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Reflections on 50 Years

July 15, 2008
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William Bazzy learned communications and electronics engineering while serving in the military in the 1940s. As a young radio and television broadcast engineer in Boston, he participated in the explosive growth of national broadcast networks, including intensive working sessions at RCA technologies, where new standards were being developed. In 1958, he brought together a team of engineering colleagues to address a need for technology information to serve professionals in the broadcasting and communications industries -- and Microwave Journal was born. As publisher, Bazzy led the magazine through tremendous growth as RF and microwave technology markets grew across the United States and around the world. In 1968, Mr. Bazzy's company, Horizon House, launched Telecommunications magazine to serve technical and management professionals in the fast rising voice and data communications industry. The company evolved to include industry exhibitions and conferences for the Microwave and Telecom industries, organized and produced from offices in the US and in London.

“WB” continues to serve as Chairman of Horizon House. Ivar started his working life at Horizon House, working summers during high school and college at the company. After college, he ventured outside the family business, working for GeoPartners Research, a management consulting firm that provided services to companies in the telecommunications and computer industries. He then worked for a decade at ADEMCO (now a division of the Honeywell Corp.), contributing and ultimately running the company’s long-range RF products group. He returned to Horizon House as President in 2006.

MWJ: Hello Ivar and Bill, thanks for talking with us today. I’d like to congratulate both of you on your anniversary of 50 years in publishing. Mr. Bazzy (WB) - at 88 years old, you are still coming into work everyday. I take that as a sign you enjoy being here. What do you like most about the company you founded?

WB: I come in all five days (laughs). I am interested in what is going on and what people are doing. We had a wonderful life and we are grateful to so many people. When you love what you are doing, you just want to be there, be part of it and to watch everyone contribute and do the work that has made us so successful.

MWJ: What was the microwave business like when the Journal got started? Were there other similar magazines?

WB: No, there was nothing like our magazine, so we had to make it all up (format and editorial direction). Nobody had done anything like this - so it was all new. We worked on the concept of the magazine for many months before we printed the first edition. There were so many things that needed to be decided but we had some wonderful people working with us and everybody helped out. And we needed to decide all the details of how the magazine would look because no one had ever done it before. We could see that we would be able to develop it and I knew it was going to become successful because the (microwave) business was really beginning to take off and they (microwave professionals) needed to communicate what they were doing but they didn’t have anything that was for the microwave business leaders back then.

Eventually, we really began to know what we needed to do and we would just go out and do it. We were alone for about five years then some others saw our success and started a competitive magazine but we were far ahead at this point and the new magazine was never able to catch up to us.

MWJ: So you knew the microwave business would support a dedicated trade journal?

WB: I knew what the microwave business was going to become and I was drooling over how much potential it had. Timing was a huge component to our success. To be the first hitting the market just as it was exploding.

MWJ: How much money had you invested to launch the magazine?

WB: We didn’t have much money to start, we borrowed from family and from our savings and everyone pitched in to keep our costs low. We operated on a shoe-string budget and we boot-strapped the operation with no outside capitol.

My brother Emil owned a printing press and we had some wonderful ladies that would help us. It was a lot of hard work. We used a hot lead typeset which injected molten metal to form the plates with the text and images used to press the ink onto the paper. Then the lead would be re-melted for the next plates. It was hazardous work and many of the ladies got sick often from working with these lead ingots. As the magazine grew, we were able to move our facilities to a better one in Norwood, which in turn helped reduce the number of illnesses being suffered by the ladies due to the typesetting process.

MWJ: How long did it take for the magazine to catch on? When did it feel like a success to you?

WB: Oh it took off immediately. We just had excellent timing. However, we had been planning the magazine since 1955, so the instant success really took a number of years to happen. But we made a profit almost immediately.

MWJ: How did you sell ads for a magazine with no track record?

WB: We knew a lot of people in the industry already. Many of them were already asking us to launch this effort when we approached them. Many of the businesses were local and easy to approach. In the old days, I was on the road a lot, very active with all these new microwave companies. One of my favorite things was to meet with clients. I really enjoyed hearing about what they were doing and how excited they were about their own companies. On one sales call, I got some very valuable advice from David Hewlett. He told me to – “build a quality product and people will buy it”. Well it worked for Hewlett-Packard and we tried to do the same and it seemed to work for us too.

MWJ: How did you get involved in the microwave field?

WB: After graduating high school (Norwood, MA Class of 1938), I attended evening classes at the Lowell Institute school which was operated by MIT. The Lowell Institute offered non-degree technical course to MIT employees and others in the local community such as myself. When the war broke out, I joined the Army Signal Corp. and was assigned to work on the staff at the MIT RadLab. I was a technician for the scientists and engineers working there for the government. That is where I met Ted Saad. Ted was an excellent person who helped all of us out at RadLab. He was very good about sharing his knowledge with us. He really knew his stuff.

