Monday, May 10, 2010

Pay Attention, May 18th is Coming

May 18th is an awesomely, auspicious day for NHT… one worth celebrating. It was May 18, 2009 when we re-emerged from our self-imposed nap to a new web-based business model. The new model seems to be working like we thought it might and so it appears that NHT has hurdled the financial meltdown and found a way to continue making good sounds for not much money.

We did not plan it, but the day also marks a significant event for all in the music world… the invention of the dynamic loudspeaker. It wasn’t the first attempt at a speaker, which occurred years before, but this device had a moving coil, magnet and paper diaphragm. And it was the first such device used for public address. And it all happened right in my hometown, Napa, California.

The founders and inventors were Peter Jensen and Edwin Pridham. They called their invention the “Great Voice” (Magnavox in latin). On May 18th in 1915, Pridham climbed to the roof of the pair’s lab in a residential neighborhood, while Jensen manned the microphones in the lab itself and began to speak. Can you imagine? In the quiet rural setting of Napa at the turn of the century, all of a sudden a voice carries across the valley? Reports from locals at the time said it could be heard over a mile away. You have to wonder how many people thought God was speaking to them. Then one of them decided that they should put the microphones near a Victrola. Music played through a PA for the first time; the first hifi, sort of. Wow.

Not unlike entrepreneurs in our age, Peter and Edwin did not set out to make the loudspeaker. They, like many others in the world, were trying to make it big in the burgeoning wireless radio field used primarily for ship to shore, rail and major city to city applications. They had an Angel investor in San Francisco, who financed their work and suggested they go to Napa as it was rural and their IP would remain hidden from the world.

Their radio research failed. The dynamic speaker, a technological by-product, was developed almost as a lark at first until they saw the commercial possibilities for public speaking, politics, and public announcements. And broadcast music was quite nice of course, but who knew?

They solved the problem of making a moving coil on the steps of the old Goodman Library building not too many days before their first test. I sat on those same steps not long ago, thinking about that day, and what their revelation felt like. This was disruptive innovation. Neither Microsoft nor Apple have anything on these guys.

Think of all the uses we have for speakers in almost all facets of our lives and how many other products and technologies that would be meaningless if you had nothing to play them through. Personally, I’m really glad they found the path. Otherwise I might be picking grapes instead of making speakers.

If you find yourself in need of tunes, you might want to visit our site ( on the 18th, we have a little party planned. Happy birthday to all of us.

1 comment:

Michael Mercer said...

Chris! I didn't know you guys were in Benecia!!!! I wish I would have known when we lived in the Bay Area - after moving from NY (got relocated to LA, MISS it up there). I would have BUGGED you for a job! I'm working w/ Scot Markwell now at Elite (director of marketing - workin HRT right now) so I was PUMPED to see HRT products on your site!!

You guys ROCK


Michael Mercer