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Keneth Alden Simons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Keneth Alden Simons at his workbench in the 1950s
Keneth Alden Simons At His Workbench in the 1950s

Keneth Alden Simons (March 10, 1913 – June 11, 2004)[1] was an American electrical engineer best known for his pioneering contributions to the technical development of cable television in the United States, for the most part as chief engineer for the Jerrold Electronics Corporation. Jerrold was one of the first manufacturers of cable television equipment and also constructed entire cable systems.[2] Simons designed one of the first converters and the two most important pieces of the early test equipment, the Model 704 Field Strength Meter and Model 900 Sweep Frequency Generator. He also authored a seminal technical handbook on cable television systems, and served on national and international engineering standards committees. Fellow cable engineer Archer Taylor stated that Simons was seen as the leading technical expert at Jerrold for over two decades.[3]

Early years

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Simons' interest in radio began at an early age, and he obtained his amateur radio license (callsign W3UB) in 1930. Simons started his career as a radio troubleshooter for RCA in 1932 in Camden, and worked for RCA while he attended college. In 1938 he graduated from the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania,with distinction[4] and recipient of the A. Atwater Kent Prize in Electrical Engineering] (see Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia)[5] He then became a television field engineer for RCA. On one occasion in 1939 he and another field engineer installed a television set in the honeymoon cottage of movie stars Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, and Simons showed her how to operate it.[6] Later Simons helped run the RCA television exhibit on YouTube at the 1939 World’s Fair. In the summer of 1940 he was sent by RCA to run the public address system and make recordings of speeches on the campaign train of Wendell Willkie, the Republican candidate for president that year.[7]

In 1941 he was a radio engineer for WCAU in Philadelphia, broadcasting live concerts over the radio. From 1942 until 1946 he was the chief instructor for the RCA Signal Corps School. Along with teaching operation and repair of various devices, he wrote instruction manuals on oscilloscope use [8] and synchronous motors.[9]

He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1946 and was the chief television instructor at Central Radio School until 1948. Simons then worked for Sylvania for about a year developing television tuners and an indoor antenna. In 1952 he formed a partnership to design and manufacture direct-coupled oscilloscopes. Due to lack of funding, they ultimately were not produced.[10]

Jerrold years

Keneth Alden Simons at his Jerrold Electronics workbench in the 1960s
Keneth Alden Simons At His Jerrold Electronics Workbench in the 1960s (Click to enlarge)

Simons began at Jerrold Electronics Corporation as a part-time consulting engineer in 1951. His first project was to design a high-to-low frequency converter. He and other Jerrold engineers worked out of Simons' personal laboratory located on the second floor of a stained glass factory in Bryn Athyn, Pa., until a new Jerrold lab was built in Hatboro, Pa., in 1955. Simons characterized his role at Jerrold in his resume: "Three of us were primarily responsible for equipment design in the early years. Donald Kirk was talented in coming up with new ideas, my contribution was often in getting a system to work, and Henry Arbeiter took all the bright ideas and made them producible."[11] Other engineering colleagues included Eric Winston, Mike Jeffers, Frank Ragone, Caywood Cooley, Vic Nicholson, Len Ecker, and Bill Felsher.[12] Simons successively became chief engineer, chief test equipment engineer, vice president and director of advanced development. Some of his noteworthy designs include the Model 704B Field Strength Meter. In a technology area based on rapid and constant change, the 704B was of note in being in production and use for more than 20 years [13] The 704 name is honored even today in a fraternal organization of its users The Loyal Order of the 704, commemorating the meter’s defining role in cable development.[14] Simons also designed its successor, the Model 727 Field Strength Meter; the Model 900 and Model 1015 Sweep Frequency Generators, and the Model SCA 213 Distributed Amplifier.[11]

Simons held 13 US and foreign patents,[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] published four books,[28][29][30][31] one of which was translated into Spanish.[32] and 37 articles in engineering publications (e.g. [33][34]). His well-regarded Technical Handbook for CATV Systems went through 4 editions from 1965 to 1985.

Simons served on two technical committees of the International Electrotechnical Commission, part of the International Organization for Standardization, beginning in 1969.[35] He was a life member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the Society of Cable Television Engineers, and a Fellow of the British Society of Cable Engineers.

(For further details on his career at Jerrold, see Simons’ oral history in interview Houser Oral and Video History Collection at The Cable Center[36])

Operation Moonwatch

As part of the International Geophysical Year, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory set up a national network of amateur-run observation stations to track the early Russian artificial satellites, Sputniks I and II, Operation Moonwatch. As a member of his local Moonwatch group Moonwatch group, he made use of a unique radio-based Doppler tracking system he designed to enhance the accuracy of his team’s sightings.[37]

Last years

Simons retired from Jerrold in 1976. He then served as a consultant for a number of cable industry manufacturers until 1989, and then for the University of Pennsylvania beginning in 1990.

