Robert Edwards, Respected Paging Pioneer, Dies At Age 85

W2KKC — SK

Rest In Peace—my friend

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bob edwards
Photo by Brad Dye

ROBERT "BOB" EDWARDS, "The father of paging," 85, of West Allenhurst, OCEAN TOWNSHIP
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 12/13/05

ROBERT "BOB" EDWARDS, "The father of paging," 85, of West Allenhurst, OCEAN TOWNSHIP, died Sunday, Dec. 11, at his home. Born in Yonkers, N.Y., he resided in Rumson and Tenafly before moving to West Allenhurst. Mr. Edwards was an experienced engineer and industrialist. He founded and built two public multi-million dollar business concerns involved in telecommunications, EAC Industries and Radiofone Corporation. Bob was a wonderful person. He loved life and people and fulfilled all of his dreams.

He was predeceased by four brothers, Morris, Nelson, Philip, and George Edwards. Surviving are his beloved wife of 33 years, Barbara Maroselli Edwards; a son, Marc and his wife Linda Edwards of East Windsor; two daughters, Jennifer Edwards Kaye and her husband Jeffrey of West Allenhurst, and Barbara Fredericks of Austin, Texas; two sisters, Adele Arslan of Red Bank, and Rose Fiegel of Ocala, Fla.; and seven grandchildren, Charlotte, Michael, Christopher, Jonathan, David, Eric and Jeffrey.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the John E. Day Funeral Home, 85 Riverside Ave., Red Bank. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Thursday at St. James Roman Catholic Church, Red Bank. Entombment will follow in St. Catherine's Cemetery, Sea Girt. Memorial donations in Bob's memory can be made to Make A Wish Foundation, 1034 Salem Road, PO Box 4028, Union, NJ 07083.

Source: Asbury Park Press

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Mr. Robert Edwards, was a highly respected paging industry pioneer and industrialist, recognized by many, as the driving force behind the personal telecommunications industry. He is regarded as the father of the digital beeper, both the numeric and alphanumeric models. Through his innovation and vision, he built his company, Radiofone, to be the largest paging operation in the United States. Noted for his charisma and leadership, he has been an inspiration to many. He has founded and built two public multimillion dollar business concerns involved in telecommunications: EAC Industries and Radiofone Corporation.

Through Mr. Edwards’ guidance, the radio pager took its place alongside the telephone as a vital everyday communications mode in the United States. Radiofone, because of its many innovations in the paging field, grew at twice the national average for paging companies, and became, after 10 years of operation, the largest radio paging operation in the United States, both in terms of geographic area and number of pagers served. As cellular telephone technology moved into the telecommunications spotlight, Edwards positioned Radiofone to take advantage of this new technology by directing the design and engineering of a New York metropolitan area cellular system that eventually became the Federal Communications Commission approved system for that market.

Background

In 1954, Mr. Edwards joined Mack Trucks, Inc., as Vice President of its electronic division. This division was engaged in the design and construction of military communications equipment.

In 1955, Mr. Edwards founded and organized EAC Industries, Inc. (EAC), to acquire the electronics division of Mack Trucks, Inc. Under Mr. Edwards’ leadership, EAC became a major supplier of electronic and communications products to the United States Armed Forces. It also became a conglomerate, with the creation several divisions, one of which became the largest producer of storm and screen door hardware in the United States. EAC also formed an international division, called EAC International, which operated in France and Italy, and became the purchasing agent for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) located in Châteauroux, France, and as such, provided millions of dollars of spare parts for NATO’s military forces.

Through Mr. Edwards’ innovations and inventiveness, EAC succeeded in developing communications and radar products which met previously unattainable U.S. Government accuracy standards. Under Mr. Edwards’ guidance, EAC grew to become a multimillion dollar enterprise, listed on the American Stock Exchange. At EAC, Mr. Edwards was credited with innovations such as the first use of quartz oscillators to keep time (the quartz watch and clock movement of today). EAC also developed and patented an ultrasonic device for the brewing industry, which allowed breweries around the world to increase their production by almost tenfold, and making possible the throwaway bottle. This technology is still currently being used in every major brewery around the world. Mr. Edwards is the holder of a number of patents on components and processes in the electronics industry.

Upon invitation of the Central Intelligence Agency, EAC formed a Systems Engineering Group at the University of Michigan to design, and reduce the size, of the electronic recording gear utilized in the U2 spy aircraft, which information and details have recently been declassified.

After more than 11 years with EAC Mr. Edwards formed Radiofone Corporation. With Radiofone, Edwards brought the concept of radio paging to the forefront of personal communications. From just a concept in 1971, Edwards built a radio paging network that spanned 20,000 square miles encompassing a population of over 20 million people with 95 transmitter/receivers in the system. By 1981, the system was delivering 1.5 million paging messages per month.