MWJ: Yes, Ted played a very important role in the early days of Microwave Journal as the first editor. So you met Ted at MIT when you both worked there - you as a member of the Army Signal Corp and he as a civilian employed by the government. Ted would go off and co-founded several microwave start-up companies including Microwave Development Labs and Sage. You were both quite entrepreneurial in the post-RadLab days. What did you end up doing after your RadLab experience and before starting Horizon House?

WB: After my discharge, I went into broadcasting, working for station WBZ in Boston. We went on the air in June 1948 as New England’s first television station (beating WNHC-TV, New Haven, Conn. by a week). That experience gave me a media background and a sense of business based on advertising revenue. It was a great experience and taught me a lot that would be helpful in starting our publishing business several years later.

MWJ: So you were a broadcast engineer in Boston in the early days of television. That must have been exciting. What was television broadcasting like back then?

WB: I was the “technical guy” that operated much of the broadcast equipment. (Editor’s note - Boston was connected to the AT&T East Coast television network in the late fall of 1947. This network ran from Boston down to Washington and included cities like New York and Philadelphia. WBZ was an NBC affiliate station.) Our programs were either produced locally, broadcast live or from recorded film or they came from NBC. Our studios and transmitter were located in new facilities just outside Boston, along with our am radio station. I helped maintain the transmitter and did a lot of studio work such as operating the cameras and sound equipment. Initially, we were only on the air from early evening till 11 pm or midnight. The early evening shows were locally produced and included local news and content. The NBC shows would start around 8:00 pm at night.

We pioneered a number of firsts such as live broadcasts of the Boston Red Sox and local daily newscasts. I operated the center field camera for Red Sox home games and got to know many of the players back then.

I was working at the station when Boston got hit by a hurricane that took down our tower. We had to evacuate the building and one woman got trapped on the second floor. We could hear her screaming, so me and some other fellows went back in and climbed up to her and got her down as the rain was coming in on us from the hole torn into the roof. She was as wet as could be and everyone had left. She was very glad when we helped her out.

(Editor’s note: On August 31, 1954, channel 4 went dark suddenly as Hurricane Carol sent WBZ-TV's 680-foot self-supporting tower toppling over the studios and across Soldiers Field Road. A temporary transmitter was soon erected on a standby tower, and a short time later, WBZ-TV moved its transmitter to the WNAC-TV site above Malden Hospital.)

For a number of years, WBZ radio covered a lot of political events and live studio interviews, which we then began to cover on the television. I met a lot of local and national political figures at the time. Once I accidentally dropped the boom holding the sound microphone on Richard Nixon’s head when he was a young politician.

MWJ: Well that wouldn’t be Nixon’s last trouble with a recording device, did you witness a lot of new technology being introduced?

WB: Yes, we did. We were an NBC affiliate station and NBC was owned by RCA. NBC sent me down to New York for a few years to work with David Sarnoff’s team that was developing the color television standard for NBC. (At the time RCA was run by David Sarnoff who was responsible for many developments in network broadcasting and consumer electronics mostly radio and television.) RCA was engaged in a pitched battle with CBS to introduce color TV. This was a big technical and legal effort that involved David Sarnoff, GE, Westinghouse, the FCC and many others. Through my position at the station, I worked with the technical team that ultimately won the battle and set the standard for color television.

MWJ: Sounds like some of the wireless battles of recent years. Speaking of which, you lived through the “wireless revolution”. Do you have a mobile phone?

WB: No. I don’t use one now, but I did own one about the time they first came out. I also owned a CB radio in my car when those were big. I would drive around with my extended family and let my grandkids – Ivar and Jared -- use it to try and talk to the truckers.

MWJ: Getting back to the start of Horizon House, how did you make the transition from television to a trade magazine?

WB: Sometime after my New York experience - around 1955 or 1956, I had the desire to do something entrepreneurial and the idea for a magazine began to take hold. My brother Emil had a printing press. He ran a small scale print shop in Roxbury (outside Boston) and I had this nominal media background and had seen how advertising driven business worked. So the idea germinated to start a magazine on technology. I knew Ted (Saad) through our mutual MIT RadLab background and connections through the Lebanese community. Ted was the guy who really honed in on the microwave side with his expertise and convinced us to make the magazine focus on this segment of the electronics field. And so through these factors, Microwave Journal was born.

MWJ: Earlier you mentioned your grandsons. Ivar is now the President of Horizon House and Jared is a Vice-President. It seems as though Horizon House follows in the tradition of many famous publishers such as Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal which until recently was a family business. Ivar, are you having any talks with Rupert Murdoch that we should know about?

IAB: I keep asking, but Rupert says he is still not willing to sell.

