success and our mark-up was good. I think we outsold every
other make the first year.
We then introduced the idea of the "Slide Mount" and paid Cybernet
for all tooling charges on the understanding that the feature belonged
to us exclusively. Our large volume enabled us to absorb the additional
cost and advertise the exclusive slide mount feature.
When the DOC opened up new previously unused channels which most
sets currently on the market could not accommodate, we had Cybernet
come out with the FMX-95S to our specifications. It is interchangeable
with the FMX-75S, using the same slide mount. This brought us up to
1981 and the last big year in Canada for marine VHF.
Going back a few years, we found ourselves stuck with a large
inventory of FMX-12/25 marine sets -- 600 or 700 -- and very slow
moving now that the 55 channel sets were the rage.
We tested the FMX-12/25 to the land mobile specification R.S.S.-l19
and managed to squeak it through. All we did was to disable the 1 Watt
low power switch on the front panel and labelled it the FMX-12/25L. We
were able to unload our entire backlog in less than a year and created
an on-going requirement for the FMX-12/25 which was now out of
We looked over the Cybernet line of marine sets and found their
smallest and cheapest unit, the 12 channel, 25 Watt "Sea Hawk" made
originally for Unimetrics. We got Cybernet to dress this up with our
panel style and adapt it to a slide mount, and got it approved for land
mobile under R.S.S.-1l9 -- just barely.
The price put us well below anything else on the land mobile market, and we unloaded about 2,000 units.
We received increasing complaints about receiver cross modulation
and spurious reception when used in areas of high congestion, and
realized we needed a better quality unit, now that the 12/25L and the
1200L had given us a start in the land mobile field.
When in Japan in 1980, Tommy took us to the ANY COMPANY factory and
met their engineering group. They had a 12 channel, 25 Watt land mobile
designed for Japanese domestic and European taxi-cab use. We imported a
sample -- it met R.S.S.-119 with flying colours, appeared very well
built and was very compact. The only thing we had to do was get them to
change it around from right-hand drive to left-hand drive. This was
easily accomplished by turning it upside down and making a new front
panel which we needed anyway. The FMX-1201 was introduced. Unlike
Cybernet, the Any Co. are happy to receive small volume orders, 100 at
a time, which is a great advantage to us in keeping inventories down.
Once we decide if we are going to stay with the product we should
prepare proper literature and advertise it. Also we should make a
decision whether or not to convert to using a slide mount. Slide
mounting is becoming a Company feature now in both marine and land
mobile. How valuable is it as a sales feature? To start with, our
salesmen did not like it because it increased the selling price of the
product. Recently, however, I believe there has been a change of
thinking --some customers and Dealers say it is the deciding factor in
their choice of makes.
This should be looked at very carefully. Any Co. said they would be
happy to supply a slide mount and would not require the initial high
tooling charges like Cybernet. Unfortunately, a slide mount for the
FMX-1201 would not be compatible with the older FMX-1200L because of
On the other hand, Any Co. have a UHF model in the same cabinet as the FMX-1201 and the new mount would serve both sets.
When considering this problem let's make sure, if we can, that when
we go into a slide mount it should serve in future for whatever we end
up with, in a synthesized version. Or can we see that far down the road?
In the process of adapting the various Japanese products to the
Spilsbury line, there have been a few features that we have been quite
consistent in requiring, and for very good reasons. As they may affect
future decisions, I will mention them here.
- No push button switches. (Sequencing type). They usually admit
water in the marine applications. You can't tell at a glance whether
they are "ON" or "OFF" -- have to look at a picture diagram. Not
available in three position.
- We always insist on "toggle" or "lever" type indicating switches to avoid all shortcomings mentioned above.
- Sloping panels may look nice on the office desk or for home
entertainment type equipment, but don't look very nautical on a boat
where a set must be adaptable to table mounting, bulkhead mounting or
deckhead mounting without having to take the set apart and change the
panel. The "square front" at least looks more industrial on a work
- Frequency selection. Keyboard selection looks very modern but
is much slower to use than a straight rotary knob. Also difficult to
operate with gloves on.
Even with the FMX-95S you can change from 1 to 99 in a split second --
and you can actually scan a large group of adjacent channels with ease.
Also a simple knob and shaft can be made waterproof with a simple
- LED readout. OK providing it is GREEN and has dimmer control.
The reds and magenta colours are impossible to read in strong daylight.
Some people with "green-red" blindness cannot see them at all.
