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Celebrating 30 Years

Celebrating 30 Years

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Steve Alford: President and Founder, Alford Media Services

 

Our April email postcard acknowledged our 30-year anniversary.  I made mention of numerous technologies, products and individuals that have been a part of our three decades staging AV events.  While many readers undoubtedly reminisced right along with me, many surely wondered, “who and/or what’s that?”  Below is an expanded version of the postcard’s text. 

On April 1st, we marked thirty years in business and I wanted to remember, reflect, and reminisce. So much has changed in the industry.  Manufacturers such as AVL (Audio Visual Laboratories) in the 70’s and 80’s built a line of computerized multi-image slide show programmers that were more or less the standard machines in use in the A/V business at that time.  Using the AVL ShowPro, Eagle and Genesis machines, I programmed literally hundreds of shows for producers across the country. TVL (Television Laboratories) was an outgrowth company of AVL that manufactured graphic computers that we displayed on newly invented . . . wait for it . . . video projectors! Kodak made slide projectors and we used to have dozens if not hundreds of them in inventory.  Today they’re extremely rare and hard to find. GE’s (General Electric) entry into video projection was called the Talaria.  When the screen displayed large, colored, moving amoeba’s, technicians and clients called them by other names.  Bose, still a leader in the audio industry, was the norm in ballrooms back in the 80’s. Many of these companies have either closed their doors or no longer support the live events market. To this list you could add; Clearlight, Spindler Sauppe, Arion, TEAC, Hughes-JVC, Technicolor, among others.

Some of the technologies that have come and gone were the bread and butter of our industry while they were viable. For example, CRT projection (cathode ray tube) had quality resolution, but they weren’t very bright. We were an industry leader in stacking the projectors – sometimes as many as 5 high – for increased brightness and redundancy. Multi-image slide programming allowed clients to create spectacular, widescreen, high definition programs that could actually control images up to a 100th of a second which is about 4 times the speed of traditional video and film. 3/4” U-Matic was the standard for videotape playback in the 70’s and into the early 80’s. Beta SP was the standard for videotape playback in the late 80’s and 90’s. We didn’t get rid of our last Beta deck until last year. CRV laser discs were the first programmable random accessible playback device for our industry but they did not last long. Of course, audiocassettes were the consumer and industry standard for audio playback and record and we used them on shows all the time. Floppy discs were inexpensive, 5” portable storage discs used for anything and everything computer related but have long since disappeared from ballrooms and computers.  To this list you could add; 4-track reel-to-reel audio, VHS, and Betamax.

As a multi-image slide programmer I’m especially fond of technology like the Eagle (AVL multi-image slide-programming computer), Genesis (one generation up from the Eagle) and Dove. The Doves were the dissolve unit that controlled up to three slide projectors from either the Eagle or the Genesis.  Multiple Doves could be daisy-chained together for large slide shows. Carousel was the common name for the Kodak slide projectors and there were various models.

Equipment aside, it’s the people that have been so instrumental and meaningful to me. The list of valued employees, customers, vendors, and competitors who have been a part of our journey is too long to assemble but I would like to mention some of them that come to mind. Sadly, over decades we’ve lost some dear friends along the way. I’ll start with Dwight “gentle giant” Adams who was a bench tech for Alford in the early 90’s. He was a kind and quiet man that often babysat other employee’s kids. He unexpectedly passed away from a blood clot, and informing my employees of his death was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Buddy Scott was Jim Kirk’s partner with TM Communications and Corporate Magic.  Buddy’s real last name was Bothel which often led to trouble locating him at hotels where we were working.  Olin “O.T.” Terry was a legend in the AV industry.  Stories he told included being a reporter near Jack Ruby when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald, watching movies with Cloris Leachman and Paul Newman in Paul’s private theater after having dinner with them at a Kip’s Big Boy restaurant, and shedding his tuxedo so John Wayne could wear it at a gala event he was attending. Olin programmed slide shows, recorded and edited audio tracks and produced many videos.  In his later years he produced and called many corporate events.  He was travelling with a group of Alford technicians to stage a show in Canada when he passed away. Having just checked in, Olin was discovered dead in his room by a bellman delivering his suitcase. He still had his tip in his hand. Olin was among the first three people we inducted into the Alford Wall of Honor. Olin loved us as we did him. Brian Joseph was barely thirty when he worked for us as an audio engineer. One day on show site he began filling ill so he was sent home. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer which he courageously battled for a year-and-a-half. His burgundy work ethic and attitude are forever remembered as he is now a member of our Wall of Honor. Others that will be missed include Lynn Townsley. She was a writer, multi-image and video producer, Alford advocate and dear friend. Nancy Richardson was an industry veteran that worked as our Office Manager in our California location in the late 90’s. Sadly, she succumbed to cancer in 2006. Another client that I will miss is Garrett Nash who was a technical director for Maritz that we loved working with. Kurt Rodgers worked as a freelance media specialist for us before his death. Joel Carter was an audio engineer who worked for us both as a freelancer and on staff who died much too young. Jose Nicoletti was a well-respected and loved industry veteran who worked for TBA-New York until his passing earlier this year…et al–you are not forgotten.

I have to give thanks to so many people that have touched me and Alford Media in the last thirty years. I can’t name them all but I can start with Grady Kimball. Grady was my employer and mentor during the early 80’s.  When I left to start Alford, I rented office and theater space within Kimball Audio Visual and continued to work on projects with Grady and his team which included his rental manager and my brother, Tom, along with Danny Harris and Nick Foster among others. Danny Harris is a great friend and was a pioneer in the world of video projection. Along with my brother Tom, Danny was our partner when we incorporated Alford Media Services in 1989. Danny is one of the original people on our Wall of Honor. Nick Foster, an unparalleled video engineer and some would say certifiable genius, was responsible for much of our cutting-edge success in the 90’s. Our dear friend, Don Turnbow, was our financial guru, CPA, and advisor who was invaluable in helping us manage our growth over the years, including helping us with three company sales. Don is also on our Wall of Honor.  Jim Kirk is our oldest and most loyal client and friend. Jim’s creative pitches are legendary! We started to experience just how legendary initially during his tenure with TM Communications and later as the founder and chief creative officer of Corporate Magic.  Jim dreams up some doozies and we’ve managed to help turn them into realities for the past three decades. Tom (T.R.) Stimson was a member of our leadership team for almost fifteen years. He remains an endearing friend and valued colleague. Don Freeman, CEO of our parent company Freeman, is one of the most admired and respected veterans in the meetings industry. He has supported our growth as a standalone brand within the greater Freeman family of businesses. I am indebted to him for the contributions he’s made to our ongoing growth and success.

As I ponder all of this history I also have to wonder about the next thirty years. Technological advances will take us to places as yet unimagined, new products will replace those that have outlived their usefulness, and the next generation of audio-visual professionals will join our ranks embracing the Burgundy mantra to ensure we continue to provide the best SHOW of Support in the industry.

I offer a heartfelt, “thank you and continued success” to our loyal customers (you know who you are), many industry friends (you know who you are), and our dedicated and professional family of employees (and, yes you know who you are). It’s been a great ride, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapters reveal. Amen and Amen!

Cheers!

Steve Alford

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Alford Media