When Zenith bought Central Electronics (CE) it allowed Joe and Wes the opportunity to manufacture their dream transmitter, the revolutionary Broadband, No-Tune 100V. Yet, with the purchase there were major strings. Wes Schum was no longer the president of CE as that position was transitioned to a long time Zenith manager, John Adams.
As Wes puts it, “When Zenith took over, suddenly we went from three radio engineers to twelve and the production management and planning staff rose from two to six. Yet, with all of that added overhead we were stuck with a large number of pre-sold orders which were priced using the lower-cost, less-overhead CE model.” This meant that essentially the first production run of 100V transmitters were sold at break even and generated zero net profits for Zenith.
To its credit and despite the incredible hurdles faced in producing such a revolutionary and advanced product, Zenith hung in and invested heavily in the CE line…but their real interest was in the shop’s no-union status. In fact, more and more Zenith consumer electronics and test equipment manufacturing was gradually transferred to Central to take advantage of the significant cost differential between union and non-union workers. This practice continued for several years after the amateur product line was discontinued…at least until the sale of console stereo audio systems waned.
Zenith instituted weekly Operating Committee Meetings with combined Zenith and Central personnel to improve quality, plan new products and to consider new sales initiatives. What follows here is a series of these critical and, at the time, highly confidential meeting minutes. The period viewed here is April 19th to June 14th, 1961.
So, you are now treated to a bird’s eye view of the true inner operations of Central Electronics. By June 14th, the first and only production run of 200V transmitters was nearing completion. Decision making was underway for a second run as well as a mid-tier range of amateur receivers and transmitters. There was even talk of a new tuning knob for the 200V and other improvements and manufacturing cost reductions. Sadly, that second production run and those new ideas never materialized. We’ll see why in a later installment.