Art Collins  K∅CXX

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Arthur Andrews Collins (September 9, 1909 February 25, 1987) first gained national recognition as a teenager for significant advances in radio communication, and later founded his own radio engineering and manufacturing company in 1933.

Rapidly expanding during World War II, Collins Radio Co. eventually grew into a Fortune 500 leader in avionics, military, space and commercial radio communications, telecommunication and ultimately an innovator in melding computer and communication technology. Widely considered a genius in electronics innovation, he shunned personal publicity and is relatively little known today, even within the electronics community.

Arthur Collins graduated from high school in Cedar Rapids and attended college at Amherst in Massachusetts, but returned at the end of his freshman year. He never obtained a degree, but rather took courses at the University of Iowa and at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. His own studies, and research done during the early years of his own company, typically outpaced advances in electronics coursework in academia. Yet he valued higher education, promoting programs for his employees to further their education, and even establishing courses with in-house instructors at Collins Radio

Collins founded Collins Radio Co. in 1933, building high quality amateur and commercial transmitters (not receivers for the domestic market). With recognition from success with the MacMillan expedition, Collins equipment was selected for the Byrd Expedition to the Antarctic (1933-1934). Beginning manufacturing in his basement, Arthur Collins soon rented building space and eventually constructed the first Collins Radio factory in Cedar Rapids in 1940. At this time the company had sales of about $500,000 and 150 employees. Collins Radio was recognized for excellence in design and manufacture of amateur and commercial transmitters and receivers, and began building aircraft radios in 1935.

During World War II Collins Radio became a key supplier of ground, ship, and aircraft communication equipment, expanding from about 350 to a peak of about 3700 employees. Arthur Collins was a co-designer of the Autotune device. Invented for commercial aviation shortly before the war, it allowed the pilot to remotely switch to preset frequencies. Autotune precisely adjusted the radio in about 40 seconds, without the lengthy hand-tuning normally required by a designated radio operator. The ART-13 100 watt HF military radio was highly prized for this feature and for its rugged and reliable construction. Over 90,000 were built for B-24, B-25, B-29, TBF and other aircraft. Collins gear was also extensively used for tactical ground communication and aboard ships. Following the Pearl Harbor attack the Corregidor station in the Philippines used Collins equipment to reach the outside world, as did the USS Missouri during the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay.

Amateur radio was never a dominant segment within the Collins Radio product line, but held a special interest for Arthur Collins since childhood and provided a key catalyst in design of other equipment. Collins amateur gear was always built to the highest standards and demanded a premium price. As part of KINEPLEX Collins developed the mechanical filter, a small device (about ¾ inch by 4 inches) using a series of precisely ground metallic discs linked mechanically and electrically. Determining the exact dimensions of these discs was critically important, and not easily discovered through empirical experimentation. A bright, young Indian mathematician named Roshan Sharma was fortuitously hired, based partly on his recent mastery of the necessary underlying mathematics needed to produce the resonating discs.

An input signal causes the first disc to mechanically resonate at a very precise and stable frequency, which passes an induced electrical oscillation to the next disc, and in turn sequentially through the device. By filtering out unnecessary portions of the radio signal, the mechanical filter (a kind of "bandpass filter") allows the use of a very stable, precise single sideband frequency. (Previously, single sideband operation required a large, complex piece of equipment.) The mechanical filter was the heart of Collins single sideband (SSB) technology, and made SSB practical for the first time. SSB offered clear, efficient radio communications, even during conditions that would disrupt and distort conventional radio signals.

In 1956 a SAC C-97 transport was fitted with Collins 75A-4 / KWM-1 SSB amateur gear for a demonstration of the superiority of SSB, leading to contracts for Collins SSB military equipment on B-52 and other aircraft, as well as ground stations. Sales far exceeded that of amateur sets.

Those who worked with Arthur Collins invariably mention his extraordinary work ethic, his penchant for long days and total concentration on fixed goals, and his expectation that others on his team should similarly put in long hours. He was skeptical of the concept of holidays, except perhaps for Christmas Day. Collins would ask his library assistant to compile books, journal articles and other select reading material. In a matter of only a few days these would be returned; he would by then have completely adsorbed their content, in preparation for the next phase of a project, and would then request a new batch.

He did not welcome dissent, unless accompanied by facts and logical argument, yet he sought out expertise outside his background. One mathematician and personal friend noted that Collins once described how he could visualize new and revolutionary concepts. He described his ideas in such detail and correctness that the underlying math could then be generated by others and would seem obvious in retrospect.

