Re: Stan Griffiths


Hi Chuck,
I agree with both of these insights, especially the 2nd one:
<SNIP> Tektronix didn't lose their way, they lost their market, and the old guard couldn't figure out how to cope.
<SNIP> Tektronix tried to address the commercial market, all the way down to the TV repairman, but the really sucked at making things cheaply, and the commercial market was very cost conscious.

As you said some of their marketing failures were the result of the old guards protecting their turf. For instance:
* Tek's flood gun storage technology was about to be over-run with raster technology when Tek invested heavily in a new facility to make more storage tubes.
* Tek ignored FFT based spectrum analyzers for more than 10 years after they appeared and kept making swept IF spectrum analyzers.

Taking a company public is like making a deal with the devil. The short term gain of the revenue this provides is like a sugar rush. But long term you end up with a headache every 3 months when you have to show a profit to your stockholders. You must spend the stock money wisely. Tek did this for a time but then they made a series of acquisitions that ended in massive losses.
* Tek bought several companies (presumably for their technology) and in a matter of a few years sold them at a huge loss.

* One day I had breakfast with the Tek manager who made the executive decision that there was no money to be made selling software. I'm pretty sure I know what Bill Gates would have said about that decision if I asked him but I didn't hear this until long after I left.

Chuck was right about making things cheaply for the commercial market. For example Jerry Shannon drove the costs out of the TM500 plugins like Madman Muntz did for TVs in the 1940s and 1950s. When Jerry was finished squeezing the last nickel from the TM500 there was nothing on the rear of it holding it together. Sometimes it was shaped like a parallelogram instead of a rectangle in the back. The TM500 plugins exuded cheapness. Fortunately the TM5000 plugins reclaimed some of the quality that disappeared from the TM500 plugins. In addition the quality and capability of the newly announced TM5000 plugins improved steadily over time. With GPIB capability across the entire TM5000 series it was finally possible to build unique hybrid instruments from combinations of various plugins and completely automate the entire hybrid instrument.

The old guard also thought Tektronix was a leading edge, high technology, high quality, oscilloscope manufacturer. They stuck up their nose at low technology products like the 5000 scope series which was specifically designed to address a cost sensitive market with high quality oscilloscopes.

The devil came back to collect his fee in the late 1980s when pressure to show a profit every quarter resulted in a series of very poor decisions. Tek was now being run by professional managers who didn't have a clue what an oscilloscope was. The management hired several Management Consulting firms to tell them ("advise them") what they should do next. I don't know what those recommendations were but it was around this time that management gave themselves golden parachutes, borrowed from the pension fund. Etc.

Too late I realized that Chuck got me started on the things I learned about Tek I never would have known (or appreciated) if I accepted their offer and became an employee in 1971 (the golden age of Tek). Instead my ex-Tek friends, many who left in the late 1980s (when things were going from bad to worse) have many stories of things like this which I hear instead.

A sign of how far things have come was the announcement in December that Tek was permanently closing the cafeteria. Virtually every Tek engineer met all his fellow engineers at lunch every day. So many ideas came spontaneously from those lunch encounters.
This announcement was preceded by another one that management was transferring all future IC design to a company in Silicon Valley and closing their IC Design Department. I immediately thought what would happen to Boeing if one day they announced that henceforth the design of their wings was being transferred to a foundry in Pittsburg that made long steel girders. Would you fly on that plane?

Dennis Tillman W7pF

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Chuck Harris
Sent: Friday, January 31, 2020 6:26 AM
Subject: Re: [TekScopes] Stan Griffiths

Tektronix didn't lose their way, they lost their market, and the old guard couldn't figure out how to cope.

Reagan spent the Soviet Union into bankruptcy, and then shifted gears into reducing the burden on the US taxpayers.

The cold war was over and there was no longer a need to keep the military at full readiness to fight another world war... so they downsized, and new R&D programs were severely reduced.

The reduction of the military R&D programs meant that the companies that supplied the equipment needs of the R&D programs were seriously starved of new sales.

The Military Industrial Complex's golden teat dried up, and with it went all of the luxurious ways of Tektronix, HP, and many others... even me.

Tektronix tried to address the commercial market, all the way down to the TV repairman, but the really sucked at making things cheaply, and the commercial market was very cost conscious.

-Chuck Harris

Dennis Tillman W7PF wrote:
Stan may have been a friend of Tektronix but he didn't trust the Tektronix Corporation. As the co-founder of the vintageTEK Museum he was adamant there be no connection to the corporation at all. Stan wanted to be free to show the things they got wrong, the things they were embarrassed about, and even some things they wanted to suppress.
It is my guess that he was concerned about things the corporation
began to do in the late 1980s when they lost their way, began losing
money, saw their market share shrinking, and decided they could no
longer afford their reputation for excellence. If that was the reason
for mistrust then Stan was not alone. During this period Tek decisions
were based on the recommendations of outside management consultants
rather than their own staff of brilliant engineers. Many of Tek's most
talented employees saw this as a time of great upheaval and left when
they saw the handwriting on the wall

Dennis Tillman W7PF.

Dennis Tillman W7PF
TekScopes Moderator

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