Edwards pioneered Radiofone to a number of "firsts" in the paging industry:

  • The concept and implementation of multi-state wide area paging was accomplished via the design of the necessary central office equipment needed to control this network concept.
  • Use of Concentrators and T-Carrier technology in a paging network to speed up paging service and allow greater volume of traffic at minimal cost by using fewer telephone circuits.
  • Through development of new technology and negotiating agreement with other paging entities, Radiofone became the first paging company in the nation to furnish paging service via satellite from New York to Chicago and Los Angeles.
  • Digital and Alphanumeric Paging—Through his work with major paging manufacturers both in the United States and Japan, Edwards assisted in the design and function of the numeric display and alphanumeric display pagers. As such, Radiofone was the first to offer these services to the public. Today, these paging services represent 90% of the radio paging market.

In 1982 Radiofone was sold to broadcasting conglomerate, Metromedia Inc. Metromedia chose Edwards to head its new nationwide Telecommunications division by naming him Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of this division. He was also later elected Vice President of Metromedia Inc. During Mr. Edwards’ tenure at Metromedia, he engineered and coordinated the cellular mobile telephone system application that was ultimately chosen by the Federal Communications Commission as the superior cellular system for the New York City market (the largest in the nation). Edwards’ design placed emphasis on a larger number of cells in order to better accommodate portable cellular phones which he saw as the future of cellular demand. Today, this design concept is followed throughout the world in the construction of cellular systems.

Later, Mr. Edwards was President of International Telemessaging Services Inc., which operated a nationwide paging system in Venezuela.

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The book Wireless Nation: The Frenzied Launch of the Cellular Revolution, by James B. Murray, speaks about everyone who was involved in the creation of the cellular industry. There are stories about Bob Edwards and his meetings with Stu Sobnick and the quick sale to John Kluge, and then his continued work on the cellular licenses. (pp. 7-8)

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Editor's note: Many years ago, Mr. Edwards told me the story of how he first got the idea of displaying a telephone number on a pager. He called Motorola and asked them to develop a new pager for him. Motorola declined, so he flew to Japan and presented the idea to NEC who built the first numeric display pager. It became wildly successful. I asked my friend Jim Page, who is a retired Motorola Vice President, and who also knew Mr. Edwards very well, to clarify the story for me. Following is his response:

Hi Brad,

Sorry to hear of Mr. Edwards passing. He was a great man. I also heard the story you mentioned second hand but heard it was an offer to anyone in the industry and was accompanied by a million dollars up front which was unprecedented at the time. Whether it was made specifically to Motorola, NEC, Panasonic or others I don't know. As you know, the pager was actually constructed by NEC and was featured in his annual report that year and NEC had an exclusive for some period of time thereafter. He went on to pre-announce, and then pioneer, the NEC UHF display pager in America.

Once the UHF system was up and running, Mr. Edwards consistently turned in 40-60% subscriber growth every year. As a marketing guy, I was excited to show him around our factory and interview him one day in Boynton Beach and I asked him what his secret was in turning in such consistently high growth rates. Specifically, I asked him what his advertising strategy was. He burst out laughing, “I don't advertise at all,” was his surprising response. “In fact, I had to cut back my pay scale because my salesmen were making more money than I was.” He went on to describe how he would compete based on equivalent price with greater coverage than anyone else could offer. It seems that UHF, which many felt wouldn't work in New York's urban canyons, worked extremely well and was in fact his competitive edge (coverage map attached). It was also a significant entree for NEC into the United States and, if memory serves, Radiofone was the only national account that was serviced by NEC America and not serviced by National Marketing Inc., NEC's distributor in the United States. Despite all of this, Mr. Edwards kept a close personal relationship with Motorola over the years and bought many, many pagers from us.

I considered Mr. Edwards one of the true founding fathers of the paging industry. He was a brilliant CEO and a true gentleman. I always considered him the dominant carrier in the nation's largest market, and he wore that banner well. For those of us who had the good fortune to know him, he will be greatly missed.

Regards,

Jim Page

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radiofone coverage 1981
Radiofone Coverage Map—1981 Annual Report (Complements of Jim Page.)

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* Silent key refers to an amateur radio operator who has deceased. The term is frequently abbreviated SK. The key in the term refers to a telegraph key, the instrument that all early amateur radio operators, as well as many contemporary amateur radio operators, have used to send Morse code. The term SK is used to refer to any amateur radio operator who has deceased, regardless of whether or not they were known to have actively used a telegraph key or Morse code in their communications.

When transmitted as two Morse code characters without separating audio delay, SK is a Morse code prosign meaning "end of communications." [Wikipedia]

 

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