Electrosonic’s Simpson, Bowie Look Back on 50 Years of AV

In wide-ranging interviews with CI, Electrosonic co-founder Robert Simpson and CEO Jim Bowie reflect on the global integration firm’s remarkable 50 years.

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When one sets out to encapsulate 50 years of a company’s history in a 297-page book, there needs to be a couple of elements in place:

  • The right person to write it
  • The right structure

Both fell into place easily for global integration firm Electrosonic as it set out to capture five decades of influence on and witness to the AV world.

Co-founder Robert Simpson was the obvious choice to write “Electrosonic – 50 Years on the Audio-Visual Front Line.” The former chairman of Electrosonic remains an active board member, enabling him to provide first-hand perspective for all 50 years.

Since Jim Bowie became CEO of Electrosonic in 2008 he had lobbied for some sort of historical document. “The company has been around a long time and the history was beginning to disappear and the truth is the only person who really had firsthand knowledge of the whole company’s history is Bob Simpson so he was not the best choice, he was the only choice,” he says.

Memories are tricky things, however, as Simpson points out. From 1980 on, the company put out a bi-annual newspaper style publication called Electrosonic World. “That was a terrific memory jogger because we could see the projects that went on. It was a little bit more difficult trying to remember the earlier stuff. Of course, as anybody growing older can tell you, often you can very much remember anything that happened when you were in your 20s much better than you can remember what happened last week. So the pictures of what we did in the early days were pretty vivid anyway.”

Simpson also leaned on a “quite comprehensive” archive of photos and press releases that “enabled me to verify the dates and verify that we got the facts more or less right.”
The structure of the book “fell out naturally when I discussed it with my colleagues,” Simpson says. There’s “A Short History” chapter, which recalls Electrosonic’s humble first office in London’s Greenwich Market. There are also sections on “Products and Technology,” “Projects,” “Services,” “People” and “Contribution to the AV Industry.”

The Greenwich vegetable market, home to Electrosonic’s first office.

Greenwich

Attempting to write a timeline of everything that happened every year would “be ludicrously complicated,” Simpson says. Each of the sections provide for nice narratives on their own.  “So the structure really fell into place once you decided it wasn’t possible to literally do a straight chronology.”

The 297-page book, which reads like a history not just of Electrosonic but of AV technology, far exceeds the expectations Bowie had when he asked Simpson to compile something. “I was hoping to get a 10- or 12-page kind of condensed history of Electrosonic. Bob went off to see what he thought he could produce and he came about with an outline for this and I was blown away.”

[Editor’s note: It’s a really interesting read. From the mini-profiles of the countless folks that you may or may not know once worked for Electrosonic to the rundown of projects that show the evolution of technology, it’s tough to put down. It’s worth checking out.]

Simpson and Bowie talked to CI about “Electrosonic – 50 Years on the Audio-Visual Front Line” and their perspective on the integration industry. Click for the interview.