"There is no doubt that part of the company's success was due to Arthur Collins' ability to seek out and recognize talented engineers and administrative staff. Collins Radio was known as a demanding workplace, but with the reward that absolutely cutting edge work was being done.

Probably his most significant personal trait was Collins' ability to forecast society's future technological needs, to then define goals and begin developing the systems and devices necessary to achieve these goals. In this way he anticipated a customer's future needs, and would often have working models available well in advance of competitors. Examples would include the navigation aids and integrated flight control instruments build by Collins Radio following World War II, the binary modulation scheme of KINEPLEX and similar systems, SSB HF communication, and the melding of computers and communication - built on earlier work with telecommunication.

Under Arthur Collins' leadership Collins Radio devoted great resources to research and development and continually strove to advance the state of the art in concepts and technology, rather than producing consumer electronics with prolonged product lives and high income potential. The commercial aviation and defense electronic markets were inherently fickle and uncertain, often with relatively low profit margins, yet Collins Radio maintained its status as a premier company for four decades during Arthur Collins' tenure. The consensus among his peers is that this longevity was due in large part to his imagination, vision, and genius for innovation.

For an expert in communication, Arthur Collins was inherently shy and soft-spoken, comfortable in his authority without bluster. He had a rich sense of humor, fully expressed only in the company of close friends and associates. He avoided undue publicity, and extended this demeanor to his company by cautioning restraint in advertising and public relations. When the CBS anchor Walter Cronkite KB2GSD called asking for an interview during the Apollo landings, Collins demurred and told Cronkite that he didn't want to take personal credit for the hard work of many others at Collins Radio.

"It is necessary that we marshal the combined powers of many scientific and engineering disciplines together with man's other creative and spiritual faculties in an effort to build a decent and meaningful world. Whatever your field may be, your progress will depend upon your individual imagination. I urge you to give it free rein." Arthur A. Collins

Young Art Collins' attic ham station Art K∅CXX Operating the KW-1 Station

  The following are US Patents held solely or shared (D) by Arthur Collins

  • 2,150,362 (March 14, 1939) Collins Circuits for Signal Transmitting and Receiving.
  • 2,164,309 (July 4, 1939) Shaft Positioning Device.
  • 2,165,226 (July 11, 1939) Automatic Tuning System.
  • 2,168,326 (August 8, 1939) Automatic Tuning System.
  • 2,174,552 (October 3, 1939) Automatic Tuning System
  • 2,186,958 (January 16, 1940) Distortion Reducing System for Suppressed Carrier Transmission.
  • RE 22, 574 (June 9, 1942) Control Systems and Apparatus
  • 2,185,414 (June 9, 1942) Motor Control System
  • 2,393,856 (January 29, 1946) Calibration System for Radio Receivers.
  • 2,409,192 (November 15, 1946) Tuning Device Clutch.
  • 2,447,490 (August 24, 1943) Radio Transmitting and Receiving Systems.
  • 2,509,963 (May 30, 1950) Shaft Positioning Apparatus.
  • 2,617,985 (November 11, 1952) Frequency Control System.
  • D 170,183 (August 18, 1953) Approach Horizon.
  • D 170,184 (August 18, 1953Course Indicator.
  • 2,888,524 (May 26, 1959) Parasitic Oscillation Suppressor.
  • 2,921,271 (January 12, 1960) Transmitter Stabilizer.
  • 3,651,315 (March 25, 1972) Digital Products Inspection System.
  • 3,659,271 (April 25, 1972) Multichannel Communication System.
  • 3,692,941 (September 19, 1972) Data Exchange and Coupling Apparatus.
  • 3,925,651 (December 9, 1975) Digital Circuit Switched Time-Space-Time Switch Equipped Time Division Transmission Loop System.
  • 3,956,593 (May 11, 1976) Time-Space-Time Switch with Combined and Distributed State Store and Control Store.
  • 4,005,272 (January 25, 1977) Time Folded Time-Space-Time Switch.
  • 4,038,497 (July 26, 1977) Hardwired Control Logic and Automatic Path Finding Set Up and Release.
  • 4,270,203 (May 26, 1981) Timing Adjustment Circuit for Digital Switching.
  • 4,701,907 (October 20, 1987) Dynamically Reconfigurable Time-Space-Time Digital Switch and Network.
  • 4,797,589 (January 10, 1989) Dynamically Reconfigurable Time-Space-Time Digital Switch and Network.
  • In addition to these U.S .Patents, Art Collins had 43 Patents in 13 foreign countries.

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