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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.

Tom LeBlanc
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On wrapping their heads around the role Electrosonic plays in AV’s historical narrative …

Bowie:  [The book] is a technology timeline of the audio visual world. I think we have been part of that. When Electrosonic started there was no AV industry.  We were trying to do things with audio and visual technology, but the industry didn’t exist, so Electrosonic’s history should read as a parallel to the audio visual history because it is the same thing. 

We did a lot of work as a product company where we took a lot of risk and we worked a lot with new technologies. We were won of the first people in the world to create big video walls. We were one of the first companies to make low-cost, high definition video players.

Then if you look at the other side of the page on the system integration, to some degree we implement ideas that come from some of our design clients. We have to be a little bit careful claiming that we were the people who thought something up. Many times we were the ones who built it but the idea comes from the creative design, so there are many things that are memorable. Whether or not we can take all the credit for them we have to be very careful. 

On Electrosonic’s dual businesses – products and integration – until its products division was acquired by Extron in 2010 …

Simpson: It was amazing to me that we were able to carry on doing products for so long, but that was a testament to the fact that we have always been pretty flexible and always tried to present the company in the way that the customer would like us to be. We didn’t waste time pretending to be a mega products company when clearly we weren’t.  Of course, in the end, they actually did have to split.

Electrosonic was also a product manufacturer until 2010. Shown is a two-speed dissolve unit for slide projection, the ES2002 from the late sixties.