- We have tended to stay with black for the cabinet colour to
have some family resemblance to our own line of equipment. Whites and
ivory look OK on a yacht but soon look grimy on a work boat. Also black
is usually more acceptable in a vehicle.
Base Staitions and Repeaters
We have recently been reluctant to get involved, feeling that "we
don't belong in that league". Personally I tend to disagree and feel
that the sooner we get involved the better.
We could do worse than pattern our design after the Western Radio package. They have a very good name in the field.
I have frequently suggested we take two of our good units like the
FMX-1201 and plug them into a common cabinet and AC power supply. Use
the transmitter of one and the receiver of the other. Combine them with
the usual Sinclair duplex~ and there is our repeater.
Among other things it provides complete redundancy by merely
changing positions of the two units. If they are slide mount, all the
better. They would even be interchangeable with units in the field.
Incidentally, the FMX-1201 claims to have "continuous" rating.
I do know that some of our Dealers make up their own repeaters in this way. I am sure we could do as well.
Having our own repeater should surely be influential in the customers' choice of our mobile equipment.
Hand Carried VHF/UHF
For some time we had been filling customer orders with the "Wilson"
hand held that we purchased through Jack Manon in Seattle. They were
good, but deliveries were slow and prices high.
Tommy brought us samples of the "Shinsu" 6 channel, 2.5 Watt units.
We asked for a lot of changes and finally sold a few hundred, but we
had continual trouble with the factory and their quality control, etc.
Nevertheless we sold several hundred as our "FMX-625".
When in Japan we found that Any Company were tooling up to make a
better unit. After lengthy discussions we settled on their new design
-- 4 channel, 3.5 Watt. We labelled it the FMX-435. Even with this we
have had our problems but hopefully the product is now stabilized.
Tommy wanted us to start buying the Any UHF products, and brought
samples on several occasions. We decided, however, that we already had
enough on our plate and would leave the UHF for some future time.
A study of our very complete analysis of the Canadian Market tell us that --
- The Marine VHF honeymoon is over. It will level off and continue
with a possible volume of 500 units a year for us, since we don't
participate in the low cost pleasure boat field.
- The Land VHF field is comparatively very large and still
expanding. We are among the latest to get involved, but by specializing
in market areas that we know, and where we are known, we can expect to
get our share. Even if we only succeed in getting 5% of the total it
will represent a total sales value several times larger than our
current gross revenue.
This I am sure is where the most results can be obtained for the
least outlay in time and money. The research has mostly been done.
18 Year Analysis Of Development And Sales
Preparing the attached table of SSB shipments brought many things to
light. There is nothing like stepping back and taking a long range
perspective look at things once in a while. I only Wish that I had done
this before, but when you are so close to the trees you can't see the
It is said that "history teaches". It is also claimed that we can
profit by our mistakes. I only hope that someone else can profit by
mine, and then this little history could be a veritable treasure trove!
Look at the chart and imagine where we would be if we had closed
down engineering completely from 1972 to 1982 and saved over $1 Million
in costs. What would we have lost?
The factory could have been cut back to 6 or 8 people building one
SSB product, the SBX-llA, and antennas. Oh yes, and NDB's, they were
On the other hand, development engineering was not all bad. The
SB-60 series certainly paid off, and of course so did the SBX-11.
Some say the answer is "Buy your engineering -- contract it out -- steal it".
I will agree with stealing it. For some unexplained reason we have
seldom taken advantage of borrowing designs, but when we did, it paid
The only time we have gone out and bought a design, or had someone else do it for us, it has turned out to be a disaster.
Apart from this theorizing, it is interesting to note the steady
growth in sales volume in the three years, 1979 to 1981. This can be
partially attributed to our stepped up advertising (from 1% to 3%) in
the same three years. Also, and more directly to the sharply increased
proportion of outside product sales (VHF) of which the advertising was
closely related. Also involved in the same time slot was our stepped up
dealership program, all a part of the same campaign.
Take another good look and then let's say, "Thank God for the SBX-11".
In case you wish to extend these figures into other areas, or make
comparisons with other statistics, I must point out that the numbers on
this chart are derived directly from Factory Production Records, which
in many cases differ drastically from recorded invoicing and accounting
records. Since these discrepancies still exist within the Company, I
attach Bergson s memo of May 12, 1980, in the hope that some day the
new computer can be taught to talk our language.
Also attached is a table of ratios "Dealer vs Direct Domestic
Sales". This information was produced as part of the undertakings in
the Croven law suit but can be related to the other chart with