In February 1992, Simons was interviewed by Archer Taylor covering a broad range of topics from his life in cable television. The Audio and Transcript of the interview are now archived in the oral histories maintained by The Cable Center.

Simons had originally patented a directional coupler, U.S. Patent 3,048,798, filed December 24, 1959, that had defined this key component for cable-based distribution of television. Now, 35 years later, he designed another coupler unit, U.S Patent 5,461,349, filed Oct. 17, 1994, a wide-band bidirectional coupler. He expanded on its concept with a proposal for a contemporary bidirectional hybrid copper and optical cable television headend, with a 1 GHz bandwidth and privacy capabilities.[38]

The final innovation he worked on involved getting back together with a friend he had first worked with when both were in college, the distinguished biophysicist Britton Chance.[39] “In BC’s group meeting on every Saturday, he invited his friend Ken Simons (retired from RCA lab) to teach us circuits and electronics.”[40] Chance’s group wanted to construct an optical tomography-based replacement for the standard MRI. Simons collaborated in this effort, attempting to use phase modulation of the illuminating laser to more efficiently measure hemoglobin deoxygenation in body tissue.[41]

Chance later wrote:

A Boon to Medicine

I appreciated the June 15 obituary of Keneth Simons. However, not only was he a contributor to cable television but he volunteered his unique knowledge to the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in developing optical imaging systems for the detection of breast cancer and brain function. This deep knowledge and facile handiwork made possible the perfection of devices that are now the focus of new types of medical devices that make possible non-invasive and highly sensitive detection of brain function, muscle function and cancer detection. Simons will be long remembered for his generous and far-reaching knowledge of electronic circuits.

Britton Chance

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Letters Posted: June 30, 2004 [42]


In addition to the list of memberships and committee assignments Simons was an invited participant at a variety of standards-setting meetings.[43][44]

The National Cable Television Association (NCTA) named Simons "CATV Engineer of the Year" in 1965, and he served on NCTA's Ad Hoc Committee on Technical Standards and their Engineering Subcommittee.[45] In 1973 NCTA presented Simons with the "Technical Achievement Award" (now the "Vanguard Award for Science & Technology").[46]

Simons was awarded the first IEEE Delmer Ports Award, in 1978 at IEEE’s annual meeting.[47] He was characterized in the award as a legend in the CATV industry and credited for his role in developing NCTA technology. He was credited as responsible for NCTA noise interference standards and for the measurement of distortion components. His Technical Handbook for CATV Systems was characterized as an indispensable sourcebook on the technical aspects of CATV and for many years the best tutorial available on performance and measurement in CATV.


Simons died June 11, 2004.

University of Pennsylvania, Alumni Gazette November/December 2004 issue, Class of 1938

Downey, S. Keneth A. Simons, 91, leader in the cable-television industry [48]


