We sat with Tom McGowan leading up to his 46th NAB Show
Can you give us a little background on your NAB history?
“This will mark the 46th consecutive year that I have been attending the NAB Convention. I attended my very first NAB Convention in Las Vegas April 9 – 12, 1978. I worked as a Field Service Manager at that time for Consolidated Video Systems (CVS) of Sunnyvale, California. CVS was awarded the Technical EMMY for the first ever Digital Time Base Corrector (TBC). Now, NAB cancelled the NAB Convention in 2020 and 2021, so officially this will be my 44th consecutive year attending the NAB Convention within a 46 year span. Over that period of time I’ve attended all of them in Las Vegas, with the exception of three in Dallas (’79, ’86 and ’87) and one in Atlanta (1990).
After Atlanta the NAB swore they would never leave Las Vegas, as hotels in Atlanta were more than an hour away for many, the convention center was too small and the parking lot wasn’t big enough. As a matter of fact, we all parked in the lot in the morning, then we came out at the end of the day and the lot was filled with Grateful Dead “Deadheads” as they had a concert that night. What a contrast in styles to suits and ties to tied-dyed shirts, long hair and the aroma of cannabis everywhere.”
What’s your favorite NAB memory?:
“I have many (countless) memories of NAB Conventions; people, places, events, meetings, sales, etc., but my most memorable was in Dallas in 1986, Sunday, April 13th. That was the day that Jack Nicklaus won his 6th Green Jacket at The Masters and his 18th Major Golf Tournament. The NAB Convention was much smaller then than it is now (by a large margin). Everyone at the convention was crowded into SONY, Panasonic’s and any other booths that had large screens showing The Masters live. Everyone was watching the final 9 holes of the tournament and towards the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I’ve never seen that or anything like it at any of the other NAB Conventions.
In the old days of analog and analog / digital systems things were much different and more electric (much different feel) than they are today, in my opinion. I worked many years for one of the premier broadcast equipment system manufacturers, Quantel. Every year we were coming out with extremely compelling systems, such as The 1st Digital Effects System (DPE 5000), The 1st Quantel Paintbox, The 1st Harry, The 1st Mirage, and The 1st Henry, etc.. Those systems were compelling in how they performed and each year prior to release they were shown in a private, invitation only suite. The Who’s Who of the industry were in those suites, which is one reason why I’ve known so many industry executives (some still around) over these many years. Many times we would compete with a company like Ampex, and then the next year we would top them. If was a real battle to stay on top and, it was fun. In those days we were selling approximately million dollar systems on cocktail napkins. The good old days.”
What has changed the most from NAB early days to today?:
“The size, scope and scale of the Convention, and the number of people attending now versus then is dramatically different. How decisions are made today related to purchasing systems at NAB is also different.
My first NAB Convention was in The Central Hall; that’s it. There were no South or North or West Halls. I believe there were about 22,000 people (including exhibitors) at that time. Keep in mind that most companies / networks were not held by corporations. Sure, RCA owned NBC long ago, but ABC was standing on its’ own prior to the Capital Cities purchase. CBS (I helped to build KPIX in San Francisco in ’79 & ’80) was owned by Westinghouse and it was five stations. The FCC rules of ownership of stations was dramatically different. Now you see how huge these networks are with Viacom, Disney and Comcast ownership, as examples. There was no FOX Network in those days. The scale of the industry is massively different than the old days. There was no large ownership groups of stations like there is today; Sinclair, Nexstar, Paramount, etc. We were using videotape in the early days and many different formats! The oxide is falling off of those tapes as we speak. There was no streaming, no social media, etc. We were building our way a step at a time to digital television away from analog, then to HDTV, UHD, S3D, mobile, and many other advances. A lot of very smart people have dedicated their time, expertise and experience so that viewers have access to content in many alternate ways today. Shout out to SMPTE for their advance work in creating standards, because many times things were not standardized in those days. I remember the days when SONY and RCA C-Format 1” tape machines had interchange issues. We worked around the issues……
I’ve seen the post-production and production, as well as mobile television production aspects of our industry change and evolve many times. The 1987 Writers’ Strike is a great example of how post-production companies had to adapt to changes in the industry. No longer would studios and content creators design and build a complete open and close for a new sitcom. That was big money to a post house. After the writers’ strike, as an example, a graphic “panel” or “slate” would suffice for the open and close just in case the show didn’t make it. That made a huge difference in economics to a post-production facility.”
How has IMT shaped your experiences at The NAB Convention?:
“With the exception of a very brief amount of time in ’80 – ’82 when I was a junior sales representative, I’ve always worked for a manufacturing company of specialized broadcast television equipment. Those systems primarily had to do with the production and creation of graphics and special effects, digital compositing and editing, as well as stereoscopic imaging, and news automated control room production systems.
For the last thirteen years at IMT I’ve enjoyed focusing on integrating a host of systems from many manufacturers to create solutions that address a clients’ needs, wants and requirements. Ensuring the interoperability and connectivity of disparate systems is not an easy task and as I learned from others early on in my career, one mistake can cost you serious credibility issues and impair your ability to be successful in this or any industry. I’ve been blessed to work with some of the finest and most talented engineers and workflow specialists within our industry while at IMT. They will always ensure that the system that we design and create works as expected. I’m forever grateful to be associated with IMT and it people.”