December 1958 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Since I live in Erie, Pennsylvania, an erstwhile very industrial, albeit small town, it is always nice to run across information on the area in my electronics magazines. There are still a few electronics businesses in Erie, but as with most of the manufacturing from long ago, high tech here is found mostly on the shelves of Best Buy and not on manufacturing lines. One notable exception is Bliley Electric Company, maker of crystal oscillators, who was established in Erie in 1930. Bliley still operates today in a building about two miles from my house. This advertisement from the December 1958 edition of Popular Electronics magazine is by Erie Resistor Company. In doing a Google search, I found a brief history of the company on a UK website. According to the author, Erie Resistor opened a division in Yarmouth in 1932. Here is a reference to Erie Resistor Company being credited for discovering the ferroelectric oxide - "History of the First Ferroelectric Oxide, BaTiO3." Here is a 1930s era patent issued for a "Resistor" - it doesn't get much more basic that that.
Erie Resistor building entrance
Erie Technological Products Zippo Cigarette Lighter
Since I live in Erie, I went down to the old Erie Resistor Corporation plant at 644 West 12th Street and got these photos. The overhead causeway connected both parts of the building to keep employees in comfort (it gets pretty cold and windy in Erie) and safety (West 12th is a busy street, then as now).
Thanks to Bob Davis for sending a link to a page on the Stock Lobster Antique Stocks and Bonds (now defunct) website that has an image of Erie Resistor's official stock certificate. Founded in 1929, the year beginning America's Great Depression, they evidently traded under the name of Erie Technological Products, Inc. After legal run-ins with unions, Erie Resistor sold out in 1981 to Japan's muRata Manufacturing Company and became known as muRata Erie North America.
See also the Erie Resistor Corporation advertisement in the January 1952 issue of Radio & Television News and the December 1958 Popular Electronics, and Erie Technological Products in the October 18, 1965 issue of Electronics magazine.
You might find this bit of personal experience with Erie Technological Products by RF Cafe visitor Rick Marz, KD6EFB, interesting.*
Erie Resistor Corporation Advertisement
Erie Resistor Corporation Advertisement
* Notes from RF Cafe visitor Rick Marz, KD6EFB (with permission):
12/20/2019: Kirt – I was doing a little research on the history of Erie Technological Products, and discovered your RF Café site. My interest was personal, as I was an employee of Erie Tech in the mid 60’s, at their subsidiary, Electron Research, Inc. at 530 W 12th St. As you know, Erie Tech was primarily a capacitor manufacturer, their later technology being multi-layer monolithic, ceramic products. Electron Research was an early semiconductor manufacturing company in the US, manufacturing silicon and germanium diodes and assemblies. I left Erie, PA, in 1969 to join Motorola Semiconductor in Cleveland, then the #2 semiconductor company in the world, tied with Fairchild Semiconductor. At that time, TI at 30%, Motorola and Fairchild tied at 20% each, made up 70% of the total, worldwide semiconductor market.
In 1971 Motorola transferred me to Silicon Valley at a moment that I can honestly say allowed me to experience 99.99% growth of the global semiconductor, computer and communications industry. What a ride! I spent over 45 years in the industry, and even in retirement find myself as an advisor to several companies.
Found your site very interesting, if you ever want to communicate, you have my email.
Rick Marz, KD6EFB (LinkedIn)
12/24/2019: Kirt – Thanks for getting back. Feel free to post anything I have sent, it is all just historical. The name of the company was Erie Technological Products, not "Technical." I haven’t been in contact with anyone from Electron Research in many years and fear many have passed away. I started to work there in my last semester at Gannon, so was maybe 22 years old (I'm now 76, putting things in perspective) and was virtually the youngest person in in the company, save production operators.
There were three manufacturing entities in the company, Erie Tech, manufacturing primarily ceramic capacitors at the time, Electron Research, my division, an early semiconductor manufacturer producing germanium glass diodes, and silicon diodes and rectifiers and assemblies.
As you may recall, the early semiconductor manufacturers in the USA were located in around the east coast, many descendants of the venerable vacuum tube manufacturers like GE, CBS, Sylvania and RCA. Some small startups in CA emerged around the universities. Two big influences driving growth in the global semiconductor business, and the geographical shift west were the acquisition of the executive team at Shockley Labs in Palo Alto by Fairchild Camera (Long Island based), which was the creation of Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957, and the move by Dr. Daniel Noble then at Motorola in the Chicago area, to Phoenix, AZ to start Motorola Semiconductor. Fairchild Semiconductor was the incubator for what would become dozens of major, global Semiconductor companies over the next several decades. In 1968 a Fairchild team (Noyce, Moore, Grove et al) "spun off" to form Intel. A year later, another group of Fairchild dissidents formed Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) where I spent almost 19 years.
Back to the Erie story. A third entity of Erie Tech was Fryling Manufacturing, a precision metal stamping facility on West 11th street, behind Electron Research. They produced many lead caps and components for capacitor manufacture as well as external customers.
A note about the market at that time. In 1965, we were in the midst of the Vietnam conflict. Our major end markets included military customers, early mainframe computer customers and the US television industry. Foreign imports of television receivers hadn't begun. For Electron research, our largest single market were the early TV manufacturers in the mid-west, including RCA, Magnavox, Admiral, Motorola, Setchell-Carlson and others. Germanium, point contact diodes were used as video detectors in the receivers. I recall shipping over a million units a month at an average selling price of around $0.05 each. With the war effort, we also had many customers in the military communications field building squad radios like the AN/PRC-77 transceiver. Eventually, night vision optics became important to the war effort and Erie Tech built innovative high voltage capacitor banks along with Electron Research high voltage rectifiers to use with multi staged photomultiplier tubes. You can probably research that if interested. It used a basic Cockroft-Walton circuit voltage multiplier. Very small, only a few inches long, curved in shape, they wrapped around the photomultiplier to be the core of small "rifle scopes" or sniper scopes. The input voltage was only around 3V, the output between 2-5kV.
Another historic evolution was Erie Tech's innovation in precision molded plastics. They were an early company importing plastic molding technology and manufacturing equipment into the USA. It's no coincidence that many of the country's largest, molded plastics companies began or were located around Erie in the 60's. [note: there are still many plastics manufacturers in Erie today - Kirt B.]
More history, in 1968, an executive at Erie, Tom Venable, founded a company in Erie, Spectrum Controls, specializing in EMI and RF filter products. As the capacitor and semiconductor businesses were in decline the Spectrum business enjoyed robust growth, and was ultimately acquired.
Well Kirt, I didn't intend to blast out all that history, but once I got started, I couldn't stop. I still have family in and around Erie, my two brothers are there, many nieces and nephews, so I visit with some frequency. I agree that the city decline from a manufacturing powerhouse in the 20's through the 90's was sad. Lots of theories, but I think it will never be the same town that used to be a forge, foundry, machine tool, plastics, locomotive, appliance, commercial fishing and motor capitol it once was.
Rick – Have a great Christmas…
Posted November 26, 2019 (original 3/18/2013)