SM: Let’s start the conversation with your story? Where did you grow up, where do you come from?
BH: I grew up in New Rochelle New York, which is right outside of New York City. I went to grammar school there and then went off to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for my BA degree. I was in the engineering school there and I spent most of my time in Operations Research which is like math, but not necessarily pure engineering. At the time computers were starting to get more popular, moving out of the white room with raised floors and more into industry. Right before graduation I went to work for Digital Equipment Corporation. The area I was assigned to was peripherals; terminals, printers, and tape readers; they were paper tape readers back then. We had just moved away from card readers. We also had just started with floppy disks.
Back then a company like Digital or IBM would provide a complete suite of products to give a complete solution. I was involved with development, design and manufacturing of those suites. One of the products that was a lot of fun was the VT100. It was popular and used in many other manufacturers’ computers. I spent my formative years at DEC, my first 10 years. Then I went off to find my way in the world and joined a small company that was part of a conglomerate. It was Signal Corporation and I worked at the Ampex division. We made broadcast television equipment. Ampex is the company that invested commercialized tape recording. I am sure someone experimented with it prior to them, but they definitely commercialized it. Back in those days they made all of the ancillary devices that made the fun things happen.
One of their claims to fame was commercializing instant replay. That was all recorded on a disk, so we had disks and we had manufacturing and we made our own tape. Most of the audio recording artists, which had started in the late 40’s into the 80’s, were recorded on Grand Master which was an AMPEX recording tape.
SM: Did you work primarily in engineering?
BH: I was in some operations roles, some business development roles and ran product lines. I ran the tape recorder product line for a period of time.
SM: Were you doing general management already?
BH: I was hired there as a general manager, yes. That was a great place to learn business. It was fun dealing with customers. We had notable customers. ABC Network was a big customer, and the big event every four years was the Olympics. That was the biggest single television event for the equipment manufacturers. They were going to a place where they would not have studios and the infrastructure. We would come sweeping in along with hundreds of other companies doing satellite uplinks and build out complete studios in the venues, and the venues were always international. The nice thing about that company is that 65% of the revenue came from outside of the US. The then Soviet Union, Japan, along with every other country, were included in our portfolio and were our customers to deal with on a daily basis. We did not have video conferencing, so I was a big airplane flier. I had many miles on PanAm and some of the other airlines out of San Francisco.