  1. ^ Marquis Who's Who on the Web, accessed 1/10/2011; Marquis Who's Who on Demand, accessed 4/10/2013
  2. ^ See Patrick Parsons, Blue Skies: A History of Cable Television, Temple University Press, 2008, p. 68-69, 113-115, and Brian Lockman and Don Sarvey, Pioneers of Cable Television: The Pennsylvania Founders of an Industry, McFarland, 2005, p. 62-84, for Jerrold's importance to the early history of the cable television industry. Lockman and Sarvey quote Simons' oral history in telling the Milton Shapp/Jerrold story.
  3. ^ Archer S. Taylor, History Between Their Ears: Recollections of Pioneer CATV Engineers, The Cable Center, 2000, p. 44. Taylor was the interviewer for Simons' oral history, and his section on Simons, p. 40-46, is largely based on that oral history.
  4. ^ University of Pennsylvania. One Hundred and Eighty-Second Commencent for the Conferring of Degrees, Municipal Auditorium, Wednesday, June the Fifteenth, 1938
  5. ^ Student awards from the Moore School.
  6. ^ Barco Library, The Hauser Oral and Video History Collection, The Cable Center. Interview with Keneth Simons, Feb. 18, 1992
  7. ^ Taylor, A.S. p. 44
  8. ^ Simons, K. Understanding Oscilloscope Patterns. RCA Signal Corps School. Philadelphia, PA 1943
  9. ^ Bureau of Ordnance and Bureau of Ships (U.S. Navy) publication (Ordnance Pamphlet No. 1303) dated December 15, 1944
  10. ^ Chronology and job titles from Marquis Who's Who and "Resume of Keneth A. Simons," in Simons biographical file, Barco Library, The Cable Center
  11. ^ a b Simons resume
  12. ^ Taylor, p. 44.
  13. ^ Stubbs, G. From workhorse to icon. The 704 Jerrold Field Strength Meter, CED Magazine, November/December 2004, p. 42,.
  14. ^ Schley, S.The 704 remains locked in the cable industry’s memory CED Magazine, 11/19/2012
  15. ^ U.S. 2,499,116 Feb. 28, 1950 Tester for Self-Synchronous Systems
  16. ^ U.S. 3,048,798 Aug. 7, 1962 Directional Coupler]
  17. ^ U.S. 3,140,454 July 7, 1964 Band-Width Varying Means for a Sweep-Frequency Oscillator (Joint Patent with Eric Winston)
  18. ^ U.S. 3,437,948 April 8, 1969 Grounded Collector Amplifier Circuit
  19. ^ U.S. 3,440,571 April 22, 1969 inductively Coupled Unidirectional Taps
  20. ^ Canada 830,118 Dec. 16, 1969 Method of Metering Receivers in a Wired T.V Distribution System
  21. ^ Canada 832,629 Jan. 20, 1970 Inductively Coupled Unidirectional Taps
  22. ^ Canada 839,975 April 21, 1970 Variable Attenuators (Joint Patent with George Duty)
  23. ^ U.S.3,514,530 May 26, 1970 Method of Metering Receivers in a Wired TV Distribution System
  24. ^ U.S. 3,522,453 Aug. 4, 1970 Variable Attenuators (Joint Patent with George Duty)
  25. ^ England 1,203,125 Aug. 26, 1970 A Grounded Collector Amplifier Circuit
  26. ^ U.S. 3,982,062 Sept. 21, 1976 Video Encryption System
  27. ^ U.S 5,461,349 Oct. 24, 1995. Directional coupler tap and system employing same.
  28. ^ Simons, K. Technical Handbook for CATV Systems Jerrold Electronics Corporation. Division of General Instrument Corporation. 1968 (3rd Edition).
  29. ^ Simons, K. Understanding Oscilloscope Patterns,'
  30. ^ Simons, K. United States Navy Synchros,’’
  31. ^ Simons, K.’Identifying picture problems in CATV systems.’’ Publication TM-07, Society of Cable Television Engineers, July 1983
  32. ^ Simons, K. ‘’Identificación de Problemos en La Imagen en Sistemas de TV Por Cable (STVC)'’’ Society of Cable Television Engineers, July 1983.
  33. ^ Simons, K. Analyzing dielectric and. conductor losses in solid-shielded coaxial cables. Telecommunications, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 23-27, February 1970
  34. ^ Simons, K. The optimum gain for a CATV Line Amplifier. Proceedings of the IEEE, Volume 57, No. 7, pp. 1050-1056, July 1970.
  35. ^ Taylor, p. 44-45.
  36. ^ The Cable Center | The Hauser Oral and Video History Project
  37. ^ Simons, K. Tracking Sputniks I and II with Operation Moonwatch. IRE Almanack, Philadelphia, Feb. 1958, p. 8
  38. ^ Simons K. Supercharging the traditional cable plant. CED Communication Engineering & Design.’’ August 1994, p. 62
  39. ^ Benaron et al. Celebrating Britton Chance ‘’J Biomedical Optics’’ 2000 5:115.
  40. ^ Chen,Y. A Personal Reflection on my Ph.D. Advisor Dr. Britton Chance
  41. ^ Weng, K, Zhang, MZ, Simons K, Chance, B. Measurement of biological tissue metabolism using phase modulation spectroscopic technology. Proceedings of the SPIE, Section on Time-resolved spectroscopy and imaging of tissues, Vol. 1431, 1991, p. 161
  42. ^ Letters - philly-archives
  43. ^ Simons, K. ‘’Relating transfer impedance to coaxial cable radiation, ’’Proceedings of the 23rd International Wire and Cable Symposium, Sponsored by U.S. Army Electronics Command, Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 3,4 and 5, 1974, pp. 152-160
  44. ^ Simons, K. ‘’The evolution of CATV equipment in the USA.’’ Estratto Dagli Atti Ufficiali Del XXI Congresso Scientifico Internationale Per L’electronica, Marzo 1974, Roma.
  45. ^ "Profile of a Leader: Keneth Alden Simons," CATV [weekly trade magazine], November 25, 1968, p. 26.
  46. ^ The NCTA website lists all of the past award winners
  47. ^ C-ED Communications-Engineering Digest June 1978, p. 9
  48. ^ June 15, 2004

External links

  • [1] Ken Simons at his workbench, probably 1950's.
  • [2] Additional 1950's shop photo
  • [3] Ken Simons at his workbench, probably 1970's.
  • [4] Jerrold Model 704B Field Strength Meter with TK-Channel Adapter Module and Manual
  • [5] Jerrold Model 900 Sweep Frequency Generator.
  • [6] Keneth Simons Oral History, Barco Library, The Cable Center. Interview was conducted by Archer Taylor on Feb. 18, 1992; full transcript available.
  • [7] SIA Acc. 10-004 From the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Simons, Keneth. A, Keneth A. Simons Papers, c. 1957-1958
  • [8] Reprints of several technical publications by Simons
  • Taylor, A. From the Archives. "Keneth A Simons" Broadband Library Summer 2004, p. 88
  • [9] Loyal Order of the 704; fraternal organization for cable television engineers; site has a section devoted to Simons
This page was last edited on 7 July 2020, at 20:57
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