MWJ: Our readers are most familiar with Horizon House as the parent company of Microwave Journal and as the MTT-S IMS exhibition managers for many in years. Could paint the broader picture of HH businesses?

IAB: The microwave industry has always been at the core of our business, but of course we don’t manufacture RF components or systems. We are a business-to-business media company. We publish magazines and web sites, we manage trade shows, and we sell professional reference books through our Artech House subsidiary. Our goal is to provide the best information products for engineers and professionals in the microwave industry, coupled to the best advertising and promotional platforms for vendors.

MWJ: Any thoughts on the projected health of trade shows given the high price of oil and its impact on travel costs?

IAB: There is no question that the trade show business is strongly impacted by trends in travel expense. The kind of high-cost environment we are in now usually helps the best shows and hurts the weaker ones. Good trade shows are a very efficient use of travel money—you can see all your clients and prospects in one trip. But for lesser shows, companies will probably think twice before sending a big contingent.

MWJ: How do you envision trade journals, the internet and technical conferences working synergistically to connect people in a given industry?

IAB: In the microwave industry, and for HH, these three “legs of the stool” all work very well to complement each other. The Microwave Journal, of course, has been providing engineers with current technology content every month for the last fifty years. For detailed technical papers, most readers still prefer the form, legibility, and portability of a print magazine. Meanwhile, our website—mwjournal.com—provides a host of great services that are obviously possible only on the Internet. For real-time industry news, archival access, and multimedia features like webinars, video, and blogs, go to the website. As for shows—like the European Microwave Week and the IMS—they provide a dimension beyond either print or the web—the chance to meet your colleagues, vendors, and clients in person.

MWJ: How do you see trade shows evolving over the next ten years?

IAB: Trade shows in different industries will of course evolve differently to suit their customers. But in every industry, you will find one thing is exactly the same—exhibitors want a positive return on investment. Shows that succeed in bringing new business to their exhibitors will flourish, no matter what their size, shape, or industry. In the microwave industry, I think a couple of trends will continue to develop in the coming years that will impact all of HH’s businesses—print, web, and shows. First—the ongoing consolidation of the industry. Second—globalization, particularly the rise of Asia. Third—commercialization, that is, the move away from pure research toward proprietary, product-oriented R&D. As WB pointed out earlier in our conversation, the microwave industry has turned into a big business. The media products and content we offer will evolve to reflect the scale and scope of the industry.

MWJ: Is there an optimum size show for component designers? Is bigger better? Most microwave component manufacturers seemed to have abandoned going to really big shows like CTIA because they feel lost in the noise, yet aren’t those the kinds of shows where many of their customers are?

IAB: As I noted above, for any exhibitor, the key is ROI. Big or small is less important than payback in leads and sales. CTIA is a great example of a big show that should play a much bigger role for microwave companies. CTIA has grown into one of the most important wireless shows in the world, but many microwave companies don’t exhibit there because they feel as you said like they get lost in the noise. Starting in 2009, we will be organizing a microwave pavilion at CTIA—a specific section of the show floor, managed by Microwave Journal, and dedicated to exhibitors from the microwave industry. By providing a microwave “show-within-the-show” and organizing a complementary conference program to match, we will help our exhibitors to get the kind of stand-out visibility they want from a big show like CTIA. At the other end of the spectrum, we will be working with our clients to organize smaller, very tightly focused events. Our readers will be seeing more info on these events in future issues of the Journal.

MWJ: A lot of Microwave Journal advertisers are looking to design and manufacture products in Asia. What do you see as Horizon House and Microwave Journal’s future role in covering the Asian microwave industry?

IAB:: Asia is the frontier. Clearly, manufacturing volume has shifted dramatically toward Asia in the last decade. And naturally, engineering resources have followed suit—more and more microwave and RF engineers are and will be degreed in Asia. So we are moving with the business. As you know, we’re in the early stages of launching a Chinese-language edition of the mwjournal.com website. We will be offering bilingual content and advertising platforms specifically tailored to the Chinese market.

As our editorial staff and audience grow in China, we will be looking to introduce a print product there. And ultimately, we plan to introduce our readers and advertisers to their Asian counterparts directly through conferences and exhibitions in the Asian market. We’re incredibly proud of the 50-year history of the Microwave Journal, and I’m happy to say that the publication today under Carl’s leadership is the strongest it has ever been. We’re also very proud of our close relationship with the European Microwave Association, and look forward to working with EuMA to further expand and enhance the European Microwave Week. In addition, the new products and services we are offering—online webinars and videos, the CTIA pavilion, and the China site—are all really exciting projects for us, and we think will bring even greater value to our audience, advertisers, and exhibitors. WB’s timing is still proving to be pretty good—the microwave business continues to grow, and we will continue to be vanguards in the industry.

MWJ: Well thank-you Ivar and WB. Its been a great 50 years and we look forward to seeing what happens over the next 50.

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